Ever since RED first announced their 3K for $3K Scarlet, and then killed it, the independent world has been salivating over the possibility of shooting their films in higher than HD resolution for about the price of a DSLR. Turns out producing a higher-than-1080p camera isn't cheap -- though Blackmagic is doing a good job proving this wrong with their Cinema Camera. So what about 4K and 16-bit RAW for $1,000? Is this even possible? That's exactly what a company called Point Grey is introducing -- but there are a few big shortcomings if you'd like to shoot with this tiny camera on your next feature.
First, here's the introduction video for the new Flea 3 USB 3.0 cameras:
The camera is absolutely miniscule, but before I go further, this camera wasn't designed to be used for cinema. Just like Blackmagic is using an off-the-shelf sensor designed for medical, scientific, or machine vision, this particular camera uses a couple different sensors that are designed for those same purposes. One of those sensor options just so happens to top out at 4096 x 2160. So far, so good, but it only gets more disappointing from there. Not only is the sensor size 1/2.5" (right between 1/3" of many consumer cameras and the 1/2" Sony EX1/EX3 sensors), but it tops out at only 21fps at full resolution -- unusable for shooting movies, but then again, it was never designed to. If you want to shoot the camera in 8-bit monochromatic mode, you can get up to 60fps at full resolution, but that's not really that helpful. It seems as though it's possible to create your own resolutions, and somewhere between 4K and 2K sits 24fps, since at 2K resolutions the maximum is 60fps.
Either way, why would anyone want to use a tiny sensor with C-mount lenses and a camera body which needs to be tethered to a computer to be functional? This camera is capable of pretty amazing color reproduction using 16-bit RAW mode (which is what the far more expensive RED Epic is capable of), and even though you may have already seen this camera shared around the internet, no one has mentioned the possibility of using those old relic 35mm adapters with some C-mount lenses. Being tethered is a bummer, but it looks like you could get 16-bit RAW with somewhere around 3K resolution at 24-30fps. Used 35mm adapters are a steal, and what used to cost thousands can now be had for a couple hundred dollars. This camera isn't going to be a low-light killer with its small pixels, but the possibility of using a 35mm adapter with some C-mount lenses could actually produce some interesting results.
As these smaller, high resolution sensors get cheaper and cheaper, we'll see a lot more tethered cameras that are 4K resolution and above, and it's only a matter of time before some clever DIY folks get full frame 35mm angle of view at a fraction of the cost of digital cinema cameras. While quality might be hit-or-miss, there's a great chance many flaws would be hidden downscaled to 1080p. It will certainly be interesting to see what people might come up with in the future.
Below are some of the standard resolutions available with this camera. Again, it seems like you might be able to create your own resolutions, but you can find the link to the technical document about the camera below. You'll need to sign up for a free account to download it, but there is a wealth of information about how these cameras work.
What do you guys think? Even though 4K isn't needed right now in a lot of applications, what sort of hoops would you jump through to get those kinds of resolutions and the ability to really utilize 35mm lenses for a few thousand dollars?
[via The Verge]