Category Archives: Review

Core FX9 V-Mount Adapter and Core Hypercore Neo Mini Batteries.

DSC_0691-2-1024x768 Core FX9 V-Mount Adapter and Core Hypercore Neo Mini Batteries.
Core FX9 V-Mount adapter with a Hypercore Neo Mini battery on my PXW-FX9

One of the things about the FX9 that makes no sense is it’s external DC input. When you are using just the camera body the FX9 requires a rather odd-ball 19.5 volts to power it via it’s DC in connector. Most cameras have a 12v to 16v input range so they can be used with the multitude of V-Mount or Gold Mount batteries that are common place in the world of professional video. But not the FX9.  The FX9 is also fairly power hungry so the standard BP-U batteries can be a little limiting, especially if you also need to power any accessories as the camera doesn’t have a power output. A V-Mount battery will run the camera for a long time and they generally have D-Tap power outlets, but they are the wrong voltage for the FX9s external input. So if you want to use a V-Mount battery, as I do, then you need not only a mounting plate but also a voltage converter.

The adapter I have chosen to use is manufactured by Core. Why this one? One thing that was important for me is not only to be able to power the camera from a V-Mount battery, but also to be able to power it from a standard external 12 volt power supply such as found in most studios, or something like a car battery. The Core CXV-FX9 adapter includes a voltage regulator that takes the 12 to 16 volt range of a typical Lithium battery and converts it to the 19.5v needed by the FX9. It also has an industry standard 4 pin XLR connector that you can use to power the camera from a 12v external power supply.

DSC_0681-1024x768 Core FX9 V-Mount Adapter and Core Hypercore Neo Mini Batteries.
The Core FX9 V-Mount adapter has an industry standard 4 pin XLR input for standard 12v power supplies.

Hot Swap:

If you have a power supply connected to the 4 pin XLR you can hot swap the V-Mount batteries. If you have a battery on the adapter you can hot swap to and from the external power. During hot swapping the adapter not only continues to feed the camera with power but also the 2 D-Tap ports on the adapter remain powered.

Low Battery Warning:

One issue that all these adapters have is that they have to convert the battery voltage up to 19.5 volts and this is what is fed to the cameras DC in connector. This means that the camera has no direct connection to the battery, so it has no way to know the charge state of the battery. All you will see in the viewfinder as an indication of the output of the voltage converter. This will remain at a constant 19.5v all the way until the battery is flat and cuts off, at which point the camera will just die. That’s not good, if you are halfway through recording something it could corrupt your media. You won’t have any warning in the camera of the battery going flat.

To try to address this at least in part the Core adapter has an LED light on the operators side that is green when the battery is well charged, but turns to red when there is only around 10% of the batteries capacity left. This does at least give some warning of a battery about to die.

DSC_0689-1024x768 Core FX9 V-Mount Adapter and Core Hypercore Neo Mini Batteries.
The Core FX9 adapter has an LED battery status indicator that turns red and flashes when the battery voltage gets low.

As well as the adapter, I’m trying out a couple of Core’s Hypercore Neo Mini batteries. These are nice, compact 98Wh batteries. They are UN Tested and certified so meet all the requirements for air travel. These batteries have a clever LCD display that displays the available run time of the battery. This is much more advanced than a simple charge indicator (it has one of those too). The battery actually detects the load being drawn from it. It also knows the exact state of charge of the battery.

DSC_0680-1024x768 Core FX9 V-Mount Adapter and Core Hypercore Neo Mini Batteries.
Core SWX Hyoercore Neo Mini 98Wh battery with incredibly accurate run time display giving the time in minutes until the battery will be flat based on the cameras power draw.

Using these it is able to calculate with great accuracy how long it will be before it will be flat. I have found this to be remarkably accurate, typically to within just a few minutes. I’ve been using this display to let me know when I need to start thinking about changing the battery. It’s accuracy gives me the confidence to continue shooting until I’m down to the last few minutes of run time. Typically I’m getting around 2.5 hours without the Atomso Ninja recorder and just under 2 hours with the Ninja from one of these excellent little batteries.

DSC_0666-scaled-e1578517846130-955x1024 Core FX9 V-Mount Adapter and Core Hypercore Neo Mini Batteries.
Core V-Mount plate for the FX9 showing the lugs that lock into slots in the camera battery compartment to eliminate any flex or wobble.
DSC_0686-scaled-e1578517993169-1024x935 Core FX9 V-Mount Adapter and Core Hypercore Neo Mini Batteries.
There are two D-Tap power outlets at the top of the Core FX9 V-Mount plates as well as 3 1/4″ mounting holes for accessories.

Attaching the adapter:

Attaching the adapter to the camera is easy. It uses the same mounting points as Sony’s XDCA extension unit. So there are lugs that slide into slots inside the FX9’s battery compartment as well as two small bolts that attach it to the top of the camera. This makes it incredibly secure with no wobble or other movement. I would have no concerns about supporting the entire camera rig from the battery adapter or adding perhaps a V-Mount wireless video link and then large or heavy batteries behind that. It’s very secure and it looks like it’s meant to be there. Another nice touch is that as well as the 2 D-Tap power ports on the top of the adapter there are also 3 additional 1/4″ mounting points for accessories such as monitors or wireless receivers etc.

I do have one small criticism. The position of the D-Tap ports is quite close to the edge of the adapter. If you are using a tall battery and you have a very fat D-Tap plug they can interfere with each other.

Despite this the Core V-Mount battery adapter gets a big thumbs up from me. The voltage indication is most useful as is the ability to use a normal 4 pin 12v XLR feed.

DSC_0684-2-1024x768 Core FX9 V-Mount Adapter and Core Hypercore Neo Mini Batteries.
The Core FX9 V-Mount battery adapter gets a big thumbs up from me.
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ACS Technical Panel Review The PXW-FX9

The ACS have produced a video report about some of the testing that they did with a pre-production FX9. It’s quite a long video but has some interesting side by side comparisons with the FS7 which we all already know very well. You’ve heard much of what’s in the video from me already, but I’m a Sony guy, so it’s good to hear the same things from the much more impartial ACS.

