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The Overall Winner of the 2012 Zacuto Camera Shootout Poll Is....

07.15.12 @ 5:34PM Tags : , , ,

Now that part two of Zacuto’s Revenge of the Great Camera Shootout is out, we know which camera was which in our poll. Several hundred voters ranked their top choices among the Apple iPhone 4S, Panasonic GH2 (Hacked), Canon 7D, Canon C300, Sony FS100, Sony F3, Sony F65, RED Epic, and Arri Alexa. One response got over twice as many votes as the 2nd place finisher — see which here:

That’s right — “Didn’t have a favorite” won the shootout by a mile. Which is the way it should be! While it’s an oft-repeated mantra in these shootouts, the fact is that cameras don’t make good movies, people do — and the results of our poll shows that most people don’t care what something was shot on.1

Surprisingly, the first place finisher by votes (disregarding the “didn’t have a favorite” responses) was the hacked Panasonic GH2 — the second cheapest camera in the entire shootout at $750 for the body only (the iPhone 4S is technically the cheapest, though you may consider it a phone and not a camera per se, and it may carry with it contracts etc.). I personally wasn’t a huge fan of the camera’s look, but from a value standpoint it’s hard to beat for its imagery alone. Also keep in mind that each one of these scenes had a different lighting setup designed to play to a camera’s strengths — part three of the shootout will show the same scene without changing the lighting from one camera to the next.

As for my own tastes, I watched the shootout twice in a slightly different order and ranked the cameras in my own order of preference. From first to last I ranked them as follows (replacing camera letter with actual model now that we know which is which): the Arri Alexa and RED EPIC (tie), Sony F65, Sony FS100, Panasonic GH2, Canon C300, Sony F3, Canon 7D, iPhone 4S. I’m not surprised I liked the Alexa, EPIC, and F65 the most, but I am surprised I liked the FS100 so much more than the F3 — which just shows how much the lighting choices and grading decisions affected the outcome. I also went back to re-watch the RED EPIC footage knowing they had HDRx enabled2, which gives a greater dynamic range but also creates some motion artifacting that I wasn’t looking for initially (and which can be harder to detect over a flash video presentation).

I updated these poll results with the extra responses that happened between the publishing of the anonymous results and the release of part two of the shootout (accounting for 13% more votes), and I closed the poll as soon as the part two was released so all voting would be kept anonymous.

Disclaimers: we did not post this poll anywhere other than on this site (we also referenced it in the comments of Zacuto’s shootout page). It was open to the public. The vast majority of poll-takers are members of the daily NoFilmSchool audience and their opinion is strictly their own. One voter could be a qualified professional cinematographer and the next could be Some Guy on the Internet. I compiled the final results with 678 responses. Our posting of this poll does not represent an endorsement of one camera over another. Also, this poll does not mean that anyone at NoFilmSchool (or Zacuto) thinks that your choice of camera is going to make or break your movie! It is simply here to educate and to inform.

With those disclaimers out of the way… now that you see which is which, are you surprised by your own choices? Which cameras did you like best?

Link: Zacuto’s Revenge of The Great Camera Shootout Part Two

Disclosure: Zacuto is a NoFilmSchool advertiser.

  1. I didn’t include the “Didn’t have a favorite” voting tally the first time we published this poll, since there were no labels other than camera letters. []
  2. Thanks to a comment below by Art, according to EPIC cinematographer Ryan E. Walters they shot, but did not use, the HRDx track. Ryan’s post is a great read and I highly recommend it! []


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Description image 64 COMMENTS

  • F3 and Arri is what I voted on my top 2. I didnt really have a 3rd it was either the sony F65, or the FS100. Altho watching it again, idk why I didn’t choose the RED, it looked like it was in the top 3 for sure looking at it again.

  • Why lie, I’m a noob, voted GH2 my best, and I’m madly looking for $700 ASAP before they jack up the price due to demand. I’ll be honest, I like high sat, action flicks and flashy music videos, and I’m not sure that should rob me of my love for film. We can all co-exist in this space, so folks, be nice to those with differing opinions, it’s the story that matters at the end of the day.

