Nikon D4 Passes but the D800 Fails the EBU/BBC Broadcast Quality Test

By Sareesh Sudhakaran

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The EBU (European Broadcast Union) is the collective organisation of Europe’s 75 national broadcasters. In April 2012, they introduced their latest broadcast test, the EBU – TECH 3335, to keep up with current technological developments.

The EBU – TECH 3335 describes measurement procedures for assessing the quality of video cameras used in television production. Their recommendations are usually the law in these parts, and it is also commonly called the ‘BBC Test’.

Both lenses were tested with the Nikkor AF-S 20-70 1:2.4G (I think they meant f/2.8), and AF-S 24-120/4G VR ED. Monitoring was done on a 42” plasma display via HDMI.

Nikon D4

Verdict: Barely passes

Verdict in the report’s own words:

…the camera could be acceptable with ISO settings up to 6,400…

The good:

…Therefore it is possible to make better quality recordings externally than can be done via the in-built system…
…the image is nicely oversampled…
…the colour performance was perfectly acceptable on a television display…
…pictures with aliasing at the levels seen here are probably acceptable in HDTV…
…gamma…the changes of curvature are gentle at both extremes… typical of proprietary ‘log’ curves…intended to give a filmic look to video…
…the noise levels are consistently low, around -54dB for the luma signal, which is widely accepted as a ‘good’ level for HDTV…
…Even at ISO 12,800 noise may not be a problem…
…Exposures from F/2.8 to F/22 were all almost acceptable…
…the total exposure range comes to about 13 stops, which is truly remarkable…
…Rolling Shutter…With the shutter set to 1/1,000, each frame shows a sharp image of the rotating blades, and it is clear that the distortion due to the scanning process is quite small…Motion portrayal is good, the effects of the rolling shutter are nicely suppressed…
…This camera showed no response to IR…
…With Sharpening set to 0, the image is decidedly soft…Level 4 should be regarded as the absolute maximum value for video shooting, with level 3 or 2 used for preference…

The bad:

…Monitoring and control of the camera are very different from a conventional video camera, making it rather unsuitable for many video purposes…
…the resolution does not substantially exceed 1,355×762…(at 1080p)
…a proper video camera of the same price would normally be expected to perform rather better…
…Resolution 1280×720 …This time, the story is not so satisfactory…The resolution is clean only up to about 1,030×580…

Download complete report PDF here.

Nikon D800

Verdict: Fail

Verdict in the report’s own words:

…This camera cannot be recommended for serious programme-making…

The good:

…Therefore it is possible to make better quality recordings externally than can be done via the in-built system…
…the colour performance was perfectly acceptable on a television display…
…Gamma…This is typical of proprietary log curves used in stills cameras, and in cameras intended to give a filmic look to video shooting…
…noise levels are commendably low…
…Exposures from F/4 to F/22 were all almost acceptable…
…the total exposure range comes to about 11.9 stops, which is rather good…
…Rolling Shutter…With the shutter set to 1/1,000, each frame shows a sharp image of the rotating blades, and it is clear that the distortion due to the scanning process is quite small…Motion portrayal is good, the effects of the rolling shutter are nicely suppressed…
…This camera showed no response to IR…
…Noise levels are very low, even with ISO settings up to 6,400

The bad:

…The clean resolution does not substantially exceed 1,355×762 (at 1080p)…
…the down-scaling filter is not big enough, and is not rejecting the high-frequencies which the high-resolution lenses can deliver to the high-resolution sensor.
…aliases are clearly visible, which is not good for serious HDTV shooting. A proper video camera of the same price could normally be expected to perform rather better…
…Pictures with aliasing at the levels seen here are probably not acceptable in HDTV…
…Resolution 1280×720 …This time, the story is not so satisfactory…The resolution is clean only up to about 1,030×580…inevitably more problematic for serious programme-making…
…Sharpening values…none of these settings makes the pictures really suitable for serious HDTV programme-making, that is limited by the effect of the down-scaling…
…Video performance is not really acceptable at 1080p…

Download complete report PDF here.

Where the D800 fails against the D4 is in aliasing. The big surprise is the higher dynamic range of the D4 (13 stops) as opposed to the D800 (12 stops). The DxOMark tests clearly showed the D800 as the winner as far as still photography is concerned, but the results in video dictate otherwise.

It is interesting to see neither cameras were tested with an external recorder. The D800E wasn’t tested as well – maybe they expected it to alias more. To see the reports on the EBU website, click here.

I wish they had conducted the tests with a decent external recorder.

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August 31, 2012

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