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Old May 21st, 2008, 09:42 AM   #1
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Who will make the Pentax K1000 of HD video cameras?

Or, if you prefer, the Bolex of the digital realm?

A no-nonsense, no frills, fully manual, inexpensive, well-built camera that yields consistently professional results and records on standard, inexpensive media?

The kind of camera you use as a student and never, ever get rid of because it's simple, basic, never becomes obsolete and produces beautiful images?

It might be Scarlet, (though I'd have been happier if Red released it with an interchangeable lens -- say a C-mount or a Nikon F- mount). Any other contenders?

Or, is this a market no one wants to touch?
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Old May 22nd, 2008, 07:34 AM   #2
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It's a market no one wants to touch.

Fully manual...well built...consistently professional results...

Sounds like a pro camera to me. The consumer isn't interested in fully manual. That requires reading the owners manual. It also requires some amount of practice to become semi-proficient with the instrument. Witness the prevalence of 'Easy Mode' on cameras, still and moving. What the consumer wants is brain dead simplicity. And as Chris Hurd has pointed out, price is generally more about feature sets than anything else.

Given the rapid evolution of camera sensors & codecs, it is ALL becoming obsolete. And if it doesn't keep pace, it rapidly becomes a commodity product. There's little profit in a commodity product. Which is another reason the manufacturers keep cranking out new product. To stay ahead of the curve of becoming a commodity product.

You can look ahead to the next new thing with RED. But that just proves my point about it ALL becoming obsolete. How about looking behind? The Canon XH-A1 recording to miniDV tape? Or something from Sony? JVC? Panasonic? I'm agnostic. I'm just really impressed by the posted footage I've seen from that camera.
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Old May 22nd, 2008, 11:15 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Bill Koehler View Post
It's a market no one wants to touch.
I agree. The video realm has always been gee whiz, golly gee, lookee what I can do.

And, as a professional, is it something you really want? The new crop of cameras have a lot of cusomization of image properties--with film, you just change the brand and type of film. There really can be no comparison.
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Old May 22nd, 2008, 12:21 PM   #4
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Or, with video, you get the look you want in post-production, not in the camera. Isn't that Red's philosophy in a nutshell?

In which case, you just want the camera to deliver the cleanest possible image with no fuss or muss and no extraneous bells and whistles.

This is part of what I mean. Why pay for all the gamma, knee, white balance shift, etc.,etc. in a camera, when you can reproduce much of this in post, where you have much more control over the final image?

It seems someone should be making a camera that's bulletproof, simple, cheap and really, really, good.
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Old May 21st, 2009, 03:24 PM   #5
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Well, here I am a year later, and still waiting.... but at least there are some more contenders for this title, now:

1. Revamped Scarlet (love the customizable sensor and lens mounts, HATE the proprietary EVERYTHING ELSE)

2. Ikonoskop a-cam (I love the ergonomic design, S16-size sensor, C-mount and Sony battery, HATE the proprietary storage media)

Neither of these qualify as cheap, exactly... and they're the very definition of vaporware. Who knows if we'll ever really see either one?

3. HD-capable DSLRs (D90, MkII, GH-1, K-7) So tantalizingly close.... little or no manual control on the Nikon, Canon and Pentax, so they're out. The GH-1 looks like the closest to what I'm looking for, though the AVCHD codec makes me a bit nervous. I wish Panasonic had picked a sensor size that was either a bit bigger, so you could use 35MM SLR lenses without cropping, or a bit smaller, so you could use C-mount 16mm lenses without vignetting. It would also be nice to have a stripped-down full (OK, mostly!) manual version, so you could save some bread.

Getting there, though.... maybe in another year?
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 12:52 AM   #6
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I believe we are getting very close to some great announcements, though.
I think Canon has been dropping the biggest hints about what's to come.

The (still) lenses are there, the sensor is there, the codec engine is there.

They likely are thinking about 35mm lenses with power zoom lens function for the cameras to come. If the EOS mount doesn't already support that, it could be hell. I noticed the new Pentax K-7 lens mount does.

