Last week I presented a Webinar in conjunction with Visual Impact on how to shoot ProRes Raw with Sony’s FS5 and FS7. The Webinar was recorded, so if you missed it you can now watch it online. It’s almost 2 hours long and contains what I hope is a lot of useful information including what you need, exposure and how to get the footage in to FCP-X. I tried to structure the FCP-X part presentation in such a way that those that don’t normally use FCP-X (like me) will be able to get started quickly and understand what is going on under the hood.
Since the webinar it has been brought to my attention by Felipe Baez (thanks Felipe) that it is possible to add a LUT after the color panel and grading tools by adding the “custom LUT” effect to your clip. To do this you will set the raw input conversion to S-log3. Then add your color correction, then add the Custom LUT effect.
A big thank you to Visual Impact for making this possible, do check them out!
This is for any Sony camera that is upgraded via a direct USB connection between the computer and the camera, so that includes cameras like the A7s, A7r, A6300 and the rest of the Sony Alpha series. It is also for many of the PXW video cameras including the PXW-FS5. You don’t need it for cameras like the PMW-F55 or PXW-FS7 where the update is done by placing the upgrade file on an SD card.
Without this driver the upgrade software will install and all appears to be working OK. Except you can’t get a good USB connection between the camera and the mac computer and the upgrade will fail.
It’s interesting to see how the term viewfinder is now used for small monitors rather than monocular viewfinders or shrouded dedicated viewfinders. Unless the a monitor screen is properly shielded from external light then you can only guess at the contrast and brightness of the images feeding it in anything other than a dim/dark room.
This is one of the key reasons why for decades viewfinders have been in fully shrouded hoods, snoots or loupes. As one of the key roles of a viewfinder is to show how your recordings will look for exposure assessment, if it doesn’t have a full shroud then in my opinion it isn’t a viewfinder, it is simply a monitor and exactly what your images will look like is anyones guess depending on the ambient light conditions. Furthermore even a young person with perfect can’t focus properly at less than 6″/150mm and that distance increases with age or in low ambient light. So most people will need a loupe or magnifying lens to be able to make full use of a small HD LCD for critical focus. In order to be able to see the sharpness of an image you need contrast, so an unshaded LCD screen on a sunny day will be next to useless for focus – perhaps this is why I see so many out of focus exterior shots on TV these days?
To be truly useful a viewfinder needs to be viewed in a controlled and dark environment. That’s why for decades it has been normal to use a monocular viewfinder. The eyepiece creates a tightly controlled, nice and dark, viewing environment. This isn’t always convenient. I will often flip up or remove the eyepiece for certain types of shot. But – if you don’t have the option to fully shade the viewfinder – how do you work with it on a sunny day? On a camera like the FS5 I often find myself using the small, enclosed viewfinder on the back of the camera when the sun is bright. These tiny built in viewfinders are not ideal, but I’d rather have that than a totally washed out LCD or trying to shoot with a jacket over my head as my only option.
So next time you are looking at upgrading the monitor or viewfinder on your camera do try out a good 3rd party monocular viewfinder such as the Zacuto Gratical or Zacuto Eye. Perhaps consider a Small HD monitor with the Side Finder option. Or an add-on monocular for the existing LCD panel. Without that all important shading and magnification it isn’t really a viewfinder, it’s just a small LCD monitor and in anything other than a very dim environment it’s always going to be tough to judge focus and exposure.
The version 2 firmware is now available for download – ahead of schedule – from Sony. There is no need to send the camera in to Sony to perform the upgrade. You can do it yourself and it doesn’t take long.
Version 2 is a major update for Venice and it adds all kinds of new features including things like S&Q motion, the dual base ISO mode and the ability to load user LUT’s into the camera. Another key feature is that Version 2 enables the use of the E-Mount lens mount. This really opens up the camera, especially for full frame as the range of lenses that you can now use with Venice is vast, everything from high end cinema lenses to low cost DSLR lenses.
