Category Archives: Cameras

Personal comments on the 2018 CML camera evaluations

I want to stress that these are purely personal impressions and that you should check out the raw files at  https:/cmltests.net  and also get your hands on a camera to see how it feels for you before making any decisions.
When we were shooting we used an Odyssey and a Canon 24″ monitor to see what we were doing.

In all cases the EI mentioned is what was required to give a “correct” & neutral picture in Resolve with no tweaking. Highlight response is the point where the small grey square within the white square on the CML chart disappears.  Shadow level is where I find the noise to be unacceptable beyond this point.

Alexa Mini: Ours came with open gate and raw licenses and an Amira V/F, it fired up quickly and had very clear and easy menus.

I would rate this camera at an EI of 1000 with a highlight latiude of 5 stops but the shadows only give 2 stops. I’d set the camera too EI 800 and my meter to EI 320-400 to get the best compromise between highlights and noise. DR beyond the charts is 7 stops.
Note:- Bear in mind that yellow clips a little before any other colour.

BMD Ursa MP: We didn’t have the V/F for this and used the swing out monitor that is built in, it fired up quickly and had a very clear and easy to use menu.

I would rate this camera at EI 800 with a highlight latitude of 3.5 stops and a shadow level of 2 stops. I’d set the camera to EI 800 and my meter to EI 500 to get the best results from this camera. DR beyond charts is 5.5 stops.
Note: Yellow again clips earlier than other colours.

Canon C200: We used the touch screen V/F that comes with the camera, it fired up quickly but the menus do take some getting used to! There’s a lot there but it’s not all easy to find.

I would rate this camera at EI 800 with a highlight latitude of 3.5 stops and shadows of 2.5 stops.
I’d set the camera to EI 800 and my meter to EI 500 to get the best results from this camera. DR is 6 stops beyond the charts.
Note: Once again yellow clips earlier than other colours.

Canon C700 FF 6K to 4K in camera: We had the full V/F on this and it’s a lovely one 🙂 the menu system was a little easier to use. Recording to XF-AVC internally was easy but recording the RAW output to 6K and 4K relied on using an external Codex recorder which results in a camera that is too big and ungainly to use. No issues with startup time. We had all the usual issues licensing the Codex reader, it shouldn’t be this hard. I think Canon really missed a trick here by not releasing a FF camera that included the raw recording from the C200.

I would rate the camera at EI 500 with a highlight latitude of 3.5 stops and shadows of 3.5 stops.
DR is 7 stops beyond the charts.
I’d set the camera to 800 and my meter to 500 to get the best from this camera.
Note: Again yellow clips early.

Fuji X-H1: I’m not going to comment on the V/F, it’s a DSLR…same for the menus 🙂 lots of them but if you’re a DSLR user they make sense! we used flog recording at 200Mbps the best it can do and although I’m not impressed with the amount of sharpening and NR that was present in the standard setting it is possible to reduce these considerably and I’m experimenting with this at the moment.

I would rate this camera at EI 1000 with a highlight latitude of 3 stops and shadow limit of 2 stops (see notes). DR 5 stops beyond the charts.
I’d set the camera to 800 and my meter to 500 to get the best from this camera.
Note: this camera clips hard in the yellow and red well below the 3 stop point so be careful.

Kinefinity Mavo: it fires up pretty quickly but some of the menus are very confusing, separate settings for EI and ISO?? It’s not ready for general consumption yet, they need to get their post workflow sorted. When they do it could be a very good camera.

I would rate the camera at EI 800 with a highlight latitude of 4 stops, I’m not sure what the shadow latitude is because of post issues but it looks like it could be very good indeed.
Note: I haven’t been able to do a full and good assessment of this camera or the Terra because of the post workflow issues.

Kodak 5219: Checking on a few things about the scans before I post but by far the best highlight latitude of anything we tested, about 6 stops, but that’s where our tests ran out, it could be more. I’d rate it at EI 320 to get the best from it but that’s what I’ve found with all film stocks. They respond well to 2/3rds over.

Panasonic Varicam:  I asked for a Pure and got a V35 with a Codex recorder added to the back, nightmare of a huge ungainly camera, the Pure solves this. A clear and sensible menu system. Once again the Codex system proved difficult. It may be wonderful with a specialist DIT but for an ordinary DP it’s a pain.

