Panasonic AU-EVA1; my next cinema camera?

The big preview of Panasonic's newest cinema camera, seated comfortably between Varicam LT and GH5, happened at Cine Gear Expo in Los Angeles Friday afternoon. Introducing the Panasonic AU-EVA1. I am astounded at how many of my needs EVA1 checks off my list for a cinema camera upgrade. She also added a few things to the list I couldn't have imagined I'd be able to personally afford in a new cinema camera. EVA1 winds up being a miniature Varicam LT, without the Varicam badge, price, or weight. The specs previewed so far are jaw-dropping.

EVA1 will feature Varicam colorimetry, proper V-Log and V-Gamut. It's DCI 4K will be subsampled from a bran-new 5.7K Super 35 sensor, recording to an internal 10-bit 4:2:2 Intra codec at up to 400Mbps on SDXC cards (I will probably want to invest in the new V-class). It will also, eventually, output 5.7K raw over SDI and/or HDMI. It will work with DVX200 batteries. It will do 4K up to 60fps, as well as 2K up to 240fps. Still being tweaked, EVA1 will have some flavor of dual native ISO, probably close to Varicam LT's settings of 800 and 5000. It has built-in ND, EIS, and a swing-away IR cut filter. The top handle, LCD, and side grip, are removable and repositionable. It also sports an active EF lens mount that most likely will be able to communicate with most fly-by-wire EF lenses and be able to control them with buttons on the camera body for iris and auto focus, if you're into that sort of thing. Also, EVA1 is not bad to look at. The button layout is nice and the black-with-red-trim motif is sexy.

My teeny-tiny complaint is that the EF mount is not a positive-locking one. Would that keep me from favoring EVA1 over, say, Blackmagic's Ursa Mini Pro? Nope. Not at all. In fact, the only thing BMUMP has going for it now is it's interchangeable mount system. That's about it. Every other tick goes in EVA1's favor. With the EF-mount, I will be able to utilize my set of SLR Magic APO Hyperprime Cine T2.1 25/50/85mm PL-mount lenses as I have a lovely EF-PL adapter that works extremely well. As I am also a stills photographer who uses Canon equipment, EVA1 should work beautifully with my little collection of medium-fast EOS "L" zoom lenses.

EVA1's price, which Panasonic says will be 'under $8,000', is enticing. Ursa Mini Pro's price ($5,995), plus Shoulder Mount Kit ($395), 256GB Cfast2 card ($580), V-mount battery plate ($95), and a 14.8V 95Wh battery ($247), comes in at a bit more than $7,311 as a working system. "Under $8,000" could literally mean "$7,999," but everything in the box is what I'd need. All I have to buy at that point is a few V90 SDXC cards which are far less expensive than Cfast2 cards. The batteries I already use with DVX200 will work for EVA1, as will my custom shoulder mount kit I slapped together with components from SmallRig and Zacuto.

Speaking of "competition", Canon recently announced it's new EOS C200. Basically an 8-bit 4:2:0 35Mbps camcorder that primarily shoots 4K in a compressed version of Canon's proprietary raw format, utilizing the EOS C700 sensor, at a measly 150Mbps. The lackluster announcement was, for me, a momentary diversion for a product which I don't find appealing. Later, Sony announced they had a thousand personnel working on a new 135-format ("full frame") sensor CineAlta that'll come out at some point in a few years, be really expensive, and will prove to be a PITA to pull focus on. No thanks.

It's also no small thing that EVA1 is petite: less than 7" long, and less than 6" wide and tall. She also weighs less than 3lbs. She's pretty much perfect for jib and stabilizer work, as well as being outfitted for heavier rig work, but with a total rig weight of "not very much" since EVA1 already is light as a feather. A few extra pounds won't make a lot of difference, I don't think. I'm sure she'll be quite strong as I've always been impressed with Panasonic's build quality. To put it bluntly (and to echo a joke from the movie "Airplane"), I like my cameras the way I like my women: petite, smart, strong, and black...with red trim. Joking aside, I think EVA1 is an absolute winner.

