Thursday, April 23, 2015

JVC GY-LS300 review coming soon!

As some of you know, HCR rented a JVC GY-LS300 UHD "4K" Super 35mm camcorder last weekend to run some side-by-side tests with the GH4. Sadly, our partners at Borrowlenses don't have one yet, so we rented it from the great folks at LensRentals. Still putting the review together, but here's a preview pic:

JVC GY-LS300 with Panasonic 14-140 lens and AT835b mic

It was nice to shoot with a real camcorder again - the UHD image quality is great - and the adjustable crop sensor is really cool - but the camera does have a couple of challenges.

Please check back for the complete review!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Blackmagic wins NAB 2015

Best of Show

Micro-budget and independent filmmakers had high expectations this year after the excitement of last year's breakthrough NAB, which saw the introduction of the Panasonic GH4, the first interchangeable lens 4K camera below $2000; the Sony A7s, the first full frame camera with UHD output; the AJA Cion, the first 4K Super 35 shoulder mount below $10K; and the bargain priced Blackmagic URSA, the first UHD production camera below $7000 with XLR mic inputs and a standard external battery mount.

Canon was the odd man out at NAB 2014, with no major new camera announcements in this category. Their floor display was a live demonstration of the overpriced 4K Canon 1D C, which was already several years old at the time of the show.

So, when NAB 2015 rolled around, more breakthroughs were expected from the major camera manufacturers.  Would Sony introduce a 4K A7000?  Would Canon introduce an interchangeable lens competitor to the GH4 below $10K?  Would Panasonic finally give us a successor to the AF100 - with the GH4's features in a camcorder body?  What did Blackmagic have up its sleeve?

As the smoke clears from the big press conferences and announcements on Monday, it seems that all of the major manufacturers have chosen to rest on their laurels - except Blackmagic.

Sony had nothing to show in this market segment this year - while Canon and Panasonic did have new offerings for micro-budget cinematic shooters, the $2499 XC10 and the "under $5000" AG-DVX200.

Surprisingly, however, both of these cameras turned out to have fixed lenses, and "smallish" sensors. A little disappointing in a marketplace that has shifted towards interchangeable lens, large sensor cameras.

Panasonic's timing was especially unfortunate. In a series of leaks overnight and early on the morning of the DVX200's rollout - Blackmagic pursued their now-standard NAB strategy. They posted banners with images of their new cameras around the convention center for bloggers to find and post on social media. Images of their major new camera leaked from their pre-announcement party. And they posted images and tech specs for their new camera before Panasonic had a chance to make their announcement (even now, the URSA Mini product page is up, while there is nothing official to be found about Panasonic's AG-DVCX200 outside of a stale press release).

By the time Panasonic held its press conference Monday morning, Blackmagic had stolen their thunder with buzz surrounding a camera that both outspec'd the DVX200 and undercut it on price.

But it wasn't just a well executed communications plan that won the show for Blackmagic - it was a new camera with features the market has been asking for; an affordable, lightweight Super 35 interchangeable lens camera with good shoulder-mounted ergonomics, built in XLRs with phantom, standard battery mounts and solid 4K codecs (to include losslessly compressed RAW) - all in a rugged body.

It is clear when you compare the specs between the new Canon, Panasonic and Blackmagic offerings in this class, that Blackmagic has delivered what many micro-budget filmmakers and 'cinematic videographers' have been looking for with the URSA Mini:

