April 6, 2014

I’ve talked to a lot of people who use these cameras, finding out the pros and cons of each camera and which features are most important. Summarised in video form, or explained in text form, it’s up to you:

You can watch the main video here:

..or read the in-depth post below.

If you would like to support the show, then feel free to use my Amazon Affiliate links when you buy your next camera, it doesn’t cost you any extra, but it helps me out a lot! 

 

ACCESSORIES

The price tags on these cameras are pretty misleading, because they all need a varying number of expensive accessories in order for them to work properly.
For my shooting style, these things are essential:

  • Enough battery life and recording space for a whole day’s shoot
  • a top handle
  • a moveable screen that works in sunlight.
  • Some form of ND

CANON C100

In this case, the C100 ticks the most boxes.

  • a built in top handle
  • Batteries that will last for hours
  • Built in NDs, meaning you don’t have to be getting out step rings, and transferring filters every time you switch lens. *unless you want to shoot wider than f/4 in sunlight.
  • You can use the same SD cards from DSLRs.

This is one of the few cameras that can be used with without a rig. It’s very ergonomic, and pairs very nicely with a monopod. However, the viewfinder is pretty much unusable, so you’ll need either an EVF or eyecup for the screen if you’re shooting outdoors.

C100-hoodman

C100, lenses, an eyecup, one spare battery, and two 32GB cards, and you’re ready to shoot for the whole day.

BLACKMAGIC PRODUCTION CAMERA 4K

BMPC4K is almost useless out of the box. The screen is far too reflective to work outdoors, so you’ll definitely need an EVF. The internal battery lasts about 20 minutes, so you’ll need a pretty hefty external battery. Plus this camera certainly needs a rig, as it has a very strange form factor. No top handle, so I’d be looking for something like this.  And you’re going to be shooting dual sync sound pretty much all of the time on this camera, it’s pretty useless at audio with the current firmware. No built in ND, so it’s either vari-ND filters, or a matte box. None of this would be a problem in controlled conditions, but most of the stuff I shoot is pretty run-and-gun, so I think this camera would slow me down.

blackmagic-production-camera-4k

The file sizes this camera produces are pretty substantial. You’ll need some serious gigs of fast SSDs to shoot, and then many many terabytes for storing and backing up all of this high quality footage. Plus, you’ll need a pretty decent editing workstation to handle those RAW 4K files..

Be prepared to spend hundreds and hundreds on storage media for this camera…

PANASONIC GH4

This camera is nice in that you can shoot with just the self contained body. Sure, I believe it needs a rig, EVF, and some ND filters in order to function completely, but you can strip it down to the bare bones if you need to. That’s a really nice option to have.

GH4_front_verge_medium_landscape

The GH4’s internal 4K codec is pretty efficient, but not quite like the C100, but close. What I’ve heard is that 4K internal pretty similar to 1080p DSLR footage.. And yet it grade surprisingly well.

IMAGE QUALITY

 

BLACKMAGIC PRODUCTION CAMERA 4K

At the top we have the BMPC4K, with very high bit-rate prores HQ or RAW, shooting at Ultra HD (almost 4K) or 1080p. It’s got a lot of praise as having a fantastic image, so you’re not going to be missing out on much. Plenty of dynamic range, and a very sharp image, with great skin tones. Aliasing and moire are all but gone at UHD, and the global shutter means that you won’t have any problems with rolling shutter. That’s really not something you see in cameras of this price range. Probably the biggest selling point of this camera is the beautiful, cinematic images that you can produce if you get past the limiting features.

Check out this comparison between the ARRI Alexa and the BMPC4K, to see just how impressive this image is:

BMPC 4K / ARRI-ALEXA-Comparison from Scott Bryant on Vimeo.

