2011 promises to be the most exciting yet for professional shooters, aspiring film makers and hobbyists with several new cameras released and more scheduled. They include the Panasonic AF-100, Sony F3, Canon 600D, Panasonic GH2, RED Scarlet (hopefully), RED Epic and even a new mirror less high end Sony DSLR to name just a few.
All these cameras certainly have there good and bad points. Are we any closer to the perfect camera? Well companies do seem to be moving in the right direction but we are still a long way from the perfect camera. One thing is for sure, the technology is definitely there to build the perfect camera but we won’t be seeing it anytime soon. Large companies such as Canon, Sony and Panasonic are very successful for a reason. They know how to protect their product lines. Yes this isn’t a good thing for consumers necessarily but its the way businesses are run. Anytime you have a vast line up of cameras you are going to want to protect your high end sales. There is no point for example of Sony or Panasonic building a camera that costs $10,000 that is going to offer the same features and quality as a $60,000 camera. The other problem I suspect has been the case for a long time is that Japanese companies seem to have informal agreements with each other. No one likes to shame another company by bringing out something that is so much better than any one else’s product. For years the Japanese automotive industry had a gentlemans agreement to limit their cars output to 280 horse power, although this has since been scrapped. Yes this was partly to do with trying to limit road fatalities but companies were producing cars with more horse power and still putting down the power figures as 280HP. It does though go to show the sort of mentality that these companies have. Does such an agreement exist with camera companies? Well no one knows. It is quite possible though that this is the case. All the companies have intelligence on what each other are doing and they all share very similar technologies – this is why you often have very similar features in competing product lines. This goes for cameras, cars, televisions, air conditioners and most other products we buy. The only contradiction to this rule seems to be smaller independent companies who try to create there own unique market. RED is sort of company. They originally targeted a hole in the market with their RED ONE very successfully. They provided a camera in a price range where there was basically no competition. The RED Scarlet would of done the same thing if they had of been able to get it out a few years ago when it was originally going to be released. The problem was that the whole DSLR thing took off and that market has now been well and truly saturated. Now RED has had to change some of the features in the Scarlet to again put it into a slightly different market. There is no doubt that the RED Scarlet will be a terrific camera but if RED had of been able to get it out 2 years ago they would of taken the market by storm. I don’t think RED nor Canon, Nikon etc. had any idea how big the DSLR movie making revolution would be.
Speaking of Canon there have been lots of internet rumours about an upcoming 5D Mark III or Similar – The hype about this camera is building every day. The rumours have been about a 3rd or 4th quarter release in 2011. The specs? According to the rumour mill apparently 28 megapixel stills and 7D autofocus were the latest. We also hear the term “RAW Video” being thrown around too. I very much doubt this but I’m more than happy to be proved wrong! Honestly I’m sure most people would prefer fixes to rolling shutter, moire and aliasing. The only trouble with RAW video capture would be the incredible size of the files and the problem of writing that information to a card. RAW video from a 28mp sensor would let you probably record very little footage on a 32GB or even 64GB card. Maybe they will have full HDMI out but they will never put a HD-SDI port on one of these cameras. Another problem with RAW video would be what would you do with it? An almost 6K raw image wont play back on too many computers and you will never be able to view it in 6K. What would be exciting is if it features the same technology that has been used in the Canon 600D. The ability to be able to take a zoomed in image off the sensor at that sort of resolution would be invaluable. Canon may not do this though as it could potentially harm the sales of some of their longer lenses – why buy a longer lens if you can capture the image of the sensor with a shorter lens? time will tell.
People often ask me advice on buying cameras, lenses and other equipment. Basically there isn’t a right or wrong choice in many cases. The most important factors are what are you going to use it for? How much is your budget? What else do you need to make it work? The camera bodies will always come and go and they are normally the cheapest thing to buy. My BIG advice, don’t buy cheap lenses! You can keep lenses for a very long time. Basic lens optics have not changed much in recent decades. Yes there is auto focus and inbuilt stabilization but good glass is good glass no matter how old it is. You are better off buying a Canon 60D for example and paying more money for better lenses than buying a 5DmkII and just getting the kit lens. Another thing i hear a lot is “I’m not sure if I should buy this camera because something better might come out in 6 months.” Yes this is true, anything you buy will be superceeded eventually. If you are going to buy a camera buy it when it first comes out. That way you get the maximum use out of it before you need to upgrade. You would be stupid to buy a 5D Mark II now as a new model will be out probably by the end of the year. The higher end cameras tend to come out less frequently than the lower spec versions. Canon brought out the 550D, 60D now the 600D in very short succession but 5D or 1D series cameras tend to come out only once every 2-3 years. I bought a 7D when they first came out and I still use it to this day. I’ve since used the 5D Mark II, 60D, 550D and 1D Mark IV. Yes they all offer there good and bad points but i’m not so concerned about the actual camera. I’ve learnt its the lenses and how you shoot thing that make the difference. Learning what your camera can and can’t do is very important. There was recently a famous Korean director who shot a whole movie using the Iphone 4. It just goes to show you that it’s not so much the camera that gets you the results but the operator and how you use it. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather shoot a movie on an Arri Alexa or a Sony F35 than an Iphone – but it just shows you what can be done. Don’t think you need a super expensive camera to create great stuff. Yes it helps but it’s not the most important factor-YOU ARE, the person behind the lens.
