Category Archives: Review

4 New Cameras From Sony! ActionCam, Music Cam and 2 new 4K cams.

It’s official and I can talk about them now!

Sony are bringing four new cameras to the market from their pro, consumer and semi-pro department. These cameras straddle the market and will find a place in the hands of both home shooters and professionals.

photo-300x225 4 New Cameras From Sony! ActionCam, Music Cam and 2 new 4K cams.
New Sony HDR-AS30 ActionCam in the new lightweight housing.

Starting with the smallest, this one will look very familiar to many of you. It’s a new version of the Gopro like ActionCam. The new model is the HDR-AS30. Not hugely different from the previous model it offers HD recording at up to 120 fps in 720p and 60p at 1920×1080 and WiFi connection for remote control and monitoring. The great news for us here in Europe and other PAL regions is that the new model now includes 25 and 50fps frame rates. Add in electronic image stabilisation as well as the very sensitive EXMOR-R sensor and this really is a great alternative to the GoPro. As well as the improved frame rates the AS30 now comes with a much lighter housing. The original AS10/AS15 housing was built for deep water diving and as a result was quite bulky and heavy.

photo1-300x225 4 New Cameras From Sony! ActionCam, Music Cam and 2 new 4K cams.
The new menu buttons on the ActionCam housing.

The new housing is very similar to the old but of thinner plastic so it’s much lighter and less bulky. However the slim housing is only suitable for use in shallow water or to withstand the occasional dunking that it would get on say a surfboard or windsurfer. Another new feature is that the housing now incorporates buttons that allow you to change the camera settings without having to remove it from the housing.

Sony are well aware that what really matters with these mini cams is mounting flexibility. So along with the camera Sony are extending the range mounts, brackets and adapters available. They even have a clever device that turns the camera into a small handheld camcorder with flip out screen. Another add-on coming soon is a wireless wrist strap monitor and remote. Oh, and one more thing. Just in case you forget where you took your pictures the camera now has a GPS receiver built in that tags your videos with the shooting location.

photo2-300x225 4 New Cameras From Sony! ActionCam, Music Cam and 2 new 4K cams.
Sony MV1 Music Video camera with stereo microphones.

Next up is a new type of camcorder for Sony…. or is it an audio recorder with a built in camera? When I was first shown the HDR-MV1 I really didn’t know what to make of it. It is referred to as the Music Video Camera by Sony. The concept is for a camera that can shoot good video in low light along with excellent quality stereo audio for bands and musicians to shoot simple YouTube videos etc. The camera is certainly very capable of doing exactly that, but there is also a lot more that this camera can be used for. Not much bigger than an electric shaver and sporting a pair of stereo microphones with 120 degree separation this camera is so easy to use for capturing stunning quality sound with reasonable HD pictures. It is one of those gadgets that will find it’s way into many camera crews kit bags. I’ve been playing with one and it’s great. For example, when shooting some steam trains I was able to just place the MV1 on a bridge parapet or beside the track to capture wonderful stereo sound of the trains puffing past. OK, I’ll have to sync the sound up with the main video in post, but as the camera shoots pictures too that’s pretty straight forward. To have done this conventionally would have required a good stereo mic, a stand, cables or radio links etc. Costing less than most decent stereo microphones it’s so simple and convenient that I’ll be looking to get one as soon as they are released. Click here to download a sample audio clip from the MV1.  mv1-audio-sample

Finally we have two new 4K camcorders. The Sony FDR-AX1 and PXW-Z100. Starting with the AX1 (on which the Z100 is based), this is a compact handheld camcorder that has a Sony G series 20x zoom lens with a single 8.3 Megapixel back illuminated EXMOR-R  1/1.23″ sensor (that’s just a little smaller than 1/2″). The sensor allows for 4K shooting at up to 60fps. Interestingly for a consumer camera this one uses a variation of Sony’s new XAVC codec from the pro line of cameras to record the 4K footage. XAVC-S records 4K at 150Mb/s and HD at around 50Mb/s (compared to 220+ and 100+ Mb/s at 25fps for regular XAVC). This is a Long GoP version of the XAVC codec and is limited QFHD or (UHDTV) at 3840 x 2160 along with 8 bit 4:2:0 encoding . As this involves some quite high bit rates so the camera used XQD cards for recording. There are 2 slots for the XQD cards. Another first for a consumer camcorder is a pair of XLR audio connectors, clearly this camera is aimed at the high end of the consumer market. The camera has an HDMI output that will output 8 bit 4:2:0 4K for connection to a consumer 4K TV.