  • I’m getting a bit tired of the whole “camera’s don’t make good movies, people do” stuff. Of course it’s true, but we’ve heard it a gazillion times and it’s not really what this is all about.

    Most disappointing for me was the C300, not sure if it was the camera or the way the lighting was set up, but perhaps it fared better on the big screen.

    • Hey, I agree with you, but if I don’t put that disclaimer in there then people will jump down my throat for somehow implying that cameras matter more than other elements of the production. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t!

      • It’s sad that your statement is actually very true.

        You are truly damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

        The “camera’s don’t matter” diatribe is similar to “story is king”: neither are true, but help people who probably won’t be going very far in this industry sleep at night.

        • Only word I can use to describe that comment is Bullsh_t

          This is a symptom of consumerism thinking – constantly chasing a false dream and suckling at the teet of the camera makers. The truth is, “you can’t handle the truth”

          You have to parse out qualities of film by engineering numbers and graph out the differences. Steve Weiss kind of pulled a fast one here showing that we have come to a point where the numbers are starting to go by the way side.

          What you lot find incomprehensible is that everything is subjective. Michael Bay makes films with the greatest technology available to man and some people think he’s rubbish. On the other hand I’ve been deeply moved by a youtube video shot with what looked like a handycam.

          Believe me, I’ve sat through so much crap… I’ve been doing this for 10+ years now. Camera tests and demo reels bore me to tears now.

          Give me something to care about…

          • If you feel that you can only use foul language to describe how you’re feeling, I suppose that’s how it has to be.

            I’ve got no need to worry about cameras, personally, I can use whatever I want whenever I want at no cost. I do know better than to think that gear doesn’t matter.

            Don’t need to throw out the number of years to validate my statement, either. It is what it is, and you are free to disagree.

          • Nice to know you live in a fantasy world where you can use whatever you want at no cost! Maybe someday you’ll have to come to grips with reality.

            Problem here is your attitude is just another barrier from actual mature discussion. “Gear Matters Everything” or “Gear Matters Nothing.”

            That’s such a boring discussion. Duh – it’s gray area.

            Oh well, I don’t just have my years to back my argument – every one of those cinematographers in the Zacuto shoot out said pretty much the same thing. And if I had to pick, I’ll follow the creators of some of my favorite films over some anonymous commenter on a filmmaking blog.

          • Why are you upset?

            Is it so far fetched to believe that I’ve any camera available to me at will? Or, are you arguing semantics in an effort to seem wise? Let’s not tread those waters, they’re far too deep and I’m not in the mood to swim.

            If you’re unhappy with what people are saying here then you’re free to ignore it. You’re the one that resulted to cursing to express yourself and lumping “the lot” of us together. Your reality clearly doesn’t line up with my own, I’m fine with that.

            Are you?

          • john jeffreys on 07.18.12 @ 9:27PM

            this guys speaks the truth.

        • Augusto Alves da SIlva on 07.19.12 @ 5:37PM

          A few years ago camera quality (price) was really important….Now an average or even cheaper camera can be used at the same level than another costing 10 times as much. I have expensive, mid and cheap cameras and the truth is that I prefer the cheaper ones which give me the look I need. It is a much better investment and at the same time are paid in an hour of work or less if we talk about commercials or movies…Each one has to do what he thins is the best for his creativity and business…

    • I tell you Zacuto saved me $16K with this test. The C300 was fairly awful here, though I think some of that is pilot error. Same with the FS100. The 7D I did like but I wasn’t looking for aliasing/moire which are admittedly terrible in spots.

      My favorite as posted here was the F65 which comes as no surprise, the DR winner, and they also had some pro lab do it rather than the colorist hired for the test. I’m not buying an F65 either.

      The 5D3 will have to do for now. Low resolution, yes, but good low-light and fine enough for web delivery. If I had to go up from here, I think it would be the F3, but honestly, I wasn’t a fan of the SLOG look. I imagine they have more flattering gammas in-camera. I am not sure of the whole “shooting flat” thing, I grasp the theory, but I’m not sure a colorist can really get back a natural curve so easily, or if the lighting crew will respond as well.