With my super geek hat on it was really interesting to see the colour response tests performed by Pawel Achtel ACS at 37.08. These tests use a very pure white light source that is split into the full spectrum and then the monochromatic light is projected onto the sensor. It’s a very telling test. I was quite surprised to see how large the FS7’s response is, it’s not something I have ever had the tools to measure. The test also highlights a lack of far red response from the FS7. It’s not terrible, but does help explain why warm skin tones perhaps don’t always look as nice as they could. I do wonder if this is down to the characteristics of the cameras IR cut filter as we also know the sensor to be quite sensitive to IR. The good news is that the PXW-FX9 has what Pawel claims to be the best colour accuracy of any camera he’s tested, and he’s tested pretty much all of the current cinema cameras. Take a look for yourself.

Sony FX9 ACS Roundtable from ACS on Vimeo.

New Atomos Shogun 7 with Dolby Vision Out and 15 stop screen.

So this landed in my inbox today. Atomos are releasing what on paper at least is a truly remarkable new recorder and monitor, the Shogun 7.

For some time now the Atomos Inferno has been my go-to monitor. It’s just so flexible and the HDR screen is wonderful. But the new Shogun 7 looks to be quite a big upgrade.

image New Atomos Shogun 7 with Dolby Vision Out and 15 stop screen.

The screen is claimed to be able to display an astounding 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio and 15+ stops of dynamic range. That means you will be able to shoot in log with almost any camera and see the log output 1:1. No need to artificially reduce the display range, no more flat looking log or raw, just a real look at what you are actually shooting.

I’m off to NAB at the weekend and I will be helping out on the Atomos booth, so I will be able to take a good look at the Shogun 7. If it comes anywhere near to the specs in the press release it will be a must-have piece of kit whether you shoot on an FS5 or Venice!

Here’s the the press release:

Melbourne, Vic – 4 April, 2019:

The new Atomos Shogun 7 is the ultimate 7-inch HDR monitor, recorder and switcher. Precision-engineered for the film and video professional, it uses the very latest video technologies available. Shogun 7 features a truly ground-breaking HDR screen – the best of any production monitor in the world. See perfection on the all-new 1500nit daylight-viewable, 1920×1200 panel with an astounding 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio and 15+ stops of dynamic range displayed. Shogun 7 will truly revolutionize the on-camera monitoring game.

Bringing the real world to your monitor

With Shogun 7 blacks and colors are rich and deep. Images appear to ‘pop’ with added dimensionality and detail. The incredible Atomos screen uses a unique combination of advanced LED and LCD technologies which together offer deeper, better blacks than rival OLED screens, but with the much higher brightness and vivid color performance of top-end LCDs. Objects appear more lifelike than ever, with complex textures and gradations beautifully revealed. In short, Shogun 7 offers the most detailed window into your image, truly changing the way you create visually.

The Best HDR just got better

A new 360 zone backlight is combined with this new screen technology and controlled by the Dynamic AtomHDR engine to show millions of shades of brightness and color, yielding jaw-dropping results. It allows Shogun 7 to display 15+ stops of real dynamic range on-screen. The panel is also incredibly accurate, with ultra-wide color and 105% of DCI-P3 covered. For the first time you can enjoy on-screen the same dynamic range, palette of colors and shades that your camera sensor sees. 

On-set HDR redefined with real-time Dolby Vision HDR output

Atomos and Dolby have teamed up to create Dolby Vision HDR “live” – the ultimate tool to see HDR live on-set and carry your creative intent from the camera through into HDR post production. Dolby have optimised their amazing target display HDR processing algorithm and which Atomos have running inside the Shogun 7. It brings real-time automatic frame-by-frame analysis of the Log or RAW video and processes it for optimal HDR viewing on a Dolby Vision-capable TV or monitor over HDMI. Connect Shogun 7 to the Dolby Vision TV and magically, automatically, AtomOS 10 analyses the image, queries the TV, and applies the right color and brightness profiles for the maximum HDR experience on the display. Enjoy complete confidence that your camera’s HDR image is optimally set up and looks just the way you wanted it. It is an invaluable HDR on-set reference check for the DP, director, creatives and clients – making it a completely flexible master recording and production station.

“We set out to design the most incredibly high contrast and detailed display possible, and when it came off the production line the Shogun 7 exceeded even our expectations. This is why we call it a screen with “Unbelievable HDR”. With multi-camera switching, we know that this will be the most powerful tool we’ve ever made for our customers to tell their stories“, said Jeromy Young, CEO of Atomos.

blobid1_1554376631889 New Atomos Shogun 7 with Dolby Vision Out and 15 stop screen.

Ultimate recording

Shogun 7 records the best possible images up to 5.7kp30, 4kp120 or 2kp240 slow motion from compatible cameras, in RAW/Log or HLG/PQ over SDI/HDMI. Footage is stored directly to reliable AtomX SSDmini or approved off-the-shelf SATA SSD drives. There are recording options for Apple ProRes RAW and ProRes, Avid DNx and Adobe CinemaDNG RAW codecs. Shogun 7 has four SDI inputs plus a HDMI 2.0 input, with both 12G-SDI and HDMI 2.0 outputs. It can record ProRes RAW in up to 5.7kp30, 4kp120 DCI/UHD and 2kp240 DCI/HD, depending on the camera’s capabilities. 10-bit 4:2:2 ProRes or DNxHR recording is available up to 4Kp60 or 2Kp240. The four SDI inputs enable the connection of most Quad Link, Dual Link or Single Link SDI cinema cameras. With Shogun 7 every pixel is perfectly preserved with data rates of up to 1.8Gb/s.

Monitor and record professional XLR audio

Shogun 7 eliminates the need for a separate audio recorder. Add 48V stereo mics via an optional balanced XLR breakout cable. Select Mic or Line input levels, plus record up to 12 channels of 24/96 digital audio from HDMI or SDI. You can monitor the selected stereo track via the 3.5mm headphone jack. There are dedicated audio meters, gain controls and adjustments for frame delay.

AtomOS 10, touchscreen control and refined body

Atomos continues to refine the elegant and intuitive AtomOS operating system. Shogun 7 features the latest version of the AtomOS 10 touchscreen interface, first seen on the award-winning Ninja V. Icons and colors are designed to ensure that the operator can concentrate on the image when they need to. The completely new body of Shogun 7 has a sleek Ninja V like exterior with ARRI anti-rotation mounting points on the top and bottom of the unit to ensure secure mounting. 

