In a video just released from NAB 2015, cinema5D sat down with Tim Siddons from Blackmagic Design, Sebastian Pichelhofer from the Open Source Apertus project, and Michel Juknat for Kinefinity, and talked about not only new products, but how each company views their own cameras and the needs of their users:
The thing that has stood out to me, and one of the things that I've learned from doing this for a number of years, is that every company works very differently, and comes up with products and product cycles in their own way. A camera is ultimately a tool, and there are so many different shooters and different needs that it's impossible to create one camera that fits the needs of everyone.
The ARRI ALEXA may be one of the most popular cameras in Hollywood, but it doesn't do everything for everyone, and by the same token, RED's offerings do things that ARRI can't or won't do. Canon and Sony also have models that fit the needs of certain shooters and not others based on features and build. While Apertus is trying to make a camera that can be adapted for as many users as possible, Blackmagic wants to build models for each type of shooter. Kinefinity has taken a middle of the road approach, and has just tried to build the most powerful camera they can at the most competitive price possible, and incorporate what they've learned in newer models. Either way, building a camera is a set of decisions that comes down to what users need, cost, and potential volume of sales.
There is also the question of speed when developing a camera. We like to think that each company is closely following what others are doing and building cameras in response, but this is actually rarely the case because of product cycles and internal business structure. While many companies are on 12-18 month development cycles or more, Tim from Blackmagic mentioned that they are on about a 6 month cycle. There are positives and negatives for each of these approaches. People complain that a company like Canon is slow to innovate with no RAW internally and sometimes very compressed images, but generally their products are delivered on-time and work as described (and you know a better and cheaper model isn't coming out in 6 months). Blackmagic, on the other hand, hasn't delivered much on time and doesn't always have the most polished final product, but is constantly innovating and updating their products, and gives the user the least compressed image with the most fidelity possible.
Making cameras is a difficult business, and one potential reason that it's even more difficult is that companies are very secretive about what they do, and how they arrive at making an image. This is partly why Sebastian from Apertus believes so strongly in Open Source technology — the idea that a user should know everything that's going on under the hood, and be able to change the software to better fit their needs. This also speaks to the different approaches by the companies in the video above. From a shooting perspective there isn't really a wrong way to go about this, but hopefully we see companies being more open about their cameras, specs, and how they're creating an image thanks to the Open Source movement.
The one thing that the three companies above have in common is that they believe in trying to give their shooters the maximum quality possible, including RAW and compressed formats. With how technology is progressing, I'd be surprised if we didn't see more and more camera models that fit this mold, especially as things get more competitive. Being able to have a lot of compression and no compression options in one camera is really the best of both worlds, and it's something we're seeing these companies trying to do as much as possible.
There's no question we'll see more models from Blackmagic and Kinefinity, and Apertus has a very defined plan that seems to be going well (even if it is a little late). We just hope that all of them continue to listen to customers and include as much as possible under the hood as they can.