Friday, February 28, 2014

Panasonic VariCam 35 4K RAW Camera/Recorder Announced!

The new Panasonic VariCam 35 4K RAW camcorder

Finally! Panasonic comes up with a follow-on large sensor, interchangeable lens camcorder and enters the Super 35 game with a 14 stop 4K RAW modular camera and recorder. The Press Release (link below) says, "Ultimate Image Production for Cinema or Episodic Drama". The price is still TBD, but sources say it will be over $10K. It had better not be much over $10K if Panasonic wants to be competitive with the newly marked down $20K Canon C500.

The recorder can also be matched with a new VariCam HS 2/3" camera head for broadcast.

Both cameras will have 4 card slots - 2 for full size P2 cards, 2 for microP2 cards (the same cards used by the GH4).

The venerable Panasonic AG-AF100

A lot has happened in the four years (!) since Panasonic shook up the camcorder world with the first-ever large sensor interchangeable lens camcorder under $10,000, the AG-AF100.

With the passage of time, it may be a little difficult to remember how revolutionary this camera was - especially in the wake of successive rollouts of Super 35 interchangeable lens cameras from Panasonic's competitors - the Sony FS100, F3, FS700 ; quickly followed by the Canon Cinema EOS Line; the Sony F5/F55 and, most recently; the $2995 UHD Blackmagic Production Camera.

The VariCam 35, with its true 4K/120fps and HD 240fps slow motion, wireless capability, and other unique features is clearly a bid to regain Panasonic's leadership in the large sensor camcorder world.

If Panasonic can make this camera price competitive with the C500, it is likely find its way onto lots of movie and TV sets. If Panasonic RAW color is anywhere close to ArriRAW, it may even find itself competing with the big dogs. Welcome back, Panasonic. Here's the Press Release.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Panasonic G6 Marked Way Down!

As of this post, the best price for the terrific Panasonic G6 still/video camera is at Samy's via eBay or Amazon.

The price on this deal is too low to post - but if you're looking for the absolute best large sensor, interchangeable lens video camera in this price range, you should click on one of the links above or the display ads below and pull the trigger on this deal now. There are only 6 left at this price.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Preproduction Panasonic GH4 in the Field!

Eduardo Angel gives us a tantalizing taste of what it's like to shoot with the new Panasonic GH4 4K camera in a blog post entitled, "7 things we discovered after shooting 4K with the GH4. You won't like #4."

I'm not going to repeat Eduardo's 7 lessons here (you can head over to Eduardo's excellent post to read the list), but there are a few really great nuggets in his blog post that aren't explicitly spelled out.  For example:

  • the GH4 seems to have no problem with a little snow and moisture - there's a picture of it sitting on the ground in the snow

  • the GH4 fits GH3 cages without any issues - Eduardo used a Swedish Chameleon GH3 cage, but the $90 Photography & Cinema Fhugen Fusion Honu Cage should work just fine

  • the Letus AnamorphX is relatively large - and really changes the look of the camera - a little more so than the SLR Magic Anamorphot

SLR Magic Anamorphot
Letus AnamorphX

It's also clear from Eduardo's experience that the price of SD cards for this camera is going to be a challenge. The $99 (on sale) 95MB/s R/W Sandisk Extreme Pro SDXC cards that work to record Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera RAW don't seem to work with this camera.

Fortunately for Eduardo, he had an early copy of the new Sandisk Extreme Pro UHS-II 280MB/s(!) card - but he still plans to buy the pricey Panasonic 64 GB microP2 card when he gets his production version of the camera.

Here's a bonus for you Spanish speakers - Eduardo's interview in EspaƱol (no subtitles) with on his experiences with the GH4:

Really looking forward to seeing the footage that Eduardo and his team shot on this snowy New York day!

Friday, February 14, 2014

How much will it cost to turn a $1699 Panasonic GH4 into a 4K DCI Cinema Camera?

Here is a great picture from Gizmodo Japan of the recently announced Panasonic GH4 mounted on the DMW-YAGH interface unit, fully rigged out for shooting theatrical quality 4K motion pictures -  on display this week at CP+ in Yokohoma.