AtomOS 10 on Shogun 7 has the full range of monitoring tools that users have come to expect from Atomos, including Waveform, Vectorscope, False Color, Zebras, RGB parade, Focus peaking, Pixel-to-pixel magnification, Audio level meters and Blue only for noise analysis. 

Portable multi-cam live switching and recording for Shogun 7 and Sumo 19

Shogun 7 is also the ultimate portable touch-screen controlled multi-camera switcher with asynchronous quad-ISO recording. Switch up to four 1080p60 SDI streams, record each plus the program output as a separate ISO, then deliver ready-for-edit recordings with marked cut-points in XML metadata straight to your NLE. The current Sumo19 HDR production monitor-recorder will also gain the same functionality in a free firmware update. Sumo19 and Shogun 7 are the ideal devices to streamline your multi-camera live productions. 

Enjoy the freedom of asynchronous switching, plus use genlock in and out to connect to existing AV infrastructure. Once the recording is over, just import the xml file into your NLE and the timeline populates with all the edits in place. XLR audio from a separate mixer or audio board is recorded within each ISO, alongside two embedded channels of digital audio from the original source. The program stream always records the analog audio feed as well as a second track that switches between the digital audio inputs to match the switched feed. This amazing functionality makes Shogun 7 and Sumo19 the most flexible in-the-field switcher-recorder-monitors available.

Shogun 7 will be available in June 2019 priced at $US 1499/ €1499 plus local taxes from authorized Atomos dealers.

Shooting Anamorphic with the Fujinon MK’s and SLR Magic 65 Anamorphot.

There is something very special about the way anamorphic images look, something that’s not easy to replicate in post production. Sure you can shoot in 16:9 or 17:9 and crop down to the typical 2.35:1 aspect ratio and sure you can add some extra anamorphic style flares in post. But what is much more difficult to replicate is all the other distortions and the oval bokeh that are typical of an anamorphic lens.

Anamorphic lenses work by distorting the captured image. Squeezing or compressing it horizontally, stretching it vertically. The amount of squeeze that you will want to use will depend on the aspect ratio of the sensor or film frame. With full frame 35mm cameras or cameras with a 4:3 aspect ratio sensor or gate you would normally use an anamorphic lens that squeezes the image by 2 times. Most anamorphic cinema lenses are 2x anamorphic, that is the image is squeezed 2x horizontally. You can use these on cameras with a 16:9 or 17:9 super35mm sensor, but because a Super35 sensor already has a wide aspect ratio a 2x squeeze is much more than you need for that typical cinema style final aspect ratios of 2.39:1.

For most Super35mm cameras it is normally better to use a lens with a 1.33x squeeze. 1.33x squeeze on Super35 results in a final aspect ratio close to the classic cinema aspect ratio of 2.39:1.

Traditionally anamorphic lenses have been very expensive. The complex shape of the anamorphic lens elements are much harder to make than a normal spherical lens. However another option is to use an anamorphic adapter on the front of an existing lens to turn it into an anamorphic lens. SLR Magic who specialise in niche lenses and adapters have had a 50mm diameter 1.33x anamorphic adapter available for some time. I’ve used this with the FS7 and other cameras in the past, but the 50mm diameter of the adapter limits the range of lenses it can be used with (There is also a 50mm 2x anamorphot for full frame 4:3 aspect ratio sensors from SLR Magic).

Now SLR Magic have a new larger 65mm adapter. The 1.33-65 Anamorphot has a much larger lens element, so it can be used with a much wider range of lenses. In addition it has a calibrated focus scale on it’s focus ring. One thing to be aware of with adapters like these is that you have to focus both the adapter and the lens you are using it on. For simple shoots this isn’t too much of a problem. But if you are moving the camera a lot or the subject is moving around a lot, trying to focus both lenses together can be a challenge.

DSC_0103 Shooting Anamorphic with the Fujinon MK's and SLR Magic 65 Anamorphot.
The SLR Magic 1.33-65 Anamorphot anamorphic adapter.

Enter the PD Movie Dual Channel follow focus.

The PD Movie Dual follow focus is a motorised follow focus system that can control 2 focus motors at the same time. You can get both wired and wireless versions depending on your needs and budget. For the anamorphic shoot I had the wired version (I do personally own a single channel PD Movie wireless follow focus). Setup is quick and easy, you simply attach the motors to your rods, position the gears so they engage with the gear rings on the lens and the anamorphot and press a button to calibrate each motor. It takes just a few moments and then you are ready to go. Now when you turn the PD Movie focus control wheel both the taking lens and the anamorphot focus together.

I used the anamorphot on both the Fujinon MK18-55mm and the MK50-135mm. It works well with both lenses but you can’t use focal lengths wider than around 35mm without the adapter some causing vignetting. So on the 18-55 you can only really use around 35 to 55mm. I would note that the adapter does act a little like a wide angle converter, so even at 35mm the field of view is pretty wide. I certainly didn’t feel that I was only ever shooting at long focal lenghts.

DSC_0099 Shooting Anamorphic with the Fujinon MK's and SLR Magic 65 Anamorphot.
The full rig. PMW-F5 with R5 raw recorder. Fujinon MK 18-55 lens, SLR Magic Anamorphot and PD Movie dual focus system.

Like a lot of lens adapters there are some things to consider. You are putting a lot of extra glass in front of you main lens, so it will need some support. SLR magic do a nice support bracket for 15mm rods and this is actually essential as it stops the adapter from rotating and keeps it correctly oriented so that your anamorphic squeeze remains horizontal at all times. Also if you try to use too large an aperture the adapter will soften the image. I found that it worked best between f8 and f11, but it was possible to shoot at f5.6. If you go wider than this, away from the very center of the frame you get quite a lot of softening image softening. This might work for some projects where you really want to draw the viewer to the center of the frame or if you want a very stylised look, but it didn’t suit this particular project.

The out of focus bokeh has a distinct anamorphic shape, look and feel. As you pull focus the shape of the bokeh changes horizontally, this is one of the key things that makes anamorphic content look different to spherical. As the adapter only squeezes by 1.33 this is as pronounced as it would be if you shot with a 2x anamorphic. Of course the other thing most people notice about anamorphic images is lens flares that streak horizontally across the image. Intense light sources just off frame would produce blue/purple streaks across the image. If you introduce very small point light sources into the shot you will get a similar horizontal flare. If flares are your thing it works best if you have a very dark background. Overall the lens didn’t flare excessively, so my shots are not full of flares like a JJ Abrams movie. But when it did flare the effect is very pleasing. Watch the video linked above and judge for yourself.