Some of the new features added in V2:
1.Added imager modes, 6K 17:9, 6K 1.85:1 and 4K 6:5
2.Added ISO2500 high sensitivity (Dual Base ISO)
3.E-mount lens support
4.Variable Frame rate (Select FPS)
5.Apple ProRes HD support
6.Simultaneous recording formats
7.User 3D LUT support
8.EI applied in S-Log3 output and recording
9.Surround view in 4K 17:9, 3.8K 16:9 and 4K 4:3 imager modes
10.High Quality Viewfinder focus magnification
11.Auto White Balance
13.VF False color
14.Camera remote control via Ethernet
15.Inside button operation for Playback
16.Eliminated restrictions on 6K 3:2 imager mode playback function
Before you perform the update I recommend watching this video which will take you through all the necessary steps.
Tonight the BBC are running a series of programmes about legendary 80’s pop band Duran Duran. At the same time Sky television in the UK have made one of my the projects I am most proud to have been involved in available for free, in HD, and on demand – A Diamond In The Mind. In 2011 I was involved in the planning and filming of this Duran Duran concert. Originally conceived a s a lowish cost production to be shot in at a small venue in Berlin, the shoot was full of challenges, not least of which was the cancellation of the Berlin concert just hours before it’s start when the lead singer Simon LeBon suffered damaged vocal chords.
We were right in the middle of building up the cameras at the Berlin concert hall when the news came through.
With the cancellation of the Berlin gig the whole scope of the project changed as the next opportunity to shoot would be at one of the huge arena events in the UK. In 1984 Duran Duran produced a film called “Arena”. This was a truly epic concert video that covered several legs of their sold out arena and stadium tour of 1983. While we were never going to replicate this on our much more modest budget, it certainly gave us something to aim for.
The idea was to film the concert with what was at the time ground breaking large sensor video cameras to achieve a film like look. Duran Duran are famous for their videos so we were following in some pretty big footsteps. The majority of the cameras were Sony PMW-F3’s with a custom picture profile that I developed specifically for the shoot. Other cameras included (if I remember right) a couple of FS100’s, some GoPro’s on stage and right at the very back of the Venue there was a Red One shooting a big 4K wide shot.
I got the opportunity to test the camera settings the week before the shoot at a concert at the O2 arena. After that there was just a single concert to film, so we had to get everything just right.
The day of the gig was a typical dark and gloomy winters day in Manchester. Inside the vast Manchester arena we were busy fitting lenses to camera. Sorting out cue sheets, organising talkback links and all those other things needed for a multi camera concert shoot.
We had some very exotic lenses, several Angenieux 24-290 T2.8’s. At my camera position I was using a 40x ENG lens with one of the 2/3″ to super35mm adapters I had designed. The focal length of this lens was the equivalent of 1000mm at f4. The depth of field was paper thin!
The concert started and the filming went ahead. It seem to all be over very quickly, all that preparation, all those tests for just 2 hours of filming. And then the shoot was over.
Post production took quite a while as band member Nick Rhodes chose to add a lot of his own elements to the edit. Each track in the film has a slightly different look, but it was all worth it. The end result was the feature length film “A Diamond In The Mind”. It’s a project that was amazing to work on, with an amazing crew put together by Hangman Films. Today, 7 years later I still think it looks pretty damn good. I’d love to go back to the rushes and produce an HDR version!
Both webinars will feature a Q&A session where you will be able to ask questions online. You will find the full details about both webinars by following the links above, including how to register. The webinars are free but registration is required to obtain the login details for the events.
Sony have just released a firmware update for the PXW-FS7 and PXW-FS7 II cameras. This is a minor update with only one new feature being added which is the ability to alter the recorded ISO when shooting in the Cine-EI mode.
When the camera is set to CineEI, this new function is turned on and off in the menu under System – Base Settings – Rec/Out EI Applied.
What does it do?
