MOST PEOPLE WOULD agree that we’re entering 2022 in a better state than we did 2021, and while we’re still a very long way from being able to relax and put the pain of Covid behind us we can at least now see some signs of confidence and optimism making a cautious return. It’s a good time to take stock and to not only look ahead but to reflect on the number of headline-grabbing camera launches that have still managed to take place over the past year or so despite so much global turbulence going on.

When you consider that we’ve welcomed phenomenal hybrid models such as the Canon EOS R3 and R5, the Nikon Z 9, the Sony Alpha 1, 7S III and 7R IV, the Panasonic GH5 II and the Blackmagic PCC 6K Pro during a period when we’ve been experiencing worldwide lockdowns and massive disruption to daily life it really does take a bit of believing. Is this a golden age for those looking to straddle both the still and filmmaking genres? The jury is still out on that one of course, but as we move from one year to the next we thought we would ask CVP’s Technical Marketing Manager Jake Ratcliffe for his thoughts on what might be the biggest game changers to emerge from the past eighteen months.

“It’s crazy how much has been coming out,” Jake remarks. “All the big camera manufacturers have put at least one major product out, while some have launched several. Overall, it’s been a fantastic time to be a photographer or filmmaker, and we’ve seen all three of the top photographic camera brands release new flagship cameras, in the shape of the Canon EOS R3, the Nikon Z 9 and the Sony Alpha 1.

“While I haven’t properly tested out the R3 and the Z9 just yet, I have had the chance to spend some time with the Alpha 1, which is an incredible hybrid camera that  can produce excellent stills

and video. The camera itself is a brilliant technical achievement, as it essentially combines all of the impressive features of Sony’s A9 II, A7S III and A7R IV into a single body.

“However there are definitely some things that could be improved on when it comes to the Alpha 1’s video features, since it’s predominantly a stills camera, albeit one that’s capable of producing incredible video footage as well. It genuinely is a fantastic hybrid model, although its price point (CVP price £6499) means that it’s up against strong opposition from video-only models such as the Sony FX6, Canon EOS C70, the Z CAM E2 F6 and the RED KOMODO 6K.

“The higher resolution acquisition the Alpha 1 offers is great for a few things, mainly offering the user the ability to crop and re-frame in post as well as downsampling when delivering in lower resolution, which will provide image quality benefits. Its footage will also be great for pulling stills from if required.”

OTHER OPTIONS

At a more affordable level the new Sony a7 IV, being fully reviewed elsewhere in this issue, is another well featured full frame hybrid model. Given its price point of £2399 from CVP it’s clearly not going to offer the same level of top-end hybrid performance as its flagship sibling, but can it still do a good job for the professional?

“I would say that it’s a solid mid-level hybrid camera with good video and photography specs,” says Jake, “but I was a little disappointed by its rolling shutter performance. This wasn’t as good as I had expected from a new Sony sensor, and this could turn out to be a deal breaker for some. However, for creatives who are looking at outputting a 50/50 mix of stills and video and who are looking for a camera in this kind of price range, it’s a solid option with plenty to love.”

Like Sony, Panasonic also has a strong heritage in the video market and its two big launches of 2021 addressed very different sectors of the market. For those working in specialist areas of movie production the BS1H 6K full frame 24MP boxstyle model (CVP price £2999.99) is an interesting concept that gives filmmakers full rein to build up the system they want for a specific job. Meanwhile the MFT GH5 II (CVP price £1499) is an update of a much-loved classic that now adds powerful streaming capabilities to the mix.

“The BS1H is essentially an S1H stuffed into a BGH1 body,” says Jake, “which makes it a unique camera that could be great for some, but probably not for most! Boxstyle cameras are aimed at those looking for small multicam production cameras or the ability to rig the camera up in exactly the configuration they want. The main features the BS1H offers over hybrid options would be its inputs and outputs, as it features a much more robust and professional set of IO connections, which will let it sit in slightly different productions than a regular hybrid camera would be able to do.

“The GH5 II, meanwhile, is a solid model, which does a great hybrid job. However, if you’re serious about solely shooting video there may be better options on the market, even from Panasonic itself. At this price point there are plenty of alternatives that feature much newer tech. Even Panasonic’s S5 (CVP price £1749) or GH5S (CVP price £1740) could be better options for some. They might work out at roughly £250 more expensive to purchase, but they both feature better sensors than the GH5, so overall image quality will be noticeably improved. Especially with the S5, which really is a fantastic full frame camera at this price point.

“However, both won’t feature some of the formats or extra tricks that the GH5 II can do, while the S5 will be bigger and heavier with more expensive lenses, but overall image quality improvements could be more important for you. It will just come down to what you need in a camera. Personally, I don’t think MFT is going anywhere, and hopefully the GH6 will be coming out later this year and blowing us out of the park with the feature set and image quality that it’s offering.”

CINEMA QUALITY

Away from the more established traditional camera manufacturers, the highly respected filmmaking specialist Blackmagic has also introduced a new model in the shape of the PCC 6K Pro which, at a CVP price of £2095, is very affordable. While not a full frame model, it’s giving photographers a route into cinema camera use without breaking the bank.

“Blackmagic’s entire Pocket Cinema Camera line up is fantastically priced considering what they allow you to achieve,” confirms Jake. “The 4K PCC model (CVP price £1170) is one of the biggest bargains in our industry, and a great way for photographers to get a taste of an entrylevel cine video camera.

“The 6K Pro, which Blackmagic released early in 2021, brings some awesome improvements over the previous 6K, such as an internal ND system, an optional EVF, a brighter monitor and a larger battery. All of these improvements look to make the camera better to use, which it certainly achieves! The biggest benefit of these cameras is that they can shoot BRAW internally, which is awesome and they are really simple to use. All of which means that learning video production through using them will be a breeze.”

It’s refreshing to see that, even in a period where there has been so much upheaval, R&D is still alive and well and being well funded, and the inexorable advance of technology is continuing apace. The only downside is that, given the understandable lack of trade shows taking place over the past eighteen months, it’s not been easy for creatives to actually encounter the new models and to see first-hand how they perform and feel in the hands. All of which makes an outlet such as CVP, where you’re invited to make an appointment and to come in to test and try at the retailer’s Newman House showroom in London’s Fitzrovia, all the more important. It’s a chance to receive some honest equipment-agnostic advice from a selection of enthusiastic experts regarding which might be the best way forward for you and your business.

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