Zacuto's 'Great Camera Shootout 2011' Evaluates Dynamic Range of Eleven Cameras
The first episode of Zacuto's anticipated sequel to the Emmy award-winning Great Camera Shootout 2010 is now available. This year's installment is a bit different than last year's, as it's actually a documentary on the Single Chip Camera Evaluation conducted by Robert Primes, ASC. The cameras tested include 35mm film (Kodak 5213 and 5219 stock), the Arri Alexa, RED ONE M-X, Weisscam HS-2, Phantom Flex, Sony F35, Sony F3, Panasonic AF100, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 1D Mark IV and Nikon D7000.
Click here for the video, which isn't embeddable at this time. The clip put together by the SCCE itself was fairly short, as it cuts to the nitty-gritty of the test results (this clip is what I watched in Vegas twice, and is what you'll see peers reacting to throughout). The Zacuto behind-the-scenes, on the other hand, does a great job of further explaining and contextualizing the findings.
While I'd previously posted the dynamic range chart featured in the test, one new addition by Zacuto is this interesting graph, which shows that with the same midpoint, some cameras favor highlights and others the shadows:
There's more about this chart in the video itself.
After watching the test for a third time, my impressions were the same as before: namely, film's shadow detail can't compete with the new generation of digital cameras (though there's still plenty special about film, including its highlight rendition). The DSLRs are great for web video but put side-by-side with much more expensive cameras, they don't hold up. Which is to be expected, and they're still great from a price:performance perspective; as one commenter notes, "they're 1/10th the price and they're [better than] 1/10th the image." For the Sony F3 and its conspicuously blown-out highlights, I just kept thinking "S-Log. S-Log. S-Log." Which comes with its expensive firmware upgrade that, like the RED EPIC, was not available at test time. The AF100 didn't fare all that well in the tests, while the ARRI ALEXA seemed to have the most usable dynamic range of all the cameras.
The contextualizing quote of the episode, to me, comes from Moulin Rouge cinematographer Don McAlpine, who states, "the camera you use and the film stock you use are preferences. Compared to getting a good script and good director and a good cast, it's a fraction of a percent of the result."
Still, it's a can't-miss video that I also can't embed, so click on this big 'ole poster for the 30-minute episode:
DISCLOSURE: Zacuto is a No Film School advertiser.