Digital movie camera

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The digital movie camera Arriflex D-21 by Arri.
Blackmagic Cinema Camera

Digital movie cameras for digital cinematography are digital video cameras that capture digitally rather than the historically used movie camera, which shoots on film stock. Different digital movie cameras output a variety of different acquisition formats. Cameras designed for domestic use have also been used for some low-budget independent productions.

Since the beginning of the 2010s, digital movie cameras have become the dominant type of camera in the motion picture industry.


Beginning in the late 1980s, Sony began marketing the concept of electronic cinematography, utilizing its analog Sony HDVS professional video cameras. The effort met with very little success. However, this led to one of the earliest electronically shot feature movies, Julia and Julia, to be produced in 1987.[1] In 1998, with the introduction of HDCAM recorders and 1920 × 1080 pixel digital professional video cameras based on CCD technology, the idea, now re-branded as digital cinematography, began to gain traction in the market.[citation needed]

In May 2001 Once Upon a Time in Mexico became the first well known movie to be shot in 24 frame-per-second high-definition digital video, partially developed by George Lucas using a Sony HDW-F900 camera,[2] following Robert Rodriguez's introduction to the camera at George Lucas's ranch whilst editing the sound for Spy Kids. In May 2002 Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones was released having also been shot using a Sony HDW-F900 camera. Two lesser-known movies, Vidocq (2001) and Russian Ark (2002), had also previously been shot with the same camera, the latter notably consisting of a single long take (no cuts).

In parallel with these changes, digital cinema began to emerge in the cinema system.

At the high-end of the camera market, there has been an emergence of cameras aimed specifically at the digital cinema market. These cameras from Arri, Sony, Vision Research, Silicon Imaging, Panavision, Grass Valley, Canon and Red offer resolution and dynamic range that exceeds that of digital professional video cameras, which are designed for the limited needs of broadcast television.

In 2009, Slumdog Millionaire became the first movie shot mainly in digital to be awarded the Academy Award for Best Cinematography[3] and the highest grossing movie in the history of cinema, Avatar, not only was shot on digital cameras as well, but also made the main revenues at the box office no longer by film, but digital projection.

Since the beginning of the 2010's, the motion picture industry has almost completely switched to digital capture as well as digital distribution and projection.


Professional cameras[edit]

There are a number of video cameras on the market designed specifically for high-end digital cinematography use. These cameras typically offer relatively large sensors, selectable frame rates, recording options with low compression ratios or in some cases with no compression, and the ability to use high-quality optics. Some of the cameras are expensive and some are only available to rent.

Some of the most used professional digital movie cameras include:

Prosumer and consumer cameras[edit]

Independent movie-makers have also pressed low-cost consumer and hybrid prosumer cameras into service for digital cinematography. Though image quality is typically much lower than what can be produced with professional digital cinematography cameras, the technology has steadily improved, most significantly in the last several years with the arrival of high-definition cameras in this market. These inexpensive cameras are limited by their relatively high compression ratios, their small sensors, and the quality of their optics. Many also have integrated lenses which cannot be changed.


Standard definition[edit]

MiniDV was the predominant standard definition consumer video acquisition format in the early 2000s. Steven Soderbergh used the popular Canon XL2 MiniDV camera while shooting Full Frontal. The Danny Boyle directed British horror film, 28 Days Later was also shot on MiniDV using the Canon XL1S, albeit with traditional Panavision 35mm film lenses. One of the first MiniDV cameras used on a feature film was the Sony VX-1000, which was used to shoot Spike Lee's Bamboozled.

In 2002, Panasonic released the AG-DVX100, which was the first affordable camcorder to support progressive scan at 24 frames per second, duplicating the motion characteristics of film and allowing for easier transfers to film. This feature made the camera extremely popular with low-budget movie-makers.

High definition[edit]

Sony, JVC, Canon and other vendors have brought high-definition video acquisition to the consumer and prosumer markets with the HDV format. HDV cameras are sold with a wide range of capabilities. Many support progressive shooting modes, and some have sensors with full 1920x1080 resolution (though the HDV format itself can only record 1440x1080 pixels in rectangle pixels, and DVCPRO HD only records at 1280x1080 or 960x720). In addition, some Canon and JVC HDV camcorders have the ability to use high-quality interchangeable lenses, rather than the fixed lenses that are included with most prosumer cameras.

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II is a "full-frame" format HDSLR camera capable of recording 1080p video in at 24, 25 or 30 frames per second, with a file size limit of 4 GB. Movie makers are pressing this camera into service as a low-cost way to shoot motion footage. The Canon EOS 7D is an APS-C HDSLR was used to shoot the independent horror film Marianne[4] and Sound of My Voice.[5] Both cameras have been used together to shoot point-of-view (POV) action scenes in The Avengers due to the cameras being relatively cheap and small and therefore easily used to shoot different angles in tight locations.[6][7]

List of digital movie cameras[edit]

See also[edit]