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