quarta-feira, 25 de abril de 2012

Oferta de trabalho

Precisamos de contatos comerciais para venda de espaços (cotas de patrocínio) em programas de tv. Interessados, enviar curriculo para contato@retratosdonordeste.tv.​br

terça-feira, 13 de setembro de 2011

CNN ao Vivo

Watch live video from CNN (US) // rentadrone.org on pt-br.justin.tv

Sportv

Watch live video from www.mastertv.biz on pt-br.justin.tv

Record News

Watch live video from recordnewsnordeste on pt-br.justin.tv
Watch live video from acer_filmes_ on pt-br.justin.tv

sábado, 1 de janeiro de 2011

segunda-feira, 27 de dezembro de 2010

quarta-feira, 22 de dezembro de 2010

Canon 550D

The camera is a massive step up from the previous model and really challenges the 7D, certainly in movie mode. Be very interesting to do a side by side of these cameras! You don’t have a number of features of the 7D, like dual processor, faster still FPS, weatherproofing and many of the top notch still features that the 7D offers but for video users, especially students, hobbyists and people dipping a tentative toe into the HD-DSLR market this looks to be sure bet. The key thing is it has full manual exposure control from the get go. This is from the official press release in the video section… I love the way Canon still calls people who buy this camera all photographers, there needs to be a new word for the hybrid users! “Photographers can also take manual control over exposure settings, changing the depth of field and degree of motion blur to shoot more creatively”

It’s funny to hear people complain about the release of this camera. From 5dmkII owners who are waiting to the firmware (it’s coming!) but more from new 7D owners. Guys/ gals you will be able to afford a B camera so cheaply soon and every pro should have two bodies. Suddenly the idea of a second body for many is much more affordable!



Here are the main features including it’s still capture capabilities:
18 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
DIGIC 4 processor with ISO 100-6400 (Expansion to 12800)
Continuous shooting at 3.7fps
Full HD movie recording with manual control and selectable frame rates
7.7cm (3.0”) 3:2 Clear View LCD with 1,040k dots
iFCL metering System with 63-zone Dual-layer Metering Sensor
Quick Control screen to change shooting settings
Exposure compensation +/-5 stops.
Select maximum value for Auto ISO
External Microphone socket
Movie crop function
Oh and for a bit of a fun here is my third and final Downfall parody about Hitler always buying the wrong camera!

Hitler not happy about the 550d... from oliver walker on Vimeo.

segunda-feira, 20 de dezembro de 2010

Sony HXR-NX5E Camcorder review by Nigel Cooper


Back on 10th November 2009 Sony Professional UK invited me over to their HQ to see their new prototype of the first NXCAM branded solid-state camcorder. They allowed me to take the only prototype in the UK away with me so I could evaluate it and try it out for a few days.

Since then I’ve spent a few more weeks with the HXR-NX5E NXCAM camcorder. Actually I’ve been in the USA for 3 months so Sony were kind enough to FedEx an NX5 over to me in Hays, Kansas, where I have been shooting with the camera. After spending more time using the NX5, I’m now in the position to give you a more comprehensive review in full; so here goes.

WHAT IS NXCAM?
NXCAM is brand new so I’m going to give you a brief low-down on what it is. NXCAM is Sony’s all-new product name for their entirely new Sony digital video production system. It’s not DV or HDV, it’s not XDCAM EX, it’s something else entirely. NXCAM is Sony’s AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec High Definition) camcorder system, but there’s a difference: this is Sony’s ‘Professional’ AVCHD camcorder system. Until now Sony haven’t had any serious-level AVCHD products; quite surprising considering Sony jointly invented the AVCHD codec with Panasonic. But all that is about to change with their first professional hand-held AVCHD camcorder; the HXR-NX5E, under the all-new NXCAM brand.

WHAT IS AVCHD?
If you’re not familiar with the new AVCHD codec I’ve outlined some of its technologies with some direct comparisons to the HDV codec.

