This article is a comparison of the specifications of the following medium budget 4K or UHD cameras for cinema work with currently available information and/or firmware as of this writing:
- Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2 (B&H, Amazon)
- Sony FS5 Mark II (B&H, Amazon)
- Canon C200 (B and EF) (B&H, Amazon)
- Panasonic EVA1 (B&H, Amazon)
The main criteria here is the cameras should be able to produce 4K RAW either internally or with an external recorder. Secondly, the price of the entire basic kit should be in the $10,000 ball-park.
Since I’ve chosen cameras specifically for 4K RAW, this feature takes priority over other recording codecs.
As far as workflows are concerned, I’m prioritizing cinema workflows – short films, feature films and web-series. Other kinds of video productions can also shoot in 4K RAW, but it’s unlikely, and the needs are different. You could use this comparison as a guideline for other types of productions, though.
Why no Kinefinity products, like the Terra 4K and Mavo?
Simple. Kinefinity have no dealers in the USA or India, so it’s impossible for me to see one let alone get a sample to test. It is pointless for me to talk about a camera that the majority of my readers can’t buy or use.
What about the Canon C300 Mark II and the Sony FS7 Mark II?
I have compared these cameras previously here. With the additional RAW module or accessories, the price goes well over $10,000.
Important: For accurate information please consult manufacturers’ websites and data. Don’t take any decisions based on this comparison.
What makes cinematic quality?
- 4K (UHD or 4K, it doesn’t matter)
- Must be RAW video so you can color grade it
- Cinematic dynamic range (an audience shouldn’t be able to tell it was shot on video)
What makes a cinema camera?
I’ve chosen the following traits that people have come to expect from a cinema camera:
- Large sensor that can deliver a shallow DOF*
- XLR inputs for audio**
- SDI inputs for greater reliability
- Have a rugged construction to withstand some abuse
- Have an easy straight-to-edit workflow
- Good battery life
- Long-enough duration shooting^^
- *You don’t really need shallow DOF, but a cinema camera is expected to have this ability when the need arises.
- **If you don’t agree with this stop reading!
- ^^All of these cameras can do 30 minutes or above.
Because this is a fun comparison, only one camera will stand when the dust settles. Let’s get to it!
Let’s start with the camera bodies:
|Camera||Price of Camera body||Included Accessories /Software*||Warranty||Lens Mount|
|URSA Mini Pro G2||$5,995||Turret Dust Cap|
12V AC Adapter
|12 months||EF, PL, B4|
|PXW-FS5 Mark II||$4,748||Handle|
Wireless Remote (RMT-845)
Accessory Shoe Kit
BP-U30 Lithium-Ion Battery
|12 months||Sony E|
|Canon C200||$7,499 ($5,999 B model)||4″ Monitor|
tape measure hook
|12 months||EF, PL|
*The list of accessories is not complete.
The C200 is ‘supposedly’ the most expensive, though we need to finish our comparisons before we know which system costs the most. Sony tends to throw a lot of accessories with their cameras. It is remarkable how the C200 continues to hold its price while the other cameras have fallen in price (or have upgraded in the case of the Ursa Mini G2).
The URSA Mini Pro G2 comes with Resolve. If you’re not using Resolve, or if you’re upgrading from another Blackmagic camera that had it earlier, it might as well be $0.
Comparison of sensors
Here’s how the camera sensors compare:
|Camera||Sensor Size (mm)||Horizontal Crop Factor||Maximum Resolution||ISO Range||Native ISO***|
|URSA Mini Pro G2||25.34 x 14.25||1.4||4608×2592||200-1600^^^||800|
|PXW-FS5 Mark II||Super 35^^||1.4||4096×2160||0-30dB**||2000|
|Canon C200||24.4 x 13.5||1.5||4096×2160||160-25,600||800|
|Panasonic EVA1||24.6 x 12.97||1.5||5720 x 3016||200-25,600^||800+2500|
- ^The ISO is divided into two parts depending on the native ISO selected
- **Based on 0 to +30dB Gain setting at a base ISO of 2000. The actual ISO range changes depending on the gamma/preset selected
- ***This is a guess for some cameras. ISO chosen for Log shooting. In other modes the native ISO might vary.
