4K Is Not The Be All and End All.

 

4k is divisive, with some people saying that you absolutely need it, and some saying that you should never shoot in it. Personally, we could talk for hours about whether you need it or not, but why should we? In fact, why should anyone? As far as we can tell, it’s about time we all stopped talking about the necessity of 4k and started focusing on all of the other great aspects that come with modern day cameras. Today we’ll be giving you three examples of great, 4k cameras, that would be outstanding cameras if they only shot in HD. Our hope is that by talking about them, people might start looking outside of resolution when picking their next camera body.

 

Panasonic GH4.

 

We remember the buzz around this camera when it came out. People were absolutely blown away the fact this little camera was shooting 4k internally, and why wouldn’t they be? It was a big achievement, but for us there some other features that might actually top the 4k. Personally, we see this camera as the ideal, one man band camera at the moment, here’s why:

It’s tiny.

GH4 Size Comparison
Size Comparison

As is often a feature of the current mirrorless camera family, this camera is very small and very light. And it’s not just the camera body either, the lenses and accessories for the GH4 are equally compact. If you’re a lone shooter, then we see this as a real advantage because you’re able to stuff more gear into one or two bags. Besides that, you also won’t get so bogged down with a bag full of super heavy equipment if you have a lot of moving around to do.

The other benefit to it’s tiny size is that you’re much less conspicuous with one of these cameras. If you’re on your own then it’s likely that you might be working in the field like event coverage and so keeping out of the way is a real bonus.

It has high shutter speeds.

 

The slow motion capabilities on this camera are well known, but we think that it’s still worth talking about for this particular piece. Slow motion is very desirable at the moment, and whether you love it or hate, 96fps at 1080 is pretty impressive for a camera like the GH4. Considering what you’re paying for it, this camera wipes the floor with cameras that are double it’s price.

Like we said, you may hate the current slow motion trend, but it can’t hurt to have high frame rate capabilities when your clients may well be asking for it.

 

It has a 10-bit output.

If you’ve been working with DSLR, then you’ll no doubt be aware of just how horrible an 8-bit codec can be. Grading can be a real nightmare with such a codec, especially when you start to see those blocky banding patterns come out. The GH4 only offers 8-bit internally, but if you’re using an external recorder then you can take advantage of it’s 10-bit output. This is going to massively improve your potential for grading and make your life a ton easier.

 

Sony A7S.

 

Another 4k camera, another camera that had an absolutely mammoth amount of coverage around its release. Now here’s a camera that has some fantastic specs, and also, rather interestingly, doesn’t shoot 4k internally. For this reason, this camera sums up our point even more because we would still quite happily buy this camera and shoot in 1080. We wholeheartedly believe that this is the camera for people who are shooting events and weddings for the following reasons.

 

It’s low light capabilities.

 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock then you’re probably already aware of what this camera can do in this department. A lot of the original promo material for the A7S centered around the fact that you can shoot in practically no light. We’ve seen this first hand and we would say that you can easily push this camera to say 50,000 ISO and still get really great results. We’re sure that we don’t have to tell you how helpful this could be if the majority of your work takes place in low light situations like weddings.

 

It has a full frame sensor.

 

Canon 5D Mark III
Our trusty 5D in action.

This might not seem like a big deal to some people but personally we’re big proponents of full frame cameras. We got used to, or rather, came to love, this look when we were using the 5d3. Having moved from a small sensor camcorder, we were absolutely blown away by the depth of field that we were getting and that is something that A7S users will be able to get as well.

The other upside to having a full frame sensor is that you won’t have to worry about equivalent focal lengths. If you have a full frame lens, you’ll get the exact focal length that it says on the lens. This isn’t too much of a problem with sensor sizes like super 35 for or cameras that can use a speedbooster, but cameras that use a m43 sensor often have limited choices for wide angle lenses. The A7S won’t suffer from this and has a lot of excellent wide angle lenses for you to choose from!

 

It has a log profile.