So - how much would something like this cost?  Let's add it up (to include a Speed Booster and SLR Magic Anamorphot adapter [not pictured] for a "Hollywood" style anamorphic image with a Super 35 crop):

The total price for all of the components listed above is $11,278 - and that doesn't include a matte box, 12V power or recording media.

Sounds like a lot, but contrast that with the cost of recording 4K with a $20,000 Canon C500 and a $3495 Ki Pro Quad, as pictured here:

And that doesn't even include lenses.

No more excuses.  For less than $15,000, students, independent filmmakers, small production houses and even camera enthusiasts will soon be able to buy a camera package that can record full projection quality 4096x2160 24fps Cinematic 4K at 10-bit 4:2:2.

Smart production houses will save even more money by buying Odyssey 7Qs instead of the more expensive Ki Pro Quad.

The GH4 is as close as we have come to the culmination of the hybrid camera revolution - an affordable still/video camera with world class stills and video.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

New Sony A6000 vs Panasonic G6 - Which One for Video?

The last few days have been a "camerapalooza" of new camera announcements, price cuts and general chaos in the still/video hybrid camera world.  That's great news for camera bloggers, but not-so-great news for consumers trying to make decisions on where to spend their hard-earned money.

So, instead of the usual "Sony rolled out the A6000 last night, here are its great new features, you should hit the pre-order button and order yours now" - I thought I'd list the new camera's video pros and cons - and compare it with the reigning still/video champion in this price class.

For this comparison, I've chosen some of the areas that, in my view, are most important to shooters who want both a high quality camera and "camcorder" in the same package.

Sony A6000

  • Video viewfinder: Yes
  • Fast video autofocus: Yes
  • Peaking/Zebras: Yes
  • Power zoom available: Yes
  • 1080/60p: Yes
  • Recordable HDMI out: Yes (bit depth unknown)
  • Moire and Aliasing: Unknown
  • WiFi/NFC: Yes
  • 30+ minutes of continuous recording: No
  • Manual audio levels: No
  • On-screen sound level meters: No
  • Front facing LCD: No
  • External 3.5mm mic jack: No (hot shoe mic)
  • Body Only Street Price: $648
  • Kit street Price: $798 w 16-50 power zoom
Panasonic G6

  • Video viewfinder: Yes
  • Fast video autofocus: Yes
  • Peaking/Zebras: Yes
  • Power zoom available: Yes
  • 1080/60p: Yes
  • Recordable HDMI out: No
  • Moire and Aliasing: Minimal
  • WiFi/NFC: Yes
  • 30+ minutes of continuous recording: Yes
  • Manual audio levels: Yes
  • On-screen sound level meters: Yes
  • Front facing LCD: Yes
  • External 3.5mm mic jack: Yes
  • Body Only Street Price: $699
  • Kit Street Price: $629 w 14-42

The Sony A6000 is a great upgrade for NEX-6 and NEX-7 still photographers, but, unfortunately, there seems to have been a lot of video capability left out of this camera - perhaps to protect the $1298 RX10.

If so, Sony has missed an opportunity to show that they are serious about competing with Panasonic for enthusiast video shooters in this price class.

So if you have $600-$700 to spend, and you're looking for the best value for money still/video camera you can buy, I have to recommend the reigning champ in this class - the Panasonic DMC-G6.

If this has helped you to make a buying decision, please order through the links above or the display ads below.  It won't cost you anything extra, and it will help keep these blog posts coming.  Thank you!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Blackmagic Production Camera Shipping, Marked Down to $2995!

Looks like Blackmagic got sick of the attention being lavished on the recently-announced 4K Panasonic GH4  - and decided to reclaim the spotlight by issuing some headline news of their own.

In a press release this morning, Blackmagic Design announced that the long-awaited 4K Blackmagic Production Camera is now shipping - and that it would immediately be marked down by $1000 to $2995.

