Shot in February 2012 at Tribeca Flashpoint Academy in Chicago,cinematographer Bruce Logan,ASC, acted as administrator of the tests. A series of three identical shots with color/lighting/dynamic range challenges was set up for each camera. The DPs for each camera were then given the opportunity to re-light the set under strict parameters to get the very best out of their cameras.
The scene was basically domestic indoor living room with people arriving for a relaxed meeting. A large window provided a test of dynamic range (buildings across the road). The same scene was repeated for each camera with the camera tracking closer to show skin tones of the two main actors (white female and black male).
The cameras involved in the test include the ARRI Alexa operated by Rodney Charters, ASC; Sony F3 with S-log operated by Nancy Schrieber, ASC; Canon 7D with Technicolor settings operated by Michael Negrin, ASC. Also tested were the Sony F65, RED Epic, Sony FS100, Canon C300, and Panasonic GH2 (hacked). Each team did their own color grading.
No one test set-up can do it all, and this one was intended to compare the cameras in an overall, big-scene evaluation. It did nothing for pixel peepers with regards to resolution. This was fair enough, but I personally would liked to have seen a 100% blow-up of a static clip from each camera by way of resolution comparison.
As it was, the methodology was actually quite forgiving to the cameras that would be challenged by a resolution test...and acted to level the field somewhat between the enormous range of video technology (iPhone to Arri Alexa) that was evaluated.
I won't dwell further on techniques and presentation procedure other than to say the screening was in several stages with a break for discussion in between. The audience needed to formally evaluate their preference/guess which cameras when the scenes were repeated without naming which camera was used.
Things were made more interesting for me personally because I could compare reactions with my good friend of many decades, Mal Ludgate, ACS. He is one of Australia's top underwater cinematographers (IMAX Antarctica; many BBC and National Geographic specials) and is not one to be easily impressed.
I won't rank all of the cameras as I saw it (and it was a very personal/subjective evaluation for all in the audience) but just make a couple of comments:
The Sony F65 and the Arri Alexa were, for me, in place 1 and 2 respectively.
The pleasant surprise was that place 3 was the hacked GH2. This generated much discussion and even some crusty old pro's were very impressed by the GH2's image quality.
RED Epic, C300, F3 and the FS100, for several reasons, were competent but did not overly impress me...or many others going by the general discussion. As someone else commented, it's quite possible that the color grading was more responsible for this than the cameras per se. The C300 colors were poor (with a greenish cast) while the blacks on the RED Epic were crushed. The F3 and FS100 appeared somewhat "bland" for lack of a better term.
At the bottom was the Canon 7D (again several people expressed their disappointment)...and the iPhone. The color grading of the iPhone image "deserved a standing ovation" as one audience member put it. I agree. For what it was the image was decent (no one was laughing by the end of the show)...and I think better than the HDV I shot with for several years.
Technology is indeed leveling the playing field. All of the acquisition was acceptable and it was not an easy job trying to rank most of the cameras.
My only criticism of the event is that no mention was made of what hack settings were used by the GH2 operators. Indeed, many (including the MC!) had never heard of the hack...so I did my best to very briefly explain what it is and what it does. The point I made is that I suspect the GH2 could have performed even better if the 220mbps/GOP1 settings were used.
I was also interviewed after the screening and went on record as saying the hacked GH2 was bettered only by the F65 (lovely image) and the Arri Alexa. I stand by what I said.
You will be able to see the shootout for yourselves in a few weeks when the final public version is released on the web...but it won't be quite the same experience as seeing it on a large screen.
Edited by HDVdiver, 16 May 2012 - 12:11 AM.