Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor


April the 14th 2012…NAB holds a few well kept secrets from at least 2 major camera manufacturers…Sony and Panasonic.

The world of video filming has gone large sensor within the last year and with four camcorders in the space of twelve months we have been spoiled.

The biggest upset to the friendly pack has been the Canon EOS C300, here we have the first camera to tick almost all the boxes…dedicated Canon EF lens mount, 4:2:2, 50Mbps and 3 ND filters….the first large sensor camera to be approved by the BBC without needing an external recorder.

Sony were bold but nieve to bring out the PMW- F3 at 35Mbps when it had been reported that Canon would bring out a 50Mbps camera within the year and sadly that prediction has come home to haunt Sony.

We are now getting the $4000 SLOG upgrade free with all new F3s in a major fight back to claim sales from the C300 but limping along with 35Mbps does not help the F3 in any shape or form whatsoever.

The Sony FS100 has had a lot of help recently with Sony comissioning films by Philip Bloom and articles from Den Lennie making references like “is it the new Bolex” and having used the camera for six months myself you get used to working around the lack of ND filters…almost.

My first camera at the beginning of last year was the Panasonic AF101 and of all the cameras less the C300 it has a lot going for it, especially the large range of micro four third lenses and adapters the 25mm f0.95 Nokton being my favourite at the time.

So what made me change three times within 12 months…?

1. Panasonic AF101…I got an F3 to road test and beside the AF101 the resolution was far greater on the F3 and far better low light capability so it was a no brainor when the Sony FS100 came along and out performed the AF101 in resolution alone.

2. The Sony was a work around camera compared to the AF101, the lack of ND was a shocking lack of thought by Sony engineers who forgot how much light the Super 35mm sensor actually soaked in. The build quality of the so called carry handle left a lot to be desired and no second card slot was another engineering let down. The FS100 was the lesser of Sonys Super 35mm cameras and it showed.

Why did I not go for a PMW-F3…?

Simple, 35Mbps is not that appealing when you have already had an EX1, EX3 and a PMW-350, knowing that you are stuck with that quality at that price point was not appealing to me. The PL mount was also a draw back as my budget would never allow me to buy such lenses. Lastly the other option at that time was Nikon and I was growing tired of Nikons anti clockwise focusing.

Beyond the Canon EOS 300 EF…

Just over a month before NAB and the pressure is on both Panasonic and Sony to make a dent in Canons superior marketing decision to make three cameras 50Mbps broadcast spec the EX100, 300 range and the latest C300 camera.

Canon are giving the broadcast HD market a run for its money and in these days of tight purses its not surprising that there has been such a take up of XF305s, not everyones cup of tea but at just over £6000, meets more bean counters budgets than one Sony PMW-500 at £20,000 plus lens.

Both Panasonic and Sony need to plug the £6-10K gap, Panasonic has rallied with the HPX-250 P2 camcorder at £4K but the cost of the P2 media is still a major drawback in the broadcast market.

Sony have one chance this year to re-capture some sales from Canon but they need to desperately change their ethos by stop producing cameras that almost make the mark, Canon have proved this with the last 3 cameras so Sony need to cut into the sub prime £6-10K market with a large sensor or a hand held fit for HD broadcast without the need for an add-on recorder.

Canon do not have Sony or Panasonic’s baggage by affecting “what came before” in other words Sony’s perception is not to affect sales of the F3 or 500 but that thinking has to stop if they want to encourage sales back from Canon.

How many times have we as cameramen and women stood looking at a camera at a video show and thinking “wow…but if only it had…!” thats the thinking when you look over the AF101, FS100 and PMW-F3, they are all great cameras spoiled by future development and improvements, this “next years model” thinking, has been around for over 20 years now and Canon hopefully will put a stop to this by producing cameras fit for todays HD broadcast filming and constrained budgets.