A few niggles: it's unclear at this point what the exact dual native ISO specs will be. We also have no idea what the new sensor's dynamic range will be, or if AU-EVA1's image quality will be anywhere near par to the AU's sister Varicam line. We also don't know what the actual MSRP or street price will be. Some other people are very interested in EVA1's ability to auto focus with EF lenses, as well as what it's OIS compatibility will be. I'm not personally interested in either of these functions, so it's not really a thing, but some people are concerned so, for them, it's worth mentioning. What is of concern to me is how the internal codecs will all play with each other, as well as what sort of sensor cropping are we looking at depending on codec, recording format, frame rates, etc. But, these are all little things that Panasonic is tweaking and will disclose in full before the camera ships this fall. Again, I'd prefer a locking EF mount, but having a bayonet version is not a deal breaker.

Is the Panasonic AU-EVA1 my next cinema camera? I believe EVA1 could be a stellar addition to my small family of motion picture cameras, partially retiring my Blackmagic Cinema Camera, and allowing my Panasonic AG-DVX200 to focus on what it does best: reality/ENG work. It would be my intent for EVA1 to handle the TVCs, music videos, shorts, and feature films that come my way. I can't wait to see what EVA1's official specs will be when they are announced later this year. Panasonic says EVA1 is on track to be released by the end of 2017. I still need to see footage to be sure, but I'm looking forward to holding her in my hands soon and seeing what she's made of. That's when I'll really know.

Resources:
http://business.panasonic.com/AU-EVA1.html
http://business.panasonic.co.uk/professional-camera/camcorders/AU-EVA1-cinema-compact-camera-for-cinematic-moments
http://pro-av.panasonic.net/en/eva1/index.html


Panasonic AG-DVX200 Field Review

This past weekend I was invited to shoot a spec teaser trailer for a proposed horror film tentatively titled "The Asylum" written and directed by first-timer Israel Ybarra. The shoot would span two consecutive evenings: Friday and Saturday on location in the little Texas town of San Juan. The first day would be filming in and around the abandoned San Juan Hotel on Business 83 constituting all the scary scenes. The second day would consist of the setup: some exposition-serving drama at a house party before the fun begins. I decided to use my Panasonic AG-DVX200 video camera for this project as I hadn't seen it used for anything cinematic online, to date.

The way I understand the camera, as far as Panasonic is concerned, the DVX200 can be configured to be a GH4 with more sensible motion picture camera ergonomics and usability, plus the speed of a fixed lens. I also knew that place would be dirty and I didn't want to have to change lenses and worry about potentially damaging my clunkier, more expensive film gear for what is basically a "for fun" project. Despite the filthy conditions of the dilapidated building and the location's ~90º F temperature (at night!), the DVX200 performed precisely as expected. Depending on the complexity of the scenes I would use anywhere between one and five small LED lights.

HD and Variable Frame Rates

I decided to shoot this project in 1080/23.97p 200 Mbps ALL-I Full HD (FHD) because after speaking with the director I knew I would need to do some undercranking (fast motion) and overcranking (slow motion). The DVX200's Variable Frame Rate (VFR) mode gives me a wide range of choice from 2-120fps, but not above 1080p. I knew that DVX200 resorts to a sensor crop at frame rates higher than 96fps, which was too slow, anyway, so I kept the highest overcrank at 60fps. Going over the dailies later, this would wind up being a re-time of 150% on the editing timeline when ramping. I overcranked a reaction shot of a woman finding her boyfriend being attacked. I also undercranked on another attack at 20fps to give the scene more voracity.