Canon XC10 Blackmagic URSA
Mini 4K EF
Blackmagic URSA
Mini 4.6K EF
Price $2499 $2995 $4195 $4995
Sensor Size 1" Super 35 Micro 4/3 Super 35
Lens Mount Fixed EF (add $500 for PL) Fixed EF (add $500 for PL)
Max Resolution 3840x2160 4000x2160 4096x2160 4608x2592
Max HD Frame Rate 60fps 120fps 120fps 120fps
Codec MPEG-4 AVC RAW or ProRes MP4/MOV RAW or ProRes
Shutter Rolling Global Rolling Selectable Global/Rolling
Mic Input(s) 3.5mm 2xXLR w phantom 2xXLR w phantom 2xXLR w phantom
Headphone Output(s) Yes Yes Yes Yes
SDI Out(s) No Yes Yes Yes
Storage 1xCFast 2.0 1xSD 2xCFast 2.0 2xSD 2xCFast 2.0
Stabilization 5-axis (HD only) No 5-axis No
ND Filter Yes No Yes No
Power Zoom Lens No No Yes No
Viewfinder No (LCDVF) $1495 option Yes $1495 option
Still Photos 12MP No 8MP No
Weight 2.29 lbs. 6.6 lbs. 5.95 lbs. 6.6 lbs.

No, specs aren't everything - it will be important to see images from these cameras in the hands of real shooters - but if the indie market wants a 4K RAW (or 10-bit ProRes), large sensor, interchangeable lens Super 35 camcorder with 160fps HD slow motion and a global shutter that can be either handheld or shoulder mounted without breaking the shooter's back (or bank account), then URSA Mini is pretty much the only game in town.

As regular readers know, I've been looking for a replacement for my trusty Panasonic TM900 camcorder for a few years now.  I want a large sensor, interchangeable lens camera with camcorder ergonomics plus pro mic inputs and a strong, gradeable codec to pair with my GH3, and later, my GH4.

I had almost settled on the $3995 UHD JVC GY-LS300 - but its weak 8-bit h.264 compression was a challenge - and made it difficult to sell my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, with its robust, gradeable 10-bit ProRes and CinemaDNG RAW.

URSA Mini solves this problem.  I can now sell the TM900, the Pocket Camera, the GH1, GH2, GH3 and all of my MFT glass - then buy an URSA Mini EF (plus a $599 Metabones EF to MFT Speed Booster for the GH4) and skinny down to two cameras and one lens system.

Farewell, BMPCC - we hardly knew ye
So, for offering lightweight Super 35 cameras that shooters can afford - and for solving my personal camcorder dilemma - the Blackmagic URSA Mini wins HCR's first annual "Best of Show" award for NAB 2015.

Working on the awards banquet - perhaps at NAB 2016.

As always, if anything here has helped you to make a purchase decision, please shop using the links above or the displays below and in the margins. And even if you're not in the market for a new camera, please comment and make suggestions below. It won't cost you anything extra, and it will help to keep these posts coming.

And for the latest deals, news, tips and techniques, please follow HCR on Blogger, Twitter and YouTube  - and circle us on Google+.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Five 4K camcorders threatened by the $2995 4K Blackmagic URSA Mini

Images courtesy

Thanks to Noam Kroll and Erik Naso, we have a pretty good idea of what Blackmagic Magic will unveil in Vegas this morning - to include a truly revolutionary $2995 URSA Mini Super 35 camcorder, with interchangeable lenses, a global shutter, Blackmagic's standard CinemDNG RAW, 4K, 12 stops of DR (15 stops on the $4995 4.6K model), an optional EVF and easy compatibility with a shoulder mount.

Even before we see the detailed specs from the Blackmagic press event, we do know one thing - there has to be consternation in the executive suites at AJA, Arri, Canon, JVC, Panasonic and Sony (which is exactly what Blackmagic CEO Grant Petty set out to do when he started building cameras a few years ago).

If URSA Mini can deliver URSA's RAW image quality (or better) for $2995, here are the five 4K cameras that it clearly threatens:

1. $40K Arri Amira. Recently upgraded to 4K, this camera produces amazing images in a near-perfect shoulder mounted form factor. And with Arri color science, it is a perfect match for industry-standard Alexa. But at $40K, its cost is prohibitive for most indies and micro-budget filmmakers. This camera will continue to see considerable use at the high end of the market, but for indies, the price mismatch between Amira and URSA Mini is ridiculous - you could buy a Mini for less than the price of renting an Amira for a week.

