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Need a Black-and-White Digital Cinema Camera? Ikonoskop Announces the A-Cam dII Panchromatic

This is an interesting item – Ikonoskop, the folks behind the A-Cam dII (a raw shooting HD camera previously covered) recently announced a black and white version – the A-Cam dII Panchromatic.  By using a monochrome sensor, it aims to give folks looking for great black and white footage a new option with “an amazing range of gradations”.  Want to see some sample footage?  Check this out:

There aren’t many details at this point, beyond the aforementioned sensor, and the ability to shoot raw TIFF sequences.  But I’d really like to find out just what kind of advantage having a monochrome sensor provides (and whether it’s a different sensor from the standard A-Cam dII or just a question of reading the information gathered by the same sensor differently).  The footage looks pretty cool, but it’s hard to tell how different it would be from say, desaturating and processing footage from your Scarlet or FS100.

Personally, I think there’s a place for black and white cinema, and if this camera delivers an image that is qualitatively better than what you can achieve through a normal color camera that has been processed in post, I can see it having a nice (if specialized) market.  Also, it would be great if this model were cheaper than the A-Cam dII (which will run you just north of $10,000 (€ 7 700)) – but I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

For the official announcement, go here.  What do you think?  Does Ikonoskop have an interesting tool here?  Or will it just be a curiosity?  Do you like shooting in black and white?

[via Cinescopophilia]


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Description image 26 COMMENTS

  • Sounds interesting. However I question whether or not it’s not far more flexible to shoot color first. Not just because you end up with a color version to work off of, but because you can split-tone each range of colors to have different contrast curves, brightness, and so on during your grade which can matter quite a bit to how your black and white images appears in its final form. I haven’t done this with video yet but with photographic work it can make a HUGE difference if you take the time to split-tone your B&W images to get just the right effect on your image.

    • Daniel Mimura on 05.5.12 @ 12:09AM

      I shoot color for black & white b/c now you can “figure it out in post” (& have secondary color correction not available by the old way of slapping color filters on the lens).

      For most things “figuring it out in post” is usually just a shortcut that compromises things…but with B/W it is the opposite. Because of 2ndary color corrections, all those weird B/W filters are no longer needed (ie: red filters, green filters, yellow filters) b/c you can have more control without them b/c they bias everything (b/c its a primary color adjustment).

      In B/W, it was a total shot in the dark using colored filters (for me at least in my limited experience shooting plus-X, Tri-X, double-x with bolex’s/Bell & Howell’s). Like slapping on a red filter to darken a blue sky…and what it would does (or might do) to an actor… It’s incredibly hard to do! Shooting color for a DI is the best way to shoot black & white, I think. I’ve done this more for still photos than film b/c I’m not a post guy, but I just worked on an F3 project with a lot of footage that was b/w in the final film. B/c the actress had a red coat & the actor had…I can’t even remember now…something very different, but ultimately middle grey in b/w like a tan or green…it was easy to darken her coat b/c with two shots—both of the actors were mostly wearing middle grey. It was too much…and too much of the same—so it was easier to make changes. If we really thought about it ahead of time…we would’ve had actors/props be of certain colors to have isolation for more control in post, and I’ll definitely plan something like that in the future.

      All those rainbow colored filters have been been a thing of the past…until this camera came along! I think it is a may be a big step backwards cuz I don’t even know of any people that have those filters anymore. I haven’t seen them in 4 x 5.65, that’s for sure (although I’m sure they still make them…)

  • I love black and white, but I feel like a camera like this is so niche, almost nobody will shoot primarily B/W so I see it as a rental item

  • I see the possible use. I used to shoot B&W motion picture film all the time, it had a quality to it that de-saturated color film couldn’t match. As this article states, the gradations were better. But that’s not so much the case anymore. As Alec points out, there’s some amazing things you can do with raw. You can fake using red filters, for example. This will be a niche camera for sure.

  • Felipe Leonardo on 04.26.12 @ 8:53PM

    Bayer sensors are essentially black and white, so you have total luminosity, without cutting portion of the light because of the bayer filters. As the dynamic range is the whole basis of signal-noise, I believe the dynamic range increases (as well as the film BW). In addition eliminates problems with Moire. I think a major problem with the digital MY artistic taste are the colors, something happens in my heart when I see the colors of the film that just makes me sad when I see digital (Alexa also speak for the best but not perfect). I liked this camera actually always wanted to cast it, to the photo there is a product like that just do not think perfect because it has no output genlock, so I can not connect a team tessive filter (item required for the aesthetics that seek).

  • Perhaps it’s a matter of taste, but I don’t think the subject matter selected for the test film lent itself to black and white very much. Scenes like this depend on the color contrast between a vivid blue sky and the white snow to make them pop. I’d like to see what it can do in a setting where black and white will be truly dramatic.

