Only 7 years ago, Nikon started a revolution by launching the first DSLR that could shoot video. Canon followed along and these two giants have stayed on top of the market since then. These cameras offered a beautiful cinematic look because of the shallow depth of field and the possibility to use high quality interchangeable lenses at a price never before seen. They were supposed to be photo cameras, but they changed the indie filmmakers life and the industry forever. All of the sudden you had a camera that did it all… and pretty well.
If you are, like myself, one of the millions of happy HD DSLR owners who use them primarily for video, you may be beginning to worry about what to do with your gear now that the 4k revolution feels so close.
Especially since neither Canon nor Nikon have announced the logical update for their flagship cameras. As the market is flooded with compact cameras, hybrid cameras, phones and tablets that shoot 4k, the internet is flooded with posts saying there are rumours about the 4k updates for 5D, 7D on Canon side and D810 and D7200. It’s late 2015, NAB has gone by, drones are flying all over the place and there are no official news from the companies.
The 4k scenario today
When your profession is so tightly bound to technology, timing is a key. We photographers and videographers know that when we buy a DSLR, what we are actually buying is a system. This allows us to invest on lenses and accessories that will be useful and current for many years. It allows us to secure our investments. None of us wants to spend that hard earned money on a gadget that will be rendered idle in 2 years time. This is not a phone, this is our precious gear! In that sense, buying one of this systems was a good idea. You could keep updating the body at your own pace and make sure a big part of your gear would still be good and valuable. But what now?
While there’s still no 4k update for your Canon or Nikon DSLR body, many other brands have jumped in with mirrorless 4k and interchangeable lenses cameras:
The only full frame among these are the Sony a7 cameras. These cameras also offer some other features that will appeal to the filmmaker such as tilt lcd screens, electronic viewfinder, focus peaking, and in the case of the Sony recording at FullHD 50fps (a7sII & a7RII) and HD at 100fps (a7RII). But what about the lenses? Well, there are adapters for all the poor disappointed main-brand buyers like me or you. Are they any good? I haven’t tried them personally. It would be a matter of looking for reviews online. Recently, they have released an updated version of the Metabones EF to Sony E-mount adapter that retains electronic communication with the camera to allow automatic aperture control, EXIF data, image stabilization and autofocus. In any case, it does look like the market is going the mirrorless way.
4k wise, what Canon did launch earlier this year was the XC10, a very nice $3000 4k Camcoder without lens mount (Why Canon?? Tell me why!!). The next 4k recording device by them is EOS-1D C, a beautiful powerful 4k camera with interchangeable lenses and a price of… $8000. So still nothing out there specifically designed for me and my set of L series lenses, or is it?
While the HD revolution is way gone, other technological revolutions are simmering. Of course 4k is on its way as the standard video format (and how long will it take before it’s the actual broadcast standard?, we don’t know), but also companies have been getting creative to change the market again. I’ve mentioned before it looks like the market is going mirrorless. Micro Four Thirds camera are a very interesting and recently boosted creation but they are not the only one. Blackmagic Design has jumped in to fill the gap for us DSLR owners who make movies. Their amazing Cinema Cameras that record 4k with a full frame sensor and can feature EF, PL or MFT lens mount start at $1995. These cameras are tiny and weird, but they are changing everything all over again. They can be rigged to become ever more powerful or kept small and light. They even include a free version of a powerful software I have never tried but definitely feel like trying: DaVinci Resolve Studio.
What to do
In subjects as dynamic and ever changing as technology, right answers don’t last for long. However, I think I’ve found a way to workaround the situation that inspired me to write this article. My camera body is slowly becoming outdated and the company I chose several years ago is still not releasing an update. Furthermore, rumours may say the long awaited update will be 4k but also that it won’t be video oriented at all. Meanwhile, none of the alternatives is what I expected.
I originally thought I’d sell my camera body and replace it for the newer one. But the outdating of my camera is occurring on the video side of it, as a photo camera it is still very good and professional. There seems to be no camera body out there that promises the same features I have on the 7d but on the upcoming video standard and at a reasonable price. For all of these, I think I’ve made up my mind and won’t sell the 7d body for now. What I should do is get a 4k video camera. Now I have to decide whether I go for the Sony a7RII + adapter or for a Blackmagic EF mount camera. This way I can keep using my lenses and easily renting other lenses when I need them (Buenos Aires rental stores are flooded with the full Canon lenses lineup). I have time to research and ponder while I save some more money. What about you? Do you think you’d do the same as me?