Tag Archives: 35mm

Duran Duran Mega Shoot – Berlin – Almost!

The Berlin Duran Duran shoot was quite an adventure that twisted and turned this way and that. The plan was to shoot a Duran Duran concert using a range of Sony Super 35mm camcorders, however in the days running up to the shoot the band had been forced to postpone some other gigs due to illness. On the Monday before the shoot we were all sat at home waiting for the go – no-go phone call from the producers. The call came at 9pm, we were go, so first thing Tuesday I was off to the airport with 75kg of kit to fly out to Berlin with the very real threat of either Heathrow airport or Berlin airport getting shut down by Volcanic ash from Iceland. In the end my flight left 20 mins early and the plane was even backing away from the gate well before everyone had taken their seats in a mad dash to get to Berlin before airspace got closed.

IMG_0603-300x224 Duran Duran Mega Shoot - Berlin - Almost!
The first of the cameras arrive.

My self and Den Lennie (of F-Stop Academy) in the advanced party got into Berlin OK and spent Tuesday collecting some of the rented and borrowed kit and getting it in to the venue.
However by the Wednesday morning the whole shoot was turning into a serious challenge as Berlin airport was closed by the Ash cloud from the Iceland volcano just as key members of the crew including Gavin the director and James the producer were due to fly in. They ended up going to Dusseldorf and getting the train up to Berlin. In addition some of our rented kit was delayed as well as the stage and rigging crew, so everyone was running behind, frantically trying to source more kit locally. We have to say a BIG thank you to FGV Schmidle in Berlin who went out of their way to help us out.

 

IMG_0606-223x300 Duran Duran Mega Shoot - Berlin - Almost!
5 of the 6 PMW-F3's awaiting setup.

We had 6 F3’s, 2 FS100’s the SRW9000PL and an EX3. The EX3 was going to be used on the back of a Canon HJ21x7.5 Cinestyle lens with a 2x extender from the back of the venue to get some close up shots that we just could not get with any of the PL mount lenses we had on the 35mm sensor cameras. Long, fast 35mm lenses are few and far between.

 

To get the look that we wanted the cameras were all set up with custom picture profiles. I designed a picture profile for the F3’s that would give maximum latitude to help handle the high contrast range that the concert lightning would bring as well as de-saturating the image to prevent the coloured lights from clipping and thus give more scope for grading and post work. Detail correction was set up to give a small amount of very fine detail boost to keep the images crisp without looking like video.

IMG_0609-300x224 Duran Duran Mega Shoot - Berlin - Almost!
Optimo 24-290 Zoom Lens on F3

 

 

Two of the Sony PMW-F3’s were kitted out with Angenieux Optimo 24-290 T2.8 lenses and Pre-Production Zacuto EVF’s. What a gorgeous lens, the EVF’s aren’t bad either! Hopefully I’ll get more time to play with both of these in the future and a review of the EVF’s should come soon. The Optimo’s allowed us to get beautiful mid and close up shots from the venue sides with nice bokeh and super shallow DoF. At the rear of the venue as well as the EX3 we had an F3 with an Angenieux Optimo 15-40 on a track to shoot wide shots of the stage through the crowds. The remaining F3’s were to be used with Nikon DSLR lenses in the 75 to 300mm range via MTF adapters (thanks Mike) and a prototype Adaptimax adapter (Thanks Steve). The other F3’s were going to go on tracks at the front of the stage or on the stage wings to pick off close ups of instruments and band members. We also had a pair of Sony MC1P mini-cams but we could not rig these until the stage crew arrived and we weren’t expecting them until early on Thursday morning, the day of the shoot. The FS100’s would be on stage, hand held and on tracks using prototype Birger mounts and Canon L series lenses.

Then the bombshell dropped. The event was postponed. The lead singer Simon LeBon has been suffering from Laryngitis and he still wasn’t well enough to sing. So the remainder of the evening was spent packing all the kit away and rebooking flights and schedules. The concert will now be held on the 8th of June, again in Berlin. I’m going to be flying back to London from Cinegear and a 3D event at Samy’s cameras on the 6th, passing through London ( 3 hours between flights) on the 7th where I will pick up my F3 kit and then travel on the Berlin, where we will once again try to complete the shoot. Photo’s and more gear porn to follow.