Undercranking and overcranking, by the way, are terms carried over from film. It basically means that, in a 24fps environment, when you undercrank or allow the film to travel through the camera slower than 24fps then play it back at 24fps the action moves faster since it takes less frames for a normal action to be captured and thus the movement is exaggerated. Inversely, overcranking is to allow the film to travel faster through the camera, then when played back at 24fps the action is slowed down. Subtly under or overcranking film can have a huge effect on an audiences perception of a scene. Because the film travels at different speeds than what it was rated for, you must increase your exposure for overcranking or decrease it for undercranking. Shooting a scene at 60fps on a DSLR and slowing it down in post is not overcranking because the images was always intended to be 60fps in a 60fps environment. Overcranking or undercranking takes place inside the camera on the day.

The Image and Working with V-Log L

I have found that I enjoy working with V-Log L and DVX200's interpretation of it. I have decided that using Scene 4, exposing and white balancing correctly, using the Natural color matrix and not going past ISO 2000 yields flat images that can be turned into some very nice-looking ones with only a little bit of love. The Varicam 35 to V709 LUT works very well in these situations and is generally a good starting point for a grade. The DVX200 internally only records to 4:2:0 8-bit at up to 200 Mbps ALL-I in FHD, so it's a little better than shooting with a nice DSLR in terms of the digital file, but it also outputs a clean 4:2:2 10-bit image to an external device – so, you have that option. For a project with a quick turnaround that doesn't need a lot of work because it was shot appropriately, then even an 8bit image will grade satisfactorily a lot of the time, but, again the option is there. Also, I have read that if you record a 4K or UHD image internally and scale it to a FHD editing timeline later, mathematically the image magically transforms from a 4:2:0 8-bit image to a 4:2:2 10-bit one. Regardless, it's best to use an external recorder; Barry Green will back me up on that.

An example of DVX200's noise reduction ghosting artifacts prior to the v1.81 firmware update.
An example of DVX200's noise reduction ghosting artifacts prior to the v1.81 firmware update.

I had recently updated the firmware to version 1.81 which adds the Noise Reduction (NR) Control Function which eliminates the terrible ghosting artifacts most noticeable in shadow areas of high contrast images, but in favor of more noise. More on noise later. But, speaking of firmware, I will briefly go over the update milestones that are most meaningful to me. By the time I purchased my DVX200 in May this year there were already no less than three updates that resonated with me.

First, v1.25 in November 2015 improved 4K and UHD modes by adding Fast Scan Mode which reduces the camera's 4/3" CMOS sensor's rolling shutter artifacts (jello effect), made the shadow areas cleaner by reducing black dot noise and also cleaned up highlights by making overexposed areas roll off into white instead of yellow.

Next, firmware v1.51 in March this year added the Natural color tone reproduction setting and reduced noise in black-colored areas in FHD.

Lastly, the v1.65 update in April improved gradation in log, fixed the camera so it would remember your gain setting after a reboot, as well as adding Extended Sensitivity mode which introduced the concept of negative gain to the camera, granting up to -6dB gain and effectively dropping the noise floor about 2 stops. This results in cleaner images south of the base ISO of 500. This brings me to today and the most recent 1.81 update.

DVX200 with v1.81 firmware, +12dB gain 1/60 shutter at 1080/60i, Scene 4 STILL-LIKE, custom WB, with NR Control at -7. Manual zoom and focus. Aperture was at f/4.5 to prevent ramping whilst zooming.
DVX200 with v1.81 firmware, +12dB gain 1/60 shutter at 1080/60i, Scene 4 STILL-LIKE, custom WB, with NR Control at -7. Manual zoom and focus. Aperture was at f/4.5 to prevent ramping whilst zooming.

The noise of the camera from ISO 2000 and below, I have found, is well done and not the smudgy mess generally found in video cameras. The noise appears filmic at times; especially between the camera's base ISO rating of 500 and the least sensitive rating of ISO 250 where, I believe, it is actually quite pleasing. For this project, I wound up shooting between 500 and 1000 ISO.

