Camera buzz!


The vast choice of motion picture digital cameras coupled with the rapid rate of
technological change make it more challenging than ever to choose the right camera.
At the high-end of the spectrum trends appear to be moving towards 4K resolution
with new digital cameras claiming to finally replicate the “film look’. At the lower-end
of the market, DSLR cameras seem to be waning in popularity as high quality, more
affordable video cameras enter the market.

According to Sony South Africa’s Jess Goedhals, 4K is the future. “I think 4K is the
next revolution in our industry, particularly for the top-end market, but I think it will
filter down to the lower-end eventually. I’ve already seen 4K TV sets, which shows
manufacturers are serious about eventually moving 4K into broadcast and exhibition,’
says Goedhals.

Panasonic South Africa’s Sean Loeve notes that the natural progression is to
manufacture cameras with higher and higher resolution. “However, the rest of the
workflow has to be in place before higher resolutions become viable.’

Head of Digital at Media Film Service, Gideon Furst, agrees that 4K is becoming more
prevalent among camera manufacturers. “However, storage of created 4K video or
sound data is the current Achilles heel for production and post-production
companies. To shoot 60 minutes worth of footage on a new Sony F65 at 4K will use
1TB of data, therefore the back end (storage) of data management is still too
expensive. I think most people will be shooting in HD or 2K for at least another two
to three years until data storage becomes more affordable.’

According to Henk Germishuysen from Puma Video they are seeing recorders like the
Cinedeck, Gemini and Nanoflash being used to get more out of cameras. “This will
probably be the affordable trend – to make an inexpensive camera punch above its
weight – until the time that more cameras offer 4K.’

Camera trends

Visual Impact’s Goran Music notes that the RED cameras are still very popular, with
the RED Epic released recently.

“They have a captive audience because they’ve got an established product that
works well in different segments of the market. The Arri Alexa is an extraordinary
camera, as is the new Sony F65, which includes technology that will allow it to shoot
8K in the future. People are also talking about the new Canon C300,’ notes Music.

According to Furst, the “hottest’ cameras at the moment are the Arri Alexa and the
Canon C300 PL or EF. “The main criteria for directors of photography (DOPs) when
choosing cameras, is ease of use, as well as real time correlation between what is
seen in digital electronic viewfinders to what is seen on the on-set monitors and
what is seen in the Baselight during the grade. They also look at dynamic range;
exposure handling between the darkest and lightest parts or exposures in a frame;
high frame rates; high ISO with the least amount of noise; reliability; and
compatibility with known and trusted “film style’ accessories such as Preston remote
focus, Arri wireless remote focus and digital microforce zoom.’

Goedhals believes that, from a technical perspective, the Sony F65 is the currently
the best camera on the market. “However, when choosing cameras, many use large
sensors and lens options as their main criteria. Across our range of cameras, the
biggest trend we have seen is the move towards a tapeless environment, and
specifically solid state memory.’

According to Avmark’s Renato Acquisto, he sees a worldwide trend towards large
handheld cameras full of features and with better optics, including 20x zoom
capability. “There used to be a big disparity – you couldn’t get the zoom and wide
aspects of a normal shoulder mount camera in a handheld camera. The new
generation, including the Panasonic AG-HPX250 /A160 have 22x zoom lenses.’

Germishuysen notes that, from their perspective, the Panasonic P2 format is very
popular. “They’re solid, reliable and unmatched value for money. Our Sony PMW-F3’s
are huge favourites as well. Imager size, resolution and ISO/sensitivity feature
prominently when cameras are chosen. ‘

Pro-Sales’ Arne Sack notes, while it is difficult to pinpoint, Panasonic, more than any
other manufacturer, has been very successfully launching products with the correct
specifications and at very competitive pricing. “Choosing a camera still depends on
the criteria of the shoot and the production’s destination,’ says Sack.

Loeve adds that Panasonic’s new AG-HPX250 is proving extremely popular. “It has
the longest lens available in its class and the highest quality codec (AVCIntra)
available in a handheld camera.’