Sony-Z100a-300x300 4 New Cameras From Sony! ActionCam, Music Cam and 2 new 4K cams.
Sony PXW-Z100 4K camcorder

Taking the AX1 up a notch is the Z100. Many of the specs are the same, but the recording codec on the Z100 is the same XAVC I frame codec as used on Sony’s F5 and F55 cameras. This allows the Z100 to record the full 4K 17:9 4096 x 2160 sensor output at 10 bit 4:2:2. The down side to this is the data rates are now much higher at 232Mb/s for HD and up to 600Mb/s for 4K (at 60fps). This is a lot of data to manage and I can’t help but think that for many the QFHD and long GoP codec of the AX1 might be a better option (rumour is that there will be a firmware update for the Z100 that will allow it to recording using XAVC-S later in the year). In a later firmware update there will also be the option to record AVCHD to an SD card alongside the XAVC recordings. Other outputs include composite AV outputs on phono jacks as well as timecode out (also phono).

Both the AX1 and Z100 use Sony’s NP-F type batteries, so no expensive batteries need here!

As well as HDMI the Z100 has a 3G HDSDI output which can output a HD 60fps signal or a downscaled HD image when shooting in 4K.

Sony-Z100b-300x300 4 New Cameras From Sony! ActionCam, Music Cam and 2 new 4K cams.
Top view of the Sony Z100 4K camcorder.

The Z100 (and AX1 I believe) use the same paint and scene file settings as the PMW-F5 and F55 so it should be quite straightforward to transfer picture settings between the various cameras.

So just how will a small sensor 4K camera perform? Well the pixels will be very small so the camera won’t be as sensitive or have the dynamic range of the many large sensor 4K cameras on the market right now. As this is an EXMOR-R sensor it will be good for it’s size, but don’t expect it to be a great performer in low light. Other issues will be resolution and diffraction. When you have very small pixels and high resolution you run into an optical effect where the light passing through a small aperture gets bent and de-focussed. This limits the cameras useable aperture range. I think your going to be limited to keeping the iris more open than f8 to get the best results from this camera. Fortunately both cameras have a 4 position ND filter system that will help keep the aperture within the best range.



Miller Solo Tripod and Compass 15 Head.

A decent tripod is a critical piece of your camera kit. It’s not something you should skimp on as a poor tripod is difficult to work with, will cause frustration and lead to inferior footage. Invest wisely and your tripod should last a decade, far longer than most cameras. I’ve got tripods that are as good today as they were when I purchased them in the 1990’s.

When choosing a tripod the range of models available is confusing and baffling. There are so many different tripod weights, payloads and heights to choose from, so it can be difficult. Also while there is such a thing as a good all round tripod (as we shall se in a bit) there is also no such thing as one tripod that will be perfect for every shoot. The most important thing to consider when choosing a tripod is the payload that it will need to carry. This is the total weight of the camera, lens, batteries as well as any support equipment like rods and rails or monitors attached to the camera. Don’t underestimate how heavy this lot can get. You will want a tripod that can comfortably carry the payload you have, you never want to be right on the upper limit. At the same time you don’t want too big a tripod. The pan and tilt resistance on an excessively big tripod may be too much for a very light camera. Overall I’m a big fan of heavier tripods. The extra mass of a heavy tripod tends to make it more stable, in particular it will help reduce vibration, but this comes at a price, a big tripod is hard to lug around and if you fly a lot will cost a lot in excess baggage fees.

F5-with-rainbow-300x199 Miller Solo Tripod and Compass 15 Head.
Rainbow under a severe thunderstorm. Miller Tripod.

I travel a lot, so I was looking for a lightweight tripod that could carry my PMW-F5 kit. The main use for this tripod was for my self funded storm chasing and natural extremes stock footage shoots as well as for the many film making workshops I run all over the world. A tripod I have had my eye on for a while is the Miller Solo – Compass 15 tripod package, so I decided to give one a try.

The Solo is unlike most professional video tripods as the legs are of the single tube, telescoping variety as opposed to the more traditional double tube variety.

miller-tall-199x300 Miller Solo Tripod and Compass 15 Head.
Miller Solo tripod standing tall. it’s almost 2m to the top of the head.

