A continued emphasis on improving 4K capture and making it accessible to a larger user group is evident from this ‘snapshot’ of camera products that have been announced recently.

See the Olympics in 8K

8K: Would have been introduced at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

It has been evident for some time that the cycle of development for camera technology is speeding up. For instance, few would argue with the notion that the shift from HD to 4K has been considerably faster than that from SD to HD. Whilst 4K HDR is now on its way to becoming the ideal for live sports and entertainment, there is also increasing attention being given to 8K – even without the Olympics that was expected to introduce it to the world stage taking place this year. 

Though NAB fell foul of coronavirus, many manufacturers still launched new product around the timeframe of the exhibition, meaning it’s possible to gain a fair idea of what would have occupied the showfloor. No prizes for guessing that further innovations in 4K would have dominated, with multiple manufacturers adding to their number of supported formats as well as their capabilities for high frame rate capture. 

However, a separate cluster of launches indicate another strong trend in favour of versatile, cost-effective and eminently mobile cameras geared towards production for streaming. With the economically straitened times that will inevitably follow the Coronavirus crisis, it’s no stretch to imagine that this area of the market will become even more critical over the next few years. 

“Sports continue to be a driving factor in the need for high frame rate cameras,” - Ken Truong, president of FOR-A Corporation of America

Supporting the ‘shift to 4K systems and workflows’ 
April 20 saw Canon unveil full details of three specific product developments that would have been showcased at NAB 2020. Acknowledging what Canon EMEA’s Jack Low describes as the “increasing shift towards 4K systems and workflows”, these products include an expansion of the 2/3” 4K broadcast lens series in the form of the CJ18ex7.6B KASE. Featuring a versatile 18x zoom with a focal length of 7.6mm-137mm, the new lens sports an extender-free design, with its lighter body making it suitable for studio productions where extended zoom ranges are not required. 

NAB would also have seen Canon exhibit its first camera to incorporate the Dual Gain Output (DGO) sensor – a newly developed imaging system designed to offer “exceptionally clean low light picture quality and superb HDR acquisition”. The camera in question is the Cinema EOS C300 Mark III, which features a Super 35mm 4K CMOS DGO sensor, modular design and the ability to record in multiple formats.

Canon EOS C300 Mark III

Canon: EOS C300 Mark III

Suitable for high-end production deployment in conjunction with the EOS C300 Mark III is another new Canon camera, the EOS R5. Developed in response to a specific demand from content creators to shoot both high-quality film and stills, the EOS R5 is capable of supporting both 4K and 8K capture – in the case of the latter, 8K RAW non-cropped with internal recording up to 29.97fps. 

“With its ability to record in cinema industry-standard formats and codecs, the EOS R5 is an ideal lead camera for many productions, but also – given its compatibility with cinema workflows – the camera will shoot comfortably on high-end production sets,” says Richard Shepherd, Canon pro product marketing senior manager. 

Driving demand for high frame rate cameras 
Sports continues to be at the forefront of 4K adoption, so it’s no surprise to encounter a cluster of cameras aimed at delivering high frame rates in playback for the purposes of richly detailed super slow-motion replays. FOR-A’s FT-ONE-SS4K is a case-in-point and shoots up to 1,000 fps in 4K, offers simultaneous record and playback with internal memory, and features independent real-time 4K or HD output. Other features include 24-axis colour correction and compatibility with Canon’s OLED viewfinder. 

“Sports continue to be a driving factor in the need for high frame rate cameras,” confirms Ken Truong, president of FOR-A Corporation of America. “Our FT-ONE special purpose cameras are designed for super-slo-mo 4K acquisition of sports and other live event footage, and can be combined with other FOR-A tools to deliver unprecedented replay flexibility.” 

At the time of writing new product and upgrade news was continuing to emerge from the leading manufacturers. Products that would have been shown by JVC at NAB include the CONNECTED CAM GY-HC500 handheld production camera, whose main features include: 10-bit ProRes 422/422HQ/422LT at 4K UHD resolution; 59.94p/50p/29.97p/25p/23.98p; recording to M.2 SSD; 4K UHD 29.97p/25p/23.98p 4:2:2 10-bit or 4:2:0 8-bit (150Mbps); and HDR recording, HLG or J-Log1 (10-bit). 

Working in conjunction with Atomos, Panasonic has announced a new firmware update programme for the LUMIX S1H Full-Frame mirrorless camera. The new firmware – which will be available to all S1H users free of charge – enables the outputof maximum 5.9K/29.97p and 59.94p 4K RAW video data over HDMI to be saved as Apple ProRes RAW on the Atomos Ninja V 4K HDR monitor-recorder.

Blackmagic-Pocket-Cinema-Camera-6K non trans

Blackmagic: Pocket Cinema Camera 6K edition

Virtue of versatility 
Production versatility, including for streaming applications, is a theme that continues to resonate strongly with Blackmagic Design, which has announced a new software update for its Blackmagic Pocket Camera 4K and 6K models. As a result users can connect to an ATEM Mini Switcher and obtain control of the camera parameters, lens and tally light. ATEM Mini can control up to four cameras via the HDMI video connection and ensure that all cameras are matched for a live studio workflow. 

April also saw Blackmagic Design detail a new version of the ATEM Mini that heralds fresh features for recording, streaming and monitoring. Patrick Hussey, the company’s head of communications EMEA, explains: “Like the base model, the new ATEM Mini Pro can control up to four different cameras when streaming to YouTube, Twitch and Facebook Live, and will automatically standards-convert and re-sync all HDMI inputs. It also features two stereo audio inputs for connecting desktop or lapel microphones.” 

The addition of an integrated streaming engine, adds Hussey, “allows users to stream directly from the ATEM Mini Pro via the Ethernet port and reduces the likelihood of dropped frames. It will also cache your stream, [and it is also possible] to save an H.264 copy of your stream with AAC audio for backup or export.” 

Further product announcements will doubtless follow over the coming weeks, but the overwhelming impression is that 4K production per se would have attained a new level of maturity at this year’s NAB. With workflows now solidifying and an increasing range of content being delivered in 4K, the onus is on manufacturers to make production as streamlined and cost-efficient as possible. It’s a challenge to which they are clearly rising – whilst they also look further down the road to a time when broadcasters might be obliged to produce selected content, notably sports, in both 4K and 8K. Many technical hurdles remain to be overcome before we reach that point, but the sheer fact that it is a point of attention confirms that the developmental cycle is continuing to accelerate.