Full Frame Cinema Shootout

Read the article written for ProVideo Coalition here

Ever since I took ownership of my C500mkII I’ve been asked over and over how it stacks up against the Mini LF. I do have an opinion on that, but I decided it’d be a better use of everyone’s time to go ahead and compare all four of the current Full Frame Cinema Cameras available with my friends over at Stray Angel. Alexa Mini LF vs C500mkII vs Sony Venice vs Sony FX9. All at once. It was also “take your girlfriend to work day” so Dani got to sit in as our model. You can see that test footage below:

We shot each camera with the Sigma Cine Prime 50mm and 85mm lenses set to f5.6 and lit the scene in such a way that one could get a good idea of how each camera handles their respective dynamic ranges from F19 down to F2, when aided by an exposure ramp up to f16 and down to f2 on the lens. We had the cameras set to 4300K as we were using mixed lighting. While the look is important, and we’ll get to that, the first thing we wanted to focus on were the features as that’s what you’ll be considering most heavily when deciding to buy or rent. These cameras are actually quite similar in that regard so to save everyone some time, I’ve made a chart that goes through the main specs of each.

Sens. Size44.7mm ∅43.1mm ∅40.4mm ∅43.5mm ∅
Max Res.4448 x 3096 (4.5K OG)5952 x 3140 (5.9K DCI)3840 x 2160 (4K UHD)6048 x 4032 (6K 3:2)
Raw12 bit12 bitN/A16 bit*
Compressed12 bit10 bit10 bit12 bit
Sensitivity800 ISO800 ISO800/4000 ISO500/2500 ISO
CodecsArriraw, ProResRawlite, XF-AVCX-AVC, MPEG2X-OCN, X-AVC, ProRes
ProxiesN/A2K, XF-AVC, 35MbpsHD, X-AVC, 9 MbpsHD, ProRes 422
ND Filters6 Stops, 3 Stages10 Stops, 5 Stages7 Stops, Variable8 Stops, 8 Stages
Anamorphic1.3x & 2.0x1.3x & 2.0xN/A1.3x & 2.0x
Reported DR14+ Stops15+ Stops15+ Stops15+ Stops
AutofocusN/ADPAF, FaceFaceN/A
MediaCodex Cards2 CFexpress, SD2 XQD, SD2 SXS, AXS
Gen/TCTimecodeTimecodeGenlock, TimecodeGenlock, Timecode
Audio IO6-Pin LEMO2 XLR, Mic2 XLR, Mic1 Five-Pin XLR
SOOC “Look”Balanced ContrastLow ContrastHigh ContrastBalanced Contrast
Accurate SkintonesAccurate SkintonesGreen All OverOlive Skintones
Green Mids, Color Acc.Magenta Cast, BrightDarker than averageBalanced Color, Greenish
StrengthsIn-Camera RawIn-Camera RawVariable NDRialto Extension
Arri LookMost ND, SmallestGreat AFMost Versatility
Industry StandardBest Price/PerformanceCheapestRobust Image
Weight5.7 lbs3.8 lbs4.4 lbs8.6 lbs

There can be a bit of confusion around Full Frame cinematography, but after reading this article from Art Adams and the stuff Steve Yedlin has put out you should be in good shape. Essentially, there are absolutely advantages to shooting on bigger sensors (higher physical resolution, less noise, better in low light), but there’s no inherent “look” to full frame/large format cameras that can’t generally be replicated on smaller sensors or in cropped modes. All four of these cameras are “Netflix Certified”, they’ve all got built-in NDs, they’ve got roughly the same dynamic range, the same basic I/O, they’re even roughly similar sizes. These cameras are the best of the best right now, and as time goes on cameras will only become more and more similarly powerful. This isn’t 2008 or even 2012 anymore, that’s for sure.

Read the full article on ProVideo Coalition here