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Sony FS-100 Super 35mm NXCAM Camcorder Announced.

fs100-4-1024x455 Sony FS-100 Super 35mm NXCAM Camcorder Announced.
Sony FS100 fitted with PL mount lens.

Well the rumours have been circulating for some time and prototypes have been seen at various trade shows, but the full details have been sparse to say the least. Well here it is, it’s called the FS-100 and it’s a quite radical design from the Sony Shinegawa factory. The Super 35mm NXCAM shares the same sensor as the new PMW-F3, so the images will be excellent, but the design of the camera body itself could not be more different. If you don’t like it…  well you can blame me and several other DoP’s that were invited to attend brainstorming sessions with the Sony engineers. In the photo below you can see the white board from one of those sessions and you can see where we (me and the other DoP’s) discussed ideas like a modular design with removable handles and how we hold handycam cameras.Whiteboard-2 Sony FS-100 Super 35mm NXCAM Camcorder Announced.

The end result is this rather quirky but in my opinion, really quite clever and versatile design. The top viewfinder allows you to use the camera cradled in your hands in front of you, either using just the LCD panel or the monocular viewfinder. When your doing interviews you can twist it so that it is visible from either side of the camera, excellent for those interviews where you are both camera operator and interviewer. It allows you to alternate the sight lines from left to right of the camera for more varied interviews. It’s also useful for shooting in cramped locations such as in the front of a car as you can hold the camera sideways in front of you to shoot… I mean film…. the driver and still see what your getting.

fs-100-top-210x300 Sony FS-100 Super 35mm NXCAM Camcorder Announced.
Top view of FS100 body

Unlike most traditional camcorders the camera can be stripped down to just the sensor/recorder body. You can remove the top handle, mic holder and hand grip. In addition it has a multitude of tripod mounting holes on the top, bottom and even one side. On the base of the camera there are 6x 1/4″ threaded holes and wait for it… 2x 3/8″ holes. Hooray!! On the top there are a further 3x 1/4″ holes and there is even one on the side, revealed when you detach the removable hand grip. This is going to be fantastic for use on cars as a 35mm minicam or crash-cam. It will make getting all those different car chase angles so easy as a few small suction mounts will allow you to mount the stripped down camera just about anywhere. I can see the FS-100 becoming a “must-have” B camera to compliment my F3. The 1/4″ thread on the side of the camera means you can mount it on it’s side for portrait style shooting for digital signage or to get the maximum resolution when shooting people for chroma key.

While the camera does come with a detachable handgrip, there is no zoom rocker like the F3. That’s because the camera is primarily aimed at those using DSLR lenses which don’t have servo zooms, although PL mount adapters are available. The front end of the camera has Sony’s E mount for interchangeable lenses. It will come with the rather nice (if a little slow) 18-200mm f3.5-f6.3 optically stabilised zoom lens and the auto focus and auto iris do work! As well as Sony’s own G series lenses for the NEX cameras you can get adapters for Sony A mount and most other lenses. Do consider that if you are planning on using heavy PL lenses that the E mount is not designed for such high loads, so an additional lens support system should be used.

fs-100-rear-300x210 Sony FS-100 Super 35mm NXCAM Camcorder Announced.
Rear view Fs100

On the input and output front the FS-100 has most of the connectors you would expect to find on an NXCAM camcorder, with one notable exception… HDSDi. There is no HDSDi, but don’t panic! The camera does have HDMI and the quality available from HDMI is every bit as good as HDSDi. No word as to whether it’s 8 bit or 10 bit though. Sony are well aware that the one thing missing from HDMI is normally timecode, but even that has been addressed and it will be possible to export timecode in the HDMI stream, although at the moment we need to wait for the HDMI recorders to update them to accept timecode via HDMI. There are 2 XLR connectors for audio in. One on the right side and one on the rear, there is also the usual mini-D component out and RCA/Phono audio and composite video outputs.

fs100-1-300x210 Sony FS-100 Super 35mm NXCAM Camcorder Announced.
Sony FS100 35mm NXCAM

When you start to delve into the cameras frame rates and recording modes things get really interesting as the FS100 will record full 1920×1080 at 60P and 50P. Even the F3 can’t do this internally (you can output 50/60P to an external recorder). As well as all the usual frame rates like 23.98, 60/50i, 30/25P you can also shoot full resolution slo-mo at up to 60fps using S&Q motion. It’s not quite as flexible as the F3 as you will find that you only have a choice of frame rates (for example 1,2,3,6,12,25,50fps) and won’t have the ability to dial in any frame rate you want, but all frame rates will be full 1920×1080. As with the other NXCAM camcorders all these lovely modes will be recorded on to SD cards or Memory Sticks using the AVC HD codec (mpeg 4), in addition you can add the Sony FMU128 (128Gb Flash Memory Unit) for dual recording giving peace of mind with one off events.

