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April 15, 2012

NAB 2012 is Underway: Canon, Sony, and RED are in a 4K RAW Battle (Panasonic and Aaton Aren't Far Behind)

NAB film video dslr HDSLR coverageIt's that time of year again, when companies reveal what they've been working on for the past year, and quite a few prototypes that aren't quite ready to see the light of day. A few have already thrown down the gauntlet for camera superiority, namely Canon and Sony (though Sony still might have one more surprise for us at the show). We're still waiting on RED's (and Panasonic's) response to these new 4K RAW ready cameras, and Jim Jannard has been making some noise on the REDuser forums, showing his excitement for what they've got coming next. Hopefully we'll get a glimpse of "Dragon" at NAB, but we've been told in the past on those same forums that we won't see any new products until they are shipping.

All of these new specs and features can be a bit overwhelming to the consumer - so here's what's out there for large sensor video cameras and their respective price points, as well as their max specs (PL camera price if available - also, these are not perfect, so let's not get into price arguments, it's just a generalization):

  • $4,300 - Panasonic AF100: 8-bit 4:2:2 1080p
  • $5,000 - Sony FS100: 8-bit 4:2:2 1080p
  • $10,000 - Sony FS700: 12-bit 4K RAW
  • $13,000 - Sony F3: 10-bit 4:4:4 1080p
  • $13,200 - RED Scarlet: 16-bit 4K RAW
  • $15,000 - Canon 1DC: 8-bit 4:2:2 4K MJPEG
  • $16,000 - Canon C300: 8-bit 4:2:2 1080p
  • $25,000 - RED One MX: 12-bit 4.5K RAW
  • $30,000 - Canon C500: 10-bit 4K RAW
  • $38,000 - RED Epic-X: 16-bit 5K RAW
  • $60,000 - Arri Alexa - 12-bit 3K RAW
  • $65,000 - Sony F65 - 16-bit 4K RAW

For all of the RAW cameras (except RED), you're going to have to add $5,000-$10,000 (or more) for RAW recording ability. I'm just looking at base specs for now though. I left RED's prices as stated on their website since those prices do include the recorder on-board (media, batteries, and monitors are more expensive for all of these cameras). Specs are not everything, and to compare only specs is doing all of these cameras an injustice, but you start to come to some pretty interesting conclusions looking at price at maximum color bit depth and resolution alone.

What's Canon doing? I'm not really sure, but they are certainly pricing themselves out of the market in features alone. Both of their new cameras are going to produce amazing images, but their top-of-the-line camera should really be much more comparable to the F65 or the Epic. If you're going to make a camera that expensive, it makes sense to me that you would go all out and put the biggest sensor and the highest bit depth and frame rates that you can into it. The C500 fits much, much better as a $15,000 camera, and the 1DC should be half that price at around $7,500 (closer to the FS700). If they released those new cameras at those prices it would make a lot more sense. Sony's offerings are cheaper and more fully featured. This is not a statement for Sony and against Canon, it's merely an observation that on price alone, the specs just don't add up.

The word RED makes people a little crazy, so please bear with me for a moment as I try to look objectively at what they've done. Assuming you've got working gear, the Epic is about half the price of the nearest competitor ($85K for RAW recording on the F65). What's even more interesting, is that the RED One MX (with the upgraded MX sensor) compares favorably to cameras that haven't even been released yet, and the MX is about 2 years old now. The fact that there were some problems with RED cameras is not something to be ignored, but it's really a matter of philosophy. RED released beyond the cutting edge (beta at times), and Sony and Canon are being conservative with features. They've been letting the market try to figure out 4K before they go full-force with 4K only cameras (though Sony will be at the forefront of that since they also make televisions). Two very different philosophies, but they are both legitimate ways to run a camera company. At times RED might shoot themselves in the foot, but the cameras that they have been releasing are technological marvels - and they are now completely out of backorder with all of their camera bodies.

We shouldn't take sides with any company because at the end of the day they all have their place depending on the project. It surprises me that Canon seems so unclear on their product line. Sony has outlined a very rational plan, and RED is releasing cameras with the highest specifications possible - whether they work 100% or not (though to be fair they've never asked users to pay for an update and their customer service from what I can see is much more personal than either Canon or Sony).

So what else is going to happen at this year's NAB? Panasonic is going to come guns blazing with a 4K camera, and Sony will have one more 4K camera priced somewhere around $20,000 (the F5). The only worry I have about Panasonic is that they will stick with the Micro 4/3s format for a higher resolution sensor. Not that it's a bad format, but there's a reason everyone is sticking Super 35mm sized digital sensors into all of these cameras, and that's because it's a great size for a lot of PL glass. I tend to agree with RED's philosophy on sensor size - bigger is better because you can always crop down to a smaller sized lens diameter - you can never go the other way. Will RED's Dragon be a Full 35mm sized sensor as originally planned? No one can be sure - as their plan has been completely erased from what it was before - and all camera sensors above the MX have mostly likely been reworked. If they do decide to show us Dragon at NAB, I don't expect it to be slim on the specs - as that's never been something Jim Jannard has ever liked doing.

