There are a lot of lessons that we can learn from watching camera demos. Probably the most popular one to do right now (because it gets a hell of a lot of clicks) is the infamous iPhone camera comparisons. While it is very cool to see how far phone cameras have come in the past decade, it’s equally, if not more important to recognize what you gain and lose from using different camera systems.
Park Walbeck uploaded the most recent comparison to his YouTube, comparing the iPhone 7+ with his $50,000 RED Weapon. And it’s pretty impressive to see how well the iPhone fares, considering. However, even though Walbeck says he knows that the RED is a better camera, but that language in itself is what I consider the problem.
The premise of the video is predicated on the idea that the cameras, in certain environments, are virtually equal, or close to it. Cameras are tools that are to be used for a variety of purposes. If you find that you can shoot your film or video on an iPhone, that speaks to the content you’re producing far more than it does the quality of the camera. If you find that you’re not seeing the benefits of shooting with a $50,000 camera, perhaps you shouldn’t be using that camera?
However, make no mistake, these cameras are not comparable and efforts to do so, like this, damage the way we should be choosing cameras for a shoot. If this video’s premise is correct, content is king. If you’reusing videos like this, shot in well-lit environments at a wide-angle with everything in focus, to make important camera decisions, you’re going to find yourself stuck in a professional rut. It’s like having an NBA Player shoot from half court and comparing them to an amateur doing layups. There's a reason “Gone Girl” looks light-years better than “Tangerine” (shot on an iPhone in case you didn’t know) and it's not because of composition.
Cinematography is an art-form, not a camera decision. If you’remaking online video content in which the solid, safe capture is more important than the details of each composition, then that should impact your camera decisions. Don’t allow yourself to become a shooter that falls into traps like this. It’s not about the camera— it’s about what you’re shooting and how you’re shooting it. Judging by the comments, videos like this place diminish both of those points.
“The quality isn't honestly that different given the $49,000 price difference. I'd rather stick with an iPhone and a new car instead of a Red Weapon.”
“And throw it on youtube, because youtube compression will really help show what is better. An iPhone or a Red.”
“I would say the difference between phone and'proper' camera footage is motion, phones always look jerkier than a normal camera even at a high shutter speed.”
In the end, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you find yourself becoming a shooter that makes decisions based on comparisons like this, then you’ll never break free from that cycle of futile, useless YouTube comparisons and won’t understand the fundamental use and function of a high end cinema camera.
Finally, I don’t want to sound like I’m demonizing Parker Walbeck. What he says in the video is very true. Remove your excuses and just go out there and shoot. The problem is that the video as a whole perpetuates a culture of passive, internet cinematographers. A RED Weapon is worth $50,000 and your iPhone shoots decent video. End of discussion. Let’s try to move on and actually do what our title’s imply. Film stuff.
iPhone 7 + Video vs $50,000 RED Weapon Footage
Via Youtube Description:
I used the MoviM5 for stabilizing for comparison reasons but you can get nice phone stabilizers like the DJI Osmo Mobile for only a couple hundred dollars.
Both cameras lightly color corrected in Adobe Premiere Pro using Lumetri Color.
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(cover photo credit: snap from video)