New Sony Super 35mm NXCAM camcorder

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Sony PMW-F3 v Panasonic AF101 in Low light…the Results

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I had a good week with the Sony PMW-F3 and coming from my PMW-350 background it was easy to navigate the F3 menu, unlike the unfamiliar AF101 menu system. The main difference between the two camcorders is looks, the Sony looks more like a conventional camcorder, not the square box look of the Panasonic.

As you can see both cameras suffer flare, I don’t know any camera that doesn’t, the F3 came with three lenses the 35mm, 50mm and 85mm T2 (f2) all of them were very sharp and caused less flare than my Voigtlander NOKTON f0.95 lens also set to f2 for a comparison. The F3 as you can see also has far better resolution due to the excellent Sony 35mm Prime lens.

Remember the Sony Prime lenses are made exclusively for the F3 which is why they perform so well.

CONCLUSION : The Sony PMW-F3 with supplied Prime Lenses certainly resolves far better than the AF101 as you would expect and the F3 is the king of low light images at 18dB, this camera excels in low light. What about the 24MBs (AF101) v 35MBs (F3), strangely this seems to be less of a problem as I was expecting the F3 to gain having the 10MBs faster speed advantage but it only proves that you still need 50MBs, 4:2:2, 10 bit to make a significant difference. They both suffer from being 8bit which is no surprise, thats not to take anything away from the AF101, the Panasonic is fantastic for the money and lets be honest did you really expect the £4K AF101 to upstage the £10K PMW-F3.

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“GEMINI” from the makers of the NanoFlash

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Convergent Design today unveiled Gemini 4:4:4, a revolutionary uncompressed video recorder/player. Gemini enables videographers and cinematographers to capture at the ultimate video quality, in a small, low‐power, lightweight package, at a very affordable price. Gemini features a built‐in high‐brightness 5.0” 800×480 24‐bit LCD touch‐screen for monitor and playback, and introduces an industry first ‐ the ability to simultaneously record to two removable solid‐state drives ‐ creating instant backups; an invaluable insurance against lost footage, as well as, opening new workflow options.

Building on, but not replacing, the highly successful nanoFlash, Gemini records 10‐bit uncompressed 4:4:4 / 4:2:2 video in most popular HD/2K/3G formats, including 1080p24 and 1080p50/60, with up to 16‐channels of embedded audio and timecode. Gemini has slots for two removable 1.8” solid‐state drives (SSDs), enabling recording in either parallel mode (instant backup), or spanning mode (longer record times). Sporting a lightweight milled aluminum case, Gemini is about the same size and weight as the popular SmallHD DP6 monitor, but includes Recording, Playback, Image Processing, Dual HD/3G SDI I/Os, HDMI‐Out and consumer level audio I/O; while consuming only 8 to 15 watts of power.

Gemini features S‐Log support, with user programmable viewing LUTs, which can be enabled selectively for either HD‐ SDI output. Flexible recording options, include simultaneously recording native S‐Log video to one SSD (for on‐line), and the same footage with burned‐in LUTs to the second SSD (for faster creation of off‐line proxies and/or H.264 video for mobile devices/internet).

A 3D/Stereo (extra‐cost) option will also be available, enabling dual‐stream recording and playback in a single Gemini unit; creating the world’s smallest, lowest‐power, 3D recorder available anywhere. Gemini will record independent left/right channel files, while providing full synchronized playback of two streams as well as side‐by‐side, 50/50 composite, or anaglyph combinations. Gemini can uniquely output 3D in multiple formats simultaneously (ie side‐by‐ side and 50/50 composite), to aid in camera alignment and monitoring.

Planned future enhancements, include reference image overlay (aka onion‐skinning). Users can capture still frames or create their own reference images (custom grid overlays, for example) to mix with live video, using an opacity slider. This feature will enable directors to check the current on‐set environment against a previous day’s production, assisting in camera setup and easily identifying anything out of place.

