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Interbee 2010. Sony F3, Sony 35mm NXCAM and Hurricane Rig.

Hi all. This is a quick day one report from Interbee in Tokyo. Sony today revealed the often rumoured “other” 35mm camera to feature in their product line up that will be sold along side the already announced PMW-F3 (more on that later). This new camera from Sony’s Shinagawa factory, which at the moment has no name or product number is part of the NXCAM product line, so it will almost certainly record Sony’s version of AVCHD to SD cards and memory sticks. The camera is of a fully modular design with a 35mm sensor housed in a square sensor module that has a flip out LCD panel on the left side. There are separate hand grip and microphone modules so you can put the camera together in a configuration to suit your needs. In the rear of the camera module there is a very large recess which looks too big to be just a battery compartment to me. Perhaps there will be a removable media storage device in this area. The lens mount appears to be the same mount as used on Sony’s NEX range of cameras. The prototype was in a plastic tiffany case so no chance of a real close look.

Sony Low Cost 35mm Camera at Interbee
The business end of the 35mm NXCAM

This new camera will be a direct competitor to the Panasonic AF100/AF101 which is being well received by those that have had a chance to play with one. It’s obviously a slightly different approach to the Panasonic with it’s modular design so it will be interesting to see how it performs in the real world. I have no details about the sensor being used, but my guess would be that it is an adapted DSLR/NEX sensor with a new optical low pass filter tailored to video as opposed to stills. One thing to note is that like the Panasonic it appears that this camera will be able to shoot 1920x1080P at up to 60fps.

PMW-F3… So we saw this getting announced a week ago and many details have already been given. I pressed the engineers for more information about the sensor, but they are keeping very tight lipped. All they would say is that it has been developed specifically for this camera and as a result has some very big pixels which is why the sensitivity is so high and the gain so low.

PMW-F3 at Interbee

The native sensitivity (0db gain) is ISO 800 with normal gammas and hypergammas and ISO 1600 when using S-log, that’s pretty impressive. There are two PMW-F3?s on display here at Interbee along with a set of the new PL mount lenses that will be available with the cameras. The PL mount lenses are very impressive to look at, they look like big Ziess primes with chunky lens barrels and big fat control rings. The three lenses all look the same, only the writing on the side tells you which is which. There are 35mm, 50mm and 85mm lenses in the kit and the F3 with any one of these on the front certainly looks the part. The camera body is about the same length as an EX3 body, but is quite wide and overall the camera looks a fair bit bigger than an EX3, but it doesn’t weigh much more. The biggest surprise with the PL mount lenses is the weight. These are not heavy lenses, in fact they are really light. There is a lot of plastic used in their construction. I have mixed views on this. The lightness of the lens helps prevent the F3 from being front heavy, so you can use it handheld without it trying to tip forwards under the weight of the lens. On the other hand when you pick up a Zeiss prime it feels like a high quality piece of kit and these new low cost PL’s just don’t have that feel.

Low Cost 85mm PL mount lens.

Of course you do have to consider that there is  a huge price difference between a Zeiss PL prime and these lenses, so it’s not fair to expect them to be the same and a heavy Zeisss (or Cooke) lens on the front of the F3 would make it all but impossible to use handheld. While looking at the front end of the camera I had a good look at the lens adaptor. The F3 has it’s own proprietary lens mount, the F3 mount. In front of this, as standard, is fitted an F3 to PL mount adapter. The adapter is easily removed and is about 25 to 30 mm deep. This means that the flange back from the F3 mount to the sensor is short enough for adaptors for Nikon and Canon DSLR lenses to be used. As yet no one has such adapters but I image there will be a race to produce them as soon as the camera hits the streets.

Of course you can have all the bells and whistles in the world on a camera, but the important thing is the image quality. On the Sony booth they had a mixture of pre recorded footage plus the two demo cameras that are connected to nice big HD monitors for you to see the results first hand. Once again the images have amazed me. There is simply no obvious noise visible in the footage. Shoot with the standard gammas or hypergammas and the noise figure is 63db. Take my word for it…. you can’t see the grain in the pictures. Colours are beautiful and well balanced, the images of autumn (fall) leaves that Sony have shot look incredible as do the live pictures on the camera stand. In addition the images have a very nice organic look showing very high resolution but without any obvious edge enhancement or electronic artefacts.

PMW-F3 on the camera set.

I think that once again we are seeing a game changing camera in the Sony XDCAM EX stable. While I am quite sure that the Panasonic AF100 (AF101) will do very well as it appears to be a very competent camera the F3 takes you up to another level. This is a true movie making tool at a price that is very attractive. I can see many programmes that would have traditionally been shot with HDCAM or DVCPRO-HD being shot with one of these. It is a great shame that the internal recording is only 4:2:0, 35Mb/s, while a good codec capable of great things, it just isn’t going to do justice to the beautiful images this camera produces. 50Mb/s 4:2:2 would have been sooo much better. Then this camera would probably have been accepted for broadcast production straight out of the box, but as it stands your really going to want to record on to something else like a NanoFlash or KiPro. Another entrant in the small recorder arena that may be suitable is the new and much talked about “Ninja” ProRes recorder.

Atamos Ninja ProRes recorder.

Still only in it’s prototype stage, although production promised soon, this small device acts as both a monitor and ProRes recorder. It comes with an empty caddy to take a 2.5? laptop type SATA drive. This could be a really cheap hard drive or a more expensive SSD. Frankly I would not want to trust valuable rushes to a hard drive, so for me the only option would be the SSD. It looks like a very attractive device especially when you consider the $1000 USD price tag. We shall see. Having experienced getting stuff from design through to production the one thing I’ve learnt is that it’s very hard to go from the drawing board to full scale production and even harder to meet your target price point.

Atamos Ninja ProRes recorder.

Talking of which, for the first time we are showing the Genus Hurricane Rig on the Manfrotto stand. The Hurricane Rig is my light weight, easy to use, low cost 3D rig. I have been working frantically with Genus to get the rig into production over the last few months (hence the lack of posts) and we are very close now. In fact we have started a run of 15 rigs which will be going out to customers early next month. Manfrotto will be distributing the rig around the world. The price has crept up a bit and is now $7995 USD. But for that we are now including a fold flat mirror box which makes the rig incredibly easy to pack up and take on your travels. Also being shown here is the new optional lower stiffener and tripod mount that tilts the tripod head forwards through 30 degrees so that the front heavy nature of the rig can be offset against the counterbalance springs in the tripod head. There are several other small changes to the rig including a new stiffer mirror tray, stronger mirror frame with mirror locks and improved left camera pivot.

Fold Flat Mirror Box

So lots to see here at Interbee. Tomorrow I will be getting some hands on time with the F3 and doing a video report. I have my SxS cards ready to try to shoot some footage with it and share it here with you all, so please check back soon. These are exciting times. Once I finish writing this I’m placing an order for an F3. I can’t wait to really start putting it through it’s paces and playing with the different picture profiles and scene files. I have a big shoot in Norway at the end of Jan and I’d love to try and get an F3 for that, but they might not be shipping by then. Later in the year I will buy a second F3 so I can pair them up and use the 3D link function for stereoscopic production.

More to follow tomorrow………