(UPDATE) Craft Cameras: Affordable 4K Cinema Cameras

For a few years, the names in the game of digital video technologies have remained pretty constant, especially in the professional or prosumer category. It’s not often you have a company jump onto the scene swinging, promising to release what could be one of the most versatile systems to hit the market in a while; this is exactly what Craft Camera has done. Purchasing isn’t available yet but they are taking reservations now and shipping out the first units off the line as early as December.

Where Did They Come From?

Craft Camera first popped onto my radar as I was scrolling my feed on the book of face, and among all the other useless sponsored posts that inevitably pop up, I saw the link for Craft Camera and had to give it a click to see what exactly it was. Upon following the link to Craft Camera's Website, I was greeted with an ominous "coming soon" screen with a vague release date of April 2016. I did a little digging and discovered that Craft was actually launched back in 2015 and had the goal of creating a budget friendly but high quality 4K cinema camera. Fast forward almost a month exactly after I first saw that advertisement on Facebook and all of the sudden they’ve sprang the secret onto the internet, and what is it exactly?

craft camera video videography videographer film cinema 4K

Exploded view of all the available components in the Craft Camera System from the Hot Swap Lens Mount to the LCD Display Module.

A quick trip to their newly updated website reveals their idea for an affordable and modular camera system that promises HD and 4K resolution CinemaDNG and ProRes Formats, with more formats to be available in the future, in a compact format that can be expanded and modified to fit your individual needs. How does it work? Well, each piece of the camera is sold separately but is still compatible with the other pieces, aside from recording bays which are only compatible with the appropriate Video Element, 4K Video Element Storage with the 4K Video Element and HD Storage with the HD Element.

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Craft Camera Video Element, Storage Unit, and Wireless Control Module

How Does It All Work?

Where to start? Well first you need to decide what kind of footage you’re going to be shooting, are you going to be shooting mostly HD format type media, or will you be shooting 4K resolution video as well? You’re given the option to purchase either the 4K Video Element or the HD Video Element, the purchase of which includes your choice of lens mount between EF, MFT, or PL Mounts included in your purchase. I think one of the differences here though from other camera systems is the ease in which you can change mounting options very quickly and easily. Lens mounts can be quickly removed and replaced from the Video Element with absolutely no tools, making using a wide variety of lenses a snap (no word yet if the lenses will still retain their auto focus or aperture control features should the lenses you use have those options). Upon delivery, the Video element will have no batteries or on board storage, but you will at this point, assuming you purchased a 4K Video element, be able to record 4K Video to an external recorder via the built in SDI and HDMI ports on the side of the Video Element, out of a unit that’s extremely compact and lightweight. This configuration has been dubbed as their Action Camera (see above photo) set up by Craft Media which I’ll go into more detail further down in the article.

craft camera video videography videographer film

3 Types of Remote Operations are Available for the Craft Cameras, ranging from Ethernet on the left, to LANC in the middle, and even Wireless on the right.

The Video Elements

The HD Video Element utilizes a Super 16mm CMOS Sensor recording maximum resolution of 1920x1080 pixels at maximum resolution while the 4K Video Element uses the more standardized Super 35mm CMOS Sensor, recording 4096x2160 Pixels at max resolution. The Video Elements are said to support the commonly used frame rates starting from 23.98 FPS up to true 60 FPS, but also able to record up to 120 FPS. Both Video elements will also be able to capture 13 Stops of Dynamic Range, and as a bonus, both video units have a space for an ND (Neutral Density) Filter sled, which, while not as convenient as some cameras that have built in ND Filters, is still easier and simpler to use, rather than carrying specific filters for different lenses.

The "Extras"

From there the options are essentially linear, you can purchase on board storage in the form of a CFAST card system that attaches to the camera with mention of an SSD system coming available soon. Want to be able to use the camera on the go without a large power pack or being tied into to a wall outlet? You can purchase a Dual Bay Battery add on. Planning on hand holding your camera? You can buy the handle unit that offers most core camera features at the touch of a button and can be attached to the side of any of the modules with the exception of the LCD Monitor unit. The LCD Monitor Unit is a standalone unit, available for purchase separately as is the audio recording module if you want to have some sound available with your video. For a truly versatile option, you can even get a remote link module that allows you to control the camera via either ethernet, LANC Cable, or wirelessly.

Why the Separation of Parts?

Now some people may view this strategy and style of camera as a way of nickel and diming you by not including everything in one convenient body. However, the mindset behind this is it will allow the end user to select exactly what they want in a camera from the line up of modules instead of paying for features that may not be necessary or relevant. For the budding or aspiring filmmaker, could be the tipping point whether or not you can afford to purchase this camera system should you choose to do so or not. Which brings up the next question is what is the cost?

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Fully Assembled 4K 'Cinema' configuration.

Cost

Well, Craft has a few pre assembled options for a basis of example ranging from Studio (Video Element and LCD Element but no storage), to Action Camera (Video Element and Storage Element), to Cinema Camera (Includes everything short of the remote operating element) and the prices are as follows:

Studio Setup

  • HD - $998 USD
  • 4K - $1,698 USD

Action Camera Setup

  • HD - $1,098 USD
  • 4K - $1,998 USD

Cinema Camera Set Up

  • HD - $1,994 USD
  • 4K - $2,894 USD

For a more in depth look at the prices you can check out their current pricing catalog.