2. $16K Canon C300 Mark II (and $2.5K XC10). Canon's pre-NAB announcement of these cameras was clearly designed to steal the limelight at the show. URSA Mini has pretty much stolen it back. The C300 Mark II costs 5 times is much and lacks the Mini's internal raw recording.  Plus, it requires expensive rigging to get it up on your shoulder. As for the XC10 - it costs almost as much as Mini, but is a fixed lens, 1" sensor toy by comparison.

3. $9K AJA CION. Beautiful ProRes images in good light and nice shoulder mounted ergonomics - but no internal RAW. Overpriced compared to every Blackmagic RAW camera, to include Mini.

4. $8K Sony PXW-FS7. With its shoulder mount, optional viewfinder and extensible hand grip, URSA Mini appears to be a clone of the FS7 - but for $5000 less. Plus, Mini has the internal 4K RAW recording the FS7 lacks.

5. $4K JVC GY-LS300. URSA Mini very nearly strangles the LS300 in its cradle. JVC introduced this promising camera late last year, but has yet to ship it in meaningful numbers in the States. Despite the fact that its h.264 compression gave it the weakest codec of any of the cameras on this list,  it had the advantage of being the lowest priced UHD "4K" Super 35 interchangeable lens camera on the market - until today. Unfortunately for JVC, even with the viewfinder and a shoulder mount, Mini will be about the same price as the LS300 - with higher resolution, wider DR and a superior codec - and the LS300 is another camera that needs expensive rigging to get it up on your shoulder.

As far as Panasonic goes, we don't know much about their new "heir of DVX100" camcorder yet, but if it is not competitive on price, it will be stillborn at this morning's press conference.

Bottom line is that URSA Mini will force prices down even faster and further than we have seen already over the past couple of years.   Even if you never buy a Blackmagic camera, you should send Grant Petty a thank you note (unless, of course, you just bought a $2995 4K Blackmagic Production Camera).

Please keep checking back during the day for more updates - and for HCR's view of what all of this means for micro-budget shooters.

As always, if anything here has helped you to make a purchase decision, please shop using the links above or the displays below and in the margins. And even if you're not in the market for a new camera, please comment and make suggestions below. It won't cost you anything extra, and it will help to keep these posts coming.

And for the latest deals, news, tips and techniques, please follow HCR on Blogger, Twitter and YouTube  - and circle us on Google+.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Five 4K cameras you should buy instead of the $2499 Canon XC10

New Canon XC10

A few days ago, in a post entitled "4K Canon EOS One - the Panasonic FZ1000 killer?", HCR previewed this week's announcement of the $2499 Canon XC10.  We got the name wrong, but we did get one thing right:
"If Canon includes a decent codec, a headphone jack and more than 30 minutes of recording time, the EOS One becomes a very interesting video camera and serious competition for the FZ1000 (depending on price, of course). [emphasis added]"
Well, now we know the price.  Yes, Canon has come up with an interesting 1" sensor, fixed lens camcorder with a solid codec, 4:2:2 color sub-sampling and a headphone jack - but both the price and the still/video feature set are a real disappointment.

As a serious video camera, the XC10 fails on two fronts - if you're going to buy a fixed lens camcorder, you expect a viewfinder and a power zoom.  This camera has neither. And with this lens, Canon has delivered the worst of both worlds.  No DSLR-style interchangeability - and no camcorder-style servo zoom.  Fail.

In still camera mode, its challenges are more serious.  Its maximum still photo frame rate is a snail-like 2.8 fps, it has no built-in flash and it is a JPEG only camera (no RAW).  Many point and shoots can do better.

Worst of all, Canon has taken its usual path of overpricing a new camera and making it non-competitive in the broad marketplace - where there are better options at significantly lower prices.  This is similar to the mistake they made with the EOS M, which was initially overpriced - and now sells for bargain basement prices.

