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Your ranking of these digital cameras


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#1 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 02:02 PM

Reading the opinions of experienced people helps the frame of mind. Ignoring price, how would you rank these bodies, from best to worst, if applied to a cinematic short primarily shot indoors? Applying things like ease of work and image quality. Please give a "why" only if you have the time.

 

Arri Alexa

Canon c500

Blackmagic 2.5k

Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6k

Panasonic GH4

RED One MX

RED Epic Dragon

Sony A7S

Sony PMW-F5

Sony PMW-F55

 

Thanks for reading.

 

 


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#2 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 04:08 PM

Well, I got my URSA Mini yesterday, so I can give a little opinion on it... I also Own a GH4.

 

Honestly though, if Budget was not an issue.... While I don't claim to be an expert and have no shot with most of these cameras, I have no doubt that the Arri Alexa would be #1 on that list, followed by the RED EPIC. The F55 is probably #3 in terms of features and price. The F5 and C500 are probably on a more level playing field, and I'd say those are probably used a lot in Documentaries and the like - though I don't recall seeing them used on any real film sets to note. Next you'd have the Black Magic line with the URSA and URSA mini, which are okay cameras for budget filmmakers - and provide a lot of features. Then you'd have the A7s and the GH4, which are at best just okay by themselves. To get anything professional from the DSLR's you really need an external recorder and some other accessories.


Edited by Landon D. Parks, 28 May 2016 - 04:09 PM.

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#3 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 05:29 PM

This is how I'd rate them. 
 
Alexa SXT
Epic Dragon 
Red One MX
F55
F5
C500 
Ursa Mini 4.6k 
FS7
A7SMKII
GH4
Blackmagic 2.5k 
 
The Alexa is by far the best over-all camera on that list. Some may argue the newer Red Weapon-X is on par, but the Epic is not. The Red One MX is very similar to the Epic in quality, even though it's bigger. The F5 and F55 are great cameras, but not QUITE up to par in quality to the Alexa and Red. Those cameras aren't really going after that market anyway, sony makes other cameras for the purely "cinema" market. If you put the F5/F55 footage next to the Alexa and/or RED, even with a good colorist, the difference is clear. Not as much with the F65, which competes directly with the Alexa. 
 
I'd put the C500, Ursa Mini 4.6k and FS7 very close to each other. They all have strengths and weaknesses, but final output quality is very similar. The FS7 is more ENG (electronic news gathering) style, the C500 is a hybrid with the functions of an ENG camera, but in a much smaller form factor. The Ursa Mini is more of a cinema camera with a sprinkling of ENG features. I really like the C500's imager, it's a gorgeous kit, but the Canon electronics let it down I feel. They haven't quite nailed getting the imager quality onto the screen like the other manufacturers have. The C500 is by far the best attempt, but it's not there yet.   
 
I'd put the GH4 and A7SMKII as an identical finish, they are the competition to one another and they are the most similar looking cameras after coloring. The A7SMKII has a few features like the mechanical stabilization and ultra low-light capabilities which make it stand out. However, the A7SMKII also has some issues, one of which is the imager being so sensitive, it's hard to get decent quality high dynamic range images out of it, when you're in direct sunlight. It's as if the designers never took into account natural light when designing, which is very strange. I've worked with both cameras and colored many shots with them, I've found them both to have similar highlight clipping issues on bright patches and look more like "video" then cinematic. Of course, both suffer from the very restrictive, low quality internal recording format, which is a real shame. The expense, weight and size of external recorders to get better quality, makes the fundamental purpose of buying a small camera, negated. 
 
The Blackmagic 2.5k is a great looking camera, but it stands alone for many reasons. Partially due to the physical issues; internal battery, big LCD display in the back which is worthless, odd size which makes it hard to hand hold, big/expensive SSD as the only recording device, 1/4" audio which is annoying to adapt. Nobody has any idea what Blackmagic was thinking when they designed this camera, it's almost a joke of an idea, but they sold like hotcakes and still do today believe it or not. The imager looks outstanding for the price bracket and it shoots real 2k 12 bit RAW and Pro Res HQ, which is awesome. 
 
