F3 Final thoughts…”A definite winner from day one”

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Sony invited me to London to get a hands on with the PMW-F3, no holes barred, I stuck my SxS card into slot one and Mr Bloom recorded me doing a piece to camera.

The frame grab below is from the SxS card and as you would expect it’s not a million miles away from the quality seen from any 35Mbs SxS footage, this proves that filming in SxS mode you are producing nothing better than an EX1R/EX3 can produce but with less noise and the shallow depth of field.

My main concern is the viewfinder, most DPs I know would not be happy with such a basic viewfinder, it’s just not good enough to see critical focus though Philip Bloom used what he called a “push in” where you press a button and it magnifies the picture on the LCD.

Sony did not take a leaf out of RED’s book when producing this camera and it’s viewfinder yet if they had only given us a connector to which we could attach a choice of viewfinders of varying qualities and prices. Sony’s reply would be the camera is made to a budget. My reply is that if you are going to use such a camera even as a “B” camera to an F35 then you must be able to see critical focus.

The EX3 was produced with a splendid viewfinder carried onto the PMW-350 yet a camcorder capable of so much more is compromised due to such a basic need as a decent Hi-Rez viewfinder, fortunately Sony have a fantastically sharp LCD monitor the PVM-740 OLED.

Both Philip Bloom and myself are of the opinion that the F3 would have been far better received if it had 50Mbs, 4:2:2 rather than 35Mbs 4:2:0. Cameramen as a rule do not like add on’s like NanoFlashes if we can avoid them, it’s not the NanoFlash itself but the fear of something going wrong between the camera and the external recording device being used.

When you see this camera beside the F35 and 9000 you can’t quite see the logic in Sony making it so small after all once you put your prime lens on the front you are not going to use it hand held if you can avoid it but I for one see it as a refreshing alternative to a 650 with 35mm adaptor.

The F3 can produce cracking 1080 50p 4:4:4 pictures but again uses the dual link HD SDI sockets and a payed upgrade into an SR Memory recorder, all these options cost a lot more money.

Paul Joy a film maker was taken by the fact that if he owned the F3 he could use it in many guises, corporate one day and ENG the next using the new zoom lens…this lens will not be previewed till April 2011 which means availability not till June 2011. Why ?

Sony must have known this camera was going to have a zoom control why did they not have a working zoom lens available with the launch of the camera, I would be stuck not having a zoom lens for my F3 from day one as most of my work does not involve prime lenses nor do I own any unless you count my Canon “L” glass.

This brings me onto my last topic, prime lenses ! Not everyone is going to use expensive PL mount lenses on their F3 so Sony had better contact Canon and Nikon adaptor manufacturers if they want a bigger audience to sell this camera to.

The F3 looks the business and will be a refreshing alternative within Drama, no more 35mm adaptors and oversized camcorders taking up excessive room, I think DPs will take to this camera like a duck to water and if Creative Video’s pre order for 100 units is anything to go by it’s a definite winner from day one.

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Company Ltd

Talking about camcorder designs

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Having recently attended the Sony F3 launch in London we were treated to an exclusive viewing of a “CONCEPT” NXCAM Super 35mm camcorder which had all the design features of a “NORI BRICK” with a lens stuck on the front.

SONY Please, Please, Please do not continue down this route we already have one “BRIC CAM” from Panasonic affectionately known by one DP as “An ugly duckling with swan like pictures” yes the AF101 has been given the usual square box treatment something we have become used to with Panasonic.

We have 8 months or so before we see the new NX35CAM as I am christening it so lets not get tied down with “let’s make it as small as possible” like a DSLR. NO ! thats not what cameramen want…a top heavy camera on the end of a square box.

I have decided to give the boy’s in Japan a wee hand with the NX35CAM design so I have taken the features from the NXCAM and the F3 and done a splendid  Photoshop job by combining the features of both.

Make it bigger a few DPs I have spoken to have remarked that the F3 would have been better as a shoulder mount design then we could have had viewfinder choices, XLRs on the back and a body that would have coped better with heavier prime PL lenses but then again they did not care to come and ask my opinion.

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Support Children in Need…”Please donate to a good cause”

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You can donate by clicking here…http://www.bbc.co.uk/pudsey/donate/

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SONY F3 Video Press Launch in London

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[xr_video id="f20e1daf98e2435a9c90234af8879b9c" size="md"]

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Sony launch more than the F3 at the London Press launch

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This was the big surprise in London’s Press launch of the new Sony F3 FilmLike camcorder, after the formal presentations talking about the F3 and showing some footage we were invited to a world exclusive, the launch of the Sony NXCAM Super 35mm camcorder at a tentative price of €6000 that’s surprise, surprise £4000.


Sony Professional today announced that it is developing a new type of E-mount 35mm camcorder. Aimed at professional cinematographers utilising a Super-35mm large format CMOS sensor, this new camcorder will become one of the new models in the “NXCAM” line-up. Available early summer of 2011, it targets the expanding entry-level digital cinematography market.

Sony Professional is already a key player in the 35mm digital cinematography market with the highly acclaimed “Cinealta” F35 and SRW-9000PL for high-end digital cinema production. Sony has also just strengthened its line-up in this category with the recent PMW-F3 camera, combining performance and price in a powerful and affordable production tool. With this latest “NXCAM” HD camcorder, Sony looks to further strengthen its position in the entry-level segment. The new model provides an affordable yet highly capable professional solution for many applications, including independent film, pop promotions and corporate communications all looking for a cinematic look to their content.

The “NXCAM” HD camcorder under development will be equipped with a Super-35mm sensor, a widely used stock size in the film industry, perfectly designed for capturing motion pictures. This new sensor will have extraordinary performance in terms of picture quality and sensitivity, and is able to offer depth of field control and flexibility with a wide range of lens options available.

The adoption of the E-mount interchangeable lens system means that it is identical to the “α” series lens system used on the NEX-5, 3 and NEX-VG10, current and future E-mount lenses will be compatible with this new camcorder. In addition, a very short flange back distance (the distance between lens mount surface and sensor surface) allows various A-mount lenses be mounted via a lens adaptor (LA-EA1). Furthermore, it is also possible to attach a range of other lenses using third-party lens adaptors. With such flexibility, users will be able to experiment with various creative expressions by exploiting the characteristics of different optics.
The recording format for this new HD camcorder will be AVCHD, widely supported by many NLE software vendors and the same format as the HXR-NX5E NXCAM camcorder.
There is also a plan to implement 1080p ( 50p / 25p) recording modes.
(MPEG4-AVC/H.264 compression will be used for these modes.)
*2: 59.94p / 29.97p / 23.98p respectively.

I will bring you a full report tomorrow from the London show.

Sony NXCAM HD Teaser Trailer from H. Paul Moon on Vimeo.

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Company Ltd

Sony F3 hands on Press Launch “London 2010″

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Not long to go now and I will be down in London at the press launch of the new Sony F3 Super 35mm camcorder. Sony have released more updated photographs of this camera with their CineAlta badge on the LCD, I hope we are going to play with production models.

Just to let you see a picture of the SRW-1 field recorder that Sony produce for the F35 range of camcorders at the moment, Sony have already told us that they are working on an “S1″ field recorder that will be considerably smaller in size to the SRW-1. Sony may give me more information on Wednesday about the “S1″ and I hope to quiz them about various anxieties DPs have over the F3 including..

“At this price point using Super 35mm why did Sony not produce a camera with 50Mbs, 4:2:2, this has disappointed a few DPs I have spoken to.”

“Any possibility to hook up a hi-res Sony broadcast viewfinder to the F3. The camera looks fine, but without a proper viewfinder, it will just be of no use to me as a documentary cameraman.”

“Whats the glass in the packaged set? Minolta or Zeiss? im assuming its a cine housed body? ”

“Does the camera require the dual link HD-SDI to be operational to use the slog function? And then if so does the slog function only operate in 444? Im assuming yes to both.”

“What is the mount with out the PL adaptor and will there be other adaptors if, so for what lenses?”

These are just a selection of questions DPs around the globe are wanting answers to. I am traveling as light as I can but I am also producing a WEBDOC for you chaps with some footage fresh from an F3 so bear with me if my blog is a wee bit stagnant for a couple of days as I have no way of updating it without a laptop. PS. Thanks to WORDPRESS for iPad not working after TWO updates I am still unable to update during my time away.

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Company Ltd

Design a Camera “What the designers should know”

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It’s very strange but from the word go the Sony F3  has landed itself in a fierce debate with DPs all over the globe, our main head scratching is Sony’s design team’s decision to make such a Hi-end product 35Mbs, 4:2:0. Now I have been told it gives you a very good quality off line editing format that wont tax your computer but I must add that an extra 15Mbs would not have taxed any fairly decent spec NLE either.

So why did Sony decide to make the F3 a glorified EX3 spec camcorder…you must take on board that any camera takes a minimum of two years from design to production so the F3 was being designed as far back as 2008, saying that so was the PMW-500 which is 50Mbs so was there a clash of the two camcorders to be avoided, we will never know.

Sony are bringing out their own “S1″ recorder for the F3 which will allow you to record via the dual HD SDI sockets up to 1080 50p, 4:4:4, 50Mbs and possibly 100Mbs or more so all is not lost. It would have been far more convenient if the F3 had recorded at 50Mbs 4:2:2 out of the box.

Back to my original title for this blog “Design a camera”…so if we take the Canon XF305 which has just been approved by the BBC for HD broadcast at the starting line for 2011 then all camcorders should now come with a minimum spec of 50Mbs, 4:2:2 and please if you are going to design an HD camcorder do not bring it out without a decent HI-Rez viewfinder.

Philip Bloom was more than disappointed with his “almost finished” Panasonic AG AF101’s viewfinder, he could not find critical focus, it beggars belief that any video manufacturer dares to produce an HD camcorder without pricing in a Hi-Rez viewfinder, we are all in agreement that an extra £500 on to the price would be money well spent to get a decent viewfinder.

The other thing that gives one of my DP pals a problem is the insistance on producing a PL mount camcorder in a hand held format, what’s the problem in making it shoulder mount and having the XLRs feed out of the back…as is normal, his worry with the F3 and the AF101 is if you attach XLRs into the side of the camcorder it will give the camera a tendency for pulling to the side of the XLRs, not good for panning shots.

The poor designer what they must go through knowing that the press is just waiting to pull their hard work to bits…it was a very poignant part of Philip Blooms blog when watching Filippo Chiesa’s footage Osaka day 2 that we get to see some of the hard working team behind the Panasonic AF101, all in the company uniform.

We are told that both Panasonic and Sony sit down with DPs when taking the first steps in designing a new product and discuss the technical issues as well as the practical one’s, so far I have never met such a DP, that is not to say they don’t exist.

You can bet another FilmLike camcorder is now one year away and it will come with more bells and whistles or maybe the cutdown “Lite” version who knows but it’s a cert that somewhere in Japan there are designs for many new camcorders and we will get to play with them in due course.

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500,000 visitors to HD Warrior…A Big Thank You

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Fantastic…HD Warrior has just clocked up over half a million visitors the the site…a big thank you to everyone who looks in daily and to my regulars who post comments as well. Mega exiting times, I am off to London on Tuesday as a guest of Sony to get a hands on with the Sony F3 and can I also thank the chaps at DVX USER for supplying some useful questions for Sony.

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PL to Micro 4/3 Adaptor from MTF for the new Panasonic AG-AF101

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For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Company Ltd

Philip Blooms findings on using the Panasonic AG-AF101

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Philip Bloom “So here are my thoughts on the camera, based upon this pre-production model so some of this may change!

It was a real pleasure to shoot with, despite not being overly familiar with Panny menus I got used to them pretty quickly. I did not record any additional sound other than the camera mic so I cannot comment on the audio quality but I am sure it’s great as it is a proper camcorder after all. For me this is what stood out…

I saw no moiré on any shots. Check out the artist in the park at around 1:40 or so, look at his jacket. That would moiré on my Canons, not here. A joy! I also saw no sign of aliasing.

Rolling shutter issues as expected were still present but way less pronounced that DSLRs. I did shoot out the side of the bus whilst moving and there was still some skew, enough for me not to use it but a lot better than what I have become used to.

LOVE that 1080p overcrank.

LOVE the ability to stick on just about any lenses. I didn’t use any of my Canon lenses as I don’t have a mount with iris control yet but I hear it is coming…

LCD was good. Detail enhancement and peaking helped focus enormously. One thing I really missed though was a digital punch in to help me get focus which the other Panny cameras have, I hope they put it in. Exposure was pretty easy…there are zebras, waveform and vectorscopes which are spot on and a very nice little addition that the previous model did not have, a meter like a DSLR has. Neat.

SDHC media is cheap and all you need is Class 6, even with overcrank. Class 4 is fine but won’t record overcrank. I used Class 10 as I like the fast offload speed.

Battery life was good with the big chunky ones.

Great to have 4 ND filter wheel. What a joy!!

Proper audio…a headphone jack too!

Things I didn’t like….

Coming from the EX3 with it’s awesome viewfinder and using a Zacuto Z-Finder on my Canons, looking in the EVF was like looking at a small screen at the end of tunnel. There was no way I could get focus with it. Too damn hard.  I have no idea what the resolution is of it but if it was magnified it would be a lot easier to use.

Button placement was odd. Because the hand grip is removable and has no electronics there is no record start stop where you expect it…there is also no record button at the front. That’s the AWB button so annoyingly when you go to hit record you accidently change your balance. Oh well, something I would get used to.

I need more timelapse flexibility. Something more akin to the EX1 and 3 with more interval choices and better slow shutter.

It would be nice to be able to overcrank to 60fps in 25p mode like the EX1 and 3 but you are limited to 50fps, 60fps is only available in 60hz mode.

AVCHD seems OK but for broadcast work I really need at least 50mb/s. The nanoflash fixes this but it would be great for it to record on a better codec than this.  Would I prefer P2? Probably, despite the cost as it would most likely mean AVC intra 100 which is an awesome format and would propel this camera into the big leagues.

Ergonomics are horrible, but then I find that with all handheld camcorders. The only cameras I have ever used with good ergonomics are the shoulder mounted cameras.

3200 ISO is noisy and should only be used when absolutely essential. 1600 was pretty good. Just be careful of the 3200, you can of course clean it up a bit. The noise is a different sort of noise to the Canons and easier to clean up. It doesn’t suffer any of the vertical banding that plagues the GH1 at 800 ISO and above.

What I found with this camera is it likes your exposure to be pretty damn close to spot on. Underexposure I found gave me noise…getting it right helped a lot and with all the help it offers you it’s a lot easier to get it right than DSLRs which also suffer the same issue with getting exposure right.

The 2x crop means I am limited on the wide end. That Olympus lens was a godsend as was my 7-14mm, but that distorts on movement and is slow at F4. What is great is all those lens choices though..it’s just most are more telephoto than I am used to. I have recently ordered a Voigtlander 25mm F0.95 This is going to be a great standard lens for this camera and whilst in Japan I bought the 100-300mm F3.5-5.6 zoom lens. It has autofocus and is super long on that 2x crop, giving me effectively 600mm. Sure, a constant aperture would be great but for that focal length, weight and price I wish I had had it for the Kyoto shoot! I found my old 80-200mm F2.8 to be a bit soft…

The compression was evident is some of the shots and I really need to nail that picture profile as it makes a huge difference to the image. But with good grading you can get a very filmic image out of it. My first grade I did very quickly as we had no time to edit before showing our footage to the Panasonic team so I regraded on the plane back home. Much better and evens out the shots a lot more and gets rids of a lot of those blown out highlights from the first grade. I am very happy with my new grade (Magic bullet looks preset I created my self…you can get 20% off Magic Bullet looks with code bloom20 when buying it from RedGiantSoftware.com), it’s way more filmic looking and more flattering and soft.

So…is it better than say a Canon 5Dmk2? Image wise yes and no. Aesthetically the 5Dmk2 is in a class of it’s own, nothing comes close but it has many issues like moiré and aliasing. The M43 sensor gives a totally different look, it a totally different aesthetic. A bad one? No..just different. Shallow DOF is still very easy to get and as you saw it is capable of beautiful bokeh with the right lenses, check out the artist again, shot with my Zeiss lenses.

It’s not as good as the 5Dmk2 in low light either but has all those functions which make shooting so much easier. Focus assist, exposure assist, proper audio, proper overcrank. Don’t like the EVF at all though….much prefer my 5Dmk2 with a Z-Finder on.

It’s a small camera, but obviously bigger than a DSLR. So if you want to shoot in places and get away without permission, this camera will be harder to use successfully. I travel with 3 or 4 DSLR bodies. If I get an AF100 I will travel with just one of them and it won’t go in my photographic carry on, it will need a proper camera bag.

So overall…really good and very powerful camera and prices so aggressively I am sure it’s going to sell bucketloads. Is it perfect? Nope, then again no camera is. Is it good value for money? Yep! Will it replace my DSLRs? Nope and Yep. I am definitely going to buy one, although I will be at the back of the pre-order list now as I have waited so long! This camera is going to be great for my documentaries and lots of other work where the DSLRs are just so much harder to use in those situations.  But I am still going to shoot on them, I will most likely end up shooting most of my work on both…The AF100 is good in low light, but it’s not 5DmkII good.

This camera is not a DSLR killer. There won’t be…I believe there will always be a market for DSLRs as there price point and convergence factor cannot be beaten AND they will get better and better, the issues of moiré and aliasing will be reduced and hell we may ever get raw recording at some point out of those massive sensors. It is just a lot easier to use than DSLRs and is a proper video camera! Don’t underestimate how important having a proper video camera can be.  After all I run full day workshops on how to make your DSLR work like a proper video camera!!”

HDW : My thanks to Philip Bloom for allowing me to share his findings, very interesting and very honest.

I am disappointed in Philips findings about the viewfinder, Jan Crittenden Livingston, Panasonic Broadcast & TV Systems Product Manager USA told me at IBC that Panasonic were changing the viewfinder for a hi-rez model, I hope this is going to happen before a production model hits the UK.

So there you have it a first hand review of the new Panasonic AF101 and I would say Philip was happy enough with the camera so much so that he is planning to buy one himself.

You can see Philips full report here and some extra footage from Filippo Chiesa :

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