Revenge of the great camera shootout from Zacuto part 2 now live…which camera looks best to you?

ETHICS STATEMENT: Zacuto have been my friends for many years and are of course one of my site sponsors. They are more than friends, they are my family.  Although this does not stop me checking out gear that competitors make. Competition makes you better! You can read more about this on my ethics statement here.

Part two is here…I think it’s an improvement on part one, which I very much enjoyed though. Less talk and more substance! It’s fascinating to see how all the cameras fared against each other when lit. Let me know in the comments what you thought looked best. I have my top three in the blind test, the Alexa, Epic and F3…what were yours? Did the plucky GH2 blow you away? They all looked totally usable…well the iPhone looked like the iPhone but still a usable tool.

This is SUCH a subjective thing, what we see in part 2 is how the DPs relit the scene to their tastes and to the cameras’ strengths and weaknesses. You may not like how they made things look. Sometimes a worse camera looked better than better cameras…it’s all down to how you see things. Utterly subjective but utterly fascinating! In a way you are really rating the skills of the DPs and their ability to work within the limitations. For example, the F65 had no lighting tweaks done to it – had it had tweaks, it would have been better. All the other cameras were, sometimes, heavily relit to make the most out of the respective cameras dynamic range. For example the iPhone 4s was lit to account for account for very limited DR. Much like the GH2 was relit to account for the lack of really flat profile so you could capture the highlights and shadows. A different DP could easily have made the GH2 the worst of the bunch or the best. It’s harder to screw up a camera with a terrific DR but very easy to screw up cameras with the limited DR. You really need to nail it!




  1. My ranking order I wrote down from last month:
    H. Sony F65
    F. Alexa
    C. Red Epic
    A. Sony F3
    B. GH2
    E. C300
    G. Canon 7D
    I. Sony FS100
    D. iPhone

    I was amazed how well they made the iPhone look. Also they did a great job with the GH2.

    Just a great test, because it makes you think that we all have the tools, now we need to make lots of mistakes so we can get the most out of our cameras, and tell great stories.

      1. Philip I loved your quote about “learning something on every single shoot.” I do as well.

        By shooting a lot I find that I learn more about what not to shot almost on a sub-conscience level.

        So the more I shoot, the more I know what to concentrate on next time.

        1. Totally agree. I’m a filmmaker who made the transition to camera full time last year so I had a pretty strong aptitude when it came to camera work before, but it’s amazing to me how much my perspective has changed after shooting for almost a year and how big the gap was between what I thought I knew and what I still have to learn. There really is no substitute for doing, and the more I shoot, the more intellectually compelling and rewarding the work becomes.

          This really is a fantastic series, I was so excited to be able to attend one of the screenings and here the fierce debate that went on between the cinematographers and videographers in attendance. If anything I think it really reinforces the idea that it all comes down to the thought process of the artist and less about their tool of choice.

          There were definitely some surprises for me seeing this footage on a cinema screen and the difference between the work of the DPs. I definitely agree that there was a different standard in the work from the folks who had something to prove on the cheaper camera systems and those who worked on the more expensive rigs. I have to say, I’m a 5D/7D shooter and was pretty disappointed with what I saw from that test. I definitely think the footage could have been improved and that I’ve seen much more attractive work from folks like Philip, Shane Hurlbut and Vince Laforet.

          Overall it was a fascinating exercise and should continue to spark a lot of healthy debate. Thanks for posting the link here and for all of your pioneering work in this field Philip, your blog is constant source of education and inspiration!

  2. Great work everyone. My picks were Alexa/GH2/FS100. It’s particularly gratifying that the underdogs really pushed up hard on the establishment, as they should. The lighting people did a great deal more, I felt, to make or break each shot than seemed to be acknowledged (spoken like a true gaffer). Good job catching the hint of fear that clearly permeated the screening room.

  3. Wow, I had the GH2 at the top of my list! What a truly eye opening test. I need to look into the capabilities of this camera more since I was planning to purchase a 5d in august

  4. Also, F65 (H) was impressive since they made no change to lighting. It still stood out from the rest. That says something about camera’s capability.

