Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Great Camera Shoot Out 2011

Last year, Zacuto produced The Great Camera Shootout, a comparison of several HDSLR cameras shooting under challenging conditions. In addition to the digital cameras, film tests were also made under the same conditions. The results were then screened for several cinematographers on a large screen, and the audience weighed in with their opinions. While there were no formal results - or a declared winner - there was a lot to learn both from the participants reactions, as well as from seeing the clips posted online.

I think the reaction can be summed up as:
the digital cameras don't have the latitude of film, but it's closer than most people thought it would be (including me!)
This year the effort was repeated, though with an entirely different selection of digital cameras. Mike Curtis, one of the team working on the test, has written an article for Pro Video Coalition that explains the process:
The group shot 15 live-action and instrumented tests specifically designed to give filmmakers an apples-to-apples comparison of exposure latitude, low-light sensitivity, color space, flesh tones, shutter artifacts and compression.

They evaluated footage captured using: 12-bit Sony F35, ArriRaw Alexa, 35mm Vision 3 film, RED One M-X, Weisscam HS-2 and Phantom Flex high speed cameras, Panasonic AF-100, Sony F3 and various Canon and Nikon DSLRs.
On the Tuesday of NAB, Bob Primes, who organized this year's event as part of an ad-hoc group the "Image Quality Geeks," presented the results of the tests in a presentation that was described as the "Single Chip Camera Evaluation" (SCCE.)

Zacuto also showed the clips at NAB, and their website suggests that the results will be posted on their website in June.

Already there have been reports from those that saw the tests, with the Sony PMW-F3 a clear hit, not necessarily because it was the best, but because of how good it was for the price. Philip Bloom tweeted shortly after seeing it:
Wow Sony F3 did so well in new Zacuto shootout. Sold me on it!

Sony had some awesome toys today. Want F3 more and more with every day.
- @PhilipBloom
And he just took delivery of one!

Others said:
The Zacuto Shootout was extremely revealing & surprising, F3 came out REALLY well for price, Alexa was way up there too.
- @NinoLeitner

Went to the Zacuto screening and thought the "winner" from a quality & cost standpoint was the F3. DSLRs not so great.
- @veloeditor

Vincent Laforet has posted his thoughts from the event. He rates the RED Epic as the winner for Ergonomics and Resolution, and the ARRI Alexa as the winner for Image Quality. But he also rates the PMW-F3 highly, noting it's image quality vs. price.
...everyone was surprised to see this camera perform right up there with the big boys on most tests. This is probably going to be the surprise camera of 2011. Given its price tag, weight and form factor – it might just become the darling of 2011 for many.
And, he adds that they didn't have the benefit of S-Log for those tests, suggesting it may have done even better.

Vincent also high-lights a separate video test he was involved with during NAB that was shot by Khalid Mohtaseb and Jonathan Bregel from Next Level Pictures, using an F3 with the S-Log update: will clearly see how incredibly well this cameras deals with highlights in S-log.   I’m not going to go as far as to say this is an Alexa contender YET – but I’d definitely like to see side by side tests w/ the F3 w/ S-Log and the Alexa and Epic…

ZacutoThe Great Camera Shootout 2011
ZacutoThe Great Camera Shootout 2010
ProVideoCoalition: Coming to NAB? Come see results of our 12 camera test Tuesday night
VincentLaforetNAB Redux Pt.1: Cameras
NextLevelPicturesNLP shoots the worlds first footage with the Sony F3 S-Log
NotesOnVideoMore Thoughts on the Great Camera Shootout - part I
BelowTheLine: Bob Primes, ASC to Present SCCE Digital Camera Evaluation Results at NAB
NABShow: Session: SCCE – An impartial, comprehensive evaluation of the image quality of 11 top digital motion picture cameras

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