Low-light filming is about to make a big leap forward

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I thought it said “low life”, and of course I clicked on it…


“indie filmmakers, wildlife documentarians, and investigative journalists” and CCTV makers of course!

“Indie filmmakers”? Because being considered “indie” pays enough to use a $30k camera?


Handy for astrophotography.

Also, if the tech gets adapted for high-speed cameras, this may lower their dependence on extremely bright lights, allowing sensing of fast events without too much light (which can bleach the samples and do other photochemical shenanigans we wouldn’t want) and associated heat (these lamps can run HOT).

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You rent this kind of thing…


I’m basically waiting on 4k for any new device at this point. Even cellphones.


Which is the way of all things nowadays, it seems. Technical considerations are what they are, and whiz-bang new thing X needs the latest sodium vapor hypertensed diamond coated yak hoof which costs $12 bajillion per metric fluid ounce and whatnot, but it seems to me that personal ownership is going the way of the dodo.

Or, as an old friend might say to me while looking at my now-ancient (digital) Canon 5D, “yeah, but my 35mm can do it without the batteries and software and trinkety bullshit.”

I don’t know whether I’m more irritated that we need “indie” filmmakers to use this camera to show how great it is given that great storytelling doesn’t need the latest greatest to still be great storytelling, or that ownership of things is old-hat.

Even back in the day, an indie production would rent a cinema camera.

Also, take comfort in how the business model has changed for the better – your friend has to pay $0.50/picture for film processing. Your cost per-picture is negligible.


I think that’s the big rut that popular movies inhabit these days. Breaking free from the chains of theatrical narrative doesn’t need to make them vapid. It is a lack of adventurous content that hurts them. At the risk of sounding misanthropic, I think that the world is more interesting, and don’t need to see a few thousand more movies of humans talking about their stereotypically human concerns.

What excites me about developments like this camera is that I think it increases the range of content that becomes possible. And it might empower independent videographers (it neither uses film, nor yields “footage”) by offering more options with regards to lighting. For crews of less than ten people working guerilla-style, this might make all of the difference of getting something made. Rather than bringing a generator and aiming lights to try to make a scene appear as if it had natural lighting!

And ownership has always been merely a matter of belief.

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I take better pictures than he does anyway :smile:

Mostly this has to do with my lack of knowledge about how much movie production costs, even if done cheaply. And on top of that, I take “indie” to be similar to “DIY” in that the filmmaker is operating on a relatively low budget and using older equipment due to cost and complexity.


Canon innovating in digital cinema? Fetch my salts! Someone warn Sony the old giant is waking up. As a consumer of such things, all I can say is I welcome the competition.

Funny, I’ve been getting the opposite vibe, at least in the micro-budget commercial/institutional movie arena I operate in.

Yes, technology is moving fast enough that ‘latest and greatest’ is a moving target so it’s best to rent if money is no object.

But it also means the affordable alternatives are getting closer in quality to the better stuff all the time. For the price of a few days’s rental of, say, a top-flight Arri + Angenieux lens combo you can buy and get two years of solid service from a Blackmagic + Sigma alternative. And the results can frankly be very similar for most applications.

That’s what I’d do. That’s what I’m doing, actually, not with these exact gear examples (damn Blackmagic cameras take forever to ship after they’re announced, and I’m in Brazil so you can mentally triple every gear-related expense) but something like it. Works for me.


Even low budget you can make gear rentals affordable. You mention the 5D, right? I can walk across the street and rent a 5Diii for $65 a day. It’ll come with an SD card, batteries, bag, the works. Now, if I pick it up late on Thursday, they charge a one-day rental, for Friday. And then I return it on Monday morning. That’s three full days of shooting on top of the line gear for $65 if I already own lenses.

“Indie” these days is literally any budget below $100,000 or so. If you do it right you can get pretty far on a budget like that.

And tell your friend medium format is the way to go with film. 35mm. How quaint! :slight_smile:


True, so renting the latest, greatest certainly makes sense. I was going to reply that, as a still-camera user (that is, amateur photographer and not videographer), more technology in the device doesn’t necessarily translate to a higher quality image, so I outright purchased my camera body and a few lenses and accepted that although the tech would most certainly improve, that I would rely on the fundamentals of imaging and learn to use my camera as best I could.

