We are a little late to the party but our ability to blog has never been our strong point, however our strong point at Media Dog Hire is to be ahead of the curve when it comes to Cameras, Lenses, Lighting and Grip for the TV and Broadcast world.
After a few years being rather underwhelmed by the likes of NAB and IBC, this year's IBC actually created a fair few talking points for us. There have been countless round ups already written on IBC 2019, so in this write up I'm going to focus on two camera which caught everyone's eye, and the battle they are locked in.
Sony vs Canon - PXW-FX9 vs C500 mkII
First, a bit of history. When I first entered the world of TV and Broadcast it was about 12 years ago. Digibeta had just been phased out and the DSR-450 was the go-to Broadcast camera, with a selection of smaller Sony Cameras for B Roll. Sony had the market and were pretty relaxed about it. Then the HD switchover came, and Sony were slow off the mark. Canon had already dipped their foot into the Professional Film and TV market in 2008 with the 5D mark 2, allowing decent video recording on what was a consumer level camera in terms of price. Then, in 2010 Canon released the XF305; it was affordable, and good enough for most HD acquisition needs.
The TV market flooded with XF305s. It used cheap cards (Compact Flash) and BBC were happy to include it in their broadcast allowance even though it didn't quite hit Tech Specs due to a smaller sensor (why? Because there were no other options.. Sony were asleep).
Sony tried to recover, the release of the PMW200 came too late. It used SxS cards at ~£180 a pop opposed to the £20 Compact Flash the XF305 used. Yes it was nicer.. much nicer, but everyone had already kitted out with XF305s and Compact Flash Cards. The PMW200 didn't match very well so half way through a production you couldn't swap, and the additional cost of cards and additional costs to pay to ingest the cards just meant the PMW200 fell flat. Canon built on their market dominance with subsequent releases, really nailing the market with the C300 - a camera still used heavily now.
Sony needed to get their market back, they made a decent start with the PMW500, and then the PMW-F5 & F55, but they were too big and too expensive for the general TV market, and lens options were quite limiting at a time when photographic lenses and smaller prime lenses were flooding in due to their affordability and adaptability across the Canon range of cameras. Sony responded. They released the PXW-FS7. It was a solid Full HD Camera. It could do 4K. And it could do 150fps. You could stick an EF adapter on the front and use all your EF lenses you already owned. It also had a kit lens which... does a job. Suddenly, there was only 1 camera TV productions wanted. And it has mostly been that way since 2016 or so. A few cameras have dabbled, but the FS7 has been the staple of UK Television production for 4-5 years.
So let's look at the two latest offerings from both:
Everything the FS7 can do. A few minor fixes to bodywork and ergonomics, but big improvements inside. Firstly, it's a full frame 6K sensor - a brand new design they call the XMOR R sensor - so you can make full use of a large proportion of the lenses across the range (most notably the Canon L series which have previously been limited to a crop factor with Super35 sensors).
It also has Sony's new Autofocus feature - they call it Fast Hybrid Autofocus, which seems to be comparable, if not better, than Canons dual pixel autofocus.
Itcurrently crushes down to 4K from the 6K sensor, but the image you get will look better because of the better quality of the original sample. It also future proofs this camera for a fair while as you wouldn't think the firmware to just add in a 6K codec option would be too difficult at a later date - although you can be sure that Sony won't release this for free.
The sensor claims to have 15 stops of dynamic range, and although Sony are adament it is not the same sensor as the (much more expensive) Sony Venice, it has a lot of the same technologies they boasted with the Venice, including it's S-Cinetone Colour Science which is designed to create beautiful skin tones, something Canon sensors always did better than Sony's.
This camera sits nicely in the market between the FS7 and the Venice. Certainly close to the FS7, hence it's naming, but that'll just help it with the world of television to keep a familiar name.
C500 Mk II
Anyone else think this is strangely named? The term 'Mark 2' is usually added on to suggest a slight improvement to an already existing model. The C500 was, sorry Canon, awful. Everything was kinda there.. just not all working together. It could output a fantastic 4K codec, but only into an external recorder, and at the time the options for external recorders with enough capacity was very limited and they were very expensive. It just didn't take off.. so to suggest this is a Mark 2 version of a camera Canon should probably just move on and forget about, strikes me as odd. The naming of it suggests to me it's going to be difficult to promote, it sits between the C300 Mark 2 - fantastic camera but was nowhere near as popular as Canon had hoped - and the C700, which is incredibly rare.
However, the goods news is that the Mark II naming is really quite incorrect, it has little in common with the original C500.. showing much more comparison to the C300 Mk II - which was a much more successful and useful camera. The C500 Mk 2 has a lot of things going for it, to start with it has the absolutely beautiful Canon sensor, but this time in Full Frame 5.9K allowing 4K in 60p and 15 stops of dynamic range with their C Log 2. The original C500 always had the limitation of requiring the external recorder for true 4K, now the Mk 2 brings that to the party internally. However I'm seeing little evidence of any frame rates above that, which I think means Canon are missing a trick. Sure, you don't want to shoot everything in 150fps.. but how many shoots have you been on and there's just that one shot where 150fps would just work nicely. Not having the ability to do that is.. frustrating.
The C500 also enters the market more expensive than the FX9 - and that's before you've considered that really you need the Viewfinder upgrade to the one they launched with the C700. Some quick totting up; viewfinder, rig, cards, extra batteries.. it's coming in north of £20k. And that's considerably more than the FX9 as a kit bundle.
Canon have made the C500 ii work with the same batteries as the C300 ii. But so have Sony with the FX9 and FS7.
Both have V-Lock support, something new to Canon, and Sony release a new XDCA for the FX9. I'm currently not seeing what the XDCA-FX9 does that the XDCA-FS7 does not - so you'd have hoped they'd have made those interchangable, but no such luck.
Canon have also created an easily changed EF and PL mount, something they've toyed with before but made it a big hassle and requirements for a small toolbox.
Sony have stayed with their E-Mount system, which means additional EF and PL adapters required, something already out there by various manufacturers.
In summary, I think both of these cameras have the potential to hit the market hard in early 2020, but I have more faith in the FX9 making the immediate impact than the C500ii. The C500 has too many limiting factors, starting with it's name and cumulating with it's price.
Which will look better? Probably the C500ii.
Which will be more useful? Definitely the FX9.
Written by Gavin Binder
Birmingham Hire Manager
Views expressed in this post are Gavin's personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Media Dog as a company or other members of staff.