July 24, 2014

This Helpful Chart Has Everything You Need to Know about Today's Digital Cinema Cameras

CineVerse Camera Comparison ChartDiscerning cinematographers know that different jobs and projects often require different tools. With digital cinema technology proliferating at an incredible rate, cinematographers now have such a wide variety of camera systems to choose from that the process of deciding which one meets the technical and aesthetic needs of any given project can often be entirely overwhelming. If only all of the relevant technical information for each high-end digital cinema camera could be aggregated into one place, maybe into the form of a well-organized chart --Luckily for us, Tom Fletcher over at CineVerse, a nationwide rental house, put together just such a chart with all of the major digital cinema cameras on the market today (the high-end ones, at least), and it's an insanely helpful graphic that puts our top-of-the-line digital cinema technology into perspective.

The following chart is a relatively quick look at all of today's digital cinema cameras, but it pulls out the most relevant technical information that a cinematographer would need to know and puts it into a readable and well-organized format. This chart also has a column for the definitive pros for each of these cameras, which makes it easy to see which of them meets the needs of your project. It also includes the average daily rental rate for each in a body-only scenario. Super helpful stuff.

The following images are just a portion of the full chart, so click on either one to be taken to the PDF, which you can download and print for convenience.

There are a few things that stand out to me after spending way too much time staring at this chart. The first is that, from a technical perspective, all of these cameras are incredibly different in terms dynamic range, bit depth, recording formats/sizes, anamorphic compatibility, frame rates, etc. Based on this information, it should be relatively easy to determine whether or not any given camera meets the technical requirements of your project.

The second thing that stands out is that 35mm film, despite the fact that it's being used less and less these days, still has a few major technical advantages over current digital cinema technology, the most important of which is dynamic range, which comes in around 15 stops, maybe 16. Only the DRAGON sensor (with HDRx enabled) offers comparable dynamic range. Even then, film still has more of its usable dynamic range in the highlights than any digital sensor, including the ones in ARRI's cameras.

Ultimately, all of this technical information is just the first piece in a much larger puzzle. As important as it is to be well-versed in the technical aspects of these cameras, the more pressing issue is whether or not each sensor's unique aesthetic can help you tell your story the best. That's a much tougher nut to crack, and it takes some diligent camera testing to determine the aesthetic differences between these cameras. That, however, is a topic for another day.

Link: 2014 Camera Comparison Chart -- CineVerse

Your Comment

36 Comments

Oh com on, this is just a cinema cameras specifications, not everything I need to know about today's Digital Cinema Cameras :(

July 24, 2014 at 7:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Flat WRONG about RED cameras.

The Dragon entries are actually the old MX figures and the MX listing is for the original M... Biased much?!

The Dragon sensor w/out HDR is at least a solid 16 stops of "usable" range.
Some argue it is as high as 19 stops technically (noisy imo past 18 stops at high ISO/ASA ).

Thanks

July 24, 2014 at 9:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Also the so called "native" ISO/ASA of the Dragon sensor is rated at 2,000.
Once again 800 ISO listed on this chart are statistics for the MX sensor.

July 24, 2014 at 10:01PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I would check out Ryan Walters' video on the actual dynamic range of the Dragon sensor. In his test, the Dragon really doesn't go beyond 14 stops, and the overexposure latitude of the new sensor is right in line with the Alexa, which is pretty impressive, all things considered. Ultimately, it really doesn't have 16-17 stops of dynamic range (unless you use HDRx), even though RED told us that it would. However, it's still a badass, high-performance sensor that is capable of some truly awe-inspiring images.

http://indiecinemaacademy.com/red-epic-dragon-vs-red-epic-mx-hype-real-p...

July 24, 2014 at 10:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Robert Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker's Process
4184

I'd agree I'm an owner of a Dragon, and while the highlight rolloff is better the dynamic range is marginally better. Also the native ISO is lower than the MX sensor. All of the specs originally listed for the camera came in lower or the same as MX. Color and highlight roll off is nice though.

July 24, 2014 at 10:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Phil McTaggins

Another Dragon owner agreeing, its no where near 16 stops. 13 if your conservative, 14 if your generous.

