To see the video scroll down to the next blog entry.
The main aim of the shoot was to see how the FS100 held up against the F3. We shot on a bright sunny day by the River Thames and again in the evening in a typically lit living room. There were no big surprises. The FS100 is remarkably close to the F3. You would have no problems cutting between the two of them in a project.
I did find that the FS100 LCD appeared less sharp and not quite as good as the F3’s even though they both use the same underlying panel. This is probably down to the additional layers required for touch screen operation on the FS100. I also did not like the 18-200mm f5.6 kit lens. There was too much lag in the focus and iris controls, but the beauty of this camera is that you can use a multitude of lenses. For the evening shoot I used a Nikon 50mm f1.8 which was so much nicer to use. On reviewing the footage I did find that we were tending to over expose the FS100 by half a stop to a stop, this does make making accurate comparisons difficult and I apologise for this. I believe this was down to the slightly different images we were seeing on the LCD’s. I did use the histograms on both cameras to try to ensure even exposure, but even so there is a difference. A small part of this is also likely down to the very slightly different contrast ranges of the two cameras.
Oe thing we discovered, not mentioned in the video is that when you use a full frame lens, like the Nikon 50mm. You must ensure that the E-Mount adapter you use has an internal baffle or choke. If it doesn’t you will suffer from excessive flare. The adapter I had did not have a baffle and some shots (not used) were spoilt by flare. The adapter I have from MTF for the F3 has a baffle as do MTF’s E-Mount adapters, so these should not suffer from this issue.
The FS100 performance is so very close to that of the F3’s (at 8 bit 4:2:0, 35Mb/s) that it is hard to tell the two apart. I believe the F3’s images are just a tiny bit richer, with about half a stop more dynamic range, in most cases it takes a direct side by side comparison to show up the differences.
The range of camera settings and adjustments on the FS100 is not quite as extensive as on the F3, nor do the adjustments have such a broad range. However there is plenty of flexibility for most productions.
If you don’t need 10 bit 4:2:2 then it is hard to justify the additional cost of the F3, both cameras really are very good. Despite some other reports else where I felt the build quality to be very good and the buttons, while small, are big enough and well placed. If you do want autofocus then you will be pleased to know that it actually works pretty well on the FS100 with only minimal hunting (of course you must use an AF compatible lens).
I did also record the HDMI output to one of my NanoFlashes at 100Mb/s. Comparing these side by side it is extremely hard to see any difference. It is only when you start to heavily grade the material that the advantage of the higher bit rate Nanoflash material becomes apparent. There is less mosquito noise in the NanoFlash material. I was really impressed by the AVCHD material. The lack of noise in the images really helps.
The FS100 really is the F3’s little brother. The pictures are remarkably close, which they should be as they share the same sensor. The FS100 packs down into a remarkably small size for transport. The loan camera from Sony was actually packed in a case designed for the MC1P mini-cam, about 15″x10″x5″ so very compact indeed. The F3 is considerably larger and bulkier, in part due to the extra space taken up by the built in ND filters.
The lack of ND filters does need to be considered. There are some clever solutions in the pipelines from various manufacturers as well as existing solutions such as vari ND’s, screw on ND’s and a Matte Box with ND’s, so it’s not a deal breaker
I think there is every chance that the FS100 will be the first NXCAM camera that I will purchase. It will be a good companion to my F3. It’s modular design will allow me to get shots that are not possible with the F3. I felt that the FS100 (with the 18-200mm lens that I don’t like) was better suited to “run and gun” than my F3 with either manual DSLR lenses or PL glass. You can, with the FS100 simply point the camera at your subject and hit the one push auto focus and auto iris and have an in-focus, correctly exposed shot. This is much more like a traditional small sensor camcorder in this respect. The long zoom range also makes this more like a conventional camcorder, although there is no servo for the zoom.
In conclusion, in my opinion, for “run and gun” or quick and dirty setups the FS100 with the 18-200mm lens has an edge over the F3 due to the fast auto focus and auto iris one-push controls. For more precise work and shallow DoF your going to want a different lens, something with manual control and calibrated focus and iris scales. For more demanding shoots then the F3 is probably the better choice with it’s slightly improved dynamic range and the ability to use S-Log and 4:4:4. In either case these cameras can produce highly cinematic pictures and I see no reason why you could not shoot a great looking feature with either.