Missing from this list is the Blackmagic Pocket camera, which I would honestly put above the 2.5k because it has so many positives in comparison. From the ability to run lower-priced, but higher quality S16 lenses, to the form factor and of course, the fact most of the mistakes made in the 2.5k design are missing in the Pocket. Having spent quite a bit of time with the 2.5k, 4k and pocket camera, I can attest to how much I really love the pocket in comparison, it's a world of difference in my eyes. Not something you'd use to make a feature film with, but absolutely something I'd use on the go.
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#4 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 07:53 PM

I think if we're going to complain about the price of media on the blackmagic 2.5, we should bear in mind the even higher cost of CFast and SxS cards. They make SSDs look like deal of the century. One of the things I like least about the blackmagic 4.6 (which I generally like very much) is that it takes such expensive media. I suspect this was a decision made on the possibly-reasonable assumption that CFast would fall in price, but it's not happening, and many people would be happy to bolt an SSD bin onto the back of an Ursa Mini. When recording conventional ProRes signals, Atomos beckons, with a Shogun actually lower in price than any serious amount of CFast.

Or an FS7, for that matter.

I generally disapprove of custom operating modes - raw, etc - on the basis it makes these things difficult. They should be standardised. Overcranking has also been a way to achieve vendor lockin on recorders since - what - the F23? There are technical challenges here, but this playing field could be greatly leveled with a bit of standardisation.

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#5 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 08:08 PM

I agree with Phil on CFast media. I'd much rather have an SSD to stick in there. I can get a 480 GB SSD drive for less than $200, yet a 64 GB CFast is about the same price. So far, I say I'm only so-so impressed with the 4.6. It's a nice step up, but I still don't know if it feels worth the $5,000 price tag.

 

The pocket is okay, but I'd honestly place it around the same level as the GH4/A7S. 


Edited by Landon D. Parks, 28 May 2016 - 08:09 PM.

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#6 Jan Tore Soerensen

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 08:39 PM

The thing that irritates the poop out of me on the BMC, is the lack of slowmo. I mean, how hard could it be, the iPhone has it. I realize it is an issue of cooling, but please, 60p would satisfy me. Other than that, it has a lovely image, but it does need an external battery pack. The internal runs out in under an hour.


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#7 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 10:44 PM

Well, the Black Magic Micro, which is basically a Pocket with no monitor - has 60 frames per second, so that is one plus. Honestly, today I'd not buy a Pocket, rather going for the Micro.

 

Though, my GH4 can do up to 96fps in 1080p, so I'm not sure why the Blackmagic is so crippled in that regard. 


Edited by Landon D. Parks, 28 May 2016 - 10:45 PM.

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#8 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 29 May 2016 - 01:59 AM

The thing that irritates the shit out of me on the BMC, is the lack of slowmo. I mean, how hard could it be, the iPhone has it. I realize it is an issue of cooling, but please, 60p would satisfy me. Other than that, it has a lovely image, but it does need an external battery pack. The internal runs out in under an hour.


Well, name another camera that shoots Cinema DNG Raw and/or Pro Res HQ that records 60fps, which isn't gobs of money.

There aren't any... and there aren't any for a reason. Pro Res is very difficult to encode for smaller/lower end processors. Blackmagic couldn't afford to source an A7 for instance, it's too expensive. They put all their money into the packaging, imager and software.

Blackmagic struggled to get 30p out of the pocket camera, I use to drop frames constantly until they came out with a software patch.

The URSA has a much faster processor, it finally has decent slow mo capabilities as a consequence, but in a much bigger package.

The reason why the MPEG cameras can record slow-mo is because the processing is such low bitrate, the lighter weight processors don't have any issues. It wasn't a licensing problem that prevented them from having Pro Res, it's simply the processor. This is why the FS7 requires a different piece of hardware to record pro res, rather then just a simple software patch like the F5.
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#9 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 29 May 2016 - 08:04 AM

Reading the opinions of experienced people helps the frame of mind. Ignoring price, how would you rank these bodies, from best to worst, if applied to a cinematic short primarily shot indoors? Applying things like ease of work and image quality. Please give a "why" only if you have the time.

