As I write my Sony FS100 is tucked away in her Kata bag ready for the next job, its been a funny old year and I will share my experiences with you using various large sensor video cameras.
January : My Panasonic AF101 arrived after first seeing it at IBC 2010 in Amsterdam, it was a camera generously loaned to me by H Preston Media who I work part time for as a technical consultant.
I was pleasantly surprised with the AF101, well built, great easy to understand menu system and that all important micro Four Thirds chip set, never before had I seen virtually noiseless gain at 18dBs.
lenses…I had far to many lenses for the AF101 from Panasonics own to Canon, Nikon, Olympus and Voigtlander. The latter was the lens of the century the 25mm f0.95 Nokton lens from Voigtlander probably the best shallow depth of field lens second only to the Canon 50mm f1.2.
It was the first time in history I sold a lens for virtually what I had payed for it as the Nokton was not only scarcer than gold dust but almost as precious due to the volcanic eruption hitting Japan at the time.
My prime lens for interviews was the 25mm Nokton mFT followed by Canons 50mm f1.2 L lens with Kippon EF adapter and Panasonics 7-14mm F4 wide angle zoom for opening shots these were my main contenders.
Two things set the large sensor cameras head and shoulders above conventional camcorders and that is noiseless gain and shallow depth of field (SDoF), they are not particularly good run and gun cameras or off tripod in general due to lack of stabilisation and manual focusing.
After about 3 months I got a Sony F3 for review and used aside the AF101, the Panasonic showed itself to be a lot softer than the F3 which is not difficult as the AF101 is only 800 lines compared to Sonys 1000+ lines. The F3 was also a lot less noisy in low light and the extra resolution was also a bonus in low light.
June : I gave back my AF101 to Prestons to take delivery of the Sony FS100 now I have got to put my hand up and say I was more than a bit scathing of this camera before I actually began to use one myself. The lack of ND filters is just laziness on Sonys part and not having SDI out was also a poor decision by Sony but having lived with the camera for six months now it soon grows on you in fact I have actually bought my loan camera.
It comes with a body only or a Sony E 18-200 f3.5-6.3 manual zoom lens, personally forget the lens version and buy yourself an MTF Nikon to E mount adapter, sadly no one has yet appeared with a Canon adapter for the Sony E mount though MTF should be shipping during January 2012 but at just under £1000 its a dear alternative.
As you use Large Sensor cameras you become more savvy when choosing lenses for it so my three stock lenses for the FS100 are the Nikon 50mm f1.4 for interviews the Nikon DX 17-55 f2.8 lens for general filming and the Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 wide zoom for establishing shots.
You learn through experience that you don’t need a bag full of lenses to produce a competent job nor the extra expense that extra lenses cost, my regret is selling off some cracking Canon L glass to move over to Nikon, not because the Canon is better glass because it isn’t but merely the extra expense of buying it all over again.
At the moment I am using a new Sony A77 DSLR and what a performance choosing decent glass for it, Sony present you with three sets of glass the Sony G lens, the Carl Zeiss lens and Sonys own zooms and prime glass, in other words three levels of quality which I do not care for. The Zeiss is good but expensive, the G glass is also good depending what you buy into and the standard glass is also surprisingly good with a cheaper look and price tag.
I mention the A77 because it has a similar look and chip to the FS100 but as yet I have done no side by side comparisons, one things for sure its not as good as the FS100 in low light noise.
Fortunately I did buy a Sony Alpha to E mount adapter and tried my three Sony lenses with the FS100, a Sony 30mm F2.8 macro lens, a Sony 16-50mm f2.8 wide zoom lens as an aside I did purchase the 50% cheaper Tamaron 17-50mm f2.8 but was disappointed by its chromatic aberrations so I sent it back. I wanted a telephoto so my budget stretched for the Sony 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 “G” lens the lenses are all very sharp though the electronic f stop thumb wheel on the FS100 makes a very steppy, clanky manual iris, definitely not recommended for use during filming. Nothing else gets transferred via the electronic pins i.e. auto focus nor auto iris which is a surprise.
Conclusion : I love the large sensor cameras they give me that look and feel that no other camcorder can touch, the extra noiseless gain is a fantastic bonus especially when you are forced to use lenses smaller than f2.8.
My recommendation is to get a prime lens that is f1.4-f1.2 for producing interviews and don’t be scared to give the subject breathing space by shutting down the iris to f2.8 there is nothing worse than a person moving in and out of focus during an interview, 9 times out of 10 you won’t know that till you have started the interview wether they sway back and forth.
The large sensor is not for everyone or every situation hence my purchase of two Sony NX70s but as long as you follow the basic rules when filming you can get some fantastic footage that only the Super 35mm sensor can produce.