Video / Hands-on Review

Holiday 2012: The Year in Video Cameras


This past year has seen some exciting developments in the rapidly evolving world of professional video production, and 2012 was a big year for new cameras in particular. In this article we’ll take a quick look at a few of these exciting, new cameras and their more notable contributions to the industry’s bleeding-edge technology. We’ll discuss new offerings from established manufacturers like Sony and Canon, as well as newcomers like Blackmagic Design.

With a veritable flood of new cameras, Sony really put the pedal to the metal this year. They certainly seem intent on addressing any and all types of video production, from event videography to mass-market cinema. The NEX-EA50UH launched a whole new series of Sony camcorders designed for event videography. The camera’s more notable features include a lossless digital zoom that crops the APS-C sensor in real time, and Sony’s first E-mount lens with servo zoom. The sensor crop zoom in particular seems destined to become a future staple, and many other Sony cameras have already adopted this feature.

The NEX-FS700 brought some truly remarkable firepower to Sony’s lineup of Super 35mm camcorders, adding high speed frame rates and a sensor capable of capturing 4K resolution. Out of the box, the FS700 is capable of recording Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution video at up to 240 frames per second, which renders beautiful slow motion when played back at 24 fps. The 4K recording mode, however, will require an external recorder that Sony expects to release in June of 2013.

Yet another new Sony camera, the NEX-VG900 is a full-frame camcorder. The full frame sensor format was previously the exclusive province of DSLRs. Moreover, the VG900’s native E-mount takes advantage of a short focal flange distance, which makes the VG900 compatible with a wide range of lens adapters. Users can take advantage not only of Sony E-mount and A-mount lenses, but also such legendary lens systems as Leica M, Leica M36, Nikon F, Canon FD, Canon EF and more.

Sony’s Balanced Optical SteadyShot is one interesting bit of technology to come out of the enthusiast/prosumer market. The Sony HXR-NX30U camcorder features a unique image-stabilization system, which isolates both the lens and sensor from the rest of the camera body and utilizes a built-in gyroscope to  reduce shake dramatically. The results are significantly better than traditional IS systems.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of 2012 was Blackmagic Design’s entry into the camera arena. The manufacturer’s first camera, the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, put forward some previously untouchable features—at least for independent shooters—at a surprisingly pedestrian price point. 2.5K RAW recording and 13 stops of dynamic range make this a truly cinema-worthy camera. Moreover, the camera is perfectly suited to a post-production workflow that includes Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve, Hollywood’s longtime color correction and color grading platform of choice. Best of all, DaVinci Resolve 9.0 and UltraScope software come free with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera.

Canon, who made a big splash in the video market in 2008 with the 5D Mark II, made a similarly ambitious bid in 2012 with their Cinema EOS line of cameras. The flagship Canon EOS C500 employs Canon’s newly developed Super 35mm sensor to record Full HD 1080p internally and 4K/2K RAW via a third-party, external recorder. Moreover, the camera’s ability to record in Canon Log Gamma preserves approximately 12 stops of dynamic range for a more film-like image.

The Canon EOS C100 is the most recent edition to the Cinema EOS line. It doesn’t have the processing power of the C500 or C300 but it is nonetheless outfitted with the same Super 35mm image sensor and Canon Log Gamma. With similar ergonomics to the C500 and C300, the C100 is the smallest of the three and takes, perhaps, the best advantage of the DSLR-inspired design. In addition to recording Full HD 1080p video to SD cards, the C100 can output 1080p video via HDMI to an external display and/or an external recorder for capturing a non-compression signal with 4:2:2 color sampling and time code.

Another recent addition to the Cinema EOS line, the EOS-1D C is a DSLR that Canon designed specifically for video. This camera has the same full frame image sensor as the EOS-1D X, but the processor and internal recorder are optimized for video—optimized indeed—with the ability to capture onboard 4K-resolution video (4096 x 2160). The 1D C is also capable of recording Full HD 1080p at up to 60 frames per second. Of course, the 1D C is compatible with the full line of Canon L series lenses, but a Super 35mm crop mode means that the 1D C is also compatible with a wide range of cinema lenses, including Canon's new EF Cinema Zooms.

Finally, since it has been four whole paragraphs since we last mentioned a new Sony camera, let us not forget the PMW-F55 and the PMW-F5. If the F5 is the “800-lb gorilla in the room,” then the F55 is the “elephant in the room.” Either way, these two camcorders are certifiable beasts. The F55 has the category’s first global shutter and an internal recorder capable of capturing 4K resolution. Moreover, both cameras are the brains behind a tightly integrated, modular system that includes the AXS-R5 recorder, which is capable of capturing 16-bit RAW in 4K and high speed frame rates of up to 240 fps in 2K RAW.

Each of these cameras has some unique features that will undoubtedly help to shape the future of video production and—years from now—they may well establish 2012 as a historic year for camera technology. If you’ve enjoyed this brief year-end review and would like more information about any of these cameras, please visit our NYC SuperStore. You can also contact us on the phone at 1-800-606-6969 or via live chat.

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I've been telling people that Sony CRUSHED EVERYONE this year. The Canon folks are still numb and in shock. lol Like, "Sony? How is it possible? How is all this gear worth piss now?"

Good for Sony to make it happen, and good for Black Magic. Panny and Canon got too lazy and short sighted because they thought they controlled the market. Now they're goin to be playing catch up for the next ten years. If they even can catch up (Nikon anyone?)

Great things. Great year.

were the standards of this article too high to mention the SONY PMW-200?

Yes.... far too high, the afore mentioned cameras are in another league.

“Sony introduced many great video cameras this year, some of which were included in this article. The article was intended as an overview and certainly not as an all-encompassing list. We tried to include a sampling from most major brands covering a range of features and targeting a range of possible customers. The PMW-200 is indeed a worthy camcorder, with a great choice of recording formats, and many important features. There simply wasn’t enough space to include every camera and keep the article to a reasonable length. “