January 23, 2013

What's the Best Camera Under $1K? Canon T4i, Sony NEX-6, Panasonic GH2 Shootout

Kevin Good and the Weapons of Mass Production team are on a sleepless mission to determine the best bang for your buck, and weed out all the rest. Each contender will get its due where it excels, but a clear winner will emerge from the settling dust just about every time -- and WOMP will suffer no runners-up, all on behalf of the budget shooter. You know this from the show's 24-70mm lens shootout -- you also know how to shoot with an iPhone, or how others measure up to GoPro as action cameras. Now, WOMP sets out to answer the question of questions in today's camera market: what's the best you can do for under a thousand dollars? (Runners-up, beware).

The contenders are:

And the pudding, wherein lies the proof (drumroll, anyone?):

Given that there are plenty of other sub-$1000 options available, here's Kevin on why he limited the scope of the shootout, via his post-video writeup:

I know there are a lot more cameras I could've chosen from. I chose these because:

  1. Canon has consitently been a leader in DSLR video quality, so I felt they should be represented
  2. Mirrorless is the way of the future for video, so I wanted the others to be mirrorless
  3. These all have larger chips that 'traditional' video cameras (the handycam you'd get at Best Buy made specifically for video) which gives us better light sensitivity, shallower depth-of-field, and that cinematic look that viewers of my show are concerned with.

We've seen some gorgeous stuff shot on the GH2 (particularly hacked or aerial), even from the very beginning. So much so that the GH3 had pretty big shoes to fill for those counting out offerings from the industry-dominating Canon. Kevin saw the highest level of sharpness from the Panasonic workhorse in his findings, which he sees as further proof manufacturers may be holding out on options and quality in favor of making us pay for upgrades or more 'mature' models. Either way, Canon -- to everyone's surprise, I'm sure -- wins out in shadow-rendering out of the box, and that counts for a lot.

The Sony did a good enough job to surprise me, at least, especially considering most of the company's video eggs are in an entirely different basket altogether. I think there's something to be said for how admirably well it does given its size, though we already know (in terms of camera form factor) that size does matter -- just in a different way than it does to, say, Godzilla. As for the Canon, Kevin breaks it down better than I could -- and his points could be seen as indicative of Canon's grasp of the DSLR video market in general:

It's not as sharp as the Panasonic, and the form factor (with optical viewfinder instead of electronic) isn't as good for video as the others. But it was the best in low light, it was the best with dynamic range, it was just about even on the other tests, and there is a hack available for it (Magic Lantern) that gives some really nice functionality. It worked predictably, it has a nice articulating touch-screen, it has a histogram to aid exposure, and having the cleanest image matters a lot to me. I think it's embarrassing that it can't resolve the same detail as the much older Panasonic, but you have to remember that these cameras are all stills cameras first.

What do you guys think of the test? Have you, in your own work, found the T4i to be the superior camera, or one of the others? Either way, which do you personally prefer, work best with, or feel you can get the best material out of? Why? Did you cringe at WOMP's symbolic "destruction of that which fails the budget shooter in terms of overall value?"

Link: Weapons of Mass Production: <$1,000 Camera

Your Comment

80 Comments

This is iPhone 5 for Below $ 1K

https://vimeo.com/57793113

1080p Version here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsBsPpGYRLc

Cheers . . !

January 23, 2013

1
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sucks!

January 23, 2013

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gerald

sounds gay . .

January 23, 2013

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What does sounds gay mean?

January 23, 2013

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j

Not gay like a dude banging another dude, gay like it is stupid.

January 24, 2013

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john jeffreys

Who the hell is saying this video is sucks? for me this is WOW that i phone can produce this kinda quality for fullHD. Definitely getting one this week end as a Bcam for my GH2....

January 24, 2013

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Danny Rom

Looks great ! :-)

January 23, 2013

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Stefan Antonescu

Thanx . .

January 23, 2013

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I have to admit that looked ok but why this subculture of shooting videos and pictures on telephones? Theres a reason people use proffesional equipment not the least of which is creative lattitude.