I know cameramen who hate the XF305 with a passion but those same cameramen have grown up with shoulder mounts and ENG lenses and as time moves on will become a minority, I was converted over to hand held cameras during the mid 90s when miniDV was born and have been a fan ever since.

Even the shoulder mount stalwart Alister Chapman has gone public saying that he thinks shoulder mounts have had their day, so whatever Sony or Panasonic have up their sleeve at NAB lets hope we are not saying “If only”.


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.

5 thoughts on “4 Large sensor cameras…”Where Now”

  1. I do hope shoulder mounts haven’t had thier day, its still by far the best form factor for steady handheld shooting this side of a steadycam. Just look at all the horrendously expensive meccanno sets people are attaching to thier poorly designed cameras in order to make them function properly. I don’t care if its got a 1000 megabit codec and a 4k super mega huge sensor; if you can’t operate it comfortably in the field solo without an army of assistants and focus pullers, and 1000s of pounds worth of support gear then what’s the point. Give me good old sholder mount with a decent eng zoom anyday of the week. I get the impression that many cameramen are being dragged kicking and screaming into this new large sensor world by the marketing men at Sony, panasonic and Canon, and all the less technicaly minded producers and directors out there who get sucked into the hyperbole, without taking the people who are actualy shooting thier productions into consideration. Don’t get me wrong I’m not anti large sensor, or anti handheld, its great for certain things, but when 80% to 90% of your work comes from shooting eng/documentary type work, and all of a sudden you start getting handed a dslrs and a few cheap lenses when you turn up for a shoot instead of the once ubiquitous and properly designed 2/3rd inch shoulder mount set up it starts to get a bit frustrating!

  2. I totally agree that it would be a pity to see shoulder mount style cameras disappear. What should be happening is that cameras like the Sony F3 and the Canon C300 should simply have “proper” very high resolution Zacuto EVF style viewfinders on the side of the camera, ENG style and not at the back. I don’t mind LCD’s for shooting interviews indoors but I find I need the intimacy of a real broadcast standard viewfinder as I miss too many important details squinting at an LCD screen in broad daylight.

    If lens engineers designed an ENG style fast f1.8 – 20X lens with 2x extender for super 35mm cameras, it would be too big to carry. It’s simply a matter of physics. That’s why it’s important for these cameras to exploit their potential crop factor as the new Nikon D4 does with x2.7 crop option at full 1080p.

    I’m hopeful to find future cameras with a high quality large viewfinder in the right place. Then we can operate them more effectively handheld and at least semi-shoulder mount style.

  3. I’m completely in agreement with Josh about this. A properly balanced shoulder-mount camcorder is always preferable to a Meccano setup. However I must admit to liking the new small-format hand-held camcorders such as the MC50, which one can operate tirelessly all day – even in old age!

  4. The Canon C300 is 50Mbps with only 8bit 4:2:2 with no option to increase with an external recorder.

    The Sony F3 is 35 Mbps with 10bit 4:4:4 with an external recorder.

    50Mbps is way better than 35Mbps, but 10 bit 4:4:4 is way better than 8bit 4:2:2

    It really just comes down to what you think is more important and perceptible to the average viewer’s eye.

  5. I started filming hand held as the A- cam operator on the Silcon imaging 2k – in 2006- we shot the 1st feature film “Spoon” it was pioneering the SI 2k….I had to pull my own focus on all the handheld shots as the depth of field was supercritical…I still prefer a ” Big camera” on set…the crew respects the camera and we have receive a greater level of proffessionalsim if the main camera has a 17- 102 on oconnor with dolly and tracks .pulling focus is a nightmare on super large chips ….but eventually the focus pullers starts ” feeling it”. Cinematography is an art form …and it takes an entire crew to be a part of that artistic process…while I appreciate the race with various sales and marketing techniches with all theses cameras …remember to make it heavy enough so that I can use a geared head…and not a flimsy little tripod the producer thinks will make my shot look steady!

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