Sony's FS100 vs. Blackmagic's Cinema Camera: a Low-Light Showdown
The Cinema Camera is starting to make the rounds with those who've been asked by Blackmagic to test out the camera. While the test below conducted by Frank Glencairn isn't exactly a low-light showdown (in fact it only goes up to the BMCC's limit of 1600 ISO), it does give you a great sense of the noise, color, and definition of both the Sony FS100 and the Blackmagic Cinema Camera in a lower light situation.
Thanks to Frank for doing this test, and be sure to go to Vimeo and download this file, that's really the only way to watch it properly:
This is what Frank said about his process:
I used a Samyang 35mm f1.4 at f2.8 and a Heliopan IR/UV filter. Lighting was the oil lamp on the table, an oil lamp about 8 ft away on the wall and a garden torch in the background. Changing the ISO on raw, doesn't make any difference, it`s just metadata (that`s the reason I just used 800 ISO), but makes a difference while ProRes recording. Of course I could have gone way higher with the ISO on the FS100, but why compare ISO 16000 to ISO 800?...The grading was done pretty rudimentary. If I had used masks and secondary grading, I could have get even more out of it.
Here is a still image for comparison between the two (click on the image for a larger file):
We all know that the BMCC isn't going to be a low-light killer, in fact, it's a camera that's going to need light to really be utilized in the way it was intended. That does not necessarily mean you can't use it in a lower light situation, as the above test and the still image Frank released both show. What is striking to me, is just how cinematic the image is from this camera (that's not to say the FS100 is un-cinematic). Of course, that's a subjective observation, but it's still remarkable to me that a $3,000 camera is putting out this kind of image.
As far as noise goes, yes, it exists. There is no noise reduction happening in the camera, unlike the FS100 which is getting a little bit of noise reduction through the image pipeline as well as a smoothing of the noise thanks to the AVCHD codec. Either way, the BMCC is no match for the FS100's bigger sensor, especially since it can go well above 10,000 ISO (but most of you probably could have guessed that already). Personally, I actually like the noise that this camera is producing. Even if you don't do any noise reduction to the BMCC footage (which you would on a major production regardless of the camera), it's going to give the camera a very distinct look that for me negates the use of any type of additive grain filter.
One thing is for certain, the dynamic range with the BMCC is off the charts, as you can see in the picture above. The highlights in the lamp are far more controlled and pleasing, and they don't go off into yellow (which has been a complaint from many) like the FS100.
What do you guys think? Would you actually shoot this camera at 1600 ISO in ProRes or DNxHD mode to get the grain pattern if that's the look your film was going for?