When shooting normally using Cine EI, assuming that no LUT is applied to SDI1/Rec the camera always records at it’s base sensitivity (2000 ISO exposure rating) with no added gain. This is done to ensure that the cameras full dynamic range is always available and that the full recording range of either S-Log2 or S-Log3 is always available.
Then the EI system is used to apply a LUT just to the viewfinder or SDI 2 for monitoring. The gain of the LUT can then be changed to provide a brighter or darker viewfinder/monitor image. For example setting the EI to 1000 EI would make the viewfinder image darker than the base setting of 2000EI by 1 stop.
Because you are viewing this darker image you would then open the cameras aperture by 1 stop to compensate. Opening the aperture up results in a brighter recording. A brighter recording, achieved by putting more light onto the sensor will have less noise than a darker exposure, so the end result is brighter recorded images with less noise.
This process is often referred to as “rating” the camera and it is in many cases preferable to “rate” the FS7 around a stop slower (Viewfinder is darker, less sensitive, so that means you end up opening up the aperture) than the base 2000 ISO rating to gain a cleaner image that typically gives much greater flexibility in post production. So many users will set the EI on an FS7 to 1000 or 800 (It’s no co-incidence that I find get the sweet spot to be 800EI which happens to match the rating that Sony give the FS7 when shooting Rec-709).
Because in the normal EI mode there is no change to the cameras actual recording gain (the recordings take place at the equivalent of 2000 ISO) there is no change to the dynamic range. The camera will always capture 14 stops no matter what you set the EI to. However if you open the aperture by an extra stop (selecting 1000 EI, which results in a 1 stop darker viewfinder image, so to compensate you open up 1 stop) you move the mid point of the exposure up 1 stop. This means you will reduce the over exposure headroom by 1 stop but at the same time you gain one stop of under exposure range. You will see 1 stop further into the shadows, plus there will be less noise, so the shadow range becomes much more useable.
Conventional EI mode and Post Production.
In post production these brightly exposed images will need some degree of adjustment. If you are doing a virgin grade from scratch then you don’t really need to do anything extra or different, you will just grade it to taste.
If you are using a LUT you will need to either use an exposure compensated LUT (I always provide these in any of my free LUT sets) or you will need to correct the exposure before applying the LUT. If you apply a standard LUT and then try to correct the exposure the results will often not be satisfactory as the LUT determines many things such as where any highlight roll-off occurs. Correcting after this can result in washed out of flat looking skin tones. So really you need to make the exposure correction to the material before it is passed to the LUT.
No loss of dynamic range with conventional EI.
It’s worth noting that even though the levels are reduced to “normal” levels when applying an exposure compensated LUT or through grading this should not reduce the dynamic range. You do not just shift the range down (which would hard clip the blacks and cause a loss of DR at the low end). What you are typically doing is reducing the gain to bring the levels down and this allows the information in the new extended shadow range to be retained, so nothing is lost and your footage will still have 14 stops of DR along with nice clean shadows and mid tones.
Is this all too difficult?
However, some people find that the need to correct the exposure prior to adding the LUT difficult or time consuming (I don’t know why, they just do. It takes no longer to add a compensated LUT than a normal LUT). Or some people find it difficult to get a good looking image from brightly exposed footage (probably because they are grading after the LUT has been applied). For these reasons Sony have added the ability to bake the EI change directly into the recording by shifting the gain of the recordings to match the selected EI.
Rec/Out EI Applied:
So now if you enable Rec/Out EI Applied any change you make to the cameras EI settings will now also be applied as a gain change to the recordings. If you set the EI to 1000, then the recordings will take place at 1000 ISO and not 2000 ISO. This means that you do not have to make any exposure corrections in post production, just apply a standard LUT.
