Sunday, July 20, 2014

Panasonic GH4 "Range Wars" - Which Dynamic Range Test Do You Believe?

The $1699 Panasonic GH4 seems to elicit some pretty strong reactions. Opinions run the gamut from reviews like "Best Camera Ever?" to a "scientific" test called "Dynamic Range – Sony A7S vs. the others" where the results seem to confirm the testers' preconceptions, e.g,  "the rather videoish look and contrasty colors we can subjectively observe" from the GH4.

Here's the chart showing the results of this test (using the $3540 Xyla21 – 21 step Grayscale Combi-DX1):

GH4 CineLike Dynamic Range Test - Assessed as 10.9 stops by Cinema5D

The post describing these results gives us a few details about the methodology (e.g., the lens and ISO they used), but doesn't show waveforms or tell us which CineLike profile the testers used (this is important because CineLike V has less DR than CineLike D).

Fortunately, we can compare these results to other data-driven tests. The best I've seen is "Panasonic GH4: DR and Gamma, Timelapse, and More" from Adam Wilt writing for

Adam also used the Xyla 21 to test the GH4's Dynamic Range - but he tested it across various color and CineLike profiles. Here is his result for CineLike D:

GH4 Dynamic Range Test - Assessed as 11+ stops by Adam Wilt at dvinfo
Why the clear difference between the results of the two tests? Perhaps the Cinema5D testers used CineLike V instead of CineLike D. Or perhaps it was confirmation bias related to the subjective observations about the camera's "videoish" look.  Hard to know.

Personally, I don't see a "videoish" look from my GH4 unless I want it.  Neither do I see it from Phil Bloom's 4K Postcard from Phang Nha or Guillaume Le Berre's Kaydara.

That said, I really respect the effort the folks at Cinema5D put into this test, but in light of the significant difference with the dvinfo results, they might want to take another look at their conclusions.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Terrific GH4 vs A7s Shootout from Learning Cameras - and a Wakeup Call for Canon

This is the best comparison of the Panasonic GH4 and the Sony A7s I have seen to date, with insightful observations on features, ergonomics, lens selection and the importance of 4K in a 1080p world.

Here's the review:

As readers of this blog know, we are partial to the GH4 - but to be fair to the A7s, Dan doesn't mention the advantages of using the Metabones  EF to NEX Smart Adapter with the Sony. The Smart Adapter mitigates the A7s' lens selection challenge somewhat by opening up the possibility of using fast, wide Canon glass with image stabilization and auto-aperture.

He also leaves out any mention of the Sony's APS-C crop mode as a partial solution to the A7s' jello problem.

But these are minor nits.  Overall, I agree completely with his bottom line - at $1700 for a compact handheld 4K solution, the GH4 is the clear winner.

But beyond the competition between the two new kings of the mirrorless world, there is a deeper message from this shootout.

Two of Dan's quotes stand out as particularly bad news for a company whose cameras aren't seen in the video - Canon.  Dan says:
"Honestly, [4K] is making it tough to go back to 1080p", and
"Both of these cameras have redefined my view of what video should look like from cameras in this price range - they have just both stomped on [emphasis added] my Canon 5D3 and 70D so hard that it will be nearly impossible for me to pick them up and begin video shooting after seeing the quality these cameras were able to generate."
That's pretty tough language from someone who has thousands of dollars invested in Canon bodies and glass.

In my view, as more and more shooters get their hands on these cameras, quotes like these will start to become the conventional wisdom - and it will become more and more difficult to sell 8-bit 1080p mirror-box DSLRs for serious professional or enthusiast film-making.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Price cut - Super 35mm NEX-FS100 camcorder now $2500 w free Metabones adapter!

Sony has slashed the suggested retail price of the body-only NEX-FS100 Super 35 camcorder to $2850 U.S. list price. Retailers have marked it down even further ($2499 at Adorama with a mail-in coupon for a free Metabones EF to NEX Mark II smart adapter).

This is a big deal. As of yesterday, the retail price for this 8-bit 4:2:0 camera was $4999 - about the same price as the 8-bit Canon C100. So Sony has taken about a third off the price of this camera in one day.

In my view, this is a common sense move. Sony is reacting to the marketplace - shooters can buy a $495 Blackmagic Pocket Camera with 10/12-bit internal recording or a $1700 Panasonic GH4 with 4 times the resolution of the FS100 and 10-bit 4K output.  A $5000 price point for this camera was unrealistic (Canon, are you listening?).

