This weekend the battle of the 4K cameras begins to unfold at NAB.
A year ago not many would have imagined such a situation. But this coming week in Las Vegas, the largest media production show in the world will feature camcorders that record a 4000+ pixel wide image and range from under $10,000 to over $65,000. Interestingly those particular numbers are for two of Sony’s products: the new FS700 and the F65 CineAlta, which was announced at last year’s show. (The F65, now delivering, can deliver 16-bit 8K RAW images, so at the moment it trumps everything else.)
Also on the floor will be Canon’s new C500, which will join the already announced EOS-1D C DSLR. The 1DC (‘C’ for cinema, to separate it from the 1DX stills version of the camera) will record 4K via MJPEG without the need for an external recorder. But that also means it’s recording the 4K at 4:2:2 with 8-bit color. In any case, its compact size and a high ISO rating of up to 25,600 might just make the 1DC an ideal ‘B’ camera for low-light, location shooting.
Canon has two models planned for its C500 pro camcorder: one for EF-mount Canon lenses and a PL-mount version. Both feature uncompressed 12-bit RAW output (i.e. no de-Bayering) that will need external recording via its HD-SDI jacks (it also offers built-in XLRs). The camera will be capable of up to 120fps for slow motion sequences. Expect a list price of around $30K, which makes it competitive with the Arri Alexa and the Sony F65.
Sony’s NEX FS700 looks very much like the FS100 with added Neutral Density filters. But of course there’s a lot more happening here. The big items of note are a 4K capability via 3G-SDI (coming with a future firmware upgrade) and slow mo capabilities, delivering now. The slow motion offered runs up to 120 frames a second in a 16-second burst, or 240 fps in an 8-second burst. Those are at 1080P; higher speeds like 480fps and 960fps come with a drop in resolution.
Rumors are just rumors, okay, but some think that Arri will be showing a 4K version of the Alexa.
So 4K can be found widely. And it can come in surprisingly low-ball. At this year’s CES, JVC showed its GY-HMQ10, a 4K camcorder which should be in the company’s booth at the show. With a small sensor and consumer-level glass, this $5K camcorder of course might make more sense to an industrial video market. But 4K definitely has a future if it’s already being sold to the general public.
Post? Well, Final Cut Pro X and Avid Media Composer already support 4K editing. Adobe’s Premiere Pro CS6, debuting at the show, will also offer it. All of these are working with some form of compression of course, whether using the ProRes or DNxHD codec.
Expect to see 4K viewing solutions too. Sony, Panasonic, and Canon will show 4K capable monitors at the show. Red, meanwhile, has been showing a 4K laser projector prototype on its site.
I had some fun shooting in the Madison Square Park dog run with a prototype version of Sony’s FS700 at 240fps. Nothing timeless to be sure, but it’s pretty striking how good this slo mo looks with just a minimal setup. One of the things that I loved doing was to hand hold and move the camera. I accomplished this with a Sony LA-EA2 adaptor and a Sony Zeiss 16-35mm f/2.8 Alpha lens, dutching the shot. I used the phase detect autofocus, which really works!
So NAB 2012 will make this the year of 4K. Hardly anyone is talking about 3D capable gear for the show. HD of course has become so unremarkable that it’s the new SD (standard definition) for most in the business.
This year will not be quiet!
I will be at the show and covering it.
Mark Forman Productions