The camera I am actually most excited to see is the Aaton Penelope Delta (making its 3rd appearance at NAB). While it's one of the higher priced cameras (probably somewhere around the Alexa or the F65), it is the only camera capable of shooting 800 ISO and 100 ISO without affecting dynamic range. Its CCD sensor and mechanical rotating shutter should provide for the most film-like movement we've ever seen on a digital camera. Aaton has taken their sweet time - and it's just one more philosophy to consider. They haven't released any beta cameras and haven't released any incremental updates - but waiting so long to release the Penelope Delta may hurt them in the long run.

There aren't any affordable 4K monitors or televisions yet, but that's going to change sooner rather than later. Manufacturers are moving faster than ever and it's not going to be long before we're all upgrading our monitors and TVs to the next big thing. Apple will probably be the first to do it on the smaller scale, but Sony, Canon, and others will all follow suit. Canon is rumored to be showing a rather expensive 4K display at NAB, so I'll be sure to update when I get a chance to look at it.

We have so many options for cameras, but we'll always do our best at No Film School to try to make sense of all of it.

It's going to be quite the NAB show.

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43 Comments

Shouldn't it be noted when we need an external recorder to film wit these settings? Because Red cameras do this out of the box, I'm not sure the others do.

April 15, 2012

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Dan

Yes I wrote that above, you must add $5-$10K or more for RAW on everything but RED. That whole situation has a lot of variables and we don't really have exact prices for what the manufacturer built recorders will cost. As far as third party options the Gemini RAW will likely be $7-$8K - but we don't have a price for that one either.

April 15, 2012

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Joe Marine
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Whoa Joe, I admire your patience with rash commentators who don't bother to read the story before commenting : )

April 15, 2012

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Bob

@ Joe "$10,000 – Sony FS700: 12-bit 4K RAW" I did not know about that one.

April 15, 2012

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Canon

I'm not sure if that's facetious or not, but we've been covering it quite a bit here on NoFilmSchool - price is said to be below $10K - but it will do 12-bit RAW out of the HD-SDI.

April 15, 2012

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Joe Marine
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"...it's not going to be long before we're all upgrading our monitors and TVs to the next big thing."
If by "we" you mean pro DPs and videographers you may be correct. If by "we" you mean general consumers...I don't think so. People are thrilled with their 50-inch 720 and 1080 tvs and are not about to throw
them out for 2k or 4k. What percentage of tv owners are even using an hd box to get hd reception? Some think they're getting it out the box! (All this assumes that there will be signals broadcasting at 2k and greater)
Last year "the next big thing" was 3d tv...ask tv manufacturers how they worked out for 'em? Before that "the next big thing" was internet connected tvs...nobody cares except for a few cord-cutters.
Blu-ray discs show at 720 and people are out of their minds in love with that quality.
4k cams are great for pro filmmakers and also drive down prices regardless of what camera you use so overall it's a win for everyone...but it won't impact home entertainment hardware in the near future.

April 15, 2012

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bguest

"Blu-ray discs show at 720" - they're 1080p.

April 15, 2012

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Will

3D is an entirely different animal, and part of the reason for the lack of sales is that there is no content for 3D. But honestly the biggest one is that the glasses are too expensive - if glasses free 3D TVs were sold from the beginning they would have flown off the shelves. It prevented a lot of people from buying because when it costs your family another $500 just for glasses that can break or get lost, it's not likely going to make you spring for your wallet.

As far as 4K in the home, give it 5 years and Sony and others will start pulling HD models off the shelves and will exclusively sell 4K. They HAVE to do this to survive - so it's going to happen. 4K will come faster than HD did - Directv is preparing for 4K - they are moving to high bandwidth satellites. Compression is an issue but H.265 will likely solve that as 4K is a major part of the spec. It's not going to happen because consumers want it to happen - they will not have a choice when they go to buy a new TV. It's not like you can't play HD content on a 4K tv, so that's not really going to prevent people from buying them as long as the price is right.

It's coming sooner than we think - because the 8K standard is right around the corner. Bandwidth issues will be solved by improved codecs and then it's going to be a race to have the highest resolution - no matter how compressed it is.