Announced in 2006 by Sony and Panasonic, this new industry-standard format is now supported by more than 30 companies and implemented in numerous camcorders, NLE systems, and consumer HD playback devices. The AVCHD codec is considerably more modern than the older HDV codec. It uses a variety of techniques to achieve greater efficiency than MPEG-2, especially at low bitrates and when dealing with difficult material. AVCHD should be capable of delivering really amazing results but we’ll get into real world performance later on.

What’s beyond debate is that HDV has a resolution of 1440x1080 and uses the MPEG-2 compression codec, while NXCAM on the other hand uses full 1920x1080 HD with the more modern MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 codec (H.264 is what Blu-ray and Sky HD broadcasts use). And of course AVCHD’s efficiency makes it ideal for tapeless operation: it uses SD (Secure Digital) and SD/HC (High Capacity) cards, Sony Memory Sticks and other solid-state flash drives such as Sony’s dedicated HXR-FMU128 128GB flash drive.

AVCHD has twice the compression efficiency and considerably improved video performance, especially at lower bitrates, over the older MPEG-2 compression algorithm used in the HDV codec. HDV uses a “constant” bit rate of 25 Mb/s whereas AVCHD camcorders such as the NX5 use a more efficient “variable” bit rate, with a maximum quality setting of 24 Mb/s.

In contrast with MPEG-2 (HDV), in which inter-frame compression based on the correlation between adjacent frames uses fixed blocks of 16x16 pixels, AVCHD divides the blocks into multi-sizes as small as 4x4 pixels along with 4x8, 8x8 and 8x16 also, and every variation in-between using these block structures. With this method, it is able to use large blocks to process images that show only slight changes on the screen, and smaller blocks to process images that have considerable change. This raises the accuracy of motion compensation, which in turn, boosts the quality of fast-motion images while increasing compression efficiency.

The recording capacity using the Sony HXR-NX5E onto a single 32GB Memory Stick or SD/HC card is as follows:
HD/FX (24Mbps) 1920x1080 HD = 170 minutes.
HD/FH (17Mbps) 1920x1080 HD = 255 minutes.
HD/HQ (9Mbps) 1920x1080 HD = 385 minutes.
HD/LP (5Mbps) 1920x1080 HD = 605 minutes.

WHO IS NXCAM FOR?
So who is NXCAM aimed at and where will it fit into the current marketplace? Having got up to speed with NXCAM and the new NX5 camcorder I would say that it is aimed at a somewhat varied marketplace including those who are currently using cameras such as Sony’s own Z5 or Canon’s XH G1s for example, but who want to move over from tape to an affordable solid-state system, DVCAM users looking to move over to HD, those stepping up from consumer camcorders, event and wedding videographers, corporate video producers, SIV (Special Interest Videos) producers, independent low-budget filmmakers, and even TV ENG work and various documentary productions. With regard to image quality, the new NX5 has a very high quality Sony G-lens, superb Exmor ClearVid CMOS sensors, and of course the more advanced AVCHD codec, this trio of factors adds up to a very impressive image at this price range; more on this later.

HXR-NX5E CAMCORDER:
In a nutshell the NX5 is basically a Z5, but solid-state only. The cost is similar too; the NX5 cost £3,450 inc. There are three key differences. The body is slightly shorter and stockier at the back end due to the fact that the NX5 has no tape-drive mechanism. On the back of the NX5 there are two card slots for Memory Stick cards (these slots also accept SD/HC cards too: nice). Also, on the side of the NX5 there is an area that accepts the bolt-on HXR-FMU128 flash drive. The FMU28 is a solid-state flash drive with a capacity of 128GB. This drive is an optional extra. Without it, the camcorder simply comes with a heavy-duty plastic cover that locks securely into place neatly covering the socketry from the elements.

Other differences include an HD/SDI output and a GPS (Global Positioning System). From what I can gather, all the little buttons and dials are slightly larger and less fiddly than on the tape-based Z5. I suspect this is because there is no tape mechanism so there is more room on the body for a ‘neater’ and more ‘logical’ layout of switches. I’m glad to see that Sony has used slightly larger switches and buttons on the NX5. Low-light shooters will be glad to know that the NX5 is approximately 1.5 stops better (minimum illumination 1.5-lux) than the older tape-based Z1. Even though the physical ‘form-factor’ of the NX5 is only slightly different from the Z5, overall, the lines of the NX5 just look sexier with sleeker lines and nicer curves; she’s a modern girl; oh baby!



