I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about different cameras and I find it very interesting the amount of attention that all of the technical specs receive. It’s funny to me that there seems to be a (sometimes) venomous argument on the net about full frame vs. cropped frame, pixels, 4:2:2 vs. 4:2:0 vs. 4:4:4. From a technical standpoint, it all matters. It matters because you have to keep in mind what you’re deliverable requirements are. However, for most independent shops (like myself) I really think it comes down to one thing-does the image I am capturing look good or not?
I have been shooting with what I like to call Cinema DSLR for a little over a year now and I am loving it. Would I love to own a Red camera or an ARRI Alexa? Sure! But the truth is, for the amount of money you are looking at investing, you had better have some big productions lined up.
And let’s be real-most of us are shooting content that is either going to end up on the web or, at best, will end up in some kind of limited distribution (of course, we’re all working towards bigger:) So what does that mean for image size and quality? Ultimately, again, you can talk pixels and color space all you want but your eyes don’t lie (of course, this might be argued by engineers who will always point to the type of monitor you watch something on-is it calibrated or not, etc.). Here’s the thing. At the end of the day most of us are going to be creating content that will end up being either 1920×1080 or 1280×720. Even features are ending up in the HDCAM SR world of 1080i60. So, even if you shot 4k, you’re ending up at 1920×1080. Of course, it goes without saying that if you’re shooting at 2.5k like the Black Magic Cinema Camera (which shoots at a RAW size of 2432×1366) and you end up with a master output of 1920×1080, it’s going to look better than something that was shot at 1920×1080 and ending up at that same ratio.
I think Philip Bloom really has it right in his observations of the Black Magic Cinema Camera (which, by the way, if you can’t tell, I am very excited about). Are there some limitations with this camera? Sure. Is this camera right for every shooting situation? Probably not. And that’s where I get to the point that I really feel is the revelation in all of this. No camera is right for every shooting situation, especially if you are running a shop that is doing everything from promotional videos, to events, to narrative stories.
Some of the “aha moment” for me happened as I started to research Cannon’s 1d C, which is another really exciting camera (although, for the price, maybe not so much). But the fact that this very compact camera is going to shoot 4k is incredible (and, on-board nonetheless, so no external recorder necessary, unless you want to record proxy files). This simply shows where we’re going with this technology. And I think it’s exciting!
Now there are many who love to shoot with a camera like the Sony PMW100 but I am not one of them. True, the camera captures beautiful broadcast quality images in a 4:2:2 color space. But, for me, it just feels too much like old school betacam production video and I don’t find it as exciting to shoot with as the DSLR’s or other cameras that are coming out.
But again, it doesn’t matter. To me, what matters is what do you want to capture? What do you want it to look and feel like? Follow your instincts, trust your heart, look through the lens, and shoot what matters. Tell the story, don’t get lost in the tech specs.