Very likely a big, big problem is that it requires not just coming out with a new camera, but revamping entire camera line(s). You can play mind games for yourself as to how this affects Panasonic & Sony. In the case of Canon it would likely mean the XL and XH lines merge as everything gets a 35mm lens mount. Another thing that likely will get rethought is the Jackpack. As HDMI output has become standard and HDMI to HD-SDI boxes can be had for under $400 USD (see link), going forward is charging $3K USD for the Jackpack going to fly?

AJA | HA5 HDMI to SD/HD-SDI Video and Audio Converter | HA5

And the final and most important thing is, how does the new pricing get set?

What I don't like about the DSLR's with video function we've seen so far:

1. No Live HDMI or video output you can connect to either external monitors or recorders. To me this is a real biggie. I'm thinking the new Matrox MXO Mini could be really sweet.
2. Lack of manual operation. Punch the record button, see varying levels of auto mode in both audio and video. I don't think the Panny GH1 or Pentax K-7 are anywhere as bad as the Canon D2M3 & T1i in this regard. I can be wrong.
3. Specific to GH1 is a weak 1080i codec and the 2x crop factor plays havoc with 35mm wide lenses actually giving a wide view.
4. Specific to the Pentax K-7 is choosing a weird 3:2 1536 x 1024 format. Do a project in it, when it shows on your friends HD TV they see black bars down the left and right side of the screen. How many seconds does it take for them to say 'What the hey's with that?'. Needless to say, I think choosing other than FullHD (1920 x 1080) is a big mistake. Everyone's moving beyond HDV resolution.
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 05:02 PM   #7
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Bill,

Canon have had a power zoom ability from the start Google Image Result for http://photos.jibble.org/albums/Canon35-80mmPowerZoomLOL/Canon_35_80mm_Power_Zoom_Lens_IMG_2046.jpg

Canon EOS700 & EOS700 QD Technical Specification

So its perfectly possible to make a new version of this.

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Old May 22nd, 2009, 10:17 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Chung View Post
Bill,

Canon have had a power zoom ability from the start
Just goes to show what I don't know - a lot.
Looking at the links you gave, that is the strangest looking lens I have ever seen on a SLR body.
Most folks wouldn't like it because of the lack of a manual focus & aperture ring.

And I came up with another deficiency in the video capable DSLR 's we've seen so far.

5. Almost all have short time ( < 30 minutes) / clip size (< 4 GB) limits.

So if you regularly cover events of 45 minutes and more, they're unusable.
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 10:41 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Chung View Post
Canon have had a power zoom ability from the start...
So its perfectly possible to make a new version of this.
Amazing, thanks Dan -- something I did not know until now thanks to you. Sure it's only a 2x zoom but there it is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Koehler View Post
I came up with another deficiency in the video capable DSLR 's we've seen so far...
What will be The Next Big Thing won't be a video capable D-SLR. That is, it won't have a mirror and it won't
have an SLR form factor. The only thing it'll have in common with a D-SLR is the size of the chip (nearly).
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Old May 23rd, 2009, 10:43 PM   #10
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What will be The Next Big Thing won't be a video capable D-SLR. That is, it won't have a mirror and it won't have an SLR form factor. The only thing it'll have in common with a D-SLR is the size of the chip (nearly).
No argument from me there. I am more focused on the technology base (lenses/sensors/codecs) being common because that is what's driving the reduction in cost. The whole idea of a video camera/camcorder having a mirror box is simply laughable.
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Old May 26th, 2009, 07:40 AM   #11
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I really think Red is on the right track, with their scalable, modular design. Too bad they're not as brand/ format agnostic with power supplies, recording media, viewfinders, monitors, etc. as they are with sensor size and lens mount.

A "digital Bolex" with your choice of:
- full-frame 35mm or Super-16 sensor,
- interchangeable F-mount, or C-mount
- powered by any 12-14.5-volt DC power source
- 1920x1080 or 1280x720 at variable frame rates from 18-60 fps
- full manual everything;
- that would record onto any SD, Compact Flash or hard disk media (Why HASN'T any camera manufacturer built a camera with a SATA, USB or Firewire hard drive controller built in... so you could just plug in any sufficiently fast generic notebook or desktop hard drive?)
- and has standard BNC Component analog, and either HDMI or HD-SDI output, live from the sensor

THAT's what I want.
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Old May 26th, 2009, 02:59 PM   #12
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A lot of pro cameras offer a lot of things, and most offer the same features. I think the XL1 and DVX100 changed what features sub-$20,000 cameras have to offer, just like the HDV offerings from Sony, JVC and Canon helped bring sub-$60,000 HD cameras to the masses. But at the end of the day, it's just a tool for a talented camera person.