They are constructed from Carbon Fiber, so they are very light, yet they can extend very heigh (1.87m for the legs alone), which is a great thing to have on news shoots or at an event or conference where you need to get the camera up above the heads of an audience. There is no mid level or floor spreader with this tripod, the spread of the legs is governed by latches at the tops of the legs that have 3 different positions, each one restricting the maximum leg spread by a different amount.  At the same time as being able to go very tall by lifting a latch at the top of each tripod leg the legs extend outwards almost flat to the ground and this allows you to get very low down at a height similar to a Hi-Hat yet the tripod remains very stable and solid.


miller-low-1024x681 Miller Solo Tripod and Compass 15 Head.
Miller Solo would be a winner in a Limbo dance. Here it is in low mode.
tilt-and-bubble-300x199 Miller Solo Tripod and Compass 15 Head.
Miller Compass 15 head tilt drag and balance controls. The levelling bubble is illuminated.

The Compass 15 head is a middle weight fluid head with a 75mm bowl for levelling. The drag for the pan and tilt is varied using click stop rings, each with 6 settings from zero to 5. The drag range is very good with position 5 giving considerable drag, something useful when you working with a long lens or trying to do very slow pans. For counterbalance there is another click stop ring, this time with 4 different counterbalance settings. The difference between the minimum and maximum counterbalance settings isn’t huge, but adequate provided you camera is within the heads payload range.

My first major project for this tripod was a bit of a baptism by fire. Every year I spend around 6 to 8 weeks shooting severe storms and tornadoes in the USA for stock footage. These shoots are always tough. You have to be extremely mobile. As I’m based in the UK, first of all there is the initial flights across the Atlantic to the USA. Once in the US I will typically drive between 400 to 600 miles a on an active storm day. In a month I’ll clock up around 10,000 miles. I don’t have an assistant on these shoots so have to do all the kit lugging myself. As well as the camera kit there is also 20kg of additional equipment needed to get real time weather data via satellite, two way radios, laptops, hard hats and safety gear. So anything I can do to save weight and bulk else where is welcome and the Solo tripod scores highly for portability.

Shooting-Tornado2-sm-1024x681 Miller Solo Tripod and Compass 15 Head.
Me shooting a tornado with the PMW-F5 and AXS-R5 on my Miller Solo tripod.

Filming a tornado is challenging. Very often the only way to get a good view of a tornado is by being in it’s path. Lots of rain and hail falls behind a tornado obscuring it from view and a strong, sometimes deadly wind called the RFD occurs around the back of a tornado, so, you need to be in front of it. A tornado can travel across the ground at speeds of up to 70mph, so if your 2 miles from a fast moving tornado you have only got about 90 seconds to get out of the car, set up your tripod, get a couple of shots, jump back in the car and drive out of it’s way. For this the Miller Solo was fantastic. With no spreader to getting in the way but the leg spread limited by the adjustable stops I found it a very fast tripod to deploy and pack away.


DSC01122-300x199 Miller Solo Tripod and Compass 15 Head.
Storm Chasing in the USA with the PMW-F5 on the Miller Solo.

At the same time it was also very stable. It is not as stable as a bigger, heavier tripod but still remarkably solid given it’s light weight. I’ve used bigger tripods in the past and it really helps having that extra bulk when shooting in the often strong winds that surround the storms I shoot. But because these took longer to deploy I wasn’t always able to use them, reverting to handheld when time was short. The Solo’s portability meant I was able to use it much often, so although some shots taken in high winds do suffer from a bit of wobble and buffeting, the more frequent tripod use means that I cam away with a lot more steady and stable shots from this assignment than I would have with a heavier conventional tripod. I guess really for me I will have to consider taking two tripods if I can. Something substantial and heavy for use when the wind is really strong and the Solo for everything else.

DSC02074-300x199 Miller Solo Tripod and Compass 15 Head.
Storm chasing with a PMW-F5 and Miller Solo.

Talking of everything else” what about shots done when things are not so frantic? Well a big part of the storm shoot is to document the whole life cycle of the storms. This means shooting a lot of panoramas and landscapes, often with very slow pans. One of the things that really took me by surprise with the Compass 15 head was the smoothness of the pan and tilt drag. This really is one of the best tripod heads that I have ever owned. The pan and tilt drag really is silky smooth and there is no perceptible backlash. It really is a delight to use. It’s so good that I think I’m going to have to take a close look at some of Millers larger tripods for when I want a heavy weight option. Smooth, slow pans were easy to achieve, even at longer focal lengths. One small criticism of the tripod kit is that the single tube Solo legs twist a little more than most traditional double tube tripod legs, but then that’s the price you pay for going light weight.

So overall I thing this combination of Compass 15 head with Miller Solo legs is fantastic. I’ve used a lot of tripods over the years, and this one stands out from the crowd. But, as I said at the start there is no such thing as a tripod that works for every application. I would not recommend the Solo legs for long lens work, they just don’t quite have the stability that can be obtained with a larger set of legs. That said, for portability and great performance in most everyday applications the Miller Solo and Compass 15 is a delight and I highly recommend it.