PANASONIC GH4

The image specs are what makes this camera stand out. For it’s price this camera packs a lot of punch in the department of codecs and bit-rate. If you read the great posts by EOSHD (right here) then you can see how they’ve been getting great results from shooting 4K 8bit, and then converting it to  1080p, 10bit 444. Essentially, you’re downscaling to 1080p, which will give an extremely sharp 1080p image, with a lot more colour information! For me this is huge, because it means you can get an amazing 1080p image with the benefits of 4K (albeit at 8bit) if you need it. And with the ‘brick’ interface as most people seem to be calling it, you can record 200mbps 4K to an external recorder, if you really want to over do it!

At 4K, the GH4 is taking the image straight from the sensor, so aliasing or moire aren’t a problem. However, in 4K, it needs to read out twice as many vertical pixels compared to 1080p.. this means that rolling shutter would be pretty bad, except that they have doubled the readout speed of the sensor. According to EOSHD.com, it’s about the same as the GH3 (more info here).

Berlin Sunrise – Panasonic GH4 pre-production 4K DCI with Cooke S4/i Mini PL lenses from Andrew Reid on Vimeo.

Budapest Cityscape from Joe Simon Films on Vimeo.

 

CANON C100

The C100 is certainly the underdog here, but this camera is a lot better than it looks on paper. It records a highly compressed 8 bit image in camera, which means that you can use the same cards from DSLRs, and it won’t eat up hard drive space on your computer. It does output 422 via HDMI, but according to Lars Lindstrom from the slanted lens the internal codec does a very good job, and he actually prefers the internal over the 422, after grading with it (more info here).

Essentially, Canon have managed to squeeze a lot of colour information into a smaller codec, which means that you save tons on file space, without too much of a compromise in image quality. The general consensus seem to be that you can’t tell the difference, but that ProRes 422 via HDMI will be useful for green-screen work.

In terms of aliasing and moire, the C100 seems to be pretty good. It’s not perfect, but a whole lot better than crop sensor DSLRs, or the 5Dmkii. Rolling shutter is pretty much the same as DSLRs.

South African wildlife – Canon C100 from Owen Kilgour on Vimeo.

LENS OPTIONS

 

BLACKMAGIC PRODUCTION CAMERA 4K

Coming from a DSLR background, the S35 sensor,  EF mount makes a lot of sense to a lot of people. We can use all the L series canon glass, the Tamron zooms, and the Tokina 11-16. Plus, you can get Zeiss primes if you want to spend some money. People use L glass on 16MP photos, so 8.3MP (Ultra HD) will be absolutely fine. There’s plenty of choice, from budget glass to super expensive, so this is certainly my personal choice.

CANON C100

The C100 is very similar to the BMPC4K in that it’s a Super35 EF camera. All EF, and EF-S glass works great!

PANASONIC GH4

For me, this is where the GH4 has issues. If you’re a GH2 or 3 user, then you’ll have no problem making the transition at all, but if you (like me) have invested in Canon glass, then you’ll run in to some problems.

GH4K has a micro four thirds sensor, which results in a 1.6x (1.8x in 4K mode) crop factor compared to cinema standard Super35 (or a 2x / 2.3x4K crop from Full-Frame photographic). There is some pretty nice panasonic glass out there, but I’m a bit hesitant especially since I’ve already invested in S35 glass, and M4/3 lenses won’t work on bigger sensors. Does this camera justify purchasing a new set of lenses? For a lot of people, yes. However, there is a speed-booster which gives the GH4 a S35 field of view, and gives lenses an extra stop of light, as well as better centre sharpness. This is huge, as it means you can use lenses like the Sigma 18-35mm 1.8 and have a constant 1.2 aperture! However, currently this is only for Nikon glass, so it doesn’t help me that much. Metabones claim that they are working on an EF mount, so if that hits the market, then that would be seriously cool. Find out more here.