April 15, 2012

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Joe Marine
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there will be a lot od upscaled footage on the 4k TVs, big rip off. The real picture is the broadcast and film industry are some good years away to be able to deliver real 4k content, and when i say film you also can read visual effects, studios struggle to render realistc 2 k images already, the 4k switch is not happening anytime soon for vfx industry and if you consider that in most of the big movies you have tons of visual effects, it says it all.

April 15, 2012

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Marcus

In terms of displays and bandwidth, one of the arguments for a 4K display/pipeline is actually 2K 3D -- some projectors (but not RED's, apparently) can do one or the other (but not both). 4K 2D or 2K 3D.

Interested to see what Panasonic comes up with!

April 15, 2012

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Ryan Koo
Founder
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I also think that the 3D marketed as 3D isn´t the real Deal. We need tru 3D with more than just 2 images put on each other for getting the effect better. (and it gives me headaches...)

April 15, 2012

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Although replacement cycles are getting reduced, I believe an average TV set still lasts 5-10 years in your typical household. That's how long it takes before any market share will make any difference. 3D tv is a passing fad.

4k belongs to digital cinema acquisition - mainly for big budget blockbuster movies that need a lot of VFX work (e.g The Hobbit, Transformers etc.). 4k will not be a meaningful finishing/distribution format for at least the next five years. In terms of television sets I see quadHD having a better chance than true 4k imaging.

Dylan Reeve wrote an excellent article on this: http://dylanreeve.com/videotv/2012/4k-and-the-future.html

April 15, 2012

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4K/Quad HD is really the same thing. When I say 4K that's what I mean, whatever format ends up being around 4K - it's not much different than 2K vs. 1080p.

5-10 years is a good estimate, but people also buy more TVs for more rooms than they've ever bought before. HDTVs started making huge strides about 5 years ago - so consider that in 5 years we'll be right at the replacement threshold of 10 years.

April 15, 2012

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Joe Marine
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Aaton should make a digital Minima for $7-8k 2K like the Ikonoscope, perfect cinema B cam and A cam for indie filmakers and docs. I wonder how many rental houses worldwide will even buy the Penelope, a few dozen in the US maybe and UK, a few in France. What kind of business is that?

April 15, 2012

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Dan

I totally agree. Someone like Aaton should just buy ikonoscope so we can have that option more readily available. The world does NOT need a lot more $50K+ camera brands. What we want is the digital version of S16 at between $8-12k. So far Sony ahead in that race.

April 15, 2012

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there is the upcoming digital bolex that has stepped into the S16 universe nicely but lenses are an issue for me.

April 15, 2012

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Dan

I too am intrigued by that cam, but the ikonoscope seems a more serious pro prospect. To me, its like the origina bolex vs an Arri AR2.

April 15, 2012

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I think most rental houses will want an Aaton, as they have for decades. I do agree with the article that maybe waiting so long might not be a great strategy b/c Arri has dominated more than ever, but just brand rep and the fact that it's *not* a CMOS is going to sway many as a serious option.

I'm kinda stoked cuz of the wood handle. Camera ergonomics has been long forgotten (or designed for other uses like stills), but not by Aaton, so maybe it'll actually be comfortable to hand hold out of the box.

April 21, 2012

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Daniel Mimura

Panasonic allows me to have some of the best video around for the price.

April 15, 2012

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moebius22

Especially at a used price. An AF100 at around $3-3.3k is a steal. Add an EVF and Hyperdeck or a Samurai for a $5-6k BBC/Discovery approved camera with the same form factor pluses as a C300. Not as good in DR as a C300, but a GREAT budget option at a third the price. I pair it with a DSLR so that when you need a more 'exotic' look, bingo. I just priced a rig that I'm shooting the next 10 days with (Af101/D800/Samurai/Zacuto EVF/Sachtler tripods/slider/monopod/Nikon-Tokina primes and zoom lenses) and ALL of it came to a little less than the price of a C300 EF body. If you're clients like what you do with that rig, that's a powerful argument.

April 15, 2012

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tell me about, trying to sell my AF with Cineroid all depreciated. The AF will be $2 1/2 in a year. Not using it enough the hacked GH2 is all I need now for time being.

April 15, 2012

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Dan

Agree. It will be $2.5 very shortly, then down to about $2k by NAB 2013. Hopefully you got your money's worth!
The one i'm shooting with was bought for one job that paid for it. You want a heart attack? Those who paid $15k for a non-S-logged F3, or $25k for one with slog and Sony lenses at full retail. I keep having to tell people - if you can't zero out your kit within 6-9 months, DON'T BUY IT. Either buy cheaper stuff, or rent.

April 15, 2012

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pretty sure the FS100 is 8-bit 4:2:0 internal and 10-bit uncompressed 4:2:2 via HDMI out

April 15, 2012

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FS100 is currently only capable of 8-bit 4:2:2 out of the HDMI. Whether that will change in the future is unclear but probably unlikely.

