hello… hello…. do you hear me now?
When we did the Bootcamp last week in Miami, we offered three kinds of cameras for the students to use: Sony Z1, Panasonic DVX100 and Canon HV-20A. The first two are fairly large (at least by our standards). The HV20A is tiny – fits in the palm of your hand. The Zi and HV both shoot in HD. The DVX is DVcam.
The students switched cameras all through the course, and each night we screened the final pieces.
We wanted to give everyone a shot a using all kinds of gear, but it was also a chance to run our own small focus group. The student’s backgrounds varied from complete novice to a local news Emmy Award winner. There were some former cameramen and some people with online experience. It was a good mix.
The first thing that I think everyone in the room found astonishing, myself in included, was the visual acuity and quality of the small Canon camera. Side by side with the Z1 you could not tell the difference. It was truly incredible. Of course, I am sure that on a bench test you could… but not on the screen – and we were screening for the group on a giant plasma screen.
The second thing that was interesting was that a great majority of the group preferred working with the small cameras over the large ones. (And the Z1 is not all that big compared to a professional camera). My series producer for 5Takes, at the same time, was just testing Sony’s newest palm sized HDV camera – it records to a disc. Francisco has shot commercials, feature films and stuff for us, so he has a pretty broad grasp of the industry. He called me in Miami and told me he had been completely blown away by the small Sony camera, and suggested that in the future we contemplate shooting all our broadcast stuff on it.
At the same time, I found myself engulfed in another of those endless Big Camera vs. Small Camera debates at b-roll.net. These things go on forever and no one ever changes their opinion. Fine.
But what struck me was the disconnect between cameras and every other piece of technology we use.
In the world of cameras, traditional cameramen stand by their ‘big gear’. Indeed, they will almost defend it to the death.
Yet in the world of computers, no one ever stoody by a mainframe claming it was a vastly superior form of computing. No one ever said they would never trade in their Comodore 64 for an iBook.
In the world of cell phones, we rush out to get the smallest, thinnest one we can. No one walks around with a rotary dial phone and says, ‘blackberry? A toy! You wanna see a real phone.. check this out… ‘
What is it with the cameras? Is it the male ‘look at the size of mine’ thing?, or the feeling of power from dragging around a ton of iron on your shoulder all day long? You might argue it is the ‘quality’, but I would bet that the ‘quality’ from the Canon HVA is vastly superior to the ‘broadcast quality’ from an old uMatic set up.
There is that old expression, ‘faster, cheaper, better – pick any two’. Its a nice phrase, but technology blows it out of the water. After all, with the explosive rise of computer processing, a laptop today (for example) is equally faster, cheaper and better than one from 10 years ago. My microwave oven has more computing potential than the Apollo spacecraft did. Doesn’t it stand to reason that cameras follow the same path?