      • Agree with you, though I’m getting a BMC instead. But yes, the F65 was my top choice a month ago and still is. Why can’t people give credit where it is due? F65 had no extra set-up, no added lights, looked great, skin-tone was superb, sharp as a tac.

        GH2 took one of the longest post and set-up times.

        I’d still use my 5dmkII over the GH2 – the 7D was soft, aliased and terrible but from a simple asthetic point, looked like a room with natural light. The GH2 or “B” looked like a soap or stage. The first time I saw it I thought, “Wow, that is different from all the rest!” Then I saw how the others tried to create natural spill and sunlight.

        I learned most from that since my tendency would be to light like B, but now I see the pro’s lighting more natural, so I will learn to do that instead of having everything perfect.

      • “My favorite as posted here was the F65 which comes as no surprise, the DR winner,”

        Funny now when you know the cameras, you say it was no surprise that H was F65, when in your previous posts before part 2 you were shuffling F65 between E and I and insisting that H was C300.

      • Larry Swanson on 07.18.12 @ 2:40PM

        5DMK2 LOW RESOLUTION? Are you friggin’ kidding me? Compared to a 2k and 4k camera, yes, but it’s not exactly an SD camera….

    • Randolph Sellars on 07.16.12 @ 8:15PM

      Mischa, actually I thought that the results of this “blind test” proved a great point – that camera choices matter much less than we think. Mischa, I’m not trying to pick on you personally – I’m just responding because you said you were ‘tired of the whole “camera’s don’t make good movies, people do” stuff.’ I think this is great news for all filmmakers that should be welcomed and repeated because too many filmmakers obviously haven’t learned to embrace this truth. This test proves how subjective visual tastes are and how skilled cinematographers can overcome disadvantages such as less expensive cameras. The playing field has been leveled a great deal with the latest generation of cameras. I won’t say that cameras don’t matter at all, but camera choice is obviously less important than lighting skills and color grading skills. These areas require skills that are gained from practice and experience. Of course, all cinematographers should choose they best camera for a particular job that the project can afford. I’ve shot hundreds of projects with good cameras and shitty ones. Due to budget or other reasons, I often get stuck having to use cameras that aren’t my first choice. But your client or director isn’t paying you to bitch and moan about that. They still expect the best images possible. You must find a way to rise above your limitations. The next Zacuto tests will show more of the natural differences between cameras which is valid and important to know. However, I believe that all filmmakers (but especially beginners) would be much better served if they spent less energy on pixel peeping and more energy on learning and practicing their craft with whatever camera they have.

      • Thank you Randolph for restoring faith in people that comment on this thread.

      • Here, Her. Well said. :)

      • what I have seen is that many of the camera’s in the shoot out, just crushed the blacks, no details or very few details (did you know that the woman on the phone, standing… her skirt, has horizontal lines that shine?)… but to understand the difference of film vs digital: you make a choice of a film stock for the desired out come and look. In digital you choose the camera for the same desired out come and look. It seems to me like a painter choosing the best brush to paint with? for all are available, its just which one (camera) will give the desired stroke (Look) for that painting.

  • And most of us viewed this from shitty Vimeo re-compression lol. Part 3 should be a little more interesting.

    • A little frustrating not seeing a 1080 file straight off Vimeo, and it’s private right now too. Picking the best image was much easier in 1080 for part 1 than the 720 they’re presenting part 2 in.

      • Ya, as soon as I saw the aliasing everywhere in pt. 2, I gave up trying to even look at the results again. I mean in the interviews, everyone’s glasses are aliasing and shimmering. Distracting.

        I guess 720 will be nicer on their servers :)

  • Was surprised and disappointed by the F3 performance, I’ve seen the camera handled so much better in low light/high contrast situations, and feel that the Cinematographer in charge of this shoot just didnt try, The FS100 looked better than it!
    The 7D was so soft, I’d have even put it below the iPhone! While the Epic and Alexe certainly showed their pedigree, and I didn’t like the over-saturated look of the bright shirts as much as others, go the little GH2!

    • john jeffreys on 07.15.12 @ 9:52PM

      canon dslr’s are usually soft, its just the way it is. the cameras dont actually resolve 1920×1080 resolution in video mode.

