Eibon Films Horror, Fantasy and SciFi writer / filmmaker and friend of the weird


Camera swap – time for 4K

Gear porn is a hard addiction to fight. Our desire to stay ahead of current trends in video production, to produce something that can hold its head up high in an ever changing media landscape is tough to keep apace. And I know, in that regard, that I'm an addict. And it's hard to deny the urges that stem from creative desires...

It's little more than a year that I've been playing with and trying to master working with HD video - namely 1080p. Trying to shoot for web delivery and produce videos that can hold their heads up next to the kind of visuals that we can see on the small screen. Although I am obviously not a professional cinematographer, in the traditional sense - as in someone that almost exclusively studies their craft and is hired to capture a marketable vision for others - I do hope that until I can get the chance to work with a professional, that my own visuals will hold up along side that of my peers. And until then master the pesky world of DLSR videography, at least to a point that i can be proud of the results. Currently, I'm not near where I want to be. I'm still a beginner.

But when I wanted to shoot a new film - and was deciding, during pre-production, what I was going to do with the film, I found that there was a little voice that kept talking about not doing the film in 1080p and trying 4K...

The use of 1080p is clearly waning. Now is the time for 4K... and then what? 5 or 6K? lol. No I won't chase every passing bandwagon. But I do think that 4K should be with us for a good while yet. So now is the time for me to invest in it and learn how to use it. My problem is that I don't currently have a computer powerful enough to handle 4K yet. So I'm waiting for Apple to sort their lives out and hurriedly release the new Mac Pros. It's been a long time coming and if they disappoint, I will have to jump to another PC manufacturer, after years as a loyal Mac fan, as they've already wasted enough time and ignored their pro customers long enough. So until then, I'm focussing on the camera - to worry about the edit later.

So why 4K?

4K (3840 pixels wide × 2160 pixels high) is a much bigger frame than 1080p (1920 pixels widw and 1080 pixels high). Even if you plan to release a 1080p movie, that bigger frame gives you plenty of options to crop creatively, to compose artful frames, that were better than that shot on the day. It also gives you more power to stablise unintentionally jerky shots in the edit. But it also future proofs your footage, assuming that 4K TVs become the new mainstream home viewing format.

So what camera have I chosen?


It was a tough decision. I loved the ease of use, using my Canon 70D. And for vlogging, my point-and-shoot G7X MKII. However, Canon seem unwilling to solve the 4K riddle for their lower end semi-prosumer clientelle. I waited and they failed to deliver a good affordable 4K camera. Yes they've delivered what they call 'affordable' models in the C200 MKII and the C300 etc, but they're hardly affordable for people on lower budgets for anything other than as a rental. And I don't see much to like in their other DSLR range. So even though I love the way they do things and their glass, it was time for a change.

Now I loved what I saw in the Canon C200 MKII, the Panasonic EVA1 and the Black Magic Ursa Mini Pro. But if you buy those, then you still have to buy more gear to go with each. And you'd have automatically doubled your costs before you've even invested in storage to capture your footage on. I just couldn't justify the investment right now. Also those cameras are big. for my needs, right now, smaller is better. But in the future?...

It was a tossup between Sony or Panasonic, for me. Sony seem to have mastered the low light capability - something the guerilla filmmaker needs to deal with every day. But after using the RX100 MKIV and trying to Vlog with it and seeing how they p*ss battery power up the wall in minutes, I was not keen to invest in a more expensive camera that might have had similar issues. Also, their cameras tend to have a softer look that didn't quite do it for me. Instead, I went for the Panasonic Lumix GH5 - mainly because I heard much of the previous GH4 model - as a go-to for many wedding videographers and low budget filmmakers. They tend to bea bit more vocal about this camera than I tend to see in the Sony world. Having an active community to support you and advise you is key to me, as a learner. And I will just have to be creative when it comes to getting enough light.

The GH5 isn't cheap. Nor is it a simple proposition to switch format and then invest in new gear. Everything comes with a little risk. But so far I am happy. And before I committed to my chosen path I wrestled with the decision for a couple of months and did so much research that I felt incredibly depressed by the thought of doing any more.

For me, I was lucky in that I chose to switch at a time when my Canon gear, although it had depreciated in value, was desirable enough to give me a decent sum in a part exchange. So I had a good starting sum to play with. Then I waited for the new firmware update for the GH5 to come out - as there had been many criticisms of the camera on it's initial release earlier this year. And then I pounced. 🙂 At least it felt that way.

I purchased the body and then of course, unless you want to also invest in a speedbooster adapter, so that you can use your existing Canon glass with the different format camera - the GH5 is a Micro 4/3rds format - you then need new lenses. Lenses are not cheap - not if you want to invest in Pansonic lenses with inbuilt image stabilisation, so you fake a gimbal-like smooth moving shot. Although there are many cheaper 3rd party lenses that don't have that stabilisation - as well as 2nd hand lenses that do, but have dropped in value. Also, if you want to shoot in V-Log (a professional video codec that enables you to shoot in a professional format and then colour grade the footage later), you then need to buy the license key to unlock that pro format in the camera. The SD cards needed for that V-Log format at 4K are also very expensive, and have recquired SD card manufacturers to develop a new way of marking their cards, to guarantee that they can handle the footage. You need lots of them too, as 4K will eat up lots of storage in the shoot, nevermind the hard drive space you'll need when you take it into the edit. In short, I could go on with what I am learning, but it is truly dizzying to see how much other gear costs need to be factored in when building a kit - e.g. lights, sound gear etc. So I won't bore you any more. But suffice it to say that this camera, with a few more lenses will complete my basic kit and give me plenty to learn and keep me plenty occupied for a while now.

So far I've only had the briefest of time to play with the photo capability, to try out the new lenses and installed the new firmware update - I've purchased but I am waiting for the V-LOG key and have yet to put try editing any footage. But soon! First I need to go through the manual and play play play!

For now, my gear porn addiction is sated. Now comes the post purchase guilt and the need to shoot this damn movie. And then will inevitably come the post-production issues that I need to research and rehearse before the shoot. It never stops. Right?


Some video links that might be helpful:

GH5 Cinema Set-up & Tests: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0btY-irwawk

Panasonic GH5 - Everything I found out that you should know:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6O0XrHzGgk

Pansonic GH5 6 months later: https://youtu.be/N6BcaykMp88

4 Best Video Cameras for Indie Filmmakers in 2017: https://www.lightsfilmschool.com/blog/4-best-video-cameras-for-indie-filmmakers-in-2017-aec







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