Convergent plans to support all major NLE programs, including Avid, Final Cut Pro, Premiere, Vegas and Edius. Editors have the option to edit in full‐uncompressed (transfer time off the SSD to a fast HDD is about 1/3 realtime) or use any of the popular CODECs (ProRes, DNxHD, Cineform, etc). For example, using a modern multi‐core processor MAC, the transfer from the SSD and software encode to ProRes, occurs in about 1⁄2 realtime (60 minutes of video requires a total of 30 minutes to transfer and encode).

The Gemini 4:4:4 Kit, which includes the recorder, 1.8” SSD to eSATA transfer station, AC power supply and cables, housed in a custom‐fitted hard plastic case, is priced at US $5995 (retail). The 1.8” 256 and 512GB SSD drive prices will be announced at NAB. Convergent will be demonstrating Gemini 4:4:4 (mounted on the Sony F3 and on a 3D mirror rig) at their NAB booth, C11126, April 11‐14.


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Broadcast Photo Video North

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This will be a good show to see some of Sony’s new pickings, the new NXCAM Super 35mm model for starters, this will be the 1st video show after NAB and it’s in Haydock Park Racecourse on the 12th of May 2011.

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

RODE VideoMic PRO “User Review” £150

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While using my Sony 550 (Sony MC50 without the mic and 2 year warranty) at the tail end of last year I used Sony’s ECM-HGZ1 a small gun mic that uses the Active Interface Shoe, quite frankly the Sony mic is less than useless, all treble, very unnatural.

Earlier this year after some “Googling” the words Sony’s Active Interface Shoe (AIS) I got a company who sold a “NORMAL” hot shoe that fits on top of the AIF shoe, with this accessory I was able to buy a normal camcorder gun mic in fact I chose the RODE VideoMic Pro.

I already own the RODE NTG-1 short shotgun mic which I am delighted with so I was happy to part with my £150 cash knowing the mic has a good pedigree.

Let me start by saying that the quality of the mic itself is very good indeed with a 2 step high pass filter and a 3 step level control built in, the “Dead cat” is a promotion that is sent to you in the post when you register the video mic, I have not yet received mine yet after a month !

I was less than impressed with the thickness of the audio lead that attaches to a 3.5 stereo mini jack, it’s far too flimsy for professional use and is a disaster waiting to happen the first time the cable gets pulled.

The 9v battery compartment is not well thought out it took me an age to get it back on after deciphering how to get it off in the first place.

I also bought the handle (Shown above) as I could envisage using the mic in an interview situation, the first job was interviewing a football interpreter called Dan Brennan for the Footy, my sons blog and we had the mic on a one meter extension cable going into a Sony 550 camcorder.

Unfortunately due to lack of pro features like XLR and balanced phantoming the mic which was on a remote tripod picked up Dans mobile phone interference a few times, luckily the second camera an MC-50 did not suffer from this and we were able to switch to the MC-50s sound now and again.

It certainly sounds as good as a Pro mic but the design could be better, just as well you get a 10 year warranty though you do wonder if the flimsy mic lead is part of the warranty as this is by far the microphones achilles heal !

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Chris Moyles “Longest Show Ever” filmed with remote cameras

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The best thing about Comic Relief is that it stretches the boundaries of broadcasting making the stuffy BBC think out of the box for a change and produce a 50 hour non stop radio show filmed live with at least 6 remote cameras positioned around the studio.

It has been riveting viewing and I take my hat off to Mr Moyles and crew for producing an almost seamless entertaining spectacle. The show has already passed the £1 million pounds mark for Comic Relief and will continue till 10.30am Friday morning.


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Head to Head…The Big Test AF101 v F3

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Who is going to be the king of the low light footage, I have one more day with both cameras then the F3 needs to go back down south. So far my conclusions are that the F3 glass helps keep flaring to a minimum but you would expect this as the lens is made specially for the camera.

This is where I take issue with Sony they have dedicated their prime lenses to fit on this camera only, so you can’t use them on any other camera, this may be for technical reasons but as we know Sony don’t make lenses, a third party has made these lenses but to Sony’s specifications.

