I ran across this old blog post at ProVideoCoalition.com that features a fairly comprehensive comparison of the resolving powers of the Panasonic AF100 and the Sony PMW-F3, among other cameras such as the Sony EX3 and EX1, the ARRI Alexa and the RED Mysterium. It’s a pretty interesting and tech-heavy read.
I’ve been modifying my Panasonic AF100 to work with ENG lenses, and it’s finally taking shape. The only thing I have left to install is a Y-cable that will power the lens as well as connect to the camera’s LANC port in order to activate REC start/stop from the lens. Abel Cine makes such a cable, but it’s 260.00, which is considerably more than I was hoping to pay. However, I don’t think anyone else is making it, so it looks like I’m going to have to fork over the cash to them.
The latest addition to the kit is a Cineroid Metal HD-SDI electronic viewfinder, mounted on a NOGA articulated arm. The Cineroid arrived a couple of days ago from B&H and it really makes all the difference regarding usability of this rig in the field. Prior to getting the Cineroid, I pretty much had to mount the camera on a tripod to shoot anything. Moving the entire rig back on my shoulder and using the EVF makes all the difference, obviously. When I mounted the Cineroid, I moved the AtomosSamurai recorder from the front-left rail to the right-rear since I no longer needed to use it as a monitor when shooting. In its new position, it can serve as a secondary monitor for the director, and also provides some needed counter weight to the right side of the rig, since the EVF made everything shift left a bit. The Samurai is very reliable, and the battery life averages ten hours on a full charge, so I’m not too worried about not being able to see it while shooting hand-held footage. I know that if the camera is rolling, the Samurai is rolling. It tucks in nicely next to the Anton Bauer battery. You may recognize the AJA accessory plate and rail mount that the battery is bolted to; it used to hold my AJA Ki Pro Mini, which I ditched in favor of the Samurai. BTW, if anyone wants one, I’m selling a Ki Pro Mini…
To mount the ENG style Fujinon lens, I ordered an adapter from eBay user ciecio7. I highly recommend his adapters, as they seem to be very well built. In fact, this B4-M4/3 adapter is the highest quality I’ve yet seen from any of the adapters I’ve ordered for my AF100; I wish I’d found him earlier. Ciecio7 offers two flavors of this adapter; one with and one without the tripod collar. I ordered the one WITH the tripod collar, as I knew I was going to have to fashion some sort of lens support, since the camera’s lens mount is only rated at four pounds. Otherwise, it’s a sure bet I’d rip the mount right out the first time I used it in the field. I initially feared that it was going to be costly to get a really good lens support that would secure the lens in all directions so I could use the ENG grip, but as it turned out, the threaded 3/8″ hole in the mount adapter’s tripod collar (it also has a 1/4-20 hole) aligned perfectly with a threaded 3/8″ hole in the Redrock Micro M2 baseplate, so all I had to do was get a threaded stud from Home Depot and hacksaw it to 2.75″. That was $1.75 well-spent.
I really, really love having a proper ENG lens to use on the AF100. It really takes this camera from being quirky and odd to being a serious camera for pro video work. When Panasonic released the AF100, I was elated at the thought of what was basically a large-format HPX170 (although without my beloved P2 media), but then I was immediately puzzled when they kept demo-ing the camera with those horrible, slow, M4/3 stills lenses. What?! No servo lens? Unbelievable. So, for a long time, I used my Canon EF 16-35/2.8 L zoom with the Redrock Micro Live Lens adapter as my go-to run and gun lens, and it worked great. Not much reach, but it had the wide-to-medium area covered fairly well, and it was just fast enough to use in low light. It sucked not having a servo zoom though. With this ENG setup, now I have the best of both worlds. Granted, with all of the kit, it makes the AF100 about the same size as my HPX2000, but it’s still lighter.
So, what about image quality? ENG lenses are designed to be used on three-chip cameras, which means the glass projects onto a prism that separates the image into red, green and blue paths. There are two methods of adapting your ENG lens to a Micro 4/3 camera: the “cheap” way, which is to use a lens with a built-in 2X extender that will double the size of the image circle to cover M4/3, or the “proper” way, which is to use Abel Cine’s HDX2 adapter, which not only doubles the size of the image circle but also optically corrects for the three-chip projection so you don’t get color fringing in your highlights. Considering that, it seems to be a no-brainer on which method you would choose, until you consider cost. I got my B4-M43 adapter from ciecio7 for 240.00. That’s the entire cost of the “cheap” method. The “proper’ method is going to belt you for $5500.00 for the relay lens plus the cost of a PL adapter, because – btw – the HDX2 relay lens only comes in PL mount. SO, including the cost of PL/rails support for your AF100, we’re looking at a total cost of $7000.00 to be “proper” if you go with the HotRod-esque option. Ciecio7 also makes a PL-M43 adapter if you already have rails that would work, like I did.
I figured from the start that I was just going to put up with a little color fringing in my highlights. But then, I had a pleasant surprise. The Fujinon 10×4.8* is a really high quality piece of glass, and also considering that it’s so wide, fringing is very minimal. In fact, I don’t notice it at all unless my highlights are totally blown out, and even then, not all the time. In short, the picture looks pretty damned good. I’m sure the “proper” method is better, but I’m not positive that it’s $7000-better. Note that if you use the cheap method, your ENG lens MUST have a built-in 2X extender. With the HDX2, your lens does not need an extender, as the HDX2 doubles the size of the lens’ image circle.
* A note about the Fujinon 10×4.8 ENG SD lens: Some variants of it have a 1.7X extender and NOT a 2X extender. These will NOT WORK. You must have a 2X extender to expand the image circle to 22mm in order to cover the Micro 4/3 sensor.
