Several new mirrorless cameras were released or announced in recent weeks, including Blackmagic’s new Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, Canon’s EOS R, and Fuji’s XT3. All three cameras are clearly of interest to many filmmakers right now, so I wanted to share my two cents on them below.
I have been working like crazy over the past month on my feature film projects and a slew of commercials, and haven’t yet done any test shooting with these cameras. I have however, done some tests with Blackmagic’s new RAW codec, and will be sharing the results here on the blog this week.
But with regards to the new releases from BMD, Canon, and Fuji, what I’m going to outline below are simply my first impressions. I’ll aim to do follow up articles on each camera in more depth in the future, so if that’s something you would like to see, please let me know!
There are constantly new cameras being announced and released, but I wanted to highlight these 3 specific cameras together, as they share some commonalities – They’re priced in the same ballpark, are in direct competition to each other in some respects, and are all getting a lot of attention from filmmakers.
So without further ado, here are my thoughts on each…
In no particular order –
BLACKMAGIC POCKET CINEMA CAMERA 4K – $1295
I’m sure some of you know I am a fan of Blackmagic. I’ve been shooting on their cameras for years and even shot my feature last year on the URSA Mini 4.6K… I’ve always respected that BMD strives to fill voids in the low-budget camera market that none of the other camera brands seem to even be aware of. The latest update to the Pocket Camera is no different.
If you think about it – what other camera on the market can compete directly with the new Pocket Camera 4K?
Just look at the specs, all of which you get for $1295 –
- 4/3″ Sized HDR Sensor
- Record DCI 4K 4096 x 2160 up to 60 fps
- Dual Native ISO to 25,600
- 5″ Touchscreen Display
- Active Micro Four Thirds Lens Mount
- Record up to 120 fps Windowed HD
- CFast 2.0 & SD/UHS-II Card Slots
- External Recording via USB Type-C
- 13-Stop Dynamic Range, 3D LUT Support
- Includes DaVinci Resolve Studio License
This is a fully capable cinema camera that costs less than most mid range DSLRs, and has some incredibly innovative features – namely Dual Native ISO. The design of the camera is actually quite smart too, as it appears like a DSLR but functions like a cinema camera. It’s truly the best of both worlds if you are shooting guerrilla style… It’s not as sleek as some of Blackmagic’s other cameras, but it seems to favor function over form, which I like.
It has a 4/3” sensor, but will certainly be used with speed boosters to achieve Super 35mm field of view. Or even without the speed booster, the 4/3” sensor size will still produce beautiful images with nice shallow depth of field.
So again, what other camera really competes with this? There are plenty of other great options in this price range, but none that offer this exact combination of quality and functionality. Shooting on any Blackmagic camera is far more similar to shooting on Arri/RED than it is to any DSLR/mirrorless, yet it is priced at the consumer level. There’s not much to complain about there.
If I were to make any critique of the camera, it would be that I miss the Super 16mm sensor size. Most will probably disagree with me here (and I can understand why!), but I just love the Super 16mm look. That’s what makes the Pocket Camera and Micro Cinema Camera so great to me, and as odd as this may sound, I almost would have preferred a smaller sensor on the camera. I never thought I would say that!
In any case, I am feeling extremely optimistic about this camera, and imagine that it will find a home on many independent narrative shorts and micro-budget features. I’ll need to actually shoot with the camera before sharing my thoughts on the image quality (it’s pretty hard to say based on the test clips out there), but will aim to follow up on this soon.
CANON EOS R – $2299
You have to applaud Canon for showing up, even if they are late to the party… But their long overdue entry into the professional mirrorless market truly is just too little, too late.
I’ve shared my thoughts at length in the past about Canon as a whole, often pointing out their strongest qualities – reliability and color science. Despite falling way behind Sony and Panasonic with respect features and overall innovation, their cameras can still produce solid images, and do so reliably… And I’m sure the EOS R will follow suit.
But this is the first new camera from Canon of its kind, and will feature an entirely new lens mount (RF). I’m just not gonna be convinced that these features will compel anyone to make that switch –
- 30.3MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
- UHD 4K30 Video; C-Log & 10-Bit HDMI Out
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF, 5655 AF Points
- 3.69m-Dot OLED Electronic Viewfinder
- 3.15″ 2.1m-Dot Swivel Touchscreen LCD
- Expanded ISO 50-102400, 8 fps Shooting
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, SD UHS-II Card Slot
- New RF Lens Mount
Probably the biggest complaint people have with this camera, is the 1.8x crop factor when shooting in 4K (there is a 1.6x crop in HD). That in itself will be enough to turn away many die-hard Full Frame shooters… But even for those who can live with the crop factor, why would they want to switch to this camera?