Lastly i’d like to talk about the new breed of hybrid cameras such as the Panasonic AF-100 and the Sony F3. There has been a lot of press, hype, praise and criticism of both of these cameras. I personally think both are great. They have both opened up a whole new market where previously there wasn’t one. Yes neither is perfect but they are cutting edge technology and the fore runners to what is to come. The thing to remember is neither of these are DSLR cameras, they are Video cameras. They have taken the things we like about using a DSLR and mixed them together with the features we like in a video camera. There was a market for DOF adaptors that could be added to higher end camcorders and this is pretty much what these cameras are. Both the Sony and the Panasonic are targeting different markets and users. What is good to see is that they have provided the opportunity for all types of different people to own one. At $5000 the Panasonic enables even hobbyists to buy in, while the Sony will probably appeal to more high end users. Yes people have complained that they don’t have this and they don’t have that and they only record in this bit rate but they are very unique and a massive step in the right direction. Will Canon jump in and make something similar? I’m not sure. There are a few trains of thought here. 1. They may be very happy with selling DSLR’s and don’t want to take away potential sales in that area. 2. It’s not cost effective for them to build a Hybrid DSLR/Video camera at this point in time. 3. They are waiting to see what everyone else has done and then respond. 4. They are planning on building a more high end camera to compete in a completely different market. If Canon bought out a Hybrid camera for $5000 that shot RAW, had HD SDI outputs, proper audio and was full frame, why would anyone buy a 5D or a 7D even for that matter. AS much as we would love a camera like this for this price it isn’t going to happen in the near future. If Canon do release something i would imagine it would be in the 10K plus category and maybe even higher. I also think that if Canon were going to do something that they would of done it already. I’m sure they are quite content selling millions of cameras. Below is stats of the top ten cameras sold in Japan that were compiled in May 2010
|Rank||Maker||DSLR Model||Launch Date||Megapixels||Sales Share|
|1||Canon||EOS Kiss X4 (aka Rebel T2i or 550D)||2/8/2010||18.0||14.7%|
|5||Canon||EOS Kiss X3 (aka Rebel T1i or 500D)||3/25/2009||15.1||7.9%|
Source: BNC Ranking data for the month of May 2010
I recently took the plunge and bought a Sony F3 which I will be picking up in a few weeks when I’m in Tokyo. I’m very much looking forward to using this camera and seeing what it can do. I’m not expecting miracles and i’m not expecting it to be way better than a Canon 5D Mark II. What i am excited about is the ease of use, proper audio, quick turn around times, the ability to do live streaming and having a super 35mm sensor in a video camera. Will this camera solve all my problems? No it won’t. I will still use other cameras depending on what the assignment is. With the world’s first rocker zoomable lens for a large sensor coming out at the end of the year or early 2012 this will enable this camera to be used in almost all situations. At the moment for me personally this camera will just replace a lot of the DSLR style work I will do. Once the zoom lens comes out I i’ll be able to use it on almost any assignment and that is the ultimate aim. Am i worried something better will come out? Of course, but as i said earlier if your going to buy something buy t when it first comes out.
2011 is certainly a break through year and i’m sure we are all in for a lot more surprises to come. With technology rapidly evolving and new exciting products coming out it can only be good for all of us.
About Matthew Allard, Aljazeera Senior Field Cameraman, Kuala Lumpur:
Matt has been a Camera/Editor in TV news for 20 years, previously working for both Channel 9 and Channel 10 in Australia. Twice Network Ten Australia’s cameraman of the year as well as being a Walkley Finalist for outstanding camerawork in 2006 (for coverage of the Cronulla Race Riots) and a Logie Finalist for outstanding news coverage 2006 (Bali 9). He has covered news events in more than 30 countries, from major sporting events to terrorist bombings. Based out of the Kuala Lumpur broadcast centre in Malaysia he is an avid user and follower of new technology, shooting stories on HD broadcast cameras as well as new Canon DSLR’s.