Expert Name

The Top 5 Digital Cameras for Cinematographers

If money’s no object and you’re looking to get that 4K quality, then you can’t do better than these five beauties. Honestly, don’t take our word for it and let the facts speak for themselves.

Epic-M Red Dragon

Cost: $290,000 (body only)


  • Sensor: 19 megapixel Red Dragon
  • Pixel Array: 6144 (h) x 3160 (v)
  • Dynamic Range: 16.5+ stops
  • Max Image Area: 6144 (h) x 3160 (v)
  • Lens Coverage: 30.7mm (h) x 15.8mm (v) x 34.5 mm (d)
  • Acquisition Formats: 6K raw (2:1, 2:4:1), 5K raw (full frame, 2:1, 2:4:1, and anamorphic 2:1), 4.5K raw (2:4:1), 4K raw (16:9, HD, 2:1, and anamorphic 2:1), 3K raw (16:9, 2:1, and anamorphic 2:1), 2K raw (16:9, 2:1, and anamorphic 2:1), 1080p RGB (16:9), 720P RGB (16:9)

DxO Mark’s verdict

While the results and quality of output from this specially-adapted Epic Dragon are awesome, it’s all the more extraordinary, considering the sensor size and pixel pitch. It’s hard to imagine anyone being disappointed by the Dragon’s performance (except maybe at extremely high ISO).

Given the Epic Dragon’s price tag, this camera isn’t for everyone, but it will appeal to those that demand the most nuanced color and with widest possible dynamic range.

More importantly, the ability to choose a high quality still photo from a movie sequence will be invaluable to time-pressured imaging professionals, in the studio or elsewhere. While this will take some time to filter down to consumer level HD-DSLRs, this new technology just may forever change the way both footage and stills are shot in the future.

Sony PMW-F55

Cost: $28,990 (body only)


  • Imaging Device (Type): Super 35mm equivalent Single-chip CMOS
  • Imaging Device (Pixel Count): 11.6M (total), 8.9M (effective)
  • Aspect Ratio:            17:9
  • Built-in Filters: Clear, 0.9 (1/8ND), 1.8 (1/64ND)
  • Sensitivity (2000 lx, 89.9% reflectance):  Video Gamma: T12@24p (3200K light source)
  • ISO Sensitivity: S-Log2 Gamma: ISO 1250 (D55 light source)
  • Lens Mount: PL mount (with supplied lens mount adapter)
  • FZ mount (without supplied lens mount adapter)
  • Latitude: 14-stop
  • S/N Ratio: 57dB (Video Gamma, 24p, Noise Suppression OFF)
  • Shutter Speed: 1/24s to 1/6,000s (23.98PsF)
  • Shutter Angle: 4.2°to 360°(electrical shutter)
  • Slow Shutter (SLS): 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8-frame accumulation
  • Slow & Quick Motion Function: XAVC 4K/QFHD: 1-60p (NTSC), 23.98p/29.97p
  • XAVC 4K/QFHD: 1-50p (PAL), 25p
  • XAVC 2K/HD: 1-180p (NTSC), 23.98p/29.97p
  • XAVC 2K/HD: 1-150p (PAL), 25p
  • White Balance: Preset (3200K, 4300K, 5500K), Memory
  • Gain: -3, 0, 3, 6, 9, 12, 18 dB, AGC
  • Gamma Curve: Standard (x6)
  • HG1, HG2, HG3, HG4, HG7, HG8
  • S-Log2 Gamma

HD Warrior’s verdict

At the price the F55 is for a small number of specialist DP’s in both drama and well paid commercial TV work, this is the Super 35mm 4K/2K camera of 2012 it beats the competition hands down. Sony dragged their heals with various large sensor camcorders the F3 being the first but eventually caught up and overtook the competition though you need a hefty bank balance to fully kit yourself out with an F55 plus 4K recorder though unlike the F5 you can record 4K direct to SxS with the F55.

