I received a sample DSM-U84 battery just before the weekend for testing and review. This battery is a direct replacement for the Sony BP-U60 type battery typically used on the smaller Sony PMW cameras like the PMW-150, 200, EX1, EX3 and F3. It docks directly with the camera and does not need to use a cable or any other adapter to power the camera. This is particulary significant for PMW-100, 150 and 200 users as the cameras power socket is located inside the battery compartment making it impossible to use an external power source when a battery is inserted.
The capacity of the DSM-U84 is 84Wh so about 20% more capacity than the BP-U60 but in the same sized package. In my tests this did equate to around 20% more run time on my F3, about 3 to 3.5 hours which I think is pretty good. Like the original Sony battery it has an LED capacity meter on the rear of the pack and the quality of the plastics used appears very good. The battery uses high quality Japanese sourced Panasonic cells so should give a long service life. You can charge it using the standard Sony charger. With an estimated list price of £130 + VAT this makes it a serious alternative to the Sony BPU-60 which is typically around £170.00.
One point to note is that the DSM-U84 does not feature a D-Tap socket like some of the other 3rd party batteries on the market. According to DSM this is stipulated by the cell manufacturer for safety reasons. I’ve used many DSM batteries over the years and they have always lasted very well, I have some that are now at least 6 years old but still perfectly useable.
A few weeks back I got a phone call from Dave at DSM…… Hey Alister do you think a battery that works on an EX1, F3 or PMW-200 just like the original Sony batteries would be popular? Of course it would, was my answer. Up to now almost all the 3rd party batteries that have been available for these cameras have had to use a cable to deliver the power to the camera via the DC in socket. This is because if you try to supply the power from the battery directly the camera knows it’s not an original Sony battery and it will refuse to operate. These new batteries from UK manufacturer DSM have new circuitry that allows the battery to be used directly on the camera with no adapter cable. The capacity is quite a bit higher than the similar sized Sony BPU-60 and at 84Wh, enough juice to run an EX or PMW-200 for around 4 hours.
The batteries are made with high quality Japanese Panasonic cells and assembled in the UK. I’ve been using DSM V-Lock batteries for years and they have always been completely trouble free and long lasting. For more information see the DSM website or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org
In this video I take a look at the MTF Services (http://www.lensadapter.com) B4 2/3″ to super35 mm lens adapter. This adapter allows you to use a conventional 2/3″ ENG zoom lens on most video capable cameras that have a Super35 sized sensor or APS-C sized sensor. It comes in two parts, the optical converter (the expensive bit) and a simple low cost lens mount adapter ring. Adapters are available to work with the Sony PMW-F3, Sony E-Mount (FS100, FS700, EA50, NEX5 etc) as well as Canon EF (C100, C300, C500, 7D, 550D etc). To work correctly the lens must have a 2x extender. All is explained in the video.
IMPORTANT PLEASE ENSURE YOU USE THE REVISED SETTINGS UPDATED ON 24th JULY.
After my recent side by side look at the F3 and FS700 and seeing how different the two cameras look, I decided to try to match them a bit better. There will be many shoots where I will use them both together so getting them to look the same is important. I thought this would be a relatively straight forward task, simply dial in the FS700 to match the F3.
Well it wasn’t simple and it ended up taking me several hours to get to the point where I couldn’t get them any closer. The main issues are that the F3, like most of the XDCAM cameras has a yellow colour cast that’s hard to completely remove and the FS700 has quite a blue image and only very limited matrix controls. Initially I started to try to match the FS700 to a standard F3. While I could get the FS700 closer to the F3, I just couldn’t get a near match let alone a complete match. So back to the drawing board.
For my second attempt I decided first to work on getting rid of the yellow/orange cast to the F3 pictures by adjusting the F3’s matrix, at the same time creating a neutral look picture profile with good dynamic range, but one that could be used without grading. This took some extensive matrix tweaks. You will find the full details of my new “STD-REAL” picture profile in the forum by clicking here.
So once I had a neutral starting point on the F3 I then turned to the FS700 which I think is very blue. The matrix settings on the FS700 are quite limited so I wasn’t able to get an exact match to the F3, however the setting I came up with get them close enough for most jobs, it’s not perfect but it will do. I’m quite happy with my new FS700 settings and I think with this profile it produces a very nice image. You can find the full profile settings in the forum by clicking here. Remember you need to use the matching F3 profile in the F3 for the best match. If you want the maximum dynamic range then instead of Cinegamma 1 you should use Cinegamma 4 with the black gamma set to zero. My STD REAL profile for the FS700 is closer to a standard F3 than the default FS700 settings.