I think it’s a poor decision by Sony not to make this a universal “PL” mount taking the edge off a rather nice set of prime lenses. The mount on the camera is identical to the EX mount but for one pin…why the exclusivity…only Sony can answer that.

The camera performed very well in Edinburgh city centre and as my good pal and fellow DP, John commented “it’s very filmic” “the pictures are unreal”. We watched the footage from both Edinburgh and Glasgow and John who is not easily impressed was stunned by the quality of the 12dB footage.

Although I have taken footage side by side with both cameras I have deliberately not seen the footage yet as I want to savour the moment that I put Sony’s Goliath against Panasonic’s David.

The one thing I can divulge is the difference between using £2.6K glass against £830 glass. The Sony 35mm was the closest in angle of view to my Voigtlander NOKTON 25mm lens, although the NOKTON has a very fast aperture of f0.95 I decided to keep it fair and stop down to f2 the same as the Sony lens. It was clear to me that the Sony had flare but not as noticeable as the NOKTON lens, as the Sony is three times dearer I would expect the optics to be superior to the Voigtlander lens, so no surprise there then.

I am about to hit a busy spell so you will have to wait for my final conclusions i’m afraid.

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Donate to the British Red Cross Japan Tsunami Appeal

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As a photographer I have an eye for a good composition and the photograph above is a splendid  example of a good photograph, the young men helping the old ladies, such a powerful but positive picture. I would love to credit the chap but it does not come with any details.

As cameramen/women and video producers we are only able to practice our trade thanks to the efforts of many men and women in Japan who for over 30 years have supplied wonderful video cameras and photographic cameras and lenses so let’s all club together and donate to the British Red Cross Japan Tsunami Appeal and say thank you for all your fantastic video and photographic products and your efforts in producing them.

“Let’s give a wee bit back to a nation that has served our professional needs for over 30 years”.

UPDATE : So far six of you have clicked on the link, thank you for making the effort but what about the rest of you, you get this resource for FREE…NO ADVERTS…so please if you own or use a video camera the chances are it was made in Japan…please donate TODAY !

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

F3 “First Play in low light”

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Tonight we were filming in a cold, Edinburgh city centre with the Sony F3 getting low light shots at 12dB and the camera excelled itself. I used all 3 lenses from the 35mm to the 85mm all T2 (f2). I could see from the LCD that we were getting amazing low light pictures but watching the footage back on a 55″ screen, the footage was just jaw dropping.

Question…Is it any better than the Panasonic AF101 in low light ? As yet I do not know but you can be assured I will know the answer by Wednesday evening.

No longer are you tied with a full lighting kit to produce a docudrama this camera excels in low light in fact once Sony give us their zoom lens you will have a fantastic ENG camera. I have never seen pictures shot at 12dB that are so grain free in my life and the quality of the Sony Prime lenses are exceptional.

You could produce a drama in street lighting and tell the Gaffer to take a night off, mark my words this will become the de-facto drama camcorder of 2011 and if the director of our local television drama Taggart reads this, start using a Sony F3 …YOU WONT BE DISAPPOINTED !

I have a lot on this week but I will have my video review of the Sony F3 in the can before Thursday, though it may not be edited before the end of the following week.

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

Poor Japan !

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How much can one country take, poor Japan, the sad thing for me was the land that gives us so many fantastic camcorders utilises all that technology to record the demise of so many innocent men, women and children.

All the media outlets have been amazed at the quality of the footage coming out of Japan while I personally see beyond the camera lens and think of the poor factory worker looking at his telly and seeing his house, wife and children being taken away by the force of mother nature.

It’s why I chose not to stay with television news as a cameraman, I hated every minute I spent with reporters knocking on poor souls doors who have just lost a loved one in order to score brownie points with the news editor, it sucks.

So the next time you see pictures coming out of Japan think of the humanity, the wonderful people lost forever who were doing their daily tasks innocent of the wave of destruction about to descend on them, and not about the technology that caught every last moment of these poor peoples lives.

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