 

Similarly to the GH4, the Sony A7S has a Log profile for you to shoot in. This particular profile is SLog 2, a very nice and easy to grade profile. We currently shoot in SLog 3 and whilst SLog 2 isn’t quite as flat, it still gives you a really nice starting point for grading. The downside with this particular camera is that it only shoots in 8-bit, both internally and externally, however the log profile goes a long way in minimising any potential ugliness from the codec.

 

 It’s perfect for stabilisers.

 

Between the compact form factor and the low light capabilities of this camera, it becomes a dream gimbal camera. From a balancing perspective, your camera is unlikely to be too long or too heavy for pretty much any gimbal and also, because of its size, your more likely to be able to use a lower budget stabiliser. This is great if you (like most of us) are working on a low budget.

 

Not only is it great from a balancing perspective, the cleanness of the higher ISOs means you can stop your lens right down. Focusing on gimbals can be a pain, and so increasing your depth of field is only going to make your shots more sharp and more useable.

Sony FS7.

Filming 4K
Filming 4k Slog3

 

 

 

Now we may be a bit biased, but aside from the internal 4k, this camera has some absolutely lovely features. In fact, we would be so bold as to say that this is currently the best camera for corporate and documentary pieces in its price range. 4K or no 4K, this camera is staggering.

 

 

 

 

 It’s dynamic range.

 

The Sony FS7 boasts an impressive 14 stops of dynamic range, easily one of the best dynamic ranges in its price range. What you’re getting with this is the ability to more easily retain detail in your shadows and highlights, leading to less blown out windows and noisy shadows. With cameras like DSLR’s you are often limited to a lower dynamic range, which is why you so often see blown out windows whereas you tend to see this less with cameras with a high dynamic range.

 

For the record, the Arri Alexa also has 14 stops of dynamic range, it just isn’t as affordable as the FS7!

 

 The codec.

 

Let me start by saying that we love the codec in this camera. We hated the h.264 codec to the point that we went out of our way to shoot raw. Now, we get to use a really lovely internal codec, with no extra effort required to do anything with it. From our point of view, the file sizes for 4k video are pretty reasonable and we can get around 30 minutes on a single 64gb XQD card.

 

The other thing that we love about the internal codec is that it’s 10-bit which is an absolute dream! The codec makes working with this camera in post very easy, at least from a quality point of view. The lack of 8-bit banding alone makes this camera very, very appealing.

 

It’s modular nature.

 

The reason that we think the FS7 is perfect for documentary and corporate video work is that it is very modular by nature. This means that is completely adaptable in situations where you have limited time or can only get your shot once. What we mean by ‘modular’ is that there a whole load of attachments that you can get to enhance your camera. To name but one, there’s the XDCA-FS7, which gives the camera the ability to output raw video. For us this extends the life of the camera, and whilst it is expensive, it will most likely be cheaper than buying a new camera. Similarly, there are lots of components that can be changed to improve the general performance of the camera and there are already quite a few rigs and accessories for you to choose from.

SLog 3.

 

4K Slog3
Slog3 still from our FS7 footage.

It’s worth pointing out that now that this camera actually has a lot of different shooting profiles for you to choose from. You have standard, rec. 709 profiles, the various hyper gammas, Slog 2 and finally SLog 3.

 

We mostly use SLog 3 (although we have used hyper gammas a few times) and we think that it’s worked wonders for the quality of work that we’re now producing. You get a very flat image to work with and this allows you to take advantage of the full dynamic range. It also gives you a lot of room to play with whilst grading, meaning that you get a little bit of leeway with things like your exposure.

 

We should add here that whilst you do have a bit of wiggle room, you should always aim to expose your footage correctly!

 

 

Conclusion

You’re probably thinking “ that’s all well and good, but what does it really matter?” Well, we’ll tell you. The more focus we put on 4k, the less we’re putting on arguably more important camera functions. It’s counter productive to worry or complain about 4k when there are great cameras that have it, and great cameras that don’t. Instead, our advice would be to start thinking about dynamic range, codecs, shooting styles, how future proof a camera is, low light and frame rates and how they fit into your own particular requirements.

 

To sum it all up, comparing your camera with others, or putting other cameras down is just a waste of your own time. Love it or hate it, cameras are moving towards 4k and we predict that sooner or later the hype will die down and it will become the norm.

 

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