 

Arri Alexa

Canon c500

Blackmagic 2.5k

Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6k

Panasonic GH4

RED One MX

RED Epic Dragon

Sony A7S

Sony PMW-F5

Sony PMW-F55

 

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

I haven't shot with the C500 yet (only the C300) so can only rate it based on my knowledge of its internal recording quality, and I also haven't shot with the Ursa Mini yet, so can only base my placement of that on the sample footage I've seen online. But I'd rate them this way:

1) Arri Alexa

2) Red Epic Dragon

3) Sony PMW-F55

4) Sony PMW-F5

5) Red One MX

6) Blackmagic Ursa Mini

7) Blackmagic 2.5k

8) C500 (based on internal codec)

9) Sony A7S

10) Panasonic GH4

 

Highlight rolloff and tonality are perhaps the most important issues for me, and inform most of the placement of cameras on this list (you'll note that it's the 8-bit cameras that are down the bottom). I'm sure that when shot in raw, the C500 would probably place much closer to the Red One MX (but I haven't tried it, so don't know), it doesn't however have enough highlight latitude to compete with the Sonys or the Dragon for my tastes. 


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#10 Jan Tore Soerensen

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Posted 29 May 2016 - 08:15 AM

Well, name another camera that shoots Cinema DNG Raw and/or Pro Res HQ that records 60fps, which isn't gobs of money.

There aren't any... and there aren't any for a reason. Pro Res is very difficult to encode for smaller/lower end processors. Blackmagic couldn't afford to source an A7 for instance, it's too expensive. They put all their money into the packaging, imager and software.

Blackmagic struggled to get 30p out of the pocket camera, I use to drop frames constantly until they came out with a software patch.

The URSA has a much faster processor, it finally has decent slow mo capabilities as a consequence, but in a much bigger package.

The reason why the MPEG cameras can record slow-mo is because the processing is such low bitrate, the lighter weight processors don't have any issues. It wasn't a licensing problem that prevented them from having Pro Res, it's simply the processor. This is why the FS7 requires a different piece of hardware to record pro res, rather then just a simple software patch like the F5.

I commented that as an actual owner of the camera. I am really looking forward to upgrading to the URSA, which is quite affordable on the used market now. There is one going for about $4000 here in Norway now.


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#11 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 29 May 2016 - 10:46 AM

Pro Res is very difficult to encode for smaller/lower end processors.

 

Careful, now - ProRes, as an intra-frame format, is much, much simpler to encode than many of the things an FS7 will do. Anything except XAVC-I is an IBP format. 

 

It's possible that Sony are using ASICs which will do H.264 encoding very nicely in a small package with low power consumption, but which won't do anything else - but the difference is not particularly in sheer speed or performance, it's exactly what those bits of hardware are bent to do. ProRes is simpler than an IBP H.264 stream.

 

I would suspect the problem absolutely is licensing.

 

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#12 Lenny Manfred

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Posted 29 May 2016 - 11:10 AM

Cinematically speaking, I think you have to include the F65 on any list. And I would rate it right next to the Alexa. Ease of operation would push it down a bit, unless you have a big crew.

 

I do a lot of handheld work, and to me, it's all about ergonomics and simplicity, so that pushes the Red cameras down the list. I tried all kinds of rigs on the Red One, and nothing was ever comfortable. Haven't work with the Epics, but even though they are lighter, they look like it will be the same. The F55, even though not as cinematic feeling as the Alexa and F65, can balance quite well with the right gear, and it's relatively easy to use. The F65 did not have bad ergonomics, but it was quite the monster on your shoulder.

