History-Part 2

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My freelance days at STV, sadly I have no photographic record of me working for STV but I do remember using a Sony BVW-D400 camcorder, a bruit of a camera with accompanying Sachtler tripod plus bag tapes and batteries.

Some of my fondest memories were with political reporter Fiona Ross who would take us through to Edinburgh to meet up with her personal friend the late Donald Dewar, Scotlands first minister. Fiona would make Donald and myself a cup of tea and some biscuits then after Donald came off a live phone interview we would sit down and have a natter then do the interview.


I stuck it for 6 months before getting a JVC  GY-HD100 this was indeed a good move as 100% of my footage was shot on DV so I had no need for the newest additional feature HDV. This was one of JVCs water shed camcorders…anyone who bought it for HDVwork felt cheated with the 720 25P only later models included 50P.

Sara and me filming on Arran for Type Two Diabetes during 2006.

I on the other hand bought it solely for DV work and it produced some superb pictures. JVC so far have never let me down the pictures from this camera were clean and punchy. JVC had really thought about this camera even to the extent of  supplying not only an on board head phone but surprisingly a spare headphone jack socket, so simple but how many times in a news situation would it have been useful to have 2 H/P sockets for the soundman to plug into as well as yourself. It also had a Fujinon 16x manual focus lens.

Sadly I must admit to having owned a Panasonic AG-HVX200, these camcorders are a designers joke. It’s like holding a Nori brick, (Nori bricks were made in Accrington and weigh a ton).

There was nothing aesthetically  pleasing about this camcorder and it was definitely not made to sit in your hand unless your name happened to be Popeye. So why did I own a camcorder I despised, same old story, budget, I needed a camcorder that would give me 4:2:2 for green screen work and this was the only camera that fitted the bill and my pocket. I never understand how some camera manufacturers get it right and others insist on making clones of one bad looking camera after another. This camera in my opinion was made like this because Panasonic can’t afford to compromise their top end P2 camcorders. Don’t get me wrong this camcorder actually produced very good pictures but I am still of the opinion that a camera must look and feel right and the HVX200 did not do it for me. Fortunately I still had the JVC HD100.


Our next big leap into pro cameras was the Panasonic WV-F350 camcorder with 1/2″ FIT CCD for smearless image reproduction and a horizontal resolution of 700 lines. This camera docked with the AG-7450 S-VHS VCR but the downside was its combined weight on your shoulder which is why I mainly used it with a tripod.

Me sporting a fine set of legs filming on Arran with my Panasonic WVF-350.

2008 the Dawn of Pro Solid State

I sold my wonderful EX-1 to my previous boss Chris who is to this day making various documentaries in and around the Isle of Arran. At the turn of the year I bought the EX-3 what a joy to use and those pictures… stunning or what, I love the aesthetic improvements.

The PMW-EX3 is equipped with a newly developed, large, easy-to-view, colour LCD screen with a high resolution of 1920 x 480 pixels. The LCD screen is located in an easy viewing position on top of the camera and can also be utilised as a high-definition viewfinder with the easily attached monocular viewfinder assembly.

Late 2009 to 2010

The uptake of the DSLR has been a strange phase in my life as a professional video cameraman, I did own a Canon 5DMk11 which records 1080 25p and I must put my hand up and say they have a place within the video world but their place is a limited one. Limited by the fact that the LCD is not good enough to see critical focus and although Canon did add the ability to manually control the sound with metering it is once again a lash up as you do not have any way to monitor your sound going into the camera which is just stupid.

I sold my Nikon D3 for this to experience the video settings…bad move.

There are major aliasing problems with this technology not to mention restrictive time limits on the length of filming you can do before the camera stops.

Both Sony and Panasonic during NAB 2010 have both shown prototypes of Super 35mm and micro4/3″ camcorders with interchangeable lenses these will in my opinion address the balance and I will predict the demise of the HDSLR during the second half of 2011 and in my opinion not before time. Cameras should be fit for purpose and the photographic HDSLR is not fit for professional filming, it is fit to play with and in my case produce really nice macro shots of camcorders I review, nice opening sequences and seemingly one episode of House…all tinkering…99% of major TV drama use RED, P2 varicam, Sony F35, Arri or 35mm adaptors with prime lenses.

The DSLR has spawned a new breed of mainly younger filmmakers and that’s a good thing, it has allowed students to get a feel for shallow depth of field, we can only hope the new generation of film like camcorders from Sony and Panasonic appear sooner rather than later.


The Sony PMW-350K was a fantastic camcorder and looked the part. This was my first 2/3″ chip camcorder and the bonus was the fact that it recorded SxS. I have gone full circle starting with shoulder mount and now back with a full size , shoulder mount camcorder.

If you thought the Sony EX-3 pictures were good the PMW-350 is as good as noiseless, my only caveat with the 350 at that time was a tendency to loose the picture profile which defaults it over to Sony’s factory profile which is far too sharp.

