Over 4 years ago I wrote a blog about why we were purchasing a Scarlet-x digital cinema camera. A MASSIVE step up in performance and cost from our then current Canon 5D Mark ii. Well four and a half years since the purchase that camera is still our workhorse. 4k 24/25 fps and 3k 48 fps. We’ve shot everything under the sun with it – music clips, documentaries, shorts, green screen, TVC’s, even stills in 5k. We’ve yet to have an issue with the thing. It’s a great camera today despite its age.
So why are we upgrading after resisting going to EPIC, Scarlet Dragon (dsmc1) or another camera system?
Not for resolution, that’s for sure. Here’s why:
What’s it lacking?
Now clearly we like the RED system. We’ve had a great 4+ year experience with the Scarlet-x. That and ouy experience renting epic dragons has really helped sell us on the Scarlet-w. But we also shoot with Sony’s, Canon’s and occasionally Arri Alexa’s. Before we settled on the W there were a few other systems we looked at.
Really great for their internal ND’s and very good DR + decent (proper) audio in. In many ways either of these would make some projects (doco, run-n-gun, low light) easier. It may just be our familiarity with working with RED and knowing how to get the images to look how we want, but we’re just not as big a fan of Sony’s colour science. Although we’ve seen others do wonders on these cameras.
It could just be our lack of understanding of how to work the colour in post. I often hear about people running into trouble with RED because they aren’t exposing properly or something (We could like be doing something similar with Sony).
You lost us at no 4k slow motion, otherwise a wonderful branded content / doco camera. And that dual pixel auto-focus!!! OMG that’d be great to own. For us, this is a hire item for necessary shots and projects that require or may benefit from auto face tracking and auto focus on gimbal.
Covered above. Cost not worth it above what the Scarletw already offers (for us).
That dual native ISO is so enticing and the images look beautiful. (Watch 13 Reasons Why). It’s so great to have Panasonic bring out some stellar cinema cameras in the Varicams. One issue with this was just not being able to also pop it on a smaller gimbal (like our Ronin-MX) and seamlessly matching it with our Scarlet MX as a B cam. I would love to have one though. For the additional price (over a Scarletw) we couldn’t justify it.
If there’s a rental in Perth and I have a night time exterior shoot we’d love to hire it. (If I was a freelance broadcast cameraman I would probably opt for this, even over the Alexa mini because of that dual native iso).
Of these I’ve only used the Alexa Mini, regardless we ruled them out. Why? We considered these cameras to be prohibitively expensive for us. Basically, we concluded that the money that could be spent on any of these cameras would be better spent on other equipment – lights, lenses, monitors or… life, holidays, chocolate, coffee etc.
We don’t hire out our equipment and many of our video production clients judge us on our work, not what we shoot on (some want to know but most don’t ask, those that do tend to look at the website and know pretty quickly) so it made no sense for the additional investment with to be honest, little in return (for the kind of work we do).
Finally, personally I refuse to get a loan to pay for equipment. I have to be able to buy it outright or won’t get it. Cameras depreciate as fast if not faster than cars. It’s just (for us) not a smart investment buying a $50k + camera system when a complete package for approximately $25 – 30k will service us beautifully for years to come. Also we aren’t servicing fully fledged TVC’s with grip trucks etc. We are a small team, juggling multiple hats doing a wide variety of work often travelling light throughout Australia.
For us, a main A camera is a 4 – 5 year investment. We had our Scarlet MX from January 2013 to now (and continue to use it without issues, touch wood). We intend to at least do the same with the Scarlet-w. It’s just a camera, but it’s going to enable us to do our job better and make our job easier, that’s what it’s all about.
Not so long ago The Social Network, The Hobbit trilogy and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo were shot on MX sensor cameras. They still look spectacular because the people making them are superb at what they do. I think we are at a point with cameras now where the colour has improved so much, the accessibility to post processing has completely blown open, the prices have dropped, the dynamic range matches or exceeds film (I still prefer the look and texture of film). Basically there’s no excuses left related to gear holding us back.
Like all equipment and gear we make decisions on what we purchase based on a few factors and it needs to tick most if not all boxes.
At the end of the day, a heap of our work is watched on phones tablets and monitors, not even TV’s let alone cinema screens. I’m looking forward to shooting a bunch of short films on top of our client work over the next 5 years and getting maximum value out of our new camera system.
Stay tuned for a waterbomb slow motion test…