You can see footage from this shoot by clicking here.

For information on the Miller Solo System click here.

Disclosure: I approached Miller and requested the loan of the tripod. Miller provided me with a Miller Solo and Compass 15 head on a loan basis for review and use at my workshops etc. The review is my own opinion and Miller did not have any input into the review content. I really like this tripod!


The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What’s it like to work with?

F55-shoot-in-singapore-225x300 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
Alister shooting with the f55 in Singapore.

I was lucky enough to go out and play with an F55 while in Singapore. There was no pressure, nothing specific to shoot, just play time. This meant I could try different frame rates, different frame sizes, basically I could experiment. I also had the use of one of the lovely (but very heavy) Fujinon Cabrio 19-90mm PL mount servo zooms. The F55 was configured with the LCD EVF (my choice, I could have used the OLED) R5 recorder and a couple of Olivine batteries. The camera was one of Sony’s early pre production models, so while most things did work there were some modes and functions that couldn’t be used together that will be available on the production cameras. Most of the time I shot at 25p recording 1920×1080 XAVC HD with S-Log2 in camera and 4K raw in the RAW.  I did also shoot quite a bit of 4K XAVC at 25p and 4K raw at 50p.

The cameras menu system is well laid out and clear and easy to use. It’s different to the menu system used on the F3 and EX cameras, it’s actually much closer to the menu system used by the F65. The cameras key functions, things like ISO, shutter speed and white balanced are controlled using the 6 hot keys arranged around the camera function LCD on the left of the camera (Sony refer to these buttons as “switches” in the manual which is a little confusing). So much of the time there is no need to go in to the main menu. One thing I did miss was a dedicated white balance switch. There is a hot key button that allows you to choose between presets for tungsten, daylight or your own numerical colour temperature (just dial in the temp you want). But to do a white balance with a grey card, you have to go in to the menu and set the white balance from within the menu. Maybe on the production cameras you will be able to assign this to one of the assignable buttons. Of course with raw your not really changing the white balance in the traditional sense. What your changing is the white balance of the monitoring output and the white balance settings attached to the raw clips metadata.

DSC02691-300x199 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
Sony PMW-F55

The camera is simple to operate once you have it in the record mode you want. But the multitude of modes, frame sizes, frame rates, compressed, codecs and raw, EI or non-EI will I’m sure confuse some people. Currently the camera has to be in some quite specific modes in order to be able to make use of the R5 recorder for raw recording. If the camera is in the wrong mode the R5 doesn’t even come online. But this is a pre production camera with early firmware so I’m sure the range of modes that can be used together will increase. As it wasn’t possible to shoot 4K XAVC S-Log internally and 4K raw on the R5 at the same time, for most of the filming I did I shot internally in HD using XAVC and S-Log2 while recording 4K raw on the R5. I did also take some time to shoot similar shots in 4K XAVC to compare to the raw footage.

DSC02681-300x199 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
Sony DVF-EL100 EVF.

In the viewfinder you get the usual comprehensive information about the camera setup including the remaining record time on both the SxS cards and AXS card in the R5. The nice thing about the R5 is that it really does become a part of the camera and is controlled fully by the camera unlike many off-board recorders where you have to setup the recorder separately from the camera. The R5 has no buttons or switches on it’s exterior, just a couple of status LED’s, it’s all controlled from the F55’s menu.


F55-raw-viewer-1024x640 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
Sony F55 Raw Viewer (same as F65 viewer)

For viewing and managing the raw footage Sony have a clip viewer application (which will be supplied with the camera or for free download) which is essentially the same as the F65 raw viewer. There are Mac and PC versions. Being realistic your going to need a fast computer with USB3 to be able to use this properly. I’ve just upgraded to a new Retina MacBook pro in anticipation of the arrival of my own F5. Transferring 250GB of raw data from the AXS card to a 2.5″ USB3 hard drive took about an hour. Thats not even real time. 250GB is about 30 mins of footage, some of which was 50p.

F55-raw-no-grade-bike-300x158 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
Un graded raw shot of a bike in Singapore

Of course 2.5″ hard drives are not the fastest of drives so I’m sure I will be able to speed this transfer process up, probably to just a little faster than real time. But even so, be prepared for a slower workflow when working with 4K raw than perhaps your used to right now with conventional HD cameras. The Raw Viewer software allows you to view and playback clips using different gamma curves and lookup tables, as well as applying a number of image adjustments and corrections. You can also use it to convert the raw files to DPX files, either with or without adjustments such as a gamma curve, so right out of the box you should be able to work with the material.