I produced a review about the Sony MC50 a £1500 camcorder with the 350 and it wasn’t till I got back to base that I noticed the PMW-350 had slightly green blacks this was noted after I had decided to shoot a similar scene with the 350 and MC50 side by side, the £1500 camcorders white balance (WB) and general picture was better…a shock I was not expecting, once again down to the camera re-setting itself.

I never investigated wether the WB problem was something I was doing wrong or a bug in the camcorder itself.

Don’t get me wrong the 350 produced some of my best footage to date but the complicated picture profile menu in the camera coloured my view of this camcorder and latterly it’s weight. Once the camera is in a large KATA bag with cables etc it became a strain on my shoulder.


The advent of the large sensor video camcorders brought another watershed to video producers but also brings its own problems…how many camcorders do you need to purchase to satisfy everyone you work for ?

At the end of 2010 we saw the first shots from the Panasonic AF101, at the turn of the year I had my hands on the AF101 and was so impressed I produced a hands on DVD called “Getting the best from your Panasonic AF101”.

The AF101 was indeed a game changer now we could produce cinematic, shallow depth of field footage rarely seen in the corporate sector, interviews have become less cluttered.

I had the 101 for about five months when I bought my latest camcorders.

Like the true cutting edge archiver that I am the Sony NX70 and the FS100 both film 1080 50p out of the box and are well matched as a camera duo. The NX70 to date has a poor rocker switch which was fixed with a FW update (After I had sold the camera), I use a Manfrotto 521i remote zoom control meantime. The FS100 produces a very sexy picture from it’s Super 35mm sensor and allows me the shallow depth of field I need for the type of corporate work that I produce.


After the Sony FS100 I dug very deep to buy the most expensive camcorder to date…the Canon C300 and it was worth every penny…the pictures this camera produces are truly stunning. When your goal is to produce footage with out of focus backgrounds you have to be careful to keep your f stops around the f4 mark but it leaves little room for error, if you are interviewing a statue then f2.8 or wider would give you a more pleasing result but no room for error.

I still get a kick from watching the footage back, no noise, cinematic, pictures that are stunningly natural and straight out of the camera, I am not into producing more work for myself using Canon LOG then re-jigging the pictures in post. There are those who promote RAW for everything, its fine for footage that needs to be graded but it adds a further step in the post production process one that can be avoided if you get it right in the first place.

As you discover in photography… RAW can’t get you out of everything.

The same can’t be said for the Canon XF305, I found this camcorder very disappointing, especially as the 305 was produced with broadcast as it’s main target. I struggled with blown highlights that I never resolved it has been the only camcorder to date to produce less than satisfactory pictures and not the cheapest either. One other feature of this camera is noise, even at 6dBs this camera is noisy, another reason I soon got rid of it.


Keeping up to date early 2013 I bought a Sony NX30.

The Sony NX30 was bought for a major production on “Type One Diabetes” as it has the ability to look like steady cam due to its fantastic steady shot feature and the fact that it records 1080 50p.

Later on that year we also bought a JVC GY-HM650 camcorder, having a Canon C300 is great for the majority of video work but I need a camcorder for run and gun, filming round factory’s, news story’s etc. The JVC 650 fits the bill with some cracking pictures out of the box and using the cheaper SDHC cards certainly helps with archive.

The surprise came late 2013 when I was asked to cover IBC for Holdan’s, I was asked to produce various interviews from manufacturers who use Holdan’s as their distributers. My dilemma was what camera to take, the Sony NX30 is fine but I really like the “look” of the C300 so that excluded the JVC 650 as well. I was all set with the Canon C300 when I stumbled upon the advert Philip Bloom shot with a pre production Lumix GH3, the pictures were very impressive. IBC has various halls about the size of football pitches and I was not looking forward to wandering round the show with a C300, Miller tripod and the kit that goes with it…keeping weight to a minimum with that cinematic look there were only two DSLRs to consider, the Sony a99 or the Lumix GH3, lenses and cost put me off the Sony so I plumbed for the Panasonic.

Along with a Tascam DR60 the GH3 is a stunning piece of kit with a stunning set of 1080 50p pictures to go with it. I now film 80% of my work with the GH3 using the 12-35mm f2.8 “X” lens and the 35-100mm f2.8 “X” lens. Having the DR60 makes this kit very user-friendly and I await my new GH4 camera with excitement.

During April I reviewed the Panasonic AJ-PX270 handheld full broadcast spec AVC ULTRA camcorder, the only 10bit 422 camcorder to film onto SDHC cards. This is a cracking camcorder with many flavours of codecs, I personally find AVC LongG the quietest of all the codecs.

I was so impressed with this camcorder I bought one for all my run and gun needs and green screen work.

After selling my Canon C300 I had enough money to buy 2 Panasonic GH4’s and the Panasonic PX270, the GH4 is a fantastic video tool giving me quality and frame rates I could only dream of 1080 50p 200Mbps and 4K internal recording. At 422, 8bit this camera produces some of the finest video material I have seen from a large sensor camera. DSLR’s have come of age and the GH4 is the first in a line of many mirror-less cameras.

