Focus On Cameras
M.J. Foley
Issue: May 1, 2016

Focus On Cameras

Setting out to discover what is new and exciting in cameras at an NAB show is always an adventure. Industry types (like myself) might call the 2016 NAB Show an “in between” kind of year. Meaning, maybe not a whole lot of brand new camera introductions, but certainly a few new models of interest, as well as a host of refinements or upgrades to existing models, which is fine by me, as a refinement to a camera line is also important. There were still a number of significant camera developments on the show floor. So, with that said, let’s get going and see what NAB 2016 had to offer.


Without a doubt, the star of the camera universe at NAB 2016 was the Lytro ( Light Field Camera. This non-traditional camera, which doesn’t record images traditionally, is so revolutionary it’s almost impossible to describe. The implications could be huge for post production. Demonstrated before an absolutely jam-packed crowd, it was hard to even get into a session. Making our way through, we learned that the Lytro records data. Data — not images — recording 755 raw megapixels at up to 300fps. With the Lytro Cinema camera, every frame of a live action scene becomes a 3D model. Every pixel has color, directional and depth properties, bringing the control and creative flexibility of computer-generated VFX to the real world. The camera has up to 16 stops of dynamic range and wide color gamut, and has one of the highest resolution video sensors ever designed. One post pro in attendance said, “The Lytro Light Field Camera blew my mind. Simply the most revolutionary product I have ever seen at NAB.” This new camera could very well be the game changer of NAB 2016. 

755 raw megapixels at up to 300fps, 16 stops dynamic range, lists at $125,000.


Panasonic’s ( VariCam LT (model AU-V35LT1G) is a great and solid addition to the VariCam family. Anybody who has shot on the original Panasonic VariCam has loved every minute of its blow-you-away, beautiful images, crazy-mad resolution and stunning cinematic imagery. But the original VariCam is pretty big and not all that portable. That is until now. Weighing in at a very respectable and manageable 5.95 pounds, without a lens, the LT was a delight to get up on my shoulder. The LT is very nicely balanced with an old-style handheld feel, but with the wallop of VariCam technology. And, VariCam LT boasts an incredible array of shooting options that mirror many of its big brothers. VariCam LT inherits the same super 35mm sensor and superb imaging capabilities as the VariCam 35, but with significant reductions in size, weight and price. It also delivers 14-plus stops of dynamic range with V-Log, and the dual native ISOs of 800/5000. The VariCam LT records in multiple formats ranging from 4K, UHD, 2K and HD, and like the VariCam 35, is fully capable of High Dynamic Range (HDR) field capture. The new 4K camcorder offers Apple ProRes 4444 (up to 30p) and ProRes 422 HQ (up to 60p) support.

New codecs introduced in the VariCam LT include AVC-Intra LT and AVC-Intra 2K-LT, both designed to offer capture rates up to 240fps in imager crop mode. The VariCam LT also offers in-camera color grading, with the ability to record an ungraded 4K master along with all on-set grading metadata. A new color-processing feature is “V-Look,” which acts as a blend of V-Log and video. This new camera addition will be a solid choice for handheld, SteadiCam and weight-rated drones.

4K up to 60 fps, 2K/HD up to 240fps, dual native ISO 800/5000, 14-plus stops of dynamic range with V-Log, simultaneous dual codec recording, selectable gamma curves, lists for $16,500. 


Canon ( introduced the new ME200S-SH box camera this year, a unique addition that drew quite the crowd at the company’s booth. The camera features an 8.2 megapixel Super 35mm sensor and has both high sensitivity capacity and a really nice cinema look. While not a recorder, this camera can easily be connecter via SDI/HDMI to any external device. The ME200S-SH boasts 1920x1080/60p, 50p output, Dual Pixel CMOS AF. I can envision this camera as a standalone device for documentary work, in HD studios, concerts and sporting events where space might not even be available for a camera operator. It’s perfect for a high, over-the-top shot in a lighting grid. But it can do more. The ME200S-SH camera includes both Canon Log and Wide DR Gamma, providing end users the high dynamic range and the ability to choose their own post production strategy.