That said, this is still an excellent low-light camcorder, except for its ergonomics, where the C100 is clearly better. But if your budget is below $3000, and you really want Super 35 - you may want to seriously consider this deal.

New Blackmagic Firmware Update 1.8.2 - Record 230 min of 1080p ProRes on a 64GB SD or SSD!

Today, Blackmagic Design announced firmware update 1.8.2 for all of its cinema cameras - the $495 (on sale, as of this post) Pocket Cinema Camera, the $1995 Cinema Camera and the $2995 4K (UHD) Production Camera. This update adds three easy-to-edit Apple ProRes file formats to the menus for these cameras - ProRes 422, ProRes 422 Lite and ProRes 422 Proxy.

With the increased compression of these formats, shooters can now record more video on their existing cards and drives - or, buy less expensive SDs and SSDs.

Here are ProRes 1080p data rates at several frame rates of interest (from Apple):

23.98 fps; ProRes HQ is 176 Mbps, ProRes is 117 Mbps, ProRes LT is 82 Mbps and ProRes Proxy is 36 Mbps.

25 fps; ProRes HQ is 184 Mbps, ProRes is 122 Mbps, ProRes LT is 85 Mbps and ProRes Proxy is 38 Mbps.

29.97 fps; ProRes HQ is 220 Mbps, ProRes is 147 Mbps, ProRes LT is 102 Mbps and ProRes Proxy is 45 Mbps.

Here is the Blackmagic press release:
Fremont, CA - July 17, 2014 - Blackmagic Design today announced announced the immediate availability of Camera 1.8.2 software which adds three new Apple ProRes™ file formats for the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera and Blackmagic Production Camera 4K. Camera 1.8.2 update is available now free of charge from the Blackmagic Design website.

Blackmagic Design camera customers have always been able to record in both CinemaDNG RAW or compressed ProRes 422 HQ formats, however now this new software update adds three additional Apple ProRes™ file formats, ProRes 422, ProRes 422 LT and ProRes 422 Proxy. This means customers using Blackmagic Design cameras will be able to get significantly smaller video file sizes allowing much longer recording durations on the same media card, all while preserving full frame 10-bit 4:2:2 quality.

Because this update is available to our camera customers free of charge, they simply need to download it, and install the update from their Mac or Windows machine using a simple USB cable connection to the camera. Once the update is complete, customers will see these new formats available in the camera menus.

Because this update reduces the data rate of recording, it means customers can now choose lower cost SSD or SD cards while still recording high quality video in SD, HD and Ultra HD resolutions. Using ProRes 422 Proxy it is possible to record 230 minutes of 1080HD video on a single 64GB SD drive. Selecting the type of ProRes format for recording can be set via the on screen menus and all ProRes types can be played back instantly.

The Apple ProRes 422 formats are designed specifically for multi-stream non linear editing, minimal generation loss and fast export, making them very popular video file formats for post production and broadcast. All ProRes files recorded with Blackmagic Cinema Cameras and Blackmagic Production Camera 4K can be opened directly in DaVinci Resolve 11 and Apple Final Cut Pro X™ for immediate color correction, editing and finishing.

“We are extremely excited to release this next update for our camera customers ,” said Grant Petty, CEO of Blackmagic Design. “With the addition of the 3 new ProRes formats, cinematographers can now record for longer on low cost SSD’s and SD cards without sacrificing image quality, as they are still recording in full 10 bit 4:2:2 quality. Because our cameras feature a software centric design, we are very excited to be able to update our cameras with more and more features over time and make the cameras better and better! And there is more to come!”

Availability and Price Camera 1.8.2 is available now for download from the Blackmagic Design web site free of charge for all Blackmagic Cinema Camera, Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera and Blackmagic Production Camera 4K customers.
With this recent spate of software upgrades and price cuts, Blackmagic Design is making a credible attempt to reclaim the spotlight - by fixing some of the longstanding challenges with its cameras and improving its price position in the marketplace. Let's hope the next software release adds some of the other features that shooters have been clamoring for - such as a solution to the BMCC's black spot challenge, in-camera clip deletion and in-camera card/drive formatting.

One thing's for sure, my BMPCC just became a whole lot more usable - for free. Hat tip to Blackmagic for providing four flavors of 10-bit 4:2:2 video in a $495 camera - while Canon is still charging $5000 for 8-bit 4:2:0.

