Amidst the buzz and chatter of 4K DSLRs and ever higher and higher quality hybrid still and HD video models, a game-changer has just been unveiled.
The new 5D Mark III has been As an OP reader, your primary interest is likely still shooting, but like many, you may have been intrigued by the ability to shoot extremely good motion with a modern DSLR. If that interest in motion has driven you to look a little deeper into full-blown motion systems, you've noticed that DSLRs are good, but they aren't perfect. At the 2012 NAB show, Blackmagic Design, an Australian company mostly associated with more behind-the-scenes pro video gear, unveiled a new motion-only camera capable of 2.5K resolution. It looks a bit like an enlarged mirrorless camera, and it has no intention to be a hybrid anything.
The most exciting aspect of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera is its sub-$3,000 price tag. Between the price for the body and the fact that you can get it with a Canon EF mount, this camera makes it possible for amateurs as well as professional cinematographers to own a full-fledged, pro-level motion camera.
The camera's 2.5K sensor is higher resolution than HD video, and it records to an onboard solid-state-drive recorder. It's capable of 13 stops of exposure latitude, and it can shoot 12-bit RAW motion files. On the camera back is a large, five-inchmonitor that displays the composition, as well as a number of critical shooting settings. There's a 3 Gbps SDI output, plus a Thunderbolt connection to transfer files quickly to your computer or another hard drive.
The file format is CinemaDNG (analogous to the still DNG format pioneered by Adobe), and the camera comes with DaVinci Resolve software for advanced color correction and UltraScope, which gives you waveform monitoring. The included software used to sell for about $20,000. Blackmagic now sells it as an app for about $1,000, and it's included with the camera. That means in a $3,000 camera you're getting a $1,000 app for a software package that used to cost $20,000. That's a pretty good deal and, more importantly, it means that when you purchase the camera, you're not immediately looking at a few costly software upgrades.
You can shoot in the RAW CinemaDNG format, or you can shoot more manageable and nearly lossless files in Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD. The camera shoots those files in 2.5K or 1920x1080 HD at 24, 25, 29.97 and 30 fps. The sensor is a 4/3rds, which gives you a 2x crop factor so ultra-wide-angle will be a bit tricky, but not impossible. HDVideoPro editor Neil Matsumoto sums up his thoughts on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera from a filmmaker's perspective this way, "In my opinion, the Blackmagic Cinema Camera is the most forward-thinking digital camera system in years, and at this price point, it will definitely disrupt the production industry like the 5D Mark II and RED ONE before it."
Of course, all of this excitement is based upon published specs and trade show presentations. We'll have to wait and see how the footage looks.
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