SLOW-MOTION

The GH4 is the only one which shoots slow-motion. This is a pretty big deal, as there aren’t that many good cameras out there that can provide this. Slow-motion isn’t essential ,but it’s a really nice tool to be able to use. It depends on what you’re shooting, but I think most projects could be improved by having a couple of well-thought-out slow-motion shots. It’s something I’d really like to see in the C100, but just doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. The GH4 records 96FPS (25%) without audio, or 60fps with audio. Both are at a maximum of 1080p. The image is not a great 1080p either, but still better than most of it’s competitors.

LOWLIGHT

I like to think of lowlight performance as being a really important feature, but lately my views have changed quite a lot. With my T3i, I shoot 90% of my stuff at ISO 160, that native ISO. This is because I’m either outdoors where there’s plenty of light, or indoors, but using artificial lights anyway. If you’re not much of an ‘available light’ shooter, then low light performance might not mean that much to you. In theory, it would be nice if we could stop our lenses down indoors, and use less powerful lights, relying on ISO to bring up the exposure, but somehow I just can’t see that happening. All cameras will look best at their optimum exposure, so I suppose it also depends on how picky you are about things like getting the maximum dynamic range. Anyway..

C100

The C100 has got to be the winner in this category, it has one of the best lowlight sensors on the market. It seems that people can be shooting at ISOs over 3200, without feeling too bad about it. Check out this comparison between the C100, and 5D in terms of low light, to see just how well the C100 does:

PANASONIC GH4

The GH4 has had a big improvement over the GH3 in terms of low light capabilities. We can see here from EOSHD that the image does very well compared to the 5D, a camera known for being good in low light.This impressive noise performance is partly due to 4K – 4K scaled to 1080p will appear to have far finer grain. This is another benefit to shooting 4K, and scaling down. Very nice!

EOSHD Low Light Test – Panasonic GH4 vs GH3 vs 5D Mark III raw from Andrew Reid on Vimeo.

BLACKMAGIC PRODUCTION CAMERA 4K

This is one of the downfalls of this camera. It is not a low light camera. Simple as that. ISO 400 is great, but 800 is a pretty noisy image, and it doesn’t go any higher than that.

Check out this article from cinema5D about the lowlight performance of this camera out in the field.

 

 

CONCLUSION:

 

BLACKMAGIC PRODUCTION CAMERA 4K

The image is really quite amazing in good light, and global shutter sure would be nice, but you have to add so many accessories before it is ready to shoot. I don’t really like the idea of lugging a huge rig with big V-lock batteries, EVFs, ND filters or a matte box around at events. I just think the workflow it will slow me down too much on set, not to mention in post production.

Inevitably, hard drives will become cheaper, so after a few years and a computer upgrade, it would work great for a short film, but most of my stuff is far more run-and-gun. Plus, Blackmagic are still having quality control issues at the moment, so it’s a bit of a risk (more info).

PANASONIC GH4

The GH4 seems to be onto a real winner, great image with plenty bit-rate, and 1080p slow motion is something I’m sure I’d use a lot. The low light in 4K really is impressive, with a much finer grain. There’s no need for 4K delivery yet, but it really does help to get the best 1080p image possible.

But the m4/3 mount really puts me off. I’ll need to either buy a full set of new lenses (f/2.8 zooms are pretty expensive), or wait for an EF speed-booster, which would make the GH4 a S35 sensor, being a seamless step up from the T3i. If metabones make a functional speed-booster for my Canon glass, then this will be the clear winner for me. Without the adapter, I think I’ll wait to see how other people end up using it, and what glass people seem to like.

This camera is pretty small, but I think I would choose to rig it out, and get an EVF. However, at least it still functions as a small camera if you’re in a pinch.

C100

And finally the C100. It has so many awesome features, built in NDs are such a big deal, a built in top handle, great battery life, high ISO with no problem, XLR inputs with great audio features. This is a camera that works out of the box, and I think would have by far the most efficient workflow. The codec isn’t great, but it still produces a really nice image, and it’s a whole lot easier and faster to work with those files. But it just doesn’t make sense when the GH4 is cheaper, even after hooking it up with all the accessories, including a new set of lenses.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

So what am I going to do? I’ll wait.