Clarity of the image, particularly at the slower ISO ratings, was generally sharp and well-defined. I don't like my images to be excessively sharp in a digital way, rather I prefer to light with a lot of contrast to heighten an audiences' perception of sharpness and to nail focus like a boss. In my experience this approach gives far more "cinematic" images than increasing the sharpness setting in the camera or sharpening the image in post. I like to see noise or grain when it's pleasing and it reminds me I'm watching a movie.

The DVX200's 5K sensor gives the image superb overall clarity. Color reproduction, when the camera is setup properly (read: exposed and white balanced correctly), is good. Of course, depending on the Scene settings, you could be going for the generic broadcast video camera look of Scene 1, or the more GH4 "cine" look with Scene 4. Either way, I have always found skintones to be rendered well in good lighting situations. In bad situations where you can't help but shoot under a sodium vapor street lamp, then skintones will be rendered appropriately yellow. Either way, that's the way it looked to my eye when I saw it live, and that's how the DVX200 records it...again, when setup properly. Summed up: DVX200 does a good job of reproducing colors, particularly skintones, in the way I remember seeing them with my eyes in various lighting conditions.

The Body

I use my DVX200 naked with the big battery and a good-sized shotgun with deadcat hand-held with OIS all the time, for hours and hours. The camera is well-balanced and a joy to use. The size and weight actually make it easier to handle than HVX200 or DVX100 (or other similar types of camcorders). It might help that I'm used to full-size ENG cameras and digital film cameras like a big, fat Red One loaded up at somewhere between 30-50lbs depending on lenses and batteries...on my shoulder or hanging from my hands. As a videographer, DVX200 has never become a burden...though even a mostly plastic camera starts to feel like it's 2-3x heavier than it really is after several hours of shooting, but that's why you put it down every now and then. And if you simply can't (wedding?) the weight still hasn't been a deal-breaker...plus, again, the size and shape of it (including the central placement of the battery compartment) means that it's very well balanced, especially with the heavier batteries. So, I'd say that for me, the weight has not yet been a problem at all and I don't see it ever becoming so.

BTS with my Panasonic AG-DVX200 on location in San Juan, TX shooting spec teaser-trailer for "The Asylum" horror feature film. Used an LED Yongnuo YN-300 as an "Obie" light for a few shots.
BTS with my Panasonic AG-DVX200 on location in San Juan, TX shooting spec teaser-trailer for "The Asylum" horror feature film. Used an LED Yongnuo YN-300 as an "Obie" light for a few shots.

The ergonomic benefits of using a proper camcorder for video work are numerous. Gripping the handle for low-mode (or just resting the camera in the non-dominant hand) is a joy. The buttons and switches are intuitively places on the smart side, plus extra ones on the dumb side. Having the ability to assign nearly any function you could need to the User Switch buttons potentially makes the DVX200 an efficient camera to operate. Also, I sometimes forget the camera's LCD flip-out monitor is also a touchscreen and I like that the menu system isn't too difficult to navigate (DVX200 is just as much a computer as it is a camera) and setting it up for shooting doesn't take long at all. SD card slot placement is fine, plus the manual audio controls are right where they should be. The rear viewfinder is extremely helpful in bright shooting conditions. I learned that pointing the EVF upward keeps the sensor from turning off the LCD accidentally. However, you are able to switch to EVF or LCD (or auto) so this phenomenon doesn't happen at all unless you want it to. Also, because I'm old school I set up the EVF to show only grayscale. I have found the camera never seems to overheat, even in the hot Texas sun. As far as batteries are concerned, the included VW-VBD58 will last a conservative shooter over 3 hours of juice. I also have the AG-VBR59 which has a similar run-time, plus the bigger AG-VBR118G which, honestly, has lasted me an entire shoot day without complaint on more than one occasion.