January 23, 2013

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Ricky

Agree . .

January 23, 2013

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I agree with you, but the very fact that this person can achieve such video WITH a phone is what's fascinating. Sure, professional equipment achieves professional work, but if the person is a consumer, with an iPhone 5, they can still produce great videos.

January 23, 2013

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FilmGuy#209

Thats true @FilmGuy#209

January 24, 2013

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Danny Rom

I'm not surprised at all about the sony. My NEX-5N fared very well when jI compared it against T2i, GH2, D800:
http://vimeo.com/46037571
For me, it's a nearly-perfect mix of sharp enough but not too sharp, decent DR, and very nice colors. The biggest downside is the codec: it could be a lot better. And keep in mind that it overheats like crazy, so if you're shooting long takes forget about it. But I LOVE the image it's giving me. For example, this is not color graded and I think it looks gorgeous:
http://vimeo.com/57879637

January 23, 2013

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BTW: once you factor in the much-reduced moire and aliasing issues, my opinion is that my 5N is a huge upgrade from my old T2i (which has the same IQ as the T4i). Unless you shoot long takes.

January 23, 2013

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Agreed. My 5N has been wonderful. I purchased it over the gh2 for better low light and I fell it has a less contrasts image natively, I just finished this short shot at night with mostly available light and an occasional Led on its dimmest setting. Overall very happy with the image. https://vimeo.com/56217892

January 23, 2013

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Lane

Also.. I used ram heatsinks on the back to dissipate heat. I get 30 min recordings now without issue.

January 23, 2013

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Lane

I've got copper RAM heatsinks installed too, but in hot summer weather it shuts down after 5 minutes of recording. My old T2i did better than that (maybe 15 or 20 minutes).
Luckily, the NEX-5N generates nearly no heat at all while it's "on but not recording", so this matches my usage pretty well.

January 23, 2013

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GH2 all the way.
Had it for almost 2 years and I have no intention of upgrading, until a Blackmagic BMCC2 comes out.

January 23, 2013

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Fresno Bob

I approve this message.

January 23, 2013

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Anton

I approve this message squared.

I have one with a PL mount adapter and i use it with Optar prime lenses

WOW !!!! and those lenses go to T1..3

gonna get me a RED 18-85 next

January 23, 2013

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Nigel

And the hack i use give me 176Mb. i shot a very noisy shirt last week you would expect aliasing from and nothing.....im actually thinking of buying another one

January 23, 2013

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Nigel

Yes, the canon and sony DSLRs are just not suitable for anything besides DVD delivery... they lose immediately. They were also exposing the GH2 like noobs, GH2 is much better than my 7D in low-light, the ISO measurements are just different. Should have been addressed here and properly compensated for in the low-light test.

January 23, 2013

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bwhitz

Yeah... My thoughts as well. I about crapped myself when they said that all 4 cameras were set exactly the same. That is impossible. You can't set 3 completely different cameras the same. The least they could have done is exposed them somewhat the same. To me, it looked like the DR was about the same on all of them but the GH2 was underexposed compared tot he others.

Also, where was the aliasing test? Hmm... yeah.... Anyhow, this "Comparison" is great for the average newbie who just wants to get a DSLR to shoot hip video with and doesn't care to learn about picture profiles / Film Modes, settings etc....

For 90% of what people will shoot, after the resolution and clarity test, the Sony and Conon should have been smashed with a sledgehammer. You can work with lighting a scene for the GH2, you can't help that ugly mush the other cameras were excreting.

May 10, 2013

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OhhWell

Waiting for that Active m43 mount before I pull the trigger, but this is the upgrade path for a GH2 user.

January 24, 2013

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Derik

"14-15mm kit lens" ? :)

January 23, 2013

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sorry NFS, maybe I am used on the quality here, but such a lame test should stay only on youtube and should not be here

January 23, 2013

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matt

A lot of readers here can't afford to consider budgeting a camera for more than a thousand. I've been a longtime reader of NFS and there were originally a lot of posts about DIY rigs out of wood and PVC or how to make a film for less than 1K. I think this kind of article is missed. There are too many times were most of us can only dream about the kind of cameras that NFS writes about these days. No film school means no money for film school. I stand by this site as a great resources for filmmakers who don't have access to high and mighty equipment.