The NX5 is the very latest in camcorder technology; it’s bang up to date with some superb state-of-the-art technologies and features.

Depending on who you speak to, different people have different views on what makes a decent image. Some will say it’s all about the bit-rate, others say it’s all in the glass, while some might even tell you it’s all in the sensors. Well, they are all wrong. It’s actually an amalgamation of all three - and other things. Sony recognises this fact and this is why the NX5 is so darn good; especially at this price range. It has a brand new lens, Sony’s own in-house designed G-lens. This lens first hit the market with the Z5. Then it has the very latest Exmor CMOS Sensors with ClearVid technology. Then finally the very latest AVCHD MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 codec, which has the job of processing the images taken from the G-lens and onto the Exmor sensors. Add to this Sony’s fastidious circuitry and it all adds up to a great image that is simply untouchable by the competition at this price level.

Just to clear up the confusion with the two models on the Sony web site. There is an NX5E and an NX5M; the latter need not concern you as it is not available in the UK or USA. The only difference is that the NX5M has no ‘GPS’ system built in. The reason is simple, in certain countries like Syria and North Korea any device with GPS built in is banned; after all it is used in the military; think about it!

BUILD QUALITY:
The HXR-NX5 is ok with regard to build quality. Overall it feels lightweight – possibly because it doesn’t have the bulk factor of a tape transport mechanism - and a bit on the ‘plastic’ side. I’ve always said if I’m spending £3,500 on a camcorder I expect it to feel a bit more substantial than this. I feel that JVC are slightly ahead of Sony in build quality with their more budget priced camcorders. However, I feel that the NX5 is marginally tougher than the EX series; even though it is actually cheaper. But don’t worry; I’m just a fussy bugger when it comes to build quality. The NX5 won’t fall apart anytime soon and the plastics it is made out of are the tough polycarbonate type, which is designed to ‘flex’ as apposed to ‘crack’ when it takes a knock. It is in fact slightly better built than the Z1 and its replacement, the Z5; in my opinion. If you are used to using a Z1/Z5 you won’t be disappointed. As a comparison, the NX5 is far superior in build quality over Panasonic’s HMC151. Just to inspire confidence, I personally would buy an NX5 tomorrow and have no serious concerns with its build quality. Oh, the NX5 is ‘Made in Japan’; so expect reliability to be of the highest order.



THE SENSORS:
The NX5 features the very latest 1/3rd inch Exmor CMOS sensors with ClearVid technology. What is ClearVid I hear you ask? The ClearVid system optimises both resolution and low light sensitivity versus more traditional pixel-shift CCD’s. It does this by interpolating additional resolution from diagonally-set pixels, on each individual R, G and B sensor, rather than interpolating horizontally and vertically across the three sensors. This ensures maximum resolution, in a smaller sensor, whilst the larger rotated pixels give you that all-important sensitivity. The NX5 also utilises the revolutionary Exmor noise reduction processing, which is a highly advanced noise reduction system that gives a much cleaner image.

THE LENS:
The new NX5 has the same Sony G-lens 20x Zoom, offering an amazing wide angle of view from 29.5mm (great for filming in tight spots) right through to a whopping 590mm (great for wildlife filming). The 20x zoom G-lens is a recently developed piece of glass coming from the Sony-acquired Minolta lens division; so it is developed and built in the house of Sony; and what a cracking lens it is too. The optics are super sharp with amazing colour reproduction. This new G-lens boasts not only a focus and zoom ring, but an aperture ring too. However, all three are of the ‘servo’ type, which have no end stops. They feel a bit vague when focusing and zooming. I found it easier to focus by hitting the ‘PUSH AUTO’ focus button. This lets the camera automatically focus as long as you hold the button down (though the camera is rather slow to do this), then when you release it, it retains that focus spot. The servo aperture ring is slightly more accurate in its ‘feel’ and I found it to be perfectly usable in full manual mode, which is the only mode to work with for any serious applications. If you want the camera to take a ‘best guess’ at the exposure for you, simply hit the ‘IRIS’ button and let the camera set the exposure, then hit it again to revert to manual and tweak with the aperture ring and the use of zebras (I set zebras at 95% and watch for blown-out highlights). The zoom ring (again, vague) works well enough for setting a new focal length, which (again in my opinion) is all it should be used for. I tend to treat a zoom lens as a set of primes and not for horrible nauseating so-called zoom shots.