F55-raw-with-grade-bike-300x158 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
The same bike shot as above but after a quick grade.

BlackMagic already have the raw and XAVC codecs working within a soon to be released versions of Resolve (including the free Resolve Lite), this software will be released well before the cameras becomes available. There are also working plug-ins for Adobe Premiere Pro from Rovi that should be finalised before the cameras ship with other NLE’s like Edius and FCP-X promising support in the very near future. For Avid MC, there will be Sony Plug-Ins for both XAVC and RAW at the start of Feb. For FCP-X, Apple has a plan to support XAVC (both 4K & HD) soon (I don’t have an exact timescale I’m afraid) with a plug-in developed by Sony. Sony Vegas, will support XAVC at the start of Feb as well.

I’m looking at building a dedicated Linux based workstation for working with the F5/F55 4K material. I plan to use the HD internal recordings as proxies for the edit on my Macbook or iMac and then do the 4K finishing using Resolve running on a Linux machine with plenty of graphics processing grunt. It’s much cheaper to build a Linux workstation than a MacPro, in addition it’s much easier to add additional graphics cards to get more GPU cores. These days it’s the number and power of the GPU (Graphics Processor) rather than the normal CPU that counts.

F55-Cabrio-300x199 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
PMW-F55 with Fujinon Cabrio, Genus Elite Matte Box.

Getting back to the shoot. The Fujinon Cabrio lens interfaces directly with the camera, so power is supplied to the lens for the servo zoom. Annoyingly the record button on the lens didn’t work, so I had to press the REC button on the camera body. I suspect this is just a camera firmware issue (UPDATE: According to Fuji this is a limitation of the Cooke i/Arri LDS lens connection protocols, in the future it may be possible to use either an adapted protocol or a cable between the lenses 20 pin connector and the cameras remote port). It behaves much like a traditional ENG lens, but it is a massive lump of glass making the camera extremely front heavy. I had a slight problem one morning coming from a nice air conditioned hotel out into the humidity of Singapore. The lens fogged up, as would any lens in those circumstances, as the front element is so big, it did take a very long time to get to the ambient temperature before I could use it. One small feature that is very nice is that the lens markings have been applied using glow-in-the-dark paint, rather like a watch face. So when shooting in the dark at night you could still easily see your focus markings. I wish camera manufacturers would do this with the camera button markings etc. The images produced by the Cabrio 19-90 are really very good. Lens flare is very well controlled, the images are sharp and free from any obvious defects. The bokeh is also very nice considering it is a relatively compact high ratio zoom lens. The Cabrio lens really makes the F55/F5 well suited to run and gun shooting. Stop the F55 down by an additional 2.5 stops and you’ll have approximately the same DoF on the F55 as you would have on a 2/3″ ENG camera. With such sensitive cameras as the F5/F55 this should be easy enough to do in most shooting situations.

F55-Merli-no-grade-300x158 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
Shot of the Merlion before grading, so this is what the 16 bit raw clips look like.

The F55’s native ISO of 1250 meant I didn’t need to use any additional gain shooting around Singapore’s Marina Bay area at night. This is a well lit area, but even so the low light performance is impressive. Noise and grain at 1250 ISO is very hard to see, it’s a really, really clean camera. At higher ISO’s you do start to see noise and grain, but thanks to the 4K sensor this has a very fine film like look. I checked out the noise on the F5 at 20,000 ISO and it’s really not that bad, in fact during the workshop someone turned the camera to 20,000 ISO and most people looking at the monitor didn’t realise.

F55-Merli-with-grade-300x158 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
The Merlion after a quick grade.

In S-Log2 the camera has an EI mode that keeps the recording ISO at 1250 but then adds gain to the monitor and viewing LUT’s as well as the clips metadata. I deliberately over exposed a number of S-Log2 shots to see how they would grade. The results were very impressive, not quite as forgiving as raw, but very good with lots of information preserved in the highlights. One concern I have with the F5 is that it may actually be a little bit too sensitive. The F5 we had in Singapore in S-Log2 was rated at 2500 ISO, that’s really sensitive and I do have a fear that I’m going to have to use a lot of external ND filtration in addition to the cameras internal ND’s when I want a shallow depth of field.

The camera really didn’t take long to get used to. I think new users will need to read through the manual to look at the various recording options, monitoring and look up table settings. For example the camera has to be in the correct base mode (EI or Custom) before you can setup the 4K raw recordings. But beyond that it is a very logical and straight forward camera to use.