While roaming the NAB Show floor with my Panasonic AF100, I stopped to interview Dan May of Blackmagic Design, who talks about their new Blackmagic Cinema Camera (Canon EF mount only), which can record in RAW at a resolution of up to 2.5K. It is the first camera I’ve seen to feature a Thunderbolt out port for recording in highest resolution. This tells me that we can expect a lot more Thunderbolt accessories from Blackmagic in the near future. Personally, I find it unfortunate that Blackmagic has chosen to release the camera in EF mount only. I would think that Micro 4/3 would have been a much better choice considering it is a much more versatile mount. What do you think?
I had the chance to interview Atomos CEO Jeromy Young at NAB, and he told us some very cool news about some upcoming products and updates, including the new Ninja 2 and the AtomOS 3.0 update, which will be released on April 30, free for Ninja 2 and Samurai users. Original Ninja customers will not be able to apply the upgrade (I’m betting due to hardware limitations), but Jeromy says that an economical upgrade path will be provided for original Ninja customers. Check out the video below!
Color me sold on the new EPSON Moverio BT-100 wearable display. The Android-powered see-thru spectacles feature an ergonomic WiFi-enabled remote, are 3D-ready, and project an image in front of the wearer’s eyes that simulate an 80-inch display being viewed from five meters. And at a price of 699.00, they are actually affordable, especially considering the cost of an 80-inch display.
After laying eyes on the new specs, my first two questions were: Can I play WoW on them, and can I hook them up as a monitor to my Panasonic AF100 camera. Because, let’s face it, shooting run and gun video with the BT-100 would be incredible, even with the increased probability of injury-by-open-manhole. However, from what I can see so far, the BT-100 does not have an HDMI port, so I’m probably going to end up disappointed… So, no deal for me.
In case you were wondering just how sophisticated the autofocus system is going to be on Canon’s new flagship camera, the EOS 1DX, here is a link to download the EOS 1DX autofocus setting guidebook. It looks to be right fancy, indeed… It almost makes me wish I hadn’t switched to Nikon, after shooting Canon professionally for twenty years. Almost. Honestly, though, when the AF system in your camera is getting to be this sophisticated — and you need it to be — I dare say you might be using the AF system as a crutch and not a tool. I’ve been a press shooter for a long time, and I don’t think I’ve ever run into a situation (since the days of modern AF anyway – we’ll say around the time of the EOS 1V) that I couldn’t get my shot from because my AF system just wasn’t smart enough. Faster is always better, but this system has so many options, I’m almost certain that we’ve witnessed the birth of Skynet.
If you’re looking for some information on scene files for the Panasonic AF100, here is a cool page at Abel CineTech that tells you how to achieve several different looks with your camera. Filmmakers should check out the RANGE scene file.
Last weekend was full of intense shooting for “Arose The Coward” using the Panasonic AF100, of course. Sunday was a particularly long day. Since I started using the AJA Ki Pro Mini, there has been an ongoing problem with it; every so often, it would freak out and delete clips, or spontaneously rename them. I FINALLY figured out why it has been doing this, and corrected the problem.
I thought of the solution while I was driving to set on Sunday. I was thinking about what could possibly cause these issues, and it hit me. When I bought my Fuji X100 stills camera, there was a known issue regarding downloading images from the camera to an iPad. When the SD card was reinserted into the camera, it would cause the X100 to freak out and become unresponsive for about thirty seconds. This was due to the fact that Apple iOS was saving hidden files to the SD card when it was inserted into the iPad’s card reader. This is not a new issue; Mac OS has always saved hidden files to media that is mounted onto the system. However, the Fuji didn’t know what to make of them, and this caused problems.
Habitually, when I’ve used the Ki Pro Mini on set, instead of reformatting the card in the unit, I would simply delete the files and then empty the trash on my Macbook Pro, because it was a lot faster. It dawned on me this weekend that that was probably what was causing the Ki Pro Mini to freak out; hidden files left on the CF cards by Mac OS.
So, I made it a point to always reformat the card in the Ki Pro Mini after dumping clips, and sure enough, the problem hasn’t resurfaced. Yay me.
After using the Panasonic AF100 on a few productions now, I’m finally getting mine dialed in to where it is comfortable to use in a cinematic environment.
With the addition of the AJA rod mounting plate on my Ki Pro Mini, the rig finally feels stable enough to use in daily work. Before, the recorder was affixed to a Noga arm and simply rested on the rods. Now, it is securely fixed to them, and the Anton Bauer Hytron 140 battery is now secured to the second accessory plate on the Ki Pro Mini, and not zip-tied to the rods like before (hey, you gotta do what you gotta do on set sometimes…).
I’ll get a chance to try the rig out again this weekend when we continue filming for “Arose The Coward.”
Most of us video nerds already know who Jan Crittenden is, but for those of you who are just joining us, Jan is a product manager for Panasonic, and she’s always the one in the know when it comes to new gear and other juicy Panasonic news.
I spoke with Jan briefly at the Panasonic booth at NAB, and she graciously let me turn my camera on her. In this video, Jan talks about the possibility of a big brother to the AF100, a new plugin for Final Cut Pro that will allow AVCHD footage to be dropped directly into a timeline without transcoding to ProRes, and a new H.264-based codec on the horizon, called AVC-Ultra, that will come in above AVC-Intra.
If you haven’t met her in person, Jan is a great representative for Panasonic, and is a wealth of information for us Panny nerds. She’s also very cool to talk to, and I owe her one for saving my bacon with an audio issue on my second day at NAB.