Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Kinefinity MAVO Edge – 8K is great, but it makes 4K much better

The announcement yesterday of the full-frame Kinefinity MAVO Edge has understandably got people talking. The headline feature is that it produces full open gate 8K, but it’s the 4K capability that is potentially more interesting.

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8K is here. It might only have a very niche take up right now, but it will grow in the same way that 4K did, and the same arguments will prevail as to why we should ignore it. They will pass, however, but it is good to look at what 8K cameras are giving us.

There’s a big difference between the shift from 4K to 8K and the previous move from HD to 4K, and that is the discernible difference on a screen is much more minor. Unless the screen is truly huge. But for most people the differences will be pretty small.

The advantage that a camera such as the Kinefinity MAVO Edge gives is that because it needs to be able to handle the really rather large data requirements of 8K, its 4K capabilities get a boost as well.

The Kinefinity MAVO Edge connectivity
The Kinefinity MAVO Edge has extensive connectivity and some truly unique features.

Kinefinity MAVO Edge brings accessible ultra slow motion to the table

Until now most 4K cameras maxed out at 60fps, but the increased data handling of the new camera means that it is capable of going up to 300fps in 2K Wide mode, and up to 160fps in 4K Wide mode. DCI modes aren’t too shabby either, with 4K at 120fps being possible and 240fps in 2K. Even in 8K the camera is capable of up to 75fps in Wide mode, 60fps in 8K DCI, and 8K Open Gate at up to 48fps.

Granted, the MAVO Edge isn’t the first to do this. Blackmagic Design’s URSA Mini Pro G2 could do 300fps at 1080p and up to 150fps in windowed DCI 4K. At US$5995 it’s around half the price of the MAVO Edge, too. Decisions, decisions!

There are trade-offs with each camera, though. The URSA doesn’t feature Dual Native ISO, and it’s a lot bigger and heavier, so it can’t as easily be configured for gimbal or drone use. Which is best suited to you clearly depends on the work you do.

Discussions about whether slow motion is overused or not aside, the existence of both cameras does mean that high frame rate shooting is now even more accessible than before, and there is a negligible hit to quality. With the MAVO Edge capable of recording internally to 12-bit ProRes RAW with log encoding (the KineLOG3 transfer function is apparently based on the Cineon curve), this should ensure very high quality indeed. That is assuming the colour science and dynamic range is there as claimed.

The Kinefinity MAVO Edge has a full-frame sensor, with a higher pixel count than the RED MONSTRO.
The Kinefinity MAVO Edge has a full-frame sensor, with a higher pixel count than even the RED MONSTRO.

Kinefinity is no longer an unproven outlier, though. Nowadays its cameras are proven in the field, and are held in high regard by those who have used them. The MAVO Edge looks as if it is a major advancing point for the company, with some unique features such as the ‘two-in-one’ battery interface, which allows both V-lock and Sony style BP-U30/60 style batteries to be used right out of the box. There’s also a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) interface on the underneath of the chassis that allows accessories to keep the power going during a battery swap, or unexpected power cut.

The user interface, too, looks to be very well thought out, with large physical controls and dials married to a very clear status display on the side of the body. Kinefinity has also said that the camera features high quality pre-amps with a low noise floor, so that in-camera audio recording via the two balanced XLR sockets can be made without resorting to external recorders.

Kinefinity MAVO Edge user interface
Interface design is important. The MAVO Edge looks pretty good so far.

Filters on the Kinefinity MAVO Edge

And then there’s the e-ND system. A similar system features on Sony cameras like the FS7 and FS5. Despite the name, this ND is in fact optically based and lets users smoothly dial in the ND amount from ND0.6 to ND2.1. Admittedly this won’t handle the brightest situations, but it is certainly a very good start, and minimises the need for additional screw in or matte box based ND filters in a lot of situations.

With an optical low pass filter in place alongside a built in IR-cut filter it will be interesting to see how the latter affects colour reproduction. Reds are notoriously difficult for cameras to reproduce, and getting the IR cut right is important. Too little and you can end up with brown tinted blacks, which can be almost impossible to remove in post grading. Too much and you can adversely affect the accurate reproduction of the red end of the spectrum.

This dilemma was the one that faced Sony when it released the PMW-EX1/3. The company made the decision that better red reproduction was the better focus to have, but it turned out to be a mistake. Many users had to resort to third party IR cut filters, which in a lot of cases varied drastically in quality. Sony eventually updated the cameras to give a better result, but it goes to show how fine the line can be sometimes.

The unique battery plate design of the Kinefinity MAVO Edge camera
The unique battery plate design of the Kinefinity MAVO Edge camera.

It will be interesting to see what effect the MAVO Edge has on the industry, particularly the decision taking by Blackmagic Design. With 6K resolutions featuring in its Pocket Cinema Camera range, it is only a matter of time before 8K comes to the fore.

Other companies

Sony and Panasonic? We know Sony’s focus is generally on 4K and 6K. The company is taking the tactic of focussing on ‘better’ pixels rather than more of them. At least at the present time. Panasonic, too, is seemingly looking at 6K as a good interim resolution to be focussing on.

Something to bear in mind here is that while it is true that having an 8K camera usually brings with it benefits to other areas, such as those high frame rates, it isn’t mutually exclusive to having them, as the URSA Mini Pro G2 attests. Sony could well develop 4K and 6K cameras that have those HFR abilities, but that will depend on the chips they develop. They could well judge that there is more of a long term market by developing new 8K chips rather than sticking with 4K/6K ones with better frame rates.

The dual storage slots on the Kinefinity MAVO Edge
The Kinefinity MAVO Edge features dual storage slots, including the ability for users to add their own M.2 NVMe SSD drives via an enclosure.

Sensors for the long term

It shouldn’t be forgotten that chip development is often a long term strategy. Going back to the Sony EX3 for a moment, the CMOS chips that it housed, and variations of them thereof were used in cameras years after it came to market. It is often a surprise to people when they find out that a brand new camera is using a sensor that was first released a good number of years ago. And that’s because a lot of the picture improvements result from better processing, not just a better sensor.

At the moment the market for new cameras is not going to be high, and therefore again it will be interesting to see what the take-up will be for this new generation of 8K cameras. The MAVO Edge has a bit of time on its hands, and it shouldn’t be forgotten that the ‘specifications could change’ between now and release. The full release isn’t until Sept, so the world might well be more open by then. As always, watch this space.

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