It’s that time of year again!
Less than a week is left before the start of NAB, and as usual there has been loads of speculation as to what we can expect to see at the show. In many ways, this year is shaping up to be a very unpredictable year, and it’s going to be really interesting to see what everyone has up their sleeves next Monday.
In some recent years past, things were seemingly more predictable with regards to what kinds of new products we might see at the show. For instance, after Blackmagic made a huge splash with their BMCC in 2013, we knew that there would be some copycat products the follow year. And there were – namely the AJA CION.
When the Movi was released and met with such enthusiasm from the professional community, we knew there would be a slew of gimbal based stabilizers at the show the following year. And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.
But this year the industry is in a different position, and while we can expect the usual incremental updates from certain brands, it’s hard to predict what the big show-stopping products are going to be this year.
One thing I can only assume we will see a lot of is Virtual Reality technology. Although I’m personally not a huge advocate of 360 cameras or VR (at least for filmmaking purposes, they’re a lot of fun to play with!), it seems inevitable that there will be a huge push for VR this year. Many film festivals are now showcasing VR content, the Occulus Rift will be delivered to customers this year, and in general 2016 is going to be the year that VR technology hits the masses.
With VR aside though, what can we expect from the major players with regards to new camera announcements?
There is of course no way of knowing anything until next week, so rather than guess I’ll share what I would LIKE to see from some of the most notable camera brands at the show. Here’s what I’m hoping for:
Over the last several years, the Canon booth at NAB has been somewhat underwhelming. They often don’t make any major announcements at the show, and instead opt to showcase existing products for the attendees. Being realistic, I would have to assume that we can expect much of the same from them this year. That said, I do believe there is a good chance that an 8K C500 will be released, which will be a fun toy to play with, even if it’s overpriced – which it most certainly will be!
What I would still love to see from Canon though, is a true cinema camera. You might be thinking that Canon already has their “Cinema” lineup, but as great as some of their C-series cameras are (or once were), they simply don’t feel like true cinema cameras to me. They are really an in-between step that bridges the gap from consumer DSLR to high end digital cinema camera, which is why they have found their home on reality television show sets, documentaries, and other low-budget productions that want a high-ish end look, with the form factor of a camcorder.
While Canon clearly doesn’t seem to want to compete in the affordable cinema camera market, I would at the very least like to see what they could do to tackle the higher end camera market. I’d like to see a production ready, RAW shooting, true cinema body that could compete with the likes of the Sony F55 or the Arri Amira, as opposed to their current lineup, which competes more with cameras like the Sony FS7. It’s definitely a long shot, but if Canon does step up their game and integrate some of their strong technology into a true cinema camera body, that would be a very interesting move.
Over the last three years Blackmagic has managed to steal the show at NAB with new camera announcements, and I am always very excited to see what they have up their sleeves. Blackmagic is one of the most disruptive companies in the industry, which is why I am personally such a fan of what they’re doing.
Having just recently shipped their URSA Mini 4.6K camera which was announced at last year’s NAB, if I had to guess, I wouldn’t think that the emphasis this year will be on brand new cameras. That said, I do think one of their previous cameras is due for an update – the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera – and would love to see what they could do with version 2 of that camera. The Micro Cinema Camera is a fantastic little tool and in many ways could be used as an alternative to the Pocket Camera. But having an on-board monitor on the Pocket gives it a bit more versatility for handheld work or other types of shooting scenarios, so it would still be nice to see an updated Pocket Camera to round off the lineup.
In terms of specs, I would love to see a 4K-capable pocket-cam with higher frame rates, better low-light performance, longer battery life, and a higher resolution display. It may be wishful thinking, but if Blackmagic is planning on an update to the Pocket Camera, I would assume that at least some of these features would be included.
Much like Canon, Sony isn’t necessarily known for making huge announcements at NAB, as they seem to roll out their cameras sporadically throughout the year. On the low-end of the spectrum, we can’t really expect any major announcements, as the A7-lineup was recently refreshed, and many of their current products are still early on in their life-cycle.
