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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 NoFilmSchool advertiser.

Link: The Great Camera Shootout 2011: SCCE ~ Episode One


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Description image 14 COMMENTS

  • Thank you for sharing this! I look forward to watching the next studies they come up with.

  • Cinepixtor Media on 06.21.11 @ 2:28PM

    Wathced this last week… the most comprehensive comparison I’ve seen to date!

  • Lostfootage on 06.21.11 @ 6:07PM

    The 7D is out of date, They should have testes the T2i and 60D with Magic Lantern would have loved to see that.

  • Koo, I think you left out 7D in your intro.

  • c’mon no gh2

  • Pedro Camilo on 06.23.11 @ 5:22PM

    Amigo Koo, muchas gracias por compartir este interesante artículo. Como siempre, recibe un abrazo de Pedro.

  • Lucas Adamson on 06.23.11 @ 5:45PM

    I’d also like to have seen where the GH2 falls in with this crowd. As by far the cheapest of any of these cameras, it offers even more spectacular bang for buck, and an image that literally p*sses on that of the 7D and dare I say it, the 5D2 as well.

    • Your kidding I have all 3 cameras and the GH2 doesn’t piss on anything if your talking about quality!

      • Lucas Adamson on 06.24.11 @ 6:35AM

        Aliasing & moire? Definition at 1080p?

        GH1 and GH2 are both better than the 5D or 7D in these respects. I have owned or used all of these cameras too and I find the GH cameras sharper and cleaner when viewed on a broadcast monitor. I’m not alone in this respect. 5D2 has some low light advantage and obviously is capable of shorter depth of field, not that that is ever an issue for me with fast primes.

        • Yeah, it saddens me that the GH2 is not amongst this crowd. GH2?is also much more video friendly in the ergonomic sense over the 7D and 5DMII. Plus the panny doesn’t have the clip length restrictions and overheating issues which make it great on the documentary I’m shooting. Plus you can record clean HDMI signal to a flash recorder and bypass the co
          Compression. Haven’t tested that last one but am going by Philip Bloom tests. The mirrorless design allows for a wide range of lenses from just about any manufacturer. I’m using Canon glass on my doc. Beautiful. For narrative work the Hacked Gh1 motion Jpeg is BEAUTIFUL. Drawback is the the clip length is limited to a few minutes and you can’t play back the MJPEG in camera but can play back on an iPad with card adapter easy enough. Okay I digress.

          It certainly has a lot to offer and for the money is well worth considering as an alternative.

          • Lucas Adamson on 06.25.11 @ 7:33AM

            The GH1 with LPowell’s new 100Mbps 1080p25 hack is absolutely sumptuous, and stable. It is better than MJpeg in my view. The sacrifice is that it won’t work in 720p with this hack, but it’s worth it. If you need 720p60 slo-mo you can always re-hack the Blackout/LPowell hack from another SD card – takes 5 mins tops. Check it out at!!!!! Canon DSLR are soooo over-rated. I use Canon lenses too, by the way, and love them.

  • Lucas Adamson on 06.23.11 @ 5:45PM

    (not literally, that would be silly)