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Are Sony sensors ruining video with the 'Sony look'?


kye
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Prices of the OG BMPCC have gone nuts on the second-hand market.  

I've recently been comparing my GH5 to my BMMCC and the image is night and day.  I'm trying to match colour science, but it's not easy, and you can't fake DR.

Lots of people are talking about the 'Sony look' and how all modern cameras now look the same, which you don't realise is true until you see footage SOOC from something that isn't shot on a Sony sensor.  What are the cameras not using standard Sony sensors?  The OG BMPCC, ARRI, Samsung NX, and what else?  Discussion of these cameras always includes discussion about how their 'look' is unique, and most importantly, desirable...

So, should someone make a range of non-Sony-sensor cameras?  Starting with a sub-$1K mirrorless small body offering?

I'd be very interested.  Who else?

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What cameras don't use Sony sensors? Arri, RED, obviously Canon, Sigma (Foveon, anyway, the Fp is a Sony sensor), and by all indications, the Blackmagic Ursa 12K.

And I'm unclear about some older sensors, like the Panasonic Varicam/Varicam LT (guess that isn't "old" - it's still being made). That camera was the first true dual native ISO (vs. dual GAIN, which is what most cameras actually are despite being described as "dual native ISO") and predates anything Sony did with dual native ISO tech. So, my guess is they did not make that one - maybe Panasonic themselves or TowerJazz. Someone more internet savvy than I might be able to figure it out.

I don't put much stock in this whole "did Sony make the sensor or not" as it relates to how the image looks. Sony makes multiple sensors used in Hasselblad, Nikon, Panasonic, Fuji, Olympus, Blackmagic, etc. And every single one yields completely different raw output in a number of different metrics. The processing pipeline that Nikon/Fuji/Panasonic/whoever implements matters infinitely more.

Looking at images from, say, the original Blackmagic Pocket vs. the Pocket 4K/6K and preferring one over the other has far less to do with who made the sensor and more to do with what Blackmagic is doing (advancements from their Gen 1 color science to their new Gen 5, for example). Exceptions would be comparing CCD to CMOS; Hasselblad's Kodak CCD sensor clearly is very different from Sony's CMOS sensor, no matter what Hasselblad does. But that's a bit apples and oranges.

Now, should someone (like a big company) start making sensors? Absolutely. Competition is f***ing great, and Sony is bulldozing the sensor market. Samsung is probably best poised to do something like that, and I hope they do.

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I think it's less to do with the sensor than it is the processing after the fact. Sony have a particular look, prioritisng blue and sharpness, for me that's the opposite of what I want most of the time. Canon have a big red boost in general. Of the Japanese companies Panasonic are the most neutral to my eyes.

The same sensors in other bodies work wonders, so Sony are just doing their odd thing in their cameras.

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9 hours ago, pixelpreaching said:

What cameras don't use Sony sensors? Arri, RED, obviously Canon, Sigma (Foveon, anyway, the Fp is a Sony sensor), and by all indications, the Blackmagic Ursa 12K.

And I'm unclear about some older sensors, like the Panasonic Varicam/Varicam LT (guess that isn't "old" - it's still being made). That camera was the first true dual native ISO (vs. dual GAIN, which is what most cameras actually are despite being described as "dual native ISO") and predates anything Sony did with dual native ISO tech. So, my guess is they did not make that one - maybe Panasonic themselves or TowerJazz. Someone more internet savvy than I might be able to figure it out.

Do you consider the Blackmagic Pocket 4k/GH5s a true dual native ISO?

Just trying to understand the difference between dual native ISO and dual gain. Is dual gain when you have two separate circuits you combine for the finale image and dual native ISO when you switch between two circuits?

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That's right UncleBob.

As to your premise, Kye, I think it is simply not true. The Ursa 4.6k G2 uses a Fairchild sensor, yet it matches almost perfectly with the Pocket 4k, which uses a Sony one. Like previously stated, Sony produces the sensors in an insane amount of photography-oriented cameras yet these cameras produce different images, sometimes wildly so.

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Same sensors maybe, but different bodies and company tech applied, different lenses, tweaked settings, filters, profiles/film sims/different logs, 10 bajillion LUTS (get my set for ONLY $17 from my on-line shop sorry sold out!!), differently calibrated screens, phones, tablets, laptops...

I couldn't tell you what end result came from what sensor only if I like the end result or not.

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I suppose there could be SOME commonality image wise between cameras using Sony sensors but I think it'd be fairly minor given how much else goes into it all. I don't really notice a "Sony look" in cameras that use their sensors personally, and certain cameras have gotten truly amazing results using Sony sensors. 

I do though think it's imperative that other options are explored as relying on a competitor to produce all your sensors seems like a bad idea long term. I imagine it all boils down to cost but Blackmagic has the right idea if they're having sensors tailored to their camera designs like they did with the Ursa 12K. I'm not sure how viable that is in sub $10,000 cameras but I think the sensor technology they went with is one of the most interesting things about that camera and how it could impact the industry as a whole. 

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I like the look of the pocket 6k/ 6k Pro Sony sensor,  I don’t like the look of the Pocket 4K GH5s Sony sensor.

I compared the Pocket 4K to the original BMCC 2.5k and the difference in dynamic range and highlight roll off was obvious and significant.

