RED, Arri, and Sony: Meet Panavision's 70mm Digital Cinema Camera
While there have been rumors for years about Hollywood rental and camera company Panavision developing a new camera to replace the aging Genesis, that's pretty much all we've gotten: rumors. Back in early December at the Plus Camerimage 2012 festival, Panavision unveiled a prototype for a digital camera that will have a sensor equivalent to 70mm. It's interesting and significant for a number of reasons, mostly because the last time Panavision developed a camera it became the standard that other digital cinema cameras had to live up to, and also because it signals that the company might think that's where the future of movies is headed.
- The camera will feature on-board recording via an SSD, perhaps 1.5Tb
- It will feature a Titanium body, and should be a couple of pounds lighter than the Arri Alexa.
- It is expected to record DNxHD and ProRes, in RGB and maybe RAW.
- The sensor can be windowed down to 42mm and 35mm formats.
- They’re keen to allow a wide range of metadata to be captured and recorded onboard, making it “the VFX department’s dream camera“
- They are also looking to develop a new open codec format
We’re expecting to see a prototype in the next six months…
In addition to the new camera, Panavision have announced a new range of Primo 70 lenses.
So why might you even remotely care about this? Certainly, the gearhead inside many of us finds any new camera creation interesting (I cannot exclude myself from that). It could mean that Panavision doesn't believe they can compete on the digital Super 35mm front alone. Another possibility is that this is where they see the industry headed -- or at least they are going to make sure their camera is "future-proof." Rather than build a camera with a full-frame or Vista-Vision sensor, they are shooting right ahead to a 70mm/65mm or Medium Format sensor. In terms of sensor technology, there are finite advancements that can be made in a given physical size (though RED's new Dragon sensor is definitely bumping up against these limits). With a larger sensor this size, you can get improvements in dynamic range and noise performance, which means that the sensors can be made more light-sensitive, with less noise, and overall better image quality.
Now, this isn't the first camera with a sensor this big. Vision Research, who makes the Phantom camera, already has a camera with a similar size, the Phantom 65 Gold 4K High-Speed Digital Camera. This camera, however, will likely be a whole new ball game in terms of quality and specifications. It's not clear right now what resolution this camera will record at, but it wouldn't make any sense to me for it to be any lower than 8K. If this is going to be a great visual effects camera, and they are looking towards the future, they are going to want to oversample for the next format, which is 4K. They also probably see this as an IMAX type camera. Eventually film may disappear completely, so having a camera that can match that quality is going to fill a need. So who cares about 70mm if we're already having trouble getting focus on full-frame? Well, according to the info so far, the new Panavision 70mm digital camera will be able to window down to standard formats (full-frame and Super 35mm) very similar to RED's cameras. This means you're gaining all the advantages of a larger sensor (like I mentioned above), but you're not having to necessarily deal with the negative aspects.
Basically, this could be a one camera to rule them all, especially if they figure out high-speed. Panavision has been at this game for a long time, and their gear is typically rock solid. When they build something, it's built because people actually need to use it some day -- though size and weight have never been one of their considerations -- until now that is.
We don't really know any more about it, but it's safe to say that image quality is the highest priority for the company. A camera lighter than an Alexa, with high dynamic range and resolution, that can crop to the major formats sounds pretty good. Oh, and they're building brand new lenses, so for all of your motion medium format needs, they've got you covered. So what could be the only catch with this guy? Well, it likely won't be cheap, and it's probably going to be a rental only. Panavision has never been in the business of selling cameras, so I don't really see that changing. But if you're looking at the market, buying is the new renting, so it might be something they consider if they keep the price somewhere around an Alexa (or even close to the Aaton Penelope Delta). We know RED is not going to stand by, as they announced a long time ago that they were working on larger sensors, and Sony and Arri will probably not be too far behind.
While I don't want to be trying to focus with Medium Format motion anytime soon, the image quality improvements thanks to the sensor will mean better-looking movies for years to come, and it also makes for a fantastic trickle-down effect: everyone tries to stay on the cutting edge and it's a race to the bottom for the consumer.