 

Also missing from this list are the new Panasonic cameras, the Varicam 4K and the LT.  These cameras will be contenders, as their image is very cinematic, the skin tones are second only to the Alexa ones, and their low light capabilities are nothing to sneeze at (since you are shooting indoors, that can be very helpful).  They are also not bad on the shoulder. The big sister can be a little heavy, but it's a "good heavy".

 

Regarding the F5, it's almost identical to the F55 physically, and the image is decent, but the F55 is on another level for skin tones and feel.  I would consider the F5 image more of a video/news quality than as a cinema camera.  The F55 is very close to the F65, but you can definitively see a difference.

 

Since you said to ignore price, I'm not going to bother with the others on the list.  Don't get me wrong, I have seen beautiful images from most of them, but if money is no object, then go for the best.

 

If I was to make my list, cinematically speaking,  it would be:

 

Alexa

F65

Varicam 4k

Red Epic

F55

the rest

 

but it's not set in stone.


Edited by Lenny Manfred, 29 May 2016 - 11:19 AM.

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#13 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 29 May 2016 - 11:49 AM

Careful, now - ProRes, as an intra-frame format, is much, much simpler to encode than many of the things an FS7 will do. Anything except XAVC-I is an IBP format. 


Long GOP can be encoded by the GPU portion of a processor, leaving the CPU portion to crunch the imager data. Plus since these cameras mostly record 8 bit 4:2:0, there is far less actual processing involved. The conversion happens on the fly in real time.

Pro Res by contrast, can't be encoded with a GPU, it's CPU only. So if your CPU is busy dealing with the data coming off the imager, then it also has to deal with encoding Pro Res, that's a huge problem. I mean just do a test with 10 bit Pro Res encoding on your desktop vs .h264. On mine, Pro Res takes ALOT longer then using a GPU friendly .h264 program. I can spit out compressed 8 bit, 4:2:0 Long GOP files VERY quickly.

Raw is MUCH simpler to deal with if was simply streamed onto the card. However, now you're dealing with bandwidth issues related to media. I'm not sure if Cinema DNG (which is just a string of tiff files), can be compressed with the GPU efficiently.

I think the reason Blackmagic gets away with a low-cost pro res license camera is because they make so few cameras compared to the other brands. That's not an excuse in my mind, Sony COULD produce a low-yield camera line, specifically with those codec's for a lower price. Make a "version" of the A7SMKII with Pro Res, why not? I just don't think they CAN. TO make it work on the FS7, they needed more hardware. To make it work with the F5, they needed a software patch. Thus showing you how much better/faster the processor and media system is in the F5 compared to the FS7.

Also, Canon has ZERO excuse. The C series cameras all use media that's plenty fast enough. They absolutely don't make or sell enough C series cameras for the Pro Res licensing issue a problem with pricing either. If the C500 was Pro Res XQ and Cinema DNG Native, but was $12,000, people would still buy it. They would actually probably dominate the market because as I said before, the C500 is just a magnificent looking camera. None of the issues of the Sony imager (in that price point), which I'm not a fan of what so ever.
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#14 aapo lettinen

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Posted 29 May 2016 - 11:51 AM

I would rank the Alexa quite low on the list for indie shorts because of the weight and form factor. something smaller and lighter like F5/55 or Epic is much better so that it is faster to work with (if you can stand the codecs and menu nightmare) and you can save on grip equipment if needed. If Alexa Mini would be included it would probably rank quite high on the list. I would not shoot raw on a indie short unless those shots where it is absolutely needed. even the bigger productions don't usually shoot raw because it is not economic in contrast with the image quality difference in 95% of situations. it does not make up for bad lighting either so I would stick with proves/xavc/compressed raw 


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#15 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 30 May 2016 - 12:21 PM

Long GOP can be encoded by the GPU portion of a processor, leaving the CPU portion to crunch the imager data. Plus since these cameras mostly record 8 bit 4:2:0, there is far less actual processing involved. The conversion happens on the fly in real time.