The Lens

The affixed 13x Leica 12.8-67mm lens on the 4/3" sensor has various focal lengths depending on what mode you're in, but basically it's about a ~29-370mm in 135 terms. It does have a digital zoom which uses the 5K sensor in FHD to perform the punch in. Also, un 4K/UHD the Optical Image Stabilizer (OIS) further uses the extra pixels to work. The lens is not parfocal, but it does some magic that gives the impression of a parfocal lens, though you can hear the mechanical elements shift inside the body (no worries) and you can see the camera try to catch up when performing snap zooms. It hasn't been a problem yet and I don't forsee it becoming one, but it is something I noticed.

The lens is rated at f/2.8 at the wide end and ramps to an acceptable f/4.5 somewhere in the middle of the zoom range. The depth of field is quite negotiable in terms of nailing follow focus. I have found that DVX200 has a pleasing depth of field and can appear quite cinematic at times. Flaring and other optical artifacts are controlled well. OIS is a joy in general as it makes a static handheld shot look like the camera is on a tripod, or it at least gives traveling shots the steadier look of a full-size ENG camera. The included lens hood has a mechanical barn door system that protects the front of the lens without fear of one day losing a lens cap.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the Panasonic AG-DVX200 is a great little camera that certainly has the capability to play alongside real cinema cameras in a lot of ways. The image quality is quite good and the ergonomics of the camera make it far more enjoyable to use than having to rig out a DSLR. Or, it certainly saves your back from having to deal with a 40lb cinema camera. I think the camera is a great solution for low-budget productions needing the look of a GH4 but don't want to deal with it's ergonomics in the field. But, don't get your hopes up: if you need raw processing or for the camera to see in the dark because you don't (or can't) light what you're shooting, then DVX200 might not be for you. But, at the end of that weekend shoot, the director and producer were very happy with the dailies straight from the camera. Once I see the trailer has posted I will post it here and possibly add BTS photos and stills.

 


Panasonic AG-DVX200 Consideration

I have all but pulled the trigger on my next camera: the Panasonic AG-DVX200 (brochure, Panasonic Pro-AV website, Panasonic Business website). It took quite a bit of research and bumbling about to make my decision as I had been looking for a handy-cam-style camcorder to shoot the type of projects that make up the majority of my freelance work: reality, documentary and event. From my first impressions of another camera, the new Sony PXW-Z150, I had steeled myself against considering cameras above $3,500.

However, the next higher class of camera simply did more things that I would get more mileage out of in the long run. Since I see each camera as a major investment that will last 5-8 years, I became more comfortable with needing to spending that extra ~$1,000 or so for the quality, professional features and ease-of-use I was looking for. I still like the X70, still like the specs of the Z150. But the DVX200 has a logarithmic profile, intra-frame codecs, DCI 4K, a larger sensor and that lovely Panasonic color matrix (made nicer by a recent free firmware patch). It also has a lot of support from both Panasonic and third-parties and, unlike Sony, Canon and others, Panasonic seems to officially support its cameras for a number of years instead of with just one quick patch to fix a few typos and then on to the next minimally-revised version.

There's something very appealing about a camera being able to shoot real DCI 4K in true 24 fps with an intra-frame codec and logarithmic profile.

There's something very appealing about a camera being able to shoot real DCI 4K (Digital Cinema Initiative 4K, 4096x2160, 17:9 aspect ratio) in true 24 fps (frames per second) at 4:2:0 8-bit at 100 Mbps (Mega bits per second) in V-Log L (Varicam Logarithmic profile Lite). And to shoot UHD (Ultra-High Definition, 3840x2160, 16:9 aspect ratio) for FHD (1920x1080, Full-raster High Definition, 16:9) and effectively recording 4:4:4 10-bit at 200 Mbps and having the option to also reframe on the timeline, acquired with cheap SDXC cards on inexpensive batteries that will go for many hours, plus FHD 120 fps — everything just seemed to fall into place on paper for me.