January 23, 2013

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Moises H.

I agree about what you said.. but the test is totally stupid

1. they are comparing cameras under 1000, the nex setup is with 16-50 zoom which is better than kit lens and costs 1000.. gh2 is 650 for 400 i can get panny 20mm , so all in all I will get better everything for the same money
2. DR test? I know you can push some detail from shadows when you have hacked gh2
3. iso test? LOL he didn´t even exposed properly the gh2´s and he just pushed the gain in post.. not to mention his bad focus on sony .. and another thing every lens has different T-stop and canon sensors WON´T GIVE YOU SAME LIGHT GAIN ON SAME ISO SETTINGS (iso 200 on gh2 will give you more light than iso 200 on canon)
4. my gh2 (flowmotion) footage grades better than canon one (I´ve had used lot of canon dslrs (550D/600D/7D/5DmII- some with hmagic lantern and marvel´s cine profile) also because of resolution.. the smoothnes is better when heavy graded the gh2

January 23, 2013

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matt

I totally agree.

I'm bored to read this crap on this site. I hope at least they get some cash from Canon.

EOT

January 24, 2013

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David

"...crap on this site". Do you mean THIS site, or the youtube channel of WOMP? Because THIS site posted the test with a commentary and asks you, the reader, at the end "what do you think of the test? (...)"
So THIS site never said the test was accurate or good, it just presented us this test as a news site, because WOMP is a channel that gets a lot of attention, and they posted the test.

You need to start reading properly and then assess things correctly before you start bitching, please!

January 25, 2013

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Heiko

Well said! I couldn't agree more. This "Test" makes this WOMP group look like a couple of complete fools. I'm actually quite surprised they didn't just set all the cameras to Auto after mounting them on that piece of wood.

May 10, 2013

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OhhWell

I don't really agree with their latitude conclusion, and all in all, in my opinion, the hacked GH2 gives the most pleasent image.

January 23, 2013

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What don't you agree with about it?

January 23, 2013

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Kevin why no moire test???
Moire and aliasing are some of the biggest downsides of the canon.
Plus you can mount virtually any vintage lens on the gh2.
Just my 2 cents.

January 23, 2013

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Luke

No moire-- just a matter of time and picking the most important stuff to do in a short review. You can definitely get a sense of it though in the shot with the helicopter and John doing 'produce samurai' when I zoom in. No question Panasonic keeps it under control in a way that the other cameras do not.

January 23, 2013

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Well, I guess "most important" means different things to different people. If all you are doing is shooting video for youtube then I guess the ability to resolve true detail isn't all that important....

If however, you are concerned about putting out the best quality you can and expect to have your final product projected, then aliasing is a huge concern. You can light for lacking Dynamic Range but that ugly mush that the Sony and Canon are putting out won't even hold up to the stock GH2 let alone a high bitrate hack.

I think the disappointment in the latitude test may have stemmed from comments like that the cameras were all set exactly the same. That is impossible. ISO settings don't behave the same on different cameras and F-Stop is NOT the same as T-Stop. You could have at least made an attempt to expose them all about the same. Also, as someone else pointed out, you boosted the GH2 low light footage in post. I know the GH2 isn't the best in low light but I also know what turning up the gain in camera looks like vs boosting the levels in the NLE.

I know that a good comprehensive comparison would have taken a lot more time than you or even I would want to put into it but the simplicity of this comparison makes you guys look like a couple of Jobbers.

May 10, 2013

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OhhWell

I was in the market for a new camera a few weeks ago.

Was considering the GH3, but since all my gear so far is Canon-oriented, that would've required new batteries, new lenses, a $300 battery grip, ... which would've raised the price even more.
After comparing all the options I had I eventually settled for a Sony NEX5N (specifically for slow motion) and a T3i with a Mosaic Engineering anti-aliasing filter.

