August 30, 2012

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.

Head on over to Frank's site for his continuing hands-on review. You can also play around with some stills from the test by clicking the link here or below.

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?

Links:

Your Comment

61 Comments

FS100 all the way. In any situation, I would go with FS100 over the BMCC

August 30, 2012

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Antonio Pantoja

That's why it's good to have choices :)

August 30, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

Smart answer Mr. Marine :)

August 30, 2012

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good luck

August 30, 2012

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Marcus

Did you even read the article? The parts about what happens to highlights, in particular, and dynamic range? I'm an NEX-FS100 shooter, but still happily concede this distinction.

August 30, 2012

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Holy sh*t, those raw files are great.

August 30, 2012

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Ajit

I thought that the BMC wasn't graded properly, but apart from that I liked the BMC's natural handling of light and grain much better than FS100. It was crisper too.

August 30, 2012

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As for as the blown out highlights and dynamic range in the FS100 - It may be different on the FS100 but Avchd and MP4 on my Sony A55 records to 110IRE. A considerable amount of detail can be recovered by adjusting levels and and colours become visible again when peaks are at 100IRE. Its not a subject that is widely discussed.

August 30, 2012

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Mastergrooves

There's no amount of recovery on an FS100 that will bring that lamp back. Or any other camera sub F3/C300 for that matter.

August 30, 2012

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Frank the shooter is very well know for his flat profile to increase the DR of the fs100. look at his site for the different profile. I guess he knows what he is doing.

August 30, 2012

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danyyyel

The reason why the BMCC looks so much more cinematic is because the shot is framed properly...
He just held the FS100 in his hands, would like to see this test redone with exactly the same framing... now it's a bit subjective imo

August 30, 2012

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Ardon

I'm specifically talking about the color depth and the highlight handling - I would have called it cinematic regardless of the framing.

August 30, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

IMO, the BMCC takes the lead here, even the ProRes clips. Love the look.

August 30, 2012

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Jeff

The BMCC really got a super16 feel. His noise is very pleasing too. It's also sharper and of course the highlights are handled almost like film.
Personnally I would rather shoot with a 720p camera with great dynamic range than a 4k camera with limited DR.

August 30, 2012

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dr petformance is excellent.
battery issue is my only concern.
a bit heavy to bring vmount with bmcc

August 30, 2012

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gordon

Switronix has the PB70-BMCC, mounts up easily and will run the camera 5-6hrs, and fairly light. Think of the internal battery on the BMCC as a UPS backup. www.switronix.com

August 30, 2012

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Roy Kaster

Super 16 definitely, gosh I love that look.

August 30, 2012

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Jeff

I would agree. DR is huge factor, especially for outdoor filmmaking. The only thing that makes me question getting the BMC is the ability to get wide shots without lens distortion. A 20mm is basically a 50mm, and if you were to have the tokina 11-16mm, thats still basically a 26-38mm.

Does anyone have any recommendations on wide lenses for the BMC?

August 30, 2012

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Canon 10-22 is a stop slower and not constant aperture but it's a great lens and would give you 24 (theoretically, focal lengths are rounded values and change a bit with breathing). It has very low distortion.

The Samyang 8mm is a fisheye but shooting RAW you can correct for distortion in post. It's a shame the BMCC has the combination of high res and small sensor (which is an odd pairing) because wide shots are where you really want the resolution the most. This is why landscapes are shot large format.

August 30, 2012

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Peter

I have a question, why do people want wide shots so badly? For a budget restricted independent film, wide shots are your worst nightmare, but its a deal breaker if people can't have them.

August 30, 2012

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ryan

Because, most people that talk on forums and blogs don't actually shoot; just theorize.

Keyword: most, not all.

August 30, 2012

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That's pretty obnoxious. So you only want to shoot close ups and use deep focus I suppose, so your movie will look like every other amateur production? Watch a real movie made by professionals, they use wide shots. Guys like Tarantino or the Coens use a ton of them.

January 13, 2013

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Muh

I know what you're saying and I challenge you to raise your game. There is a level where you're right, and that's when you're trying to dress and light a set on the cheap and quick, and shooting wide will put too much pressure on your crew. But a lot of indie film skips that and uses available light and location shooting, where you absolutely want the context. The context may be a lot more attractive than the talent you can manage to obtain at that level.

