DPP Home Gear Cameras Hi-Tech Studio: It’s Time For A New Hybrid Camera

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hi-Tech Studio: It’s Time For A New Hybrid Camera

4K is here, and it’s available and affordable for your backup, motion-dedicated camera

This Article Features Photo Zoom

We've written about the benefits of mirrorless cameras many times in DPP. Over the past several months, some new cameras have arrived that are particularly compelling as still cameras and even more so for motion capture because they shoot 4K. The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4 and the Sony a7S are hybrid cameras—still models that can shoot motion. Since being unveiled, both have created an impressive amount of Internet buzz, particularly in the filmmaking community. While both are high-resolution, interchangeable-lens cameras, they have dramatically different inner componentry.

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4
Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4
Panasonic refers to the GH4 as a DSLM—Digital Single Lens Mirrorless—camera. Its 16.05-megapixel Live MOS sensor is a Micro Four Thirds size, giving you a 2X magnification factor. When it was introduced, one of the most exciting aspects for filmmakers was the promise of dramatically reduced rolling-shutter artifacts. Rolling shutter has plagued hybrid cameras since the Nikon D90 and the Canon EOS 5D Mark II were introduced. You see it when the camera or the subject moves fast, with a jello-like look to the footage that's called, ironically, jello. We mentioned the need for increased processing power with 4K. Internally, the GH4 has a newly developed Venus Engine with a quad-core CPU. The camera shoots at up to 12 fps (40 frames) for RAW still files, and for 4K motion capture, it can shoot at 24 fps. That's in Cinema 4K, which is 4096x2160. In QFHD 4K (3840x2160), you can shoot at up to 30 fps. Of course, dropping the resolution gets you faster frame rates, should the need arise. Compression-wise, the GH4 can record at 4:2:2 to a recorder via HDMI out.

Sony a7S
Sony a7S
When it was announced, just prior to the NAB show in April, the Sony a7S caused quite a stir. At the Sony booth at the show, the camera was shown under glass—if you could get close enough to see it! With its massive booth, the a7S drew a constant stream of people, which was particularly interesting because NAB, by definition, caters to high-end film and broadcast industry professionals. Cameras like the Sony a7S are drawing attention from all manner of motion-capture professionals for their combination of size and performance. The a7S is a compact mirrorless camera with the Sony E-mount. It has a full-frame image sensor (no magnification factor!). There are two other cameras in the a7 line, the a7 (24-megapixel resolution) and the a7R (36-megapixel resolution). The a7S goes the other way on the resolution front, with a 12.2-megapixel image sensor. The obvious question is, why come out with a much lower-resolution model? By dropping the resolution numbers, the a7S can achieve a maximum ISO of 409,600. That's extraordinary. It's also a 4K QFHD camera (3840x2160) when attached to an external recorder. You can switch to APS-C mode to shoot at up to 120 fps at standard HD resolution. The camera also has S-Log2 gamma capability, which is found on professional Sony video cameras. Additionally, it has Full Pixel Read-out (without pixel binning) during motion capture.

The Origin Of Hybrid 4K

More 4K hybrid cameras are coming online. The mirrorless models we're looking at here are harbingers of great things to come. The gold standard of hybrid cameras remains the RED DSMC lineup. Even as 4K becomes more mainstream, the RED DRAGON sensor can record 6K and beyond. The EPIC DRAGON can shoot at 6K up to 100 fps, and the RED SCARLET can shoot at 5K up to 60 fps. The world may be catching up to 4K, but on the capture side, once again, we're already leaving 4K in the rearview mirror.


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