Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor

What recession and do we remember an earthquake in Japan during January that brought video manufacturing to a stand still…what a year and unbelievably 14 new camcorders were produced last year alone.

I take my hat off to the men and women of the Japanese video manufacturing industry who through severe adversity produced an amazing amount of cameras and disruption was kept to a minimum.

Panasonic AG-AF101 micro Four Third sensor camera

Officially the Panasonic AF101 did not start to ship till January 2011 so this is my first port of call.

This was my first taste of large sensor video production and it takes a bit of getting used to. The first thing you notice is the total lack of zoom facilities that 95% of cameramen have been used to over the last 20 years or so.

Not only are all the lenses fully manual but are also photographic glass and if you decide as I did to go with Nikon…they pull focus anticlockwise not something that is natural when all your previous ENG lenses focus clockwise.

The positives are the fantastic shallow depth of field and the AF101 was no exception, by some miracle I managed to get hold of a 25mm Nokton f0.95 lens which I must admit was my favourite stock lens for the AF101 giving you an amazing shallow depth of field.

The AF101 takes micro Four Third lenses (mFT) and back in January we had an adapter from MTF which took Nikon to mFT, Kipon also had a frig which allowed you to go from Canon EF to mFT but this adapter proved weak so I stopped using it.

We were promised an electronic Canon EF adapter from Birger but to this date in time nothing has materialised.

The AF101s Achilles heal has to be the 800 line sensor which proved no match for the 1000+ sensor Sony was to produce later on in January.

Sony PMW-F3 Super 35mm sensor camera

During my spell with the AF101 I was sent a Sony PMW0F3 to review, this camera was a tad more serious not only in looks but lenses as well.

I decided to take the F3 through to Edinburgh one cold January evening to film some low light footage and I was astounded at the footage I brought back, this was indeed the king of low light filming.

I had three Sony PL lenses a 35mm, 50mm and an 85mm, good lenses but large and bulky.

During a corporate job for the NHS I decided to use the F3 and the AF101 to film a conversation with two people, nurse and patient. The F3 footage was far superior and the 1000+ lines of resolution put the AF101 to shame.

The Sony F3 was a good size but quite restricting only having the PL mount till MTF came up with a Nikon adapter by then I had sent the camera back.

The F3 is a good alrounder and fantastic in low light its major letdown is its 35MB/s recording speed when the camera is clearly directed at the broadcast drama market.

Sony NEX-FS100

As I write this is the Super 35mm camera of my choice as I own one.

Interviews have never been more sexy or easy with a 50mm f1.4 Nikon lens giving a cracking shallow depth of field.

The other benefit is lack of noise 9dBs is noisless giving you far more leaway if you are forced to stop down your lens to give myself a wee bit more breathing space.

The camera looks a lot better with a matte box added but the handle is shoddy and I notice 3rd party vendors coming out with alternatives.

Sony will be updating the FS100 in January with FW adding switchable 50/60 Hz, ISO display, expanded focus x4, x8 and other features.

The quality of the FS100 pictures is the best I have seen to date excluding the F3.

Sony HXR-NX70 camcorder

January was indeed the month for camcorders with the Sony NX70 a single chip HD camcorder with a picture to blow your socks off.


I loved this camera from day one having most of the pro features of cameras 3x the price and a picture to match.

This was the first Sony Pro camcorder to film at 1080 50p which produces some stunning footage its only let down by a 10x lens that has some chromatic aberrations especially on the tight end. I have to admit not to seeing these aberrations in most of my filming but there was the odd occasion that I had a less than perfect picture but at £2500 what do you expect.

I was so impressed with the camera that I bought 2 of them.

The one major problem is its poor zoom rocker switch on the camera, you go from full on to creep with nothing in the middle, this is being tackled by a firmware upgrade due in March 2012.

JVC GY-HMZ1U Pro 3D hand held camcorder

Amazingly its not till April that we get camera number four the JVC GY-HMZ1U 3D camcorder.

Not a lot I can say about this wee camcorder as I never got one to review.