Canon Super 35mm CMOS sensor; dual pixel CMOS AF (auto-focus); up to 204, 800 ISO; 12 stops of dynamic range; 1080p/720p video up to 60fps; 3G/HD SDI terminals; lists for $5,999.


Call me crazy, but I think this might be one of GoPro’s ( best offerings yet. The GoPro Omni is based on the Omni rig; an aluminum housing that holds a synchronized six-camera array of GoPro Hero4 Black cameras (the sync function ties them all together). I love the fact that the housing is aluminum, not some cheesy, easy to break plastic. If you are out and about in the wild, things are going to get banged around. Press ‘record’ once on the master camera and the others will start sync recording as well. So essentially, you now have six Hero4 Blacks shooting in 4K. The demo that I saw on an iPhone showed off some crazy-great, impressive footage. For the burgeoning VR market, this set up is going to be killer. 

Six Hero4 Black cameras act as one: Interact with the primary camera in the array to configure settings or initiate the start/stop of recording for all six cameras; Omni may also be used for “over capture” — capture at 8K and extract HD deliverables. Hero4 Black specs include 4K/30, 2.7K/60 and 1080p video; capture 12MP photos at 30fps; Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity; system with cameras lists for $4,999.


The HDC-4800 is the newest Sony ( camera system that combines 4K and Wide Color Space with Ultra-High Frame Rate (UHFR) capabilities — 8x at 4K, and up to 16x in full HD — but also features dynamic cutout and zoom capabilities for live sports and special event productions. 
The system starts with a camera head. The HDC-4800 uses a new Super 35mm 4K CMOS sensor and wide color space. It uses all the familiar ergonomics and commands, including dynamic focus assist and a simple large lens adapter. The next leg in the camera is the BPU-4800 baseband processor unit that also doubles up as the replay server. This BPU-800 not only enables continuous recording of up to four hours of Ultra High Frame rate 4K (8x super motion content), but also allows instant replays that can be broadcast on-air as a first replay. 

35mm CMOS sensor; shoots and records slow motion at various speed, dependent on preference; 4K and Wide Color Space with Ultra-High Frame Rate (UHFR) capabilities; 8x at 4K, and up to 16x in full HD; pricing TBA.


There is something to be said when manufacturers decide to produce companion products that match up really well with their cameras and design philosophy. The Blackmagic Design ( Video Assist 4K is a new portable monitor and video recorder that can be used to record and monitor any SDI or HDMI camera. But truth be told, it looks like it really belongs with the Ursa Mini. Blackmagic Video Assist 4K has a high-resolution, seven-inch monitor, with two high-speed recorders for non-stop HD and Ultra HD recording. It incorporates two XLR microphone inputs for professional audio recording and a built-in speaker. What I found intriguing about this product is that it features two built-in, high-speed UHS-II recorders fast enough to record Ultra HD video up to 2160p/30fps. Files are saved as 10-bit, 4:2:2 video in either ProRes or DNxHD formats. Another pleasing feature is the attention to audio. The unit records high-quality audio and features two mini XLR inputs.

Also announced was a new camera Operating System for the Ursa Mini that’s not just an upgrade, but a total rewrite from the ground up, featuring an entirely new user interface. The new UI features a heads-up display with fewer menus and submenus needed to find settings and commands. The camera operator can now quickly change settings such as ISO, white balance, shutter angle, iris and frame rate, as well as frame guides. Other additions include custom white balance and white balance presets, along with tint control settings and shutter angle selection. A large, easy-to-use, on-screen keyboard is also provided. 

Video Assist features 1920x1080 touchscreen LCD; records 1080p up to 60 fps; ProRes 10-bit, 4:2:2 encoding; HDMI and 6G-SDI video inputs; loop-through video outputs; stores to single SDHC/SDXC memory card; on-screen histogram & audio levels; focus peaking & zebra; and dual Canon LP-E6 type battery slots; lists for $895. The new operating system and user interface for Ursa Mini is offered as a free download.