That said, there have been rumors that we will see some sort of upgrade to the F55, which would be really interesting to see. The F55 is a pretty fantastic cinema camera that has only gotten better with time, and as the flagship offering from Sony, any new technology that they are developing will likely help to serve that camera. I would guess that we might see a new sensor (perhaps even a 6K or 8K sensor), as well as improvements with dynamic range and highlight rolloff, likely all housed within the same body as the current F55 model.
There have been rumors swirling around for a while about the upcoming Lumix GH5, and as much as I would love to speculate that we will see it at NAB, that looks like it will be quite unlikely. The original rumors stated that the GH5 would be announced at Photokina in September, so if they do hold any truth to them, we’ll need to wait until the fall to see what Panasonic has done with their popular GH-lineup.
On another note however, I would still love to see an AF100 replacement. The original AF100 was a really great camera that had the misfortune of being released at one of the most competitive times in recent digital cinema history, and as such was never really developed the way it should have been.
Panasonic have however, made some huge strides on their higher end cameras with the Varicam and Varicam LT, which give us some hope for Panasonic in the long run. Although the Varicam LT is Panasonic’s “lower-budget” cinema offering, it still comes in at around $16,000, and is clearly not designed for the masses. I would love to see Panasonic integrate some of the same Varicam technology and resources into a sub $10K camera that could compete with the Sony FS7, Blackmagic URSA Mini, and other lower cost digital cinema offerings.
It’s always hard to gauge what RED will come up with, especially since they already have a large segment of the market cornered. They currently offer cameras for the very high end market (with up to 8K acquisition on the Vista Vision Weapon), and the lower end cinema camera market, with their RED Raven and Scarlet-W. With that in mind though, all of their cameras are very much designed in the same way. They are all modular boxes that allow the user to build them up or strip them down as needed, which works very well for RED, but I would like to see something different from them too.
If RED were to ever develop a more traditional camcorder – something with a body like the Arri Amira – that would open up a lot of potential for them, in my opinion at least. There is a huge market of shooters that are looking for cinema-quality images, but also need to work quickly on their feet. Journalists, documentary filmmakers, low-budget narrative producers, and loads of other content creators would benefit from an ENG-style camera with RED technology integrated into it. And although it’s unlikely we will see anything like this from RED in the future, I would certainly hope that there is a possibility of something like this being developed.
Arri has a slower product cycle than most of the other brands on this list, and for good reason – their products stand the test of time and don’t need constant updating. If you bought the original Arri Alexa Classic 6 years ago, the camera would still work perfectly today, and would still produce images better than 99% of cameras manufactured this year.
That said, I don’t expect to see any huge announcements from Arri this year. Last year they wowed us with their Alexa Mini and updates to their full Alexa lineup, and while I’m sure they have a few tricks up their sleeve, I’m not sure we will see any entirely new camera announcements. If we do however, here is what I would love to see –
A Super 16mm Amira/Alexa. I’ve written about this before on the blog, and if Arri ever decides to release an Alexa (or Amira) with a S16mm sized sensor, I would jump at the opportunity to pick one up – especially if the price was competitive. From a more general standpoint though, I would love to see a more affordable camera from Arri. I know that can be easier said than done, as cameras that perform at that level cost a lot to develop and produce… But if Arri was able to release an “Amira Mini” or something similar that could come in at under $20K, that would be very exciting. Although it would still be in a higher price bracket than most filmmakers would be looking to spend, it could still make for a viable rental item, or used purchase down the line.
That’s about all I’ve got for now with regards to speculation, and once again – this is all just wishful thinking. Here’s hoping that we have another exciting year at NAB, and I’m sure there will be a lot to digest next week after the announcements are made.
I’ll be in Las Vegas next week at NAB covering the show for my blog and meeting with some of my collaborators and partners. I have a number of speaking engagements lined up, the first of which will be at the Shutterstock booth on Tuesday the 19th, and Wednesday the 20th, both at 12pm.
For more info on my talk at Shutterstock, and to enter to win a DJI Phantom 4 Drone be sure to visit their site here: http://www.shutterstock.com/blog/nab-2016
I look forward to sharing more with you guys throughout the show.
Be sure to keep NoamKroll.com bookmarked and check in throughout the week to see how things are shaping up!
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!