Cinematography : Low end 4K by Eric Peter Abramson

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Eric Peter Abramson

Low end 4K

Wow... Can you believe the price point per features being delivered on some of the lower priced UHD/4K systems announced in the last year now showing up in the wild? I am excited to try and upgrade from of our in-house primary XDcam cameras into some 4K. If I had my choice and budget wasn't an issue, I'd probably go with a Sony F55 and a swanky set of PL Primes and a couple of zooms. $200 grand anyone? Trying to keep our budget under 10% of that but still building a new kit (batts,sticks, etc) including some new EF compatible glass. Seriously considering: BM URSA, AJA Cion and Sony F7. I Need to see more reports from the field but hoping to shoot our next feature doc in 2015 partially in 4K (for repositioning mainly) for a 2K deliverable. Each design has its pros and cons. The codecs as well. As far as I can tell, the images have the potential to look fantastic on all of them. Curious what people's opinion is of the low end offerings this year? PLEASE: Try to have has some hands on with these cameras. I am more interested in a discussion about field experience than an argument about specs. Thanks!

Franz Salvatierra

I am particularly excited about the URSA, the main complain I hear about it is that its heavy. Like really heavy. I plan on renting it in the future for a short film to test the image. I haven't found any features or short films shot on it.

Eric Peter Abramson

I first assisted on ARRI BL4, Panavision and MovieCam when we shot 35mm. You have no idea how heavy, heavy can get . ;-) Personally, I don't see the URSA as a run and gun / handheld rig. With a decent EVF and shoulder pad, I'll give it a whirl. Just not all day. I was surprised by the weight of the BM URSA with just a zoom lens and no battery. Considering what you would add to any full size cinema camera, the weight won't be as much of a factor. Similar in weight to a ENG style setup from Sony or Panasonic a few years back. Luckily, I don't see my next few projects calling for a lot of handheld.

Joseph M. Armillas

I recently purchased a Sony FDR-AX1 4K camera, the prosumer version of the PXW-Z100. It comes with a 20X Sony G lens which is a good but not great lens. It records at 3480 X 2160p 4K in the prosumer codec XAVC S at a maximum of 150 mbps. The images are lovely and sharp, thought the auto focus feature is a bit slow. It's great for green screen work and down converting from UHD to 1080p HD the footage looks sharper than stuff shot natively @ 1080p. The truth is, good footage will look great even if it's shot at 720p if you have good equipment and you know what you're doing. However, I suspect that 4K cameras will soon rule the film business simply because they're so affordable. We're three to five years away from 4K TV's being the norm in households and network and cable stations broadcasting in 4K. Lots of pro features on this camera which would allow any indie filmmaker able to get great cinema-like footage. I'm still getting acquainted with the camera and I'm happy with it, but I'm guessing that I'll be upgrading to something more professional within a couple of years. Right now, the Black Magic Ursa looks very good to me, though one would have to spend some serious bucks on lenses and or lens rentals and peripherals in order to get the most out of it. I'll keep you all posted on my experiences with this camera.

Michael Elder

Eric is SO right! These beasts weren't exactly meant to go "mobile"---but even worse than those--was the Mitchell's. I still LOVE the ease of operation with the Bl 4-S as my favorite workhorse 35mm camera, but it can be as heavy as a Volvo with a 1000' mag and 10:1 zoom!

Royce Allen Dudley

Ursa is another camera designed by non-shooters and featuring strange ergonomics.... Black Magic seems to delight in making sexy looking clunky to use cameras. Shame. CION is promising. You can rent them from at least one of the major web-based rental sites; worth a test drive. For information on the strengths and limits of F7, see the entire thread on Cinematography.net ( you must be a member to read this pro newsgroup ).

Ken Willinger, Soc

At NAB last April I got a pretty good look at the URSA and the CION. I was not incredibly impressed with the URSA, but I also come at the Blackmagic cameras a bit jaded because of their poor track record concerning updates, delivery and customer care. I've had two friends, both professionals, have major issues with their Blackmagic cameras and have been left hanging. That being said they can create stunning images. The AJA CION was pretty impressive for a low budget camera. Ergonomically it was the better design of the two. At the AJA booth I got to put it on my shoulder and play with it a bit. Like many of the low budget cameras you have to consider that they are a la carte. In order to rig them properly for professional use you will probably have to invest about $10K to make it play the way you want it. I look forward to seeing it in action.

