Nowadays, a camera is a camera, right? Well not really; a mobile phone could be
classed as a camera for filming video and stills, while a traditional stills camera
can also be a tool for cinema production – all in high definition. Now HD is giving
way to 4K, and not only has the 4K revolution changed the way we acquire
footage, it has also changed the way we purchase our cameras. If high
definition content has already become a standard even in households these
days, just how demanding are video resolution requirements in the field of
professional videography? Well, to some, video cameras that shoot in full HD
may still suffice; however, with the advent of 4K professional video cameras,
others may not think the same anymore.
Modular camera systems
Cameras on the high end of the marketplace have become modular. Not so long
ago Sony’s DXC-D35 series emerged as a camera head to which a matching
recording “dock’ could be mounted. With many formats available to choose from,
an ENG shooter could dock a DVCAM, BetaSP, or Beta SX recorder, and so was
able to shoot any format required by the broadcaster. Back then there were
many advantages to modular design, allowing the camera to record multiple
These days this isn’t such a problem because all newly released camcorders
record to a file system, and most non-linear editing systems (NLEs) will take
most formats with ease provided you are up to date with your software.
When RED first released their innovation, the “Meccano’ concept, it was seen as
revolutionary. The idea behind the design was an infinitely configurable camera,
with a number of add-on modules available. Since then many cinema-style
cameras have followed suit. Add-on recorders have become the norm, with
some cameras designed to take additional modules that blend in seamlessly
with the body design. Arri’s range of cameras has taken things further and
enhanced designs so that even the sensor can be replaced in the field, and its
recording media type is also upgradeable.
When Sony announced their F55 and F5 back in October 2012, the big buzz was
around 4K. These two modular type cameras made it seem like – as Sony said at
the time – the future had arrived. Bringing with it a new workflow based around
XAVC, it was clear that they would be the centre of a major strategy for years to
But what’s really exciting is what’s new and upcoming, and Panasonic features
prominently in this regard. Long overdue, Panasonic has finally re-entered the
cinema realm announcing that their shiny new 4K Varicam will be making its
debut at NAB 2014. The Varicam is also a modular system where the camera
head can be connected to dockable recording modules and other accessories.
In addition to the 4K Varicam head, which has a Super 35mm sensor, the new
system features a new 2/3′ 1080p head for high speed shooting, which
Panasonic calls “The Varicam HS’. It can record up to 240fps in AVC-Intra 100.
The 4K head, the Varicam 35, has a resolution of 4096 x 2160 (17:9) and the
camera features a single CMOS sensor, unlike the Varicam HS which is 3MOS
based. It can record 4K RAW but it can also record 4K, UHD, 2K and even right
down to 1080p. Panasonic also claims a very impressive sounding 14 stops of
In the smaller camcorder range, Panasonic has also launched its first handheld,
cloud-based ENG camera with wireless connectivity, enabling recorded content
to be shared almost instantly and accessed from anywhere.
The AJ-PX270 removes the need for traditional video uplink, perfectly positioning
it for the growing live stream and freelance news gathering market. The camera
enables a wireless production workflow via LAN, with additional 3G/4G/LTE
application. It will be available from around September 2014.
The world’s first DSLM
When Canon first introduced the 5D Mk2 to its DSLR range, its video mode was
very much an afterthought designed for journalists, yet it still created a storm.
Suddenly, despite the limitations, users could shoot incredibly film-like video with
shallow depth of field, a wider dynamic range, and far superior low light
capability than many traditional camcorders that may have cost many times the
Panasonic are about to break the mould, yet again, with the launch of their new
mirrorless flagship, the Lumix GH4. It’s labelling the camera the “world’s first
Digital Single Lens Mirrorless (DSLM) with 4K video recording’. Capable of
recording Cinema 4K (4096 x 2160, 24 fps) and standard QFHD 4K (3840 x 2160,
up to 30fps), Panasonic is targeting this high-end Micro Four Thirds camera
toward pro filmmakers who utilise equipment like this for a living, as well as
advanced hobbyists looking to create 4K home movies.
Sony has just declared that they will be adding two new codecs to the F5 and
F55 cameras: Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD. These two formats are the most
desired in the industry due to their NLE compatibility and overall quality. Sony
already include some great codecs in the F5 and F55 cameras, including XAVC,
MPEG2, SR Codec and RAW with the AXS-R5 recorder. However, ProRes and
DNxHD support will definitely mean a faster workflow for many productions. This
is a hardware upgrade, so it won’t be free – no pricing is available as yet. Things
are changing in the camera industry, that’s for sure!