    • I know Koo said he preferred the FS100 to the F3, too but, I can’t disagree more. The FS100 looked dirty to me and kind of lifeless, where the F3, I thought, was a standout. Very open and pleasant. Of course, I’m partial to the F3 but, it fell in right about where I thought it would, in comparison with the F65 and the Alexa, and it looked better than the Epic. My favs would be F65, Alexa, F3 in that order. I also, find it interesting that, after all the hoopla about the C300, it didn’t fare very well at all. Sorry… I couldn’t resist.

    • Ya, one time I may disagree with Koo. I was almost dead last for me – it looked harsh and sterile. A was a top contender, that lampshade was nice and pink and glowing – great dynamic range. A little muddy but sharper than I. I aliased too.

      B was way down on my list too – wrote write ups on it. B took me out of a room and placed me in a stage.

      • Filmmakers take note… always make your movies bright and keep those pesky shadows away!
        What we have learned from the GH2, you can take to the bank.

        The lampshade at the far left was what continually drew my eye… nice pinkish glow of that shade shared by the best cameras… F65 (by far the very best and should have been #1 for obvious reasons, IMO), Alexa, F3 and to a lesser extent, Epic. I’m really not trying to bash the GH2 as much as some might think. Like the 5DMK2, 7D and any other DSLR you care to throw in the mix, it is an amazing little image-maker for the $. If you can get beyond the unnatural quality of the light on the GH2 set, It’s rendition of that lampshade is horrendous and that should have put it near the bottom of the list. I agree that when people saw a bright, light image, they were drawn in like a sailor to a siren. But, hey, what do I know… maybe an over-lit, soap opera look is what everybody wants to see and a few of us have just been beating our heads against the wall, in vain, to keep it from looking like that.

  • Felt the GH2 looked to digital in this test. I’m aware of how it can be used though. I just really hated it in this test. It really looked like a soap opera.

    F65 and Alexa were my favs if I had to choose.

  • what a useless test! i really don´t know why people do such thing, which totaly have no meaning. what should this sh..t tell us? i´m what do they want to compare? cameras? i don´t think so. if you don´t have the same lightning you can not tell anything about the cameras. they used high contrast with some cameras and for example with the iphone they light the room inside so bright that it´s only 4 stops darker then outside. this shootout is waste of time.

    • second that. also, IMO, lighting comes before camera.

      • Daniel Mimura on 07.27.12 @ 6:20AM

        I disagree…it is lighting *for* the camera.

        You used to light for the film stock…and now you have to light for the camera. Different tools, same skill set.

        And with the majority of NFS readers voting no favorite, it’s testament to how well they lit to the strengths and weaknesses of each camera…therefore proving, as you say, that lighting comes first.

    • next episode will show us how each camera handled the natural set without re-doing lighting. They wanted to show the artistic set-up first to show, how with the right DP and technicians, one can make cheap cameras run with the big boys.

      Thus far is artistic comparisons, not tests. But technically, this is not called a camera test but camera shootout.

      Wait till the last episode so we can see again how much better the F65 is than the rest.

  • If you read Ryan Walters blog, he said even though they shoot HDRX version, they DID NOT use it, as they preferred the non-HDRX version better.

    It’s Zacuto’s fault (part 1) where they left the impression that Epic footage is from HDRX version. IT’S NOT. Read the blog from Epic’s DP …

  • If the camera doesn’t matter, then what’s the DSLR revolution about? I recently saw Michael Mann’s “Collateral” again and the movie could have been pretty good, had they shot it on film or a large sensor (not available at the time). As it is, it’s almost unwatchable, looks like they just gathered a couple of friends and a DV camera. So, I think the camera IS important – sensor size and, looking forward, the resolution too.

    • Jorge De Silva on 07.16.12 @ 7:25AM

      ??!! Collateral and several other movies… are the proof that BIG SENSOR is B*LLSHIT and overrated! I love the grain and the look of “Collateral”… its way more cinematographic that the majority of movies(test movies aka vimeo) filmed with shallow deep of field… DSLR are the beggining of an idea… (sensor wise)… because its a lot more handy to film with an F3… a C300… that a 7d for ex…

      People make movies. Not the cameras!

