When it comes to image acquisition at resolutions of 4K and beyond, there’s some irony in the fact that many new 4K product introductions at NAB 2015 took place not at the high end of the market, but at the low end. Sub-$10,000 and even sub-$5,000 price points are the hot spots for new cameras that use 4K as a major selling point—even the flagship GoPro action cam shoots in 4K—and savvy shooters understand that resolution alone is by no means a reliable measure of overall picture quality.
But time marches on, and the 4K drumbeat is growing louder. The majority of people shooting with 4K cameras may still be delivering in HD, especially where broadcast television is concerned, but the amount of true 4K acquisition is certainly growing — streaming services including Amazon Prime and Netflix are insisting on true 4K deliverables even if cinema exhibitors are largely content screening 2K DCPs. Meanwhile, sports broadcasters are learning how to use systems like AJA‘s Corvid Ultra with TruZoom software to extract HD regions of interest from 4K camera feeds in real time. But the bottom line is that if you’re a vendor who wants to create buzz about your new camera, you’ll probably need to include 4K resolution among your marketing bullet points. And that means 2015 is the first year that will see a truly broad range of 4K shooting options become available, from premium cameras aimed at cinematic applications to inexpensive models designed for everyday use in less image-intensive projects.
As a case in point, take Panasonic. The company has come out swinging with the 4K VariCam 35, which is brand new on the market but seems to be well received. At its NAB booth, Panasonic showed a “Panavised” version of the camera configured to fit right in on a movie location or high-end TV production, and, using a darkly lit set, produced a compelling demonstration of the camera’s low-light capabilities at different ISO settings. When we asked about the VariCam HS, a super-slow-motion camera that was announced at the same time last year as the 35, but shoots only HD, not 4K, the Panasonic rep seemed surprised by the question.