Great news. I have managed to create a set of .lut files from the standard MLUT’s included with the PMW-F3. These new files work with most LUT enabled software, like LUT Buddy, Colorista, Resolve etc. The standard Sony files don’t work so I had to create these which should be 100% matches with the F3’s included LUT’s. I have created both 8 bit and 10 bit LUT’s, so those experimenting with 8 bit S-Log files or using 8 bit edit software can try them out as well. You’ll find the files in the forum:
My opinion is that while 8 bit, 422 can be used for S-Log, it is not something I would recommend. I’d rather use a cinegamma with 8 bit recording. 10 bit 422 S-log is another matter altogether, this is well worth using and works very well indeed. It’s not so much whether you use 444, 422 or maybe even 420, but the number of bits that you use to record your output.
What you have to consider is this. With 8 bit, you have 240 shades of grey from black to super white. of the 256 bits available, 16 are used for sync, white is at 235 and super white 256 so black to 100% white is only 219. With Rec-709, standard gamma, on an F3 you get about an 8 stop range, so each stop of exposure has about 30 shades of grey. When you go to S-Log, you now have around 13 stops of DR, so now each stop only has 18 shades of grey. Potentially using 8 bit for S-Log, before you even start to grade, your image will be seriously degraded if you have any flat or near flat surfaces like walls or the sky in your scene.
Now think about how you expose S-Log. Mid grey sits at 38% when you shoot. If you then grade this to Rec-709 for display on a normal TV then you are going to stretch the lower end of your image by approx 30%, so when you stretch you 18 steps of S-Log grey to get to Rec-709 you then end up with the equivalent of only around 12 shades of grey for each stop, that’s less than half of what you would have if you had originally shot using Rec-709. I’m sure most of us have at some point seen banding on walls or the sky with standard gammas and 8 bit, just imagine what might happen if you effectively halve the number of grey shades you have.
By way of a contrast, just consider that 10 bit has 956 grey shades from black to super white. the first 64 bits are used for sync and other data, 100% white is bit 940 and super white 1019. So when shooting S-Log using 10 bit you have about 73 grey shades per stop, a four fold improvement over 8 bit S-Log so even after shooting S-Log and grading to Rec-709 there are still almost twice as many grey shades than if you had originally shot at 8 bit Rec-709.
This is a bit of an over simplification as during the grading process, if your workflow is fully optimised you would be grading from 8 bit to 10 bit and there are ways of taking your original 8 bit master and extrapolating additional grey shades from that signal through smoothing or other calculations. But the reality is that 8 bits for a 13 stop dynamic range is really not enough.
The whole reason for S-Log is to give us a way to take the 14ish stop range of a typical linear 12 bit camera sensor and squeeze as much of that signal as possible into a signal that remains useable and will pass through existing editing and post production workflows without the need for extensive processing such as de-bayering or RAW conversion. So our signal which starts at 12 bits has already been heavily processed to get it from 12 bits to 10. Going from 10 bit down to 8 is a step too far IMHO.
Just a quick note from NAB that firmware version 1.4 for the PMW-F3 will include S-Log as a selectable gamma curve within the picture profiles. This will be a free update, due out some time before the end of June (it’s in beta now, the F3’s at NAB have it installed). S-Log will function in all F3’s whether you have the CBK-RGB option or not. However if you don’t have the RGB option you will not get any Look Up Tables, no EI-Slog and no 4:4:4 output, only 4:2:2.
This is a fantastic addition and by having S-Log as a gamma curve within the picture profiles you will be able to tailor many of the setting such as white balance, matrix and detail to suit the shooting condition.
I’ve been testing and evaluating my new C300 today. Of course being the owner of a PMW-F3 I was more than a little curious to see how the two compared, so the obvious thing to do was some side by side shots. making use of one of my Hurricane Rig 3D rigs, I mounted the C300 and F3 side by side so I could grab the footage at almost exactly the same time, so the scene would be the same. In addition I used a Transvideo 3D monitor with both cameras fed into it so that I could use the 3D waveform monitor, which shows both inputs overlaid at the same time. I used this to match the exposure as accurately as possible. At the bottom of the post you’ll find a link to the raw clips, straight from the cameras.
Both cameras were fitted with matched Tokina 28-70mm AT-X Pro zooms. Doing 3D really helps for this kind of test as I have matched pairs of lenses etc. So exposure and focal lengths match. Notice how the C300 gives a slightly wider FoV compared to the F3. This means the C300’s sensor is bigger than the F3’s which makes it a fair bit bigger than the APS-C sensors used in the Canon 7D, 550D DSLR’s etc, so you are going to have to watch out for vignetting with cheaper EF-S fit lenses.
