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Pro Photo Rental

6 Cinema Cameras Worth Your Attention
By Zac Henderson

The rate at which jaw-dropping cinema cameras are being released is dizzying. Manufacturers are pushing boundaries and fighting tooth and nail for spec sheet dominance while we get to sit back, watch, and reap the benefits. It’s easy to go back and forth online arguing about specs and bashing a camera or brand for not offering one thing or another, but if we’re really being honest with ourselves, the average offerings of all of today’s brands combined creates a camera that is beyond most imaginings just a few years ago. Basically, we’re spoiled. Really, really spoiled.

The new slew of camera systems we currently have available for rental are some truly impressive beasts that deserve some real attention. Of particular note is the focus on video recording capability, which just happens to be what this article is all about.

We should start by saying that, while spec sheets are fun to drool over, numbers aren’t necessarily everything. Just because a camera has a capability that another camera lacks, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the camera with that additional ability is the better option for a given assignment. A lot goes into camera choice, and specs are just one of those things. Lens choice, compatibility, ergonomics, size, weight, practicality, and intangibles all combine to make a tool the right one for a given task.

Below we’ve selected 6 cameras in our stable that are capable of some truly impressive video capabilities that you should be aware of.

Canon EOS R5

The Canon EOS R5 has scary specs. With this camera body we truly see Canon’s mirrorless lineup mature into something we always knew it could be. Indeed, the R5 is gaudy. We won’t list out every spec here since that’s what spec sheets are good for, but we’re happy to dish out the highlights.

Canon’s EOS R5 mirrorless camera body has some no-joke capabilities for both photo and video, but for this write up we’ll focus on the video side. We’ll start by mentioning the R5 is able to record up to 8k at 30p. That’s already mic-drop material for a mirrorless camera body, but there’s a lot more. The R5 uses the full width of its 45 megapixel full frame sensor for that high res video goodness. 4k at 120FPS is another head turner, as is also the 4k HQ and its image quality. The R5 is capable of internally recording RAW footage at 8k, or instead of RAW, recording internal 4:2:2 in C-Log or the HDR PQ setting. The R5 takes advantage of those shooting modes with exceptional autofocus using Canon’s 100% coverage Dual Pixel II AF system which can detect animals or humans. Making sure that 8k footage is actually watchable, the R5 boasts 5-axis in-body image stabilization which amounts to a ridiculous 8 stops of correction and more when paired with optically stabilized lenses.

As impressive as those abilities are, we should note a few items. High resolution 8k capture and oversampled 4k capture are typically specs held by cameras with extensive cooling capabilities and internal fans.The R5 doesn’t boast these kinds of cooling abilities, and so the 8k, high quality 4k (4k HQ), and 4k 120p recording modes will cause the camera to overheat if used for extended periods. For this reason, its best to use these higher quality recording modes for short bursts rather than rely on them for full productions. Using an external recorder like our Odyssey 7Q+ will mostly bypass the overheating issues for standard 4k capture, but will not allow 8k recording. If you’re dedicated to using the R5 at 8k, be prepared to stop recording after 20 or so minutes and allowing the camera to cool for extended periods.

While its most impressive video features may not be able to used all day without consequence, the R5 is still a capable video option with good dynamic range and usability at more modest resolutions. The R5 is at the top of the competition for still cameras, and so is an ideal option for hybrid run and gun shooters. Excellent autofocus, gaudy video capabilities in short bursts, quality footage in lower resolutions, high resolution stills, and gorgeous image quality make the R5 a very well respected camera and one we’re proud to have available for rental.

Canon C70

The Canon C70 is a unique offering in Canon’s exceptional cinema lineup, being the first to adopt the RF lens mount. This means that the C70 will not only accept the same lenses as the R5 and R6 mirrorless cameras natively, it can also accept EF lenses using the Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R 0.71x. This adapter provides access to a wide range of cinema lenses in Canon’s lineup while also adding an additional stop of light since the adapter takes the large EF image circle produced by EF lenses and reduces it to one more appropriate to the C70’s super 35mm DGO (dual gain output) sensor.