Monitoring and De-Squeeze.

When you shoot anamorphic you normally record the horizontally squashed image and then in post production you de-squeeze the image by compressing it vertically. Squashing the image vertically results in a letterbox, wide screen style image and it’s called “De-Squeeze”. You can shoot anamorphic without de-sqeezing the image provided you don’t mind looking at images that are horizontally squashed in your viewfinder or on your monitor. But these days you have plenty of monitors and viewfinders that can “de-squeeze” the anamorphic image so that you can view it with the correct aspect ratio. The Glass Hub film was shot using a Sony PMW-F5 recording to the R5 raw recorder. The PMW-F5 has the ability to de-squeeze the image for the viewfinder built in. But I also used an Atomos Shogun Inferno to monitor as I was going to be producing HDR versions of the film. The Shogun Inferno has both 2x and 1.33x de-squeeze built in so I was able to take the distorted S-Log3 output from the camera and convert it to a HDR PQ image and de-squeeze it all at the same time in the Inferno. This made monitoring really easy and effective.

I used DaVinci Resolve for the post production. In the past I might have done my editing in Adobe Premiere and the grading in Resolve. But Resolve is now a very capable edit package, so I completed the project entirely in Resolve. I used the ACES colour managed workflow as ACES means I don’t need to worry about LUT’s and in addition ACES adds a really nice film like highlight roll off to the output. If you have never tried a colour managed workflow for log or raw material you really should!

The SLR Magic 65-1.33 paired with the Fujinon MK lenses provides a relatively low cost entry into the world of anamorphic shooting. You can shoot anywhere from around 30-35mm to 135mm. The PD Movie dual motor focus system means that there is no need to try to use both hands to focus both the anamorphot and the lens together. The anamorphot + lens behave much more like a quality dedicated anamorphic zoom lens, but at a fraction of the cost. While I wouldn’t use it to shoot everything the Anamorphot is a really useful tool for those times you want something different.

Atomos Ninja V, the arctic and the Northern Lights.

I’m sitting here in the UK, Its February and it almost 20c (68f). Very nice indeed for the UK this time of year. Just a couple of weeks ago I was in Northern Norway, up above the arctic circle running one of my annual Northern Lights adventure tours. The weather there was very different. At no time did the temperature get above -15c(5f) and for most of the trip it was around -24c(-11f) both during the day and during the night.

Now, you might consider me a sadist when I say this, but for my Northern Lights trips I normally want it to be -20c or colder. The reason being that when it’s very cold like this we normally get beautifully clear skies. And we need clear skies to see the Aurora.

DSC_0249 Atomos Ninja V, the arctic and the Northern Lights.
Everyone all wrapped up for the hour long ride by snow scooter and sledge to the cabins that we stay at.

After many years of taking a full size video camera up to Norway I decided to go light this year and just take my trusty A7S and A6300 cameras. We get around on snow scooters and on sledges towed behind the snow scooters. This can make lugging around a larger camera tricky and there are times when you just can’t take a big camera. But in order to get the very best from these cameras I also decided to take an Atomos Ninja V.

DSC_0253 Atomos Ninja V, the arctic and the Northern Lights.
Out and about on the snow scooter. It really is a very beautiful place in the winter.

The Ninja V is the first of a new generation of recorders and monitors from Atomos. It’s much smaller than the Shogun range of recorders making it a better size and weight match for smaller cameras and DSLR’s. It has a very, very nice 5″ screen with a maximum brightness of 1000 Nits. The 1000 Nit output and Atomos’s clever way of driving it means it can display both SDR and HDR images depending on how it is set up. A key difference between the Shogun and the Ninja devices is that the Shoguns have both SDI inputs and HDMI inputs while the Ninja only has an HDMI input. But if your using this with a DSLR than only has an HDMI output, as I was, the lack of SDI connectors is not a problem.

DSC_0281 Atomos Ninja V, the arctic and the Northern Lights.
Shooting a sunset with the Ninja V on my A6300. We were way up on the Finnmarksvidda when this image was taken, absolutely in the middle of nowhere and it was -27c!

The build quality of the Ninja V is really good. Most of the body is made of aluminium. The rear part where the slots for the SSD and battery are is made from plastic, but it appears to be a good high quality and tough plastic. A new feature is an “AtomX” expansion port tucked inside the battery compartment. The expansion port allow different modules to be attached to the Ninja V to add functionality such a video over IP (ethernet) using the Newtek NDI protocol for live streaming or to turn the Ninja V into an IP connected monitor. There is also an AtomX sync module that allows you to wirelessly synchronise timecode and control multiple Ninja V”s on a single network and to use Bluetooth remote control. You can find out more about the AtomX modules here https://www.atomos.com/AtomX

Anyway – back to Norway. We were very lucky with the weather, and with the Northern Lights. On the first night at the cabins we stay at the Aurora put on a pretty good display. I was shooting with my Sony A7S with a Sigma Art 20mm f1.4 lens. I was shooting a mix of time-lapse, in which case I simply record the raw frames in the camera on it’s internal SD cards as well as real time video.

DSC09536-small Atomos Ninja V, the arctic and the Northern Lights.
The Aurora put on a great display for us on several nights.

The Northern Lights are only rarely very bright. Most of the time they are fairly dim. So I was using the Sigma lens wide open, shooting at 24fps and with the shutter at 1/24th. The adjusting the cameras ISO to get a nice bright image. At times this did mean I was using some very high ISO’s with a lot of gain. Shooting like this is going to put a lot of strain on any codec. But the Long GOP XAVC-S codec used in the A7S is going to be very hard pushed to not introduce a lot of additional artefacts. In addition my older original A7S can only record HD internally.

By using the Ninja V I was able to record video of the Northern Lights in 4K using the ProRes codec. I used ProRes HQ and ProResHQ uses much less compression than XAVC-S. So even though both the internal recordings and the external recordings are limited to 8 bit (due to the cameras HDMI output limitations rather than any limitation of the Ninja) the ProRes recordings are far more robust and will noise reduce in post much better than the XAVC-S.

DSC_0278-crop Atomos Ninja V, the arctic and the Northern Lights.
Just to prove it really was -27c!!

