The annual National Association of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas has quickly become one of the most exciting trade shows we attend. While much of it focuses on things like satellite trucks, global media distribution solutions, video servers, and big antennas for transmitting who-knows-what, digital cinema continues to play an increasingly important role at the show. So, too, has the show become more pertinent for manufacturers. It was at the NAB Show in 2012 that Blackmagic Design announced their first-ever camera, and even Nikon, a company traditionally focused on still photography, has had a presence there for a few years now. For the big players in the industry like Canon, Panasonic, and Sony, the show has grown into an almost comical display of flexing their video muscles, but it’s often the smaller companies that prove to be the most intriguing. Here’s a brief overview of some of the cool stuff coming out of NAB this year.
The GH4 was announced a while ago. In fact, while final versions aren’t shipping quite yet, we have had a pre-production model in the store already. Likewise, we’re pretty familiar with how awesome it is. Despite all the new stuff revealed at NAB, the GH4 still offers the best price/performance ratio for 4K video. Panasonic really outdid themselves with the GH4’s spec sheet: UHD (3840×2160) and cinema 4k (4096×2160) resolutions; internal and external recording at any resolution; 10bit 4:2:2 output over HDMI for high quality recording to an external device; 96fps slow-motion (in HD only); magnesium, weather-sealed body; and, oh yeah, it’s a 16MP still camera, too. Did we mention it starts at $1699.99 for the body? For independent filmmakers, especially those already accustomed to shooting HDSLRs, this is likely the hottest camera of the year. (Learn more on our GH4 mini-site).
It’s not surprising that Sony announced a new full-frame Alpha-series mirrorless camera at NAB. Nor is it surprising that it shoots 4K video. What is surprising, however, is that rather than give it a bazillion quadrillion megapixels, as Sony typically does with new cameras, they actually gave it less. The A7s features a 12.2MP full-frame sensor, which means a staggering high-ISO limit of 409,600. It’s the same limit as the new Nikon D4s, but given that camera’s slightly smaller pixel pitch, the A7s may actually beat the Nikon in low light performance. The other benefit of the lower pixel count is that the A7s can process every pixel for every frame of video, which should result in very sharp 4K (and HD) footage. This would be a significant improvement over video on the A7 and A7r, although still photo resolution will not be nearly as high. Unlike the GH4, however, the A7s cannot record 4K video internally—it requires an external recording device, which will add to the cost.
Blackmagic Design URSA
Blackmagic Design has been the company to watch at NAB ever since the announcement of the original Blackmagic Cinema Camera. Every year, they do something new that is innovative, shocking, and generates a ton of buzz on the Internet. Last year, it was the Pocket Camera—a diminutive Super16 digital cinema camera with ProRes and raw recording capabilities. This year, it’s the URSA, which is the complete opposite of the Pocket Camera. This hulking, 16lb behemoth features a built-in articulating 10″ screen for on-set monitoring, plus two more 5″ touch screens for viewing and adjusting camera settings. The lens mount and sensor are interchangeable, but there aren’t a lot of options (yet) to switch out. There is a Super35 4k sensor in either PL or Canon EF mount, a broadcast version with a small chip and B4 mount, as well as a version with no sensor or lens mount at all that simply records off of the HDMI feed of whatever camera you put in front of it (hey, like the Sony A7s!) Prices hover around $6,000 depending on the version, but Blackmagic is marketing this thing against the likes of the ARRI Alexa and Red Epic that are many times more expensive. It will be interesting to see if it takes off.
I have always been a fan of Atomos. The original Ninja monitor/recorder was such a simple and functional device, marred only by the inability of many HDSLRs to output a clean HDMI signal. Jump ahead a few years, though, and things have changed. Now most HDSLRs and video-focused mirrorless cameras output clean signals, and Atomos is again looking to the future by bringing 4K support to their latest product. The Shogun offers a gorgeous, color-calibrated, 7″ screen and records 4K ProRes or Cinema DNG raw files to dual hard drives or SSDs. It is the most elegant solution for external 4k recording we have yet seen. The only downside is that it won’t be available for several months, but we believe it’s worth waiting for.
We are huge fans of Canon’s C100 cinema camera, which may be the most complete, easiest to use cinema camera on the market. Unfortunately, Canon didn’t have anything new to show off in terms of cinema cameras. They did, however, reveal the XF200 and 205, which make a very strong case for keeping the camcorder alive. Designed for ENG, run-and-gun, documentary, and event videography, the XF200 and 205 put a lot of power and functionality into a compact form factor: 20x zoom, 35mbit/sec MXF recording, two CF card slots and one SD slot, four channel audio recording with two balanced XLR inputs, and the icing on the cake: built-in WiFi and ethernet! Connect this camera to a network and you can control it remotely via the Internet, from anywhere. You can even stream proxy files to a computer, tablet, or smartphone. We think that’s pretty cool. Like the XF100 and 105 before it, the only separation between the x00 and x05 models is the inclusion of HD-SDI and genlock terminals on the latter. They may not shoot 4K, but for HD, these are the camcorders to beat.
Fiilex Q500 LED light
A few short years ago, LED video lighting was a novelty with a lot of promise. Unfortunately, its explosion in popularity led many manufacturers to produce LED lights without putting enough care or attention to detail into them. It was nearly impossible to compare lights based on specs, as a cheap knock-off brand would appear to be just as good if not better than a much more expensive name brand. (And sometimes, those name brand lights really were just overpriced cheap technology). Unfortunately, it wasn’t until after purchasing the light that users would discover its drawbacks. For example, a light might advertise a “daylight” color temperature, yet it wouldn’t produce nearly the full range of color of true daylight. Fiilex set out to make a better LED, and with the new Q500, they have delivered. Using just 170 watts of power, it produces the equivalent of 750w compared to a traditional tungsten bulb, enough to power a large softbox. It is color-temperature adjustable from 2700k all the way to 6500k, and promises lifelike color reproduction with a CRI of 93 or better. Even more: you can adjust the green/magenta hue to match other lights, fixing one of the most common problems of LEDs. It also has built-in DMX control, a focusable fresnel lens, and barn doors, making it perhaps he most complete LED light yet.