HD is so last year, with a gang of
super-high-res cameras about to hit the streets.
If you thought you’d just come to terms
with switching all your equipment over to HD, then unfortunately this is no
time to sit back and rest, because 4K is coming. The big message from this
year’s NAB Show in Las Vegas was that HD is old hat and higher resolutions are
on the way.
Head is co-founder and director of Fixation Video, a production company that
specialises in making video content for the web.
Canon announced two 4K cameras, and Sony
threw in a camera that isn’t capable of recording 4K now, but will be able to
with a future firmware update. 4K basically gives you four times the resolution
of 1080p. The name, somewhat confusingly, is derived from the horizontal
resolution of the image, which has around 4,000 pixels. 1080p comes from the
vertical resolution of the image (1920 x 1080). Just to further confuse things,
there are a few different resolutions that are called 4K, and some even have
fewer than 4,000 horizontal pixels. But the main thing to take home is that
it’s huge compared with current standards.
Canon helped kick-start the indie DSLR
video revolution by including 1080p video capture on the 5D MklI, and while
its new announcements up the video capture capabilities significantly, they
also push up the price tag. First up is the 1D C, which takes a lot of the
features of the high-end 1D X, but throws in the ability to shoot 4K video - in
this case, 4096 * 2160 pixels, which is 4K by any count. However, it will only
shoot 4K video at 24fps - the frame rate used in film. Canon has enabled other
frame rates on cameras through firmware updates in the past, but for now it’s
a single frame rate at the highest resolution.
Canon ID C can capture 4K video natively, but it’s still a DSLR rather than
dedicated video camera
It will also shoot 1080p footage at frame
rates ranging from 24fps to 60fps. Another interesting video feature is its
ability to output an uncompressed video stream via H DMI, so you can capture it
using an external recorder, much like the Nikon D4 offers. It will only output
up to 1080p via HDMI, though, not 4K. It can also take 18.1-megapixel photos
because it is, ultimately, a stills camera with the ability to shoot video as
well. All this power comes at a price, however, and with a suggested retail
price of $15,000 (around £9300), it’s by no means cheap.
If you’d prefer to shoot with a proper
camcorder rather than a DSLR, Canon has added a new model to join the EOS C300,
which was announced at the end of last year. The C500 is basically a souped-up
C300 with price tag to match. While the C500 can’t record 4K material itself,
it can output an uncompressed 4K feed, which you can then capture with a
suitable external recorder. With a suggested retail price of $30,000 (around
£18,600), though, it’s more likely to be destined for Hollywood rather than
Canon C500 builds on the C300 and adds in the ability to output 4K video to an
external recorder, but at a hefty price
Sony’s latest announcement is the
NEX-FS700, which builds on its DSLR/camcorder hybrid, the FS100. The FS700
features a 4K image sensor, but will only be able to record 1080p material at launch.
However, Sony has announced that it’s planning on releasing a future firmware
update that will enable the FS700 to output a 4K stream, which can then be
captured with an optional Sony 4K recorder.
has a couple of other tricks up its sleeve - most notably the ability to shoot
at very high frame rates, which allows for extreme slow-motion shots. Many HD
cameras can do 50fps, which is twice the 25fps rate of PAL, but often drop
from 1080p to 720p to achieve this. The FS700 can do a staggering 240fps at
1080p, but only for eight-second bursts. If you need a bit longer, then it can
also do 120fps for 16-second bursts or, if you’re willing to drop below 1080p
resolution, it can go right up to 960fps. Unlike the FS100, the FS700 also
includes built-in ND (neutral density) filters, so you can decrease the amount
of light entering the camera, which is useful if you want to increase the aperture
to achieve a shallow depth of field, but don’t want to over expose the image.
Sony is promising a 4K update to the FS700
(left) later this year, hut its high-speed video capture for super slow
motion is its standout feature
officially announced a price for the FS700, but it’s rumoured to cost less than
$10,000 (around £6,200) which is still pricey, but less than Canon’s new
biggest surprise came from add-on video card maker Blackmagic Design, which
also announced it was getting into the video camera game. The Blackmagic Cinema
Camera isn’t a 4K model, but what it lacks in pixels it more than makes up for
in price. With Canon and Sony targeting the high end, there’s a huge gap in the
market for a cheaper camera that offers the image control of a DSLR, but with
the video capture functions of a camcorder. With an asking price of just $2,995
(around £1,850), the Blackmagic camera is just that.
with most of the other cameras on the market, the Blackmagic camera is a
bit of an oddity, but mostly in the right way. It has a 2.5K sensor, so it can
capture more detail than 1080p alone. It doesn’t shoot to memory card, recording
straight to SSD (solid-state disk) instead, which means it can record in the
high-quality CinemaDNG RAW format. This format creates huge files, but
preserves much of the original image data, providing greater flexibility when
it comes to editing. When you record in a compressed format, you’re ultimately
throwing away data, and once it’s gone, it’s gone - there’s no way to get it
back. It also supports ProRes and DNxHD formats, which are less data hungry.
Blackmagic is new to the camcorder market, but
that makes its design (left and below) genuinely refreshing - and it’s very
price to boot
sensors heat up as you use them, and when this happens, it introduces more
noise into the image. To combat this, the Blackmagic camera has a refrigerated
sensor, which should ultimately result in a better results if you’re shooting
for a long time. It supports both Canon EF and Zeiss ZF mount lenses, so you’ve
plenty of choice.
display on the back is touch sensitive, which means you can use the on-screen
keyboard to name your shots with memorable names and add data about the shoot
easily. It features all the standard connectors, such as audio inputs and a
headphone jack for monitoring sound. In addition, there’s a port you wouldn’t
normally see on a camcorder: Thunderbolt. Not only can you use this to quickly
copy footage from camera to computer, but you can use it for monitoring, thanks
to the included Blackmagic UltraScope software.
anything, because Blackmagic has no legacy in camcorders, its design is
completely fresh and leaves a lot of the competition looking lacking. We won’t
know what the actually quality of the camera is like until it’s released in the
summer, but it’s certainly one to look out for. Given the choice between all
the unusual, but incredibly sensible, features the Blackmagic offers, you could
argue that they’re more important than the extra pixels on offer from the