I don't love that the affixed Leica lens is not 100% mechanical and therefore imprecise. The zoom ring has a mechanical link and can be either servo-controlled or manually racked, but the other two rings are strictly fly-by-wire. Focus, in particular, is said to have a mind of its own (read: Fine Control issues). User-reported issues seem to stem from inexperience with a new camera compounded by users not customizing settings in the menus, however, so I'm not exactly worried, but my ENG and motion picture camera operator backgrounds would have preferred total mechanical FIZ control. This does mean there are no focus ring hard stops potentially making repeatable, mark-able focus pulls very difficult at the extremes. But, if you don't pull past the extremes, I am assured the ring and it's relative position with the focal plane are said to be precise and, therefore, repeatable in Course and Fine control modes.

An additional caveat is the Leica is not a true optical parfocal lens; zooming too quickly will reveal the lens' element groups rushing to catch up. This means on a snap zoom the image will be briefly out of focus from one extreme to the other. Not a big deal with inherent motion blur, but at the extremes, once the zoom has ended you'll notice the shot eventually return to proper focus as the internal lens elements settle. That seems silly with a mechanical zoom that can snap.

AG-DVX200_03_side

Regardless, I believe that the DVX200 is the best camcorder for me. Reading Barry Green's ebook gets me excited about all the customization functions, alone. And it's in stock right now pretty much everywhere. I'm just waiting for a few things: 1. a few freelance checks to clear, 2. I'd still like to see what gets announced at NAB Show next week, just in case.

But, even if a fantastic camera is announced that may or may not begin shipping later this year or whenever, I still think purchasing the DVX200 next month is the best thing for me. It gets me the kind of camera I desperately need for the majority of my freelance work, which saves me the hassle of using the Blackmagic Cinema Camera on shows that aren't on controlled sets.

My freelance work, unless it is a commercial, music video or movie, rarely grants me the luxury of being able to change lenses, to carry a bunch of lenses, extra gear and crew to make it all work. Mostly I am a one-man-crew and I really only have so much ability as my own pack mule to carry all the gear I need to properly utilize the Cinema Camera. Don't get me wrong: the image is eventually worth it, but the stress is killer and if I don't have to do that 80% of the time, then that would make my back and shoulders feel a lot better. Not to mention the time saved just setting the tripod down, white balancing, composing the shot and hitting record. It takes me back to my ENG days where I could shoot an entire commercial in less than 3 hours.

I'm highly looking forward to being able to be more productive with less bags of equipment and instead having a single bag with everything I need. I imagine my Rodelink receiver will live on the DVX200's cold shoe after next month! So, next month, I expect to start compiling information on my new camera as I take it out into the world. I plan to do a review of the DVX200 once I've used it for a while to share my thoughts of real-world use by myself, a freelance videographer and one-man-crew, as well as my thoughts of using it as a cinematographer on a proper short film.

AG-DVX200_01_slant

The number of projects I've already had this year that I could have used the DVX200 on...all of them, actually. I haven't done one project this year already that I couldn't have used this camera on and, in doing so, saved myself quite a bit of headache from using the Cinema Camera or the Canon 6D or 5Dm3 in reality situations that they just weren't designed for. And DSLR's suck at real video and I've been tired of that form factor for videography for a number of years. I did not purchase my 6D to shoot video, but that's what I've been using it for because I haven't had a camcorder to take over from the BMCC. The 6D is easier to use and much less heavy than the BMCC, but at a cost of a less-than-stellar image. The DVX200 gives me the best of the DSLR, the best of the BMCC (except raw), and the best of the handy-cam-style camcorders all rolled into one, single unit.

I've always been a fan of Panasonic's skin tones, and I was a heavy user of the HPX200A and did use the DVX100B on a few projects. The DVX200 seems like a perfect fit for me. I think it's going to be wonderful.

In the meantime, some educational DVX200 videos on YouTube: Review by Hot Rod Camera, "A Day of Life" short film by Panasonic, "A Day of Life" BTS, DVX200 Key Features, DVX200 Demo with Bernie Mitchell.