You will loose some of your dynamic range:
The down side to this is that you are now changing the gain of the camera. Changing the gain away from 0dB will reduce the dynamic range and affect the recording range. So, for example if you wish to shoot at 1000 EI have Rec/Out EI Applied you will be recording with -6dB gain and an effective ISO of 1000. You will have 1 stop less of shadow range as the cameras effective sensitivity is being reduced by 1 stop but the sensors clip/overload point remains the same. So when you open the aperture to compensate for the lower sensitivity you will have the same shadow range as base, but loose one stop off the top. The images will have less noise, but there will be no additional shadow information and a reduction in highlight range by 1 stop, the DR will be 13 stops.
Another side effect of this is that the peak recording level is also reduced. This is because the cameras clipping point is determined by the sensor. This sensor clip point is normally mapped to the peak recording level and the cameras noise floor is mapped to the black level (you can’t see things that are darker than the sensors noise floor no matter what level of gain you use as the noise will always be higher than the object brightness).
If you reduce the gain of the signal this level must decrease as a result. This means that S-Log3 which normally gets to around ~94% will now only reach ~85%, the change to S-Log2 is even greater (S-Log3’s peak recording level will reduce by 8.9% for every stop down you go, S-Log2 will reduce by 12% for each stop you go down ).
Raising the EI/ISO will also reduce the dynamic range as the gain is applied after the sensor. So the sensors clip point remains the same, so the brightest highlight it handles remains fixed. Adding gain after this simply means the recordings will clip earlier, but you will get a brighter mid range, brighter (but not more) shadows and a noisier picture.
What happens in post with Rec/Out EI Applied?
In post production these range and peak level changes mean that while a standard LUT will result in a correct looking mid range (because middle grey and skin tones will be at “normal” levels) there may be some problems with highlights never reaching 100% in the case of a low EI/ISO. Or being excessively clipped in the case of a high EI/ISO. Remember LUT’s are designed to work over very specific ranges. So if the input to the LUT doesn’t reach the peak level the LUT is expecting then the output from the LUT will also be reduced. So often there will still be the need to do some additional grading of highlights prior to the application of the LUT, or the need to use LUT’s designed specifically for each ISO rating (and the design of these LUT’s is more complex than a simple exposure offset).
Is it really easier?
So while this new feature will simplify the workflow for some situations where an alternate ISO/EI has been used – because exposure correction in post production won’t be needed. It may actually make things more difficult if you have bright highlights or need to be sure that your finished video meets expected standards where highlights are at 100%. You will still need to do some grading.
I don’t recommend that you use it.
Personally I do not recommend that you use this new feature. There are plenty of exposure compensated LUT’s available online (I have lots here). Tweaking the exposure of log footage in post production isn’t that difficult, especially if you use a color managed workflow. My guess is that this is aimed at FCP-X users where FCP-X applies a default LUT as standard. In this instance footage shoot with an offset exposure will look over/under exposed while footage shoot with the EI/ISO Applied will look normal (except for the highlights). So on the face of things the workflow may appear simpler. But you are loosing dynamic range and surely the primary reason for shooting with log is to maximise the dynamic range and gain the greatest possible post production flexibility. This new feature reduces dynamic range and as a result reduces post production flexibility.
Of course just because I don’t recommend it’s use, it doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t use it if it works for you, just make sure you fully understand what it is doing.
Sorry for the lack of post recently, but I’ve been busy on various overseas shoots using the Sony Venice camera. I’ll be writing these up in due course.
My 2 favourite and most used lenses are my Fujinon MK zooms . I use the MK18-55 and MK50-135 on both my PMW-F5 and on my FS5. I’ve also used them on a Sony Venice. They are really great lenses. But one thing that I’ve always felt would make them a bit better is a power zoom.
Enter the Hedén VLC system.
For starters the Hedén VLC system allows you to turn a non motorised zoom lens into a power zoom lens, but the Heden VLC system is more than just a zoom motor and control box. It can be expanded with a second motor to not only motorize the zoom but also provide an electronic focus control (although as yet I have not tried this).
