Here Are the Cameras Used By the 2016 Best Cinematography Emmy Nominees

While the camera isn’t everything, it is fascinating to see the breakdown of cameras and lenses for the Emmy for outstanding cinematography this year.

It’s always fun to look at the best cinematography Oscar nominees or SXSW filmmakers to see what cameras they are using, and we couldn’t help but have the same curiosity about the nominees for Best Cinematography for a single-camera show at this year’s Emmys, announced this afternoon.

In camera platform, the situation is pretty similar to the Oscarsabout 2/3 Alexa and 1/3 REDand, unsurprisingly, no show shot on film. (After all, television budgets and schedules aren’t really designed for film anymore.) 

The situation is pretty similar to the Oscars—about 2/3 Alexa and 1/3 RED​.

We see mostly very established lens platforms (Zeiss Ultra or Master Prime, Cooke S4, and Panavision Primo), which makes sense; considering the large volume of footage shot and the tightness of a TV schedule, working with less consistent older sets of lens that need more time in grading to match isn’t practical. Of course, the feature awards rely on similar lenses, with the exception of the film projects like Carol and The Hateful Eight, which went not only for film, but also lenses with more personality (Speed Panchros for Carol, and Panavision APO Panatar for Hateful Eight) and the added workflow associated with such choices. 

The biggest surprise is that Sony is still out of the running in the Best Cinematography category. This must be frustrating for a camera company that dominated the television realm for a long time, and it’s especially surprising considering how hard Sony is working to take back some of that market share.

The company is also making cameras beloved by some exceptionally particular and talented DPs in the feature space (Claudio Miranda with Oblivion and Vittorio Storaro with Cafe Society, both shot Sony), and has a presence in the type of prestige TV that often gets nominated (Marco Polo, Preacher, and Mozart in the Jungle all shot Panavision Sony, for a start). But Sony just doesn’t seem to be cracking into the shows that get cinematography awards for a single camera. Even on 4K platforms like Amazon and Netflix, which until recently ruled out the Alexa, the nominees’ choice was consistently the RED Epic Dragon over Sony. David Fincher‘s (House of Cards) longstanding affinity for and relationship with RED is clearly a factor, but The Man In The High Castle cinematographer James Hawkinson made the same decision.

Sony is still out of the running in the Best Cinematography category​.​

In practically every case, most shows take at least a partially hybrid approach, mixing multiple cameras and lenses; because of this, we have listed only the primary platform below. While nobody shot with the Arri 65 (probably not necessary for TV), it was often a mix of Alexa M, XT, ST, or classic on an Arri show, or Epic Dragon and Scarlet Dragon on a RED show.

Even on shows that chose the Alexa for A and B camera, sometimes the C camera would be Epic Dragon (we’re looking at you, Homeland), probably chosen for its easy of mounting and slo-mo abilities.

The primary platform tends to be what is used to set the look, and the secondary cameras are tasked with fitting into the look created on the primary platform.

Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series

Bates Motel

Camera: Arri Alexa

Lenses: Panavision Primos

Downton Abbey

Camera: Arri Alexa

Lenses: Cooke S4

Game of Thrones

Camera: Arri Alexa, Red Epic

Lenses: Cooke S4 and Angeneix Optimo lenses


Camera: Arri Alexa

Lenses: Panavision Primo


Camera: Arri Alexa and Red Epic

Lenses: Ultra Primes, Canon Cinema Zooms

House Of Cards

Camera: Red Epic

Lenses: Master Primes

The Man In The High Castle

Camera: Red Epic Dragon

Lenses: No info currently available.

What did you think of the nominations this year?


Get in touch with us!