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.
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?
Last Thursday, I decided it was time to get a proper case for my AF100, and since I regularly shoot for a travel show, I made sure to look for one that was of carry-on size. I like to travel light, and I hate checking bags unless I have to. I’ve pretty much got it down to a science, and usually the only thing I have to check are my sticks.
That being a main criteria– well, it was the only criteria, because I already knew I was going to get a Pelican case, since they’ve been so awesome for me my entire professional life. One glance at their site told me that the one to get was the Pelican 1510 rolling carry-on.
A quick Google search revealed that the best price (with foam) was going to be from Amazon, so I ordered one – and another 32GB SD card – for “one day dlivery” that turned into “four day delivery”, thanks to shipping FAIL plus the Presidents’ Day holiday. To be fair, the SD card got here in one day, but the case did not. Luckily I didn’t need it for the weekend.
Looking at it, it seemed a little smaller than I thought it would be, but some foam-plucking time later, and it holds the camera body, battery, EF adapter, batteries, and my 24/1.4 and 17-40 lenses perfectly, which is a great minimalist run and gun solution for quick shots. I highly recommend the Pelican 1510 if you need a smaller, carry-on legal case for light shooting, or of course, as a compliment to more cases for travel.
This to date is still my favorite AF100 sample video. I think it’s more dear to me because I also love Alfas.
Like many people, I’ve drooled over the Panasonic AF100 since it was first announced several months ago. Working as a DP on indie films for about seven years now, I’ve struggled with finding that perfect camera system to satisfy the desires of the discerning no-budget filmmaker while delivering a satisfying image. At first, I used 3CCD cameras like the venerable Panasonic DVX100 and Sony Z1U mounted to a Redrock Micro M2 adapter in order to achieve the “cinematic” look, but I never found much satisfaction in that. Lacking a better alternative I begrudgingly continued on with it until the day Canon announced the EOS 5D Mark II, which was an immediate game-changer in the world of indie cinema, as we all know.
By profession, I am a stills photographer/photojournalist, as that is how I make most of my money. Cinematography has always been a paying hobby for me. So, when Canon announced the 5D2, it was easy for me to justify getting one. Oh, what the heck, I’ll use it for movies too…
At first, I loved the 5D2 for filmmaking because I was drunk on the joy of that shallow depth-of-field, and I didn’t pay much attention to anything else. Then, about halfway through the first feature I shot with it, I started to get really annoyed with trying to use the DSLR form factor in the field, and the primitive audio controls were killing me slowly. The firmware update to allow manual video and audio level control was superb, but it did nothing to satisfy the other problems of trying to film with a DSLR.
After we wrapped principal photography on the first feature, the editors got down to business, and they kept telling me how awesome it looked. Indeed, it did look great, especially when compared to my old footage from the 1/3″ cameras. However, after I received the locked FCP file from editors and began my process of color grading the piece, I noticed a lot of quirks and anomalies in the footage that are now well-known to DSLR filmmakers (we shot our film very early after the 5D2 was released. To this day, as far as I know, ours was the first feature film to be shot on DSLR. Seriously, we started filming a couple days after the 5D2 started shipping. I was waiting for it.). There were a lot of problems with moire, and there was a lot of noise in shadow areas, etc. Plus, since the camera records straight to H.264, it was really easy for the footage to look dirty, especially in low light situations, even though I was shooting with my f/1.4 Zeiss primes most of the time. They helped with sharpness and contrast, but good glass can only do so much when you’re recording to such a compressed codec.
When I started shooting the second feature, I wasn’t thrilled about using DSLRs again, but they were still the best choice. The next film was shot on my 5D2 and a 7D. Once again, I was also the colorist, and when I started work, I was horrified to see how different the footage from each camera was, even though the color settings and white balance were unified in each scene. I had to do some major work to get them to match up, all the while seeing the same old problems that irked me on the first film.
By the time that film wrapped, the Panasonic AF100 had been announced, and I vowed that I would never shoot another feature on a DSLR, unless it was being utilized as a B-cam. I launched a grand scheme to get an AF100 as soon as they were available. The grand scheme, of course, was to sell as much of my surplus camera gear as I could by the time its December 27th ship date rolled around. As it happened, last week I got stupidly lucky and found a used AF100 on eBay, of all places. The owner had bought it for personal use, and decided it was too complicated, so he put it up for auction. I saved about $800.00 and got a week-old camera. Score.
And now, I am completely in love with my AF100. I’ve found my new A-cam. When looking for online places to share the AF100 love though, I was disappointed to find that there just aren’t that many sites yet. So, I made this one, dedicated to the AF100 and indie filmmaking in general. Please enjoy the content – I promise there will be more very soon.