Before I start on my soap box can I just start by saying that I have not spoken to any camcorder designers in the making of this blog.
So to the burning question “Who decides on the specifications of a camera while its on the drawing board” ? Its become patently obvious over the last year or so that those who design camcorders are not the same people who use or need them !
Lets have a look at Sony’s four large sensor camcorders to appear over the last fifteen months or so…
Here is the best of the bunch, the Sony PMW-F3 in action, now this camera is superb in low light, produces fantastic pictures but has two immediate failings…it only shoots 35Mbps onto SxS cards and the viewfinder is appalling.
WHO designed the F3, why was the decision taken to run the camera at HD news resolution (35Mbps) when the camera was clearly designed to take over from the likes of the 750 with 35mm adapter. This camera would have sold twice the amount had it produced 50Mbps from day one.
Secondly WHO designes a £15K camcorder with such an appalling viewfinder, forcing every camera operator to spend a further 1-2K on an external viewfinder like a Zacuto EVF or the Alphatron EVF.
This camera came out just over a year ago and still no sign of a 50Mbps model, anyone who uses the current camera in HD television production is forced to use an external HD recorder in order to achieve full HD TV specification which is why Sony have lost a ton of sales to the Canon C300 which I may add is far from perfect but does cut the 50Mbps mustard.
Den Lennie and Alister Chapman are the only two cameramen I know who have been in a pre production meeting with Sony engineers and the outcome was the NEX-FS100 which came out just under a year ago.
Even with two very accomplished cameramen giving Sony their ideas, they still managed to get it wrong…again…No ND filters, a compromised viewfinder/LCD design, no HD-SDI socket and only one media slot.
The FS100 which I personally owned for six months was a very good camera with an excellent quiet picture and a cinematic look to die for but you had to work twice as hard to get those dreamlike pictures with vari filters and external EVFs.
Den Lennie seen above loves his FS100 so much so that he compares it to a 16mm Bolex cinematic camera, “It’s the Bolex of today”.
My good friend Frank Glencairn filming with the FS700 the son of the FS100, this has to one of Sony’s best kept secrets but a strange move to update the FS100 in less than 8 months.
Sony by this time are haemorrhaging sales to the Canon C300 and need to bring out a stop gap camera hence the 250 frames per second super slow mo full HD FS700 with a 4K firmware updatable chip set.
Once again no dual media slot and a compromised viewfinder/LCD, as you can see above Frank does not even use the FS700s LCD.
Never seen a FS700 in the flesh so I can’t comment on picture quality but I have it in authority that its slightly noisier than the FS100 due to the 4K chip.
Here we have Sony’s large sensor (LS) camera number four the new NEX-EA50, finally a camera that looks like a traditional camcorder, this camera isn’t due till November 2012 but it is the first LS camcorder with a servo zoom “E” mount lens…fantastic.
A viewfinder/LCD that is in the correct position…fantastic.
Semi shoulder mount, dual XLR inputs, picture profiles, gain switch but Sony decide to down scale the chip from the preferred Super 35mm (FS100/700) to the APS-C as featured on the domestic Sony VG-20. We all know the EA50 is not aimed at the top end but it would it not be better to have as many sales as possible than restrict it to the event side of the business.
Sony also decide to omit ND filters which has been proven by many a cameraman/woman to be almost critical in achieving a shallow depth of field in bright filming conditions.
You see my dilemma, Sony for some reason keep compromising their large sensor cameras when they now have plenty of feedback from blogs like this who keep telling them where they are going wrong.
Why produce a camera like the EA50 and compromise it with an known sensor that produces moire patterning and worst of all totally ignore the professional video community by leaving off ND filters, yet again !
Sony are more than capable with cracking camcorders like the very popular PMW-500, the defacto HD camcorder for HD television documentary work running at the magical 50Mbps, this camera was produced on the back of the ever popular PMW-350 which I owned and loved.
So why on earth are we getting a string of LS camcorders that never reach the perfect PMW-500 Gold Standard, only Sony know this one, but you can be assured that we will see a 50Mbps F3 sometime soon and hopefully with a Hi-Rez viewfinder that swivels up and down as seen on the EA50.
Panasonic (AF101) and Canon (C300) are not much better but as Sony seem to be on a large sensor roll they are the easiest of all three companies to compare with the fourth model on its way.
So if you are a large sensor camcorder designer who just happens to live in Japan…stop producing cameras that just fall short of perfect, all you do is compromise your manufacturers ability to make plenty of Yen or worse still, hand over plenty of Yen to a competitor !…listen to us…the people who use your design !!!
Professional people need professional tools to work with lets turn it on it’s head…I have now been appointed as the new IT specialist for Sony camera design, so lets start with a 14″ SVG display panel for all your CAD work and a PC with 2G ram, a basic graphics card with 50GB of hard drive space…now you start to see how constricting our side of the fence is when it comes to LS video cameras.