Once your footage is on your cards the cleverness of this camera continues as you don’t need a laptop to backup your data. Simply plug in a USB drive or even a Blu-ray burner), direct to the cameras USB port and you can backup direct from the camera to the drive. Your footage will contain GPS data about when and where you shot it, which for me will be a great bonus with my severe weather footage as I can never remember exactly where I was during a storm chase!

All in all this is looking like one hell of a camcorder. The street price is estimated to be below $6000 USD, so you do have to ask the question.. why buy an F3 when this is half the price? In my view they are two quite different cameras for different applications. The F3 has the ability to output full 10 bit 4:4:4 for extremely high quality recording possibilities. It also has built in ND filters and will have S-Log and 3D dual camera control. For multi-camera shoots the F3 has Genlock and timecode in/out. There will also be some nice servo zooms for the F3 some time later this year or early next year. The F3 is a camera that would not at all be out of place as a B camera on a big budget production. The FS-100 will I’m sure also find a place on big budget productions, perhaps as a crash-cam or mini cam. But overall I think it will be most at home on more run and gun style shoots where auto iris and maybe even autofocus are beneficial. I really do think that the FS100 will replace many of the DSLR’s out there currently being used for video as a lot of thought has gone in to the ergonomics.

These are very interesting times. It’s now possible to shoot a movie, with quality good enough for mainstream theatrical release on cameras costing little more than a high end home video camcorder of just a few years ago. I doubt most cinema goers would realise that a camera like the F3 or FS100 was used, especially if it’s recorded to a NanoFlash, KiPro or even the new Convergent Design Gemini. However we must not forget that content is king, not the technology that makes it possible.

Interbee 2010. Sony F3, Sony 35mm NXCAM and Hurricane Rig.

Hi all. This is a quick day one report from Interbee in Tokyo. Sony today revealed the often rumoured “other” 35mm camera to feature in their product line up that will be sold along side the already announced PMW-F3 (more on that later). This new camera from Sony’s Shinagawa factory, which at the moment has no name or product number is part of the NXCAM product line, so it will almost certainly record Sony’s version of AVCHD to SD cards and memory sticks. The camera is of a fully modular design with a 35mm sensor housed in a square sensor module that has a flip out LCD panel on the left side. There are separate hand grip and microphone modules so you can put the camera together in a configuration to suit your needs. In the rear of the camera module there is a very large recess which looks too big to be just a battery compartment to me. Perhaps there will be a removable media storage device in this area. The lens mount appears to be the same mount as used on Sony’s NEX range of cameras. The prototype was in a plastic tiffany case so no chance of a real close look.

sony-35mm-1-300x224 Interbee 2010. Sony F3, Sony 35mm NXCAM and Hurricane Rig.
Sony Low Cost 35mm Camera at Interbee
sony-35mm-3-300x224 Interbee 2010. Sony F3, Sony 35mm NXCAM and Hurricane Rig.
The business end of the 35mm NXCAM

This new camera will be a direct competitor to the Panasonic AF100/AF101 which is being well received by those that have had a chance to play with one. It’s obviously a slightly different approach to the Panasonic with it’s modular design so it will be interesting to see how it performs in the real world. I have no details about the sensor being used, but my guess would be that it is an adapted DSLR/NEX sensor with a new optical low pass filter tailored to video as opposed to stills. One thing to note is that like the Panasonic it appears that this camera will be able to shoot 1920x1080P at up to 60fps.

PMW-F3… So we saw this getting announced a week ago and many details have already been given. I pressed the engineers for more information about the sensor, but they are keeping very tight lipped. All they would say is that it has been developed specifically for this camera and as a result has some very big pixels which is why the sensitivity is so high and the gain so low.

PMW-F3-11-300x224 Interbee 2010. Sony F3, Sony 35mm NXCAM and Hurricane Rig.
PMW-F3 at Interbee

The native sensitivity (0db gain) is ISO 800 with normal gammas and hypergammas and ISO 1600 when using S-log, that’s pretty impressive. There are two PMW-F3?s on display here at Interbee along with a set of the new PL mount lenses that will be available with the cameras. The PL mount lenses are very impressive to look at, they look like big Ziess primes with chunky lens barrels and big fat control rings. The three lenses all look the same, only the writing on the side tells you which is which. There are 35mm, 50mm and 85mm lenses in the kit and the F3 with any one of these on the front certainly looks the part. The camera body is about the same length as an EX3 body, but is quite wide and overall the camera looks a fair bit bigger than an EX3, but it doesn’t weigh much more. The biggest surprise with the PL mount lenses is the weight. These are not heavy lenses, in fact they are really light. There is a lot of plastic used in their construction. I have mixed views on this. The lightness of the lens helps prevent the F3 from being front heavy, so you can use it handheld without it trying to tip forwards under the weight of the lens. On the other hand when you pick up a Zeiss prime it feels like a high quality piece of kit and these new low cost PL’s just don’t have that feel.

F3-85mm-300x224 Interbee 2010. Sony F3, Sony 35mm NXCAM and Hurricane Rig.
Low Cost 85mm PL mount lens.

Of course you do have to consider that there is  a huge price difference between a Zeiss PL prime and these lenses, so it’s not fair to expect them to be the same and a heavy Zeisss (or Cooke) lens on the front of the F3 would make it all but impossible to use handheld. While looking at the front end of the camera I had a good look at the lens adaptor. The F3 has it’s own proprietary lens mount, the F3 mount. In front of this, as standard, is fitted an F3 to PL mount adapter. The adapter is easily removed and is about 25 to 30 mm deep. This means that the flange back from the F3 mount to the sensor is short enough for adaptors for Nikon and Canon DSLR lenses to be used. As yet no one has such adapters but I image there will be a race to produce them as soon as the camera hits the streets.

Of course you can have all the bells and whistles in the world on a camera, but the important thing is the image quality. On the Sony booth they had a mixture of pre recorded footage plus the two demo cameras that are connected to nice big HD monitors for you to see the results first hand. Once again the images have amazed me. There is simply no obvious noise visible in the footage. Shoot with the standard gammas or hypergammas and the noise figure is 63db. Take my word for it…. you can’t see the grain in the pictures. Colours are beautiful and well balanced, the images of autumn (fall) leaves that Sony have shot look incredible as do the live pictures on the camera stand. In addition the images have a very nice organic look showing very high resolution but without any obvious edge enhancement or electronic artefacts.

PMW-F3-2-300x224 Interbee 2010. Sony F3, Sony 35mm NXCAM and Hurricane Rig.
PMW-F3 on the camera set.

I think that once again we are seeing a game changing camera in the Sony XDCAM EX stable. While I am quite sure that the Panasonic AF100 (AF101) will do very well as it appears to be a very competent camera the F3 takes you up to another level. This is a true movie making tool at a price that is very attractive. I can see many programmes that would have traditionally been shot with HDCAM or DVCPRO-HD being shot with one of these. It is a great shame that the internal recording is only 4:2:0, 35Mb/s, while a good codec capable of great things, it just isn’t going to do justice to the beautiful images this camera produces. 50Mb/s 4:2:2 would have been sooo much better. Then this camera would probably have been accepted for broadcast production straight out of the box, but as it stands your really going to want to record on to something else like a NanoFlash or KiPro. Another entrant in the small recorder arena that may be suitable is the new and much talked about “Ninja” ProRes recorder.

Atamos-Ninja-300x224 Interbee 2010. Sony F3, Sony 35mm NXCAM and Hurricane Rig.
Atamos Ninja ProRes recorder.

Still only in it’s prototype stage, although production promised soon, this small device acts as both a monitor and ProRes recorder. It comes with an empty caddy to take a 2.5? laptop type SATA drive. This could be a really cheap hard drive or a more expensive SSD. Frankly I would not want to trust valuable rushes to a hard drive, so for me the only option would be the SSD. It looks like a very attractive device especially when you consider the $1000 USD price tag. We shall see. Having experienced getting stuff from design through to production the one thing I’ve learnt is that it’s very hard to go from the drawing board to full scale production and even harder to meet your target price point.

rig-interbee-300x224 Interbee 2010. Sony F3, Sony 35mm NXCAM and Hurricane Rig.
Atamos Ninja ProRes recorder.

Talking of which, for the first time we are showing the Genus Hurricane Rig on the Manfrotto stand. The Hurricane Rig is my light weight, easy to use, low cost 3D rig. I have been working frantically with Genus to get the rig into production over the last few months (hence the lack of posts) and we are very close now. In fact we have started a run of 15 rigs which will be going out to customers early next month. Manfrotto will be distributing the rig around the world. The price has crept up a bit and is now $7995 USD. But for that we are now including a fold flat mirror box which makes the rig incredibly easy to pack up and take on your travels. Also being shown here is the new optional lower stiffener and tripod mount that tilts the tripod head forwards through 30 degrees so that the front heavy nature of the rig can be offset against the counterbalance springs in the tripod head. There are several other small changes to the rig including a new stiffer mirror tray, stronger mirror frame with mirror locks and improved left camera pivot.

fold-flat-mirror-box-300x224 Interbee 2010. Sony F3, Sony 35mm NXCAM and Hurricane Rig.
Fold Flat Mirror Box

So lots to see here at Interbee. Tomorrow I will be getting some hands on time with the F3 and doing a video report. I have my SxS cards ready to try to shoot some footage with it and share it here with you all, so please check back soon. These are exciting times. Once I finish writing this I’m placing an order for an F3. I can’t wait to really start putting it through it’s paces and playing with the different picture profiles and scene files. I have a big shoot in Norway at the end of Jan and I’d love to try and get an F3 for that, but they might not be shipping by then. Later in the year I will buy a second F3 so I can pair them up and use the 3D link function for stereoscopic production.

More to follow tomorrow………

Micro 4/3, Super 35, DSLR and the impact on traditional Pro Camcorders.

Micro 4/3, Super 35, DSLR and the impact on traditional Pro Camcorders.

I was asked by one of this blogs readers about my thoughts on this. It’s certainly a subject that I have spent a lot of time thinking about. Traditionally broadcast and television professionals have used large and bulky cameras that use 3 sensors arranged around a prism to capture the 3 primary colours. The 3 chip design gives excellent colour reproduction, full resolution images of the very highest quality. It’s not however without it’s problems. First its expensive matching 3 sensors and accurately placing them on a high precision prism made from very exotic glass. That prism also introduces image artefacts that have to be dealt with by careful electronic processing. The lenses that have to work with these thick prisms also require very careful design.
Single sensor colour cameras are not something new. I had a couple of old tube cameras that produced colour pictures from a single tube. Until recently, single chip designs were always regarded as inferior to multi-chip designs. However the rise of digital stills photography forced manufacturers to really improve the technologies used to generate a colour image from a single sensor. Sony’s F35 camera used to shoot movies and high end productions is a single chip design with a special RGB pixel matrix. The most common method used is by a single sensor is a bayer mask which places a colour filter array in front of the individual pixels on the sensor. Bayer sensors now rival 3 chip designs in most respects. There is still some leakage of colours between adjacent pixels and the colour separation is not as precise as with a prism, but in most applications these issues are extremely hard to spot and the stills pictures coming from DSLR’s speak for themselves.
A couple of years ago Canon really shook things up by adding video capabilities to some of their DSLR’s. Even now (at the time of writing at least) these are far from perfect as they are at the end of the day high resolution stills cameras so there are some serious compromises to the way video is done. But the Canons do show what can be done with a low cost single chip camera using interchangeable lenses. The shallow depth of field offered by the large near 35mm size sensors (video cams are normally 2/3?, 1/2? or smaller) can be very pleasing and the lack of a prism makes it easier to use a wide range of lenses. So far I have not seen a DSLR or other stills camera with video that I would swap for a current pro 3 chip camera, but I can see the appeal and the possible benefits. Indeed I have used a Canon DSLR on a couple of shoots as a B camera to get very shallow DoF footage.
Sony’s new NEX-VG10 consumer camcorder was launched a couple of weeks ago. It has the shape and ergonomics of a camcorder but with the sensor and lenses of a 4/3? stills camera. I liked it a lot, but there is no zoom rocker and for day to day pro use it’s not what I’m looking for. Panasonic and Sony both have professional large sensor cameras in the pipelines and it’s these that could really shake things up.
While shallow DoF is often desirable in narrative work, for TV news and fast action its not so desirable. When you are shooting the unexpected or something thats moving about a lot you need to have some leeway in focus. So for many applications a big sensor is not suitable. I dread to think what TV news would look like if it was all shot with DSLR’s!
Having said that a good video camera using a big sensor would be a nice piece of kit to have for those projects where controlling the DoF is beneficial.
What I am hoping is that someone will be clever enough to bring out a camera with a 35mm (or thereabouts) sized sensor that has enough resolution to allow it to be used with DSLR (or 4/3) stills camera lenses but also be windowed down and provided with an adapter to take 2/3? broadcast lenses without adding a focal length increase. This means that the sensor needs to be around 8 to 10 Mega Pixels so that when windowed down use just the center 2/3? and it still has around 3 million active pixels to give 1920×1080 resolution (you need more pixels than resolution with a bayer mask). This creates a problem though when you use the full sensor as the readout of the sensor will have to be very clever to avoid the aliasing issues that plague the current DSLR’s as you will have too much resolution when you use the full sensor. Maybe it will come with lens adapters that will have to incorporate optical low pass filters to give the correct response for each type of lens.
A camera like this would, if designed right dramatically change the industry. It would have a considerable impact on the sales of traditional pro video cameras as one camera could be used for everything from movie production to TV news. By using a single sensor (possibly a DSLR sensor) the cost of the camera should be lower than a 3 chip design. If it has a 10 MP sensor then it could also be made 3D capable through the use of a 3D lens like the 4/3? ones announced by Panasonic. These are exciting time we live in. I think the revolution is just around the corner. Having said all of this, I think it’s also fair to point out while you and I are clearly interested in the cutting edge (or bleeding edge) there are an awful lot of producers and production companies that are not, preferring traditional, tried and tested methods. It takes them years to change and adapt, just look at how long tape is hanging on! So the days of the full size 2/3? camera are not over yet, but those of us that like to ride the latest technology wave have great things to look forward to.

Sony NEX-VG10 APS-C Camcorder Launched, available September.

NEX-VG10-300x210 Sony NEX-VG10 APS-C Camcorder Launched, available September.
Sony NEX-VG10 APS-C Camcorder

UPDATE: I had a play with one today. It’s actually really good, although it’s very strange holding a small video camera that doesn’t have a zoom control.  Click the link: nex-clips to download raw NEX-VG10 (MTS) clips straight from the camera. See end of post for brief hands on info.

So, Sony have launched a new APS-C camcorder. The NEX-VG10 comes from the consumer side of Sony and is based on the APS-C sensor used in the new NEX-5 and NEX-3 Sony Alpha stills cameras launched a few months ago. Compared to a full frame 35mm sensor APS-C is about 1.5x smaller, but still significantly larger than the sensors found in the majority of video cameras. It is designed as a video camera with a familiar video camera look and shape to it. There is a fold out 3? LCD screen on the left side and video style viewfinder at the rear. It records full 1920×1080 HD video using AVCHD at 24Mb/s so it should look pretty good. It also takes still images at “near DSLR quality” thanks to the high resolution 14.2 megapixel sensor. In some respects this is a little disappointing as it means that the sensor will not have an optical low pass filter tailored for video. Without this, in the past, it has meant that the video produced by stills cameras tend to suffer from aliasing and other image degrading effects caused by trying to cram too much resolution into a 1920×1080 video frame or by the sub sampling of the sensor. Lets hope the Sony engineers have done a good processing job getting the footage off the sensor down to HD video. It records 25P (Pal version) or 30P (US version) recoded in an interlace stream to give maximum compatibility. You can use a variety of recording media including Memory Sticks and SD/SDHC cards. On the handle there is a rather strange looking array of 4 microphones in a shock and vibration isolating mount for recording  surround sound audio. In addition there is a 3.5mm socket for an external microphone as well as a 3.5mm headphone socket. The camcorder is supplied with a 18 to 200mm optically stabilised f3.5-f5.6 zoom lens that attaches using Sony’s E mount system. This has a very short back focus distance and it will be easy to convert this to take a wide range of other mounts such as Canon via already available low cost adapter rings. Sony will be making  an E mount to Alpha A mount for Alpha (and Minolta?) lenses. The supplied lens is a bit disappointing as really for those super shallow DoF shots you want a fast lens and f3.5 is not what I would call fast, but it does offer a useful 11x zoom range. Autofocus can operate while your shooting if you need it.

NEX-VG10_5-300x272 Sony NEX-VG10 APS-C Camcorder Launched, available September.
Sony NEX-VG10 with LCD open

With a US street price of around $2000USD it represents good value for money, provided it performs. Video that I have seen from the NEX5 cameras looks very good but I have not seen what the aliasing performance is like, after all this is again a sensor optimised for high resolution stills and not video. It’s also important to note that this is not the camera that Sony showed at NAB, so who knows when we may or may not see that. The NEX-VG10 is an interesting looking camera and it surprisingly looks like it will beat the Panasonic AG-AF100 to market as the first low cost 35mm (ish) sensor camcorder. The big question is what will the pictures be like?

HANDS ON: I managed to get a brief play with one today. First off it’s very small and light, but with the supplied lens makes it quite front heavy. The LCD is clear and easy to see, however I did find focusing tricky with the LCD but I did not have time to see if there was any kind of focus assist system or peaking control. With the supplied lens you turn the forward ring to zoom and rear ring to focus. It was quite stiff turning the zoom ring and very difficult to do in shot zooms as you tend to twist the whole camera as you rotate the zoom ring. As well as the focus ring on the lens there is a dial behind the LCD screen that controls many functions including menu navigation, but this is also marked as a focus control. It was very strange holding a camcorder but not having any kind of zoom control. The menu system is quite logically laid out and easy to find your way around. I did shoot some clips with it and could see no signs of any aliasing which is very promising indeed. As expected it had pleasing shallow DoF but the low light performance was disappointing as it didn’t seem to perform as well as I had hoped. In some respects this may be an advantage as it helps get a shallow DoF. It also has to be remembered that the stock lens is only f3.5 compared to the f1.9 of a EX camcorder, so overall low light performance may not be as bad as it appeared. The pictures look very promising, it’s not a particularly expensive camcorder and for video, ergonomically it’s much better than a DSLR. I’m sure this will be popular with those that are seeking the filmic look.

Sony To Launch 35mm compact camcorder


Well one of the big NAB announcements was the intention by Sony to release a compact 35mm equipped camera. A prototype unit was briefly shown at the press event but little details were given. I’ve been trying to find out more but Sony are being very tight lipped. It was announced that it will be available prior to next NAB, so that means that there is likely to be some other launch event in, at my guess 6 to 8 months time, of course there may be more news before then. Last year Sony announced the PMW-350 at Satis which this year is October 19th/20th, so I would expect more news by then. What I would say is that the prototype appears to be more than just a simple mock up as it shows some new switch and control designs that I’ve not seen on a Sony camera before. It has also been stated that this new unit is just part of Sony’s 35mm road map so perhaps there will be more than one new camera. As for pricing, well all that Sony will say is “affordable”. My guess is it will be in the XDCAM EX1 price area depending on lens options. If it uses DSLR lenses and can be purchased without a lens, my guess is that it would be cheaper than an EX but more expensive than a Canon 5DMk2, my guess would be £4k.

So what features can we expect to get? The sensor should have large pixels so it should be good in low light and offer high dynamic range. As it has a 35mm sensor I expect it will shoot 24P, 25P, 30P plus I would hope over-cranking at up to 60fps. It would be really nice if it did 1080P60. It should have decent audio controls and it’s going to need a really, really good viewfinder. I would imagine that you will have a number of different lens options via some form of adapter, possibly being supplied with a Sony Alpha lens mount. The prototype was shown with a PL mount lens and very few users will be able to afford to use them, so there will have to be a lower cost option.

These are exciting times. In the next 12 months we will see a huge change in the tools available for video production. The new 35mm and 4/3? cameras from Sony, Panasonic and Canon will change the way TV is made forever. They won’t be ideal for some applications such as news or run and gun, where you don’t want the focus problems that a big sensor will bring, but for drama, documentary and low budget movies I think we will see a dramayic change in the way things are done.