F55-DVF-L350-LCD-300x188 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
Looking into the DVF-L350 LCD EVF.

Shooting in 4K has it’s challenges. Focus is ultra critical, especially if you are shooting in 4K so that post production can crop into the image for re-framing. I found that I was using the focus-mag button on the viewfinder for every shot, checking and double checking focus. I was using the 3.5″ LCD EVF for the shoot but I did try the OLED too. When your viewfinder is “only” HD or maybe not even HD you are going to need to magnify the image to see that critical 4K focus.

F55-DVF-EL100-300x173 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?As well as focus-mag you also have the usual peaking modes and settings (which can be assigned to the assignable buttons). But I really found that for 4k, while very useful, peaking alone was not enough to be 100% certain that your focus is spot on with any of the viewfinders, not even the OLED. I’m not saying that the viewfinders are sub standard, just that you really need a much bigger screen than 7″ to see 4K focus without zooming in to the image.

DSC02684-300x199 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
The DVF-L700 7″ LCD monitor/viewfinder.

While the DVF-EL100 OLED EVF is rather nice the small size of it’s panel (0.7″) does mean that some of the sharpness advantage it has over the 3.5″ LCD DVF-L350 is lost. The bigger screen of the 3.5″ LCD is easier to see than the very small OLED. In addition the flip up monocular of the 3.5″ LCD does make it more versatile. For ENG type shoots, run and gun or documentary shoots, I think the 3.5″ finder is the better choice. If you shoot drama then you can use the higher resolution OLED EVF and then add a larger monitor/viewfinder as well. The F5/F55 has to separate HDSDI busses. The main bus can be used to output clean video while the sub bus can be used to feed video with camera data overlays added for external viewfinders etc. There are two HDSDI connections on each bus.

F55-clark-quay-no-grad-300x158 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
Shot of Clark Quay before grading the raw file.

I really enjoyed shooting with the F55. It was easy to use and the key camera controls are well placed. With the right shoulder mount (including the Sony one)  it will be reasonably well balanced with most prime lenses (I only had a generic base plate for the matte box rails). I do think that with many heavier lenses, rather than use the relatively light NP-FL75 batteries you will be better off with larger and heavier batteries to get better balance. One FL75 ran the camera for around 2 hours so a 150Wh battery would run it for about 4 hours.

F55-clark-quay-graded-300x158 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
Shot of Clark Quay after applying a Hypergamma LUT.

The NP-FL75’s do charge very fast indeed, taking about 90 mins to fully charge from flat. You don’t have to use the new Sony batts. Any standard V mount battery will work. I’m going to be testing some of the new LiTH 150Wh batteries that are the same size as a typical 95Wh battery when I get my F5.

My next shoot with an F5 will be at the end of January when I will be taking one up to Arctic Norway to shoot the next part of my on-going Northern Lights film project. I’ll be shooting interviews with the local Sami people about the folklore and traditions that surround the Aurora as well as the Aurora itself. It will be interesting to see if I can shoot the Aurora in real time 4K using the F5’s 20,000 ISO rating. It should be possible as I managed with the F3 last year. I’ll be posting some sample clips from my Singapore shoot very soon (once I work out the best way to distribute a gig or more of material).

Samyang 24mm and 35mm T1.5 Cine Lenses. Cine lenses for those on a budget.

DSC06476-300x199 Samyang 24mm and 35mm T1.5 Cine Lenses. Cine lenses for those on a budget.
Samyang 24mmT1.5 Cine Lens.

I’ve had one of Samyang’s 14mm f2.8 photo lenses for some time and it really is a fantastic lens. It’s one of my favourites for shooting the Northern Lights as it nice and wide and pretty fast for such a wide lens. In addition it stays nice and sharp even when wide open. When I heard that Samyang were bringing out a range of budget cine lenses with integrated 0.8 mod pitch gears it was music to my ears as I have been looking for some decent cine lenses for a long time, but didn’t want to fork out a small fortune on expensive PL glass.

DSC06470-300x199 Samyang 24mm and 35mm T1.5 Cine Lenses. Cine lenses for those on a budget.
Samyang 35mmT1.5 Cine Lens

Up to now, for my own projects, I have been using a mix of Nikon fit and Canon fit DSLR lenses. Mostly Sigma Nikon fit lenses as these focus the “right” way and have manual aperture rings. For my larger budget commercial projects I then hire in PL glass to suit the project.