Update, May 1, 2016: I travelled up to Dallas after a work trip last week and visited a Panasonic reseller which demoed the DVX200 for me. Finally holding the camera in my hands laid to rest any doubts or issues I may have had prior to physically handling it. Now it's not just a white paper and some pictures, but a real product I feel more confident investing it. Review coming soon.

Update, May 6, 2016: By the end of the day, both FedEx and UPS will be delivering packages: the DVX200, plus batteries, cards and a few other things. Camera bag arrives next Tuesday. I've loved the camera so far, this weekend will be time to go out and test it the best way I know how: using it in the field. Review coming soon.


Sony PXW-Z150 First Impressions

Some of you may be aware that I have been looking for some time to upgrade my acquisition equipment from Full-raster High Definition (FHD, 1080p) to Ultra High Definition (UHD, 2160p) or, simply, 4K. Until NAB Show on April 18, chances are my needs in the cinema camera department will still be competently fulfilled by the PL-mount Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6K still unreleased at time of writing. It still is the only camera in its class, at its price, to offer so many flavors of 4K, 2K and HD formats with my favorite codec, ProRes 422 HQ. And that works fine for controlled sets such as the commercial, music video, short form and feature-length narrative motion picture projects I am often hired for.

Lately, however, I've noticed an upsurge of demand for reality-based video work; mostly event, non-fictional, documentary-type projects. It is sort of a pain to have to whip out my clunky, interchangeable lens 2.5K Blackmagic Cinema Camera system where I actually need an assistant or two to really be functional and productive. There's the lens case, the audio bag, the camera cage and rigging, the heavy tripod system, and the lights. It's too much for a ready/shoot ENG configuration where all you need is one bag with everything in it, the camera lives on the tripod for the entire shoot and you can move from one spot to the next, capturing the moments without being too obtrusive and without getting so tired so quickly. Along came the camcorder. For me, it was the Sony PXW-X70, but it just didn't have it where it counted.

Sony PXW-Z150: Exmor RS CMOS sensor, XAVC-L 4:2:2 10-bit 50 MB/s 1080p HD 120 fps. UHD 4K at 4:2:0 8-bit 100 MB/s. 3G-SDI out, LANC, XLR inputs, dual SDXC, 12x optical zoom, 3-ring full manual lens control, street price of $3,199 USD.
Sony PXW-Z150: Exmor RS CMOS sensor, XAVC-L 4:2:2 10-bit 50 MB/s 1080p HD 120 fps. UHD 4K at 4:2:0 8-bit 100 MB/s. 3G-SDI out, LANC, XLR inputs, dual SDXC, 12x optical zoom, 3-ring full manual lens control, street price of $3,199 USD.

Don't get me wrong: I'm a huge fan of the Sony PXW-X70. It's very compact, gives great HD video with the option to record adequate, undemanding 4K. The XAVC-L codec is robust and natively supported by Final Cut Pro X, my NLE weapon of choice. But, sometimes, it's a little too small. I'm used to the big shoulder-mount full-size broadcast ENG cameras with the long Fujinon parfocal, servo-zoom lenses and mighty Anton Bauer Hytron brick batteries. When P2 came along and a great deal of us started shooting with the HVX200 because stations didn't want to continue splurging on the big Sony or Panasonic rigs, let alone their crop of news photogs when reporters can just point and shoot with a tripod their own stand-ups and closes, the world changed.

Sure, there are still full-size ENG cameras doing some kind of flash media or (shudder) DV tape, and I've only seen the newer ones at national networks, but everyone else has plunkered down and settled on the prosumer-level camcorders. The X70 does a fine job as such, but sometimes it's a little too small of a camera. I miss all the extra buttons and dedicated three-rings for manual on-the-fly adjustments of lens settings. I miss holding something with a little more weight and girth. And I like built-in 4K and slow and fast motion options. And I like my HD at 4:2:2 10-bit at 50 MB/s. The X70 does some of these things, but not all of them.