Is was the first hand held 3D camcorder to include XLR inputs and a usable 5x zoom.

The GY-HMZ1U is a 3D camcorder offering full HD recording (1920 x 1080 x 2) to dual SDHC/SDXC flash memory. Its unique integrated 3D twin lens delivers professional results in a surprisingly easy-to-use package.

Equipped with JVC’s proprietary Falconbrid™ LSI processing, full HD recordings can be made in either 60i, providing smooth motion for sports and fast action, or 24p for a film-like effect. It also shoots great 2D footage in Full HD, recorded in the AVCHD format.


Panasonic AG-HPX250 P2 camcorder

Early doors we got a sneak peek at a camcorder that was going to rock P2 to its foundations, at £4000 plus vat you get a full HD broadcast spec camcorder for a third of the price of a shoulder mount equivalent.

During April Panasonic announced the forthcoming HPX250 P2 full HD camcorder, with specs like 4:2:2 and 10 bit processing let alone AVC Intra this camcorder was causing a big stir especially around the P2 fan club.

Never before had so many professional features both inside and out been seen on a hand held camcorder.

Panasonic were taking P2 to a new level and although you can’t fault the pictures it would be fair to say that P2 followers are saddled with rather expensive media, about 4x the price of an equivalent CF card.

I would like to see a reduction in price of P2 media during 2012 as such a move would bring a lot more followers into the P2 marketplace and help sales of the HPX250 which is a cracking camcorder for the money.

  • Progressive-compatible U.L.T. (Ultra Luminance Technology) image sensor (1/3-type 2.2-megapixel 3MOS sensor)
  • 22x Zoom Lens with Wide Coverage from Wide-Angle to Telephoto
  • Full P2HD Image Quality with AVC-Intra Codec Recording
  • High-End Operation with Multi-Camera Synchronizing and VFR Recording
  • 4-position (clear, 1/4 ND, 1/16 ND, 1/64 ND) optical neutral density filter wheel

 Sony F65

This is one of the big boys cameras, producing a 4K image the F65 is about as good as it gets but at £80400 pounds its more and likely a camera that you would rent rather than buy.

The F65 is a top-end motion picture camera. It features a true step-change in sensor technology, using a 20 Mega pixel 8K CMOS sensor. The F65 runs up to 120Fps, creates HD/2K or genuine 4K resolution images with a huge colour gamut, outstanding dynamic range, and high sensitivity.

The dockable SR-R4 SRMemory unit records 16bit linear SRRAW directly on to an SRMemory card at up to 5 Gbps. This can be developed with industry-standard NLEs from companies such as Adobe, Avid, Apple, Film light, Quantel, Sony and many others. For maximum operational flexibility, the SR-R4 can also support SStP (same as HDCAM SR) recording which can be used natively on the same NLEs.

 Sony PMW TD 300

Once again this is a camcorder that I glanced at during IBC 2011 but as 3D is no where on my radar there is not a lot I can write about.

The PMW-TD300 is a professional 3D camcorder with a compact, shoulder-mount design that helps provide a comfortable, stable shooting platform – crucial to creating proper 3D images.

Affordable and fully integrated, the PMW-TD300 makes it easier to set up and shoot high quality 3D. Dual three 1/2-inch type Exmor™ CMOS sensors provide high quality 3D recordings at 1920 x 1080 resolution on to SxS cards using the XDCAM EX codec.

The dual three 1/2-inch type Exmor™ CMOS sensors provide high-quality 3D images with an excellent sensitivity and 1920 x 1080 resolution. The sensor type has been chosen to achieve an ideal balance between high quality and compact design – the camcorder body is a similar size to current 2D models.


So thats the first eight camcorders of 2011 as you can see January and April are the prime months for camcorder announcements and with January just round the corner maybe we might get a sniff of the AF101 update or will it be a cheaper F3, lets hope the 3D phase is passing us by, to be quite frank only Hollywood is now driving 3D with the odd smattering of broadcast sports productions…the public don’t want 3D and thats the fuel to drive the 3D bus.



Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

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