When you’re working outside for extended periods and it’s -27c(-17f) it’s tough on the gear and tough on you. When shooting the Aurora my camera are outside all night, exposed to the cold. Typical problems include frost and ice on the front element of the lens. The moisture from your own body can easily freeze onto the lens if you stand close to the camera. If you look at the lens to check it for frost and breath out you will leave it coated in ice.

Wires and cables that are soft and flexible in normal temperatures become as stiff as steel rods and can crack and fracture if you try to bend them. All batteries will loose some of their capacity. Very small batteries are worst affected. Larger batteries tend to fair a bit better, but there is a tremendous difference between the way most cheap budget batteries behave in the cold to good quality brand name batteries. For this reason I power my complete setup from a single PAG PAGLink V-Mount battery. The PAGlink batteries are great for all sorts of different applications, but for these trips a big benefit is that a small plug type charger can be used to charge many PAGlink batteries by stacking the batteries together. Then to power multiple devices I use the clip-on PAG Power hub plate to provide 5V for the camera battery adapters that I use, 12V for the lens heaters I use and another 12V feed for the Ninja V.

DSC_0311 Atomos Ninja V, the arctic and the Northern Lights.
This is what the kit looks like when you bring it into the warm after many hours out in the cold. The thing with the yellow strap on the lens is a lens heater to prevent frost from building up on the lens. The lens is a sigma 20mm f1.4, the camera is an A7S and the recorder is the Atomos Ninja V.

After more than a few minutes outside the camera kit itself will have become extremely cold. If you then take that kit inside into a nice warm cabin the warm moist air in the cabin will condense onto the cold camera body. Because the camera body will be extremely cold this will then freeze. Before you know it the camera kit is covered in ice. What you can’t see is that it’s likely that there will also be some ice and moisture inside the camera. It can take hours to warm the camera back up again and get it dried out properly. Bagging the camera before you take it indoors can help, but taking the camera in and out many times over the coarse of a shoot like this can cause a lot of damage. So I prefer to leave all the camera kit outside for the duration of the trip.

DSC_0314 Atomos Ninja V, the arctic and the Northern Lights.
Another view of the frozen Ninja V after a night shooting the Aurora. Don’t worry, the screen isn’t damaged, that’s just frost and ice on the screens surface.

This means that when you come to fire it up you are often trying to switch on an absolutely frozen camera. In the past I have had problems with cold recorders that wouldn’t start up. But I’m pleased to report that the Ninja V always came to life no matter how cold it was. Whenever I pressed the record button it went into record. Operating the touch screen in the cold was not an issue. In fact using touch screen gloves, the Ninja was really easy to use. Pressing small fiddly buttons isn’t easy, even with thin gloves, but the touch screen turned out really easy to work with.

A big change on the Ninja V over previous models is the operating system. The new operating system looks really good and is quite logically laid out. Gone is the old AtomHDR slider that changes the brightness of the screen when in HDR. This is replaced with dedicated viewing modes for Native, 709, PQ HDR and HLG HDR and viewing via a LUT. I prefer the new fixed HDR modes over the Atom HDR slider modes as it eliminates the uncertainty that can sometimes creep in when you use a slider to change the brightness of the display. In my case, when shooting during the day using S-Log2 I would simply select S-Log2 as the source and then use PQ to display an HDR image on the screen. At night when shooting the Aurora I used Rec-709.

DSC_0283 Atomos Ninja V, the arctic and the Northern Lights.
You can see how the normal size 2.5″ SSD sticks out a bit from the side of the Ninja V. The SSDMini’s don’t stick out in the same way. Also note that even though I am shooting using S-Log2 on the A6300 the Ninja V is showing a nice contrasty image thanks to the PQ HDR display option.

The Ninja V can take the same size 2.5″ SSD caddies as the current Shogun recorders. So I was able to use the SSD’s that I already own. However to keep the size of the recorder down it has been designed around a new slightly shorty SSD form factor called SSDMini. When you use a standard size 2.5″ SSD it does stick out from the side of the recorder by about 25mm. If you use an SSDMini it doesn’t stick out at all. SSDMini’s are currently being manufactured by Angelbird and Sony. They have the same sata connector as regular 2.5″ SSD’s and the SSDMini’s can also be used on the larger Atomos Shoguns.

DSC_0286 Atomos Ninja V, the arctic and the Northern Lights.
A basic lightweight but effective setup. Atomos Ninja V, Sony A6300, Miller Compass 15 head and Solo tripod.

By the time we were ready to leave Norway we had seen the Northern Lights on 3 different nights. By day we had seen some beautiful sunrises as well as other optical effects like sun dogs caused by the light from the sun being refracted by ice crystals in the air. The Atomos Ninja V had impressed me hugely. It just worked perfectly despite the extreme cold. It allowed me to record at higher quality than would have been possible without it and turned out to be easy to operate. What more can you want really?

Fancy joining me on one of these trips? Follow the link to find out more: http://www.xdcam-user.com/northern-lights-expeditions-to-norway/

Out and about with the PXW-Z280.

DSC_0037-1024x576 Out and about with the PXW-Z280.
Sony’s 4K PXW-Z280 handycam.

I have recently returned from a trip around Canada. While I was there I spent some more time shooting with Sony’s new PXW-Z280 handycam camcorder. This neat little camera continues to surprise me. I used a pre-production sample to shoot parts of an airshow in the summer and it worked really well. It was so easy to use, I had forgotten how much quicker it is to work with a camera with a 17x zoom lens compared to a large sensor camera with a very limited zoom range or prime lenses.

The Z280 uses 3x state of the art EMOR Stacked multi layer sensors. Each is full 4K, so you have full RGB 4K, unlike a single chip camera where the chroma resolution is much reduced by the bayer layout of the pixels. The 3 chip, full resolution design also means no aliasing in the color channels as is often typical of single chip designs.

The color splitting prism is more efficient than the absorption color filters on a single chip design, so more light gets to the pixels. The multi layer sensors have very good on-sensor processing so even though the pixels are rather small you get good sensitivity, low noise and good DR. The Z280 is approx  650-700 ISO with the base gammas so very close to an FS7 with it’s standard gammas and the colors match an FS7  extremely well. The picture look really nice.