Enter the Sony PXW-Z150.

I had narrowed my searching down to a few other cameras, namely the Panasonic HC-X1000, JVC GY-HM200 with the Sony PXW-X70 for control. I even wrote an entire Google Sheet to illustrate my thoughts: what I expected from a camcorder, what I hope to achieve with a camcorder and what extra features the camera might have in relation to its price that equals a juice that is worth the squeeze. Considering my desire for 4K and HD with acceptable broadcast specs, 6 stops of built-in optical ND, XLR inputs, SDI outputs, SDXC compatability, fully manual adjustable lens, LANC remote control, slow and quick motion, plus the benefit of a large CMOS lens (and a budget of not a lot), the Z150 quickly became my killer choice.

All the reasons I want the Sony PXW-Z150.
All the reasons I want the Sony PXW-Z150.

The Sony Zed One Fitay becomes available in North America in mid-April at a street price of about $3200. I'm looking forward to checking it out – that is, unless something better shows up April 18. Am I headed in the right direction? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Timeline of Blackmagic Design Cinema Cameras

With the release of new Ursa Mini 4.6K footage, I decided to create this: an evolving interactive timeline of Blackmagic Design cinema cameras — as they are of interest to me. Therefore, it will mostly focus on the Ursa Mini 4.6K PL, the original Cinema Camera 2.5K EF and other bits like Video Assist and Ursa Viewfinder. I also mention updates to Camera Utility and product manuals, as well as NAB announcements, Tweets and beta tester footage because I believe they are part of a pattern leading up to actual product release.


Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K Resolution Chart

Ursa-Mini-Aspect-Ratios-v2

Using information from the Blackmagic Design website's spec sheet on URSA Mini 4.6K PL, here is a chart illustrating the various resolutions and some possible aspect ratios available with the camera. I am assuming 2x anamorphic lenses will be used in the 4:3 aspect ratio 3K anamorphic mode, and the possibility of utilizing 1.33x anamorphic lenses or adapters in the 4K 16:9 mode, though any of the other resolutions with 16:9 modes will most likely work the same way. Click on the image to view the 1:1 pixel version.

Since I am interested in shooting 2.4:1 in 3K anamorphic, I wish the announced SLR Magic set of anamorphic lenses with PL mount were 2x, not 1.33x. Just a note.


Botanical Gardens video produced on iPhone 6

https://youtu.be/FaUlC8StSh4

When Herlinda and I visited Corpus Christi, we stopped by the South Texas Botanical Gardens for the first time and enjoyed it very much. I snapped some photos and rolled video with my iPhone 6. I thought I would try out the iMovie app today and test its capabilities with a highlight video of our trip. Turns out it was a pleasant experience; quick and a bit more precise and feature-filled than I first thought. I don't think I'd cut a movie on it, but it might be alright for a quick web video here and there.


Are Reds More Accurate in BMCC Firmware 1.5.1?

I decided to update my Blackmagic Cinema Camera 2.5K EF from 1.5 to 1.5.1 today and thought I'd do a purely unscientific reds test to see if there was a change. There was not. Obviously there is a nice mix of reds, oranges, yellows and a bit of blue and green in the shot and they seem pretty accurate to me, but there is no change between firmware. I also shot ProRes Film and Video if anyone wants to see those, but my point is not about are the reds less orange, my point is there is no discernible change in color between firmware.

100crop

Below are the full size JPEG's. Both images: WB: 5550K, Tint: +40

A_A01_2013-12-18_2010_C0000_000111

A_A01_2014-01-02_1023_C0000_000082


New Camera! Canon EOS Rebel T2i

I haven't purchased a digital SLR since my 20D in early 2006. This past Saturday I made the 30 minute trip to Harlingen to pick up the only Canon EOS 550D (Rebel T2i) in the area. I'm going to shoot my next short film with it. It's awesome. Check out this video clip I shot with it this morning:

https://vimeo.com/10010019