Here is a roughly done (sorry) comparison of the aliasing from an EX1R at the bottom and my F3 at the top. The F3 had a Nikon 18-135mm zoom, both cameras were set to default settings, 25P. The F3 clearly shows a lot more chroma aliasing appearing as coloured moire rings in both the horizontal, vertical and diagonal axis. The EX1R is not alias free. The chroma aliasing from the F3 is not entirely unexpected as it has a bayer sensor and there is always a trade off between luma resolution and chroma resolution and the point where you set the optical low pass filter. Frankly I find this performance a little disappointing. More real world test are needed to see how much of a problem this is (or is not). To put it in to some perspective the F35 aliases pretty badly too, but that camera is well known for producing beautiful images. I hope I’m being over critical of this particular aspect of the F3’s performance, because in every other respect I think the camera is fantastic.
UPDATE: I’ve taken a look at the MTF curves for the F3 and they are quite revealing showing that an OLPF is in use which is giving an MTF50 of around 800 LW/PH V and 950 LW/PH H. This is not quite as high as an EX1 and are quite reasonable figures for a 1920×1080 camcorder. This suggests that the aliasing is largely limited to the chroma sampling of the sensor. As this is a bayer (or similar) type sensor the chroma is sampled at a reduced rate compare to luma, which is why coloured moire is not entirely unusual.
Tests performed with a Tokina ATX-Pro 28-70mm lens at 25P
I’ve spend a couple of days putting a PMW-320 through it’s paces. The 320 is the latest addition to the XDCAM EX line up. It’s very much like the PMW-350 which I reviewed in depth last year, the principle difference is the sensor size. The PMW-350 is 2/3? while the PMW-320 is 1/2?. The camera can be purchased with or without a lens, the supplied lens is a Fujinon 16×5.8mm HD lens that has both autofocus and manual focus. The lens mount is Sony’s standard 1/2? hot shoe bayonet, so owners of DSR300? or PDW-350?s etc can use their lenses directly on the PMW-320. As with the 350 the lens that comes with the 320 is pretty good. Nice and sharp and with a good feel to it considering the cost. It does however suffer from flare under harsh lighting and this can soften the picture a little. A good lens shade or matte box with flags would really help this lens.
Externally the 320 and 350 are almost identical. The give aways are the rubber strip under the handle, EXMOR badge on the side and lens mount ring are dark blue on the 320, black on the 350. Off the shelf the stock PMW-320 actually has more features than the 350. SD is included as standard and it can output to both HDSDi and HDMI at the same time. Buttons and switches are the same on both camera as is the excellent high resolution colour viewfinder. On switching on and looking through the menus they appear to be the same as the 350, no there surprise really, so just like the 350 instead of the pictureprofiles and Cinegammas found on the EX1R and EX3 we have Scene Files and Hypergammas more like a PDW-700 or other high end Sony cameras. Talking of the EX1R and EX3, there has been a little confusion over the sensors used in the 320. At first I got the impression that the 320 used new sensors, but I was told at NAB that was not the case and the 320 has the same sensors as the EX1R/EX3. So I was somewhat surprised when I started looking at the images from the 320 to see less noise and a different looking picture.
On the PMW-320 there is a wider range of camera adjustments compared to an EX1R. For example as well as detail settings there is also a section for adjusting the Aperture correction which can also sharpen and soften the look of the camera by boosting high frequencies. Out of the box I didn’t think the 320 was quite as sharp as my EX3. But after a few minutes on the bench and with a few tweaks to the detail and aperture settings the camera was looking very good indeed (detail -8, aperture +20). While not a quiet as the PMW-350 the 320 does appear to have less noise than an EX1 or EX3. It’s not a big difference, but every little helps. My guess there is additional signal processing going on to reduce the noise.
The use of scene files for the PMW-320 and PictureProfiles on the EX1 does make it harder to match the cameras if your using non-standard settings. It can be done, but it takes a little more work.
The power consumption of the 320 is, once again remarkably low. I was powering it with a 95Wh battery and it lasted most of the day. There are no fans to make noise and it’s very light yet well balanced. The big question on my mind when I heard about it was, why buy a 320 when you can get an EX3 for a lot less or a PMW-350 which has amazing image quality for another £2k to £3k. Well obviously the form factor is very different from an EX3. The 320 is a full shoulder mount camera, complete with slot for a radio mic that runs on V-Lock batteries. The EX3 is a semi-shoulder handy-cam running on small batteries. Both will take 1/2? interchangeable lenses, so no great difference there. But as well as the form factor, which can be very important, the PMW-320 also adds SD recording and HDMI output. There is also the small improvement in image quality to consider. I like the 320, not as much as I like the PMW-350, but it is a fair bit cheaper so could prove to be very attractive for those on a tight budget that want the shoulder mount form factor as well as those that may already have nice 1/2? lenses on their PDW-350?s or 355?s.
Click on the images below to see the full frame images. The small noise improvement is difficult to see in a frame grab. It’s more noticeable in a video clip.
Cinematographer and film maker Alister Chapman's Personal Website