DSC_0046-1024x576 Out and about with the PXW-Z280.
3x 4K sensors, 17x zoom and variable ND filter is a great combination on the PXW-Z280

From the testing I have done in the cameras dedicated HDR mode, where you can choose between HLG and S-Log3, with S-Log3 the DR of the Z280 appears to be around 13 stops, which is really quite remarkable for this type of camcorder. The sensor readout is very fast so rolling shutter is minimal.

When you factor in the Z280’s f1.9 lens, compared to an FS7 with the Sony F4 zoom or many other zooms that are typically around F4 the Z280 with it’s f1.9 lens does better in low light and offers similar DoF when both are wide open. Of course you can change the lens on an FS7 and use a faster lens, but then you won’t have anywhere near the zoom range of the Z280.
 

Like any small compact camera, it isn’t 100% perfect. Overall the lens is pretty good for a low cost 4K zoom, but like many 17x zooms it does have a touch of barrel distortion when fully wide. As well as the LCD It has an excellent OLED viewfinder that is much, much better than those typically found on Sony’s smaller cameras. It has Timecode in/out and genlock, all the XAVC-I and L codecs as well as MpegHD. There is a full suite of wifi, LAN and network functions for streaming, ftp and remote control as well as the ability to offload files from the cards to a USB drive or memory stick without a computer. It’s a modern camera designed for the modern news or documentary shooter and a big step up in terms of image quality from the PXW-X200 IMHO.

A full review and sample video will be coming in the very near future with lot’s more information.

Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.

Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.

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.

AJC04868-1024x683 Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.
Heden servo motor to turn a non servo zoom into a power zoom. In this case on a Fujinon MK18-55 lens.

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.

AJC04872-1024x683 Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.
Heden VLC control box.

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.

AJC04881-1024x683 Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.
The Hedén VM35 servo motor for the VLC zoom and focus system.

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.

AJC04892-1024x683 Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.
The CAL button used to calibrate the Hedén VLC zoom system.

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.

AJC04878-1024x683 Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.
The Hedén VLC system mounted on an FS5 and Fujinon MK lens.

AJC04866-1024x683 Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.
I have the Hedén VLC control box mounted on the rear of the FS5’s handle using the 3M Dual Lock provided with the kit.

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.

AJC04874-1024x683 Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.
The Hedén VLC control box mounted on an FS5

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.

vm35-60 Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.
Dual motor bracket for the Fujinon MK lenses allows both a zoom and focus motor to be attached.

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.

vm35-40-1024x684 Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.
Rod mount for attaching a single Hedén VLC system motor to a 15mm rod.

 

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.

AJC04889-1024x683 Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.
The Hedén VLC zoom system mounted on my PMW-F5 and Fujinon MK lens. It’s much easier to find a place for the control box on larger cameras like the F5/F55 and FS7.

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.

AJC04888-1024x683 Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.
Manfrotto Lanc controller mounted to the tripod pan bar.

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.

Miller CX18 Tripod Head and Sprinter Legs.

My all time favourite tripod has to be my Miller Compass head on my Miller Solo Legs. This has proven to be an excellent all round tripod that is both light weight and extremely portable.

But for my recent Venice shoot I needed something a little bit more substantial so I decided to give the new Miller CX18 head on a set of Miller Sprinter II two stage carbon fibre legs.

20180420_155347-e1526234607109-576x1024 Miller CX18 Tripod Head and Sprinter Legs.
Miller CX16 Tripod with a Sony Venice.

The CX18 head is not radically different to any other tripod head. But it is a great, silky smooth tripod head. It uses the same type of fluid damping mechanism as my Compass head with 5+0 steps of silky smooth pan and tilt damping selected by click stop rings on the head. One thing that does differentiate the CX range from previous Miller heads is the range of the counterbalance system. My Compass head only has 4 counterbalance settings for a range of payloads from 2Kg to 9kg (4lbs to 20lbs). The new CX18 head has 16 levels of counterbalance and covers a payload range from 0 to 16kg (35lbs). So it can handle a greater payload range with finer more precise steps.

20180420_155421-1-1024x576 Miller CX18 Tripod Head and Sprinter Legs.
Miller CX18 head showing the 16 step counter balance control, 8 steps on the big ring plus a +1 step control switch.

The counterbalance steps are selected via a main counterbalance selector ring which as 8 steps and the a secondary control adds an extra half step, giving a total of 16 steps. So even when swapping lenses on the camera between primes and zooms it would only take seconds to find the right counterbalance level.

The camera plate on the CX18 is a side mount plate, so you just angle it into the recess on the top of the tripod and it snaps down into place. No need to have to line up a sliding plate. This makes it much faster to release and reattach the camera if you are in a hurry.

Talking of being in a hurry. The Sprinter II legs feature lower leg release catches that are operated by levers that are attached to the lower leg clamp by a rod. This means that you don’t have to bend down to the bottom of the tripod leg to release the catch. Instead the large release catches for both stages of the tripod legs starts off up by the tripod bowl making them easy to grab and release when you are in a hurry. This is a really nice feature for new shooters.

20180420_160747-e1526234840980-576x1024 Miller CX18 Tripod Head and Sprinter Legs.
The Sprinter II tripod. Note how the leg lock catches are never lower than the top of the first stage.

The 100mm bowl sprinter legs are very stable with very minimal twist or flex at the bowl even when extended to a good height. the mid level spreader makes them really easy to use on uneven ground.

So if you are looking for a tripod with a pretty decent payload that doesn’t weigh a ton but remains nice and stable do take a close look at the CX18 head and Sprinter II legs. Miller’s tripod heads really are some of the smoothest tripod heads out there. My Solo is 5 years old now and just as smooth as it was the day it arrived.

The CX18 worked well with the Venice camera, although to be honest a fully loaded Venice is a pretty big lump to put on this size of tripod. However the CX18 took it in it’s stride and helped me get some silky smooth pans and tilts in some pretty windy conditions.

Sigma FF High Speed Primes.

The main lenses I used for my recent Sony Venice shoot in Arizona were the  Sigma Full Frame High Speed primes in PL mount.

These are really really nice lenses!

20180418_110628-1024x576 Sigma FF High Speed Primes.
Sigma Full Frame fast prime lens set.

As they cover a full frame sensor such as the one in Sony’s Venice high end digital cinematography camera these are pretty future proof lenses. They are all fast lenses with most of them opening up to T1.5. At T1.5 you have a 20, 24, 35, 50 and 85mm lenses and at T2.0 you can go as wide as 14mm and as long as 135mm.