I’d rate this camera at EI 800 with a highlight limit of 4 stops and shadows of 2 stops. Thats 6 stops beyond the chart DR.
I’d set the camera at 800 and my meter at 400 to get the best from this camera.

Panasonic EVA: We recorded this on an Inferno in ProRes raw so you’re going to have to wait! what we can see looks good but what we see that is bad could be due to the post process.

RED Gemini: We used this camera with the 5″ V/F mounted on the front and it was easy to use and setup.
I’d rate this camera at EI 800 with highlight latitude of 3.5 stops and shadow latitude of 3 stops. That’s 6.5 stops beyond the charts DR.
I’d set both the camera and my meter at EI 800 to get the best from this camera
Note: The red chip  at 25% clips as a hard orange at half a stop below maximum latitude so be careful with reds with this camera, overall I really like it.

RED Monstro: We had to stop for lunch to black shade this camera, it is very much the RED camera look that I don’t like.
I would rate the camera at EI 500 and highlights clip at 2.5 stops with shadows going at minus 2.5 stops.
That gives 5 stops beyond the DR of the charts.
Note: Reds and Yellow clip hard at plus 2 stops so the overall latitude is really 4.5 stops unless you’re very careful. I’ve had people say I could get better results in RedCine but this is a test on a level playing field.

Sony Venice: It fires up quickly, changes modes quickly, has an easy menu, is compact and balanced.
I’d rate this camera at EI 400 with a latitude in the highlights of 4 stops and 2.5 in the shadows.
this is 6.5 stops beyond the DR of the charts.
I’d rate both the camera and my meter at EI 400 to get the best from this camera.
Note: The highlights clip slowly and smoothly and the colour is not that “Sony Look” it also has the most consistent colour across the exposure range.

Finally, check out the raw files if you care about images http://cmltests.net/Digital-Cinematography-Camera-Evaluations-2018.html

RAW camera files available now

I’ve just setup and new CML site that is linked to the main one.
The new site is specifically for the camera raw files from the Digital Cinematography Evaluation sessions.

At the moment raw files from the 2017 sessions are available, once we have finished the 2018 in a month or so the new files will be uploaded and these will be removed.

The new system is insanely fast with multiple SSD’s and also multiple processors.

I would like to point out that this is a site for grownups, if you don’t know what you’re doing please don’t waste your time.

The files are large, very large, averaging 8GB per file.

I will not be answering queries about these files unless the query is from a CML subscriber.

https://www.cmltests.net

The next camera evaluations

In preparation for the next round of camera evaluations I asked for comments and got a lot regarding the type of charts I was using.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I think we may have it all backwards.

Conventional rec 709 TV has a DR of at most 6 stops and if the charts are slavishly adhered to only 5 stops.

However, once the knees and hypergammas etc are taken into account we are actually working with 8 stops at least.

10 bit log-c will contain about 11.5 stops of DR and that’s more than the best available domestically HDR sets can handle.

Of course that limitation isn’t the camera, it’s the record format and that’s why I record RAW for these tests with a few odd exceptions that are forced on me like rendering 6K to 4K before recording.

So what are the tests trying to do?

I think that we, or I, have lost focus on this.

The tests are to find out what the usable DR of the cameras is.
To establish where the highlights actually begin to clip.
To see what colour distortions appear with exposure change.
To see if there are motion artifacts created by the cameras.
To check what happens to skintone with the different cameras and different lighting.
I acknowledge that I can’t check all lighting and camera combinations, although this would be a really useful experiment.

This is why I created the stress test chart, it’s not designed to show how a camera reacts to rec 709 conditions, it’s designed to see how far a camera can be pushed until it breaks.

THAT is what I’m interested in, it’s the kind of information that will affect how I shoot and what I use.

Just as ACES is designed to work regardless of output space, that can be changed later, so the CML tests will be conducted regardless of any “Standards”. We will try and establish the limitations of the cameras.
Of course some of you will only ever see those results within the limitations of a 709 or sRGB environment. They will at least show you what happens within that environment.