I’m going to keep investing in lighting equipment, and hard drives on my computer, while saving up for the next camera. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt since buying a T3i, it’s that a well lit shot will look pretty darn good regardless of the specs of your camera. The better your lighting is, the less of a difference these camera upgrades make. That’s where the features of the C100 still has a lot of value. Spending less on a camera will teach me to make my films look good without tons of dynamic range, colour space and resolution to play with. As soon as someone comes out with a micro 4/3 to Canon mount, then I’ll start saving for the GH4.

If not, I might go for the GH4 anyway, or maybe a year from now either the C100 will have dropped in price enough that it makes sense for me, or there will be a different camera that suits me even better.

 

Interested in buying any of these cameras? (I earn a commission from the B&H links, so buying from here is a great way to support the show)

GH4 UK                       GH4 US

C100 UK                      C100 US

BMPC4K UK              BMPC4K US

 

 

 

 

 

USEFUL LINKS:

GH4 vs Blackmagic: http://vimeo.com/98324013

GH4 Test: https://vimeo.com/93199353
GH4 Articles from EOSHD:http://www.eoshd.com/content/tag/gh4
GH4 Specs:http://www.panasonic.com/uk/consumer/cameras-camcorders/lumix-g-compact-system-cameras-dslm/dmc-gh4heb.html
GH4 Specs explained video: https://vimeo.com/89515795

C100 vs 7D: https://vimeo.com/64742399
C100 for Events: https://vimeo.com/65872060
Why I chose C100 over the RED Epic: http://nofilmschool.com/2013/05/1080p-better-4k-canon-c100-ryan-e-walters/
Stillmotion thoughts on C100: https://vimeo.com/54914588
Neumann Films thoughts on C100: http://neumannfilms.net/2013/04/05/canon-c100-raw-footage/

BMPC4K test: https://vimeo.com/82269515
BMPC4K vs 1DC: http://www.cinema5d.com/?p=23506
BMPC4K vs RED Epic: https://vimeo.com/86892302
BMPC4K footage (download original media for grading!) https://vimeo.com/82237115

Simon Cade

Filmmaker, and host of DSLRguide. Since I was making my first film age 11, I have always been fascinated by the way films are produced, and the effect it can have on the audience.

  • Hi,

    Nice article, good information.
    I am doing the same like you. I am waiting till there is a product that make me feel like WOW, i want that!

    But i can tell you. Maybe there is a product that you like also very much.
    I think the Blackmagic URSA is a fine machine with a lots of possibilities

  • Ryan

    Great article, wish I had just read this in the first place before spending hours finding the same info.

    Just curious, if you did purchase right now, money not being an object, which would you choose?

    • Thanks Ryan, I’m glad I covered the subject!

      That’s a really tough question.. If money wasn’t an object, then I could kit out the BMPC4K with the required rig, battery, SSDs, fast editing suite, tons of storage, but I still think I’d prefer to shoot with a fully kitted out GH4, with a full set of new lenses.

      Unless of course we were talking about just the camera alone, based on what it available on the market today, in which case I’d go for the C100..

      • Ryan

        Thanks for the help Simon. I purchased the C100 and love it. The low light capabilities in C Log are unreal. Easily gradable cinematic look. I’ll pick up a GH4 for slow motion when the metabones EF adapter is released, although this short has me thinking otherwise. Looks very video to me. Might be good for slow motion though:

        http://vimeo.com/93427556

        • I think with the right picture style, and post work, it won’t look ‘video’. Probably needs to be softened – it’s sharper than an RED Epic, and I’ve heard of softening being used on Epic footage.

          Hey, if you do buy a GH4, consider using my link found here: http://dslrguide.tv/cameras because I’m an Amazon Affilate, which means I’d get a commission. Great way to support the show an’ all.

          Thanks for the comment Ryan!