The new price is already reflected on the Blackmagic site - but was clearly not coordinated with resellers, because authorized retailers such as Adorama and B&H were still displaying the old price as of this morning.

Even though months have passed since Blackmagic's promised shipping dates of "July 2013"; and "end of 4th Quarter 2013", this is very good news - and not only for those who have had their cameras on pre-order for months.

Now (or as soon as these cameras start appearing in the hands of actual consumers), micro-budget filmmakers, documentarians and enthusiasts who want to shoot 4K have two relatively affordable cameras to choose from.  I won't go into the pros and cons of each camera (Andrew Reid of eoshd did an excellent job of that in his recent piece, "Which 4K camera for the masses? GH4 vs Blackmagic Production Camera"), but, at $3K for the Blackmagic and $2K for the Panasonic, clearly, these cameras are revolutionary.

So today, for the first time, anyone can buy a 4K camera for about what it costs to rent an Alexa for a week. These cameras don't have the Alexa's 14 stops of latitude, of course, but with these cameras, consumers and micro-budget professionals will be able to produce 2K (and in the GH4's case, 4K) images that are compliant with the Digital Cinema Initiative's Digital Cinema Specification for theatrical projection.

As an aside, the Blackmagic and Sony "4K" cameras are actually "Ultra HD", recording at a maximum resolution of 3840x2160 - which is not DCI-compliant for 4K.

The GH4 may not be able to output 12-bit 4:4:4 RAW - and it may only record 8-bit internally, but it is the only reasonably priced camera with the ability to record at the "True 4K" 4096x2160 resolution required by the Digital Cinema Specification.

Why did I say "reasonably priced"?  Well, the $12,000 Canon 1D C is DCI-compliant too - but you can buy six GH4s for that much money.

All of that said, this is a great day for independent filmmakers - I look forward to seeing what shooters can do with an affordable 4K Super 35 cinema camera!

If you've been waiting for Blackmagic to announce a shipping date before ordering your Production Camera, please click on one of the links above or the display ad below (as soon as Adorama updates their prices, of course!).  It won't cost you anything extra, and it will help to keep these blog posts coming.  Thank you!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Asia Beats Metabones to the Punch - Canon EF to MFT Focal Reducer Available Now!

Courtesy R.J. Camera Accessories
R.J. Camera Accessories in Shanghai is selling the long awaited Canon EF to Micro 4/3 focal length reducer and speed booster for $139 on eBay.  Metabones has promised a Canon to MFT Speed Booster for months, but has not yet delivered.

Although Asian companies such as Mitakon and Zhangyi started out by merely copying Metabones, they now have a legitimate claim to a share of market leadership.

Time for Metabones to step up to the plate.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Tascam DR-60D On Sale for $199.99!

Great price for a great external recorder. I have the Tascam DR-40, and I love it, but I really want the DR-60D. Much better form-factor, real manual controls instead of software menus, high quality sound.

This deal won't last long, so, if you're in the market for a recorder, you should pick one up before they're gone.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Panasonic GH4 vs Blackmagic Production Camera - Round 2

So today is the morning after the big Panasonic GH4 rollout - but I still have that "not quite satisfied" feeling.

Today, most news sources and the camera "commentariat" are putting out positive stories on this camera for video - and yes, it is a revolutionary 4K interchangeable lens camera at its (presumed) sub-$2000 price point - but, it seems to me that for low-budget cinema shooters, Panasonic has missed the mark with this camera - in a very significant way.

With the GH4, internal recording (both 4K and 1080p) is limited to 8 bit 4:2:0 and 100mbps or 200mbps depending on resolution.  And for 4K, it needs a relatively expensive microP2 card to capture 8 bit video.

If you want 10 bit 4:2:2, you are forced to buy an external recorder.  Well, there goes the "4K for $2K" value proposition.

My little $995 Blackmagic Pocket Camera records 12 bit 4:4:4 RAW internally to a $120 card.  And 10 bit 4:2:2 ProRes internally to cards that cost even less.  I don't know much about Panasonic's new codec, but it is likely require some transcoding to get it into an edit-friendly format. (EDIT: the 4K codec is Quicktime .MOV, which should not be a problem in post).

