There is a level of confusion when it comes to cinematic camcorders and it’s maybe this “confusion” that is causing our boys and girls in Japan to keep releasing the wrong spec camcorders.
My good friend Frank Glencairn made a very valid point…“But I think there is an obsession going on to have a “one-does-it-all-self-contained” camera. Something that swapped over from the DSLR guys. Have you ever heard of a film camera that comes with a battery or build in ND filters? If you coming from film, those things don’t bother you. If you come from shooting video with photo cameras or ENG work, it’s a different game. Now all that mixes up and everyone has different wishes. That’s why I think, a super modular camera – think of a box with user-swappable sensors, and other boxes with other functions that attach to it (yes a bit like RED, but more sophisticated)plus an open software/firmware – that’s the future. At least I wish it would be the future. Build a camera to your need, money, budget, and job. That would be cool.”
Frank is a very technical, practical chap and what he cant afford he builds himself but Frank is the exception to that rule most of us “put up” with what we are given and have a work around to compensate.
We are stuck in the past when it comes to cinematic camera design with some orphans of the present for good measure, let me explain. We look to what was done in the past like the cine camera as Frank quite rightly pointed out it had no ND filters, thats because a lot of cine cameras needed a lot of light in the first place plus screw on ND filter sets were all the rage.
Most cine cameras had a choice of 18 or 24 frames per second and it was only in the early seventies that Super 8mm film came with a magnetic sound stripe, professional recordings were very complicated with a 16mm Bolex sending a signal via a cable to a sound recorder called a Nagra, a 1/4″ tape was used and the pulse from the camera was recorded on a separate track in order to sync the pictures and sound at the edit stage.
“Just because it did not happen in the past does not mean it cant happen in the future”…Take servo zoom lenses the new Sony EA50 is the first large sensor camcorder to appear with a powered zoom as standard and thats a big bonus for camera operators who have been used to a zoom lens. Professional Cinematic cameras in the past did not have powered zooms simply because the glass was not good enough and the servo would take too much power.
16mm cameras were usually a strange shape to accommodate the 16mm film magazine, something that’s not an issue with todays cameras.
Getting back to today, we have come through a phase using DSLRs in order to get a shallow depth of field once again the size of the DSLR should not have any bearing as to the size of a cinematic video camera. Sony made this mistake with the FS100, trying to emulate the compactness of the DSLR while trying to make the camera perform like a video camera.
Forget the past…forget the DSLR, concentrate on traditional camcorder designs, ARRI are taking the cinematic world by storm producing a camera fit for purpose, cameramen/women like the design, all the correct buttons, switches and connectors, frame rates to die for as well as 4:4:4 12bit processing.
The Alexa is only an example for me it’s too dear and far to heavy but Sony, Panasonic and Canon should take stock of the Alexa and stop trying to produce cameras that are far too small with cramped small buttons, viewfinders in the wrong place, 8 bit processing and give us cinematic cameras we can be proud of.
Sony…They have the F65 granted but for smaller budget TV drama the F3 with 50Mbps would be far more useful.
Panasonic…The AF101 is tired in comparison with the competition, lower resolution and needs a decent Hi Rez viewfinder, 10bit processing would also be an improvement.
Canon…The C300/C500 suffer the same fate by having the XLRs on that stupid control panel, please make sure V2 of the 300/500 is bigger to allow XLRs and controls onto the body itself and please include a 3 position Gain and WB switches please, 10 bit processing on the 300 would also be an improvement as would 1080 50p.
So lets stop trying to copy the past, more cinematic cameras with at least the ability to have a servo zoom like the new NEX-EA50, I must point out that the PMW-F3 has had an on board zoom control since day one and Sony did bring out a zoom lens for the camera.
Lets get away from small cameras for the sake of it, all you do by constricting a cameras size is buttons get smaller and the camera becomes a fiddle to work with, most professional cameramen /women by-passed the DSLR phase, size does matter, make the cameras slightly bigger to give us full manual controls on the body and in Canons sake the XLRs on the body of the C300 !
Get away from this ridiculous compulsion for “various” models of the same camera, bring out a camera fit for purpose, the F3 would benefit greatly by having 50Mbps and a decent viewfinder, stop this rot of making cameras that fall short of what the end user needs.
As a breed camera people don’t like add ons like external recorders it’s one more link in the chain to go wrong !