Image quality and the Z100 in the field
Fortunately, in use the PXW-Z100 does produce high-quality images, especially in the various 4K modes. Video recorded at 4K does look impressive, especially on a large, 4K screen. Note, though, that most consumer screens can only display QFHD/UHD, rather than cine 4K images, so our field tests were produced in that format.
There is one area where we did find (in QFHD mode), that the camera struggled a little, and that was with highlight detail. Our test camera tended towards over-exposure, and needed the ND filters to keep the image from burning out, even in late afternoon light.
Of course, it is possible to adjust the gain levels in the camera, and because the image is 4:2:2, there is plenty of scope to correct the images in post production. The test sample below has some exposure correction applied using Final Cut 10.
Whether the images from a single chip, and relatively small, sensor system are good enough for broadcast use is a separate question. We used the PXW-Z100 in HD mode, alongside a PMW-200, also recording in 4:2:2, with controlled lighting, our perception was that the PMW-200 produced better pictures. This is to be expected, given it is a three-chip system.
The PXW-Z100 did produce significantly better images than the PMW-100, which has a similar-sized, single sensor. But the Z100 does cost rather more.
Again, the PXW-Z100 is more expensive than the Panasonic GH4, but has the option of higher framerate and higher bitrate 4K recording, as well as 4:2:2 in camera – but with a smaller sensor than the Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds chip.
Where the PXW-Z100 does score, is in the creative options it gives. For most producers and programme makers, the value in 4K is less in using the 4K format, but in being able to crop or punch in on the 4K image to create different HD pictures. The PXW-Z100 is certainly capable of this, but is it the right choice for this type of film making?