          • Ryan

            Sorry Simon, I would have done that for the C100 if I had known. Maybe you should put those links into each actual blog posting because I literally ordered it right after re-reading this article. Even better if you became a B&H affiliate. Well, my business is still expanding and I’ll be sure to make my future purchases through the site. Love your blog, keep up the good work!

          • Don’t worry about it dude, the C100 isn’t available on amazon anyway! I’ve updated all the amazon links on my blog, now including this post, so next time it should be fine! Yeah, B&H is a pretty tricky with me being in the UK.. But that’s awesome, I really appreciate it!

  • Roman

    Thanks for the article Simon. It’s well thought out and straight to the point. There is one feature of 4K that i don’t think you’ve mentioned and that is the ability to crop your footage when delivering in a 1080p timeline. This is really useful when shooting interviews as you can make a seamless transition between a close up and wide without having multiple cameras/angles. I imagine run and gun shooters will also love this too.

    As someone who owns a Canon 5d 3 and a panasonic gx7 m43, i’m pretty much sold on m43 for video. You can adapt pretty much any lens mount to M43 which opens the door for vintage and cinema lenses. Also Panasonics are video friendly with histograms, focus peaking, timelapse and my favourite feature ‘ex tele mode’ featured as standard. While Canon DSLR users need to rely on a Magic lantern hack for similar features.

    • Thanks Roman! Yeah, I see that as a possibility, but here’s my issue: a regular shot and a cropped shot are not exactly ‘two shots in one’ the two angles are from the same place. I think having a second camera, at a slightly different angle looks significantly better. But, if you only have one camera, then of course it’s a feature worth having. I’m just not a fan of the laziness that could come with someone always shooting wide and cropping in post. You’re totally right though, it’s better to have it than just 1080p.

      I can definitely see my self shooting 4K 8 bit, and scaling down to 1080p 10bit, so that the file size isn’t as big as 4K 10bit, and then I’m still getting the best 1080p image possible. That way, the recording is internal, and the colour space is great, the grain is finer, even if you don’t have the benefits of cropping.

      I’m always interested to hear from M43 shooters, so thanks for sharing your experience! The GH4 is seeming better and better to me all the time.

  • Mark

    You mention run-and-gun a couple of times in your (great) article – I think that’s a key factor for you. It’s easy for all of us to hang our noses over the Blackmagic but considering that with more gear (more complex gear or even just more bags of stuff to move around) comes more potential problems I’d suggest keeping it simple. Less kit means your likely to be in place waiting and ready for the shot more times (think: the sun is going down and you need two more shots – small/light wins). I’m looking seriously at the GH4 because 4k downscaled to 1080 looks brilliant – plus being smaller means there is more chance of me having it with me. But (like yourself) having invested in Canon lenses it would mean selling it all off and buying new glass. I’m waiting too but only because the 7D Mark 2 (or whatever it’s called) is being announced around the end of August – otherwise “hello GH4”. BTW: check the GH4 UK link to amazon – it currently goes to the GH3 page. Good luck and keep up the videos.

    • Totally agree with you there – let the gear get out of your way, so you can focus on the important stuff! I don’t think you’d need to sell off the Canon glass (unless you’re a still shooter) because metabones are very close to releasing the speedbooster adapter for Canon lenses, which will essentially give the GH4 a super35 sensor!

      Thanks for letting me know, all fixed now!

  • Richard Morgan

    Hello from Hollywood, California. You are a very impressive young man with your knowledge of video production and you have a great presence. May I inquire as to what age are you?

    • Thank you for your kind words! I’m sixteen years old.

  • Simon I have the feeling you are going to be very successful in life.

    Here are two sites you my find interesting:

    http://filmmakermagazine.com/84315-with-4k-gh4-panasonic-comes-out-swinging/#.U_mElfldWPN

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXQpQPvsaQw

  • Mya

    Hey Simon, I’m Mya from Brisbane, Australia 17 years old. Im looking to start my own business that produces music videos, behind the scenes videos, videoshoots etc. Im currently using Fujifilm finepix HS10 but am wanting to invest in equipment that is more advanced. Could you please help me out.

