Why you should still buy a camera

People who say that they’re not interested in a 4K camera until they get a 4K TV are wrong.

For starters, how much time do you actually spend watching the time you filmed on a television? It you’re an editor your probably used to working with an LCD monitor, at lower or proxy resolutions to make editing easier.

The chances are that camcorder sales are going to fall to incredibly low levels over the coming few years. All camera manufactures have had to innovate to deal with the rising levels of smartphone use for recording things. We’ve seen cameras that literally connect to phones, cameras that run an android operating system and have a sim card slot, cameras with WiFi capability and considerably more variations on all those themes.

Many people will now own a phone capable of recording at 4K, and almost every phone can do HD, so why are camcorders so important?

I’ll start with big sensors. You can put a much larger sensor in a camcorder than on a phone the largest sensor I’ve ever seen on a phone is about half an inch. The largest I’ve seen on a camcorder, well, that’s 65mm (IMAX on a technicality). Most DSLR’s have APS-C, equivalent or better sized sensors. Why is that great? Because it is.

From a creative standpoint working with a small sensor can simultaneously be the best and worst thing to happen. No depth of field, unless you spend most of your time at the long end of the lens, and forget shooting in anything over than brilliant sunlight. Bigger sensors=bigger pixels=much better low light performance. Just look at the full frame A7S, which manages extraordinary near night vision low light thanks to it’s enormous sensor.

And it gets better. With Sony’s new (rumoured!) Active Pixel Colour Sampling sensor, some extraordinary things are possible, like over 35,000fps in 720, and around 20,000fps in 1080p. Impressive? Yes, well, it gets better. Thanks to Active Pixel Colour sampling, a sensor could yield 21 steps of dynamic range. What does your smartphone achieve? About 8. Imagine how good HDR images look, then imagine a video that looked like that.

But what can this also do? Well, APCS is really, really exciting. Previously, due to De-bayer filters (which I will write an article about but in the meantime just google or look at wikipedia) essentially mean your video and images have 1/4 of the resolution they profess to, but with APCS each photosite can read out the three different RGB colours, rather than just one. What does this mean?

Well, two things. Either you can achieve True 4K with a 4K sensor, rather than an 8K one, or, because you need 1/4 of the photosites for an APCS system that a De-bayer system by interpolating APCS, so, the pixels can be a lot bigger. This means, and you guessed it, more rook for gathering light, and that means insanely awesome low light performance.

But sony has taken this whole thing one step further and introduced a Global Shutter on this particular sensor. Global Shutters remove the horrible jello/rolling shutter affect, but the required extra circuitry to ensure every row of pixels is read at EXACTLY the same time involves running ultra thin wiring across the front of the sensor, and this reduces the area available for light gathering. Current cameras with Global Shutters have very low base/native ISO’s, 200-400 is the normal, and nothing compared to this new sensors native ISO of an incredible 5120.

Combining a Global Shutter with APCS would result in a camera that had global shutter and great low light performance, as well as either True 4K or De-bayered 4k. When we first heard of this rumour it was speculated APCS would come in a smartphone, but the large profile over the sensor (over 1.5″) made it unlikely. Sony could put APCS in a phone, but I consider that very unlikely.

I’ve sort of gone off on a bit of a tangent here, but realistically, there are many reasons to buy a proper camera. The simplest of which is, your pictures will look better. That’s it really . 

Jacob

Write a variety of articles, when I get the time. Usually do more longform and analysis than I probably should. Also an editor.

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