For those who want more I will make available both EXR’s in 16 bit ACES and, eventually, the original camera files.

I am now working out how to get the most information out of these evaluations. Part of this will be using a “standard” tungsten light source, the old fashioned kind that creates light by burning something 🙂 It will also involve charts lit at different levels within the one shot.
Which charts is another matter!
I’m leaning towards a CML stress Test and a Macbeth on either side of the frame, one side lit “normally” and one side 3 stops over. In the middle will be a Kodak grey scale plus card as this has been my reference for a very long time. A movement test will be below the Kodak chart. If I can get a small CDM chart then I will probably squeeze it in below the Kodak chart just for the traditionalists. Oh and a CamBelles chart will feature somewhere 🙂

I will also try and do some comparisons between faces lit with tungsten and LED light. This will include the DSC VFX chart.

Next Camera Evaluations – request for comments

First, my apologies for cross posting, but if I can’t break my own rules…I’m also posting on Cinerant.

The next camera evaluations are shooting in three weeks and I’ve been thinking about how to change them from previous ones, bearing in mind comments I’ve received.

I’m going to try to move away from marking =/- on the charts, it will be purely stop and shutter angle for this test.

I will light to 200fc and set the cameras to the manufacturers recommended EI.

We will shoot from T1.5 to T 22 at 180 degrees and then T22 at 90 & 45 degree shutter.

The tests will be shot both tungsten and LED daylight. Tungsten being the most “accurate” source I can use. I’d love to take the tests to Australia to shoot across a window of 11 am to 1pm across the weeks it would take to shoot the tests in real daylight! The LED’s will be the most commonly used and should show what happens in a “real-world” environment.

The evaluations will be available to download as EXR’s in ACES space from the ODN, and hopefully, depending on cost and support, I’ll also make some of the original camera files available. I had intended to do this but we lost a number of sponsors this year and may not be able to afford it.

I will also upload QT files to Vimeo, these will be UHD and 422, I’ll let them convert them to H264, and also H264 directly to YouTube.

The compiled files that I upload will be all matched at 18% grey, matching only the green level as I don’t intend to colour correct them in any way. Everything will go through ACES with standard IDT’s and appropriate ODT’s.

This time I will make observations as to which EI I think the cameras should be exposed at to get the best images, this will be basically based around noise levels.

So if you set the camera to an EI of 800 but the noise is better at 500 I’ll say so, I’ll also upload a LUT that adjust for you setting the camera to 800 and your meter to 500. This will be a LUT in 2 forms, one that is “naked” and just needs to be dropped into the ACES pipeline in Resolve and the other will include the appropriate IDT’s and ODT’s to “correct” the image on 709 monitors on the floor.

I guess I’m going back to the days when I published GRR’s for various film stocks 😊

OK, beat me up now.

Cinegear update

It’s 9 days and 5 presentations at 2 conferences later 😊 that’s not including the panel at CG.

A shattering 2 weeks in total for me.

What is there that sticks in my memory from CG?

Not a lot really.

Lots of lenses, I’ll be interested to see how many are around in a couple of years. Major question about whether lenses can be universal i.e. S35 and FF. Personally I doubt it. Oh you’ll get decent results doing this but I’m not interested in decent results, I aspire to something better.

Just as lenses become more affordable I suspect that for serious cinematographers the use of rental companies for lenses will grow not lessen. This is good news for rental companies as I also suspect that they’re taking a hammering on the camera rental front. Too many decent cameras at affordable prices. Is an extra stop or so worth $70K+? yes I know that there are other issues involved but it seems to me that the distinguishing factor is tending more and more to the glass.

In the dim and distant past I used to swap back and forth between Ultra Primes and S4’s and of course my personal S3’s. Now there are a lot more really good distinctive lenses available. I make the point of distinctive because a bland neutral me too lens is not what I want.

This is why I mentioned rental companies and lenses, I can totally change the look of any camera with the lenses I choose, the choice of camera is becoming less important as they all get so good.

The other main memory from CG is the amount of gimbal kit available, some good and some horrendous. It’s all moving forward at a tremendous rate but I keep seeing abortions of rigs that will have you in the arms of a chiro in a very short time.

