It’s been a while since I last posted on this blog, and it’s because I’ve been so busy with assignment work. 2016 has been crazy-busy, which is great for business, but of course when I’m shooting and editing all the time, the blog and other hobbies suffers.
So, what’s happened since the last post? Probably the biggest event (videographically-speaking, that is), is that I have switched my main video system over from Panasonic to Sony. Yes, that happened. I’ve been a Panasonic fanboy for the longest time, but it’s also no secret that I’ve not been happy with a lot of their decisions regarding product and design direction, with their most major offense being the decision to let the AF100 line twist in the wind. I guess the DVX200 could be considered to be the AF100’s “replacement” but in my opinion Panasonic missed the mark overall. The DVX200 is a nice camera, though, don’t get me wrong. But, after talking to a few friends who invested in it, it seems that it also suffers from the other thing that turned me off of Panasonic: poor performance in low light conditions. But enough about that.
After much deliberation with myself I decided to switch my main video system over to the Sony PXW-FS7. I wanted to wait for the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K PL, but delays in shipping the units finally forced my hand and I had to consider other options. Work was piling up and I couldn’t afford to wait any longer. I needed a camera immediately, so I went with the FS7, and I’m glad I did.
The FS7 has proven itself to be the freelancer’s dream camera. Features such as interchangeable lenses, a base ISO of 2000, overcranking, the ubiquitous XDCAM format, SLog3, optional RAW recording, and a ton of other amenities add up to make one solid camera system for shooting anything from news to weddings to cinema and everything else in between. The versatility of the FS7 is superior. The picture quality is superb, although some have complained that it is too noisy in the shadows. There is some truth to that but remember that “too noisy” for Sony is different than “too noisy” for other manufacturers (you know who you are).
My favorite way to shoot the FS7 is in SLog3 while exposing to the right (ETTR). This stacks more signal in the shadow areas of your picture, eliminating a lot of noise, and the FS7 has enough latitude to keep from blowing out highlights in most normal shooting situations. I made a series of custom LUTs to use on FS7 footage in Resolve, including one that takes care of shadow noise when shooting in low-light or especially contrasty scenes where ETTR isn’t really possible. It works out great for me. What are your thoughts on the FS7?
Blackmagic has yet again thrown a wrench in the budget cinema pricing machine. BMD announced that their 4K, 12-stop, RAW-recording, production camera (complete with global shutter) is now shipping, at US $2995, a price that is a thousand dollars less than it was previously.
BMD will be selling these things literally by the truckload. I personally own the BMPCC, and adore it. It’s the sharpest sensor of any camera I’ve ever used, and the 12-bit raw color is to die for. Now, with this news of the even cheaper 4K camera shipping, I think I know what my plan for the future will be. I simply can’t wait to get my hands on one.Here is BMD’s product page.
On my first day at NAB 2013, I ran into Digital Bolex creator Joe Rubinstein, who was kind enough to tell me about the new cinema camera that every cinematographer is dying to get their hands on. Joe was really nice, and I really enjoyed talking with him about his camera; it was obvious that he is just as passionate about the Digital Bolex, and what it means to cinematographers, as are the camera nerds who are waiting for it to ship.
In part 2 of the interview, Joe talks about the software the comes with the Digital Bolex, as well as the workflow for the 2K Cinema DNG files it writes to CF cards.
In case you haven’t heard about the Digital Bolex, it’s a Kickstarter-funded Super 16 cinema camera that shoots in RAW Cinema DNG format. Since it features a smaller 16mm size imager (CCD too, which means NO rolling shutter), it can make use of a myriad of older 16mm and C-mount lenses that have largely fallen into disuse since the rise in popularity of DSLR’s and other larger-chip digital cameras. Check out part 2 of my interview with Joe Rubinstein below.
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.
Helmut Lenhof shows us the new Carl Zeiss Compact Zoom T2.9 on the floor at the NAB Show in Las Vegas. The new lens covers a full stills frame at 24x36mm, which means Canon 5D Mark II, Mark III, Nikon D4, and Nikon D800 users will be able to make use of it as well. The lens will list for about $19,900. Save your pennies.
In my professional life, I’m primarily a stills shooter. I shoot a lot of editorial and press work for folks like the Associated Press, Getty Images, newspapers, and the like. I also shoot a lot of commercial stills work, for PR firms, agencies, etc. I shoot with Canon DSLRs (and my old Canon F-1N) exclusively, except when I’m using one of my Leica rangefinders. So, I know how badass Canon’s cameras are. For video cameras, however, I’ve always preferred Panasonics. I like their design philosophy and the professional quality of their cameras.
I was excited to try the video capabilities of the EOS 5D Mark II when it was announced, and indeed, as soon as mine arrived after they had begun shipping, I shot a feature length film on it. I was pleased with the results (especially with my Zeiss ZE primes. Wow!), save the moiré and rolling shutter problems, and once Canon updated the firmware to allow for 24p and manual audio level control, it was even better. As soon as I saw how the 5D2 was changing the face of indie filmmaking – and let’s face it, the camera was a real game-changer – I immediately predicted that Canon would capitalize on the serendipitous success of their camera and design a professional camcorder body with a large imager that would provide the best of both worlds. Right away, I knew it was coming.
I did not predict, however, that Panasonic would beat them to the punch with the AF100, followed by Sony with the F3. I wasn’t really surprised, though, because it is in Canon’s nature to wait until the other players have shown their cards and then release something awesome that raises the bar again, which brings me to the subject of the new Canon EOS C300 cinema camera.
Admittedly, I have not yet extensively investigated the specs of the C300. I know that it outputs a 1080 HD picture and that it uses an 8MP S35-sized chip. I also know that it shoots 4:2:2 onto CF cards at a 50Mb/s data rate (I would have expected 100Mb/s). What I don’t know, however, is why it costs US $20,000. It seems to me that instead of dropping that kind of coin on a C300, my money would be better-spent buying a Sony F3, which can record 4:4:4 out to a dual-link HD-SDI recorder. Even with the S-LOG upgrade, the F3 costs less than the C300.
Obviously – hopefully – I’m missing something, and there are actually some good reasons why the Canon C300 is more expensive than a Sony F3. Is there a reader out there who has investigated the C300 thoroughly, and can shed some light on this subject?