A T3i body costs 1/3rd of a GH3 !

Why a T3i (and no T4i or 60D) ? Mainly becos of the 3x crop factor when shooting, imagewise there's no difference between these 3 cameras for video (all the same sensor).

These 2 cameras cost me a little over $1000, for an almost aliasing free T3i that can use the same batteries, battery grip and lenses I already had from my T2i. The Sony NEX5N was modded with small RAM heatsinks to prevent overheating (does a perfect job so far).

The main pro of the GH3/GH2 (sharpness) didn't outweigh the pros of the Canons : better DR, better low light and better shadows. I might eventually get a GH3, but sticking with Canon also meant I could stick with the same workflow, pick up the camera and start shooting.

I can't recommend the Mosaic Engineering filter enough : it seems to allow the H264 codec to compress better (due to not having to deal with aliasing), coupled with the Visioncolor picture style this gives way better footage than a standard Canon without filter and neutral picture style.

January 23, 2013

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Do you have any footage with the VisionColor picture style, and the filter? I have the same rig without the filter, and I have been wondering what the images look like.

January 23, 2013

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Mason H.

I just shot a music video with Visioncolor but without the filter. I can't post it yet since it's not officially out. Will post it as soon as it's premiered online.

January 23, 2013

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I concur. The Mosaic Engineering Filter (VAF-Txi) is a godsend. Well worth the investment IMO. I just shot a test in midtown and the filter severely cuts down or even eliminates the amount of moire in frame.

January 23, 2013

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Jerome

This test is unimpressive and relatively pointless because the GH2 will fail with its kit lens – which no one serious about making a short will shoot with. Put on a fast lens or an old Nikkon F and add the hack, then you have a serious film making tool that easily surpasses these other cameras (also with their magic Lantern hacks and fast lenses) .

January 23, 2013

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ADC

You have a point, but the T4i was also used with the kit lens (which starts at f/3.5) and without Magic Lantern or a Mosaic Engineering filter, same for the Sony NEX, so if you're looking for a test of unmodified cameras this is pretty fair.

The pros of the GH2 vs Canon T4i (better resolution and sharpness) will remain valid when testing with fast lens and hack. The cons too (worse low light performance, more noise in the shadows, a little bit less dynamic range).

January 23, 2013

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You took the words right out of my mouth Seenematic. :) Although it is fair to point out that with the GH2 you'd have enough money left over to buy a decent prime lens to throw on there. But yes, I wasn't just testing bodies-- I was testing the body-with-kit-lens combination that many people start off with when adopting a new brand of camera.

January 23, 2013

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Upstream Color by Shane Carruth (Primer) now showing at Sundance, is shot with a hacked GH2
http://i.imgur.com/3lLBz.jpg

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2084989/

nofilmschool should do a piece on that.

January 23, 2013

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Definitely. I've been waiting to see another film by him since Primer. Interesting camera choice.

January 23, 2013

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Lane

Don't tell any one!
Everyone will buy one then and we won't have the secret advantage anymore :)

January 23, 2013

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Fresno Bob

Thanks for the picture! It's really encouraging to see an independent filmmaker -- who isn't just working under a studio's indie label -- using accessible equipment.

From what I can tell, Shane & Co. are using the GH2 and the Samyang 85mm f/1.4 (http://bhpho.to/Ul4YFy). Any ideas on what adapter that is? Novoflex makes a blue-ring, but it doesn't look quite the same.

January 23, 2013

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Ryan

It looks like the Lomo Anamorphic adapter (http://bit.ly/10wRFBr), but I have NO idea what kind of lens is an OCT19 mount. He seems to have put the Samyang right on there, so I'm trying to make sense of it lol.

January 23, 2013

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Dana Yurcisin

it is a novoflex adapter. http://www.flickr.com/photos/24953721@N08/8392334999/in/photostream

January 23, 2013

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Mike

Aha! Nice detection work.

January 23, 2013

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Dana Yurcisin

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