Camera illusion


Choosing a camera for production these days is bound to leave many scratching heads for answers to the age-old question, “What is the best camera available?”.

Realistically there is no objectively right or wrong answer here. There is only what’s “right” or “wrong” for you and what you plan to achieve with your camera – all of which have their pros and cons; therefore, there is no such thing as “the best camera.” The most expensive cameras don’t necessarily offer the best images so it’s probably best to look at a camera and a host of accessories that will give you the best look for your application rather than getting lost in the spec sheets.


ARRI and RED continue to lead the digital revolution in high end videography. Whilst ARRI’s Alexa line-up remains out of reach for many filmmakers, RED lowered the bar to entry with its introduction of a sub-$10K camera, the Red Raven; a 4K camera with a wide dynamic range and impressive frame rates of up to 120fps. With the ability to record in REDCODE RAW (R3D) and Apple ProRes or Avid DNxHD, simultaneously, RED RAVEN supports a wide range of trusted workflow options and has become a favourite with film maker’s world over. As one of the smallest and most lightweight RED cameras yet, RED RAVEN is uniquely suited for hand-held shooting, as well as gimbal and drone applications.

Not content to let RED have all the drone and gimbal fun, ARRI introduced the ALEXA Mini recently, which takes the image quality of the original ALEXA and shoves it all into a much smaller Carbon Fibre package. The camera is capable of up to 200fps 2K ProRes and 30fps 2.8K ArriRAW recording to internal CFast 2.0 cards (60fps at 4:3 and 120fps at 16:9 if you go to a Codex recorder). It can record 4K by upscaling but the quality of the sensor is such that ARRI can get away with it. The coolest thing about the Mini is that nearly everything is controllable from WiFi, including the ND filters, so you can operate the entire device remotely.

Canon and Panasonic have put out a few good offerings, particularly this year, but have generally been outpaced by Sony’s and Blackmagic Design’s rapid rate of innovation.

Released back in 2015 but with a major firmware upgrade boosting it to new heights, the new SONY PXW-FS5 is a great small package that packs a lot of punch. Its Super 35 Exmor CMOS image sensor (the same size as the PXW-FS7) delivers 14 stops of dynamic range and can shoot up to 960 fps in burst mode. It also offers 240 and 480 fps and gives you the ability for 40x slowmo – it’s a really impressive beast.

With a new 4.6K sensor, CinemaDNG raw recording capability, and optional PL mount, it’s hard to imagine a better-value camcorder with more professional features than Blackmagic Design’s Ursa Mini Pro 4.6K. To produce cinematic images, the URSA Mini can record uncompressed raw sensor data in the CinemaDNG format onto CFast 2.0 memory cards. The URSA Mini also records UHD (3840 x 2160) and 1080p video using ready-to-edit ProRes files in many different flavours depending on your workflow and is my pick as camera of the year.

Canon’s EOS C100 Mark II Cinema EOS Camera is so popular in the USA that it’s been sold out of stock twice in the past year. The EOS C100 Mark II uses the same Super 35mm Canon CMOS sensor as its big brother, the C300. With an EF lens mount, the camera is compatible with the full range of Canon EF, EF-S, and EF Cinema lenses. This is particularly useful for DSLR shooters who have already invested in Canon lenses.

Demonstrating why it is a leader in the industry, Sony has released its latest full-frame Alpha a9 Mirrorless Digital Camera. The new sensor and processor system provide an ISO range of 100 – 51200 (expandable to 50 – 204800), ensuring optimal image quality with minimal noise in low light, and at fast speeds. The new camera also supports uncompressed 14-bit RAW. 4K (3840x2160p) video recording across the full width of the full-frame image sensor is supported and, when shooting in this format, the camera uses full pixel readout without pixel binning to produce high-quality 4K footage with exceptional detail and depth.

Incidentally, most DSLRs have a 30-minute video recording limit which is actually the result of an EU spec that defines a video camera as opposed to a still camera. There are higher tariffs in the EU for video cameras so the still camera manufacturers have implemented this time limit in their firmware to hold down costs to the consumer.