Never heard of Hedén before? Well if you work in higher end features and productions you will probably have come across them before as they are a highly regarded Swedish manufacturer of electronic follow focus and zoom systems used in high end Cinematography. For me though, until now their products have been beyond my reach. One of their standard follow focus motors costs around £1.6K/$2K. However the motors and components used in the VLC systems are much cheaper, yet still meet Hedén’s exacting standards. A complete VLC zoom system, including motor, costs around $2,100 USD. It’s still not a “cheap” item, but the system is of very high quality and surprisingly flexible, so it is something that should last many years and work with not just todays cameras and lenses but also whatever comes next.
The VLC system comprises several components. A control box, a motor or motors along with various attachment brackets for the motors depending on your application and a set of cables.
The first time I played with the system it was an early development unit on my FS5. On the FS5 the system is controlled using the Lanc control functions built into the cameras existing handgrip. The cable from the hand grip that normally plugs directly into the camera body is plugged into a breakout cable from the VLC control box and then another connection from the control box plugs into the FS5. This way the handgrip controls the FS5 as normal, but now the zoom rocker on the handgrip also smoothly and accurately controls the Hedén zoom motor. All the hand grips other functions continue to operate as usual.
The motor used by the VLC system is a very high quality compact servo motor and gearbox with digital position and speed feedback. So the controller knows exactly how fast the motor is turning and where it is in it’s operating cycle. The first time you use the system it needs to be calibrated for the lens you are using. This is done quickly and simply, just by pressing the small CAL button on the controller. Once pressed the motor quickly runs back and forwards to find the lenses end stops.
A very nice feature is that when the motor isn’t being driven it can be turned quite easily. This means that unlike some other similar systems you don’t have to mechanically or physically disengage the motor from the lenses pitch gears to perform a manual zoom. In fact, the motor acts as a soft damping system and helps make manual zooms smoother.
My only gripe about the VLC system is the size of the control box. On a camera as small as the FS5 the control box is quite a big lump to add.
For power I run it from a Dynacore BP-U type battery that has a D-Tap output. There is no on/off switch, so you turn it off by unplugging it, but the system doesn’t use much power and I barely noticed any difference in the life of the camera battery when using it this way.
The control box has controls for the motor speed, torque and direction. These controls allow you to fine tune the way the motor operates, so if you want you can have a fast snappy zoom, or if you prefer you can have a slower zoom. The control buttons are mounted below a soft waterproof membrane to protect the unit from dust and moisture. There is also a small LED display that shows the torque and speed settings. When zooming in or out this also shows the requested zoom speed. All the cables are connected to the box using very high quality Lemo connectors.
I found that the FS5 zoom rocker with it’s limited travel seemed to work best for me when the motor was set to quite a slow speed. The motor has lots of torque, so it should have no problem driving lenses with quite stiff zoom rings. However I probably wouldn’t try to use it with a DSLR zoom. I dabbled with producing a zoom motor for DSLR zooms some years back, but found it very difficult. Most DSLR zooms are quite stiff, often have tight spots as well as only limited travel. This makes it very difficult to get a very smooth motion. Feel free to try it with whatever lenses it is that you have, but I think you will need to test the functionality with each photo zoom lens to see how it copes. For proper video and cinemas lenses with smooth zoom rings the VLC system should work very well.
With the Fujinon MK lenses the motor can be attached to the barrel of the lens via a dedicated bracket. There is also a bracket for two motors for those that want to motorize not only the zoom but also the focus.
The benefit of having the motor on the lens is that it’s always in the right place and you don’t need rails etc. The downside is that if you have more than one lens you need to either, swap the motor and brackets each time you change lens, have multiple brackets or if you have really deep pockets a motor and bracket for every lens. Swapping the motor from bracket to bracket is very quick and easy, just loosen the thumbscrew and the motor slides out. So I would recommend having a bracket on each lens and simply swapping the motor over. The other alternative is to use one of the Hedén rail brackets to attach the motor to 15mm rails, then when you swap lenses the motor stays attached to the rails and it’s just a case of lining the motor up with the pitch gear on the lens.