The lens hood is Sony’s usual nice design with built in lens cap that is opened and closed via a little lever on the side of the hood. This is far better than the competition’s affairs that have to be physically removed from the camera and stuck in your back pocket. I also particularly like the fancy ‘Gold’ line painted around the lens, but then I do go a lot by nifty appearances like this. That’s about it for the lens, apart from it’s superb built-in optical image stabiliser; more on that later.

THE CODEC:
The NX5 uses the AVCHD codec, which is an efficient long-GOP codec using the MPEG-4 H.264 compression algorithm (as used on Blu-ray HD DVDs and Sky HD broadcasts), albeit at a much higher maximum bit rate of 24 Mb/s (variable) with Linear PCM audio ensuring great images and sound.

This AVCHD compression does end up offering better all-round picture performance over the older HDV codec, although there is an impact in the editing process as it requires a higher level of processing power and therefore you may need to upgrade your editing system! Also, as the AVCHD codec is so new, some editing systems don’t yet support it so we will have to wait for the software companies to catch up with the AVCHD technology. So far Sony’s Vegas Pro 9, Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 (for Mac and PC) and Edius Pro all support AVCHD natively. Apple’s Final Cut Pro and AVID MC do not. Final Cut Pro uses, don’t despair. Simply import using the log and transfer and transcode into Apple ProRes 422. Hopefully Apple will support AVCHD natively with a future upgrade.

RECORDING MODES:
The NX5 has more recording modes than you can shake a stick at. There’s plenty for everyone in both HD and SD; those shooting in the past, the present and the future, those who are hanging onto ‘interlace’ like grim death and those who are shooting their way ‘progressively’ into the future; that would be me then.

Recording options and frame-rates include:
AVCHD FX (24Mbps) 1920x1080/50i, AVCHD FH (17Mbps) 1920x1080/50i, AVCHD HQ (9Mbps) 1440x1080/50i, AVCHD LP (5Mbps) 1440x1080/50i, AVCHD FX (24Mbps) 1920x1080/25p, AVCHD FH (17Mbps) 1920x1080/25p, AVCHD FX (24Mbps) 1280x720/50p, AVCHD FH (17Mbps) 1280x720/50p, MPEG SD HQ (9Mbps) 720x576/50i, MPEG SD HQ (9Mbps) 720x576/50i (25p Scan)

So there you have it, virtually every recording mode and frame-rate you could wish for.

ADVANCED ACTIVE STEADY SHOT IMAGE STABILISATION SYSTEM:
The NX5 uses a brand new ‘Active Steady Shot’ system. This offers an extremely stable picture without blur. More powerful stabilisation is made possible by increased coverage of the optical lens and the improved motion detection with state of the art compensation algorithms. The new Super Steady Shot takes it to the next level. Sony claims that this new system removes the need for a body-mounted stabilizing system; I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it is pretty darn good and way better than anything else up to this point in technology.

Sony seems to have increased the coverage of the floating optical lens, which gives better hand-held stabilization; the optically damped lens compensates for hand movements. However, there is more. When you switch the feature in via the menus you also have the option to improve things further by switching in even more settings. With the second option switched in at the same time you’ll notice that the image on the LCD screen zooms in ever so slightly (by aprox. 5% or 6% as per my best guess). It then uses these spare pixels outside the recorded frame area to allow the system’s software to cleverly hold the central pixels still. It then ‘trims’ the wobbly bits off the edges. A very simple idea, but one that works very effectively with virtually zero loss of detail or image quality. Ok, if I have to nit-pick, this system might lose you 5% or 6% of picture quality; on paper at least, as I could not see any notable difference whatsoever. Having tried the Active Steady Shot system, I found it to be more effective than the lens damped version alone, but this isn’t going to be putting Steadicam operators out of a job anytime soon. You still need to hold the camera steady because it will only compensate for minor nudges and knocks and general wavy hand-held work. Any more than that and it will still show up on in your footage. It’s designed as an aid, not a replacement for a body harness stabilising system; a good move by Sony in the right direction none-the-less and one that produces far superior results to any other system built into any other camcorder currently on the market.