- ^^^Based on the original Ursa Mini Pro.
- ^^I couldn’t find an official listing of the exact sensor dimensions.
A higher-than-4K option is great for two reasons:
- You can downsample to 4K for a sharper, cleaner look. Noise cleans up better as well.
- You can crop to UHD/4K or use the larger image to pan/scan, zoom in, etc.
As far as both resolution is concerned, the clear winner is the Panasonic EVA1 (B&H, Amazon). And more so if you consider its dual ISO functionality. As far as low light performance is concerned, the C200 and FS5 Mark II stand out over the others.
Comparison of video features
What kind of 4K do you get anyway? First, let’s look at the frame rates, dynamic range, built-in ND filter capability and type of shutter used:
rate at 4K RAW
rate @ resolution
|URSA Mini Pro G2||120p (150 fps in windowed mode)||300 fps @ 1080p Windowed||15 stops||2, 4, 6||Yes||Rolling|
|PXW-FS5 Mark II||59.94p (120 fps in 4-second burst mode)||240p @ 2K||14 stops||2, 4, 6 (7 in Var ND mode)||No||Rolling|
|Canon C200||59.94p (10-bit); 29.97p (12-bit)||120p @ HD||15 stops||2, 4, 6, 8, 10||No||Rolling|
|Panasonic EVA1||59.94p (5.7K up to|
|240p @ 2K (Cropped)||14 stops||2, 4, 6||Yes||Rolling|
The standout is obviously Ursa Mini G2, with up to 150 fps in 4K and 300 fps in 1080p. Plus it uses IR-cut ND filters.
Every camera offers something unique. The EVA1 can up to 5.7K, and the C200 has great low light ability and up to 10 stops of ND. The FS5 Mark II has a Vari ND filter up to 7 stops.
All of these cameras are cinema-quality cameras, and whatever dynamic range difference should really not concern anyone. Just because you see 14 or 15 stops doesn’t mean you’ll get that across the ISO range. Part of what separates these cameras from more expensive cameras is the poorer color response at different ISOs and when underexposing/overexposing.
Now let’s look at what’s being recorded: codec, data rates and color (all information for 4K only. Other resolutions are ignored):
|Camera||RAW Format (4K)||Max. RAW Data Rate||Is RAW Internal or External?||Bit-depth^|
|URSA Mini Pro G2||Compressed Blackmagic RAW||110 MB/s to 274 MB/s*||Internal||12-bit|
|PXW-FS5 Mark II||Prores RAW and CinemaDNG (CDNG up to 30p only)||Up to 330 MB/s in 60p^||External||12-bit|
|Canon C200||RAW Light||128 MB/s||Internal||12/10-bit^^|
|Panasonic EVA1||Prores RAW and CinemaDNG||n/a^, but about 380 MB/s||External||10-bit|
- ^I’ve searched the internet and couldn’t find this information. This article explains 5.7K RAW is possible, but doesn’t mention the bit rate. Normal SSDs will not be able to keep up with the data requirements. It is certainly strange that very few people actually are recording 5.7K RAW, which is the standout feature of the EVA1. Look at this blog article for further info on data rates in Prores RAW.
- *Depending on 5:1 or Q0 RAW setting
- ^^12-bit up to 30p. 10-bit up to 60p
Blackmagic RAW vs Prores RAW vs CinemaDNG vs Canon RAW Light
CinemaDNG is on its way out. You can’t playback CDNG on an Atomos recorder, and secondly, the highest frame rates are not available most times. It is still a convenience thing, for one simple reason – compatibility:
- Blackmagic RAW is natively supported by Resolve. There is a plugin for Premiere Pro and Avid, but a plugin will probably be one step behind compared to native support when Premiere Pro or Avid is updated.
- Prores RAW is natively supported by FCP X, Premiere Pro and Avid.
- Canon RAW Light has the best support and the lowest data rates.