Lighting, so many LED’s and still very variable colour. I can’t wait for the Academy to get a move on with SSI, a rating system designed for us, not clothing manufacturers (CRI) or TV stations (TLCI)  but for filmmakers.

Cameras are now all getting so good that the ergonomics and operability in general is becoming a huge factor. There are still to many people more obsessed with how a camera will fit in a drone or a gimbal rather than how it handles in the majority of conditions. It’s great to see cameras that are a decent size that work without the need to hang all kinds of shit off them.

Part of the July camera evaluations will be start-up time and how many add-ons you need to make it useable. I’ll also include weight in a basic shooting configuration including recording media and batteries for X hours of shooting. The X is still to be decided, probably 12…

It’s good to see new filters appearing, thanks Schneider and Tiffen.

Back to lighting, lots of DMX control which is great but maybe not enough rugged basic docco lights with accurate colour and not excessive weight.

The event is just not long enough, there are some great panels but if you want to see the kit you have to skip them and if you want to chat to people, and CG is the best place I know for this, you have to skip the panels and the kit!

It needs to be at least another day, I know that this is a pain for the equipment exhibitors but… Maybe a day of only panels on the Sunday??

High ISO-C200-EVA-URSA-MP

In this test I set the C200 & EVA to ISO 2500 and the Ursa mini pro to 1600 (its highest ISO)

I then took the rushes into Resolve in ACES cct and adjusted offset and black level only to match them.

It’s interesting how good both the EVA, noted for its high ISO capabilities, and the C200 are when pushed. Unfortunately the Ursa can’t keep up in this comparison.

C200-EVA-UrsaMP I’m going to duck and cover now

This has proved to be a much harder evaluation than I expected.

Normally it’s a very straightforward assessment of clear and defined responses. Where do they clip? What colours distort? How does the colour change with exposure? How much noise at various underexposure levels and so on.

This time it’s purely personal, how do they feel? How easy are they to use? How robust are they?

I was going to do this as a 3 stage evaluations, I’ve already posted the technical shoot material and I had intended to post general material that I’d shot but whats the point? There’s a ton of this kind of stuff on the web. So…

My overall impression of the images is that they’re all very good but there are caveats.

I’m going to split the results into categories.

1  Record formats

Canon C200 records in C-RAW Lite which is a variable compression ratio RAW codes of between 3:1 and 5:. It varies the compression ratio based on content and motion.
Canon provide software to translate this RAW material into various formats if you can’t work with the C-RAW. The range of output formats and options is good, ProRes 444, DPX 10 & 16 bit and EXR, colour gamut of Cinema, 2020, P3 & BT.709, Gamma of CLog2, Clog3, BT.709, Wide, DCI.
This is a little odd as the only gamma available in the ACES IDT is CLog3 and surely that’s a case for CLog2 if there ever was one!

EVA records in, at best, H264 150 Mbps, this is not a professional level codec as far as I’m concerned, this is a format that belongs in HDSLR’s and “prosumer” kit. They are promising 400 Mbps and RAW but when?
This is a killer for me. Right now this camera is out of the running because of this.

Ursa MP records in RAW to CDNG in uncompressed 3:1 & 4:1 compression as well as all formats of  ProRes from  4444 XQ downwards. CDNG works really well in Resolve but can be a little harder to get the best out of in some other software.

The winner in this category is marginally the Ursa MP but it’s only a hair ahead of the C200, the EVA has fallen and is struggling to get up here.

2 Overall feel and build

There are major differences here and they will probably have a major effect on which camera you prefer.
They split into 2 categories, traditional and well, I’m not sure what to call it 🙂

The Ursa MP fits into the traditional category, kitted out with the shoulder mount and the V/F it feels and operates pretty much as any docco camera that I’ve used in the last 40 years. There is a clear line from 16mm to Betacam to HDCam to Varicam to Amira. If you are used to using a camera like this then the UMP will feel “right” everything is where it should be and it all just falls into place.
It’s built like a brick shithouse and will take a huge amount of abuse and just keep on going.
The biggest downside is weight,  (camera departments seems to be filling up with wimps at the moment ) and battery life. Having said that it’s lighter than the other cameras I’ve mentioned in the lineage and it’s less power hungry. It’s only in comparison with the mini generation that it feels heavy and power hungry.
I also found the Cfast slots a bit difficult to get cards into correctly.