At NAB 2016, JVC ( really emphasized one significant enhancement — one of the industry’s first IFB return audio system built into a camera. Available in the new GY-HM660 ProHD camera, a replacement for the GY-HM650, it allows the director or news anchor to communicate directly with the camera operator or reporter. In addition to newsgathering applications, the IFB return audio feature will allow communications with camera operators in a totally wireless multi-camera production. It only requires camera operators equipped with IP-capable cameras on-location. Each camera records footage locally using on-board, non-proprietary media, while simultaneously streaming footage live back to the production facility using a private network. Camera operators communicate with the director using the new IFB return audio channel.

Integrated IFB audio channel; new CMOS image sensors; brighter LCD display; the GY-HM660 with IFB lists for $5,495.


Red Digital announced on the floor that Weapon, Scarlet-W and Red Raven can now shoot in Avid DNxHR and DNxHD recording formats via a free firmware update. This update includes the ability to shoot Redcode raw (R3D) simultaneously, alongside Avid DNxHR/HD. In addition to the Avid news, Red announced a selection of highly anticipated accessories, including: the DSMC2 Side Handle, an ergonomic handle with navigation wheel and customizable settings that's ideal for compact, handheld configurations; a DSMC2 Jetpack-SDI Expander, an I/O expander designed for aerials, gimbals and other lightweight/remote configurations with SDI connections; DSMC2 V-Lock Battery Module, which pairs with a variety of expanders to power via V-Lock batteries; and a Red Pro Touch 7.0-inch LCD, designed for off-camera configurations and offering camera control plus a high-definition experience for recording and viewing footage.  

Avid recording formats is a welcome addition to the Red lineup; free upgrade; additional hardware upgrades allow for greater flexibility and mobility for hand-held shooters; firmware update is free.


Arri is now offering a software update package (SUP 4.0) that brings ProRes S16 HD recording to its Amira camera. The new mode takes a Super 16-sized crop from the sensor and scales it to a 16:9 HD picture in any ProRes codec. The image circle is 15.1mm, which is slightly larger than the traditional Super 16 image circle of 14.5 mm. Many lenses designed for Super 16 will cover the new recording mode without any vignetting inside the image area. 

The company also announced a newly-acquired Trinity camera support system that consists of a compact and lightweight two-axis gimbal head, a monitor mount and joystick that attach to the gimbal handle, a battery hanger module and a pendulum that allows ‘drop down’ moves. The unit, with the right training, could be a phenomenal tool in the hands of the right cinematographer. The Trinity as shown, was quite fluid no matter the orientation. Trinity has mechanical camera stabilization with modern, 32-bit ARM-based gimbal technology. Payload and height adjustability mean that larger cameras and heavy lenses can also be supported, but just to run with the Trinity head (I call it a camera halo) as a handheld rig, you would have to be in pretty good shape. 

Additional stabilization in the roll axis of the Trinity head permits the use of telephoto lenses and the joystick-controlled, fully-stabilized tilt axis allows low-angle or over-the-shoulder shots, as well as smooth, in-shot transitions between low mode and high mode. This unit would be a great creative addition for the director who is looking for that moving shot with a twist.

The Trinity camera support system consists of a compact and lightweight two-axis gimbal head, a monitor mount and joystick that attach to the gimbal handle, a battery hanger module and a pendulum that allows ‘drop down’ moves, pricing TBA.


AJA ( released V.1.3 firmware for the Cion, AJA’s 4K/UltraHD and 2K/HD production camera that shoots edit-ready Apple ProRes files at up to 4K/60fps. V.1.3 firmware is offered as a free software download. AJA also announced that Cion purchases made after April 18th will qualify for a free Pak1000 drive, provided direct from the company. The V.1.3 firmware features improved highlight handling and black detail in every gamma mode. Renamed gamma modes now are more closely aligned to industry standards and the settings are now available in the Cion menu, and include new options for Standard, Expanded, Video and Cine modes. Cion V.1.3 also offers a gentler roll off of highlights, and a greater level of detail in the blacks. 

Better highlights, improved detail in blacks; upgrade allows Apple ProRes at 4K/60fps; renamed gamma controls now match industry standards; download is free.