I know what you’re thinking. It was a terrible title. I should change it. But I just can’t resist.
All really awful punning aside, purchasing a camera is a pretty difficult decision. I knew for a start that I needed a bread and butter camera for when I’m self shooting. When the budget is available and we need the big guns, we can always hire an Alexa, RED or something in a Phantom flavour. This purchase was going to be the jobs with more constrained budgets where it might be just me shooting and directing where I might need to be out filming at the drop of a hat. I also love telling stories, so I’d be using it for a myriad of personal passion projects.
I’ve been shooting with DSLRs like the Canon 5D and 7D for a few years now and have first hand knowledge of their advantages and limitations. I knew I wanted something with broader functionality that was both easy to use and gave me better, more professional options in post production for colour grading and the like. Something that would help me up the game and quality of every production. And also, XLR inputs – no more painstaking sound sync problems!
There were three cameras I was seriously looking at:
I fell in love with this camera on a beach in Wales. It’s compact, lightweight and produces a lovely image with great latitude in C-log and outstanding low light performance. It really comes into its own when paired with an external recorder like the Atomos Ninja. It’s a great step directly up from the Canon DSLR line and compatible with all Canon glass. Since I don’t own any Canon glass, this wasn’t going to be a factor in my decision.
2. The Blackmagic Cinema Camera.
Just looking at the image quality alone, the Blackmagic is right up there with the best of them. Ridiculous dynamic range and the ability to shoot raw in a package as small as a DSLR – and therein lies the problem. A mini-Alexa to fit in small spaces on tight budgets but with all the usability problems of the DSLR with some new ones to boot. On first glance, it’s also the cheapest of the cameras I was considering but, much like the DSLRs, by the time you add all the accessories to make the camera usable it’s price becomes comparable to the C100.
3. The Sony F3 with S-Log.
The release of a new generation of Sony cameras has brought the F3 down into a comparable price bracket. I’ve always had a bit of an illogical objection to the ‘Sony look’. It has always felt a little too harsh and digital for me. That softened when I saw some beautiful projects shot on the F3 with S-Log. With the right glass in front of the sensor, it’s capable of shooting beautiful images and, when paired with an external 10-bit recorder like the Atomos Samauri Blade, gives you plenty of room to play in the grade.
Each of these three cameras can produce beautiful images, but after much soul-searching and brain-wracking I decided to go with the Sony F3. Here are the big reasons why.
The Sony F3 with S-Log offers up around 14 stops of latitude. This essentially means the camera can capture more information in scenes containing great contrast between light and dark (often a problem when shooting in uncontrolled circumstances). The C100 only has about 12.5 stops and the Blackmagic has around 13 (although it does shoot 12-bit raw).
The F3 has a big advantage here thanks to Sony’s mount. The short flange distance means that it’s possible to buy an adapter for pretty much any type of lens. The camera already comes with a PL mount for cinema glass (handy for the bigger projects). I’ve always loved the look of the Leica-R full manual lenses so I chose to grab a Leica mount and get lens shopping.
Unlike the other two cameras, the F3 offers the ability to shoot 60/50fps. While certainly not for every project, having the ability to shoot slow-motion is a tool to have in the shed. The camera shaped shed.
Above all, it’s great to have a go-to camera on hand which is easy to use, has all the features I need and is able to output to lovely flavours ProRes or DNxHD to drop straight into an edit with no transcoding or syncing in sight.
It’s been great so far, here’s hoping we have many happy shoots together.