Lens manufacturers Tokina have added new 18mm and 25mm cine prime additions to their exciting Vista prime lens line-up as well as a new revamped Cinema 16-28mm T3.0 Mark II wide angle zoom. The new Tokina 16-28mm has been re-engineered to use the optical formula of the award winning still lenses and is also is par focal. The new Tokina 16-28mm T3 II is available in PL, Canon EF, MFT, Sony E, Nikon F mounts.

Professional video creators and filmmakers have been eagerly anticipating the release of a wide-angle G Master lens. The Sony 16-35mm F/2.8 GM promises sharpness across the zoom range and throughout apertures, with Sony promoting the extreme aspherical (XA) element to achieve the greatest resolution and lowest image distortion. Weighing in at only 680g, the lens is lighter than the Canon equivalent, but a little more expensive.

New from Canon is the COMPACT-SERVO 70-200mm Telephoto Zoom Lens, a cinema-style lens that includes a servo drive unit as a standard feature. Additionally, the lens incorporates Image Stabilization, Autofocus, and Auto Iris functionality – three extremely useful features not commonly found in cinema lenses, but popular in EF lenses. The lens also provides high image quality that supports 4K image productions and was designed to be utilised in a variety of shooting styles including, hand-held, shoulder mounted, and tripod mounted and is compatible with EF-mount Super 35mm large-format cameras.


There’s a wide range of decent on-camera monitors to choose from, and now there’s one more candidate: the new Marshall V-LCD70W-SH. It’s a 7”{ HDMI and SDI LCD monitor with a detachable sun hood that’s also foldable, HDMI and SDI inputs and a resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels but for great value for money and technical innovation you just can’t beat Blackmagic Designs Video Assist which works with everything from DSLR’s to SDI camcorders.

There are two models available – the 5” Video Assist features a 1920 x 1080 screen and an HD recorder. The other model is the Blackmagic Design Video Assist 4K featuring a 7” high resolution screen, two high speed recorders for non-stop Ultra HD recording, XLR mic inputs, a built-in speaker and more!


This is a great device and those who own it wonder how they ever managed without it. The NEXTO DI NCB-20 Card Batcher allows you to copy up to eight memory cards at once to either one or two external drives connected via USB 3.0, all without the need for a computer. It has a single-button operation design, and a simple 2,4” LCD display to monitor the copying process. The device is capable of carrying out automatic labelling, a feature that will sort the files on the HDD according to slots and create organised folders. It is also possible to assign a camera to a certain card slot on the device, which will copy all the files into a folder according to shooting date, slot number and a text field, such as the camera operator’s name, for example. There are 7 variants for SD/SDHC/SDXC/MicroSD (UHS1) cards, CFast cards, XQD cards, SXS cards, P2 and Express P2 cards and RED MINIMAG cards


Though our cameras and production accessories continue to get smaller and more portable, battery manufacturers have been working to develop better and longer lasting batteries, which in a strange way is a problem. Recently the International Air Transport Association (IATA) tightened its regulations for battery transport. The regulations that state that Li-ion batteries transported as cargo must be charged to no more than 30 % of their rated capacity. Those with Anton/Bauer batteries will be pleased with the Anton/Bauer LPD Discharger that can discharge up to four Li-ion batteries simultaneously and works with either Gold Mount or V-Mount batteries. As a dedicated battery discharge unit, the LPD requires no external power; rather, it uses energy from the batteries it is discharging. This allows for travel-friendly operation and ensures that the discharging process does not damage the batteries.


Realistically, at the end of the day we all know that a great looking image isn’t judged by its dynamic range, resolution, f-stop or anything else technical. Specs do matter, but what matters most is the person behind the camera and the ability to utilise the resources you have at your disposal.

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Ian Dormer was born in Zimbabwe and has been in the TV business since the 1980s, having served in various positions a the SABC, M-Net and SuperSport. Ian currently works and resides in New Zealand.


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