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Professional imaging changes as the industry embraces UHD - TVBEurope

Professional imaging changes as the industry embraces UHD

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Industry professionals are increasing the speed with which they are embracing UHD capturing devices, from conventional cameras and camcorders, Digital Cinematography cameras, D-SLRs and PTZ models. That is according to the new ‘Professional Camcorders World 2014’ and ‘Studio Cameras World 2014’ reports, published this summer. Both show a surge in enthusiasm for 4K and other resolution levels of UHD imaging.

The two reports published by DIS Consulting Corporation of Woodstock, New York, each focus on their respective products organised by imaging sensor, as well as by type, brand, dollar value, user segment and geographic region. In all, both studies covered seven vertical segments including: broadcast/cable, production/post, mobile/OB, event video, independent video, institutional and rental house in five regions. Three other DIS studies look at imaging products, in sports, cinematography and lenses.

Camcorders and cameras While there is a substantial shift to UHD underway, quite a few purchases – the majority -- are still of HD-grade cameras, camcorders and D-SLRs. And, among the camcorder sensors, a big focus has remained in the ½-inch and 1/3-inch sensors as well still for some 2/3-inch sensor models.

The Sony EX ½ series has been particularly successful, especially in news operations, but a good deal of interest has been paid to the Canon 1/3-inch series as well. Generally, camcorders continue to be smaller, lighter, less power hungry and less expensive. Now camcorders feature more interchangeable lenses and agnostic recording and storage choices in new models, than in the past, making them a more attractive choice than they had previously been.

A good deal of the buzz this year has been on the rise and brand expansion within digital cinematography where the NAB Show saw dozens of new models revealed. But, most of the camera action – outside of digital cinematography – has been in either in 2/3-inch or 4/3-inch models or UHD going beyond cinema, such as in sports or live events uses.

Other sensors have been used far less in cameras, outside of cine where Super 35mm reigns. In sports, some of the attention has gone to pricey high-speed models, with higher frame rates, from Sony, Grass Valley and For-A in particular.

Field versus studio The differences between so-called field models and so-called studio models have become fewer and their form factors more similar in recent years, regardless of their origins and applications. Further muddying the camera market are some models of camcorders that come with a studio conversion kit such as JVC’s GY-250U series.

As all cameras become lighter, more compact and more flexible and more agnostic this is perhaps less important than it had been. But, the ability to record in the camera body as compared to using outboard recording devices still distances cameras from camcorders. And, while field models are more like camcorders in that regard, they tend to be more upmarket than the common camcorder.

It used to be that sensors in studio models outpaced those in field versions, but that is no longer true. Nor are the weight differences that profound. The category of D-SLRs has enjoyed a decade of unrelenting growth and support from consumer enthusiasm as well. That, however, has now begun to cool. While consumer purchases were off by close to 20% this year, pro sales were less severely reduced, and in some market segments and regions up modestly. But, if it were not for increased interest in UHD (4K) level D-SLRs, the dip would have been deeper.

Impact on lens purchases Accessories are abounding for the category. Starting on the consumer side, and expected here on the professional side, there is a battle raging between mirror-shutter and mirror-less technology and we expect the mirror-less technology may win the fight or cause a merging of the two technologies in future generations of the SLR.

The past several years have proven to be demanding for lens manufacturers and end-users alike. As more Super 35mm sensor using cameras and camcorders have proliferated, that has demanded that they be coupled with appropriate 35mm lenses. While in some cases users have been able to re-purpose older 35mm legacy SLR or film-based cine lenses, many have been confronted with the need to purchase new prime or zoom lenses specifically tailored for Digital Cinematography purposes.

As interest in 2/3-inch sensor camera and camcorder models has begun to decline precipitously some customers have expressed the wish that somehow a melding of Super 35 sensor models and 2/3-inch glass were feasible. That possibility could actually be coming soon, which would be helpful to them and create greater 2/3-nch lens sales for the lens makers.

While there are some dramatic differences between types, among all modern pro capture devices features or qualities most sought by respondents to Professional Camcorder World 2014 in Europe were: 1) HD capability, 2) low power drain, 3) having greater sensitivity and 4) 4K (or similar UHD level). This indicates that, regarding overall camcorder plans, end-users are still overwhelmingly focused on HDTV production.

That said, seeing the significance of 4K this year, among the general camcorder using population in Europe indicates an intensifying of interest and a swing away from HD to UHD is underway.

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