 

I think we need to be a bit more careful with definitions here. Cameras don't really have GPUs in the same way as a desktop computer, so we're talking about generic vector or parallel operations, or something computer science sometimes calls SIMD, for single instruction, multiple data. Unfortunately H.264 has long suffered the issue that these techniques actually aren't very effective for encoding. The technical reason why this happens is that the lion's share of encoding effort is in motion compensation, where blocks are moved around to create new picture based on their position in the old picture. This works from the top left of the frame down toward the bottom right in diagonal rows of 8-pixel-square macroblocks. The motion estimation vector for each block - the direction in which it's moving - is calculated based on its top and left neighbours, which means that the largest number of simultaneous operations that can be done in motion-compensated encoding is equal to the largest diagonal row of blocks in the image, which for landscape-aspect images will be the number of rows of pixels divided by eight. This works out to 135 for 1080-line video. Really high-core-count SIMD processors like GPUs don't want 135 threads, they want a couple of thousand.

 

Some GPUs have hardware dedicated to handling H.264 and this is possibly somewhat similar to what happens in cameras, but that isn't part of the massively-parallel GPU core array, that's a custom ASIC for just that job.

 

Encoding one ProRes frame involves many of the same operations as an MPEG I-frame, or more accurately a JPEG frame, or a DV or DVCPRO-HD frame. It's actually easier to parallelise than H.264. There are 32,000 8-by-8 macroblocks in the Y channel of a 1080p frame, each to be treated more or less identically.

 

The difference is whether the software people have actually bothered to do it...

 

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#16 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 30 May 2016 - 01:28 PM

Yea, I hear ya. So they're producing custom ASIC's like Canon's DIGIC which perform specific tasks.

I always thought manufacturers used a more basic processor like Go Pro does with the A7. It has a multi-core GPU on board, which is part of the magic.
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#17 David Hessel

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 01:07 PM

I cannot an oppinion on these since I have shot with only a few of the cameras on the list but I am curious where you all would place the F35.


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#18 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 01:35 PM

I cannot an oppinion on these since I have shot with only a few of the cameras on the list but I am curious where you all would place the F35.

 

 

Somewhere in the middle, just below the top digital cinema cameras but above the more prosumer stuff.  It's a good camera, 6MP RGB striped sensor, not Bayer, so equal number of red, green, and blue photosites for full 1080P HD in each color channel (2MP for each color).  A bit prone to aliasing problems and of course, rather bulky.  320 to 500 ISO.


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#19 Rakesh Malik

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 03:36 PM

Yea, I hear ya. So they're producing custom ASIC's like Canon's DIGIC which perform specific tasks.

I always thought manufacturers used a more basic processor like Go Pro does with the A7. It has a multi-core GPU on board, which is part of the magic.

 

ASICs are more basic processors. CPUs/GPUs are very sophisticated, require significant system resources, and involve a lot more silicon and complicated fabrication that goes with that in order to offer high performance for a wide variety of workloads, most of which aren't particularly useful in a camera.


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#20 John E Clark

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 04:19 PM

Reading the opinions of experienced people helps the frame of mind. Ignoring price, how would you rank these bodies, from best to worst, if applied to a cinematic short primarily shot indoors? Applying things like ease of work and image quality. Please give a "why" only if you have the time.

 

Arri Alexa

Canon c500

Blackmagic 2.5k

Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6k

Panasonic GH4

RED One MX

RED Epic Dragon

Sony A7S

Sony PMW-F5

Sony PMW-F55

 

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

I don't know why people say 'ignoring price'... price for most people is an essential element of the process... even if one could afford an ARRI... why not buy a cheaper camera body, and buy better lenses... or fancier frame/rig/gimble/whatever, if one is going to buy... and even if one is going to rent... why not rent more of a package for the same price just one high end camera body would go for...

 

Then there's 'well I'ld buy a Maserati (or appropriate status car).... and then carry my plywood from Home Depot home on the roof'... right...

 

For me, if 'under $2K' was the goal, I'd go with the Blackmagic cameras. I have the Pocket, and have been duly impressed with the price/performance for 'shorts shot indoors'.... or outdoors...


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