Not long after starting to use the system on my FS5 I was informed that there was an update for the system that could work with any 3rd party Lanc Controller. So I decided to give this a try on my PMW-F5. To make this work you need an additional aftermarket Lanc zoom controller. These are readily available and there are lots of choices.
The Manfrotto controller I used allowed me to operate the zoom from from the pan bar of my tripod. Great for studio or ENG type applications. The only thing you don’t get with an F5 and a Lanc controller is control over record start and stop as the F5 itself doesn’t support Lanc control. So you still have to press the record button on the camera. But this isn’t a big deal and having the ability to zoom from the pan bar is great for so many applications.
Overall I am very impressed with the system. The degree of control you have over the lens is quite remarkable, it’s just as good as the control you get with a high end ENG zoom. It’s very easy to setup and allows you to perform silky smooth zooms with ease. If you want smooth, slow starts to the zoom or extremely slow zooms, both are easily achieved with the Hedén VLC system.
I probably wouldn’t use it for every shoot, especially with the FS5 as the control box is a little bulky. With the F5 or FS7 and other larger cameras this is much less of a concern, so I will probably use it more often with these cameras. I also want to explore using it with Lanc controller that I can use with handgrips when handheld (perhaps using the Vocas Arri rosette kit for remote attachment of the FS5 hand grip).
The biggest strength of this system for me though, is that it isn’t actually lens or camera specific. You can use it with just about any lens and camera. So as you add more lenses to your collection, or if you change camera, you will still be able to use the VLC system just by making sure you have the right motor bracket. The 15mm rod bracket should work with just about any lens. This means that it’s a system that should last you a very long time.
Just over a week ago I was in Cape Town with a few hours to spare before my flight home and access to a Sony Venice. So what could I do other than go out and shoot. Here is some of the footage with a quick grade applied – in HDR.
The workflow: I shoot X-OCN ST at 25p and 50p on the Venice camera. 25p was requested by Visual Impact South Africa, the owners of this camera as this is the most common frame rate used in productions they are involved with. The material was backed up to a small portable USB3 raid unit so I could bring it home. Then it was graded using DaVinci Resolve and it’s ACES colour managed workflow with the output set to Rec2100 ST2084. I used a Shogun Inferno and both an LCD HDR Sony Bravia TV and an OLED HDR Philips TV to get a feel for how the images would look on both LCD and OLED technologies.
The file was exported as a UHD ProRes file so that the file direct from Resolve could be uploaded to YouTube. Because I used a colour managed workflow Resolve adds the correct HDR flags to the clip when you render the timeline out. As a result YouTube knows the file is HDR and if you view with a computer or SDR TV YouTube applies it’s default HDR10 to Rec709 LUT and you see the video in SDR. Watch with a direct connection to YouTube with an HDR TV (for example using a browser or YouTube player built in to the TV) and you will get the HDR version. This is probably the simplest way to reliably get HDR clips to play properly on YouTube (which currently does not accept HEVC files).
So here’s the clip.
IMPORTANT: The clip is HDR10, designed to be watched directly on an HDR TV using the TV’s built in web browser or YouTube player application.
Those watching on a normal computer, SDR TV or any other non HDR device will see the HDR clip with YouTube’s SDR/Rec709 LUT applied, so it isn’t exactly optimum for SDR. The YouTube HDR to SDR LUT causes some slightly odd colours in some of the clips. If you can, watch the clip directly on YouTube with an HDR TV.
This is something that keeps popping up all over the place and it’s not just one camera that attracts this comment. Many do, from the FS5 to the FS7 to the F55, plus cameras from other manufacturers too.
One common factor is that very often this relates to the newer super35mm cameras. Cameras designed to give a more rounded, film like look, often cameras with 4K or higher resolution sensors.