A large majority of indie filmmakers either use Premiere Pro or Resolve. But the big boys mostly still rely on Avid. Without the support of these NLEs it’s hard for a format to go ‘mainstream’.
If you’re working with Resolve then Blackmagic RAW is the way to go. Especially since Resolve is free with the camera. Add to this the fact you can also record in different flavors of Prores if that is necessary. The C200 can only record 8-bit.
I’m going to give this one to the URSA Mini Pro G2. You really can’t ask for more.
What about the media used? Here’s a comparison:
|Camera||Dual Card Slots?||Media for 4K||Market price per GB|
(500 GB SSD)
|Price per hour of 4K RAW* @24p|
|URSA Mini Pro G2||Yes, plus USB-C||CFast 2.0 + SD + USB-C||$2.3/GB||$890|
|PXW-FS5 Mark II||n/a, external SSD||SSD||$0.3/GB||$175|
|Canon C200||No||CFast 2.0 + SDXC||$2.3/GB||$1,035|
|Panasonic EVA1||n/a, external SSD||SSD||$0.3/GB||$350 at 5.7K, $175 at 4K|
- *The lowest data rate possible. Values rounded off.
CFast 2.0 is expensive, but convenient. SSDs are fine as well, as the prices are dropping every year. The price of the external recorder is just a one-time investment (and you need batteries and a charger as well), and the savings in media costs are tremendous.
What do I think? If you’re shooting a fictional project like a feature film or short film, you need an external monitor anyway. So having an external recorder isn’t that big of a deal. Either way, if the price doesn’t bother way, any system is fine. But you need to be aware of the costs involved.
Comparison of audio features
As far as audio features are concerned, all of these cameras offer similar specs. There’s no clear winner. In most cases you’d be better off recording to an external audio recorder on a film anyway.
If you really want world-class audio, you’ll need to hire a production sound mixer (sound recordist) who will also carry separate audio mixers/recorders and microphones.
The little things
The little things make all the difference. In addition to the little things, there are the ‘littler’ things – the stuff you only learn about after having used a camera for a while. At this stage the littler things will have to wait, and we’ll focus on the little things, which are:
- Ergonomics, toughness and usability
- Video ports
- Size and Weight
- Timecode and Genlock
- Quality and size of the Monitor
Here’s how these cameras compare on ergonomics:
|Camera||Shoulder-mounted||Camcorder mode||Volume cubic inches||Weight (body only)|
|URSA Mini Pro||No, need additional purchase||Yes||378||2.31 kg|
|PXW-FS5 Mark II||No||Yes||160||0.83 kg|
|Canon C200||No||Yes||240||1.5 kg|
|Panasonic EVA1||No||Yes||185||1.2 kg|
Fully rigged up, all of these cameras should weigh above 5 kg. Even though the FS5 II and EVA1 seem light you need to add an external recorder for RAW. And the C200 definitely needs a monitor as well.
Let’s move on to more little things:
|Camera||SDI||HDMI||Viewfinder||Monitor||Exposure and focus aids*|
|URSA Mini Pro||2||0||No, extra purchase||4″ touchscreen||H, FP, Z|
|PXW-FS5 Mark II||1||1||Yes, but in a weird spot^||3.5″||H, S, FP, Z|
|Canon C200||1||1 (1.4)||Yes, but in a weird spot^||4″ touchscreen||H, S, FP, Z|
|Panasonic EVA1||1||1 (2.0)||No, extra purchase||3.5″ touchscreen||H, S, FP, Z, FS|
- *Key: H – histogram, FP – focus peaking, Z – Zebras, S – Waveform and Vectorscopes, FS – Focus Squares
- ^Unfortunately the position of the viewfinder makes it mostly impractical for regular cinema use.
Scopes are extremely important when exposing video for Rec. 709, so it’s inexcusable that some cameras don’t have them. Adding an external recorder with false color will greatly help all cameras.
This race is too close to call so far!