BlackMagic Ursa 4K

Cost: $5,995


  • 3840 x 2160p Global Shutter CMOS Sensor
  • 12 Stops of Dynamic Range
  • 1″, 1080p Flip-Out LCD Screen
  • Dual 5″ Touchscreens for Menu Access
  • Records CinemaDNG RAW and Pro Res 422 HQ
  • 12G-SDI Output for 10-Bit 4:2:2 4K
  • 2x XLR Audio Inputs with Phantom Power
  • Aluminum Frame with 3/8″-16 Mounting
  • LANC Port for START/STOP, Iris, Focus
  • Dual CFast 2.0 Card Slots

Engadget’s verdict

Consumers may not be familiar with Blackmagic Design, but the firm’s cameras are all the rage with filmmakers at NAB, drawing enormous crowds within seconds of the show floor opening up to attendees. This year’s flagship is the URSA, a relatively massive 4K camera with an enormous 10-inch 1080p flip-out display. There are also two 5-inch monitors on each side, displaying everything from camera settings to a duplicate preview. Another highlight is the Super 35 image sensor (the same used in Blackmagic’s existing 4K cam), which is upgradeable should you wish to swap in a refreshed version down the line. You also get plenty of SDI inputs and outputs, XLR mic jacks and either a Canon EF or PL lens mount.

Canon Cinema EOS C500 4K

Cost: $20,000 (body only)


  • 4K RAW (4096 x 2160) Output
  • EF Lens Mount for Broad Compatibility
  • 8 Mp Super 35mm-Size CMOS Sensor
  • Also Puts Out 2K, Quad HD & Full HD
  • 2x 3G-SDI Outputs
  • 50 Mb/s Proxy HD Recording to CF Card
  • 10-Bit 4K RAW at Up to 60p
  • 10-Bit 4K Half RAW at Up to 120p
  • 12-Bit 2K 4:4:4 Signal at Up to 60p
  • Canon Log Gamma

Abelcine’s verdict

Canon collaborates with some of the most respected names in the industry to ensure seamless integration with third-party systems and accessories. The dual 3G SDI terminals provide 4K/2K output to external digital recording units, portable and master monitors, and color grading systems – affording maximum flexibility to production and post-production teams.

For 4K and 2K recording, uncompressed output is delivered to external recording systems via built-in dual 3G SDI ports. Dual HD-SDI monitor outputs support external live monitoring. Simultaneously, HD content can be written to dual onboard CF cards to provide proxy video for offline NLE systems.



Cost: $5,000


  • Capture Amazing Detail with 4K Recording
  • Ultra High 3840 x 2160 Resolution
  • Records Image in Four Separate Quadrants
  • Uses 4 SD Cards for Storing Each Stream
  • Records in MPEG-4/H.264 & AVCHD Formats
  • Camera Shoots 4K Mode or Full HD Mode
  • Supports Focus Assist & Full HD Trimming
  • Back-Illuminated 1/2.3″ CMOS Sensor
  • High Resolution F2.8 10x Zoom Lens
  • Built-In Optical Image Stabilizer

B&H’s verdict

The camcorder itself supports both 4K recording and AVCHD 1920 x 1080p recording for more flexibility. While you’re shooting, the GY-HMQ10 has a 3.5″ LCD touch panel display to frame you shot or you can use the 0.24″ viewfinder as you shoot. Both have a 16:9 aspect ratio. For professional audio, the GY-HMQ10 records two channels of 16Bit audio sampled 48kHz. In 4K mode the camera uses the AAC format, while the HD mode uses the AC3 format. To facilitate external connections, the GY-HMQ10 is equipped with dual balanced XLR ports that support 48V phantom power as well. There’s also a built-in stereo microphone. Since achieving exact focus in 4K mode is very critical, JVC included a Focus Assist function, which turns focusing into a fast, easy and accurate process.

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