If you click on the images you will be able to see a full size, full resolution version, however these are jpegs so there may be additional compression artefacts.
C-Log and S-Log have similar, but different gamma curves, they are clearly not the same, the F3 has a bit more compression above 50% than the C300. Not sure what this will mean in reality yet, it may be that the F3 has a tiny bit of extra headroom. I deliberately overexposed both cameras by the same amount for one shot and the F3 just appears to hang on to the highlights just the tiniest bit better. This is NOT a very scientific test as I am not exploring the full dynamic range of either camera and you can’t really ignore shadow and low key performance when evaluating dynamic range, but initial indications are that the F3 does have marginally better DR.
Next I looked at the stock, out of the box images from both cameras. So no picture profiles or any other settings. This is how both cameras look straight from the factory:
The colorimetry is interesting. I prefer the Canon look, it just looks nicer than the Sony look. BUT, I think the reality is that the Sony look is more accurate and true to life. So which is better? I don’t think one is better than the other, it really depends on your own personal preference. Both cameras have highly tweak-able matrices so you can create your own look (which is something I will be doing). In this simple test the C300 appears to hold on to highlights a little better than the F3. I guess that Canon have optimised the knee a little better. Both images are sharp and crisp, showing good resolution. I think the C300 is a little over sharpened, but that will be easy to reduce through a custom profile.
Now with all the talk of noise and sensitivity I did do a quick comparison at 3200 ISO, which is the highest you can go with a stock F3 (S-Log F3 can go to 6400).
Now, you really need to look at these frames full size to appreciate the added noise or better still download the clips. Compare the 3200ISO images with the 400 ISO images and look at the concrete road. You can clearly see the extra noise from both cameras. My visual assessment is that the noise levels are similar, but that the C300 noise has a much finer structure than the F3. The finer noise looks more filmic to me, so I think I prefer the C300, but it’s not a deal breaker either way. I did take a peak at the noise at 20,000 ISO last night and there is a heck of a lot of it. It would have to be something pretty special to make me want to use more than 3200 ISO.
So, I’m liking the C300 a lot. It’s compact, well built and nice to hold. I find it hard to really distinguish the in camera recordings from the C300 and from the F3, but the C300 has that magic 50Mb/s codec that the BBC and others insist on. So for Grab and go the C300 makes a huge amount of sense. Indications are that the F3 may still have an edge in terms of ultimate latitude and I would expect the 10 bit output from the F3 to allowed harder and more intensive grading of the footage. But, that then means an external recorder with wires, batteries and other stuff. All that “stuff” is fine in a studio or drama shoot, but not so hot chasing tornadoes or similar. So far , this is exactly what I was expecting. The C300 will be a great grab and go camera, a very capable drama and documentary camera, but the F3 will still be my choice when I am doing high end drama or studio work. I’m fortunate enough to be able to afford both, I really like both, but for different reasons.
More tests will follow, in particular grading C-Log and S-log, 8 bit and 10 bit as well as low light performance. In addition I will be testing the C300 with a NanoFlash at higher bit rates to see how much of difference that can make. After that it will be time to create some picture profiles, in particular profiles to get the F3 and C300 closer together as I’m sure I will have projects that will use both.
Below is a link to download the original clips from the cameras. There are 4 clips from each, the total download size is about 400MB, so…….
Below is the link to download the original clips. IF YOU FIND THIS USEFUL IN ANY WAY please make a small donation to help cover my bandwidth and hosting costs. You are free to re-distribute the clips provided a link or acknowledgement of where they came from is included.
I’m up, 200 miles North of the Arctic Circle shooting the Northern Lights with a mixture of DSLR’s and one of my PMW-F3’s. The F3’s performance has really taken me by surprise as it’s possible to capture even a very faint Aurora just using the 8 frame slow shutter. Hopefully we’ll get a nice clear night and a decent Aurora and then I can turn off the slow shutter altogether. Either way, this is the first time I have been able to shoot the Aurora with out needing to resort to time-lapse.
The below clip is Timelapse as it does show the motion of the Aurora better. Shot with my F3 using the 8 frame SLS and 18db gain.
The key feature of this update is the ability to now output clean 4:2:2 S-Log from the “A” HDSDi port while outputting S-Log + LUT etc from the Sdi out. Of course you still need the S-Log option to be able to do this. There are also some extra 3D-Link features and support for the new Sony wide angle PL mount lens.
Cinematographer and film maker Alister Chapman's Personal Website