I recently needed to prep for a shoot where we had to match RED ONE 4K footage from 2010. The discussion came down to which 4K camera to use for this video shoot, and I at first was stuck choosing between the Sony CineAlta PMW-F55, the Canon Cinema EOS C500, and the ARRI ALEXA camera systems. Read further to follow our thought process, and see the final results captured by the winning camera system!
The ARRI ALEXA is a great camera, it's become somewhat of a standard for motion pictures and television series, and having never shot with this system I really wanted to use the ALEXA initially. Here's the kicker, though: according to ARRI, "The ALEXA's ALEV III sensor has 3392 × 2200 effective pixels used for generating an image, however, only 2880 × 1620 pixels are used for recording on the regular ALEXA and other models in 16:9 mode, the rest are used for lookaround in the viewfinder."
As the director for this shoot, I couldn't shoot 2K+ if I needed to match 4K RED footage, so the ARRI unfortunately would have to be put back in the rental holster until a future big-budget commercial comes calling. (Hint Hint)
That left myself, DP Jeremy Jackson, and AC Tanner Fields weighing the Sony F55 vs. the Canon C500. Now the Canon EOS C500 is a great camera, with both Canon and ARRI PL mounts, the ability to capture 10-bit 4K footage, and all coming in Canon's trademark, easy-to-work with size & components. We'd shot with the EOS C300 for a national TV ad for Notre Dame a couple of months previous, and loved the cinematic results.
To capture 4K 10-bit with the Canon, however, you need an external recorder like the Genesis 444, and our shoot involved capturing 12 doctors who all have very limited schedules, so using an external recorder added a level of complexity we didn't need.
We decided to go with the Sony CineAlta PMW-F55, and after going logically through the decision process, for our shoot this really was a no-brainer. The camera can capture 10-bit, 4K footage natively, and internally. This means unlike the ARRI, true 4K is native to the camera, and unlike the Canon, the recording is internal and hence, much easier than adding the complexity of a recording system. Also, and this claim needs to be substantiated, but our rental house indicated Sony makes many of the internal components for the ARRI ALEXA.
As Joe Marine put it in this blog, "If I were renting a camera for a production and I’ve got a choice between Canon and Sony, the only way I’m not choosing the F55 over the C500 is if we need a tiny rig and we’ve got a case full of professional Canon lenses already."
Well guess what? Even with a full case of Canon lenses, we still went with the Sony F55 with Zeiss CP.2 lenses. Take a look at the finished product below and see how the Sony F55 4K did cutting with the RED ONE 4K footage. For the record, I will definitely be recommending the Sony PMW-F55 for future projects I direct!
"Pajamas" :30 TV Ad - shot in 2010 on RED One in 4K
"Pajamas 2013" :30 TV Spot - added doctor shots which were captured by Sony F55 in 4K See an F55 vs. ARRI Side by Side Test from Cinescopophilia here
or watch another review below on the Sony PMW-F55!