The C200 and the EVA are very similar on first impression but as you spend time with them you start to find the differences.
They’re very small differences, the Canon is a little heavier but it feels more substantial, the doors over the card slots are more robust, the V/F is better mounted (more about all the V/F’s later) it’s all very small stuff but I think the Canon feels overall a more expensive camera and it is, about $100 more 🙂

3 Autofocus

Well there’s a clear winner here, the C200 is way better than either of the others both of which tend to hunt. I tested with new lenses and also with 12 year old lenses.

4 Built in V/F & menus

The UrsaMP is the winner for display here it has a larger and clearer display and a wonderful menu structure that is really clear and simple to use. However, the range of movement is very limited and obstructs the dial you need to use to adjust iris. It doesn’t fold out past 90 degrees from the camera body and this can make it awkward to see the screen and the on-body controls you are trying to alter.
The EVA is in a better position than the Ursa but the mount is not as solid as it needs to be and also has the 90 degree limitation. The supplied V/F hood was collapsing when I got it and I had to remove it. It would have been a good addition if it had worked.
There are 2 menu structures, one accessed by pressing the menu button which takes you to a what I can only describe as a traditional Sony type menu, I hate it. Pressing home turns the entire V/F into an Alexa like menu which is a joy to use even though the touchscreen is a tad reluctant to respond at times.
The C200 is in the same position as the EVA but is much more rigid, it also fold 180 degrees to go flat to the camera body. It’s much easier to adjust things on a tripod with the screen at about 120 degrees.
Menu display buttons and the joystick for adjusting everything is on the V/F and it takes a bit of getting used to. There’s also a function button and joystick at the back of the camera that controls the main settings that you’re likely to need.

The C200 is a clear loser in the menu competition.

5 Workflow

The C200 works fine in Resolve and Prelight as does the EVA, the Ursa MP is a little limited in Prelight but that’s an issue between BMD and Filmlight…
I had no problems working with any of the cameras other than needing to go through an extra software stage if I wanted to use the Canon in CLog2!! However, that software stage also gave me the option of going straight to 16 bit EXR and I love that.
I’m sure that there are data wimps out there who will complain about raw from both the C200 and Ursa MP, grow a pair!

6 Conclusions

In the end it comes down to what kind of camera do you want?

If you want a traditional workhorse that produces great images and will integrate into a conventional workflow easily and that has TC, genlock etc then the clear winner is the Ursa Mini Pro.

If you want a lighter camera for drone work or observational type documentaries and all kinds of lighter more personal work then the C200 edges ahead of the EVA. The clear differential here is recording capability and autofocus.
If you want to shoot observational quick moving type jobs then good AF is essential.
There are issues with the C200, no T/C and no Genlock limits what it can be used for but that’s probably just a market segment thing from Canon. Also why no CLog2 from monitoring out?

There’s also the question of lens mounts,  The Ursa MP is user interchangeable and takes just about anything, the obvious main choices being EF & PL, the C200 can be changed  from EF to PL at a Canon service centre. The EVA is EF only.

So, you pays your money and you take your choices…

C200-EVA-UrsaMP-First files for evaluation

OK, I’ll be doing this evaluation in stages.

  1. This post which includes links to RAW or Highest quality possible QT files from each camera of resolution and various colour charts.
    All cameras are in the same position with the same lens and lit with a Fill-Lite 200
    All cameras were auto white balanced on the Abel-Cine resolution chart. Focus was first on auto and then checked manually on a Convergent Design Odyssey with focus assist activated. I was also feeding the images to an Eizo CG318 4K monitor.
  2. I’ll post location footage shot with the cameras in various situations these will be web compressed at 4K
  3. I’ll post my unvarnished opinions of the cameras and whether I’d use them and if so what for!

The test files are here bear in mind that they’re camera originals and therefore very large files.

 

Lower priced professional cameras are bloody good!

This is a preliminary comment on cameras at about $6K-$7.5K

This is purely personal and is on no way meant to be objective, unlike the CML evaluations which have no personality involved and are purely objective.