      • What Large sensors give us is a way to capture an emotional human mood, with details that we can see. Yes other factors are yet to be worked out, but we now have abilities to shoot with less lights, which again, gives us the emotional feel in a scene that can make or break the desired result.

    • Collateral… unwatchable?!! INSANITY!
      I watch this critically acclaimed masterwork every couple of months or so, just to remind myself how even 10 year old digital technology can be extraordinarily beautiful and engaging. Yes, it’s a testament to what 2/3″ sensors can do in the right hands.
      For your information, DP, Paul Cameron (and Dion Beebe), attempted to use film but, the image from the Sony F900 and Grass Valley Viper looked better.
      And if your ‘friends’ and their DV camera can make a movie that looks like Collateral, let me know where I can see that. They have very bright futures in Hollywood.

      • A lot of collateral was also shot on film. I believe all of the exteriors might have been F900/Viper, but some of the interiors were shot on film. They did something in Collateral that I absolutely loathe, however, and that’s use a 360 degree shutter. It gave them an extra stop of light, but it makes everything look very digital and unrealistic to me. Michael Mann has fallen in love with this look, unfortunately, and you can see it all over Miami Vice and Public Enemies.

    • Maybe not unwatchable, but very digital looking, oversharpened, edges sticking out, tons of noise. Like Joe said, 360 degree shutter. Plus, they used film a lot as well, just digital for night scenes as it could “see” deeper in the blacks than film (we know that). But they had a lot of noise.

      Now, this remains one of my favorite films however, because of the overall feel of the film, but that helps with the random parts of Coyotes and Chris Cornell’s vocals…

      Still a ton of noise in the blacks.

  • Rev. Benjamin on 07.16.12 @ 10:14AM

    I’m a huge gh2 fan, but I’m surprised it overtook the Alexxa and f65.

    • I think most people watched once, voted for the brightest one where they could see everyone’s faces. I watched numerous times, took stills of varous parts, compared ALL, waited a day, rewatched, waited another day, rewatched.

      My Conclusion: H, F, A, C in that order.

      Overall: H, F, A, C, E, G, B, I, D

      Why? D had motion artifacts, soft, way dark. “I” was sterile, harsh and bland. B was a soap set, contrasty, unnatural use of light. G was aliasing, soft, moire everywhere but had some natural spill light and had a warmth. E was nuetral, ok, nothing spectacular but sharper than G. C had good tonality, sharp but got yellowish in the highlights. A had good dynamic range but a little muddy.

      F – amazing, bright, natural, warm, shimmering with color and great dynamic range.

      H – sharpest, most vibrant in skin, good dynamic range AND contrast, no mud, not murky, looks like a room full of people from a movie. B looks like a tv soap.

  • Black dynamite on 07.16.12 @ 12:55PM

    it just shows how ppl are biased by camera name … I am pretty sure that some people who chose the GH2 over the Alexa would not have done it if the new …. Camera matters, the lighting techniques and the story matter too. Good test …

  • Black dynamite on 07.16.12 @ 12:58PM


    It just shows how people are biased by camera name or make … I am pretty sure that most people who chose the GH2 over the Alexa or the Epic would not have done it if they knew about the camera name before the test …. Camera matters, the lighting techniques and a good storyline matter too. Good test Zacuto…

    • Oh yes, it almost seems like the best film makers are the ones in the blogs, not the ones in Hollywood. The dismissive attitude of these “experts” is nothing short of astonishing. The polls show what most went for, surprisingly none of the people that voted for GH2 are around now, everyone seemingly voted for the F65, RRRIGHT!

    • It’s refreshing to read comments from people that clearly understand each and every component of creating a motion picture is important, and most of them are equal, not above or below.

  • Well here’s what passed through my mind:

    Web compression massively disadvantages the less contrasty looks.

    Alexa has easily the best exposure curve.

    Haloing on the C300 once again.

    Canon DSLRs have limited dynamic range but use it well — nice skin tones and nicer blow-outs than Epic shows here.

    Ugly scaling (sensor native to recorded 1920×1080) on the FS100.