Music believes that DSLR cameras are as popular as they have ever been. “I do think
they have reached a level of saturation, but by comparison they are still the best
value for money. There is a whole industry of peripheral equipment living off the
demand for DSLR. Nikon is now expected to enter the market as well, and the Canon
5D MK III has also been released with small improvements over the MKII, although it
is quite a bit more expensive.’

Germishuysen agrees that DSLR cameras are still popular. “However, they are
definitely not always first choice. They come into their own when the budget
becomes an issue.’

Furst, however, believes demand is declining. “Shooting with HDSLR cameras became
popular because of their cost effectiveness. Now the Canon C300 looks and feels like
a HDSLR and the Sony PMW-F3 is also a “cheaper’ option. Both have Super 35mm
sensor sizes and are affordable for the HDSLR crowd. Both these cameras have
successfully bridged the gap towards cameras such as Arri Alexas and RED Epics by
incorporating HD camera functionality with HDSLR size and cost.

“The new Nikon D800 and D4 allow for the use of external recorders which in turn
allows for improved video compression over Canon 5D MKII, MKIII and 7D cameras.
The new Nikons allow one to shoot 8 bit, 422, 187 m/bytes per second video in
either ProRes or Avid codecs, by making use of external recorders such Atomos
Ninjas. So the “upgrade’ for HDSLR users from Canon 5D MKII cameras to the above
mentioned are within cost effective reach.’

Acquisto agrees that the popularity of DSLR cameras has reached a peak. “People
enjoyed the “bokeh’ effect (blurring of the background to exaggerate the effect of
lights in the back or foreground) and shallow depth of field, but both Panasonic and
Sony have brought out a large image sensor camera giving the desired film look.’


Germishuysen notes that film cameras are still being used, but less and less. “From
our experience, probably 80% to 90% of all work out of our premises is being done on
solid state media, including P2, SxS, compact flash and SD cards. The Arri Alexa
seems to be a huge success, so my prediction is that this is the beginning of the end
for film.’

Music says the switch from film cameras to digital has already reached the tipping
point, although many filmmakers still have an emotional attachment to film. “I don’t
think film will ever die, but it will certainly be used less and less, unless it’s used for a
particular reason.’

According to Sack, “film style cameras like the RED Scarlet, Sony, Panasonic and
Canon are making inroads in certain areas of the industry, but I believe it will still be
a while before film will die.’

Loeve notes that, as budgets get tighter and digital technology advances, more and
more digital cinematography cameras will be used in place of film. “The workflow
associated with digital cameras is much quicker and the cost is significantly

According to Furst film cameras are mostly still used on long form such as Strike Back
and probably Long Walk To Freedom (yet to be confirmed), but very few commercials
are being shot with film cameras.

Goedhals believes the Sony F65 is the first digital camera to truly replicate the look
of film.


According to Music important accessories at the moment are the ones used to
customise DSLR cameras and make them workable, including sound recorders such as
the Pix 240 and external recorders to record uncompressed footage, such as the
Gemini. “The Zacuto range of DSLR accessories includes shoulder mounts, the Z
Finder optical viewfinders and EVF high resolution monitors.’

Goedhals highlights the new range of OLED broadcast and grading monitors. “You
need a good monitor to see the quality of footage accurately to make critical
decisions on the pictures you are recording. The new OLED monitors in 25′, 14′ and
7′ are filling a gap left when tube monitors were phased out. They are starting to
make their mark in South Africa.’

Among trendy new accessories, Furst mentions new matte boxes such as the
Tangerine that will be launched at NAB 2012. “New on-board monitors will also be
launched. Arri, Denz and RedRock Micro are also launching new support systems at
NAB for the Canon C300.’

“A whole bunch of new digital filters will also be launched at NAB. LED lighting such
as Creamsource and Arri’s new L-series go hand in hand with all the new digital
cameras, which allow for fast shooting with smaller light sources.’

By Linda Loubser

Screen Africa magazine – May 2012


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