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Hands-On with Sharp’s Sub-$5,000 8K Mirrorless Camera

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During the be beginning of the year, Sharp Corporation unveiled a surprising, small handheld Micro Four Thirds 8K camera – but back then we had very few details about it. Now, just before NAB 2019 is about to begin, we had the opportunity to talk to Kaino-san from Sharp, who was kind enough to answer our questions and also let us have a short spin with it.

Note: The camera is currently at a very early stage of development and the footage it creates is in NO WAY final! For now, this new Micro 4/3 sensor camera can record 8K/30p in H264, Long GOP, 8Bit 4:2:0, 200Mbps wrapped in an mp4 container to an internal SD card. More details below.

During the above interview, Kaino-san was very clear about the status of development of this video-centric new camera. The Sharp engineering team is working hard to bring it to the market, but there is still A LOT to do before the camera officially sees the day of light. In fact, the unit I got to shoot with was the first to be handed to anyone, and although in an early development stage, Sharp allowed me to shoot with it. In return, Sharp is asking for our (the filming community) support by letting them know what we really want and need in order to make it a useful tool for creative work. But, first things first, let’s see what it has already, and what might be missing.

Current Specs (Subject to Change)

Sharp chose to use their own 33-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor and have built the camera around it. As we might imagine, focusing can be crucial when filming in 8K, so in Sharp’s mind(s), this sensor size provides an ideal balance between usability (user experience) and sensor performance (they are perfectly aware that by using such sensor size, dynamic range, low-light performance, and picture noise, in general, might be compromised). Yet, the decision was to go ahead and aim for greater usability. (By the way, Sharp has just officially joined the Micro Four Thirds system standard group, next to Olympus and Panasonic).

Watch some footage below we’ve shot here in Las Vegas with this Sharp 8K micro four thirds camera (Mind you, this video is heavily processed and compressed by YouTube. We’ve also uploaded three unaltered clips straight from the camera to a different location which you can download here. Plus, you can download the original 8K version of the video).

The camera I shot with was locked on 8K/30p 200Mbps, but Sharp is planning to allow Full HD recording, 2K, 4K (up to 60p) and 8K/30, all in H264 and H265, Long GOP, 8 Bit, 4:2:0, 200Mbps wrapped in an mp4 container. Future HDR recording will be in 10Bit as this is part of the HDR standard). Sharp is considering replacing the existing mini 2.1 HDMI connector with a full-size one.

Clean 8K output is guaranteed, so also the connection to Sharp’s own TV sets will be seamless. How this output file will look like is still being discussed at Sharp. The 5.5-inch Full HD touch screen is bright, but not very responsive (YET) on this un-finished camera (in fact, the actual camera menu is not yet ready and camera power management is not really implemented). Speaking of which, the new upcoming Sharp camera will use Canon’s LP-E6 batteries.

If you are into gimbal work, please note that there is no internal body stabilization system, but fast continuous Auto Focus is expected to make it to the final camera. The current body I was shooting with had single-tap autofocus, only.

Connectivity and Button Layout

We already mentioned the full 2.1 HDMI connector. On top, it will enjoy a USB type 3 interface, headphone jack, 3.5 audio input, and a single mini XLR connector for better, more professional audio connectivity. When it comes to camera control buttons, the layout is simple: On/Off button, RECORD button, 3 Fn buttons (Controlling ISO, Shutter speed and White Balance), AEL and DISPLAY buttons, and a cold shoe for attaching some accessories, like a small light or a microphone. That’s it. I’m curious to see how the actual camera menu will look like and if it can help with its operation. (Peaking and Zebra among other features will be welcomed)

Who Is This Camera For?

As it is hard NOT to compare this camera to Blackmagic’s Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, of course, I was curious to find out who Sharp are actually targeting, as I don’t really know so many productions that are requesting 8K delivery – or filmmakers who are suggesting 8K master to their clients. Kaino-san was clear that at this stage of development, Sharp is not really targeting the filmmaking community and this camera might be useful within Sharp’s 8K ecosystem.

8K productions are slowly but surely expected to gain momentum towards 2020, when the Olympic games will take place in Japan, so when that happens, Sharp will have a camera to offer for small and medium-sized production houses. According to Sharp, another way of benefiting from such a high-resolution sensor is when pairing that camera with a drone.

What Is Currently Missing

Sharp will equip the camera with REC709 and BT.2020 picture profiles. Log Gamma picture profile is currently only being considered and its implementation is greatly dependent on audience request! (A small hint, the comment section is just below and Sharp will be watching…)

Another missing option is the ability to record any sort of (Compressed) RAW. Hopefully, by hearing our community, Sharp will consider adopting ProRes RAW or the Blackmagic equivalent.

Pricing and Availability

A bit of a painful point here… Sharp is aiming to offer their 8K camera for somewhere between $3,000 to $5,000. In my opinion, it is a bit too much to ask. 8K might not be the selling point Sharp is hoping it to be, as consumers are NOT after resolution only (we are still learning to master 4K…)

So, humble words of advice for Sharp: get to know your customers, see what the competition is offering, give as much as you can with this first camera of yours and sell it for a reasonable, fair price if you want people to get it. In terms of availability, there is no definite time yet, though Sharp is targeting the release within 2019. I can witness first-hand that it will still take a while until that new 8K camera is ready for prime time.

This is a grab from our original Sharp 8K footage (downscaled to HD)
And this is a 400% crop into the above grab (again, downscaled to HD). Note the amount of detail!

Picture Quality

As this is NOT one of my camera reviews, I will not touch the subject of picture quality since it is not a final product yet. Most of the clips in the above video were shot in between ISO 200 to 450, and white balance was factory locked on Auto. (The camera can go all the way to ISO 10,000 but Sharp is still looking for that picture quality/lower picture noise “sweet spot”).

If you are looking for a lowlight monster or even just a good lowlight performer, look elsewhere (at this stage, it is a daylight or well-lit-places camera, only). The B-roll images in my interview were all scaled down to HD (to match the rest of the interview with Kaino-san).

Would you buy a camera just because it offers 8K resolution? Let us know in the comment section below what you think Sharp should offer on top of resolution.


About the author: Johnnie Behiri is a freelance documentary cameraman/editor/producer/director working for many respected clients and broadcasters. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Behiri is also a co-owner of cinema5D. This article was also published here.

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