Three 4K Cameras (that aren’t made by Red)

Three 4K Cameras (that aren’t made by Red)

When the Red One came out a few years ago, it revolutionized the image-making business. Well-known filmmakers like Stephen Soderbergh and Peter Jackson, both of whom had worked in indie style film as well as on big, Hollywood blockbusters, adopted the camera early on. The push for higher resolution, more pixels, RAW recording, more color depth, and a workflow that could be taken from a laptop to a full blown color suite had begun.

Today, it’s obvious that it hasn’t stopped.

There are now more ways than ever to make 4K images, and even Red keeps stepping up their game, now offering a 6K camera.

But Red isn’t the only one. Both Sony and Canon, as well as newcomer Blackmagic, have gotten aboard the 4K train. It’s conceivable that, given the ever-increasing computing power available for media production, 4K finishing may soon become the norm. Netflix, long the spearhead of digital content delivery, is set to start has already begun streaming in 4k for a few select series.

Shooting in 4K can be challenging. Larger formats mean larger file sizes, which can be difficult to handle and archive, as well as necessitate more and bigger storage drives. Depending on the talent in front of the camera, a sharper image may or may not be an advantage – everything you capture will be under closer scrutiny, and the best and worst visual elements of your production, including the hair and makeup on your talent, will be accentuated. Lens filtration can help with this, and certainly beginning with a “sharp” image is often preferable to doing so with a soft one.

Recently, I was challenged by a documentary filmmaker to come up with a package that would allow for “verite style” 4K shooting.

The basic requirements were:

  • relatively small camera
  • reasonable ergonomics
  • ability to go hand held
  • larger sensor
  • cinema quality imaging
This 4K Camera Isn't A Red either
4K After the Red

Though by no means a comprehensive list, here are 3 basic 4K cameras (in addition to the Red Scarlet/Epic) that fulfill these requirements:

  • Sony F5 & Sony F55
    • The F55 is an interesting camera in that it shares sensor technology with the Sony F65, yielding the widest color gamut on the market today (and capturing an even wider color array than print film). The sensor itself is a 4K chip, and the camera offers 4K recording either to SxS cards internally, or to an accessory recorder (the AXS-R5), which snaps onto the back of the camera. Recording to both the SxS cards and the R5 simultaneously is possible, and, in the near future, will give you ProRes, DNxHD, or XAVC or SR file types, the latter two of which come from Sony, itself. This setup would yield both HD and 4K (RAW or compressed) files with which to work – no transcoding necessary. Additionally, the camera has 14 stops of latitude and a global shutter, which eliminates the “rolling shutter” artifacts present in many other 4K cameras.
  • Canon C500
    • The Canon C500 has a 4K sensor backed by years of color science, originally developed for their stills cameras. Beloved by photographers everywhere, Canon’s color palate is now also available on their motion cameras. The C500 records in HD resolution to Compact Flash cards inserted in the camera, and to 4K uncompressed using an off-board (but camera mounted) recorder like the Convergent Design Genesis. The Genesis can be set to start and stop in sync with the camera, and can record to both systems (on-board and off-board) at the same time. Like the F55, this combination yields both HD and 4K files without the need for transcoding and down-rezzing.
  • Blackmagic Production Camera 4K
    • This exceptionally small camera (about the size of their original Blackmagic Cinema Camera) is perhaps the least expensive 4K solution when it comes to cameras themselves. It records in both compressed 4K and ProRes, and like the more expensive F55, features a global shutter. Interestingly, the BMPC 4K also features uncompressed audio recording, which could come in handy in an emergency. With 12 stops of dynamic range, its image-producing abilities are nothing to sneeze at, despite the low price, and “serious camera” newbies will appreciate its touchscreen interface.

Whichever you choose to shoot with, Digital Film Studios can fit you with a rig, lighting, and lenses that suit your needs.

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