The addition of the YAGH (SDI/XLR adapter) brings the GH4 in line with many Hi end large sensor cameras, shallow depth of field, 96fps slow motion, XLR sound with 48v phantoming, syncro scan the GH4 is packed with professional video features.

I mainly use it for interviews, green screen and product shots having a second non YAGH GH4 gives me a more run and gun setup or a second camera on an interview.

During July 2014 I needed a camera that could film in dark restaurants as the GH4 only goes up to 6400 ISO and becomes very noisy. The camera that was doing the rounds was the Sony A7s and claims that it could see in the dark. I watched Den Lennie’s appraisal of the A7s with interest and decided to sell one of my GH4’s.

In reality the A7s does indeed out perform the GH4 but only as far as noise, ISO readings of 10,000 are common settings in certain work I have done recently with my A7s and the full frame sensor is a major bonus.

I always need a run and gun camcorder to hand so when I got rid of my Panasonic PX270 I bought a Sony PXW-X70 and what a shock I got. This wee bundle of joy out performs most 1/3″ camcorders twice its price. Unlike a 1/3″ sensor the X70 has a 1″ sensor which does not suffer from the inherent grey mist effect, a noise reduction phenomena seen on all 1/3″ sensor cameras.

The XAVC 50MB/s pictures out of the X70 are truly stunning and having 10bit 422 allows you to use this camera alongside DSLR’s like the GH4/A7s as the quality is that good…not something I was expecting.

To get the best out of the X70 you need to use Class 10 speed 3 SDXC cards but at £25 a pop it’s a no brainer.

2015…The Sony PXW-FS7

My new Sony PXW-FS7 is my pride and joy, once again I pushed the boat out to get one but Full HD pictures to die for, this will be my defacto work camera. 4K 50p, 1080 50p, 10bit 422 it does not get any better and looks the business. I film most of my corporate interviews in 4K allowing me to cut in on the shot when the person stumbles, the GH4 was fine for 4K cut-in work but having the luxury of 4K 50p on the FS7 is very satisfying. TheFS7 just looks the business and no longer looks like a “photographic shoot”, don’t get me wrong I still use my DSLRs for video work, especially my Sony A7s for extra low light shooting and fast cutaways. The downsides of the FS7 are few but there is no doubt the £415 per 128G XQD cards are stupidly over priced compared to a Lexar SDXC U3 C10 at £70.

The Sony PXW-FS5

At the latter part of 2015 we got the smaller sister to the Sony FS7, the FS5. I love the form factor, its so much more convenient to hold in your hands without straining your arms unlike the FS7.

DJI Osmo

For years I have dreamt of owning a Steady Cam rig but cost and sheer weight has been a deciding factor. I owned a DJI Ronin M for a while but it took its toll once again in the arms so I jumped at the deal to exchange the Ronin for the Osmo. This is a brilliant piece of kit and with its 20mm lens is so much better than a GoPro.


I am now filming with the JVC GY-LS300, that has a fantastic feature called VSM (Variable Scan Mapping), unique to JVC, maps the pixels on the sensor to properly frame your lens of choice. It also allows a 2.5x digital zoom due to its 4K sensor. Although its got a micro 4/3 lens mount it has a super 35mm sensor, very useful when used with Canon full frame glass and Metabones T Smart Adapter.

Lumix GH5

Looking forward to getting my GH5, this is me at Panasonic’s Bracknell HQ with my first taste of the GH5.

Well That’s it, 30 years of virtually the birth of video itself, certainly the beginning of professional corporate video as we know it,  back in the eighties although I was not aware, we were pioneers, we invented the meaning of multiskilling within the video  industry.

In those days, take STV a local broadcaster who my ex boss Chris worked for as a senior cameraman, they were intrenched with  unions and all the rules that came with it, you could be hauled over the coals if you dare touch even a camera cable lying on  the floor if that was not your dedicated job, ie. cable basher.

I am glad to say we have come a long way since those draconian  days but has it got any better…only time will tell. I also want to start a campaign for less black and grey camcorders get back to the eighties give the camcorder a distinctive look…even the RED ONE is black !

A cracking response from Panasonic with this RED sided DVX-200.


Panasonic GH5 with a Speed Booster XL 0.64 adapter and a Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 lens

I now work with three Panasonic GH5’s and a Panasonic GH5S mainly producing cooking programs and the odd NHS job, the one above is for a Facebook advert about long gone sweeties (1960s). The GH5 is a cracking camera giving me two important features 4K 50p internally and a full size HDMI socket.

The perfect GH5 combination with an Olympus 12-100 f4 PRO lens with image stabilisation (IS) built in.

The latest camcorder to my collection has to be the Panasonic HC-X2000 this is a cracking wee 4K 50p camcorder for the money.

With its 24x optical Image stabilised lens, full professional XLRs and a great LCD what’s not to like. Sadly we are still in phase 2 of lockdown here in Scotland due to COVID-19 so I have not used the camcorder in anger yet.

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

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