I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a pre production Sony NEX-FS700 for an evening and of course the one thing I had to check out was the super slow motion function. So my good friend Den Lennie let me shoot from his balcony overlooking the Belagio fountains in Las Vegas. The video speaks for itself really. The slow motion function is incredibly easy to use and I was surprise how well it performed shooting at night at 240 frames per second (1/240th shutter). There are lots of other nice features on the FS700 which I’ll write more about in a later post.
I’m a long time Vinten user. My first true, pro tripod was a Vinten 5 with alloy legs that I purchased in 1989 (I think). 22 years on I still have that tripod and it is still perfectly useable. Since then I’ve been the very happy owner of a fabulous set of Vinten FibreTec legs (still have them, still love them) and a new model Vinten Vision 5AS. All of these have been excellent, reliable and virtually indestructible. I’ve taken them up into the Arctic where it’s been -36c. I’ve taken them to the Arizona desert, into Hurricanes, Sand Storms and all kinds of extreme weather. I’ve even used them stood waist deep in the sea (not really recommended). Anyway, I’m waffling… When I needed a bigger tripod to support my Hurricane 3D rig I obtained a Vinten Vision 100.
The Vision 100 is not a new model, but it has a reputation for being able to take a quite remarkable payload for it’s size. You see the Vision 100 head is not much bigger or heavier than my Vinten 5, yet it can take double the payload (20kg). This means that I can still pack it in to my luggage when I’m travelling without getting crippled by high excess baggage charges.
One of the features that has made it particularly useful for 3D is the digital counterbalance readout that tells you exactly where you are within the heads very generous and continuously adjustable counter balance range. When swapping between the 3D rig and a conventional camera I can simply dial in the numbers that I know give me optimum balance and off I go. One minute I can have a 3D rig with a pair of F3 etc, weighing over 15kg, then after a few turns of the counterbalance knob I can mount just a single F3 weighing only 3kg and the tripod works beautifully well with either payload. The continuously adjustable drag adjustments for pan and tilt are easy to set and if you want you can get a lot of drag. I find this very useful when shooting air shows with long lenses as I like to have quite a bit of drag to work against to keep things smooth. The smoothness of this head is lovely with no sudden slips or tight spots, it’s a pleasure to use.
The legs I have been using with the Vision 100 head are the Vinten 3 stage carbon fibre Pozi-Loc legs. Even though these are nice and light, they are remarkably stiff. I also have one of Vinten’s clever Spread Loc mid level spreaders. I first got one of these with my FibreTec legs and I’ve never looked back. You can lock the spreader at almost any spread position with a quick turn of the single locking knob. If you need to get the legs down low there is a little button on each arm of the spreader that allows the arm to extend to up to twice it’s original length. The end result is the ability to get very low, even when using standard legs.
Tripods are pretty boring things really. Not as glamourous as a camera, but an essential piece of kit anyway. Get the right tripod and it will last you many, many years, almost certainly out lasting those glamourous cameras. All the Vintens I have owned have been superb. The Vinten 100 is a solid, well made piece of kit that I don’t even really think about when I’m using it. And that is after all what you want, gear that just gets on with its job.
In preparation for the big Duran Duran shoot in Berlin later in the week I was out with Den Lennie of F-Stop academy along with Duran Duran video producer Gavin Elder and James Tonkin of Hangman Studios testing the Canon 800/1600 f5.6 lens on my F3. This is an adapted DSLR lens fitted with a PL mount. What a lens! The bokeh was simply gorgeous from this lens and I’m really excited about putting it to use in Berlin on Thursday night. Keep tuned for more info on this BIG project shooting with F3’s, FS100’s and SRW9000PL’s. We’re even throwing in a VG10 or 2 for good measure! Nine cameras in total, ultra shallow DoF is the goal, gonna be hard to do, but it should look awesome.
Here is a set of 3 clips in the native formats taken with a Sony VG10, Canon t2i (550D) and sony F3.
CLICK HERE for the zip file containing the native fies (canon .mov, sony .mts and Sony BPAV folder) or click here to watch on vimeo. If you are going to watch on vimeo I would strongly urge you to take a look at the full size frame grabs below before coming to any conclusions.
I used the same Nikon 50mm f1.8 lens on all 3 cameras (MTF F3 adapter, cheap E-Mount adapter and cheap Nikon to Canon adapter). I had the lens at f8-f11 for all three cameras and used the shutter to control exposure or in the case of the F3 the ND filters. All were set to preset white, 5600k, the sky was visually white with flat hazy cloud. The VG10 was at factory default, the t2i was default except for Highlight Tone Priority which was ON and the F3 default with the exception of Cinegamma 1 being chosen.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE Don’t link directly to the download file, instead link to this page. Feel free to host the clips, just remember they are my copyright so include a link back here or a note in any text of where they originated.
PLEASE make a donation of whatever amount you feel appropriate if you find these clips helpful, to help cover my hosting fees if you choose to take advantage of these otherwise free clips. It’s a 340Mb download. As of May 9th, 122 people have downloaded the clips, that’s 41Gb of web bandwidth, yet not one person has made a donation. Come on guys and gals, if you want me to make clips available to download, help me out.
Here is a roughly done (sorry) comparison of the aliasing from an EX1R at the bottom and my F3 at the top. The F3 had a Nikon 18-135mm zoom, both cameras were set to default settings, 25P. The F3 clearly shows a lot more chroma aliasing appearing as coloured moire rings in both the horizontal, vertical and diagonal axis. The EX1R is not alias free. The chroma aliasing from the F3 is not entirely unexpected as it has a bayer sensor and there is always a trade off between luma resolution and chroma resolution and the point where you set the optical low pass filter. Frankly I find this performance a little disappointing. More real world test are needed to see how much of a problem this is (or is not). To put it in to some perspective the F35 aliases pretty badly too, but that camera is well known for producing beautiful images. I hope I’m being over critical of this particular aspect of the F3’s performance, because in every other respect I think the camera is fantastic.
UPDATE: I’ve taken a look at the MTF curves for the F3 and they are quite revealing showing that an OLPF is in use which is giving an MTF50 of around 800 LW/PH V and 950 LW/PH H. This is not quite as high as an EX1 and are quite reasonable figures for a 1920×1080 camcorder. This suggests that the aliasing is largely limited to the chroma sampling of the sensor. As this is a bayer (or similar) type sensor the chroma is sampled at a reduced rate compare to luma, which is why coloured moire is not entirely unusual.
Tests performed with a Tokina ATX-Pro 28-70mm lens at 25P
Clearly these will never be as good as, or as accurate as properly produced charts. Most home printers just don’t have the ability to produce true blacks with razor sharp edges and the paper you use is unlikely to be optimum. But, the link below takes you to a nice collection of zone plates and resolution charts that are useful for A/B comparisons. I split them up into quarters and then print each quarter on a sheet of A4 paper, joining them all back together to produce a nice large chart. http://www.bealecorner.org/red/test-patterns/
I’ve spend a couple of days putting a PMW-320 through it’s paces. The 320 is the latest addition to the XDCAM EX line up. It’s very much like the PMW-350 which I reviewed in depth last year, the principle difference is the sensor size. The PMW-350 is 2/3? while the PMW-320 is 1/2?. The camera can be purchased with or without a lens, the supplied lens is a Fujinon 16×5.8mm HD lens that has both autofocus and manual focus. The lens mount is Sony’s standard 1/2? hot shoe bayonet, so owners of DSR300? or PDW-350?s etc can use their lenses directly on the PMW-320. As with the 350 the lens that comes with the 320 is pretty good. Nice and sharp and with a good feel to it considering the cost. It does however suffer from flare under harsh lighting and this can soften the picture a little. A good lens shade or matte box with flags would really help this lens.
Externally the 320 and 350 are almost identical. The give aways are the rubber strip under the handle, EXMOR badge on the side and lens mount ring are dark blue on the 320, black on the 350. Off the shelf the stock PMW-320 actually has more features than the 350. SD is included as standard and it can output to both HDSDi and HDMI at the same time. Buttons and switches are the same on both camera as is the excellent high resolution colour viewfinder. On switching on and looking through the menus they appear to be the same as the 350, no there surprise really, so just like the 350 instead of the pictureprofiles and Cinegammas found on the EX1R and EX3 we have Scene Files and Hypergammas more like a PDW-700 or other high end Sony cameras. Talking of the EX1R and EX3, there has been a little confusion over the sensors used in the 320. At first I got the impression that the 320 used new sensors, but I was told at NAB that was not the case and the 320 has the same sensors as the EX1R/EX3. So I was somewhat surprised when I started looking at the images from the 320 to see less noise and a different looking picture.
On the PMW-320 there is a wider range of camera adjustments compared to an EX1R. For example as well as detail settings there is also a section for adjusting the Aperture correction which can also sharpen and soften the look of the camera by boosting high frequencies. Out of the box I didn’t think the 320 was quite as sharp as my EX3. But after a few minutes on the bench and with a few tweaks to the detail and aperture settings the camera was looking very good indeed (detail -8, aperture +20). While not a quiet as the PMW-350 the 320 does appear to have less noise than an EX1 or EX3. It’s not a big difference, but every little helps. My guess there is additional signal processing going on to reduce the noise.
The use of scene files for the PMW-320 and PictureProfiles on the EX1 does make it harder to match the cameras if your using non-standard settings. It can be done, but it takes a little more work.
The power consumption of the 320 is, once again remarkably low. I was powering it with a 95Wh battery and it lasted most of the day. There are no fans to make noise and it’s very light yet well balanced. The big question on my mind when I heard about it was, why buy a 320 when you can get an EX3 for a lot less or a PMW-350 which has amazing image quality for another £2k to £3k. Well obviously the form factor is very different from an EX3. The 320 is a full shoulder mount camera, complete with slot for a radio mic that runs on V-Lock batteries. The EX3 is a semi-shoulder handy-cam running on small batteries. Both will take 1/2? interchangeable lenses, so no great difference there. But as well as the form factor, which can be very important, the PMW-320 also adds SD recording and HDMI output. There is also the small improvement in image quality to consider. I like the 320, not as much as I like the PMW-350, but it is a fair bit cheaper so could prove to be very attractive for those on a tight budget that want the shoulder mount form factor as well as those that may already have nice 1/2? lenses on their PDW-350?s or 355?s.
Click on the images below to see the full frame images. The small noise improvement is difficult to see in a frame grab. It’s more noticeable in a video clip.
UPDATE: You can download some frame grabs from the shoot-out by clicking here.
I just spent the day shooting the same scene with 6 different file based cameras. I am working with Visual Imapact to produce a series of DVD’s containing sample clips in their native format and file structure from a range of cameras. On the set today I had the following cameras: Sony PDW-700, Sony PMW-350, Sony EX3, Panasonic HPX3700, Panasonic HPX301 and a Panasonic HVX200. We also recorded the output from the PMW-350 on a NanoFlash and this footage will also be available within the DVD set. The idea is to provide people with a way to directly compare the image quality and workflow of all these cameras, in effect, side-by side.
In order to keep things fair each camera was set to it’s factory defaults. Now I know that with careful tweaking all the camera are capable of better pictures, but it was decided the fairest test was to present them in their default settings.
The scene used in the shoot comprised of a colorful Lego train on a small circle of track, some crumpled foil to give bright specular highlights, a chamois leather for natural texture along with a couple of rose blooms. A metal bodied torch and paint brush finished off the still life. In the background there is a sharpness chart and a color chart. All this was then placed on a chroma key green fabric covered table with a chroma key blue back drop.
The scene was shot at 3 different frame sizes in 1080P25, 1080i50 and where available 720P50 and SD. The scene was shot at 0db gain and also at +6db gain. It was exposed using a 50% grey card measured with a Hamlet Microflex scope to ensure matching exposures. A slate was used at the beginning of each shot to identify the camera, the frame rate, aperture and recording mode. The Panasonic P2 cameras were used in both AVC-I modes and DVCPROHD modes. All the 2/3? cameras used the same Canon HJ14x4.3 lens but I did in addition use the kit lens on the PMW-350 for comparison as well as an SD lens on the PDW-700. The HPX301 and EX3 used their standard lenses.
I’ll be spending the next couple of days checking the footage and compiling the DVD’s, but hope to have the full set of disks available for purchase very soon.
I’m doing a multi camera shoot out at Visual Impact tomorrow in order to put together a DVD of native clips from many of the currently available HD cameras. So far we have the following cameras lined up for the test:
PDW-700, PMW-350, EX3, HPX-301 and HPX3700. Hopefully we will be able to include some JVC’s cameras in a future session. The idea is to compile a DVD of raw footage from all of these cameras under identical lighting situations to enable potential buyers to see for themselves the differences (or not) between the cameras and workflows. It is not going to be a “which is best” review or comparison as all the cameras have strengths and weaknesses. I’ll post details of how to get a copy of the DVD in due course.
Camera setup, reviews, tutorials and information for pro camcorder users from Alister Chapman.