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4K and slo mo camera advice

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Philip James
4K and slo mo camera advice
on Aug 7, 2017 at 1:58:46 pm

It's time for me to take a step up from my 5D MKIII. I'll be using this new camera mainly for video shooting. I'd like to shoot in 4K (ideally with some slow motion capability) and also have a good range of HD slow motion options. And good quality imagery. I'm a bit overloaded with specs right now and thought I'd put it to the forum for some wisdom. My current short list is:

Sony A9

Sony A7S II

Panasonic Lumix GH5

Black Magic URSA Mini Pro

Canon 1DX

I can see advantages and disadvantages of each. The GH5 seems a great all-rounder ticking most of my boxes but it's not so great in low light (maybe not a major issue ultimately) and micro 4/3 isn't so great since I shoot quite a lot of macro and often want narrow depth of field. Black Magic might be a good choice but bigger and not so good in low light. The only one without rolling shutter though? A9 generally looks great but doesn't have so many features for film makers. Canon 1DX - huge but maybe. There is also a big difference in price between the various models. Hmmm... I guess size/weight (for macro tracking), control of depth of field, higher rates of slow motion and image quality (including color depth) are my main priorities. Any advice?


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Dave LaRonde
Re: 4K and slo mo camera advice
on Aug 8, 2017 at 1:42:11 am

On this issue, I come down to one issue: preservation of the original image's quality. I don't care about accommodating a wide variety of images. I don't care about aperture/ISO concerns. That's artsy-farty stuff. I care about preserving as much of the quality the sensor is capable of capturing.

I worry about how much of the the original image quality is thrown away in the recording process. If you aren't aware of how MUCH of it is thrown away before you even get to edit, it would make your head spin.

There's temporal compression, where the codec tosses away the pixels of the image that don't appear to change -- and that is something inherent in almost every codec -- over a given amount of frames. There are only a few complete frames interspersed throughout.

There's color resolution, where the image is treated like two images: a full-resolution black-and white image, joined with a color overlay, and the resolution of that color overlay is often less than the B&W image. 4-4-4 is the best color resolution: for every 4 pixels of B&W, there is a corresponding 4 pixels of color overlay. It takes up the most file space and is found on only the most expensive cameras. There is 4-2-2 color, where every 4 pixels of B&W image is represented by 2 pixels of color overlay. A few cameras possess this capability, and it's not bad at all.

Then there is 4-1-1 and 4-2-0 color resolution, where 4 pixels of B&W is represented by just ONE pixel of color overlay. The vast majority of DSLRs use this. GoPros use this. It's good enough go fool the human eye,, so the vast majority of cameras use it. It is NOT good enough to fool a computer, so it is not recommended for shots that require effects work -- they take a lot longer to tweak & fudge until they look passable.

So what do you want -- an image that is as good as you can get, but you may have to tweak to make it look artsy-fartsy -- or anything ELSE you want it to look like -- or do you want an image that can look artsy-fartsy as you record it, but won't withstand the demands of effects work?

Your choice.

Dave LaRonde
Promotion Producer
KGAN (CBS) & KFXA (Fox) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Philip James
Re: 4K and slo mo camera advice
on Aug 8, 2017 at 6:59:47 pm

Thanks Dave

I agree with a lot of what you are saying but not all of it. I don't see ISO and aperture as 'artsy-fartsy'. I see them as key fundamentals of film-making, particularly aperture which is one of the most important decisions I will make in a shot. My work is more 'art-film' than other genres but I do have very high production values and it's often a balancing act between quality and features with a camera. I want to retain as much information as possible but it's not as simple as that. There is a reason that the Arri Alexa is one of the most sought after cameras in the film-industry and it's not pixel count. It can't get close to an 8K Red - the Arri tops out at 3414 x 2198 as far as I am aware. I've used the Alexa and it's a great camera. So it's complex. I do need certain features in a camera and higher rates of slow motion are key for me since a lot of my work is about shifts in perception. Sometimes I do compromise resolution deliberately to access very high frame rates (10k, 20k +) to get a particular type of shot. I have done this on Vision Research's Phantom cameras many times.

With my new camera I am trying the find a balance - great quality yes but also a good feature set. Low light capability and ISO range I would be prepared to sacrifice over other some other features such as a good range of slow motion. It's about finding the right tool for the job and then I can get creative!


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Philip James
Re: 4K and slo mo camera advice
on Aug 11, 2017 at 6:59:42 am

Does anyone have any more advice on choosing a camera between this list?

Thanks


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