It has been said that 2014 will be the year of 4K, and given the recent announcements from Canon, Panasonic and Nikon that all now offer (or plan to offer) 4K DSLRs, this feeling just seems true. This is very exciting news for DSLR shooters everywhere as almost every other facet of the industry is starting to push 4K. Just look at how many new affordable 4K TVs are on the market, or the fact that 4K delivery is now a reality for production houses, not to mention streaming sites like YouTube that already have 4K exhibitions at home to offer.
Canon, Panasonic and Nikon are currently getting into the 4K DSLR game, with each of them at a different stage. Other manufacturers (such as Sony) will inevitably follow suit, and I'm sure we'll see more 4K DSLRs than we can handle at this year's NAB. At the moment you will find a brief update of the situation of the three manufacturers who are already 4K-oriented.
Canon's 1DC was the first DSLR to shoot 4K and is still the only 4K DSLR available on the market. Since the camera has such a high price tag of $ 12,000, many shooters have not adopted it, although the image quality is fantastic. The lack of interest is also largely due to the fact that the camera only records in a highly compressed 8-bit 4: 2: 0 color space, which makes it less desirable than other 4K cameras such as the Red Scarlet, Sony F5 or Blackmagic Production Camera All shoot RAW.
Panasonic will release the Lumix GH4 shortly – in fact, this week it was rumored that it will be released on February 7, which is hardly on the doorstep. I wrote about the camera in a previous blog post and the feeling that the specifications seem to be just right, at least on paper. In particular, the camera records at bit rates of up to 200 Mbit / s in 10 bits 4: 2: 2. A big step up and a noticeable difference to the more compressed 1DC. Although many shooters hope for a DSLR that accepts RAW, I personally think that this is an exaggeration and that an ALL-I codec with 200 MBit / s would suffice. Recording with a DSLR should be an easy process. Once you've dealt with a RAW workflow, additional storage, media changes, etc., you'd better shoot with a real movie camera. DSLRs are supposed to be agile, so I think the technical data of this camera fits perfectly into the sweet spot.
With Canon’s 1DC already on the shelves and the Lumix GH4 coming out next month, Nikon is definitely the farthest from actually shipping a 4K camera. However, this week it was announced that a Nikon product manager announced that the company had plans for a 4K DSLR. Since NAB will be on the market in just a few months, I would say that there is a very good chance that we will get something new from Nikon at the fair, or at least some more detailed information about which new cameras or cameras they want to give 4K capabilities to. Although lagging behind Canon and Panasonic, this news is still very relevant to developments in the industry as Nikon is not primarily a video company. Canon and Panasonic both have a video line-up of cameras, and as such, you'd expect them to jump on the train, but the fact that Nikon (who is actually just a still company) wants to jump on board is a clear indication of she times we live in.
Is any of this important?
Yes and no. If you're a certain type of shooter who needs 4K for a unique purpose at an affordable cost, this is a big deal. Just a few years ago, shooting with the RED ONE was one of the few ways to buy 4K footage, and we all know how much these cameras cost. Now there are several options for 4K capture, and the fact that this feature is used in DSLR bodies is pretty amazing.
The downside, however, is that 4K isn't really needed even when it gets that common. Especially with DSLR recordings. Although 4K exhibitions (especially UHD TVs) are common, how many times have you actually been asked to deliver something in 4K? Probably rarely, if ever. This will inevitably change in the next year or two, but at the moment the vast majority of projects delivered and screened in 4K would never have been shot on a DSLR. And not because 4K DSLRs weren't there when they were made, but because you would never use a DSLR if you had an Alexa or 35mm film camera – unless it was a special shot. Personally, even though I have a lot of cameras, I rent the camera equipment for shooting when I need to shoot something big enough to actually show it in 4K in the future.
2014 could actually be the year of 4K – it will certainly develop this way. But I don't think it's the year of the 4K DSLR … It could be 2015. Will 4K DSLRs be released this year? Pretty sure. However, it will be a long time before DSLR productions actually need 4K and the shooters are asked to bring out 4K equipment. If you now need 4K for a specific need, then definitely choose it – I am sure that I will come up with a 4K DSLR myself in the near future! But don't hurry to buy one and spend more than you should just because the resolution is higher than your current camera. After all, it is the DP who takes the picture, not the camera. And of course, resolution is just one of many components you need to consider when buying a camera, along with factors like dynamic range, which I think are much more important. More on this in my article here: Why dynamic range is more important than resolution to get a film look.
Noam Kroll is an award-winning filmmaker from Los Angeles and founder of the boutique production house Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television and in various publications around the world. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!