AUDIO:
Being a classical pianist at heart and a very keen audiophile I’m kind of fussy about audio. In fact I prioritise audio over the images. To me quality sound is more beneficial than quality images. Your eyes are a lot more forgiving than your ears. The NX5 uses Linear PCM 2 channel, 16bit, 48kHz top quality audio recording as well as Dolby Digital 2 channel, 16bit, 48kHz. This is superior to the HDV audio standard, which uses the heavily compressed MPEG 1 Audio layer II and has a bitrate of just 384 Kbps, not ideal for postproduction sound editing such as EQ adjustments and the like. The NXCAM’s audio format of Linear PCM 16bit, 48kHz is the equivalent in quality to DAT, which is what professionals are accustomed to. Recording rock or classical concerts no longer require a dedicated DAT recorder; yeah!



The NX5 has the usual small built-in stereo mic, which is only good for picking up iffy ‘wild track’, but the included ECM-XM1 XLR mic is another story. Don’t underestimate this mic. Sometimes videographers are all too keen to rush out and buy a Sennheiser K6/ME66 combo as it has the reputation as being the weapon of choice for low-budget filmmakers. But before you do, try the included Sony ECM-XM1 mic, it’s a budget mic for sure, but it packs a punch for the money. Personally, I think you will have to spend more than £350 for any serious worthwhile upgrade. I always find with mics like this, and the aforementioned Sennheiser that I always have to do post work on the sound using Apple’s Logic or Soundtrack Pro anyway; with the ECM-XM1 it’s possible to tweak and modify the sound in post resulting in excellent sound; considering the cost.

GPS (GLOBAL POSSITIONING SYSTEM):
The NX5 is the first camcorder in its class to bring to market the all-new GPS (Global Positioning System). That’s right, I’m talking the same GPS as that you use in your cars Sat-Nav system. Why would you want this in a camcorder you might ask? I’m sure people will be discussing the endless possibilities on the forums, but to name a few, you could for example be shooting documentary footage all over Europe or the USA, or just plain England perhaps, with the exact geographical location being essential to the programme. With the NX5’s built-in GPS system you will have extra metadata within the file that you can simply convert into Google Earth KML format, then type into Google maps; this will find the exact location to within approximately 25 feet of where you are standing with the camcorder at the time you shot the clip. This feature can be switched on/off via the switch at the back of the camera. The GPS system records time, latitude and longitude in local time or UTC (universal time coordinated) time. This data is recorded directly to the AVCHD stream for approx. 0.5 seconds. Other great benefits to this all-new built-in GPS system include: Location reconnaissance, Estimate travel time after reconnaissance, Identify location easily for re-shoots, Natural History shoots - animal sightings, Police & Intelligence Gathering - reconnaissance etc. I feel like nicknaming the NX5 the ‘CSI Camcorder’.

SLS FRAME ACCUMULATION:
It also has Sony’s superb SLS (slow shutter) function, like that found on the higher end XDCAM HD camcorders. Frame accumulation is also known as Slow-Shutter, or SLS. SLS is a variable setting on the NX5 that lets you decide how many frames worth of light you want to accumulate before it is laid down to the disc. 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/25 sec. can be accumulated using the SLS function. What effect will this have and what advantages are there? When shooting in low-light levels, SLS produces sharp and clear images with no picture noise whatsoever. For scenes with minimum movement this is a great alternative to switching in the gain. When shooting video with any sort of motion it provides a very artsy and out of this world ghostlike image that simply has to be seen to be believed. This is an amazing effect for music videos or haunting images. It’s quite hard to explain, and is easier to understand if you see it in action, but once you’ve used it and seen it you will find yourself looking for scenes or even writing scenes just for this effect. SLS at 1/4 produces the most dramatic effect. If you know anything about stills photography, think of a photo of a waterfall taken at ½ a second exposure from a tripod. The water has a neat soft blur to it. Well this effect is also produced with the SLS function when shooting waterfalls.