Of course, I recognize that this could be taken as a slur against people wanting to shoot with the latest/greatest, and that’s definitely not my thrust or intention. Photographers still have the argument about whether ground glass and paper film surpasses full-frame digital and vice versa, or as @SteampunkBanana mentioned (and yeah, I got it wrong–medium format!):

I think that’s an argument that will last the ages, to be sure. And maybe I’m being disingenuous with the whole damned thought: I bought my Mk2 for a long hike, and the body fit my needs/wants perfectly (other than being kinda heavy), especially since I’d given up on ‘film’ camera bodies after messing with Canon’s first digital Rebel.

And to switch briefly back to the thought on ownership–I bought the body because I expected that camera to be the only camera body I’d be buying for the next [many] years, which is exactly the way it’s played out.


Being ‘indie’ sometimes pays very little and sometimes pays a bunch, and many indie filmmakers do indeed rent cameras costing $30,000 or more. (Sometimes lots more.)

Successful indie filmmakers often buy a camera with their first chunky payday. I grew up with indie filmmakers who owned their own Super 16 rigs, and occasional coaxial-mag 35mm Arriflexes that could be hand-held.

With digital and no need to buy film, owning your own camera makes even more sense. Especially a low-light-capable rig that can get usable footage without renting anything.


I’ve said for a very long time that the real revolution in filmmaking will occur when digital sensors progress to the point that feature-quality footage can be shot with ambient light all the way down to nighttime or even moonlight, producing exactly the image that the human eye sees.

Right now, major feature film productions cart around truckfuls of lighting equipment and rigging, and lighting is one of the most time-consuming parts of most location shooting. (I know, because I was once one of the guys unloading those trucks and rigging the lighting.)

The ability to ‘shoot what you see’ without additional lighting will change filming and film budgets in a major, major way. This camera is a close approach to that, and suggests that the revolution is not far off.

All you gaffers and electricians and electrical grips, take note.


[quote=“wrecksdart, post:15, topic:62867”]
I think that’s an argument that will last the ages, to be sure. And maybe I’m being disingenuous with the whole damned thought: I bought my Mk2 for a long hike, and the body fit my needs/wants perfectly (other than being kinda heavy), especially since I’d given up on ‘film’ camera bodies after messing with Canon’s first digital Rebel.

And to switch briefly back to the thought on ownership–I bought the body because I expected that camera to be the only camera body I’d be buying for the next [many] years, which is exactly the way it’s played out.
[/quote]Hassys have plummeted in price. You can get one of the best medium format camera outfits for less than a grand these days. 35mm has been equalled by digital these days, but there’s a long time to go before 120 gets affordable for sensors.

I’m still on the 5Dii fence myself, having purchased it new in '09 just after the holidays. It replaced the used-when-I-bought-it 10D that I’d held onto for about five years. I’ve been really happy, but the recent low-light advances in the 6D and the Nikon 750D have made me interested in upgrading, it’s just not financially smart. So I rent a 6D on special trips for relatively cheap and get the best of both worlds (all three if you count film…)

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I think you made the right choice. It’s not often that the gear is the limiting factor nowadays, particularly when we’re still learning.

That said, digital photography is relatively mature compared to digital video technology. Your 5Dmk2 is still an excellent photography tool by any standards. But its video shortcomings (low real resolution, aliasing/moire artifacts, bitrate and compression limitations hindering color grading choices, and so forth) will be readily apparent compared to more recent offerings from the likes of Panasonic, Sony, Blackmagic Design and even Samsung that have really changed the goalposts for price-quality ratio in the last few years.

Canon (and Nikon!) have been famously resting on their laurels in this segment and not really offering real innovation, so any news pointing toward them fighting back can be kind of exciting.

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Yeah, the draw of medium format is strong, but the technical requirements of it are such that I’m not (yet) willing to take that particular leap. That said, Galen Rowell is one of my photo-heroes and he rocked 35 mil like J. Cash rocked the mike. Even got a set of graduated density filters (with his name on the pouch) from his studio out in Bishop, CA :heart_eyes:

The 6D–yeah, the low-light focus and higher frame rate would be nice, but I don’t usually work with the crazy high ISO settings, although they’d be nice if the image doesn’t get lost pixels or heavy grain (which does happen somewhat with my 5D).

I probably don’t rent nicer camera bodies than I currently have because that might trigger my credit-card finger before the brain-safety was engaged.


Minor point: I’m shooting with the original 5D, no video mode at all! Which is relatively stone age, compared to the 6D and beyond…

An excellent point, and reading up on the 6D, your price/quality point is equally relevant–I think I bought my 5D back in the day for something around $2500? My only regret at the time was that I had to sell my old 1D, which had a frame-rate that was nothing short of magical. And a bonus: the 1D camera body could also be used as a bludgeon when necessary :smile: