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04 Feb Arri Amira Camera Price Announced

Arri Amira

The specs and design of the new Arri Amira camera have intrigued us since its announcement last year, but the lingering question on the back of everyone’s mind has been what the starting price will be. Last week Arri announced the base price point for the Alexa’s ENG-Style little sister, which will ship at different tiers of pricing for your choice of configurations.

The most basic version of the Amira camera body with a viewfinder will be $40,000. This features Rec709 ProRes 422 HD recording up to 100fps. Above that, the middle level configuration will include LogC, ProRes 422 HQ to 200fps, in-camera grading, and a few more extra features. Lastly the high-end version features 2k resolution at ProRes 4444 and custom 3D LUT controls. The lens mount, battery plate, and shoulder pad will be customizable for each option.

The mid-level camera is priced at $45,000 and the highest option is set for $51,500. And perhaps needless to say, these price points only cover the basic essentials, so expect to pay more for other necessary accessories like media, lenses, audio, and camera rigs.

When the Amira was first announced, many questioned the lack of 4k recording capabilities. While 4k would help future-proof the camera, the argument against it was that the Amira has a niche purpose as a run-and-gun ENG-style camera, for documentary or news video rather than for cinema. This and its touted 14+ stops of dynamic range, low-light capabilities, and the pedigree that comes from the Alexa’s success helped to change most critic’s minds. The hope, then, was that the Amira would be a bit cheaper and more affordable to independent videographers.

It’s too early to know if the $40-50k price range is too high or not, but I think it’s safe to say it is well out of most people’s budgets. Most of the popular digital cinema cameras being used today come in well below that, price-wise, but then again Arri has proved with its previous digital camera models that studios will pay the high price for quality. A breakdown of which cameras were shot on in Oscar-nominated films this year proves that the Alexa is quite popular in Hollywood, though that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Expected shipping date for the Arri Amira will be after March 2014. It remains to be seen if it will be a popular camera purchase, but there’s no doubt it will be a hot rental item later this year.

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18 Jan CES 2014: Larger Resolution, Smaller Packages

If there’s one thing to gather from the video products announced at the Consumer Electronics Show last week, it’s that “4k” is more than just a passing fad. All of the major electronics companies seem to be jumping on the bandwagon, with 4k televisions, projectors, and cameras.

For example, among several other companies’ 4k TV announcements, Samsung unveiled 105″ and 85″ bendable 4k TVs, while Sony showed off their new 4k Ultra Short Throw Projector.

Samsung Bendable 4k TV Sony 4k Ultra Short Throw Projector

Both look like really sleek solutions to one of the main problems with 4k footage: the inability to view it at full-rez on your current TV or computer screen. Now, finally, the monitoring options are catching up to 4k cameras like the Red Epic or Sony F5, (though with 8k cameras already in production, it looks like the resolution arms race won’t stop there).

And while camera resolution keeps getting bigger, the size of the cameras themselves keeps shrinking. One of Sony’s big announcements at CES was the FDR-AX100, a handheld consumer 4k camcorder.

Sony FDR-AX100

Although this seems like it could be more of a gimmick to sell cameras based on the “4k” buzzword, the technology is there to where we can get very high quality images from such a small package.

The wild popularity of the GoPro line of cameras speaks to this. With such a small form factor and a high quality image (4k even, at low framerates), the GoPros allow for completely unique perspectives in filmmaking– such as affordable aerial cinematography with the DJI Phantom quadcopter.

DJI Phantom Quadcopter

This year at CES we saw new GoPro accessories like the robotic camera operator Jigabot AIMe and the Steadicam Curve, proving that the range of applications for these tiny cameras is getting wider every day.

 Steadicam Curve

If these trends continue we’ll have cinema-quality 20k footage coming from a pinhole camera within a couple years, but for the time being we’ll gladly stick with 4k, as the sheer volume of recorded data is putting enough stress already on the Studio B servers.

Get with the trends and rent a 4k digital cinema camera or GoPro today!

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14 Jan The Possibilities of Portrait Lighting – guest post by the Perez Brothers

Cinematography is infinite in its possibilities… much more so than music or language. – Conrad Hall

The above quote by Hall (cinematographer of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, American Beauty, etc.) helps to illustrate the collaborative decisions a cinematographer and gaffer must make when it comes to lighting an actor. Whether you are filming a commercial in Silicon Valley or narrative feature, it is essential to have firm grasp of how lighting can affect the audience’s perception of your subject. The following clip from a music video produced for Heia Sun & Stellar Kinematics demonstrates how a single light source can dramatically change one’s perception of the human face:

As seen from the hypnotizing example above, light placement is everything. Placing a light below an actor’s eye-line for example, can offer an ominous or menacing look (imagine a film noir or a horror film). Conversely, placing a light above an actor’s eye-line provides a more natural and potentially beautiful aesthetic (imagine a high-key comedy or commercial). Whatever the cinematographer’s creative preference might be, as a gaffer, I am often asked to light actors in a portrait setting.

While every actor’s face is unique and every project requires a different approach, I have found myself continually returning to one streamlined lighting plan for my portraits.  Several years ago I had the pleasure of working with the McCoubrey Brothers on a series of NFL spots for their Thursday Night Football campaign. With limited production gear available, we devised an effective portrait lighting set up for the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers.  The following is a simplified sketch of the lighting setup we used for the shoot (created by Devon Perez):

Lighitng Plan

Pretty easy right? All that you need for the above lighting plan is three lamps: a key light (one 1K Arri with a Chimera), and two soft backlights (two 2×4 Kino Flos with tungsten bulbs). At the time of the production, I could not quite put my finger on why the setup made the players look so fierce. In retrospect, I realized that the intensity of the portraits came from the way the softback lights accentuated the jawlines of the athletes.

Jawlines are extremely important for both male and female subjects. Accentuating a jawline with lighting can help actors appear to have model-esque cheekbones, while simultaneously make an action hero look twice as sculpted. The following still shot was taken from an upcoming short film that I directed with my brother Devon, entitled The Weigh In (2014):

Weigh In Image

As you can see from the example above (which uses the same lighting setup illustrated in the diagram), the jawline is accentuated and there is a lot of contrast on the face, which provides “tough” looking portrait of our boxing character. Conversely, the portrait lighting plan can be modified to achieve a more natural looking aesthetic for your film. The following still was taken from an internal video for Google that I shot and lit with my brother:

Screen Shot for Google

As you can see from the example above (using the same lighting setup), we were able to achieve a totally different look, yet maintain a strong jawline on our subject. As mentioned previously, the portrait lighting plan can be modified to taste by adding an additional hard backlight or a fill light. For corporate shoots, I will often bring the key light directly over camera (which provides a nice even spread on the face) and compliment the key with an additional fill light or a piece of reflective beadboard.

In conclusion, there is no magic potion or simple formula for lighting every subject. Some portraits are lit with a single source, while others are lit with countless lamps, as Hall said, “the possibilities are infinite.”  However, my hope is that the above article and visual examples can help provide a jumping off point for making portrait decisions on your next project. As I my brother and I continue to make films, we have found it crucial to never stop learning and to continually find ways to push yourself both technically and creativity.  Informed lighting can lead to fantastic projects, never settle for less.

The Perez Brothers are award winning filmmakers and lighting technicians from the San Francisco Bay Area. They are best known for their work as co-directors on music video and narrative shorts.  As they continue their search for representation, their style has often been described as comedic, surreal, and always creative. @PerezBros

Perez Bros Promo

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09 Jan Sony F5 Firmware v3.0 Released

Sony recently pushed out the newest major firmware update for their Sony F5 and F55 cameras. This update includes a few major changes but mostly numerous minor additions to the ever-expanding functionality of the CineAlta line. Both cameras are finally living up to and surpassing the promises Sony teased us with when they were first announced, and proving to be great options for both studio and on-the-go filmmaking.

After updating our F5, the new features we’re most excited about are the additional S&Q (slow and quick) framerates for both 2k and 4k recording, the center scan mode for use with 16mm lenses, the activation of the AES/EBU digital audio inputs, and the ability to playback RAW 4k footage from our AXS-R5 recorder on set. Check out the Sony infographic here for a changelog of features throughout the past year.

Sony F5 Firmware Update

Other notable updates not mentioned in the graphic are additions to the Wi-Fi remote controls, new S-Log color grading space selections and white balance adjustments, and improved user LUT controls. A full list of changes, including both cameras and recorder firmware download links can be found on the Sony forums here.

The two features expected in this update that didn’t make the cut are cache recording and interval (timelapse) modes, which have been pushed back to March (firmware v4.0). Besides those, Sony has given us everything promised and more, and the Studio B production team is excited to continue shooting with the improved functionality of the CineAlta cameras. Call or email today to rent our Sony F5 package, fully up-to-date with the new features of firmware v3.0.

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02 Jan XQD Cards for Sony F5 & F55 – guest post by DP Dennis Hingsberg

XQD Cards

For those looking at alternative options to Sony’s SXS Pro Plus cards (recommended for best performance on the F5/F55), fortunately as of the October version 2.0 firmware release Sony added support for the Sony XQD memory card format. Not only do the XQD cards outperform traditional Compact Flash cards for image capture, but with read/write speeds of up to 180MB/s they support stable workflows at XAVC 4k Intra 4:2:2 (4096×2160/60p, 600Mbps) and mean super speedy transfer rates to your computer via PCIe interface.

To make things slightly confusing there are three series of Sony XQD cards; S-Series, H-Series, and N-Series. The S-Series comes in two speeds (168MB/s and 180MB/s) and the new N-Series is 125MB/s. The H-Series is now discontinued (was 125MB/s). According to Sony; “the S-Series features a Wear Leveling Function, Error Correction Code, Data Refresh Function and other new features to enable secure and stable recording of 4K content, helping to meet the rigorous demands faced by professionals. The N-Series gives consumers an affordable entry-level option that supports consumer 4K shooting.”

A Sony 64GB SXS Pro Plus card will set you back around $850 USD while a 64GB S-Series XQD card costs around $319 for the 180MB/s card and slightly less for the 168MB/s. For the F5 and F55 Sony has indicated that the XQD cards support all codecs: XAVC 4K, XAVC 2K, XAVC HD, HDCAM SR file, MPEG. An SxS to XQD card adapter ($33 USD) is needed to use the XQD card media in the cameras, and an optional USB3.0/2.0 XQD card reader can be purchased for around $38 USD.

TESTING:

I tested both the 168MB/s and 180MB/s XQD S-series on the Sony F55 using a resolution, codec and frame rate that would produce the absolute highest maximum data rate which is 600Mbps when recording 4096×2160/60p in XAVC. A quick look at the Sony F5/F55 data chart shows there is no other combination of resolution, codec and frame rate on the F5 or F55 that exceeds 600Mbps. So it would stand to reason that if the S-Series XQD cards can handle 4096×2160/60p that all other combinations of settings should also work flawlessly.

SonyF5-F55-media-chart_zpsc9408fdf-1

If there is still any doubt that these cards have adequate performance to work in various camera shooting modes I suggest that you ignore the codec, frame rate, and resolution, and strictly look at the bitrates you will be working with. For example 4k/60p and 180fps HD in HFR mode have the exact same bit-rate of 600Mbps, which is the highest data rate possible on the cameras. Remember the SR codec maxes out at 440Mbps in 30p mode, and MPEG even lower.

When you look at just how fast these cards are in Mbps equivalence, the XQD cards are up and around near 1440Mbps and 1340 for the 180MB/s and 168MB/s respectively, and although the data rates of the cameras don’t come anywhere close to the max rates of the cards, where you will find the benefit in speed is later during transfer of footage when off loading your footage to your computer or storage network device.

Unfortunately at the time I performed my tests the N-Series were not available yet so I did not have an opportunity to test them. They should definitely be fine for MPEG on the F5/F55 but from what I read they are more geared for consumer use on the newer generation of Sony 4k cameras. During my testing I also did not have a chance to test 4k XAVC and HD MPEG proxy simultaneous recording on the F55.

All and all I think the XQD cards can be a great alternative for the Sony F5 and F55 cameras for personal projects or the budget conscious.

Guest blog post by director/cinematographer Dennis Hingsberg.

Check out his website at: starcentral.ca

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09 Dec Documentary Filmmaker Equipment Survey

PBS’s POV, which focuses on documentary films, has put together a survey of documentary filmmakers and their favorite gear to use when directing and editing. Although the sample size is relatively small, their answers appear to correlate pretty well with the equipment that documentary filmmakers are most often renting from us here at Studio B. As opposed to studio filmmaking, the documentary approach has always favored the lighter, smaller, and cheaper options for their portability and adaptability within the vérité style. We see this in the survey as Canon comes out on top of the favorite camera brands, due mainly to their line of DSLRs and lenses. Sony, Panasonic, and then Other rounded out the list in that order, and while the Sony EX1 is extremely popular, the Canon C300 took the top spot as most popular camera for doc filmmakers.

Canon also took the top brand spot in the lenses category, due partly to the popularity of Canon cameras, and partly to their affordability and versatility. Many other branded cameras are now shipping with EF mount options, or with the ability to adapt to one using a third party mount. The Canon L series zooms provide such a flexible and inexpensive solution to shooting nearly anything, that it is no wonder they are popular with on-the-go filmmakers. Sennheiser and Zoom were the brands at the top of the audio section, which is no surprise due to the industry standard Sennheiser MKH 416 shotgun mic and the Zoom H4n and H6 recorders.

Whether you are a documentarian or you prefer a different style, it’s definitely worth considering what kind of gear others in the industry are using in order to better your own filmmaking. It’s also worth checking out what gear they most often bought vs. rented. The doc style generally allows for cheaper gear and therefore more incentive to buy and keep it with you on-the-go, but we find it noteworthy that they still rent a large portion of their equipment. Check out the survey here, laid out in a useful infographic (click to enlarge):

POV Documentary Equipment Survey

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22 Nov New Arrivals: FS700 and Odyssey 7Q Recorder/Monitor

FS700Banner

We’ve got some exciting new additions to our camera lineup but we’re most excited about the arrival of our new Sony NEX-FS700. While this camera has been out for over a year now, firmware and hardware updates have had time to be released enabling a myriad of new functions to the FS700 including the ability to shoot in 4k Raw @ a continuous 60 fps or 120fps in burst mode. While the FS700 is more widely known for its ability to shoot at a buttery smooth 240fps in 2k, this function only becomes available with an external recorder.

Ergonomics:

This is where the Odyssey Recorder comes in. With its integrated monitor, the 7Q compared to Sony’s own IFR-5 Recorder has the added benefit of shaving off weight and bulk off the rig enabling it to be more compact for whenever the need for a shoulder/ hand held shot arises. While this isn’t the most scientifically accurate size comparison between the two recorders, you can gauge from the photos below just how much of a difference this could potentially make. The body is almost an exact clone of the older FS-100 so anyone familiar with that camera will feel right at home with it’s younger, more able-bodied brother.

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 10.12.26 AMO7QBracket1

Pros/Cons:

While the camera stumbles a bit in low light, its ability to shoot continuous 2k footage at 240fps allows the user to do what they can’t on other mid level professional cameras. Another thing to be weary of is the slight bit of aliasing that is introduced while shooting at the highest frame rate. I wouldn’t go as far as saying these are shortcomings: more so tiny nuances that are eclipsed by the camera’s unique features. The built in ND filters and insane frame rate should keep this setup as the go to choice for anyone doing sport/outdoor shooting or anywhere the high fps required/desired.

We now have both the FS700 with EF mount for Canon glass and the 7Q External recorder available for rent at Studio B Rentals. Call today to reserve a camera package!

External Links:

A nice little video showing off the varying rates of slo-mo available on this camera: http://vimeo.com/43056694 

More technical breakdown of the Odyssey 7Q: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JDNQNocsuo

 

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04 Dec Sony is fully in the digital cinema game with their new PMW-F5 and PMW-F55 Cameras

Sony is stepping up to the plate in a big way with their new PMW-F5 and PMW-F55 Digital Cameras ready to fully compete with Canon C500, the Red Epic, and Arri’s Alexa  at competitive prices .  It’s an exciting time to be alive, especially if you’re an independent filmmaker.

Sony — a little late to get into the game with the Sony F3 — originally looked as though they were focusing more on the traditional broadcast market and the super high end (Sony F35) than the digital cinema filmmaker. In my opinion, they dropped the ball while Red, Cannon and Arri ate their digital cinema lunch. But now things are changing, and it looks as though Sony isn’t going to roll over and play dead.

What’s so great about these new Sony cameras?
Well, based on the specs that have been released it looks as though Sony is going after the affordable 2K and 4k market in a big way. The image sensor promises  “a superb dynamic range, the widest color gamut, and pristine image quality” whether you shoot in HD, 2K or 4K. With the optional AXS-R5 recorder, you can even make the jump to incredibly precise 16-bit Linear RAW in both 2K and 4K. Sony says the F55 cameras will have a color gamut very similar to their top tier F65, which will have all of the color aficionado’s drooling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camera Body Design and Function

In a design that mimics the best of Arri Alexa body, with a side view screen and a similar array of buttons, both cameras are following the trend of a modular design with as much packed into the real estate of the camera as possible.

Lots of good Lens Options
The F5 and F55 come loaded with a PL mount and Sony’s FZ mount, which you can easily pop off and attach a variety of lens mounts (Nikon, Canon EF, etc.) so you can use any lens under the sun. Sony is making a line of Zoom lenses that will fit on the FZ mount as well, providing zoom control and auto focus communication with the camera. So, unlike the Canon c300/500 or Red Cameras, the F5 and F55 can be operated like a cinema camera or a more traditional broadcast camera, perfect for events and concerts, with the benefit of beautiful 4k or 2k RAW Video.

 

Huge exposure latitude

The ability to render tones from deepest shadows to brightest highlights is a crucial test of any digital camera. The F55, with an impressive 14 stops of exposure latitude, has extraordinary low-light sensitivity and extremely low noise in the blacks.

The Sony F55 also employs a Revolutionary electronic global shutter

Here what Sony has to say about their new shutter: “The traditional CMOS image sensor uses a “rolling” shutter that can result in images with unwanted distortions like motion skew and flash banding. That can be annoying, especially when shooting visual effects or 3D. Anything but typical, the F55 sensor incorporates electronic global shutter. Rolling shutter distortions aren’t minimized, they’re completely eliminated.”

So What are the difference between the Sony F5 and the Sony F55?
• The F55 allows you to record 4K, 2K or HD internally to SxS Pro+ Cards, have electronic frame image scan, and have the same type of color filter array technology used in Sony’s F65
• The Sony F5 is less expensive to buy and rent, it can record 2K or HD internally to SxS Cards and will be able to record 4K externally.  The F5 has a F3 type of color filter array.
• F55 has internal 4K recording: up to 60 fps
• F55 records HD to 180 fps
• F5 records HD to 120 fps
• F55 has 4K output via SDI connections
• F5 does not have 4K output
• F55 is rated at ISO 1250 (in S-Log 2). Other figures lurk.
• F5 is rated at 2000 ISO (in S-Log 2)

And what’s Common to both cameras

  • Both the F5Exposure latitude is 14 stops.
  • 5 and F5 record 4K (and 2K) RAW onto a modular onboard AXS-R5 recorder that uses a new AXS Memory Card.
  • Both cameras have a Super 35mm 4,096 x 2,160 single CMOS sensor (11.6M total photosites, 8.9M effective) — Super 35mm
  • 3-perf format size, 24 x 12.7 mm, 27.1 mm diagonal.
  • The camera weighs about 4 lb 14 oz (body only), and measures 7 ¼” long x 4 ⅞” high x 4 ⅞” wide.
  • It consumes 12 V DC (11 V – 17 V) at about 25 W in 4K at 60P.
  • There are 3 behind-the-lens optical filters: clear, ND 0.9 (3 stops) and 1.8 (6 stops).
  • Electronic shutter angle is variable from 4.2 – 360 degrees.
  • Shutter speeds adjust from 1/24 – 1/6000 second.
  • White balance choices are 3200, 4300, 5500K, Memorized, and ATW (Auto).
  • There are 6 standard Gamma Curves, and 6 HyperGamma
  • Curves: HG1, HG2, HG3, HG4, HG7 and G8. The last two have 800% range, the difference is where middle gray is 33% and 42%respectively.


Conclusion
From what we’ve heard and seen, the F5 and F55 cameras make beautiful pictures and give you a big bang for your digital camera buck.  Studio B Film is planning on purchasing a couple of each for our rental department when they are available, hopefully early in 2013, and we will be excited to use them on our own shoots.  As soon as we get our hands on one, we will post some test footage in a future blog.

About Studio B FIlms Rentals
Studio B Films is a full service digital video camera rental house.  You can check out our full compliment of cameras and other gear on our web siteStudio B FIlms Rentals

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10 Apr Canon 5D Mark III Unboxing Video

The new Canon 5D Mark III just arrived at our doorstop last night! We couldn’t wait to open it up and get our hands on it.

See us unbox it:

In the coming week we are going to put is through the paces and see if it lives up to the hype. We will be posting a review for it shortly.

In the meantime, you can check out some picture comparisons of the Mark III and Mark II bodies:

The button arrangement has been slightly rearranged. Most notably the power switch has shifted up to the settings wheel on the left. The video button has also received it’s own designated button. You can’t see it from the pictures but the mkIII has a bit more heft to it.

If you can’t wait to get your hands on the new 5D mkIII, you can rent it immediately here at Studio B Films!

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03 Mar Canon 5D Mark III – Is this the next step in the DSLR Revolution or just another camera?

Wowzers! It’s here, the long awaited Canon 5D Mark III! Once rumored to have 4k recording capabilities, xlr inputs and a built in espresso machine, the final specs of this much anticipated ‘uber-hyped’ camera have now been released! The Mark II has become a staple for Studio B shoots.  It’s fairly rare these days that we go out on a shoot without it. If nothing else it’s a great second camera when we are shooting on the Red Epic or Arri Alexa, and we often use it simply for production stills. Lets see if the Mark III Can replace the Mark II as our go to DSLR.

FROM THE 5D -MARK-II

TO THE 5D-MARK-III

Looks like they took what worked so well and stuck with it. Definitely a good thing.

So, in the end, why do we care? Lets break down the features.

New features include:

  • ISO sensitivity range from 100 to 25,600 (50 to 102,400 extended)
  • Digic 5+ Processor and 22.3-megapixel full-frame CMOS Sensor
  • 1080p recording @ 30/25/24fps and 720p recording at 60/30fps
  • Close to 30mins of uninterrupted record times w/automatic file splitting at 4GB files
  • Duel Compact Flash Type I/UDMA and SD/SDHC/SDXC Card Slots
  • Built-in headphone jack
  • Manual Audio Level Control with 64 levels (which you can adjust during movie recording) ZOINKS!
  • New 61-point autofocus system (same as the one found in 1D X)
  • HDR and Multiple Exposure modes
  • In-camera RAW processing
  • Comparative playback function (view two images side-by-side on LCD)
  • Scene Intelligent Auto mode
  • Support for high-speed UDMA 7 Compact Flash memory cards
  • 3.2-inch, 1.04 million-dot LCD
  • Optical viewfinder with 100% coverage

In video mode, it also has better noise reduction, so when you are at your crazy high ISO it won’t look as grainy as you think it should. It also claims better file compression and better overall picture quality, thanks to the digic 5+ processor. This camera is set to ship in late March and will retail for $3,500 smack-a-roo’s, over 1k more then its predecessor.

As for Still only options, I know there are a bunch but I’m not a still guy so I couldn’t tell you what they mean. If this is important stuff, post a response letting everyone know why still shooters would care about the Mark III.

So, now is the 5D Mark III a replacement to the Mark II or just another option in the world of DSLR? And, is it worth the extra cash? It’s really going to come down to image quality, if there is really that big of an improvement and if all these little features add up to a whole lot in the work that you do.

To single out the audio improvements, most people won’t be needing audio features for their DSLR anyways and without the inclusion of at least duel mini inputs, its not a feasible audio recorder anyways.

Even better low light recording? Well, more of a good thing is an even better thing, so if that does all it is supposed to, I can see that being a major factor. Longer record times, yes please. Time code, its about time. So yeah, there are improvements, but does that warrant a $3,500.00 price tag?

Soooo, whats my final take? We will get a couple of Mark III cameras in the studio so we can have it as part of our arsenal. Although the new features aren’t revolutionary, they are welcome additions, and since we’re already big fans of the 5D Mark II, I say ‘bring it on.’

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