Battery life and Power
All the features in the world are useless if you have to hire a donkey to carry your batteries:
|Camera||Battery life^||Cost of one battery||Cost per hour battery life||Connectors|
|URSA Mini Pro||4 hours||$268||$67/hr||XLR|
|PXW-FS5 Mark II||4.5 hours||$399||$89/hr||DC|
|Canon C200||3.5 hours*||$495||$140/hr||DC|
|Panasonic EVA1||3 hours||$350||$117/hr||DC|
- *Similar to C300, so this is just a guess
- ^All are estimates, and could be totally wrong
Canon cameras have had great battery life for years now. However, the FS5 II is definitely the best and most cost effective here.
Which is cheaper to own?
Let’s just add up the basics: Initial price, media cost per hour of footage and battery cost per 8 hours:
|Camera||Price||Media per hour*||Battery for 8 hours||Atomos Shogun 7 + Battery and SDI cable^||Smallrig top handle||Total (Rounded)|
|URSA Mini Pro G2||$5,995||$890||$536||$0||$199||$7,620|
|PXW-FS5 Mark II||$4,748||$175||$712||$1,660||$-||$7,295|
- *Including card reader
- ^I’ve included the latest Atomos Shogun 7 with battery kit and SDI cable. However, you can record RAW with cheaper Atomos recorders and bring down the price even more.
The costs do add up quickly!
The real question is, do the higher prices of the cameras give you something important the others don’t? So who’s the winner? Time to declare the results.
First, here’s a recap:
|Sensor and ISO||Panasonic EVA1|
|Video features||URSA Mini Pro G2|
|Codecs and Color||URSA Mini Pro G2|
|Lenses||URSA Mini Pro G2|
|Media||URSA Mini Pro G2 (It can also record to SSDs via USB-C)|
|Ports and Monitoring||URSA Mini Pro G2|
|Power||FS5 Mark II|
|Most value for money||FS5 Mark II|
Before we take our final decision, we’ll let the cameras tell us what they offer that the others don’t:
|URSA Mini Pro G2||Metadata, Resolve, Simple Menu, Integration with BMD hardware, 4.6K||Higher frame rates, media options, lens mounts||Support, availability and reliability. Low light performance.|
|PXW-FS5 Mark II||Cheapest of the lot.||Low light performance, AF is not bad.||Construction isn’t the best.|
|Canon C200||Dual Pixel AF||Canon RAW Light is supported on most NLEs, Low light performance||Poor internal recording codec (8bit 420) and the most expensive.|
|Panasonic EVA1||5.7K, Electronic Image Stabilization, Dual ISO||Ability to crop footage||Data rates are high, low light performance isn’t so good.|
And the winner is…
- 4.6K resolution in Super35mm
- 15 stops of DR, 12-bit RAW
- You can record in Prores as well
- All kinds of media options
What would I pick?
In matters of picking cameras, there’s also the personal element involved. To be honest, based on my experiences with Blackmagic cameras in the past, I wouldn’t entrust my feature film or short film to them, especially due to reliability issues and quirks that could wreck a shoot.
I am also not a fan of the pre-order system where products are hardly delivered on time. When Sony, Panasonic or Canon say they will deliver, they deliver – worldwide – with accessories ready. And their cameras perform.
I don’t mind trying out new cameras, but I don’t live in the US. If someone in the US purchased a Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2 from B&H or Amazon, and if it turned out faulty, they can ask for a replacement or full refund. I can’t do that in India. And the turnaround time for repairs is long as well. This is the single greatest reason why I can’t risk purchasing their cameras. However, if you live in a country where replacements and/or refunds are easy to come by, then the Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2 (B&H, Amazon) is definitely the first you should try.
As far as I’m concerned, considering the specific issues I face, I would pick the Canon C200 (B&H, Amazon). I like their menus and color science over the Sony, I can adapt lenses directly via PL or EF, and I also have dual-pixel AF whenever necessary. Plus it’s 15 stops of DR and great low light performance, and Canon RAW Light is supported by most NLEs, so I don’t have to beg an editor or post house to install Resolve or FCP X when they don’t want to.
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