The C70 provides a solid set of cinema camera features in a comparatively small and lightweight package. The dual gain sensor provides up to 16 stops of dynamic range when paired with Canon’s C-Log 2, beautifully capturing high contrast scenes with ease. Perhaps most notable is the 4k 120p DCI recording at 10-bit 4:2:2 internally. For even faster capture, 180fps in 2k is available. Autofocus is fast and accurate thanks to Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, and is even active at 120fps. Head detection AF tracking is also available.

Capturing the data are two SD card slots supporting UHS-II with all the recording capabilities you would expect in a cinema camera, including relay recording. Other cinema-centric features include internal cooling, dedicated white balance and custom white balance buttons, direct XLR control (of which there are two inputs), and 3 built-in ND filters which can be stacked together for up to 10 stops.

All these features combine to make the C70 a versatile and capable cinema camera.

Sony A7S III

Now in its third iteration, the latest version of the venerated 7S series combines a set of fully realized video capabilities with industry-leading low light performance. Hitting what seems to be the magic number, the A7S III is able to record up to 4k 120fps at 10-bit 4:2:2 internally. Those are serious numbers without the need for extra fast CF Express cards or an external recorder, and without a worry of overheating.

The A7S III provides pro grade cinema features in an extremely small and lightweight mirrorless body. The A7S III also boasts a welcomed upgrade over previous iterations: a full size HDMI out port. As you would expect from Sony, autofocus is accurate and fast with eye detect, face detect, touch tracking, and smooth transitions between focus. In truth, the A7S III is one of the best autofocusing cameras available. Period. And that’s true for both stills and video.

The A7S III provides two card slots supporting UHS-II as well as the new smaller CF Express cards for taking advantage of the higher data pushes when shooting 4k 120 fps internal slow motion in the S&Q mode in the All-I codec.  The A7S III’s full frame sensor comes in at a welterweight 12 megapixels, but don’t let this comparatively low resolution for stills fool you. The A7S III uses this smaller resolution sensor to great effect since there is less resolution to ignore when capturing at higher resolutions, and so has quality footage without oversampling. Remember, 4k footage is only 8 or so megapixels, so a 12 megapixel sensor is almost overkill by itself.

As far as image quality, the A7S III won’t disappoint. Sony claims 15 stops of dynamic range, and the 4k footage looks gorgeous. The A7S III can also record RAW at 16bit using an external recorder. Speaking of external recorders, if you’re interested in redundancy, the A7S III can record up to 4k at 120fps internally to BOTH cards simultaneously, as well as to an external recorder all at the same time. There’s also no recording limit, so forget about working in your content in 30 minute takes.

You can be confident that the Sony A7S III will be able to solve even the most difficult of problems.

Sony FX6

There’s a reason we placed the FX6 right after the A7S III. For starters, the FX6 is essentially an upgraded A7S III in a larger but still relatively smal cinema camera body. The FX6 has the same sensor with the same low light capability using dual native ISO at 800 and 12,800. That also means internal 4k 120fps at 10-bit 4:2:2. The FX6 also includes Sony’s new color science, S-Cinetone which provides exceptional color and gorgeous cinema styles coloration.  S-Log 3 provides 15 stops of dynamic range. The FX6 features a pair of XLR audio inputs with Phantom power with plenty of control and great quality with up to 8 tracks.

The main benefit of the FX6 over the A7S III is the actual body itself as the FX6 has traditional mounting points expected of cinema cameras, dedicated buttons, and capability for large battery capacity. So if your workflow is heavily tethered to the physical attributes that a cinema camera offers, the FX6 is for you. Another benefit regarding autofocus over the A7S III is the face only mode, which will ignore anything that the camera doesn’t think is a face. This prevents hunting when no one is in frame. Other cinema features that the FX6 has over the A7S III are tally lights, shutter angle, and DCI 4k with a slight crop.

If you're impressed by the A7S III specs but need the functionality of a dedicated cinema camera, look no further than the Sony FX6.