SOLID-STATE RECORDING:
We’ve established that the NX5 is a solid-state HD camcorder, but what are the options? The answer to that is “many”. You can record to a wide range of media. On the back of the NX5 you will find two card slots: A and B. In these slots you can put Sony’s own Memory Stick Pro Duo, Pro-HG Duo, Pro-HG Duo HX, any brand of SD/HC (Secure Digital High Definition) - class 4 or 6 are recommended, or even Sony’s dedicated 128GB flash drive (HXR-FMU128). This has been made specifically for the NX5, fitting flush to the side of the camera perfectly with no dangling FireWire cables either. This 128GB unit is about the size/weight of a compact mobile phone. It has two female sockets on the side, one to connect it to the camera, the other, a small USB receptacle, is to connect to a computer. Both are bus-powered so no battery is required.

If you chose to use SD/HC cards, I’d recommend the Class 6 type. They come in class 2, 4 or 6, which simply stands for MB/s per second transfer speed. Class 2 (i.e. 2 MB/s) simply can’t keep up with the camcorders data stream to the card. As class 6 are the same price as class 4, you might as well buy class 6 SD/HC cards as they will perform best and I’ve even heard that they don’t get warm as they have so much headroom in the data-stream capacity.

If you want full-on gigabyte capacity then Sony’s own HXR-FMU128 dedicated flash drive will give you a whopping 700 minutes in full FX 24Mbs 1920x1080 HD quality. The HXR-FMU128 costs £750 inc VAT.

A 32GB card on the other hand will give you 170 minutes recording time in full FX 24Mbs 1920x1080 HD quality and as there are two card slots on the NX5 two 32GB cards, this equates to 340 minutes of continuous recording time.

Cards are hot-swappable and when one card fills up, recording continues un-interrupted on the second card. However, once the second card is full you will need to change cards; the camera won’t go back to card slot A and start recording over your footage again. Remaining recording time is ever-present on the LCD screen and in the viewfinder.

There are some clever recording options on the NX5. For example, the camera has the capability of recording to both card and the Sony Flash Drive simultaneously; this means you can give your client the low cost memory cards at the end of the day’s shoot, then return to your edit suite with the flash drive to get on with your edit.

Another great option is that you can set the camera up to record to one or the other storage formats in numerous ways. For example, pressing the record button on the side grip will record to the card slots, while pressing the record button on the top handle will record to the flash drive: great! And you can set it up to record HD to one and SD to the other. I love it!

OTHER FEATURES:
The NX5 has a few other tricks up its sleeve. Unlike other similarly priced AVCHD camcorders the NX5 has an ‘Slow Motion’ feature; admittedly, it’s limited to 12 seconds maximum in any one take, but a slow-mo feature none-the-less. It shoots 200 fields per second with improved Smooth Slow Record (picture resolution is reduced during slow-mo recording). You can select 3, 6 or 12 seconds for slow-motion recording. During slow-motion recording the camera automatically sets the shutter speed to 1/215th of a second. The final footage is stretched 4 times. As for a Time-Lapse feature; there isn’t one, disappointingly, as this is something I personally use a lot.

There are the usual Sony Picture Profiles settings, which can be selected in the menus after pressing the ‘PICTURE PROFILE’ button on the side of the camera. There are six customizable settings with seven preset Gammas including STANDARD, CINEMA TONE1, CINEMA TONE2 etc. In each setting you can customize the GAMMA, BLACK GAMMA, KNEE, COLOUR MODE, COLOUR LEVEL, COLOUR PHASE, COLOUR DEPTH, WB SHIFT, DETAILS, and SKINTONE DETAIL. There are lots of options. If you are not happy with one of the six presets, simply go into any one and modify the various parameters; either way it should be easy to achieve the ‘look’ you want from the NX5.

