When we think of a cinema camera, we often consider a camera dedicated to the moving image that creates a look and feel that is cinematic. Simply put, it captures the utmost image quality without compromise.
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While mirrorless cameras can give us manageable file sizes or quick set-ups, cinema cameras are tools that can create a structured workflow and are designed to handle the rugged environment of a film set from a crew that’s always on the move.
A cinema camera can shoot film or digital at 2K, 4K, 8K, or even 12K and beyond. The camera itself is only part of the cinematic look many try to achieve. There’s the production design, costume design, locations, visual effects, and editing techniques that all add to the feel of a film or television show. The camera is just the technical heartbeat behind the work of dozens of people.
We’ve recently started seeing less expensive cinema cameras that meet those real requirements because of the advancement in technology. So much so, that they’re becoming more manageable to buy than to rent. Below are the best digital cinema cameras we found under $10,000.
Think of the RED Komodo as a shrunken down, baby RED Dragon with a lot of the same features, quality, and color science but smaller than 1/2 the size and 1/4 of the price. The Komodo was originally designed as a small, compact “crash camera” intended to be mounted where large Red cameras couldn’t go but without compromising the quality.
It is impressively small too, a box camera just 4×4”, capable of filming in 16-bit R3D in 6K at 40fps with 16+ stops of dynamic range that is virtually indistinguishable from other RED cameras. The first RED camera to incorporate autofocusing technology, this RF Mount camera can be completely controlled and monitored via the iOS and Android app Red Control, and the deep level of integration is impressive.
RED cameras have notoriously required expensive add-on components to get up and running, including overpriced proprietary media, but with the release of the Komodo those days are over. Not only does the RED Komodo work right out of the box, requiring little more than an SDI monitor, it also uses reasonably priced Cfast 2.0 media. This camera isn’t battery hungry either. Its unique two-bay Canon BP-900 slots allow for endless battery swapping, and runtimes of around three hours per battery.
This camera doesn’t offer eye-catching headlines with outrageous frame rates, but with R3D it’s going to be a real joy to shoot with.
Best Alternative: Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K
Black magic launched the URSA mINI Pro 12K, and beyond simply changing the game in terms of resolution, leapfrogging from their current 6K Pocket right over 8K and going straight to 12K, the camera boasts a completely fresh sensor design, which allows the camera to operate in ways other cameras don’t, at least not yet.
Building on its existing URSA Mini camera body design, the 12K version delivers such stunning images that you’re able to consider the camera as a real contender when it comes to higher-end productions. Blackmagic Pocket cameras have been dominant, and now we’re about to see the URSA Mini Pro on more productions than ever before.
Even smaller and with a few more conveniences than the RED Komodo, the sONY fx6 packs a lot into a fantastic design. It is essentially a beefed-up a7S III with a full-frame sensor that can see in some of the darkest settings imaginable.
An internal 10-bit 4:2:2 codec that meets most broadcast standards and an external 16-bit feed that can be recorded using an Atomos recorder make this camera just about as versatile as it gets.
Stripped down, this camera is even lighter than the Komodo and can be mounted easily onto a handheld gimbal, which could allow you to do a lot more on set with less.
Some form of RAW recording is a must for a digital cinema camera in 202 and even though the form factor of the Pocket 6K isn’t the best for a film shoot and the battery life leaves a lot to be desired, the Pocket 6K can capture fantastic images and offers a wonderfully simple post workflow with its BRAW codec.
The Pocket 6K packs in video recording of 6144 x 3456 up to 50fps with a Dual Native ISO of 400 and 3200 which is expandable to 25,600. It can record to CFast 2.0 or SD/UHS-II cards, or externally to take advantage of BRAW. Expect around 13 stops of dynamic range.
With a built-in 5” touch screen, there is very little rigging that needs to be built out to get rolling on a shoot day.