Tag Archives: NXCAM

Updated notes for FS100 – F3 Video Review.

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.

Sony FS-100 Super 35mm NXCAM Camcorder Announced.

Sony FS100 fitted with PL mount lens.

Well the rumours have been circulating for some time and prototypes have been seen at various trade shows, but the full details have been sparse to say the least. Well here it is, it’s called the FS-100 and it’s a quite radical design from the Sony Shinegawa factory. The Super 35mm NXCAM shares the same sensor as the new PMW-F3, so the images will be excellent, but the design of the camera body itself could not be more different. If you don’t like it…  well you can blame me and several other DoP’s that were invited to attend brainstorming sessions with the Sony engineers. In the photo below you can see the white board from one of those sessions and you can see where we (me and the other DoP’s) discussed ideas like a modular design with removable handles and how we hold handycam cameras.

The end result is this rather quirky but in my opinion, really quite clever and versatile design. The top viewfinder allows you to use the camera cradled in your hands in front of you, either using just the LCD panel or the monocular viewfinder. When your doing interviews you can twist it so that it is visible from either side of the camera, excellent for those interviews where you are both camera operator and interviewer. It allows you to alternate the sight lines from left to right of the camera for more varied interviews. It’s also useful for shooting in cramped locations such as in the front of a car as you can hold the camera sideways in front of you to shoot… I mean film…. the driver and still see what your getting.

Top view of FS100 body

Unlike most traditional camcorders the camera can be stripped down to just the sensor/recorder body. You can remove the top handle, mic holder and hand grip. In addition it has a multitude of tripod mounting holes on the top, bottom and even one side. On the base of the camera there are 6x 1/4″ threaded holes and wait for it… 2x 3/8″ holes. Hooray!! On the top there are a further 3x 1/4″ holes and there is even one on the side, revealed when you detach the removable hand grip. This is going to be fantastic for use on cars as a 35mm minicam or crash-cam. It will make getting all those different car chase angles so easy as a few small suction mounts will allow you to mount the stripped down camera just about anywhere. I can see the FS-100 becoming a “must-have” B camera to compliment my F3. The 1/4″ thread on the side of the camera means you can mount it on it’s side for portrait style shooting for digital signage or to get the maximum resolution when shooting people for chroma key.

While the camera does come with a detachable handgrip, there is no zoom rocker like the F3. That’s because the camera is primarily aimed at those using DSLR lenses which don’t have servo zooms, although PL mount adapters are available. The front end of the camera has Sony’s E mount for interchangeable lenses. It will come with the rather nice (if a little slow) 18-200mm f3.5-f6.3 optically stabilised zoom lens and the auto focus and auto iris do work! As well as Sony’s own G series lenses for the NEX cameras you can get adapters for Sony A mount and most other lenses. Do consider that if you are planning on using heavy PL lenses that the E mount is not designed for such high loads, so an additional lens support system should be used.

Rear view Fs100

On the input and output front the FS-100 has most of the connectors you would expect to find on an NXCAM camcorder, with one notable exception… HDSDi. There is no HDSDi, but don’t panic! The camera does have HDMI and the quality available from HDMI is every bit as good as HDSDi. No word as to whether it’s 8 bit or 10 bit though. Sony are well aware that the one thing missing from HDMI is normally timecode, but even that has been addressed and it will be possible to export timecode in the HDMI stream, although at the moment we need to wait for the HDMI recorders to update them to accept timecode via HDMI. There are 2 XLR connectors for audio in. One on the right side and one on the rear, there is also the usual mini-D component out and RCA/Phono audio and composite video outputs.

Sony FS100 35mm NXCAM

When you start to delve into the cameras frame rates and recording modes things get really interesting as the FS100 will record full 1920×1080 at 60P and 50P. Even the F3 can’t do this internally (you can output 50/60P to an external recorder). As well as all the usual frame rates like 23.98, 60/50i, 30/25P you can also shoot full resolution slo-mo at up to 60fps using S&Q motion. It’s not quite as flexible as the F3 as you will find that you only have a choice of frame rates (for example 1,2,3,6,12,25,50fps) and won’t have the ability to dial in any frame rate you want, but all frame rates will be full 1920×1080. As with the other NXCAM camcorders all these lovely modes will be recorded on to SD cards or Memory Sticks using the AVC HD codec (mpeg 4), in addition you can add the Sony FMU128 (128Gb Flash Memory Unit) for dual recording giving peace of mind with one off events.

Once your footage is on your cards the cleverness of this camera continues as you don’t need a laptop to backup your data. Simply plug in a USB drive or even a Blu-ray burner), direct to the cameras USB port and you can backup direct from the camera to the drive. Your footage will contain GPS data about when and where you shot it, which for me will be a great bonus with my severe weather footage as I can never remember exactly where I was during a storm chase!

All in all this is looking like one hell of a camcorder. The street price is estimated to be below $6000 USD, so you do have to ask the question.. why buy an F3 when this is half the price? In my view they are two quite different cameras for different applications. The F3 has the ability to output full 10 bit 4:4:4 for extremely high quality recording possibilities. It also has built in ND filters and will have S-Log and 3D dual camera control. For multi-camera shoots the F3 has Genlock and timecode in/out. There will also be some nice servo zooms for the F3 some time later this year or early next year. The F3 is a camera that would not at all be out of place as a B camera on a big budget production. The FS-100 will I’m sure also find a place on big budget productions, perhaps as a crash-cam or mini cam. But overall I think it will be most at home on more run and gun style shoots where auto iris and maybe even autofocus are beneficial. I really do think that the FS100 will replace many of the DSLR’s out there currently being used for video as a lot of thought has gone in to the ergonomics.

These are very interesting times. It’s now possible to shoot a movie, with quality good enough for mainstream theatrical release on cameras costing little more than a high end home video camcorder of just a few years ago. I doubt most cinema goers would realise that a camera like the F3 or FS100 was used, especially if it’s recorded to a NanoFlash, KiPro or even the new Convergent Design Gemini. However we must not forget that content is king, not the technology that makes it possible.

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………