I just got back from an exhausting day on the floor at NAB, but wanted to share some quick thoughts and first impressions while everything is still fresh. I’ll be rolling out more NAB content throughout the week, delving into a lot more detail on all the big news and announcements, but for now here are some first impressions –
Let’s start with Blackmagic’s announcement of the Pocket Camera 4K, which undeniably made the biggest splash when it was unveiled earlier today. This was no surprise, as filmmakers have been clamoring for an update to the original Pocket Camera for years, and today that wish came true.
The new Pocket Camera not only shoots 4K, but has a larger sensor (Four Thirds), an MFT mount, Mini-XLR input, CFast/SD slots + the ability to record externally via USB-C to hard drives, dual ISO settings for incredible low-light performance, a 5″ touchscreen monitor, and much more. It’s also a much larger camera, resembling a DSLR more than the previous Pocket Camera.
I think the body style of the camera is actually ideal, as many Pocket Camera shooters are working on guerrilla productions, and the DSLR-style form factor when paired with stills lenses will likely help filmmakers fly under the radar when shooting in public. For $1295, it looks like this camera will be a steal.
Another announcement that caught my attention was the FS5 II from Sony, priced at $4750. The new version mainly brings incremental changes to the camera, and if it weren’t for one specific feature update I probably wouldn’t be highlighting it here today… But Sony revealed they have integrated the color science from their high end Venice cinema camera into the new FS5 II, and that gets me excited.
The one and only reason I’ve never been a Sony fan is because of their color science, so for me this is quite a big deal. While I haven’t had a chance to shoot with the FS5 II yet, I am optimistic about the path Sony is taking. By making it clear that color is a priority in their FS5 II, it tells me Sony is listening and for that reason alone I hope they succeed.
They have heard the complaints about poor colors from their customers for too long now, and it seems like they’re finally trying to make big strides to address those concerns… If they hit the mark this time, I just might finally give Sony another look.
And then there was Canon. Unsurprisingly, there weren’t any updates to their DSLRs or the most popular C-series cameras, and their flagship product this year was the Full Frame version of their highest end cinema camera – C700 FF. I had a chance to play with the camera and speak to a couple of Canon reps about it, and really there isn’t all that much to write home about.
It’s essentially the same camera as the original C700 but with a bigger sensor, and I’m not sure if this is good or bad… I still don’t really know who the C700 is meant for (it’s too cumbersome for most indie productions but can’t quite compete with Arri or RED), so I’m not sure the new sensor will be what popularizes this camera.
I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but it’s really a shame Canon still hasn’t listened to the countless filmmakers out there asking for more solid options on the consumer/prosumer level gear. With some minor tweaks and a few new features, cameras like the C200 or 5D MK IV could be dominating the world of filmmaking. But they just aren’t. And more and more people keep moving away from Canon every day (maybe not photographers, but certainly cinematographers), and I’m not sure how many are left.
If Canon wants to win any of their former customers back, I don’t think the way to do it is by going after the high end market with a $33,000 camera. Maybe that’s not their goal at all, but if it’s even a remote consideration I hope to see more emphasis go back into their more accessible, affordable offerings. It might be a lost cause by now, but who knows!
Moving on, let’s talk about Fuji’s X-H1. This camera (which I shared some thoughts on here) is one that I have been eager to see in person, but haven’t had a chance to until today. As an X-T2 owner, I am always rooting for Fuji and eager to see what they have up their sleeves.
While the X-H1 isn’t intended to replace the X-T2, it may as well be. The camera is only $300 more than the X-T2 ($1899), and includes virtually all the features that the X-T2 lacks, including: In-body stabilization, internal F-log recording at up to 200 Mb/s, full DCI 4K, and my favorite – the Eterna film simulation.
One of the reasons I love Fuji is for their color science, and the Eterna film simulation takes things to another level. Not only can it reproduce the colors of the Eterna film stock extremely accurately (lower saturation, beautiful contrast ratios, etc.), but it does so without sacrificing any dynamic range. In other words, whether shooting in F-Log or with the Eterna simulation, you still have access to the sensor’s entire spectrum of DR.
Right before I left the show today, I took a quick peak at the new 6K MAVO Cinema Camera from Kinefinity, which was quite interesting too… The camera comes in two versions, the standard MAVO and a Large Format version. The latter (full frame version) doesn’t have a price on it yet, but the Super 35 version is $8000, which seems extremely reasonable considering the feature set. In many ways, these cameras are the closest you can get to the RED experience without actually buying a RED. The form factor is nearly identical, and the philosophy behind the cameras seems to be similar – lots of pixels, modular bodies, etc.
Kinefinity was also showing off their new MAVO Large Format Cinema Lenses, which are priced aggressively at only $2500 a pop. From what I saw, the lenses weren’t incredible optically, and they were a little sticky/finicky to work with, but nonetheless I admire the attempt. If Kinefinity keeps upping the ante each year, they may eventually start to give the bigger players a run for their money.
I think that’s about it for now! As I mentioned at the top of this post, I’ll be sure to do some more detailed updates throughout the week, so be sure to check back soon…
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!