Cameras

Starting the cameras conversation is like staring down the rabbit hole: “full frame versus cropped,” “rental versus ownership,” “How many Ks are best?” But what the hell, it’s why we’re here.

When sizing up traditional cinema style cameras, I was impressed with the Panasonic EVA1 and the current version of Canon EOS C200. You can get into either system starting at $7,500. That’s pretty amazing for cameras that capture native 4K, record to industry standard as opposed to proprietary media, and exist within the global EF lens system. As with many indie films, shooting schedules get extended over long periods of time, and owning a base kit allows you to simply rent specialty lenses or support as needed, when needed, to shoot.

The Panasonic EVA1 uses a Super 35mm 5.7K sensor that is over sampled to derive 4K images at up to 60fps, and 240fps at 2K (you need an outboard recorder, such as the Atomos to get the full 5.7K RAW files). The EVA1 has dual Native ISO (800/2500), records in Panasonic’s V-log and boasts 14 stops of dynamic range.

While everyone under the Canon tent was elbowing each other for chance to play with the C700, I picked up EOS C200 and considered what I could shoot with it as the foundation of a camera package. Again, a Super 35mm CMOS sensor that records in-camera 4K DCI and UHD (3840 X 2160), or up to 120fps in HD using SD and Fast card slots. Canon’s new RAW Light format is available only on the the CFast card. The C200 uses the EF mount, so the lens options are essentially limitless.

Both cameras give great bang for the buck, and in the right hands, capture beautiful, big screen images. Subjectively speaking, I tend to favor the Panasonic Vari cam images because the final images feel more cinematic. Objectively speaking, both systems exist, and should thrive, in the indie film ecosystem, as they can be expanded and supported for all manner of logistical, budgetary and creative opportunities.

If you’re a DSLR-style moviemaker, either the Panasonic Lumix GH5 or the GH5s would be great choices, and the same $7,500 gets you a body, a few lenses, and support gear. If your budget line for camera is in fact a shoestring, they deserve a long hard look. The big difference between the two is in the chip. The GH5s is purposefully designed for moviemakers. By removing internal stabilization, Panasonic is able to use what is a lower-res chip with bigger pixels, and the full image circle of the lens, which produces greater latitude, low light capability, and, because it comes with V-LogL, better color. Their explanation for this is that moviemakers will provide the image stabilization via tripods, dollys, Movis, etc. Moving to the Lumix system moves you into the Micro 4/3 realm and again opens the Pandora’s Box of format debate. I’ve shot tons of m43 footage, just like when I was shooting 16mm, and in the right hands it looks great on the big screen.

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