They are of all metal construction, the build quality is absolutely first class. As soon as you pick one up it just exudes quality. They are not light weight lenses, coming in at between 1kg and 1.3kg in PL mount form, but that weight gives you the confidence that these are lenses that will last. Lenses that will stand up to daily professional use on a film or documentary shoot.  They are dust and moisture sealed, which is probably just as well as on this shoot there was a lot of blowing sand and dust. Our on set photographer was having problems with sand and grit in his lenses by the end of the shoot, but the Sigmas just shrugged it off.

The focus and aperture markings are very clear and easy to read they even glow in the dark! The focus ring rotates through a full 180 degrees and both the focus and aperture rings have standard 0.8 pitch teeth for follow focus controls etc. The gear rings are all the same distance from the mount so there is no need to move the follow focus when changing lenses.

20180418_110645-1024x576 Sigma FF High Speed Primes.
Sigma 85mm Full Frame High Speed prime.

The lenses are available with PL, E mount or EF mounts. The set I had were fitted with PL. The mounts are not user interchangeable, but you can have the mount swapped by Sigma if you do find that you need to change it for some reason.

I shot several scenes with the 20mm lens using the Venice’s full frame 6K x 4K mode. Examining these images in post production reveals that the 20mm is really sharp right out into the corners. I also shot with the lenses wide open in some pretty dark places and even wide open they stay tack sharp. Take a look at the image below, it’s really sharp. If you click on the image you can enlarge it to view it at close to the original 6K resolution.

Horseshoe-bend_1.1.6-1024x576 Sigma FF High Speed Primes.
Frame grab from Venice. Horseshoe bend, Page Arizona. Sigma 20mm FF prime. Click on the image to enlarge.

Shooting night scenes with the 135mm wide open also gave beautiful results. When shooting with a shallow DoF all the lenses have a very pleasing bokeh. This is perhaps in part thanks to the use in all of the lenses of a 9 blade, rounded diaphragm aperture system.

When changing focus mid shot breathing is minimal and the focus ring is silky smooth. A really nice touch is the use of a damper at the focus stops so there is no noise if you hit the end stops.

Vegas-night2_1.1.2-1024x576 Sigma FF High Speed Primes.
Frame Grab from Venice, 2500 ISO, Sigma 24mm. Click on the image to expand.

During the shoot I used the 20,24,35,50,85 and 135mm lenses and they all performed really well. Looking at the footage in the grading suite it looks sharp and there are no nasty distortions. I did notice a touch of barrel distortion with the 24mm but this is to be expected with a wide lens on a full frame sensor. All the lenses matched really well, the colour remaining constant throughout the whole range. The look from the lenses was very neutral. Lens flare was extremely well controlled and I didn’t notice my blacks becoming washed out in high contrast situations. When shooting into the sun or at a direct light source any flare that I did see was normally quite pleasing.

The shot below was obtained shooting towards the sun when it was very low in the sky, yet the lens behaved flawlessly retaining deep blacks and a very high contrast image.

horse-riding_1.1.14-1024x576 Sigma FF High Speed Primes.
Frame grab from Venice with Sigma 135mm FF lens shooting into the sun in a very high contrast scenario. Click on the image to enlarge.

These lenses helped me capture some truly beautiful images with the Venice camera. I’ve long been a fan of Sigmas more recent lens designs. I have several of the Sigma Art Lenses and these have always performed exceptionally well. These prime lenses take things one step further putting world class optics into housings designed for manual control and the rigours of professional film and video productions. They are very competitively priced, especially when you consider that these are full frame lenses. I really hope to be able to use them again on future shoots. They really are top notch lenses and the images I captured with them look gorgeous.

 

Sony Venice – A close look at the dynamic range and noise.

With Sony Venice X-OCN files to download!

I have been working with Sony’s colour science guru Pablo at the Digital Motion Picture Center at Pinewood, looking at the outer limits of what Sony’s Venice camera can do. A large part of the reason for this is that Pablo is developing some really nice LUT’s for use on dailies or even as a grade starting point (Pablo tells me the LUT’s are finished but he is waiting for approvals and feedback from Japan).

As part of this process we have shot test footage with the Venice camera for ourselves and also looked long and hard at test shots done by other cinematographers. Last week we were able to preview a beta version of the cameras dual ISO modes. This beta firmware allowed us to shoot tests at both 500 ISO and 2500 ISO and the results of both are equally impressive.

I can’t share any of the test footage shot at 2500 ISO at this stage. The firmware is still in it’s early stages and the final version may well perform a little differently (probably better). But I can share some of the footage shot at 500 ISO.

Please remember what we were exploring was the extreme ends of the exposure range. So our little test set was set up with some challenges for the camera rather than trying to make a pretty picture.

We have deep, deep shadows on the right behind the couch and we also have strong highlights coming off the guitar, the film can on the shelves and from the practical lamp in the background. The reds of the cushion on the couch look very different with most Rec-709 cameras as the colors are outside the Rec-709 gamut.

Another aspect of the test was to check the exposure rating. For this I used my Sekonic lightmeter to measure both the incident light and the light reflected by the Kodak grey card. My light meter gave me T4 at 1/48th for 500 ISO and this turned out to be pretty much spot on with what the scopes told us. So straight away we were able to establish that the 500 ISO exposure rating appears to be correct. We also found that when we stopped down by 2.3 stops we got the correct exposure at 2500 ISO, so that too appears to be correctly rated.

Once the base exposure was established we shot at 2 stops over and 2 stops under, so from T2 down to T8 using a Sony 35mm PL prime. We used the XOCN-ST codec as we felt this will be the most widely used codec.  When looking at the files do remember that the 16 bit XOCN-ST files are smaller than 10 bit ProResHQ. So these are files that are very easy to manage. There is the option to go up in quality to Sony’s linear raw codec or down to X-OCN LT. XOCN-ST sits in the middle and offers a nice balance between file size and image quality, it being very hard to find any visual difference between this and the larger raw files.

The files I’m providing here are single X-OCN frames. They have not been adjusted in any way, they are just as shot (including being perhaps a touch out of focus). You can view them using the latest version of Sony’s raw viewer software or the latest version of DaVinci Resolve. For the best quality preview, at this time I recommend using Sony’s Raw Viewer to view the clips.

