Even though there are at least a dozen high-end professional cinema cameras available to filmmakers nowadays, many cinematographers would agree that the ARRI’s highly esteemed ALEXA lineup is inarguably the best in the industry, used by many seasoned professionals from independent projects to multi-million Oscar-winning masterpieces and everyone in between.
However, with rapid advances in technology, many beginner filmmakers and enthusiasts alike tend to question the ALEXA’s price justification compared to newer, less-expensive options like the recently released Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K and the ubiquitous Panasonic GH5.
In the next video, Sareesh Sudhakaran of Wolfcrow takes these particular cameras to conduct a side-by-side comparison, focusing on what makes the three rivals so different besides their price tags.
For this comparison, each camera was tested both indoors and outdoors with similar subjects, lighting conditions, and camera settings. Furthermore, the three cameras were filming at different ISOs at standard exposure, three stops overexposed, and three stops underexposed.
For the interior shots (ISO 3200 and 400), at standard exposure, it quickly becomes clear that the ALEXA XT has the upper hand. You can easily tell this by taking a look at the colors of the shot below, specifically when comparing the talent’s skin tones. In the ALEXA XT footage, you’ll notice deep, vibrant hues, especially the brown of the skin and blue in the background.
On the other hand, the footage from the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K and GH5 presents an entirely different color science. In fact, you can see the Pocket Cinema Camera and the GH5 take on noticeably different hues in the background. In addition, skin tones seem less bland with the overall color scheme of the image.
When evaluating the shots from the three cameras overexposed, the images from both the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K and GH5 fall apart with a noticeable color shift and inconsistent color reproduction in the background. Conversely, the ALEXA footage shows no sign of color shifting whatsoever with rich hues across the board, with the added bonus of having enough dynamic range to aid with image recovery in post-production.
With shots wherein the three cameras are underexposed, all performed comparably with similar noise levels and color reproduction. Of course, the ALEXA XT still produces better colors, especially when referring to skin tones.
With its superior color science and dynamic range, there’s a reason why the ARRI ALEXA XT is the undisputed king of cinema cameras these days. However, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to make great art with what you currently have at your disposal. Even if you’re planning to shoot with a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K or GH5, getting amazing results with each of these tools is more than possible.
Indeed, Blackmagic and Panasonic footage may seem inferior out-of-camera when compared to the very best (aka ARRI ALEXA XT). Nevertheless, you can definitely work around the shortcomings mentioned above by spending more time color correcting and color grading in post. Ultimately, while you may or may not have access to an ALEXA XT for your next shoot, your creativity should not be limited by the technology available to you.