So I have been in the market for a good quality video camera for a number of years now but cannot afford even glancing at pictures of them. I’ve seen the market ebb and flow with new trends, gizmos, capturing technologies, codecs, formats, blah blah. About a year ago, I read about RED cameras releasing a new system of hardware that would allow users to vary their set-ups based off of budget, functionality, resolution, and project type. The new camera was called SCARLET – a small 3K sensor with a vast arsenal of add-ons. I have been jonesing for a SCARLET since the first production stills and internet rumors were released. But there might be a new player joining the game to win my digital affections: The Canon 7D.
SCARLET would allow users to achieve an amazing 3k resolution, partake in a complete manufacturer modular hardware support (grips, rails, matte boxes, viewfinders, hard drives, battery slots, HD LCD screens, etc), a smaller, lighter body for easier compact rigs, etc. Basically, it’s an instant boner for filmmakers on a budget. They’re claiming the SCARLET sensor body will list for $2500 with accessories obviously upping the price tag. The best part is that I can use the canon lenses I already own for my EOS DSLR with an adapter. Instant RAW footage at 3K res with ability to upgrade down the line = sold. Problem is, SCARLET is all still in pre-production. Sure they have had units available for touching at various film conventions, but there is no guarantee the camera will be available to the public in the next month, 3 months, to even a year. Knowing RED, the camera could still be myth and legend till 2012 when the world dies. How the hell will we capture the carnage in 3K by then?!
My original prerequisites in camera shopping included full HD picture quality (1080p +), affordability (sub $3k — not that I could afford it even if it WAS below this line), interchangeable lenses (or the addition of a RedRock adapter within the alotted budget), quality sound, ease of file access and editing. The SCARLET seemed to be my answer. But as I mentioned, there is a new player to the game and an enticing one at that. The Canon 7D is a smaller follow-up to Canon’s previously released 5D Mark II. The 5D, I believe, was the first DSLR in Canon’s line to offer full 1080p video shot at 30fps (unfortunately one of it’s original weaknesses in that it was TRUE 30fps, not 29.97fps). What was meant as an add-on for photographers turned into an outright game-changer for filmmakers. They were able to use their collection of film lenses with the 5D’s body and create stunning video. Now Canon has released the 7D which improves on some aspects where the 5D fell flat (though this gap is quickly slimming in firmware updates from Canon for both cameras). We have 24p, 60p (720p), smaller form factor, pretty good low light, and more. The best part, you can get just the 7D body (sans lens) for $1699. This gives me some wiggle room to buy a good mic system, maybe some lights, a matte rig, and dinner on my way home. That is, once I sell my body to science for the cashola. Here’s a Canon 7D example:
Side note: Further proof that the 7D kicks ass took place a week ago. I was asked to be a part of a commercial shoot for Doritos. I knew the production was a small one with very little budget, but that the crew were top notch (one member worked for 3 years on James Cameron’s AVATAR!). I show up on set and our DP started grabbing his camera equipment. An eager technology beaver, I went right up to him and started asking questions about what we were shooting on, “Red? 35mm?”. “Nope”, he quickly answered, “this bad boy.” He pulled out a brand new 7D. The whole spot was shot on a tiny lil 7D and it kicked ASS. He had a range of lenses to use for any set up which helped a lot in making the final product look so damn good. I will share the results when it’s all polished up.
In the end, yes, the consumer is the winner. As time goes on, there will be more competitors that jump into the market with more resolution, better options, blah blah, but for the time being, I have to say, my money goes to Canon. Sure, I would LOVE a RED SCARLET kit, but the question of when/if it makes it to market before 2010 is a doozy. At least the 7D is currently available and already running in filmmaker’s satchels. Any problems with the unit are being addressed and Canon is actively listening to the consumer (proof in their firmware updates to the 5D Mark II). Also, with the Canon, there are no hidden costs. I know exactly what I am getting for $1k less then just the SCARLET sensor. Any additional Canon add-ons are purely for assistance as I can film right out of the box with the 7D. I doubt this will be the same for the SCARLET. Here’s another 7D sample:
Now why is it that I want to buy such a fancy camera? Well, a couple of reasons. One, I want to start filming sketches and bits for The Real Cool Club that look stunning and really meet the production standards I have become accustomed to. Two, I have some serious plans for film making in my future and I want to be able to film in locations where lugging a big ol’ camera setup could prove difficult if not impossible. Example: If I want to end a film on top of the Eiffel Tower, a video camera wouldn’t cut it. But with the Canon 7D, I would just look like a tourist taking photos. And three, I want to be able to get hired to do contract filming for projects that require it.
The cool thing that I’ve decided to do is essentially “work off” the cost of owning a camera by allowing our viewers on The Real Cool Club to tip us funds that will go directly towards the cost of the camera. In exchange for the tips (some are amazingly gracious amounts!) The Real Cool Club has been providing immediate feedback, customizing the show format to fit the viewers’ challenges, shout-outs, and more. We’re literally putting the show in our viewers control and it’s been a BLAST! Once we reach our $2000 goal, we plan on filming individual sketches for each person that donated a $1 or more to our cause. Our viewers are directly affecting the future of our show’s quality. The new standard will be set and they will watch with the knowledge that it was all because of their contributions. We could not be MORE EXCITED!
If you would like to donate to our cause, you can do so by following the paypal link HERE. I’ll leave you with one more video: