The 4K Cameras Debuting at NAB 2012

NAB Las Vegas is the biggest convention for film/broadcast professionals around. Once a year, studios and television stations let their video nerds out of their darkend caves to spend a week strolling the convention halls looking at all the latest and shinestist production tools.

Look how shiny that C-Stand is!!

But the real entertainment of NAB is marking the steady march of technological progress. Any filmmaker in the business for more than 5 years will have experienced at least 2 major camera revolutions. We had the DV revolution, the HDV revolution, the Solid State Revolution, the DSLR revolution…

And now that the camera manufacturers have sold us all a DSLR… a new revolution must emerge to draw out and reinvigorate the fanboys and wannabes.

That revolution is now for 4K.

Sure RED started with 4K in 2007 but that was before everybody had a DSLR that could shoot super shallow focus. It was the DSLRs that pushed for larger sensors… and now that everybody has larger sensors we’re starting to demand the resolution to go with it.

To put the the offerings from the large camera manufactuerers in perspective, I’m going to frame the discussion in terms of the most talked about (therefore most popular) movie on the internets: Twilight.

I will play the part of Bella Swan – a young naive girl who’s trying to decide which of these professional camera lines she wants to invest in (or at least pretend that I’m going to invest in).

Bring on the beaus!

Team Canon

C500

What’s so exciting about it? Following up to the Canon C300 announced last year, this "bigger brother" sports the ever elusive "4K" at 10 bit. It can also shoot 4:4:4 12 bit video but only at 2K. The 4K resolution is only sent out through external monitoring cables – the camera itself records in piddily HD.

How many Taco Bell paychecks do I need to save? A ton. This camera is still in prototype phase but word is the cost is going to be in the $25,000 range putting it more in competition with ALEXA and RED ONE/EPIC arena.

Other Notes: Handsome and worldly, the C500 is not just the typical boy down the street. And in the sunlight, he SPARKLES!!

Full Canon Press Release on the C500

EOS 1Dc

What’s so exciting about it? Remember when Canon said they would have a 4K DSLR? Well here it is. This camera has pretty much the same specs as the Canon 1Dx but it manages to fit a 4096×2160 8bit 4:2:2 24p video stream onto the internal CF cards.

How many banks do I need to rob? Quite a few. Announcing at $15,000 (which means it will be in the neighborhood of $12-13k), the 1D-C is closer to the C300 in terms of cost which kind of defeats the whole "democratizing" feel of a HDSLR.

Other Notes: He has such good tastes in hotshoes. You can always tell a classy man by his hotshoes.

Full Press Release on the Canon EOS 1D-C

Team Sony

NEX-FS700

What’s so Exciting about it? The 4k "Exmore" Super 35 CMOS sensor will be able to output a 4K signal via a 3G HD-SDI cable with a later firmware update (no word on whether that will be a "free" update). But what’s really new and exciting about the FS700 is it’s ability to open up the world of high speed recording. At Full HD quality, it can shoot 120 to 240 frames for second, more than 4x what’s being offered by most prosumer cameras today. At DV resoltions it can achieve up to 960 frames per second.

Not only can this camera handle these “special” high speeds, the camera is capable of shooting 1080 60p which makes it one of the pioneers in this camera category.

How many kidneys do I need to sell? With an announcement price of $9,000 (putting it around 7-8,000 street), this camera may be one of the more "affordable" proline cameras out there.

Other Notes: Interesting how Sony is going after temporary resolution over spatial resolution with this release – kind of the same direction Peter Jackson and James Cameron are going for when shooting at higher frame rates. Internal recording is to an AVCHD format that’s not terribly exciting. 4:2:2 output is available from the HDMI. Also he has fresh minty breath.

Full Sony Press Release on the NEX FS700

Team JVC

GY-HMQ10

What’s so Exciting about it? It was 4k before 4k in a camcorder was cool. Officially released back in January, the HMQ10 was JVC’s opening salvo into the world of 4K. It does have a fixed lens and a 1/2 inch CMOS sensor so you’re not going get the cinema level deph of field but… hey…4Ks!

How many pints of blood do I need to sell? The GY-HMQ10 will only set up back as much as most camcorders in the prosumer line. At about $5,000 this is relatively affordable 4K.

Other Notes: At this point, you have to start wondering "is there a need for all those Ks"? But then you forget what you’re doing when you’re staring into his lovely eyes.

Full Press Release from JVC’s GY-HMQ10

So…

Team Canon? Team Sony? Team JVC? Or maybe Bella should go back to that Bad Boy who scheduled dates at RED Robin and then stood her up?

Until Sony and Canon finally spill the beans on their super secret Scorsese Filter (which turns ordinary footage into an Oscar worthy film), it’s still going to be a matter of story told by a filmmaker who knows how to use the tools at hand.