The main benefit of a mirrorless camera is size. And the EOS R when paired with a full frame lens (and/or adapter to EF) is not a small camera at all. So if it doesn’t offer value in terms of design, it’s missing key features (like internal stabilization), and requires you to adapt to an entirely new lens mount…
Often, Canon’s cameras make little sense for filmmakers, but survive because they still work well for (and are popular with) photographers. But even then, I wonder how many stills photographers will want to switch to this system? Personally, if I were just shooting stills I would prefer NOT to have a mirrorless camera. I like the analog feel of using the mirror to look right through the lens, and many photographers do too… So in many ways, this camera feels like it is in no-mans-land.
The EOS R is not a camera I would personally want to invest in, and I doubt many others will either… We can all get more camera for less money almost anywhere else, so until more features are added with firmware updates, or the $2299 price tag comes down, I just don’t see this camera taking off.
FUJI XT3 – $1499
I don’t know if anyone could have expected just how quickly Fuji would rise to the top of mirrorless game… That includes myself, and I have been shooting on Fuji cameras for years!
Photographers always loved Fuji’s cameras, as they offer incredible color science – arguably the best of any camera manufacturer out there. Just look at how the Classic Chrome film simulation mode has garnered a cult following at this point. But as well as Fuji has done with photographers, it wasn’t until their last few models that the brand became a viable option for filmmakers.
Over the past couple of years, they have done a complete 180, releasing cameras like the XT2 (which I own) and the XH1, both of which finally offered filmmakers that amazing Fuji look, with a camera body that was fully functional for video recording. That trajectory has continued on with the release of Fuji’s XT3.
Here are the specs –
- 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans BSI CMOS 4 Sensor
- UHD 4K60 Video
- F-Log Gamma
- 10-Bit H265
- 0.75x 3.69m-Dot OLED Viewfinder
- 3.0″ 1.04m-Dot Tilting LCD Touchscreen
- Extended ISO 80-51200, 30 fps Shooting
- Weather-Sealed Magnesium-Alloy Body
This is effectively a fully upgraded XT2. It has a new sensor, internal F Log, and apparently great autofocus – although that isn’t a feature I would use myself.
The biggest highlight for me is it’s ability to record 10bit to H265 files. Unlike common H264 files, H265 are more likely to require transcoding in post, but will offer superior image quality while still keeping file sizes down. At some point I hope we see ProRes recording or compressed RAW in DSLRs/mirrorless cameras like this one, but for now H265 is a great alternative.
Despite the XT3 having almost all the latest features from Fuji, it’s clear that the XH1 is still the flagship of their line. This is most clearly demonstrated by the lack of internal stabilization on the XT3… This isn’t a deal breaker for me, as I don’t really use IBIS (I would rather a shoulder rig), but if you do need IBIS, the XH-line may be the way to go.
I have to imagine the XT3 will be very hard to ignore by filmmakers, even for those who never gave Fuji any real thought. After all, it is a Super 35mm digital motion picture camera that boasts the best color science in the market, in a slick, retro-inspired body. For filmmakers that choose their cameras based on image quality and design, the XT3 may just be the way to go.
On another note, Fuji is the only brand to really understand how to roll out promo footage. For the release of this camera, they worked with Matthew Libatique – one of the single best working cinematographers out there – to direct and DP a short film using the XT3. This is exactly what filmmakers want to see when assessing potential camera choice, and I hope the other brands will take notice and follow suit!
WHO ARE THEY FOR?
I may have my own personal preferences and biases, but at the end of the day, all 3 of these cameras will be used by filmmakers. It always comes down to subjective taste and personal needs.
If history is any indication, I would imagine the Blackmagic Pocket Camera 4K will be a massive hit with filmmakers and small production companies. I am certain these will start popping up everywhere, and we’ll see loads of short films, corporate spots, and maybe the occasional feature shot on them.
The Canon EOS R is anyone’s guess… I can see some die-hard Canon fans giving it a chance, and perhaps like many of Canon’s other cameras, it will exceed expectations. But still, with all the competition in the market right now, I don’t imagine anyone running away from Sony or Panasonic for an EOS R.
The XT3 on the other hand, is another story. While people generally seem happy with their Sony A7 cameras or Lumix GH cameras, Fuji may be offering enough to convince some filmmakers to jump ship. Those switching from Sony will go from bad color science to the best, and anyone making the jump from Panasonic can also enjoy that same gorgeous image quality while benefitting from the larger Super 35mm sensor.
So of the 3 cameras, the Pocket Cam and XT3 are clearly the most exciting to me, and the XT3 is perhaps most likely to be disruptive to the stronghold Panasonic and Sony have had on the mirrorless market.
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.
Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!