    Colour temperatures were weird. Watching H, I was thinking “why are all these people gathered in a house boozing it up at 9:30AM? Is this a wake? Why has that guy come to a funeral in a lime green shirt? Had the cadaver come out of the closet just prior to his death? White shirt is still in the closet and trying to demonstrate his extreme heterosexuality by showing that not even at a wake can he pass on the chance of some female ass.”

    It was a terrible set.

    • The set was terrible, I have to agree. It was difficult to decide which camera looked best when the whole thing was just so ugly!

  • I’ve added some additional perspective to the shootout that I think is worth considering – the full write up is here:

  • I learned more from the experienced commentary than the test! Those who know what they are talking about inspire me.

    But hey – wait a minute – some of these cameras can’t do audio properly; some have skewing and rolling shutter which makes them unusable in some action shots; some have blockiness in the blacks and shadows and blown out highlights – no detail; some are big units and a pain to set up; some can be adjusted with good picture profile setups which makes these results an unknown for different profiles; some require a hell of a lot of post work to make it better. What is your time worth? You need a good tool to do a good job – bottom line. So what to choose?

    Once heard a great story about an old man and a violin at the auction. The auctioneer had the violin up and he scratched a few notes to demonstrate it. He was not a violin player by any stretch so it sounded rather awful. Bidding was topping out at $400 when this old man stood up, put up his hand to stop the bidding and slowly walked up to the auctioneer. He looked at it carefully. Then he put it up to his chin and tuned it. The audience was politely quiet as they watched in eager anticipation of something great about to happen as this man was unusual – he had the look of experience in his eyes. Then he played a stunning rendition of a beautiful hymn that left the audience in tears. All was silent for a while. He put the violin back down and walked back to his seat. You could hear a pin drop. Dead silent.

    After getting his composure, the auctioneer restarted the bidding: 2,000, 2,500 – 3,000, 4,000 – $4,400 SOLD!

    What made the difference? The touch of the masters hand of course. The violin was still the same instrument, but tuned and played with expertise and a great hymn.

    This shootout shows that the cameras for the most part are all good WITHIN THEIR DESIGN LIMITATIONS – but put any one of them, just like the old violin, in the hand of a master storyteller and you will win the world. Enough said.

  • I’m not sure what the point of the this “test” was. In any proper testing you have one variable and the rest constant. The moment you introduce more variables, the less you can isolate what you’re really testing. In this case, the lighting changes from camera to camera introduce the talent and taste of each respective DP along with the different cameras. With so many variables, to use this test to determine what camera is best is flawed. Perhaps I could determine which DP to hire for a particularly boring scene but that’s it.

    I’ve actually used a hacked GH2 to shoot a TV show for several months. Despite the polling here loving the camera (or the DP and colorist, who really knows), the tests or poll fail to show it is by far one of the most unstable, limited range, aliasing and moiring alternatives out there. I will never use that camera again, short of a gun to my head. While the hacking is resourceful, I’m not sure those who tout its strengths have ever had to use it on the field. When it gets cold out, motion, vehicle work, or heavy foliage, the intra frame hack will fail. It’s highlight clipping is limited as well. Then there’s the lensing. Micro 4/3 offers little in the way of cinema lenses and with PL mounts all sorts of Frankencamera mounting and bracing is required. By then you should’ve gotten yourself a real camera. The mount to the camera is definitely fisher price and will fatigue or bust with heavier lenses. And accurate color monitoring on the Gh2 is next to impossible as it changes gamma from preview to record. If you plan to do any professional work with this camera, before someone pays you, really test it and ignore this “Shoot out”.

    • For the GH2, you’re looking at a near $100,000 lens tricked out on a $600 body. So as Tim points out handling, features, and real world usability count. The DP did a super job, but the relight took more time than many of the others to achieve the result.

      • Again, I’m not sure what significance “re-light” time has. Are we testing the talent of the DP’s. Roger Deakins might have taken 15 minutes while Joe Shmo would’ve taken an hour. It says nothing about the cameras.

        I truly think these “tests” if you could honestly call them that are misleading at best. They seemed designed to create the impression that the differences between cameras are minimal. What better way to push aftermarket accessories for cheap cameras, Zacuto’s mainstay.