July 14, 2016

Here Are the Cameras Used By the 2016 Best Cinematography Emmy Nominees

While the camera isn’t everything, it is fascinating to see the breakdown of cameras and lenses for the Emmy for outstanding cinematography this year.

It’s always fun to look at the best cinematography Oscar nominees or SXSW filmmakers to see what cameras they are using, and we couldn’t help but have the same curiosity about the nominees for Best Cinematography for a single-camera show at this year's Emmys, announced this afternoon.

In camera platform, the situation is pretty similar to the Oscarsabout 2/3 Alexa and 1/3 REDand, unsurprisingly, no show shot on film. (After all, television budgets and schedules aren’t really designed for film anymore.) 

The situation is pretty similar to the Oscars—about 2/3 Alexa and 1/3 RED​.

We see mostly very established lens platforms (Zeiss Ultra or Master Prime, Cooke S4, and Panavision Primo), which makes sense; considering the large volume of footage shot and the tightness of a TV schedule, working with less consistent older sets of lens that need more time in grading to match isn’t practical. Of course, the feature awards rely on similar lenses, with the exception of the film projects like Carol and The Hateful Eight, which went not only for film, but also lenses with more personality (Speed Panchros for Carol, and Panavision APO Panatar for Hateful Eight) and the added workflow associated with such choices. 

The biggest surprise is that Sony is still out of the running in the Best Cinematography category. This must be frustrating for a camera company that dominated the television realm for a long time, and it's especially surprising considering how hard Sony is working to take back some of that market share. 

The company is also making cameras beloved by some exceptionally particular and talented DPs in the feature space (Claudio Miranda with Oblivion and Vittorio Storaro with Cafe Society, both shot Sony), and has a presence in the type of prestige TV that often gets nominated (Marco Polo, Preacher, and Mozart in the Jungle all shot Panavision Sony, for a start). But Sony just doesn’t seem to be cracking into the shows that get cinematography awards for a single camera. Even on 4K platforms like Amazon and Netflix, which until recently ruled out the Alexa, the nominees' choice was consistently the RED Epic Dragon over Sony. David Fincher's (House of Cards) longstanding affinity for and relationship with RED is clearly a factor, but The Man In The High Castle cinematographer James Hawkinson made the same decision.

Sony is still out of the running in the Best Cinematography category​.​

In practically every case, most shows take at least a partially hybrid approach, mixing multiple cameras and lenses; because of this, we have listed only the primary platform below. While nobody shot with the Arri 65 (probably not necessary for TV), it was often a mix of Alexa M, XT, ST, or classic on an Arri show, or Epic Dragon and Scarlet Dragon on a RED show. 

Even on shows that chose the Alexa for A and B camera, sometimes the C camera would be Epic Dragon (we’re looking at you, Homeland), probably chosen for its easy of mounting and slo-mo abilities.

The primary platform tends to be what is used to set the look, and the secondary cameras are tasked with fitting into the look created on the primary platform.

Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series

Bates Motel

Camera: Arri Alexa

Lenses: Panavision Primos

Downton Abbey

Camera: Arri Alexa

Lenses: Cooke S4


Game of Thrones

Camera: Arri Alexa, Red Epic

Lenses: Cooke S4 and Angeneix Optimo lenses



Camera: Arri Alexa 

Lenses: Panavision Primo



Camera: Arri Alexa and Red Epic

Lenses: Ultra Primes, Canon Cinema Zooms


House Of Cards

Camera: Red Epic

Lenses: Master Primes


The Man In The High Castle

Camera: Red Epic Dragon

Lenses: No info currently available.


What did you think of the nominations this year?      

Your Comment


Well I don't think Sony has a reliable camera that DOPs would like to use on the field. I once worked with the F65 and there were constant problems with the camera and the recorder module giving an error. I mean it was constant. Also the thing is a BEAST! Its so huge you can't use it in handheld mode. I think with the introduction of the Alexa Mini we are going to see that more often showing up on this categories.

July 14, 2016 at 7:51PM

Tavo Jimenez
Executive Producer/Director

F55's are being used a good amount. Definitely are not bad cameras. The Alexa mini is definitely going to be hitting that market harder, and some of RED's market too

July 14, 2016 at 10:35PM


Sony deserves to be alienated for its longstanding commitment to undermining industry standards and screwing consumers. From S/PDIF (a bastardization of AES/EBU) to their bastardization of Firewire to Memory Stick to their bullshit Thunderbolt implementation in a USB port to their proprietary, overpriced, unreliable SxS storage junk... Sony sucks.

July 26, 2016 at 7:19AM

David Gurney

The only show I know that's still shot on film is The Walking Dead. Super 16mm.

July 14, 2016 at 9:51PM

Henry Barnill
Director of Photography

That's funny how the Alexa, with its softness and wrong colors, looks real and immersive, and the Red which is crystal clear with accurate colors and crazy sharpness, like looking through a window, looks artificial. Why the hell do they want to shoot @8k now? Do we need more wrinkles, sharper skin pores, and more noticeable artificial lighting to tell stories? Maybe we should let some extra space for imagination.

July 15, 2016 at 3:36AM, Edited July 15, 3:36AM


Alexa soft? Wrong colors? What planet do you live on? AFAIK the Alexa resolves much more detail at 3k than RED do. Skin tones on Red still don't reach the level of Alexa, imo, although the colors and gamma curve on dragon are as close as it's ever been.

Here's a video, comparing the resolution in UHD from am internally up-converted Amira image and a 6k Red Dragon image which has been downressed in post. They perform very similarly on a resolution chart.

July 15, 2016 at 5:56AM

Oscar Stegland

Wow, calm down :) You didn't get my point it seems. That was a compliment for the Alexa. Red has decided to take the "accuracy" road. Arri is more looking after film. I love Arri's colors. Blues are more cyan, not purple, yellows are perfect, just a bit desaturated and a bit more orange, the different hues/saturations in general are super close to film, and it looks gorgeous immediately. I think the ultra sharpness race is crazy. Reds are too sharp to really look cinematic IMO. I just love the fact that we don't see every pore, or the makeup, or any artificial element of a movie on the Alexa as easily as we see them using Red.. It's 2880 pixels after all, of course it's a bit softer. But that's what I like about film, the colors are a bit unnatural, it looks sharp but don't show details we don't want to see. And I think that all these little unnatural elements are putting the viewer in a parallel universe and make it easier to enter a fictional feature. Concerning the Amira, yeah it's closer, of course. But it's not 8k neither. I'm just surprised by all these tests made on Red cams, zooming 500% to see if the eyelashes are sharp enough .... What's the point? Well you missed my point anyway, I just sold my Red to buy a Varicam. It's the closest thing to the Alexa out there. I was so bored with the Red look. Just received the cam, I can't believe it, it's an amazing machine. Unfortunately it's sharper and cleaner than anything I shot in 5k on the Red ^^ I have to find the settings in the menu to fix that.

July 15, 2016 at 12:41PM, Edited July 15, 12:53PM



July 26, 2016 at 7:20AM

David Gurney