I’ve had the Ursa Mini-Pro the longest and have only shot the CML evaluations with the C200, I’m waiting for a Panasonic EVA. I rejected the FS7 during the evaluations because I hated the way it felt and its menus. I did say that this was not objective!

The more I look at the images from the UMP & C200 the more impressed I am. I’m shooting both RAW and with a small amount of compression, in the case of the UMP 3:1 and the Canon is variable between 3:1 to 5:1 depending on the subject/action.

I really like them both and the EVA is going to have a fight on its hands to be better, or even as good!

I wouldn’t hesitate to use either of these cameras for professional work. The images from both are great, the C200 has slightly better colour, the greens & yellows are purer and to me more accurate but it’s not a big thing and easily adjustable in Resolve.

The style of working with them is very different, the UMP is fitted with the shoulder mount and the V/F. It’s quite heavy in todays terms and light compared to what I’m used to 🙂
To get it to function comfortably on my shoulder I’ve had to move the top handle as far forward as I can and the shoulder mount as far back as it’ll go, but then I’m a pretty big bloke. It balances well with a V Lock battery on the back and a small lens on the front.
The battery life is good but not nearly as good as the C200.
This camera works really well used in the way that I’ve used cameras for the last 45 years or so. It’s a progression from the 16mm cameras to Betacam’s and the F900 and Varicam 2700 to Amira. It feels like a “real” camera and functions like one as well. Anyone used to using a camera like these will feel right at home.

The C200 is much lighter and is really best used with the touch screen V/F and held in one hand. It’s a very different way of working from “traditional” cameras but it can work really well. With IS in lenses and AF facial tracking you have a whole new world to explore. I’ll post more about this in a month when I have had a chance to shoot in more practical situations. Initial reaction is that battery life is outstanding and the camera feels very light.

In terms of dynamic range they both start to get a bit noisy for me at 2 stops under and clearly hold highlights at 3.5 stops over with the C200 having a slight edge in the highlights and the UMP a slight edge in the shadows.
They also both feel solid and professional with the UMP feeling like a solid brick shithouse, in the best possible taste! This is a camera that will take a hammering.

They both work well in preset colour mode and load into Resolve with the standard IDT’s and no correction resulting in good images, as usual I’d suggest reducing the contrast setting to around .85.

My only complaint about the UMP so far is that the extension handle is too short but as it uses a standard rosette I just replaced it with one of the extensions from my ET Mantis shoulder mount and its now perfect.

I’m testing with various AF stills lenses and the C200 is noticeably quicker to focus, the UMP has a tendency to hunt with older lenses.

I’m struggling to find anything bad to say about either of them.

A complete comparison with images and illustrations of the UMP, C200 & EVA will follow.

Autofocus to IMAX!

I wrote a while back about shooting an entire movie with autofocus..

Autofocus for an entire movie

On Saturday I saw the results projected and not just projected but on an IMAX screen!
This film was never intended to be seen this size, we knew we were shooting for TV screens.
I was sitting in the front row, not by choice but I had to be there so that I could quickly take part in the Q&A afterwards.

So, did it work?
Well yes, no more soft shots than any other movie I’ve seen on the large screen recently. In other words not a lot at all.

The entire movie was shot either with autofocus and face recognition or controlled via a tablet with simple finger presses.
We learned how to quickly switch between modes while we were shooting and also what we could do during a shot.
The one thing we thought was missing that would have helped a lot was a couple of preset positions that we could load as escape positions. Preset so that if the face recognition lost track during a fast move towards camera we had emergency goto’s in the most important positions. Happily Canon have now added this facility.

I said at the time that I probably wouldn’t do a movie like this again, having looked at the results on an IMAX screen I now think that this is the future.
At present you are limited in your choice of lenses and camera.  Canon are moving in this direction faster than others. I can see how they could, if they wanted, interface the /i info from say Cookes to the cameras internal software and an external focus motor and so enable this for any lenses with /i.

As we move to bigger and bigger sensors we need to look very closely at this kind of technology.
There are other solutions out there but they are all expensive and somewhat complicated.
This was very very simple, even a cinematographer could operate it!