  • Probably that sensor is going to catch more light then the color one, but it is limited to just one kind of shooting.
    In my opinion Ikonoskop should decrease the price od the A cam dII first of all. It is excessive nowadays

  • I love these Ikonoscop guys! The idea for a B&W version of their very limited seriously cult camera is ludicrous but at the same time fully understand were they are going with this. I shoot a lot of in-camera B&W with my GH2 in dynamic mode, (half a feature doc at the moment I am shooting is monochrome), simply because through the viewfinder I see the world I want to capture in B&W. Grading in post to monochrome sure might be effective but it’s not the same and not half as fun finding those B&W images in-camera. Dream camera set up for me 2XIkon’s in my backpack.

  • I think this is silly, considering you can turn anything into b/w post.

    • Shaun Wilson on 04.30.12 @ 10:54AM

      When an editor desaturates video to B/W it takes away some of the tonal variations whereas this camera enhances the gradations which are obviously lost otherwise. For a B/W shooter, this is an absolute must (and its not going to work in full unless the capture unit is RAW).

  • I hope Ikonoscope, will rethink their strategy in the wake of the Black Magic Cinema Camera and launch/relaunch ACAM at a much reduced price and get their share of the pie.

  • Felipe Leonardo on 04.27.12 @ 1:24PM

    comparação entre um puro BW 39MP versus Bayer color 80MP –

  • Felipe Leonardo on 04.27.12 @ 1:24PM

    comparison between a pure BW 39MP versus 80MP Bayer color

  • Man: I can’t stop laughing ! Jesus… unbelievable ! Good thing this ain’t April first !

  • They were at NAB. This is why I requested that NFS should go by and do an interview. It would have been interesting to hear why they decided to do a B&W only camera.

    Ikonoskop is a Swedish company and the Swedes invented Super16 (Rune Ericson). Europe isn’t as obsessed as the US is with quality, that’s why they made so many Techniscope (2 perf pulldown wide screen) and S16 movies. It’s better to make an interesting movie with less than pristine quality, than to make no movie at all. You can say the same thing about B&W Digital Cine. No need to worry about the color temperature and CRI of the lighting. Mix daylight with incandescent. Do what ever it takes.

    The advent of digital release, instead of film prints, make B&W movies easier to do. The last couple of Hollywood B&W features were released on Color Print Stock, which didn’t have the same look as a B&W Print Stock. Now with digital releasing, print stocks are no longer a problem.

    Someone mention that this wasn’t a good test, but I don’t agree. They were able to hold detail in both the White Snow and the Darker Colors of the snowmobiles and their riders. At one time they made Westerns, Comedies, Horror, Cartoons, what-ever, not just Film Noir, in Black and White.

    • Shaun Wilson on 04.30.12 @ 10:57AM

      I was thinking about Italian 60s cinema and the magnificent BW prints that came out of that period. Interesting to see if this camera can emulate that?

  • Shaun Wilson on 04.30.12 @ 10:55AM

    Question – in the article you mention “raw TIFF” – are you saying raw as in RAW format?

  • Filtered B&W Shooter on 05.3.12 @ 3:49PM

    No question that a dedicated grey scale sensor would be far superior for B&W footage. Ever try and replicate the look of old blue-sensitive emulsions while working with a file from an RGB sensor? 2/3 of the data just vanishes. Same when replicating the use of a minus-blue filter, a #25 or #29 filter, etc.

    For those of us who learned about photography before B&W was thought of merely as desaturated color, this could be very useful…if…IF… the sensor is truly panchromatic. This won’t help those who don’t desire working selectively with the different colors of the spectrum to make a final B&W image. We’ll see if this doesn’t encourage a new understanding about the possibilities of B&W capture.

    • Joe Marine on 05.3.12 @ 3:56PM

      All sensors are panchromatic, it’s the bayer pattern filter in front that gives us colors, and then interpolation to give us the rest of the colors that are missing.

      Having trained on B&W photography, there’s nothing more beautiful than a good filtered B&W photo with a suberb print. I don’t know that digital can ever really replicate this, but it would be interesting to see this camera in a narrative setting.

  • Filtered B&W Shooter on 05.3.12 @ 4:30PM

    I understand. And I’m guessing this new sensor is being delivered without the RGB filter. They describe the sensor as “monochrome”, which I’m assuming means unfiltered (panchromatic). Their website is sadly lacking definitive description. A true unfiltered sensor is the only way to provide a B&W image maker the essential control which is pre-filtered out by traditional RGB sensors.

    Hopefully, they will soon provide a statement like “each pixel on the sensor is enabled for response to the entire visual spectrum, providing B&W image makers the same type of aesthetic controls afforded users of B&W film. This new sensor, while demanding more careful use of filters during capture, eliminates the inevitable loss of quality when converting an RGB file to anything but a desaturated color image”. Then we’ll know they’re on the right track. For now, I assume they are.

  • Without a Bayer pattern over the sensor there will be no need to de-Bayer the RAW data. De-bayering only recovers a portion of the luma resolution that is available from a B&W camera. And, to recover that luma information requires interpolation of adjacent photosites which degrades quality as well as introducing chroma artifacts.

    A Bayer sensor is NOT color film.

    Turning-off chroma leaves you with a highly processed luma (primarily Green) signal.

    PS: I just bought a Bolex so I could shoot B&W film again.

  • I dont think this will save us from the crappy films that are being pushed out.