What's the use case? How will "supreme performance" translate to your actual target?

Moving back to the future...

I have a friend who is a battle-scarred corporate videographer and he's always searching for the "perfect" camera. Over the years his idea of what constitutes "perfect" has become more and more of a slippery moving target. And, over the years, his final use of much of his video has transitioned from broadcast and large tradeshow presentations to smaller screens that are less technically demanding.

A few years back we had discussions that circled around whether the Arriflex video cameras were that much better than Red cameras and, if not, what were the tradeoffs between the two. Reds overheated while Arriflexes were frighteningly expensive.

As web video grew and broadcast became ever more specialized the discussion settled in to be about cameras like the Sony FS-7 and its various competitors. Now he's decided that gimbals and constantly moving cameras are all the rage and he's jumped in with both feet; but that's where his hesitation comes in. He remembers the need for all the heavy duty stuff that came along with topflight cameras (really good audio interfaces, SDI connectors, built-in scopes, endless fine adjustments to file parameters, and the really good stuff like 10 bit files and more color information.

But as assignments change and become less resource intensive he's become more and more of a one man band on many projects and putting a giant camera like a Red or a Sony FS7 on a gimbal isn't practical. Now he's looking for the same video gingerbread he's used to but in a package that's easy to float on a gimbal. That means that he, like nearly everyone else, is looking at the Sony A7 series cameras. The final decision on what to use is fraught with compromises.

In still photography we face the same kinds of prejudices. We come from a time when it was really tough to get affordable cameras with more resolution that 24 megapixels so we reflexively reach for the cameras with the most resolution we can buy...even though our use for the cameras as well as the final destination for the files usually argues against that strategy.

We (collectively) are constantly adjusting between our tools and our targets.  Between our irrational consumer demands and the actual needs of the work.

I have always be partial to camera bodies but I'm finally coming around to how much of a difference lenses make versus most improvements in sensor tech. I can see differences between less expensive and less intensively designed lenses and their pricier counterparts. As I spend money on the more expensive options I'm constantly wondering if the results of the better lenses will be obvious in my work when it's viewed on screens of various sizes.

What I'm coming to grips with is that I can see the differences and whether or not these improvements are visible to final clients and audiences I've falling prey to the idea that once you've tasted the good stuff it's hard to trim the budgets and go back to the less expensive models.

Since I shoot a variety of assignments I've convinced myself that while a $2300 50mm f1.4 will not generate results that will make audiences gush when viewing stuff on their iPhones we still do enough lifestyle work that sometimes gets used in large print graphics and that's where the differences in optical quality will show up.

I had coffee with my videographer friend. I think he's had enough success with a Sony A7iii on a gimbal to get comfortable shooting 8 bit video files. For many of his projects the 4K files at any bit depth are overkill. Now he's looking backwards and gauging just how good cameras can be at 1080p. How retro! But, in fact, it makes the entire workflow chain easier for him and faster for his clients.

I guess the important consideration is to match the output of your main device to the demands of your creative target. Get what works for 80% of the workload and plan to rent stuff for that other 20%.

If you have not already bought a larger monitor that does 4 or 5K resolution you might not know how much of an improvement stepping up the quality of lenses can be. I'm stunned when I start comparing material I shot with older lenses against work I'm making with much better lenses. I might need to slow down ( a lot ) on new body acquisition if for no other reason that to free up resources for better "glass."

The new (to me) Panasonic 24-70mm f2.8 Pro S lens is an eye opener for me. I didn't think it would be that much better than my 24-105mm or the lenses I shot with just a few years ago but comparing them on an improved monitor shows so much more different than I expected.

I guess we'd all save time and money if we were more rational in our purchasing. Trying to be ready for everything is that moving target I mentioned. Get everything just right and some one will invent an 8K television that's wall sized. Then we'll all be aiming to deliver into that. It's just a matter of time....


typingtalker said...

I certainly can't predict the future except to say that the arrow points forward toward more pixels, more motion, more frames more post processing more social media and new skills. The constraints will be cost, time and skilled practitioners.

One little piece in BH's write-up of the soon-to-be-released Canon EOS-R5 was interesting ... "In addition, the camera's 8K video capture capability will enable users to extract high-resolution still images from video footage as well as process 8K video into higher-quality 4K video, opening up new possibilities for visual expression ... The camera will also ... support automatic transfer of image files from the device to the image.canon cloud platform."

It may be that Canon is just (!) making a camera that can do anything or they are making a camera that can do a lot of things at the same time -- because clients want high quality stills, high quality (broadcast quality?) video and social media in one session.

typingtalker said...

Kirk wrote, " Get everything just right and some one will invent an 8K television that's wall sized."

Costco is offering an LG 75" Class - 9 Series Nano-8k UHD LED LCD TV for $4,499.99. I can see one or more of these in a trade show booth or a medical or industrial device training classroom.

Anonymous said...

Just wondering if you have found any digital gear that gives your portraits the "Hasselblad w/180mm look"?

James said...

I think at this point, large TVs have become so cheap and ubiquitous that the reason people don't buy bigger, better ones is the lack of rooms to put them in, and the lack of agreement on what to watch on the big TV.