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The Craft Camera 'Line Up' demonstrating the modular design and compact construction.

So in closing, is this system going to live up to its hype? Is it going to be able to deliver on the quality expectations that people have come to demand when you start throwing the word "cinema" around? I don't know, and only time will tell. There is still a good bit of information that I would like to see be released as far as some of the specifics of the platform and keep in mind, all this information has just been pulled from what the company is saying about it. I will say though, that at a minimum, I'm intrigued by its compactness, with the full assembled "cinema" version you're only holding something less than seven inches long and less than four inches tall and wide, minus the lens. But even better, an action camera that's maybe only three inches long also not including the lens, and that's pretty compact for something that can deliver 4K CinemaDNG footage. Especially if you compare it to my Sony FS700, which I briefly mentioned in my article where I reviewed the a7S II. That compactness is definitely going to be a terrific asset for someone that likes to bring their camera everywhere, and get the best footage possible without lugging around bulky amounts of equipment, or even to mount it in small or tight spaces that you would have only thought to use one of the Action cameras already available on the market. The modular idea has been used with some success in other companies so I'll be curious how this will stack up in the long run but I see no reason why it won't work here as well. At this point, all we can do is wait and speculate as to how this will fare on the market and in the hands of the consumers that end up using them. They state in the FAQ section that they will be releasing more information in early Summer on the technical specifics so keep an eye out for potentially a follow up article with those updates at that time.

 

UPDATE - For those asking about physical prototypes they posted an image on their Facebook showing a Video Element in hand with an MFT Mount!

 

[via Craft Cameras]

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18 Comments

Bert McLendon's picture

Love the idea of a camera like this! But... I don't see how they are going to sell a camera from a 3d render with no actual footage.

Ryan Pramik's picture

Well it could be that at the moment they're just trying to gauge interest in it and see what kind of response they get from the general public before investing a great amount of capitol to mass produce these units. I'm hoping that in the future tech releases that they will include sample footage in a wide and varied range of conditions to show how versatile it is as opposed to just 'ideal' conditions.

Levi Arnold's picture

They're legitimate and will definitely be bringing a product to market. Keep in mind that until the release of the RED Weapon, most all the RED stuff was introduced with nice 3D renders and no footage.

Ryan Pramik's picture

You're absolutely right, and I wasn't insinuating that they were anything but legitimate or that they were the only ones to do the 3D renders for the press release. There are so many moving parts to something like this it's astounding. I'm excited to see it when it becomes ready and like I said, I'm hoping that with the release of more information that there will be some test footage.

Levi Arnold's picture

I've reached out to them about some test footage and sending me some actual shots of the camera. Then I pull up Facebook today and they've just posted a shot of one of their prototypes. They're definitely listening ... I'm excited as you are. Hopefully we'll have something by New Year or soon after!

Stephen Kampff's picture

A surprisingly good price! If it will ever come to fruition.

Ryan Pramik's picture

It really is! Especially considering how much I have invested in my current set up to get the same features.

Lane Shurtleff's picture

This design is very intriguing. Not sure if they have made any "real world" prototypes yet, as all the website shows are 3D renderings? But as long as they can remove the "negative" shortcomings of the RED system (dropped communication between cells, etc) I would definitely invest in this system if/when it's available.
One thing I haven't seen cinema camera mfg support is power focus/zoom lenses like SONY G series etc. Hope they can make that work too.

Jon Wolding's picture

Well, Canon just announced their CN-E18-80mm T4.4 EF... with the servo grip, it goes for $5700.

That could pair nicely with Craft, RED, BMD, etc.

Lane Shurtleff's picture

I was referring to lenses like the 18-105. A goood balance of OSS and power soom control like a dedicated camcorder.
http://www.sony.com/electronics/camera-lenses/selp18105g

Levi Arnold's picture

They just posted a photo of one of their prototypes on their facebook pages. Looks pretty tight.

Well, that sounds good - too good to be true?

There are too many unanswered questions:

- Who are they?
- What is their technical background?
- Which experts working on the project?
- How strong are their finances? (Have they successfully sold a sunglas company?)
- Can they survive some years financially without being in the black?
- Who are the production partners? Are they strong?
Etc.

Someone has to speak directly with Craft and clarify all the questions.

All the best, Uli

Adam T's picture

If they had pro testimonials and footage to look at, I'd pre-order one, I've been waiting for a full modular style camera.

Levi Arnold's picture

Get a Raven or Scarlet-W from RED. Those won't ever disappoint ya ... knock on wood:) My Dragon is amazing.

Looks amazing but in this Kickstarter world I don't trust stuff like this anymore until it's in my hand.

Ryan Pramik's picture

Agreed, I'm an optimist generally so I think it could do well, but they're supposed to start touring with demo models in November and I'm hoping that there may be some demo units that will be made available later on to really get some good on hand testing.

Interesting to use something like Lego to put together a camera; a Franken-camera? But the assembly and configuration looks good in the video, but how well does it produce?

There is a story out by premiumbeat.com about this camera. Looks like this company is ripping people off. DO NOT BUY THIS ITEM.....
https://www.premiumbeat.com/blog/biggest-camera-flops-2016/?utm_source=f...