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.
I leave for NAB this afternoon, and I’ve just finished packing. Here is the final list of gear that I’m hauling with me in just my two carry-ons (a Pelican 1310 & a ThinkTank backpack):
Panasonic AF100 camera
Redrock Micro LiveLens Canon mount
On-Camera LED light
Sennheiser shotgun mic w/dead cat
Sennheiser hand-held mic
Nikon D3 body
Atomos Samurai kit (SSD & HDD)
MacBook Pro 15
Nikon SB910 strobe
ten pounds of batteries chargers and cables
And in my two checked bags:
Redrock Micro rails with pistol grip, shoulder mount, iKan FF, and Noga arm for the Samurai. Note I have left no room for clothing. I will probably just pack it in my tripod bag. Hey, I know what’s important.
It’s confirmed! The AF100Central crew is going to NAB again this year. We’re looking forward to conducting some good product reviews and interviews from the show floor at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Last year, we had a couple of great impromptu interviews with Jan Crittenden of Panasonic, and Matthew Duclos of Duclos Lenses, who showed us his prototype of the Duclos 70-200 T3 zoom. I ran into him by chance at the Angenieux booth, when I spotted the beautiful Zeiss 21mm Distagon on his Nikon. This year, we’re going to have a lot more content, all filmed on the AF100, of course. 🙂 It is my intent to get a lot more content from the Panasonic booth. Jan was very gracious and extremely helpful last year, and I hope she will be open to conducting another interview. I can’t stress how cool she is in person; Panasonic is lucky to have her as a representative.
So now is your chance to let us know what you all would like to see us report on from NAB 2012. Reply in the comments below and tell us who you’d like us to interview, and what products you would like to see showcased! Remember, everyone who is anyone in the video/cinema industry will be at NAB, so now is your chance to place your order for custom-tailored information!
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.”
Last weekend saw the start of my latest project with Machina Cinema, a short entitled “Arose The Coward,” which is being filmed on my Panasonic AF100. I’ve recently made some upgrades to my system, and I’ve been looking forward to putting them into service. I switched out the Kipon Canon EF to M43 mount for the new Redrock Micro LiveLens mount adapter that allows electronic interface with the Canon lens aperture. It’s pretty cool, although it doesn’t work with all the EF lenses. Not sure why. It works great with the lens I need it for most, though, which is the 16-35/2.8 L. It also works with my 70-200/2.8L IS, and my 300/2.8 L IS. However, it does not work with my 24/1.4L, which is a serious bummer, as that’s my go-to low-light lens.
For the start of production, I outfitted the AF100 with a Ki Pro Mini ProRes422 recorder, which I’ve tacked a Hytron 140 battery onto for field work. A fully charged 140 will power the Ki Pro Mini for at least 5-6 hours… pretty handy on set.
Below are some photos from the first day on set. Friend Kevin Sloan recently acquired a Steadicam Provid and was looking forward to trying it out on set. As luck woud have it, the entire first day called for Steadicam.
When Final Cut Pro X was released, I was one of the users who threw down my three-hundred bucks and drank the Kool-Ade™ immediately. I was also one of the users who demanded a refund inside of a week after running FCPX for the first time. And, to Apple’s credit, they didn’t even ask me why; they just said, “Here you go!” and gave my money back. That says a lot about the backlash they’re getting from FCPX and also that maybe — just maybe — they will admit they made a mistake in their FCP strategy and will rethink the way they want to step into the future from this point.
When you get down to brass tacks, FCPX isn’t bad. It has some really cool features. It’s a lot easier to review clips in the new file browser, for example, and I think the in-app color tools are much more advanced. However, that magnetic storyline thing has got to go. I was willing to put up with a lot of quirks while I was getting used to the new app, but when it started rearranging clip order and screwing with my ins and outs on clips I had already placed, well — in the words of Devin the Dude, “Bitch gotta go.” (don’t bother Googling, it isn’t worth the time)
So, after I asked Apple for my money back, I started working in Adobe Premiere Pro (again), because I was a little sour on Apple for the time being (pun totally intended). I like Premiere. I’ve always liked it, but it’s never been my main NLE because I simply knew FCP better, and there was really no reason to switch. However, since the days I first tried Premiere, I changed part of my workflow that affects my ability to use the app now: I started color grading in DaVinci Resolve.
The recent release of Resolve 8 is awesome, as it allows for round trips from Final Cut Pro by exporting XML files from the editor. One can also export XML files from Premiere, but here is where a big wrench gets thrown into the machine due to a cool feature of Premiere. Yes, a feature about Premiere that I like is what causes a problem in my workflow, and here’s what it is: A lot of my footage is shot on Panasonic P2 cameras, and Premiere has the ability to work with the native P2 files, which is awesome, since AVCIntra or DVCProHD files don’t see the improvement from being converted to ProRes that H.264 files from a DSLR do. However, DaVinci Resolve does not recognize native P2 files, so if I want to make round trips from Premiere, I first have to convert my P2 files to ProRes before I bring them into Premiere. Yes, I also have to do this in Final Cut Pro, but FCP’s log and transfer window makes it a snap, and it’s much easier to work with these files in FCP instead of Premiere if I want to send the project to Resolve at some point, which I always will.
So, the problem isn’t with Premiere; it’s with Resolve. If Resolve recognized P2 files, all would be well, but the fact is that it doesn’t. I thought it was really strange that Resolve didn’t recognize P2, so I emailed BlackMagic about the issue and they confirmed that that was indeed the case, although the wording of the reply did contain the phrase, “…does not yet support…” so I guess that says there is future hope for working with P2 in Resolve.
So, it comes down to the fact that, if I want to work in Premiere, I would have to remove Resolve from my workflow unless I felt like coming up with a complicated batch conversion process for all my raw footage. Now, I LOVE Resolve, so there is no way I’m going to stop using it. I like Premiere, but I also like FCP 7, and there is no reason why I should switch to Premiere for now. I say, “for now,” because the future hinges on what Apple has in store for FCP, and whether or not they truly intend to abandon the Pro suite of applications for easier pro-sumer profit. If FCP will truly end with version 7, then there is a problem, but if Apple will admit they made a mistake and continue developing FCP the way it should be done, then all will be well. Regardless, I hope Resolve will support more raw camera formats in the near future, because more options are always better.
The more I use my AJA Ki Pro Mini, the more annoyed I get with it. It doesn’t do anything wrong, per se, or even anything poorly, but its workflow requires a little too much effort for my tastes.
For instance, I really wish it recorded to SSD instead of Compact Flash. I would be happy with one SSD port. But, the thing that really bothers me is how it is so easy to lose recorded clips if you lose power to the unit or if the CF card gets pulled before it has been unmounted. Essentially, the cards mount just like a Mac volume, and if they get yanked without first unmounting them by hitting the SLOT button, then you will assuredly lose at least the last two or three clips that were written to the card. This means that you have to unmount and remount the card after every take if you want to make sure you never lose a file. Too much trouble on a busy set. Plus, someone will inevitably pull power to the unit on occasion, which also really hoses it up.
I think I’m going to order an Atomos Samurai when they start shipping this summer. I glanced at it and talked to the dev team at NAB earlier this year, and the little box shows great promise indeed. I can’t wait to get my hands on one. Has anyone used the Atomos Ninja with an AF100 with good results? How do you handle recording 24p thru the HDMI port? Do you have to do a pulldown in post, and if so, do you see motion jutter? Please let me know, and if you can, send a link to some clips. I wonder if the Ninja would be a good substitute until the Samurai comes out.