April 15, 2012

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Joe Marine
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Or you can buy a $3300 RAW 2K camera from Digital Bolex to shoot on SD cards with full HD out. I think for my money that camera will do as a nice low cost stop gap until HD to 4K is what SD to HD is now.

April 15, 2012

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shaun.wilson

If you don't need to shoot until mid-year, sure. I'm also going to suspect it may be a while until TV and corporates accept it (took 18 months for me with my 5D2). But if its all cool, and my clients are cool with it, I'll certainly buy one!

April 15, 2012

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In fact I can see that by Xmas, I may have about 2-3 cameras. Some for 'cool effect' (funky commercials, music video, indie drama - DSLRs I already own, DigiBolex, used AF101) and some for pure spec (Commercials, BBC doc, high end corporate - used F3/FS700/Panny 200?). All using 90% the same lenses, all fitting pretty much the same rig. That will still be less than 33% of the cost of just an Alexa body, and less than a C500. And all paid for the first day after their first job. Only camera I've seen recently pay for itself over time was an Alexa if you owned one 6 months ago. In London C300s are going for £150 a day + VAT. That's 90 hire days to break even.

April 15, 2012

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I like your observation. A lot of this makes sense on paper, if only Canon could put it into practice. I think they underestimate the indie market, and their current movement proves just that.

April 15, 2012

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Great article Joe...and some constructive comments today as well.

April 15, 2012

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Joe

2012 is the year that is the culmination of the last 10 years (beginning with
the DVX-100) of what indie filmmakers have dreamt of - the capability to shoot
and acquire footage at the caliber of the big boys. The cost of membership to
this once exclusive club has now effectively become a reality. Especially from this
year forward there is absolutely no excuse (as if there really ever was) to capture the
quality of footage once reserved for the Hollywood studios. As of this year the true test
of indie "filmmaker" is no longer based upon any excuse of the tools we have but of the
personal skills, craftsmanship & discipline we have to create. This is the year that will truly
separate the men from the boys.

April 15, 2012

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George

you wrote that the arri alexa is a 3k raw camera. as far as i know it´s a 1080p camera. the sensor has 3k but it can only record or output 1080p.

April 15, 2012

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ben

You can output almost 3K to a Codex, IIRC.

April 15, 2012

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

Yes, Ryan's right. Here's a quote from their website on that matter actually:

ALEXA's ProRes in-camera recording system produces wonderfully clean 1920 x 1080 HD images, ideal for most visual effects (VFX) applications. Recording with ALEXA in ARRIRAW mode will allow the full 16:9 sensor resolution of up to 3072 x 1728 to be recorded, and currently a 2880 x 1620 image is captured in compatible recorders.

Hence my designation about it actually being 3K since we are being theoretical about all of the 4K cameras.

April 15, 2012

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Joe Marine
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RED wouldn't be RED if Dragon won't get 6 or even 8K Monday morning.

April 15, 2012

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Demetri

So how confident are you when you say:

Sony will have one more 4K camera priced somewhere around $20,000 (the F5).

Is this not a rumor? I Almost bought the Sony F3, but glad I waited until this NAB.
I am really hoping its a reality yet not many are talking about it.

April 15, 2012

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CEBCAM

It is a rumor, but there's a good chance it's going to happen. It makes sense within Sony's camera line as there is a hole to fill between the F3 and the F65. There have been some solid sources who have talked about the existence of this camera.

April 15, 2012

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Joe Marine
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Its late in the Day Monday 4/16 and still no unveiling of Sony's new camera line?
Been looking all over net and NAB site to see if anyone has info. Do you know if there is a specific day they will show the camera's?

April 16, 2012

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CEBCAM

I'm all for having lots of information, albeit at a price (external recorders, more drive space, etc.) but, haven't a lot of features been shot at 1080? I'm pretty sure one of my favorite movies, Collateral - Michael Mann, was shot on a Sony F900 and a Grass Valley Viper... a little noisy but, a great picture, nonetheless. Are we now trashing HD just because we have options for more pixels? I'm starting to feel inadequate now that my camera is only HD.

April 15, 2012

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dixter

RED just announced the 6k Upgrade for Epic :)

April 16, 2012

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Putt

I wanna hear more about blackmagic's new cinema camera. Comes with Davinci Resolve for $3k, ef mounts, RAW, 2.5k resolution. What is the mm of the sensor?

April 16, 2012

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ahh, slightly larger than super 16 but less than 4/3's

April 16, 2012

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EDWIN
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October 1, 2012

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edwin

Exactly. Its only the "first adopters" who care about having the latest high-tech gear. For me, its like "yeah whatever"!

January 3, 2014

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Michael R Murphy