You don't need great color, cine gamma, progressive/interlace cameras to make great pictures. If you're still rocking older cameras but you need 24p and all the other features, most NLEs have plug-ins available to get those film looks, or whatever look you desire. Nattress, DVFilm Maker, Magic Bullet, etc. It just means more work and rendering time in post.

For me, my favorite cameras have been the EX1, DVX100, HD250, XL1, XHA1, V1, and Z1. I think the new Panasonic P2 cameras are great, too. I thought the HPX500 was a lot of fun, but the newer units are even better. The newest cameras in those categories seem to just be better versions. Now that we have Full HD, the next logical step is for the cameras to go Ultra HD (like SI-2K, RED, etc.), though many would argue that Full HD (1920 x 1080p) is pretty great, too.

At the end of the day, and I guess this sort of sums up what I'm thinking, I love any number of cameras and the DPs and videographers I've worked with have great talent to really make any camera look great, combined with awesome lighting.

Thanks for letting me "rant." (grin)

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Old May 26th, 2009, 03:49 PM   #13
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That's a mighty fine rant, Heath... I wish we had more of them like yours here.
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Old May 26th, 2009, 04:19 PM   #14
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Thanks, Chris! I guess the longer I'm in the business, the more I realize just how unimportant the camera is. As a filmmaker, all the image settings and 24p are important, as is sensor size, yet I think Jon Fordham achieved a great look with my film 9:04 AM on a Z1u, shooting in 50i/CF25. I got it to 23.98 fps via Cinema Tools (and the ProRes 422 codec since HDV didn't go to 24p very well without having to transcode it).

I'm planning on doing my next movie in 3D and I'll be embracing technology again. I'm a big camera tech head, but when I or DPs I work with get ready to shoot, all they care about is how the image looks on the monitor and in the viewfinder.

No amount of cutting edge tech can make anyone a better shooter! Trust me, I learned that lesson the hard way about 7-10 years ago! Heck, I was one of the first to buy JVC's proto-HDV camera, the HD10.

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Old May 27th, 2009, 07:45 AM   #15
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Hey, Heath

Don't get me wrong: I agree with everything you said. I'm really not a bleeding-edge kind of guy. I ran my VX1000 and my PD150 into the ground, long past the point when they were "officially" obsolete. Right now, I'm shooting on a second-hand JVC HD100 -- with the much-maligned stock 16x lens -- that I love. 1280x720 x 24p is fine for me right now. I've also been known to dust off my Super 8 camera and do some homebrew film-to-video transfers.

In fact, part of my gripe about video camera offerings is exactly that the focus is on new bells and whistles, and less on basics (like manual control) and backwards compatibility. I'm a cheap S.O.B., and I really want to re-use my Pentax lenses on my next video camera.

My other gripe is very specific. After shooting over a dozen independent long and short documentaries on 1/3" video chips, I find there are three creative options, that I sorely miss from my days of shooting 35mm stills (with that aforementioned Pentax K1000 -- which I still use from time to time):

1. A wide-angle field of view that equals or exceeds that of a 28mm lens on a 35mm film frame.

2. The ability to play with depth of field without having to zoom in from a long distance away, and;

3. Using natural light, even in low-light situations.

Try as I might, I cannot find a way to shoot HD with 1/3" chips that lets me do these three things reliably. (Suggestions welcome, though!) None of these things lend themselves to postproduction solutions, either.

What excites me about the DSLR / HD video camera convergence is that -- for the first time -- I may be able to afford a solution with larger chips that would simultaneously solve all three creative problems for me. I should also point out that I self-finance nearly all of my projects and have limited opportunities or budget to rent, so the "use the appropriate camera for the job" option isn't really realistic.

If you have any other ideas about how to solve these three specific creative problems on a limited budget, I'm all ears.
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