    1. I agree. I was really surprised to learn the F65 was my top pick when I usually don’t prefer Sony’s greenish look. That was my biggest surprise from the screening. That and of course how much you can get out an iPhone with the right colorist. As long as your talent doesn’t move around to much, it’s a much more solid performer than I ever would have guessed.

  5. My picks last month were F, C, A, I – the Alexa, Epic, F3, FS100 in order.

    The C300 is one of my favorite cameras to use right now and I was blown away at the fact that it came 3rd to last in my pick.

    I love what this test means to us as filmmakers and the possibilities it foreshadows. Cameras and gear will constantly drop in prices whilst flagship features trickle down to the entry level. And as much as I am excited, it also scares the crap out of me with the amount of competition it will spawn into the creative community (not to mention trolls).

    p.s I understand why the iPhone was included to the test and my god was it surprising! But considering the amount of work it requires for each shot to look at such a level deems it costly and renders its miniature form factor useless.

    Absolutely love the test!

  6. I found it hard to tell enough difference between the cameras that it would matter. Cost is often a consideration; both for kit, expertise and post production. Although the amount of time lighting was disclosed I do not remember seeing the amount of time spent grading. I could never turn up with an iPhone to shoot professionally or my invoice would be thrown in the bin, but it significant that this little thin gadget can produce anything near the results it does and “tonne of work” or not – is dismissing it perhaps is the work of threatened snobs?

  7. It’s hard to appreciate this test on a computer monitor. I had the GH2 in my top 3 but not surprising due to it’s resolution. Viewing part 1 on a 1080p TV right away you can tell the two worst cameras in the test, 7D and iphone. The rest of the cameras is what it is, great storytelling tools with their own strength and weakness.

  8. Glad I saved my piece of paper! I personally can’t say that I can pick a favorite because, well, the possibilities were endless for each set up. I think this was less about picking a camera and more about picking who can control their camera and setting the best. I bet if you had 9 people all work with one camera and have just as varied results. A fun watch none the less.

  9. A great experience and a great, courages performance of all participants.
    For me, all this reminds me of a ‘language philosophy’ course I took 20 years ago, titled : language (spoken words and written words) fails to express the idea. It is tragically funny to see how these true professionals in the field struggle to express their appreciation of the different cameras. Some mumble the magic word ‘skintones’, ‘stops’ or ‘lattitude’, others at least are honest enough to say that the whole experiment is extremely subjective. I bet they would never agree on how to define concepts such as ‘skintone’ and ‘lattitude’… That says enough.
    One of the greatest language philosophers ever, Ludwig Wittgenstein, once said: “A picture is a fact.” But he also said: “What can be shown, cannot be said.” And, perhaps to silence it all: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”
    Creativity lies in the individual, not in the tool.

  10. I am an engineer by trade and my training kicked in early so I set a plan for myself to rank the cameras. Step one, come up with a set of criteria and some sort of benchmark statements for each criterion. Step two, review shots once without marking…and so on. I am an amateur who appreciates the aesthetics of moving pictures. Here is what I retain from the shoot-out and it comes right back to ‘shoot with what you have, learn, learn, learn and strive for excellence’ (P Bloom). I do mostly independent short film for the love of it with a group of amateurs called Kino ’00 (Montreal, Canada). Cinematography is not how I get food on the table but It is a very enjoyable thing in my life, my wife being the most enjoyable. Back to my ranking… Alexa, RED, GH2 (wow!), F65, C300. I was a bit disappointed that the lineup did not include the 5D Mark iiiI.

    Bottom line, listening to great DPs and directors is extremely uplifting and motivational, especially the part about screwing up…which I must admit I do my fare share of.

    Gear: 60D, 24-70L, Tokina 11-16, Zeiss 28.

  11. This is a great and very interesting documentary, but it should have been called the DP shootout, since the overall lighting and mood is what people are mainly responding to.
    Some of the cameras that scored so well in this test would fail miserably in very important issues such as rolling shutter, professional workflow, etc, which weren’t put to test at all in this shootout.
    Good lighting and good grading are probably way more important than which camera you’re using, as long as you know your camera’s limitations and shoot accordingly, but unfortunately these two steps are often skipped by DSLR filmmakers, who then blame the cameras for the lesser results.
    There’s no longer any reason to be waiting on new cameras or issues to be solved by a new model or firmware upgrade, before you go out there and shoot the stories you want to tell.

