While there’s lots of discussion about internal RAW, 8K, CFexpress cards, pixel count and so forth, nobody’s come out and said what makes the two new releases by Canon, and presumably that of Sony so darn interesting to filmmakers. What’s incredible is that it’s taken eleven years to get to this point. 2020 marks a historic event in history when hybrid video shooters will at last see the release of not one, but three of the very first un-cropped full frame 10-bit 4:2:2 internal mirrorless cameras with reliable autofocus. And to me, that’s the big story. This marks the end of an era when filmmakers had to choose between blazing fast autofocus and a poor codec or poor autofocus and decent codecs. Before the R5, the only ILC that fit the bill was the EOS 1D X Mark III, costing a whopping $6,500.00. Panasonic, the most fully featured video-centric MILC on earth, dropped the ball when they ignored users’ requests for phase detect autofocus. 

Some question why 10-bit 4:2:2 is such a big deal; after all, most of us watch video on 8-bit displays. Isn’t 8-bit good enough for YouTube? If you look at two images side-by-side, one 8-bit and one 10-bit, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference unless you’re watching an HDR film. But 8-bit video suffers from banding in gradients and chroma noise, which is why log footage, which must be graded, is nearly always 10-bit. Skies famously fall apart in 8-bit video – there is just not enough color precision to render the gradients smoothly. Take this screen grab from S-log2 below, for example.

Hybrid video shooters choose log because of its greater dynamic range and flexibility in post, as opposed to picture styles with colors ‘baked-in’. So far, so good. But even applying a non-destructive corrective LUT to the footage, the image is already falling apart. In the image below, a LUT was applied along with a very slight pulling down of the shadows.

Looking at the sky, we can see the banding – purple and blue – because there isn’t enough bit-depth to render the transitions smoothly.

For photographers unfamiliar with what LUTs do, here’s a quick 2-minute tutorial. ğŸ™‚

And for those wondering if the advantage of 10-bit is visible on YouTube, here’s a comparison between 8-bit and 10-it uploaded to YouTube.

2 thoughts on “The End of an Era

  1. It’s true that 10 bits allow to reduce this kind banding and it’s very appreciable when working on the shots.
    However, we never know how the videos will be watched: 8 bits? 10 bits? 480p version, 720p version, 1080p version, 4k version?
    In which environment, at home in dark room or in a train?
    On which screen? A mobile with the blue light filter enabled by default? An 8 bits average screen? A 10 bits OLED?

    I have the feeling that the technical result is an obsession that prevents us to create content with a theme other than a technical “performance”.
    I personally sometimes have this feeling.

    The more quality we can get the more we think about it?

    Maybe there are some steps before the technic becomes so “natural” that we will think about what we want to tell first.

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