Eric Peter Abramson

Spent some time with the new Sony FS7... Most promising in that price point IMHO.

Royce Allen Dudley

The Sony FS7 is only HD or UHD on-board ; it needs an external recorder for 12 bit RAW 4K. UHD is not 4K, although to some this may be irrelevant as the new broader demand for 4K will likely be UHD programming.

M L.

The FS7 will be 4K internal with a firmware update due out soon

Doug Nelson

I have some (limited) hands-on with the BM 4K Studio. Basically it’s a cheap way to get good sharp imagery in 4K RAW but color correction is a bitch. I’m a little apprehensive about the “cheezyness” of the box so I’m reluctant to venture out in the elements with it. Time will tell, and remember – that’s just my pov.

M L.

I am loving the XAVC-I 4K from the Sony FS7. It's so easy to work with. Color correction is a breeze with Film Convert, Speed Grade, Vision Color LUTS, etc. Haven't worked with the raw expansion kit yet. Might for an upcoming feature.

Naophangba Thangjam Chengleicha

https://www.facebook.com/philipbloomfilms/photos/a.474064865425.258582.1... Philip Bloom has reviewed the FS7 with AXW-R5 4k recorder and his photos of FS-7 with the recorder is crazy the length and the weight almosts shifts to the end. He has opted for internal XAVC UHD instead of mounting the recorder.

M L.

Uhm, yeah the whole point of the FS7 is that it's 4K internal. Haha. I didn't mean the AXS R5. Nobody would bother with the R5 as the cost of adding all that on triples the cost of the camera. It was never meant to use the R5, not really. You can use an expansion kit with an Odyssey or Shogun (true4k coming soon) for Raw options. But honestly, with the Slog, the need for raw is redundant. Movies dead set on raw are likely going to shoot an Alexa with a Codex or a Red anyway. Or the F55. Just like knowing the option is there at such a low price point.

Eric Peter Abramson

XAVC 4K is an excellent compromise that saves a ton of storage space over RAW 4K. I am sold on the FS7 for 90% of my shooting needs (doc, concerts, promos, etc.) Glad to have the option to send 4k Raw to a recorder but doubt I'll go that route much. Now to raise the money to make the purchase happen!

Randolph Sellars

I have used the Sony FS7 and I think that it is a great camera for the money. I highly recommend it. It has the F55 sensor which looks great. It has great dynamic range and low light capabilities. The ergonomics are much improved for a Sony camera. One of the best handheld cameras (stock without 3rd party handheld rig) I have used. Decent balance and good weight ratio for stable handheld over longer periods. The codec is robust for color grading - but with reasonable size files that would be doc friendly. High speed frame rates (180fps) are a huge bonus for certain types of projects. I would also think that UHD "4K" should be plenty large for most repositioning or stabilizing needs for a 2K delivery.

Hayward Crawford

I had a chance to do a camera test with the BM URSA recently and my biggest concern isn't really the camera size/weight because the 10 inch LCD screen is very handy to have for camera assistants but as we know BM cameras are infamous for eating up data. With the URSA, I may be wrong from what I remember but I believe they haven't even released a memory card for the URSA with enough GB to handle shooting more than 5 minutes of RAW footage, based on the compatibility components of the card loader. You would have to mainly stick to shooting ProRes, which defeats the whole point of BM. Has anyone else encountered this problem with the URSA? Maybe its just me. Is there a card already out there fast enough to shoot at least an hour or more of RAW on the URSA?

Randolph Sellars

Yes Hayward, BM uses "uncompressed" RAW which creates huge files. That's why RED, and other manufacturers, offer RAW compression to keep file sizes more reasonable. ProRes is a good option in terms of quality vs. compression. However, without offering a Log profile, the dynamic range on BM is underwhelming. The current bar for dynamic range is 14 stops or close to it.

Hayward Crawford

well that makes a lot more sense Randolph, thanks. In my opinion, BM still has some improvements left to go.

Joseph M. Armillas

Check out a photo of our filmmakers, actors, writers and producers this past Monday March 9th, at Aramar Studio in my photo section. From left to right: Steven Dones, me, Eliza Agudelo, Chris Sparks, Georgina Okon and Julian Flynn. We're working on producing actor's reel scenes for Eliza and Georgina written by Steven Dones, Chris Sparks and Eliza. Julian, Steven and I will be acting in those scenes. I'll be posting thoseclips sometime in April.

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