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2014 camera shootout: sharpness


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Scroll down to see some 200% crops from footage shot with the following cameras:
* Sony a7s (XAVC-S)
* Panasonic GH4 (4K internal, this one is displayed at 100%)
* Blackmagic Cinema Camera (Prores and RAW, RAW is upscaled just to 160%)
* Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (Prores and RAW)
* Canon 5D Mark III (H.264 and RAW)
* Sony NEX-5N (H.264)

I tried to use similar lenses on all of them:
* Leitz Elmarit-R 90mm f/2.8 on the a7s, the 5D3, and the 5N+speedbooster
* Leitz Summilux-R 50mm f/1.4 on the pocket with 0.58x speedbooster
* Leitz Elmarit-R 35mm f/2.8 on the BMC
* Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 on the GH4 (didn't have a m43-to-leicaR adapter)
I moved the tripod a bit to match the framing in all cameras.

The test target (which you can see above) was lit for f/11 ISO 1600 1/60s, using a single 650W tungsten fresnel and a reflector for fill. It has several textures and difficult areas.

All cameras were tested at their optimal ISO: 100 on the 5D3 and the 5N, 200 on the GH4, 800 on the BlackMagic cameras, and 3200 on the a7s (3200). Aperture was set to match exposure in all cases, which means it ranged from f/2.8 in the 5D3 and f/4 on the GH4 to f/11 on the a7s (I always overexpose by one stop on this one) and f/13 on the pocket (diffraction is not as bad as many people think; in fact it's the 5D3, at f/2.8, which is at a disadvantage away from the center).

We used Flaat settings on the a7s, the 5N and the blackmagics, CineLike D with contrast=-2 and everything else tuned down on the GH4. No idea which settings we used on the 5D3+H.264, I forgot to check that one (I was more interested in the RAW results, for which I knew standard Adobe settings with no sharpness and contrast dialed down would work great).

All footage was brought into AE (using Flaat or standard settings for the RAW clips), then I only added some levels, gamma and saturation adjustments to make all images match (it doesn't need to be perfect, but it does need to be somewhat close, otherwise differences in contrast and brightness can look like differences in sharpness).

My conclusion: the GH4 is out of this world in terms of sharpness. Then there's a big group of similarly-sharp cameras (BMC+RAW, a7s, pocket+RAW, 5D3+RAW). Then there's the soft settings (prores on the BlackMagics, H.264 on the 5D3, high frame rates in the cameras that can shoot that, etc) and my old 5N. It served me well...

Also, the XAVC-S codec in my a7s is nicer than everything else I've had before but when compared with cameras that shoot uncompressed RAW there's a big difference in the textures. Plus I'm seeing some color artifacts on my a7s that should not be there; I'll have to check if it's a result of too much saturation in my Flaat settings... though it's probably just a byproduct of the well-docummented highlight aliasing issue (it only happens on very bright reflections).

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GH4+1080p60 with GH4+2160p24 on mouseover

GH4+1080p96 with GH4+2160p24 on mouseover

a7s+24p with GH4+2160p24 on mouseover

a7s+60p with a7s+24p on mouseover

a7s+60p with gh4+60p on mouseover

a7s+120p with a7s+60p on mouseover

a7s+120p with GH4+1080p96 on mouseover

BMC+RAW with GH4+2160p24 on mouseover

BMC+RAW with a7s+24p on mouseover

Pocket+RAW with GH4+2160p24 on mouseover

Pocket+RAW with a7s+24p on mouseover

Pocket+RAW with BMC+RAW on mouseover

5D3+RAW with GH4+2160p24 on mouseover

5D3+RAW with a7s+24p on mouseover

5D3+H264 with a7s+24p on mouseover

5D3+H264 with 5D3+RAW on mouseover

5N+24p with a7s+24p on mouseover

5N+24p with 5D3+H264 on mouseover

5N+60p with a7s+60p on mouseover

BMC+prores with BMC+RAW on mouseover

Pocket+prores with Pocket+RAW on mouseover

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