Street photography is typcially shot wide because tele is relatively flat and while wide distorts the faces etc. it also makes you feel you are there. A lot of indie film mimics street photography. Establishing shots often need to be shot wide because you don't have much choice of vantage points, you can't call in a big crane. Steadycam shots are often shot wide. Fisheye can be a hip look, and any play with perspective can stylize a picture. One tele shot after another can be claustrophobic.

It's a cool camera but let's not fall over ourselves defending it. Dismissing wide angle as a whole, and the people who want that on their palette, is a big stretch.

August 30, 2012

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Peter

I was hoping Khoi wasn't right, but when someone says use fish eyes for wides and talks sbout street photography right afterwards, I can't argue.

August 30, 2012

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Ryan

Joe you have your next article idea. Teach the kids the value of wide angle shots and how to make the most of them on a budget.

I see Andrew at EOSHD has just posted a list of the best wides for the BMC. Though I have no idear why he would. =p

August 30, 2012

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Peter

Shane Hurlbut actually just did a great post partly featuring the use of wide shots to enhance the storytelling.

August 31, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

http://www.onerivermedia.com/blog/?p=677 Just did a comparison with 3 wide lenses and how they looked on the BMCC. Should be helpful.

August 30, 2012

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Steve V

Thanks Steve! That is a very helpful test. Great job!

August 31, 2012

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Wonderful look, amazing DR. I'm sold.

August 30, 2012

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JB

It's my subjective opinion, but BMCC just looks more pleasing to me.

August 30, 2012

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Scott

Dynamic range of the BMCC looks great.
But the FS100 does record enough information in the shadows to open up the midtones and reveal extra detail for more dynamic range.
My questionis, with the BMCC already being pushed to the limits, does it have anymore detail in the midtones at this level?

August 30, 2012

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Wrango Davenlo

even though the same lens was used the field of view makes the BMCC more pleasing. at night Id rather frame and light an 85mm then a 35mm. to be more fair they should match framing.

August 30, 2012

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what is the dynamic range of the prores files?

August 30, 2012

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kevin

you can shoot log prores, so full

August 30, 2012

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ryan

BMCC ProRes were really yellow to me, not graded properly. The RAW however is AMAZING! There is no contest, the sharpness, skin tone and highlight control in that lamp exceeds the FS100.

And for a night scene, that is very good low light performance! I'm really happy on my purchase!

August 30, 2012

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Lets spend all of our time looking at comparison videos, and none of our time making films. The only articles on this site that get more than 20+ comments are the camera battles.

August 30, 2012

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john jeffreys

You comment on nearly every one of them. Why aren't you out making films?

August 30, 2012

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burn

August 30, 2012

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ryan

im working on 3, bro.

damn, tryin to burn me. you cant burn me im john jeffreys homie. i invented burning

August 30, 2012

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john jeffreys

Three, yeah? Bird in the hand, man.

You set them up so well, I'm surprised more people don't take the opportunities you provide.

August 30, 2012

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i appreciate that you (and that raphael guy) actually reply to me and not just ignore me like everybody else.

August 30, 2012

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john jeffreys

You're like one of the Boys and Girls club kids: just need a big brother to slap the dirt out of your hair once in a while.

August 31, 2012

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well wait, I'm an indie filmmaker with a 40 hour a week 'regular' job. And what is better while working my day job than arguing camera specs ;)

August 30, 2012

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Exactly. Beats the day job.

In fact, that should be our slogan: "No Film School: beats your day job."

August 30, 2012

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

yes it does lmaoo im actually at work right now

August 31, 2012

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controls engineer

*Or business school. The only site I check on the reg between classes

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYvKwoWNOl4

August 31, 2012

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im here during work as well.

August 30, 2012

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john jeffreys

Have I missed it, but I haven't heard anything about moire or aliasing. These are what kill the DSLR's that I'm trying to get away from. Sure the dynamic range is great, but I'm not selling my cameras to get this unless I can pan fast with this.

August 30, 2012

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It's true that it would be nice to see tests focusing on moiree and rolling shutter issues. I don't expect it to be perfect but better then my 7D at least.

August 30, 2012

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moire and aliasing is virtually non-existent. Rolling shutter is there. But RED has it too.

August 30, 2012

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