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The evolution of Super 35mm and DSLR

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Gavin Binder, Media Dog Hire Operations Manager and Editor for Media Dog Films, on the evolution of Super 35mm and DSLR.

As many of you know, Media Dog Hire started life as a Production Company (we still make our own productions now at Media Dog Films and have watched our productions evolve alongside the rest of the UK), but when we first dipped our toes into the hire business there were two cameras you needed for your shoot: DSR450 (the main camera) and the Sony Z1 (secondary camera).

The need for Digibeta popped up occasionally, but you could essentially run a decent hire business without really needing a third type of camera.

But times have changed, a lot. Have you seen our camera list now? Not to mention F-stops, ISOs, crop factors, bokehs, depths of field, bit-rates, wrappers, codecs, 4K, slow Motion, RAW etc. Techniques and requirements which were once only needed by the big drama and film departments, are now common occurrence. Whether you’re a corporate production company, a broadcaster, or a wedding and events videographer, there’s a certain 'look' which everyone is craving and it comes from 35mm and Super 35mm sensors.

Of course, there are still huge advantages to the old familiar broadcast cameras, the Sony PMW500 and Sony PDW F800 are still going strong, particularly with broadcasters and events, when the acquisition of footage quickly is the paramount concern and lens changes and difficulty of focusing Super 35mm lenses prove too much of an obstacle. But with new lenses such as the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 and the Canon CN7 17-120, you can almost have the best of both worlds.

Personally, I’ve found that even the most set-in-their-ways productions have found that adapting their workflow to suit Super 35mm shooting has been easier than I expected. Yes, it can take longer to get the shots if you have to change lenses, or if you’re shooting on Primes and need to set yourself a little more carefully than if you were able to just frame up with a slight zoom, but the shots you get are so nice you can just hold them for longer. Five 'acceptable' shots or two which just look beautiful? As an editor, please give me those two every time.

So many cameras, so many options. So what are the choices?

Canon’s C300 probably edges these last 12 months in the camera popularity contest. It’s main advantage is that you can pop relatively cheap L Series lenses on the front and go out with a set of zoom lenses covering you from wide to telephoto without hugely denting your shoot’s budget. Or if you’re after something a bit shinier, get yourself some Canon Cinema Primes and make those shots really sparkle.

Sony’s F5 and F55 are the new boys in town. The F55 allows internal 4K, whilst both models allow 180 frames per second in full HD and 240 frames per second with the bolt-on AXS-R5 Recorder. Yes, these cameras have been out for a while, so calling them the new boys seems a little unusual, but they’ve been held back up to now by the lack of zoom lens options. The Fujinon Cabrio is stunning, but at £25,000 to buy it puts itself out of most budgets. Canon have retaliated with their CN7 - a 17-120 zoom - slightly undercutting the Fujinon on price, wider and longer. This will make the F5 and F55 genuine players in the broadcast world.

And then there’s the wonderful plucky DSLRs. The 5D Mk II, now superseded by the 5D Mk III, which opened the floodgates for consumers to have professional gear and then spilt over into the professional markets. Whilst not BBC HD approved at 24 mbit/s, it’s been a damn good servant to the industry since it hit the scene and kickstarted the Digital 35mm revolution.

The SD to HD swap over took a detour. Super 35mm fulfilled a need the smaller sensors couldn't. It gave people the feel and style they were looking for and then became affordable enough to really muscle it’s way in. With 4K looming on the horizon, this market is only going to get stronger...