Panasonic S1H

Panasonic’s offering to dedicated video shooters, the S1H is a full frame 6k cinema camera with some very impressive tricks up its sleeve. First, the specs that make this camera so unique. On top of DCI-4k, the S1H is capable of shooting 6k, which it does in a 3:2 crop. This might sound a bit weird since this aspect ratio is typically not used in film or video, however the benefit is that the entire sensor is used to capture this resolution which allows for impressive cropping options.

Another headlining feature that makes the S1H demand attention is its ability to utilize anamorphic lenses. That’s right, a tiny little mirrorless styled body can shoot true anamorphic while also providing a squeeze preview. Props to Panasonic for this unique feature. The S1H provides impressive dynamic range utilizing dual gain ISO for optimum noise performance, and also provides many of the solid still photo options of the Panasonic S1.

It is clear that Panasonic is serious about the S1H being a professional cinema tool thanks to the aforementioned capabilities, as well as the fact that this camera can shoot without time restrictions in any of its shooting modes thanks to two USH-II SD card slots, which are also hot swappable. This means no 30 minute time limits or overheating issues. This is due in part to the addition of a customizable fan cooling system which protrudes out from the back of the camera slightly, but is far from intrusive and provides the base for a well designed articulating LCD.

Other impressive cinema features include tally lamps, customizable waveform and vectorscope,  time code through the sync port, impressive dynamic range, and gorgeous 10-bit 4:2:2 internal recording at up to 4k 60fps. Did we mention that the Lumix S1H is also the first mirrorless camera to be approved for use by Netflix?

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 6k

Blackmagic’s intriguing  camera design is on full display yet again with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 6k. Though the 6k is like the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 4k in many ways, the 6k model does indeed bring 6k video capabilities onto its now Super 35mm sensor as well as the popular Canon EF mount. The Pocket Cinema 6k provides slots for SD or CFast cards, but also has the nice option of recording directly to an external hard drive via USB-C. Other ports on the 6k include a full sized HDMI out port, mini XLR with phantom power, Mic In and Headphone jack, as well as 12v power input.

The image quality coming out of the Pocket Cinema 6k is beautiful with impressive dynamic range, and again, at an enormous 6k resolution in Blackmagic’s respected RAW codec. The 6k also features an EF lens mount, making Canon’s vast lineup of EF mounted cinema and photo lenses available for use. Unlike many of the other cameras on this list, the autofocus in the 6k is rudimentary and does not offer any of the sophistical tracking modes, however the camera does have a tap to focus mode.

Indeed the Pocket Cinema 6k is capable of capturing 6k video and up to 60fps, and it does so in a RAW (and RAW only) format. The Blackmagic RAW codec is the only codec available for a variety of resolutions, including the highest resolution 6k, slightly cropped 6k 2:4:1, 5.7K in a 16:9 ration, 3.7k anamorphic, and 2.8k. Other resolutions in 4k and HD are able to be recorded in Apple ProRes and do not have the option to be shot in RAW. It should also be noted that changes in resolution will likely also result in a crop, all the way up to a ~3.3x crop when shooting in 2.8k 120fps. That means a standard 50mm lens will behave like a 165mm lens when shooting in this mode. Other resolutions like 6k and 5.7k have crops much closer to the original super 35mm sensor. If your intention is to shoot in 6k, be prepared with plenty of cards or a well sized external hard drive.

While the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 6k may not be as fully featured as the rest of the models in this list, it produces excellent image quality at a very high resolution with a flexible raw format and an EXTREMELY attractive price. Ergonomically, the 6k body is lightweight and boasts a beautiful large rear LCD, as well as top and bottom 1/4-20 mounting points. If you’re looking for a solid EF mount camera that shoots quality 6k raw footage at a reasonable price point, then the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 6k is for you.


Conclusion


These days the video capability cup runneth over with so many quality options on the market. The line between a dedicated cinema and mirrorless camera is becoming more and more blurred. Features available in the cameras mentioned above used to be only available for extremely high dollar cinema bodies, if they were even available at all. Fortunately, camera manufacturers are bringing these exceptional filmmaking tools to more people than ever before, and in ever shrinking and portable bodies. Though each of the above cameras have their own sets of strengths and weaknesses, they are all capable of producing stunning image quality in very usable packages.

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