I think many people perceive there is an issue with their viewfinder because they come to these new high resolution, more rounded and film like cameras from traditional television centric camcorders that use detail correction, coring and aperture correction to boost the image sharpness.
SD and even HD television broadcasting relies heavily on image sharpening so that viewers perceive a crisp, sharp image at any viewing distance and with any screen size (although on really big screens this can really ruin the image).
This works by enhancing and boosting the contrast around edges. This is standard practice on all normal HD and SD broadcast cameras. Especially camera that use a 3 chip design with a prism as the prism will often reduce the images edge contrast.
As most people will prefer a very slightly sharpened HD image or a heavily sharpened SD image over an unsharpened one, it’s sharpened by default. This means that the images those cameras produce will tend to look sharp even on screens that have a lower resolution than that of the camera because the edges remain high contrast even when the viewing resolution is reduced and as a result look sharp.
Most current manufacturer supplied LCD EVF’s run at 1/4″ HD with 940 x 560 pixels (each pixel made up of an RGB 3 dot matrix). In addition many of the 3rd party VF’s such as the very popular Alphatron are the same because they all use the same mass produced, relatively low cost panels – panels that are also used for mobile phones and many other devices.
The problem then is that when you move to a camera that doesn’t add any image sharpening, if you view the cameras image on a lower resolution screen the image looks soft because — it is. There is no detail correction to compensate. Incidentally this is why often these same cameras can look a bit soft in HD and very soft in SD compared to other traditional or detail corrected cameras. But, that slightly softer, less processed look helps contribute to their more film like look. This softness and lack of sharpening/processing is particularly noticeable if you use the focus mag function as you are then looking at an enlarged but completely un-sharpened image.
It could be argued that the viewfinder should sharpen the image to compensate. Some of the more expensive viewfinders can do this using their own sharpening processes. But the image that you are then seeing is not the picture that is being recorded and this isn’t always ideal. If it is over done then it can make the entire image look sharp even when it isn’t fully in focus. Really you want to be looking at exactly the image that the camera is recording so that you can spot any potential problems. But that then makes focussing tricky.
There are a few 3rd party viewfinders such as the Gratical that have higher resolutions. The Gratical and Eye have screens that are 1280×1024, but in normal use you only use 1280×720 for the image area. This certainly helps, but even the 1:1 pixel zoom on these can look soft and blurry as you loose the viewfinders peaking function when you crop in.
Sony’s Venice and the F55/F5 can use Sony’s new DVF-EL200 OLED viewfinder. This costs around £4.5K ($6K) and has a 1920×1080 screen. It’s a beautiful image, but even this needs a fairly good dose of peaking to artificially sharpen the image to be able to see that last critical bit of focus. Again when you zoom in the image looks soft and a bit blurry (even on a Venice) as the camera itself is not adding any sharpening. The peaking function on the DVF-EL200 is quite sophisticated as it only enhances the highest frequency parts of the image, so only sharp edges and fine details are boosted.
Go back to the days of black and white tube viewfinders and these used tons of peaking to make them useable. Traditional SD and HD cameras add sharpening to their pictures, but most of our modern large sensor 4K camera do not and as a result often the viewfinder images appear soft compared to what we used to see on older cameras or still see today on cameras that do sharpen the pictures.
All of this makes it hard to nail your focus, especially if shooting 4K. Even with a DVF-EL200 on a Venice I struggle at times and rely heavily on image mag (which is still difficult) or better still a much larger monitor with a good sun shade and if necessary some reading glasses to allow you to focus on it up close.
So before you get too critical of your viewfinders performance do also consider all of the above. Try to see how another similar viewfinder looks on your camera (for example an Alphatron on an FS7). Perhaps try a higher resolution viewfinder such as a Gratical, but don’t expect miracles from a small, relatively low resolution screen on a modern digital cinema camera. This really is one of those areas where you can’t beat a big, high resolution screen.
Camera setup, reviews, tutorials and information for pro camcorder users from Alister Chapman.