Eventually, we will see the XC10 marked down severely, but in the meantime, it is another pricing disappointment from Canon.

But instead of lamenting the lost opportunity represented by the XC10, HCR would like to offer alternatives to Canon shooters with budgets below $3000 who have been waiting for Canon to give them a worthwhile upgrade from their entry level Canon DSLRs - but who are not willing to pay $2500 for a fixed lens "camcorder" that has neither a viewfinder nor a power zoom.

So, without any further ado, here are the five 4K cameras below $3000 that Canon DSLR shooters might want to consider instead of shelling out $2500 for the Canon XC10:

1. $1498 Panasonic DMC-GH4 with a $599 Metabones EF Speed Booster.  If you need compatibility with your EF/EF-S glass, true 4096x2160 4K, 10 bit HDMI out, time code, color bars, hours of continuous recording, affordable Panasonic power zooms, a fully articulated LCD - plus the option to add the YAGH interface with its XLR inputs and SDI outputs - this may be the camera for you.  Here is a terrific piece from Elif Kalkan shot with the Metabones and Canon glass:

2. $1299.99 (on sale, as of this post) Samsung NX-1 with an $80 Canon EF to NX adapter with manual aperture control.  This camera would be #1 on the list if there was a Metabones-type Canon to NX lens adapter for it.  Its APS-C sized sensor, advanced h.265 compression and LOG-like color profile give it the edge over the GH4.  But, for Canon shooters, its limited compatibility with Canon lenses is a challenge.  That said, Andrew Reid is nevertheless creating beautiful images with the NX1 and adapted EOS glass:

3. $750 Panasonic DMC-FZ1000.  This camera is one third of the XC10's price, shares its 1" sensor size and UHD resolution - but also features the power zoom, electronic viewfinder, serious still photo chops and fully articulated LCD that the XC10 is missing.  No, it doesn't have a headphone jack, but you can buy a pretty nice recorder with the $1700 you'll save.  Here is the video image quality shooters are getting from the FZ1000:

4. $750 Panasonic DMC-LX100.  No mic or headphone jacks and no built-in flash, but this camera has a larger sensor than the XC10 and many of the still and video features the Canon lacks - e.g., a power zoom lens, an electronic viewfinder, 11 fps and the ability to shoot RAW stills.  It's a pretty darned good UHD video camera too:

5. $2695 JVC GY-HM200. If you don't need a large sensor or the ability to shoot stills, but want a 4K camcorder with pro mic inputs, SDI out and built-in web streaming - this camera is the best value for your money in this price range. The HM200 was just released, so there are only a few examples of what it can do - but here is one (please watch at 2160p):

And as a bonus for those who aren't ready to upgrade to 4K, there are still a couple of solid Canon 1080p alternatives:

1. $2499 Canon 5D Mark III. After recent mark downs, the full frame 5D Mark III is at the same price as the 1" sensor XC10.  If you like the "full-frame look", want native compatibility with your Canon lenses plus the option to shoot Magic Lantern RAW - you might want to consider upgrading from an entry level Canon DSLR to the Mark III.

2. $2999 Canon C100. For $500 more than the XC10, you can buy a real professional Super 35 camcorder with XLR inputs, a viewfinder and 100% compatibility with your Canon lenses.  This camera's 4K sensor, downscaled in-camera, still creates some of the best 1080p video in the marketplace.

The bottom line is that you can do a lot better than the XC10  - either near or well below its $2499 price point.

As always, if anything here has helped you to make a purchase decision, please shop using the links above or the displays below and in the margins. And even if you're not in the market for a new camera, please comment and make suggestions below. It won't cost you anything extra, and it will help to keep these posts coming.

And for the latest deals, news, tips and techniques, please follow HCR on Blogger, Twitter and YouTube  - and circle us on Google+.