I would take the Pocket 6k over the OG BMCC.

To me it’s not that it has a Sony sensor, but which Sony sensor it has and what file type and bit depth it is being recorded at.

I also like the look of the GH5 so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

Above all, the Ursa 12k looks the best to me sensor wise, so I am hoping that in the future there will be a more affordable version.

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I think it's more about processing than sensor. Dynamic range is nice but newer Sony sensors have that taken care of. The GH5 is a little outdated in that department. 

The Pocket 6k, Fuji XT3, and Sony A6300 line all have similar sensors but all look quite different to me. Color depth is more what I lust over now. After owning a RED for a short period of time I've realized how much less color information is in a 10 bit file, at least of the Panasonic variety. I have yet to compare it to a Blackmagic camera to see how the 12bit BRAW holds up. 

I do quite like the old Pocket camera, just hate it ergonomically and the crop is also a pain.

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I don't care who makes the sensors, I just care about whether I can get a good image from it.

If you can't get a good image from the current generation Sony cameras ("good" meaning it will suffice for most professional work), then the camera is not the issue.

 

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Sony has a 'look' but the sensor is only a small part of it. As others mention, the color science, image processing, picture profiles, codecs/resolution, lenses etc have a much stronger impact on final IQ.

For the most part, Sony makes damn good sensors which is why other manufacturers that can't do better in-house buy them.

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On 3/7/2021 at 9:49 AM, UncleBobsPhotography said:

Do you consider the Blackmagic Pocket 4k/GH5s a true dual native ISO?

Just trying to understand the difference between dual native ISO and dual gain. Is dual gain when you have two separate circuits you combine for the finale image and dual native ISO when you switch between two circuits?

I don't consider it one, it IS one.

So is the Varicam, Sony FX9/Venice, EVA-1.

Despite what people claim, the a7SIII and FX3 are NOT dual native ISO. They are dual gain. As is the RED Gemini.

Basically, dual native ISO is that there are two actual circuits underpinning each photosite and it will switch between them. With dual gain, the process is happening in a second ADC, but each photosite still has only one circuit.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Not sure if it's placebo or something in the compression used by consumer cameras these days but I definitely perceive a certain flatness and lack of colour density in many hybrid cameras and camcorders these days, and the common factor in most of them is Sony sensors. Out of all the consumer brands, Canon seems to stand out as being an exception in that regard. They seem to be capable of producing more rich tones straight out of the camera.

I was also never that into the colour from the BMPCC4k with it's Sony sensor, compared to the Ursa image.

It's been said many times on this forum, but I do wish manufacturers would focus less on 8k and more on getting colour right, after all Arri has been showing how to do it right for a decade now!

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28 minutes ago, austinchimp said:

Not sure if it's placebo or something in the compression used by consumer cameras these days but I definitely perceive a certain flatness and lack of colour density in many hybrid cameras and camcorders these days, and the common factor in most of them is Sony sensors. Out of all the consumer brands, Canon seems to stand out as being an exception in that regard. They seem to be capable of producing more rich tones straight out of the camera.

I was also never that into the colour from the BMPCC4k with it's Sony sensor, compared to the Ursa image.

It's been said many times on this forum, but I do wish manufacturers would focus less on 8k and more on getting colour right, after all Arri has been showing how to do it right for a decade now!

I agree.  

If I could rewire my GH5 sensor so that every second pixel went to a different gain ADC circuit and the two signals were then combined to increase the DR coming off the sensor (how the Alexa works) then I wouldn't even think twice about it.  Even if it meant sacrificing 75% or more of the pixels I have.  

A gorgeous image is a gorgeous image in whatever resolution.  We've been working on the wrong things. 

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2 hours ago, kye said:

I agree.  

If I could rewire my GH5 sensor so that every second pixel went to a different gain ADC circuit and the two signals were then combined to increase the DR coming off the sensor (how the Alexa works) then I wouldn't even think twice about it.  Even if it meant sacrificing 75% or more of the pixels I have.  

A gorgeous image is a gorgeous image in whatever resolution.  We've been working on the wrong things. 

Lowlight and dynamic range have been improving though. Sony’s full frame and dual iso sensors are doing well on both fronts. The richness in older Blackmagic cameras might have more to do with CDNG than dual gain output. I personally find the dynamic range on Sony’s current full frame sensors adequate. Something I wouldn’t want to give up is high ISO performance. In fact unless I have to I’d not purchase another camera that doesn’t have dual ISO. 

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3 hours ago, austinchimp said:

It's been said many times on this forum, but I do wish manufacturers would focus less on 8k and more on getting colour right, after all Arri has been showing how to do it right for a decade now!

 

2 hours ago, kye said:

A gorgeous image is a gorgeous image in whatever resolution.  We've been working on the wrong things. 

I'm pretty sure Sony is able to mass-produce a cheap CCD-based consumer camera that can record 16-bit RAW internally, but it would screw their entire camera business.

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On 3/9/2021 at 10:30 PM, Matins 2 said:

I suspect that the  t̶w̶o̶ three primary reasons the image sensor market is dominated by Sony is because of: (1) shady business deals between Japanese tech companies and (2) a lack of competition from outsiders.

(3) Dedication and hard work.

 

 

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