  12. They didn’t light the F65!!? It was my first choice, with F closely behind. I can’t believe that it could look so good with no lighting. I would love to have seen a DP actually light that camera. Also, I didn’t pick the GH2 because I thought the colors were completely off. The man’s green shirt looks like crap. When they move to the girl/guy sitting it really shined. But I am sure they just but a ton of lighting on that area. It wasn’t one of my top choices because of the horrible color, and the lack of detail in the few places they didn’t light.

      1. Thats what I meant. The conditions that they set up were pretty harsh. What I was saying was that it was amazing that the F65 could handle the scene without any additional lighting.

  13. It’s what the job of DOP is all about. Camera testing, lens tests, great lighting, experience and collaboration with your crew, gaffer, sparks to the colourist in the grade. If this ‘camera test’ proved anything, it shows everyone that it’s not just about waving the camera around. “Camera is so good in low light you don’t need lights” no more please! Its an art form.
    Too many people call themselves Director of Photography just because they shot something that made the telly (shooting AP’s for one)! Sorry, but it’s something that really annoys me! Lighting Cameraman is something I feel more comfortable with.
    I really hope that people watch this and be inspired by these great DoPs to get creative.

  14. My ranking order from the 1st Episode:
    F. Alexa
    H. Sony F65
    C. Red Epic

    But overall, for me, the Alexa was the clear winner. If you look at the highlights, shadows, and skin tones, I think it outperformed the other cameras. The F65 was certainly sharp, but the colors really annoyed me. That being said, I still liked it better than the Epic, which I thought looked very good but Alexa really was the clear winner for me.

  15. A touching and inspirational bunch of interviews and an amazing look into the world of cinematography and especially of the cameras at large at the moment.
    Made me want to do more of what I do for sure.

    My top ones were: B- Gh2 E- C300 F- Arri Alexa H- Sony F65

    I think I preferred the Sony F65 and C300 the most, narrowing it down either further, but I don’t think I will get the chance to shoot on the F65 just yet unfortunately!

  16. My top four were in this order:

    Red Epic
    Sony F65
    Sony FS100

    (it goes against the point of the exercise, but I felt quite pleased with myself 😉 )

    However, if the DP had gone for contrasty lighting on those higher end cameras, it may have looked more similar to the 7D and GH2, and been tougher to spot on a PC monitor?!

    I thoroughly enjoyed this process. There are so many variables. I think its a bit of a problem if you have to spend a fortune on post production to get the image of a £300 iPhone as good as it looked. But amazing that it’s possible. But I would rather spend money otherwise spent on post production on a camera that captures the quality in the first instance! But a fun play, and shows anyone can make anything with anything, and still… tell a great story. Inspiring. Loved seeing Francis Ford Coppola there.

  17. Top 3 F65, Alexa, C300 however really wanted to see a better showing from the FS100. Should never knock anyone but wtf were they doing making the skin tones grey and the colours unnatural. Proof of how good that colourist is/was the work he done with the iPhone. Makes me wonder how bad the scene was lit and the settings were so wrong in camera to look that awful.

  18. Here’s what I’d written down:

    “D – Looked fake, plastic. WAY too much emphasis on green shirt guy… that’s where my eyes stayed most of the time, and it ain’t his story. Just didn’t care for this image at all.
    B – Many of the same problems as D, slightly less annoyingly.
    F – Had some distracting contrasts going on. (not sure what I meant by this, exactly)
    here’s where it gets most confusing…
    A,C,E,H,I – all were roughly similar. All looked fine, I’d be happy with any of these. Some were a little darker-lit than I might prefer, I was a bit bland, and H had some obvious color temp differences, but they’re still good.
    G – Slight favorite overall. Lit well, concentration stayed on the subject, gorgeous, softish, slightly “glowing” image.”

    So I’m one of those odd ducks that preferred the 7D to the Alexa, and I’m a GH2 owner who didn’t care for what it shot (or rather the lighting choices).

    I don’t plan on changing a thing about my equipment as a result of this test, but nonetheless will work towards some completely different looks over the next year.

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