The past week has been exciting for everyone in the market for a 4K cinema camera. Panasonic, Sony and Kinefinity have already announced new cameras that are sure to be exhibited at NAB this year, and each of them looks very promising for a number of reasons. Let's take a look at them:
Panasonic VariCam 35
This is the camera I am most looking forward to since I have been a Panasonic fan for many years since the DVX100. Unfortunately, they have fallen behind with the overwhelming AF100 in recent years, but the new VariCam seems to be a big step for Panasonic, as the 4k camera has been reported to have 14 dynamic ranges in a production-ready housing with which it can compete directly with the RED Epic, Canon C500 and other similar cameras.
The camera records with AVC Ultra 444, which is not raw, but a very robust codec with a data rate of 240 Mbit / s in 10 bit 4: 4: 4. I would imagine that it would have similar results as when recording ProRes on which Alexa exists, and in many cases it is preferable to the raw because the file size and workflow are much easier to manage. Other highlights include the PL bracket, a modular housing and the ability to take pictures at up to 120 frames per second. The camera shoots on P2 cards that are still a great format but are not ideal because they are quite expensive and less universal than SSDs, for example. However, the costs for the P2 media will still be much lower than for the RED MAG media.
Sony 4K DSLR
This camera has not yet been officially announced (which is why there is no model name above), but I have no doubt that it will be officially launched at NAB next month. Several sources state that this camera is a hybrid still / video camera and delivers results similar to the Sony F55, but in a DSLR case. This camera will likely compete directly with the Canon 1DC, Lumix GH4, and other 4K DSLRs that are expected to be released this year. It has an interchangeable bracket that allows you to switch from Sony's standard E-mount to an A-mount or PL-mount. If it really delivers a picture like the F55, it is positioned so that it quickly becomes a pioneer in DSLR video world.
Kinefinity KineMAX & KineMINI RAW
These guys have just announced two new cameras, the KineMAX and the KineMINI RAW, both of which look extremely promising and very affordable. The KineMAX is a 6K camera that can shoot in 2k at up to 100 frames per second, has 14 dynamic ranges, an interchangeable lens mount (PL, Nikon, EF, B4) and much more. The KineMINI RAW is a 4K camera with interchangeable lens mount, 13 stops and 100 frames per second at 1080p. There is no official price yet for either camera, but the KineMINI RAW is likely to fall in the $ 3,000 range for the case, which positions it as a direct competitor to the 4K Blackmagic Production Camera.
The only thing that prevents these cameras from affecting the camera industry here in North America is simply availability. I hope that next year we will see more retailers and distributors picking them up because they are really great cameras but unfortunately are not easily accessible for most shooters in the US.
While these cameras all share the ability to capture 4K, they're clearly meant for different users and markets. I see the Panasonic VariCam 35 as a competitor of Arri Amira because it delivers an excellent picture in a compressed format and is designed for both broadcast and film environments. The Sony will be a great tool for budget-conscious filmmakers, documentaries, event shooters and journalists. And the Kinefinity cameras are somewhere between the Blackmagic Cinema Camera and Red Scarlet in terms of price and functionality.
If these cameras give an indication of what's coming next month, 2014 will be a big year for innovation and competition in cinema camera technology.
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!