Ever Wondered Why Broadcast Cameras Are so Big?

Television studio cameras are massive when compared with any DSLR photography setup and are even bigger than most cinematography rigs. Check out this video for a fantastic breakdown of why they tend to be so large and cumbersome. 

Have you ever seen behind the scenes of a TV studio and been amazed at the sheer size of these camera systems? I know that I have, but that's as far as my curiosity has taken me — until now. Coming to you from the YouTube channel Zebra Zone is a superbly produced video, which lifts the veil on these monstrous machines.

Costing a whopping $250,000 for the whole kit, and considering that the actual camera body is Black Magic's relatively affordable URSA Broadcast Camera, it's no surprise that it's the lens which eats up most of the budget. In this video, we are being shown one of Fujifilm's Fujinon 4K zoom lenses, designed especially for broadcasting. The reason for its size becomes apparent when you consider the limitations that the camera operators have while shooting live events. 

As for all the other parts, YouTube creator, video production whizz, and filmmaker Thibaud, takes us through the whole shebang with engaging graphics, cinematic example footage, and well-written material, so I think it's best that you just watch the video, because the guy is a pro.

Have any of our readers ever been involved in broadcast productions? Could you see yourself behind one of these beasts? Let us know in the comments below.

Mike O'Leary's picture

Mike is a landscape and commercial photographer from, Co. Kerry, Ireland. In his photographic work, Mike tries to avoid conveying his sense of existential dread, while at the same time writing about his sense of existential dread. The last time he was in New York he was mugged, and he insists on telling that to every person he meets.

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Let's also mention controllable timecode generation and Genlock/Sync abilities in the Camera.
The signals have to be precisely controlled so the signal waves generated from all the different cameras and video control equipment are all exactly on the same wavelength.
Otherwise you get a screen glitch every time you switch between cameras and overlay graphics on screen. You may not even be able to overlay CG over the picture if the equipment isn't all genlocked to an external timecode generator.

Yes exactly that is one reason why the cost of this camera is not even close to actual total costs involved in a broadcast environment, like a CBS or ABC newsroom in Los Angeles or NYC. Also many camera setups can go way up from this point in both broadcast and Hollywood movie studio's. Once you add in the lighting, steady cam rigs, rails, etc, etc. The costs are astronomical to say the least. People are always complaining the newest Nikon or Canon lens is $2,800 haha. 70-200mm f2.8 lenses were $1500-1700 in 1999 so I really don't get why people are complaining when inflation and income is accounted for.

Hey! I need one for travel photography and selfies?

I thought my friends dad had the most expensive lens in the world, the Canon 1200mm f5.6L and it might be for stills, but damn this Fujinon is nuts lol. I remember the first time I saw the 1200mm f5.6L, which is actually larger than this lens, it was shocking and I have a 400mm f2.8 VR, which is tiny compared. The 1200mm f5.6L is so huge and long that you sometimes need to mount your camera to a separate tripod, especially if your not using a 1Dx sized body. I'm pretty sure my friend said his dad paid $120,000 for the 1200mm and paid half up front for them to start making the front element, etc. than the rest at delivery. Also I was told it was 1 of about 22 in existence, but only one of a couple in the hands of a hobbyist. Most are owned by wire services like AP, news outlets, governments for surveillance, etc. The tripod that was being used to support it was $1,500 RRS and about $2,000 video fluid head on top. I forget what kind of Gitzo was supporting the camera, but it too was massive. I thought I had a nice tripod setup with my Sirui and Wimberley Gimbal lol. The only issue with the 1200mm in usage was the heat waves we have here in Southern California and the air pollution/smog does not help either. So basically you have an $120k lens that can only be used in certain situations, especially when the weight and size are taken into account. It pretty much just lived in their living room pointing at the beach in San Clemente, CA. His dad used it from time to time to photograph surfing and other extreme sports for advertisements for their brand, which I will not name but everyone has heard of. The company was sold years ago and now his dad has also recently stepped down from another well known company that makes video cameras. See if you can figure out that puzzle lol.

The one thing that always seem to impress me is parfocal zooming. Such an amazing feature!

Yes that is definitely an amazing feature and makes the lens design all that more impressive. The aperture, lens/glass quality and zoom range are also incredibly impressive. I have had the opportunity to test out a number of these lenses over the years. I'm a photojournalist and often shoot professional sporting events, concerts, etc. and sometimes setup next to the broadcast video guys. They have been so kind to let me try them out a few times for a quick second. The parfocal zoom is by far the most impressive though, but then again so is the bokeh haha! 900mm at f4.5 is incredible and even blows my 400mm f2.8 VR out of the water lol.

Hah! Sounds like a great experience!

That guy never seen what an iPhone 11 is capable off !! All his heavy crap is useless against a smartphone !

Well, it's actually a very light setup camera they are using on these. Camera body are usually way more expensive than this one.
And most of the time, the operator do not need to care about aperture or other camera parameters as he have a control unit with a second operator doing so with expensive preview monitor and remote control camera setting as well.
All this transit a a specific link to the camera.

But does it have 2 memory card slots?

Indeed! 2x CFast and 2x SD.

That was an excellent video. One of the best I've seen on Fstoppers.

The guy on the Zebra Zone channel is wearing his zebra shirt as usual.

I worked in TV studios for a dozen years shooting drama , sitcoms, game shows etc. Using big box zoom lenses and a camera mounted on a rolling pedestal is an absolute blast.
Since then I've had nearly 30 years shooting news, current affairs and documentaries with ENG cameras and B4 mount 20:1 zoom lenses. Again, they are easy to use because you don't have time to waste with breaking news. The danger is though that you can fall into the lazy trap of standing in one spot and letting the lens do the work.