July 24, 2014 at 10:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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ryan

Robert, every Xyla-21 dynamic range test for Dragon I've seen shows the 16 stops figure to be accurate, including this last one: http://bit.ly/1tJ9nSn

I haven't seen one that refutes it. More detail can be found in the shadows depending on how you expose and if you bother to dig it out in post. Everyone with a Dragon who claims less seems to be basing it on anecdotal evidence and/or their individual tolerance for noise. People throw around the term "usable dynamic range" as if it's a specific number. It's NOT. The highlight clipping point is the same for everyone but how much noise is too much is a matter of opinion. If you're willing or able to use NR, it changes the usable number yet again (and yes, that's true for every camera).

Which brings up another issue. I think some people stop counting stops in the shadows at the first signs of noise but that's not how's it's done. You stop counting when you can no longer distinguish detail from the noise floor. Noisy stops are still stops. The last two or three may not be worth mentioning in terms of practical use but that doesn't mean they're not there. That's why people perform camera tests to see just how things line up in relation to their tastes and desired outcome.

The other point that people are missing is the one Ryan E. Walters made in the video you link to. It's not only about the total dynamic range, but also about the distribution of that range. And, a lot of people don't realize how changing ISO affects that distribution. For the sake of argument, let's say Dragon only has 13.5 stops of DR. A person who chooses the F55 over Dragon because it has 1/2 stop more DR may be surprised to find it clipping in the highlights before Dragon does because it only has 6-6.5 stops above middle gray before clipping (which ain't bad, mind you). Dragon looks to have a hair under 7 1/3 stops of range above middle gray to work with. If your concern is clean shadows in low light with no post NR, F55 is probably the better choice. If you're looking for as much highlight protection you can get your hands on with a smooth rolloff, Dragon or Alexa will suit you better. To be truly helpful in this regard, the chart should give the over/under split on dynamic range.

July 25, 2014 at 6:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Brian

*not how it's done.

July 25, 2014 at 7:01AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Brian

Red Dragon has less DR that over four year old Arri Alexa and three year old Sony F65.

Also, Sony F55 has more final, visible resolution than Red Dragon. Even with sharpening off.

July 25, 2014 at 8:39AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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dusty

Dusty piss off mate.Alexa beats F65 on DR.There is only 1/2 1 stop difference between Alexa and Dragon.
F65 is same level with Epic-X.so called fake 8K sensor yields same size of data and resolution with 6K Dragon.

July 25, 2014 at 9:28AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Kemalettin

im quite interested in the cameras news and sports people use, an whether their low light and dynamic range stack up against cinema cameras is there a list like that about?

July 24, 2014 at 8:27PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Whispers

Broadcast/studio cameras are a different beast. Sony is trying to upgrade F55 into a "live" camera - a $27K package - and is supposed to release a World Cup summary shot on it in Brazil.

BTW, this year's Palme d'Or winner "Winter Sleep" was shot on F65, as were portions of "Deliver us from Evil".

July 25, 2014 at 12:44AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

Nuri Bilge Ceylan sponsored by Sony and they offered free cameras while shooting his last 3 movie.Thats why he s shooting on F65 :)

July 25, 2014 at 9:30AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Kemalettin

Yes and he made no secret of it, even appearing in their ads. (which I had linked in the past)
.
Speaking of Sony, a nice little video about kitchen coffee making, shot on A7s in 4K into the Hyperdeck Studio Pro. I don't see that anywhere on the chart!
.
[ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lYIIas3GHs ]

July 25, 2014 at 2:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

I watched the piece from China and really like it.

Why do you all bother with these charts? Just pick the camera and shoot your Epic.
To me it's all bla, bla, bla.

Rachael

August 2, 2014 at 12:05AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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YES! Story and content is MAJOR!
Yet, technical stuff becomes second important right after story.

August 2, 2014 at 12:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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AL Aguayo

Looks like all they did was plagiarize the camera comparison chart that Radiant Images did and put their logo on top: http://www.radiantimages.com/html/camera-chart.html

July 24, 2014 at 8:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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AlexChambers

I don't think it's a matter of plagiarism, especially considering that none of the information is actually original content of any kind, just a recitation of technical specifications. Most rental houses have specific literature like this to keep their clients informed and up to date. Here's an example from AbelCine. http://blog.abelcine.com/2013/07/03/arri-alexa-camera-lineup/

I will say that the Radiant Images chart has a few more cameras on it though. Thanks for sharing :)

July 24, 2014 at 9:26PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Robert Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker's Process
4184

I hear a lot about "picking the right camera" for a job, but if you ask your average viewer about a film, the video quality is the least of their considerations. This is how audiences break it down in order of importance - 55% content, 36% audio, and only 9% image quality. Average viewers don't even notice image quality unless a video or film is really shaky or has cuts that are too fast. That does bother them - sometimes they even have to look away. They don't care about things like dynamic range, color balance, exposure, the camera used or 4K. We care. Maybe we care too much. 99% of viewers don't care at all.