  • Hey Simon,

    I have a T2i with Magic Lantern. I’m not invested in Canon L glass and was thinking about getting the GH4. I mostly do Wedddings and Sweet 16’s here in the States. I’m a bit nervous by getting the GH4 that I’ll have issues with lighting indoors at these live events. I use a 1.4 1.8 50m and 35m. Your Thoughts? Was thinking of getting it for cyber monday.

    • Hi Ariel,

      I personally think the GH4 would be sufficient in it’s lowlight performance, particularly since you have fast glass. From the indoor events i’ve shot, i’ve never needed to go past ISO 800, and that’s at f/2.8. The GH4 is so much less expensive than the competition, meaning you have extra budget for other equipment which is more important than the camera:)

      PS: if you’d like to support the show, and do end up buying a camera, then purchasing via the amazon links at http://dslrguide.tv/cameras earns me a small commission from amazon, without costing you any more.

  • capitalphotog

    I just came across the related video article on Youtube. Since it’s 10 months old, I was curious to see the follow up article … but there isn’t one. I do see the GH4 in your gear list, but the whole discussion didn’t end with the climax I was expecting…

    • Mostly my views haven’t changed. The biggest difference is that we now have the metabones speedbooster for the GH4, meaning that Canon lenses can be used for a super35 field of view, which is nice. Plus we’ve had the introduction of the sony A7s, which is very impressive in it’s lowlight, and dynamic range, although isn’t the most ‘practical’ camera in terms of battery life and ergonomics. The dramatic climax is that while the GH4 is on my ‘recommended gear’ page, I’m sticking with the T3i for a while longer. I’ve found that lighting and audio gear make much bigger differences than things like resolution + dynamic range.

  • Duncan Frost

    As a T3i user, I think the next logical upgrade would be the BMPCC. Only because you can record RAW @ 1080p, no other reason. You can also use SD cards, if you like those. Working with RAW log files is just so awesome, especially if one of your greatest concerns is creating a piece of art. I’ve worked with alexa footage before and have been blown away by how much post-grading freedom I had compared to 8-bit DSLR footage. Another great thing about the BMPCC is that the resolved detail in 1080p is far greater than in most DSLRs I’ve used. I’ve found with my canon DSLRs – when you take 1080p footage and scale it down to 720p, you’re not losing that much detail at all, which says a lot. The major cons about the BMPCC is that it’s light (shaky footage), bad battery time, and significant 2.8 crop factor. However, these can all be turned into pros. It will force you to always shoot with a rig with external power supply (which I don’t think is ever a bad thing for stability), and the crop factor means that you get greater depth of field for your aperture size (compared to anything with less of a crop factor). A lot of people will see that last bit as a con: it seems many indie filmmakers today are obsessed with getting shallow depth of field, but 9/10 well produced films I’ve seen have a surprising amount of depth. So while blackmagic cameras are known to be bad in low light – are they really? When you can shoot wide open and get a deep depth of field, you won’t WANT to increase your ISO much above 400.

    Oh – and if you want to use canon glass, there’s a speedbooster for the BMPCC too.

    • Duncan Frost

      Oh – I just wanted to clarify – this is if you’re doing narrative film projects, like short films and features. For events and documentaries, I think the Gh4 is anyone’s best bet in this price range!

  • Alissa Alexina

    I am waiting too :) having invested in Canon glass for my 60D, which really starts to disappoint in terms of dynamic range and video compression. After getting the first couple of seconds RAW video with the help of Magic Lantern, I became sure RAW (the dynamic range it gives, specifically) is essential for narrative projects and music videos. I am looking forward to BlackMagic Ursa mini which is coming out soon. DO include it in the links above!
    Regrettably Ursa is only capable of 60p, and I do need slow motion. So I am considering the new Sony RX 10 II as a second camera for slo-mo, although the picture is not as good. Or maybe something new comes up? :)