This past week has been an exciting one for anyone in the market for a 4K cinema camera. Panasonic, Sony, and Kinefinity have already all announced new cameras that will surely be on display at NAB this year, and each of them look very promising for different reasons. Let’s take a look at them:
Panasonic VariCam 35
This is the camera I am most excited about out of the three, as I have been a long time fan of Panasonic’s ever since the DVX100. Unfortunately they have fallen behind in recent years with the underwhelming AF100, but the new VariCam looks to be a huge step up for Panasonic as the 4k camera is reported to have over 14 stops of dynamic range in a production ready body that will compete directly with the RED Epic, Canon C500, and other similar cameras.
The camera will record to AVC Ultra 444, which isn’t raw, but is a very robust codec that has a data rate of 240Mbit/s in 10bit 4:4:4. I would imagine gives results similar to shooting ProRes on the Alexa, and in many cases is preferable to raw as the file sizes and workflow is much more manageable. Other highlights include the PL Mount, a modular body, and the ability to shoot at up to 120fps. The camera does shoot to P2 cards, where are still a great format, but not ideal as they are quite pricey and less universal than SSD’s for instance. That said, the cost of the P2 media will still come in much lower than it’s RED MAG counterparts.
Sony 4K DSLR
This camera hasn’t officially been announced yet (which is why there is no model name above), but I don’t doubt that we will see it officially unveiled at NAB next month. Multiple sources state that this camera will be a hybrid stills/video camera, and will provide results similar to the Sony F55, but in the body of a DSLR. This camera will likely compete directly with the Canon 1DC, Lumix GH4, and the slew of other 4K DSLR’s that are expected to be released this year. It will have a swappable mount, allowing you to switch from the standard Sony E-Mount to an A-Mount or PL Mount, and if it truly delivers an image like the F55, it is positioned to quickly become a frontrunner in the DSLR video world.
Kinefinity KineMAX & KineMINI RAW
These guys actually just announced two new cameras, the KineMAX and KineMINI RAW, both of which look extremely promising and very competitively priced. The KineMAX is a 6K camera that can shoot at up to 100fps in 2k, has 14 stops of dynamic range, an interchangeable lens mount (PL, Nikon, EF, B4), and much more. The KineMINI RAW is a 4K camera that also has an interchangeable lens mount, 13 stops of dynamic range, and can shoot 100fps at 1080p. There’s no official price on either camera yet, but the KineMINI RAW is likely going to fall in the $3,000 range for the body, which positions it as a direct competitor to the 4K Blackmagic Production Camera.
The only thing preventing these cameras from making a larger dent in the camera industry here in North America is simply availability. I am hoping that we see more retailers and distributors picking these up in the next year, as they are really great cameras but unfortunately are not easily accessible for most shooters in the US.
While these cameras all share the ability to shoot 4K, they are clearly intended for different users and markets. I see the Panasonic VariCam 35 as an Arri Amira competitor, as it will deliver a superb image in a compressed format, and is designed to be used in both broadcast and film environments. The Sony will be a great tool for filmmakers on a budget, documentary productions, event shooters, and journalists. And the Kinefinity cameras fall somewhere in between the Blackmagic Cinema Camera and Red Scarlet in terms of their pricing and functionality.
If these cameras are any indication of what’s to come next month, 2014 is going to be a big year for innovation and competition in cinema camera technology.