July 24, 2014 at 10:12PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Elliot Kramer

Then join the audience man! Filmmakers can't think that way. If you are creating a film, then everything matters including camera, exposure, white balance, and dynamic range, because they all impact story. If what you believe was true, then hollywood would not be throwing 35 million into creating each film. Name one major motion picture that looks bad. Even crappy studio movies look gorgeous.

July 24, 2014 at 10:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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ryan

Maybe that's one of the issues with Hollywood today. They're spending so much money on trying to make their movies look good rather than delivering a unique/original/good story.

July 24, 2014 at 11:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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If audiences wanted to pay for unique/original/good stories then thats what you would see on the reg, but thats another issue. Audiences expectations about how films should look have been conditioned. For example moonlight isn't blue, but I don't hear anybody complaining about it. Ignoring the intricacies that have built that conditioning, just because the audience is not aware of the how and why is stupid.

July 25, 2014 at 12:36AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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ryan

That's the tricky thing about asking an audience what they think about a film... a lot of what they think could be informed from deliberate visual choices. +1 join the audience man.

July 27, 2014 at 7:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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alex

Uhh, there is an error on the Red Epic Dragon side... The old MX had 13.5 stops, the dragon has upwards of 16+ as far as im aware.

July 24, 2014 at 11:00PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Timothy Carr

Maybe that's one of the issues with Hollywood today. They're spending so much money on trying to make their movies look good rather than delivering a unique/original/good story.

July 24, 2014 at 11:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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So, if you shoot on Alexa in 4:3 with anamorphic, then you're almost 4K? ~ 7.5M pixels? An easy upscale?

July 25, 2014 at 12:46AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

I thought RED was 14 bit? At least the MX was...and I would give the dragon 14 stops and the Alexa about 14.5, film at 15-16 which are mainly in the highlights...I think film has like 9 stops in the highlights and 6 in the shadows. Notice how black the shadows are in film and how a camera like a C500 or Alexa has way more shadow preservation which looks more natural but film doesn't look natural and people want the film look. The F65 is IMO one of the most underrated cameras out there just as capable if not more then an Alexa.

July 25, 2014 at 2:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Brad Watts

everyone thinks that the Dragon has 16+ stops should cease swallowing the marketing crap that RED puts out there....look at the tests, listen to what Dragon owners above are posting....

July 25, 2014 at 3:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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RobW

So in terms of DR, the Alexa, RED Dragon, F5,F55,F65 and A7s are to top dogs right now. a7s it is.

July 25, 2014 at 9:58AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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gb

I believe this chart has some wrong info as the F65 Downscales to 4k in camera meaning that its not really 8k, also the RED Epic is 16 bit not 12.

July 26, 2014 at 11:27AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Adam E.

F65 has the better everything when used in 8k raw. It has the best image, sharp, beautiful highlight roll off, clean.

Dragon has a solid 14 stops of dynamic range, And I mean 14 nice really usable stops. 16 if your count the ugly stops (which I don't). But it's raw, so you have to shoot log, and then tweak further to see them all. It's not WYSIWYG like an Alexa.

Too bad Dragon is now 320 iso again with the OLPF. But with the new debayer tool, it should be back to 800iso asap.

July 27, 2014 at 12:47PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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no black magic....to cheap?

July 31, 2014 at 11:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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tito h

the rental price for one day is the same as buying a black magic outright, so I guess they didnt include them, but honestly the image off a black magic at least competes with a red. I would have included them.

August 2, 2014 at 1:47PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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matt

A very helpful chart. Thank you for making it available.

August 4, 2014 at 5:31AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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If this site's writers would realize how useless words like "incredible," "insane," and "epic" are, that would be incredibly, insanely epic. Otherwise keep up the good work.

October 22, 2014 at 10:23PM

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The chart doesn't talk about whether the shutter is global or not. If the shutter isn't global then straight lines on fast moving objects get curved.

October 23, 2014 at 12:35AM

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