Click here to download these Venice Samples

If you find these files useful please consider buying me a coffee or beer.


Type



pixel Sony Venice - A close look at the dynamic range and noise.

So what do the files look like? First I recommend you download and play with them for yourself. Anything I do has to have a LUT,  grade or other process applied so that the linear data can be viewed on a normal computer screen. So it’s better to take a look at the original files and see what you can do with them rather than just accepting my word. The images here were create in DaVinci Resolve using ACES. ACES adds a film type highlight roll-off and uses film type levels, so the images look a touch dark as there were a lot of low light level areas in the test shots.

Venice at T4 The base exposure for the test.

Venice-base-T4_1.1.1-1024x540 Sony Venice - A close look at the dynamic range and noise.
Venice at T4 (From ACES). This was the “base” exposure for this test. Click on the image to enlarge.

Venice at T8 – 2 Stops under exposed (As exposed).

Venice-T8-uncor_1.4.1-1024x540 Sony Venice - A close look at the dynamic range and noise.
Venice at T8 (2 stops under). Click on the image to enlarge.

Venice at T8 – 2 Stops under exposed (Brightness corrected to match base exposure).

Venice-T8-norm_1.4.2-1024x540 Sony Venice - A close look at the dynamic range and noise.
Venice at T8 (2 stops under). Brightness match to base exposure via metadata shift. Click on the image to enlarge.

Venice at T5.6 – 1 stop under exposed (brightness corrected to match base exposure).

Venice-T5.6-norm_1.5.1-1024x540 Sony Venice - A close look at the dynamic range and noise.
Venice at T5.6 (1 stops under). Brightness match to base exposure via metadata shift. Click on the image to enlarge.

Venice at T4 The base exposure for the test.

Venice-base-T4_1.1.1-1024x540 Sony Venice - A close look at the dynamic range and noise.
Venice at T4 (From ACES). This was the “base” exposure for this test. Click on the image to enlarge.

Venice at T2.8 – 1 stop over exposed (brightness adjusted to match base exposure).

Venice-t2.8-norm_1.2.1-1-1024x540 Sony Venice - A close look at the dynamic range and noise.
Venice at T2.8 (1 stops over). Brightness match to base exposure via metadata shift. Click on the image to enlarge.

Venice at T2.0 – 2 stops over exposed (brightness adjusted to match base exposure).

Venice-T2-norm_1.3.2-1024x540 Sony Venice - A close look at the dynamic range and noise.
Venice at T2 (2 stops over). Brightness match to base exposure via metadata shift. Click on the image to enlarge.

Venice at T2.0 – 2 stops over exposed (as shot).

Venice-T2-uncor_1.3.1-1024x540 Sony Venice - A close look at the dynamic range and noise.
Venice at T2.0, 2 stops over, as shot. Click on the image to enlarge.

NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:

I shouldn’t rush these tests! I should have set the focus at T2, not at T4. Focus is on the chart, not the dummy head. It would have been better if the eyes and chart were at the same distance.

It’s amazing how similar all the shots across this 5 stop range look. Just by adjusting the metadata ISO rating in Resolve I was able to get a near perfect match. There is more noise in the under exposed images and less in the over exposed images, that’s expected. But even the 2 under images are still pretty nice.

NOISE:

What noise there is, is very fine in structure. Noise is pretty even across each of the R, G and B channels so there won’t be a big noise change if skewing the white balance towards blue as can happen with some other cameras where the blur channel is noisier than red or green. Even at T8 and 2 stops under the noise is not unacceptable. A touch of post production NR would clean this up nicely. So shooting at 500 ISO base and rating the camera at 2000 EI would be useable if needed, or perhaps to deliberately add some grain. However instead of shooting at 500 ISO / 2000 EI you might be better off using the upper 2500 base ISO instead for low light shoots because that will give a nice sensitivity increase with no change to the dynamic range and only a touch (and it really is just a touch) more noise.

If shooting something super bright or with lot and lots of very important highlights  I would not be concerned about rating the camera at 1000EI.  For most projects I would probably rate the camera at 500EI. If the scene is generally dark I may choose 400EI just to be a touch cleaner. With such a clean image and so much dynamic range you really can pick and choose how you wish to rate the camera.

Venice has more dynamic range than an F55 and maybe a bit more than the F65. Most of the extra dynamic range is in the shadows. There is an amazing amount of picture information that can be pulled out of the darker parts of the images. The very low noise floor is a big help here. In the example below I have taken the base exposure sample and brought the metadata ISO up to 2000 ISO. Then I have used a luma curve to pull up the shadows still further. If you look at the shelves on the left, even in the deep shadow areas it’s possible to see the grain effect on the dark wood panels. In addition you can see both the white and black text on the back of the grey book on the bottom shelf. Yes, there is some noise but my meter put these areas at -6 stops, so being able to pull out so much detail from these areas is really impressive.

Venice-deep-shadows_1.1.2-1024x540 Sony Venice - A close look at the dynamic range and noise.
An amazing amount of information still exists in even the darkest shadow areas. This image adjusted up significantly from base exposure (at least +4 stops).

In the highlights the way the camera reaches it’s upper limit is very pleasing, it does seem to have a tiny roll off just before it clips and this looks really nice. If you look at the light bulbs in this test, at the base exposure, if you bring the highlights down in post you can see that not all of the bulb is completely over exposed they are only over exposed where the element is. Also the highlights reflecting off the guitar and film can on the shelf look very “real” and don’t have that hard clipped look that specular highlights on other cameras can sometimes have.

Another thing that is very nice is the colour tracking. As you go up and down in exposure there are no obvious colour shifts. It’s one of the things that really helps make it so easy to make all 5 exposures look the same.

The start up time of the Venice camera is very impressive at around 6 to 8 seconds. It’s up and running very quickly. The one stop steps in the ND filter system are fantastic. The camera is very simple to use and the menu seems logically laid out. It’s surprisingly small, it’s not much bigger than a PMW-F55, just a little taller and a little longer. Battery consumption is lower than most of the competition, the camera appears to consume around 50w which is half the power consumption of a lot of the competition. It can be run of either 12v or 24v. So all in all it can be rigged as a very compact camera with a standard V-Lock battery on the back.

Looking forward to shooting more with Venice in the very near future.