Well we are now in to 2011 so it’s time to look back at 2010 and some of the products that became available. Last year my award went to the excellent Convergent Designs NanoFlash. As with last year there is no real meaning to the award, it’s just an excuse for me to highlight my favourite product from 2010.
So what was new in 2010? There were some significant announcements of new products like the Sony PMW-F3 and the un named NXCAM but these won’t be available until 2011. Sony did release the PMW-320, 1/2? shoulder mount camcorder to compliment the PMW-350. I was at first a little sceptical about this camera, but it does produce a good image and the price is attractive where you need to have the looks and ergonomics of a shoulder mount camera but don’t need high end 2/3? sensors and lenses. So the 320 gets good points for value and ergonomics, but it’s not a stand out product. Later in the year we saw the release of the PMW-500. This was the logical combination of a high end CCD camera with Sony’s solid state SxS recording system. The PMW-500 is a fantastic camcorder that will be excellent for news and documentary production. I’m sure it will do very well indeed and users will appreciate the light weight and low power consumption. However again for me it isn’t a stand out product, it’s very nice but you have to pay a significant premium for those CCD’s and 50Mb/s recording and really it is a completely logical extension of the Sony XDCAM product family.
Jumping out of the Sony camp there is Panasonics new AF100/AF101 with it’s APS-C sized sensor. Canon and their video enabled DSLR’s showed what could be achieved with a big sensor, however the DSLR’s were, first and foremost, high resolution stills cameras with 12 megapixel (or more) sensors. The video was an afterthought and suffered from various artefacts as a result, but they really had a huge impact on the whole industry, forcing the big guns of the video world to seriously re-think. Not to be left behind Panasonic and Sony had to jump on the big sensor band wagon. The first to market was the Sony NEX-VG10 which is basically a stills camera pretending to be a video camera. It’s not bad and can produce a good image but it’s not really a professional product. The next to market was the Panasonic AF100. This is a serious attempt at producing a low cost, big sensor video camera. The sensor is APS-C sized, so it’s not quite as big as would be found in a 35mm film camera, but the smaller sensor does allow for the use of a very wide range of DSLR lenses and the Depth of Field is pleasing when you use a fast lens. Sadly Panasonic chose to use AVCHD for the codec, so for best results you really want to record using an external high quality recorder. This camera would have been sooo much better if it used AVC-Intra. Despite the codec (and it’s looks) the AF100 was certainly a stand out product and gets added to my shortlist for my award.
On the camcorder front there was of course the Canon XF305. This is a very good camcorder, of that there is no doubt. I’m still a little skeptical of the sensor performance, they look a little noisy too me. However it has certainly raised the bar when it comes to 1/3? sensor performance. The incorporation of a 50 Mb/s 4:2:2 codec in to a compact camcorder is something that Sony EX users have been clamouring for ever since the launch of the EX1. In addition the extra zoom range from the 20x lens is nice to have. The Canon XF305 certainly stands out from the crowd with it’s excellent 50Mb/s codec so it’s definitely in my shortlist.
One product that I really like is the Black Magic HDLink 3D. This clever little box allows you to combine the output of any pair of HDSDi equipped cameras on a 3D rig and gives a huge range of outputs compatible with most off the shelf 3D consumer TV’s and PC monitors. This one product has made 3D monitoring so much cheaper and easier than ever before. What’s more it’s remarkably low cost at around $499 USD. So this too deserves to get shortlisted, but it’s overshadowed by another computer adapter that’s slowly getting quite a following:
The Matrox MXO2 range is a range of input and output adapters for Mac computers. These boxes, depending on the exact model give you HDSDI, HDMI and component inputs and outputs. They will work with a MacBook Pro Laptop connecting via the express card slot or with MacPro work stations. There’s hardware up and down scaling, a range of encoding accelerators and 3D monitoring tools. They have so many applications form providing HDSDI or HDMI monitoring for Avid or FCP to a way to record 10 bit HD on location via a laptop. They support XDCAM, RED, DVCPRO HD, PRORES and DNxHD workflows. An MXO2 could easily become the center point of many a production facility, OB truck or one man band.
For the flexibility, cost effectiveness and affordability the Matrox MXO2 gets my award for product of the year 2010. It has so many uses that it’s impossible to list them all. It’s one of those boxes that you will find useful for so many things and the best bit is that it’s highly affordable.