The New Digital Cinema Race


It seems like the 4K acquisition leap is inevitable, Blackmagic will have a $4,000 4K camera later this month if all goes well, Sony and Canon both have multiple 4K options at different price points. JVC even decided to embarrass themselves with a poke at 4K. Phantom has 4K at 1000fps! RED is pushing out it’s 6K upgrade in September, and Arri has grumpily stepped up to the 4K plate.


The playing field is level once again. Everyone wanting 4K now can get it. Now that we have our hands on 4K, what are we going to do with it? Sony is bringing distribution solutions to the table, but with major caveats. Apple is arming the new Mac Pro with the capability to power three 4K monitors. H265 4K standards exist now. You can buy a 4K TV for around $1000 from Seiki.

What matters now is actually what the image LOOKS like. In the 1080p world, we have been choosing cameras based on aesthetic along with specs for a while now. The 5D has stuck around for so long because despite it’s awful compression, it has great aesthetic!

All the cameras out there have their pros and cons. I don’t think we are going to see any manufacturer dominate across the board when it comes to 4K. There aren’t any gamechangers in this next generation of cameras, they are all targeted at different audiences and have their own market.

In Hollywood, the choice for digital cinema camera has been Alexa or Epic since 2011, 4K was a big factor to some, others just upscaled the 2.8K from the Alexa to 4K and called it a day. No other camera has had a lasting impact. I don’t expect that to hold true for much longer.

Sony has been chomping at the bit to get a chance in Hollywood for a while, their F900 and F950 have been kicking ass in their niche and the F65 just can’t seem to get the acceptance it deserves. Now with the F55, F5, and FS700, Sony wants everyone to shoot 4K no matter the budget.

Canon is knocking on the door with the 1D C and C500, very opposite ends of the spectrum but a complimentary pair that I think will catch on nicely.


I think the aesthetic of video is going to change with 4K adoption. We might see more ultra-flat, seemingly ungraded, videos out there. We might suddenly see an uptake in lighting techniques and larger depth of field to really allow the audience to appreciate all those wonderful Ks.

Either way, the ball is rolling, the industry is converging, dividing, and completely unrestrained. I’d be scared to buy a camera right now, I’m just going to play with my Blackmagic Pocket Camera until the dust settles and rent all these cool new toys as necessary.

Jared Abrams is a cinematographer based in Hollywood, California. After many years as a professional camera assistant he switched over to still photography. About two years ago a new Canon camera changed the way the world sees both motion and still photography. He just happened to be in the right place at the right time.