As usual, if anything here has helped you to make a buying decision, please click on one of the links above or the displays below. Even if you're not in the market for a cinema camera, please patronize our sponsors in the margins - it won't cost you anything extra, and it will help keep these posts coming. And to stay on top of the latest cinema and video camera news, deals and tips, please follow HCR on Blogger, on YouTube, on Google+ and on Twitter. Thanks so much for your support of the Hybrid Camera Revolution!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

For a limited time, #1 Bestselling Pro Camcorder, Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera is just $495!

Today, Blackmagic Design announced a $500 off summer sale on the groundbreaking 12-bit RAW Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. Until August 31st, 2014, the BMPCC is $495 at Amazon, Adorama, eBay, B&H and other authorized retailers.

At this price, the Pocket Cinema Camera becomes price competitive with entry level DSLRs and DSLMs - with a camera whose image quality is on par with cameras costing thousands of dollars more. Here's the Blackmagic press release:

Fremont, CA - July 16, 2014 - Blackmagic Design today announced an exciting Summer Special discount for the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera for the low price of US$495. With a normal recommended retail price of US$995, this Summer Special represents incredible value and is available for a limited time and will end on the 31st of August 2014. This Summer Special price is subject to limited availability, after which the price will return to the usual recommended retail price of US$995.
Since its introduction, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera has been used in thousands of independent films, television commercials, music videos and anywhere cinematographers need a high quality digital film camera in a stealthy super small size.
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera includes powerful features such as Super 16mm sized 1080HD sensor, super wide 13 stops of dynamic range, built in SD card recorder for Apple ProRes, lossless CinemaDNG RAW capture and active Micro Four Thirds lens mount, all in an attractive compact design.
This compact design allows the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera to be used in more situations where a larger camera would not be practical. It’s so small that it can be used in situations in the field where a larger camera could be dangerous. The camera’s film look even allows personal video to be shot with the style and creativity of a motion picture film.
Unlike regular video cameras Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera is a true digital cinema camera as it includes a super wide dynamic range image sensor with 13 stops of latitude, allowing feature film quality images.
A common mistake in the television industry is the assumption that more resolution means higher quality. Most cameras produce"video" looking images that suffer from highlight and black clipping that limits details. Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera's wide dynamic range eliminates this problem and provides film quality with dramatically more detail retained in black and whites in the image. Once the shoot is complete, DaVinci Resolve Lite 11 color correction and online editing software can be used to adjust images and take advantage of this extra range in the images.
To eliminate the damage that low bit depth and high compression video storage creates, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera includes a easy to use SD card recorder that allows the full sensor dynamic range to be recorded in professional ProRes 422 (HQ) format, as well as 12 bit Log RAW lossless compressed CinemaDNG format. These files can be read by high end video software as they are all open standard.
“We have worked hard to set up this exciting special price to allow more people to afford a super compact digital cinema camera that they can personally own. However stock is limited at this lower price so customers who want to buy at this price will need to move fast,” said Grant Petty, CEO, Blackmagic Design. “We are extremely proud of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera and we want to thank all the cinematographers who have send us examples of the work they have completed with this camera. We want to thank everyone for the wise and intelligent feedback they have given us and we hope this special offer is a great way to show our appreciation to the wonderful customers we have. For us, this is a dream come true!”
Now, at the $1700 price point, we have the GH4 competing with cameras such as the ~$3000+ 5D Mark III and ~$11,999 1 D C - while, at the low end, DSLR video shooters can buy a straight-out-of-the-box RAW camera for the price of a T3i.  This is bad news for the old-line DSLR manufacturers.

It seems to me that Canon and Nikon either have to step up to the plate and offer more high end features for the money - or, cede the video market to the newcomers and watch sales of mirror-box DSLRs slip even further.  If I owned stock in these companies, I would sell it.

If you've been eyeing the BMPCC, but didn't have quite enough money to buy one - now may be the time to pull the trigger. Please click on one of the links, pictures or display ads from our sponsors on this page to order. It won't cost you anything extra, but it will help to keep these blog posts coming. Thanks so much for supporting the Hybrid Camera Revolution!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Now In Stock - Value Priced Panasonic GH4 and G6 Bundles at Adorama!

For shooters looking to buy the GH4, it's now back in stock at Adorama - and for just $10 over the $1697.99 body only price, you can get a GH4 bundle with a camera bag, a 32GB SD card and more.

For shooters on a budget who don't need 4K or Quicktime, Adorama also has a great value-for-money Panasonic G6 bundle with kit lens, extra battery, SD card and more for $699.99.

These are great deals for the best still/video hybrid cameras on the market in their respective price ranges.