The Samyang’s arrived nicely packed in decent looking boxes and each lens comes with a soft carry pouch. There’s the usual petal shaped lens hood and lens caps. The lenses I chose have the Canon EF-S mount, but you can also get them with a Nikon mount. Because they have proper manual iris rings there is no problem using these lenses on cameras like the Sony PMW-F3 where you don’t have electronic iris control.

DSC06475-300x199 Samyang 24mm and 35mm T1.5 Cine Lenses. Cine lenses for those on a budget.
The 24mm Samyang on my F3

Out of the box the lenses really look the part. The black finish is very nice and there is an attractive red metal ring around the camera body giving them a quite classy look. One thing though is that there is a lot of plastic in these lenses. The lens mount is metal and it appears that the core of the lens body is metal, but it appears to be shrouded in plastic. Certainly the iris and focus rings are plastic and front shroud around the lens is plastic, but it does appear to be a good quality plastic. The large amount of plastic does make the lenses feel cheaper than a decent PL mount lens but it’s no worse than the plastic Sony PL mount lenses that cost 8 times as much and you do have to remember that these lenses are really well priced, really, really well priced.

DSC06469-300x199 Samyang 24mm and 35mm T1.5 Cine Lenses. Cine lenses for those on a budget.
F3 and 24mm Samyang

The 0.8 mod pitch gears are nice and proud from the lens body and I had no issues using them with my Genus follow focus controls. There is no click stop on the iris ring as there would be on a conventional DSLR lenses and the movement of the iris ring is very smooth and has just the right amount of resistance for smooth aperture changes during a shot. The iris scale, marked in T-Stops is clear and easy to read and the travel reasonable. You don’t get as much travel as many PL mount lenses, but there is plenty of travel and getting an accurate exposure is easy. Having T-stops is great as you can change lenses and your exposure will remain constant because T-stops are the lenses  f-stop plus any other light losses in the lens, making exposure more accurate and consistent from lens to lens.

35mm-lens-tree-300x168 Samyang 24mm and 35mm T1.5 Cine Lenses. Cine lenses for those on a budget.
Frame grab from the 35mm lens. Click to enlarge.

The focus rings on both the 24mm and 35mm lenses rotate through about 160 degrees. This is a lot compared to most other modern DSLR lenses. My Sigma 20mm f1.8 lens only rotates about 90 degrees and my 24-70mm lens only rotates about 45 degrees. This extra throw on the focus ring really helps with accurate and precise focus and makes these lenses a pleasure to use. The focus scale is in both feet and m. I do find the brown “ft” scale a little hard to see, especially in low light, but this is a minor complaint.

24mm-leaves1-300x168 Samyang 24mm and 35mm T1.5 Cine Lenses. Cine lenses for those on a budget.
Super shallow DoF from the 35mm T1.5 Samyang. Click to enlarge.

So overall these lenses are really nice to use compared to most other DSLR lenses, in fact I would say they are pretty close to many much more expensive PL lenses. But handling is one thing, what about the image quality? Well I wasn’t disappointed. Both lenses perform very well. Edge to edge sharpness is very good, contrast is very good, these lenses produce lovely crisp images with very good neutral colour. I didn’t test them with charts. Instead I used them (and am continuing to use them) on a range of shoots in Hong Kong and the UK and compared them with some of my other lenses out in the field. Image wise the 24mm produces an image very similar to my 20mm Sigma, if anything I feel the Samyang is the sharper of the two, even when wide open.

The 35mm Samyang performs at least as well as my favourite 35mm f1.8 Nikkor. My only small concerns are that the 24mm softens a little at T1.5 (the 35mm also softens a little but not quite as bad) and that both lenses do suffer from a bit more lens flare in some situations than my Nikkor’s. I suspect the coatings used on the Samyang’s may not be quite as good as those on the Nikkor’s but by using a deeper lens hood, matte box or flag to stop strong light sources from shining directly into the lens this flare can easily be controlled or eliminated. If you have a strong light source coming into the lens slightly off axis the lens flare exhibits itself as a slight raising of black levels and as a result a reduction in contrast. Most lenses suffer from some flare and this isn’t a deal breaker provided you are aware of it.

24mm-lens-sharp-300x168 Samyang 24mm and 35mm T1.5 Cine Lenses. Cine lenses for those on a budget.
Lots of crisp detail from the 35mm, even on a dull day.

I really like these lenses. Not just because they are cheap, but because they perform very well and they really handle like baby PL mount lenses. I think you have to see them to believe them because the images are really very sharp. I’d much rather use these than most conventional DSLR lenses on my video cameras. The Samyang 24mm T1.5 is an excellent wide angle lens for video applications. The 35mm is a great “standard” lens and will probably be my “go-to” lens for most shoots. The field of view you get from a 35mm lens on a Super 35mm video camera is very close to our own human field of view, so your shots look very natural and true to life. At T1.5 these are fast lenses so achieving a very shallow depth of field is easy. I probably wouldn’t use the 24mm at T1.5 unless I really needed to, but at T2 the image starts to sharpen up nicely. As well as the 24mm and 35mm lenses Samyang have 8mm T3.8 and a 14mm T3.1mm cine lenses and an 85mm T1.5 lens will be coming at the end of the year. All they really need is to add a 50mm to create a really complete lens set.

Initially I approached Samyang UK and asked for the loan of the 24mm and 35mm lenses for review. After using them I decided to buy them, so now I’m the happy owner of the Samyang 24mm and 35mm Cine lens. All I need to do now is sell of some of my other Canon and Nikon lenses so that I can get the 8, 14 and 85mm Samyang Cine lenses. They also do an interesting 24mm tilt-shift lens!

These are the current prices:
8mm VDSLR Canon / Nikon – £279
14mm VDSLR Canon / Nikon – £329
24mm VDSLR Canon / Nikon – £529
35mm VDSLR Canon / Nikon – £419
85mm VDSLR Canon / Nikon – £299  

Zunow SWV-E11-16, 11 to 16mm E-Mount Lens Review.

Zunow-11-16-300x237 Zunow SWV-E11-16, 11 to 16mm E-Mount Lens Review.
Zunow SWV-E11 E Mount Cine Lens.

Before I went to Arizona to shoot the monsoon thunderstorms and Grand Canyon I felt that I would need a nice fast wide angle lens to help capture some of the panoramas and vistas that I would see. A little while ago my friends at Alphatron told me about an E-Mount wide angle lens that was soon to be launched. So after a couple of phone calls I managed to secure the loan of one of the SWV-E11-16 cine style E-Mount lenses. Even before opening the box I knew this was something a bit special as the box was pretty heavy, no lightweight plastic lens in this box. On opening the box I was not disappointed. Inside was a very solid looking cine style lens with substantial gears on the focus, zoom and iris rings. This isn’t really a zoom lens, more of a variable focal length lens. The difference between the field of view at 11mm and 16mm isn’t all that great, but it does allow you to vary the framing.

zunow-night-300x210 Zunow SWV-E11-16, 11 to 16mm E-Mount Lens Review.
The Zunow ultra wide lens on my FS700 shooting lightning at night.

As this is an E-Mount lens, not only does it work on the FS100 and FS700 but it also fits on any other E-mount camera such as my NEX5N.

This isn’t a lightweight lens, it is a substantial, beautifully constructed lens that is a real pleasure to use. Compared to a typical DSLR lens the focus ring has a much greater travel which makes accurate focus much easier to achieve. The 0.8 mod gear rings allow the use of standard follow focus systems so no need to use add-on adapters. I can’t stress enough how nice this lens feels to use. But the feel of a lens is only a small part of the story, of course it’s the image performance that is what’s really important and again the Zunow does not disappoint.

DSC04355-300x199 Zunow SWV-E11-16, 11 to 16mm E-Mount Lens Review.
Photo taken with the Zunow lens on my NEX5N. Click on the image to enlarge.

I used it in various light conditions from bright desert sun to after dark. The wide f2.8 aperture makes this quite a fast lens considering it’s wide field of view. Most ultra wide lenses tend not to be as fast as this. When set to 11mm there is some noticeable barrel distortion which is really surprising and it’s not particularly objectionable as you zoom in to 16mm this distortion decreases to very low levels. This is one sharp lens. The images from this lens, both stills and HD video show huge amounts of crisp clear details.

Zunow-grab-tucson-300x168 Zunow SWV-E11-16, 11 to 16mm E-Mount Lens Review.
Frame grab from the FS700 and Zunow lens.

The best performance was from f4, but even fully open a f2.8 the centre of the image remains sharp and with good contrast. There is some slight softening in the corners at very wide apertures but this is not severe and I felt that the lens was perfectly useable even at f2.8 unlike some other wide angle lenses I have used. Colour fringing and chromatic aberrations are well controlled and I didn’t observe anything objectionable.

I really liked using this lens. It has the feel of a high end PL mount lens and performance to match. It looks the part and looks like it will last a very long time. I was very sad to have to hand it back after the shoot. The European distributor, Alphatron, tell me that as well as this E-Mount lens, Zunow are planning on producing PL mount versions as well as  additional similar lenses of different focal lengths.