A decent SSD for the $3995 Super 35 Blackmagic 4K Production Camera will cost less than the Panasonic microP2 card, and the Production Camera records 10 bit 4:2:2 ProRes in camera.  This camera is looking better and better.

That said, the Production Camera is a little out of my price range - so I still plan to sell all of my earlier model GH cameras and buy the GH4.  I will probably rent a 4K recorder when I want to maximize my flexibility in post - but I had very much hoped for a "Blackmagic-like" gradeable LOG image straight out of the GH4.  Looks like that's not going to happen.

If you want to be notified when the GH4 is in stock, or of you want to go ahead and pick up a Pocket Cinema Camera for gradeable 10-bit 4:2:2 straight out of the camera, you can click on one of the links above or the display ads below.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

First Hands-On with the Panasonic GH4! [CORRECTED]

The great review site, "What Digital Camera?" in the UK, has the first hands-on review of the new Panasonic GH4 (published before the official rollout, pulled, and now re-posted).

Their bottom line? "For videographers the GH4 is currently peerless..."

Here's why: 4K at a maximum frame rate of 96fps (!) [EDIT: I was wrong about this - the 96fps frame rate is only available at 1080p], a 200mbps non-AVCHD codec, an OEM Interface Unit (pictured below) with 2 XLR inputs, 4 (!) SDI outputs, color bars, an audio tone and TBC. But for the lack of RAW, a shoulder mount and a built-in ND, this camera has everything on my list.

The new Panasonic microP2 UHS-II card makes these insane bitrates possible. It transfers files at up to 2.0Gbps (!) and is available now at Adorama and Amazon.

If the price point for this camera is really $2000, the 4K/30p cameras on the market, the $2K Sony AX100, the $4K Blackmagic Production Camera, the $4.5K Sony AX1 and especially the $12K Canon 1D C all seem suddenly overpriced.

That said, if you need a 4K camera now, and can't wait for the the GH4, please order it from the links above or the display ads below - it won't cost anything extra, and it will help keep these blog posts coming. Thanks so much!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

In NYC? 4K Blackmagic Production Camera Demo on Feb. 11th!

Thinking about ordering $3995 Blackmagic Production Camera and want to actually see it before you pull out your credit card?  If so, and if you're in the New York City area, you can see the camera and demo footage in person, at the Moving Picture Collective ("Mopictive") meeting at AbelCine in the City on February 11th at 6:30 PM.

The Diamond Brothers have been shooting with a beta version of the camera for a while, and have some demo footage to show, along with the camera.

Looks like the ship date for this camera is getting close.  And with the upcoming Panasonic GH4K announcement and the new Sony AX100 shipping in March, this could be the real beginning of the affordable 4K "Ultra" HD era.

Sounds like a lot of fun, and I wish I could be there.  If anyone in the area does go, please post pics and your impressions in the comments section !  And, if seeing the camera in person moves you to pre-order the camera, please come back to the blog and click on one of the links above or the display ad below, thanks!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Sue Ellen Shoots with a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera - so should you!

Contrary to what I've written before about not wanting to glue a frame to the back of my Pocket Cinema Camera, I'm thinking seriously about buying the new Zacuto Z-Finder for the BMPCC.  The price and the feature set are definitely competitive.

So I'm watching Jens and Steve do their usual schtick in the Vimeo promo for the eyepiece, and what should pop up?  A picture of Linda Gray on the set of TNT's Dallas, holding a Marauder-mounted Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera up to her eye and looking through the new Z-Finder for BMPCC.
Linda Gray, DP?

Jens and Steve are terrific, but this will be the first time one of these Zacuto videos has actually sold me a product.  Thanks, Linda, for making cinematography look so good.

You can order your BMPCC Z-Finder here for $152 at Adorama.

And here's the Marauder for $736, also from Adorama.

To complete the ensemble, here's the BMPCC for $995 from Amazon.