The addition of a HD/SDI output can only mean that Sony is aiming the NX5 at professionals as well as prosumers. The HD/SDI outputs 4:2:2 colour space so if you wanted you could potentially attached a separate recording device like the Flash-Nano for example, and record 4:2:2 at 50Mbps variable bitrate for even more possibilities. The NX5 also has a HDMI output, which means you can buy any regular HDMI LCD monitor or TV and use that for low-cost monitoring options. Great!

The built-in LCD screen is nice and sharp and is certainly good enough for composition purposes and checking white-balance. It is ok for focusing with the aid of the ‘EXPANDED FOCUS’ option, which is a pre-set assign button (assign button 7) next to the zoom rocker on the side grip. The LCD is also a touch screen for making selections and changes. But don’t worry; if, like me, you don’t like getting greasy fingerprints all over the LCD, simply use the menu select buttons instead, which are neatly laid out under the LCD screen.

The HXR-NX5E is equipped with three built-in ND (Neutral Density) filters – 1/4, 1/16, 1/64 – which help to vary the depth of field with iris control as well as achieving perfect exposure in bright sunlight.

Now for a bad bit; a very bad bit. The NX5 cannot be set up to use one of its ‘Assign’ buttons to ‘last clip delete’ like you can on the EX1/3 and XDCAM HD cameras. This is a major pain in the butt as it really slows up productions, and the whole point of solid-state is to make things faster. People often think that solid-state only speeds things up in post. Not true. I shoot lots of corporate and SIV videos where the presenters are often not professionals and they often need several takes. With an EX1 I can set up one of the assign buttons to ‘delete last clip’. This means when the said presenter screws up his/her lines I can simply hit that button and the bad take is gone. Then when it comes to editing, I simply import ‘every’ clip, knowing that they are all good; no marking in/out points for hours on end like with tape. But as the NX5 does not do this, to delete a last clip you have to change ‘modes’ and go into the menus and mess about with several clicks of the menu wheel/button etc. This takes approximately 1 minute out of your production shooting time. If this has to be done 100 times during the course of a days shoot, well, you work out the maths: very slow and time-consuming and annoying. Sony seriously needs to fix this with a ‘fast’ firmware update.

PICTURE QUALITY:
Having now spent a good few weeks with the NX5 I can report my findings: they are everything that I expected. I did some brief filming in England, then some more in the USA. Overall, the image quality is pretty much identical to the tape-based Z5, only the NX5 shows ever so slightly better control over compression artifacts, which is due to the more advanced AVCHD codec I suspect. Moving shots over foliage also looked slightly smoother; but the difference is very small and you have to look really hard to see it.

With regular shooting i.e. on the streets, inside museums, in the park and in varying lighting conditions, the NX5 produces beautifully sharp (yet smooth) images with plenty of deep saturation in the colours. It’s a pleasing image and one that I am more than happy with at this price range. I did some brief filming of some Amateur Dramatics rehearsals in what can only be described as ‘just adequate’ lighting conditions hence I had to switch the gain in to 9db, even then I was working at full aperture. However, the final results were surprisingly smooth and virtually noise-free. Anyone looking to shoot event or wedding videography will be thrilled with the low-light capabilities of the NX5.

Shooting in low light with the gain switched in at 9db produced perfectly usable images with little noticeable noise. Even at 18db the noise was acceptable; not as smooth as 9db, but it could certainly be cut in with regular footage.

Overall the image quality produced by the NX5 is a ‘trifle’ better than the tape-based Z5, but it is not quite at EX series image quality; the latter producing nearly 1000 lines of resolution. The NX5 produces just over 800 lines: outstanding at this price.

Comparing the NX5 to the competition. It is way ahead of the Panasonic HMC151, which produces around 600 lines, and the JVC GY-HM 700, which produces around 700 lines. The NX5 also beats the Canon XL H1 in the resolution stakes, though only just. Image ‘feel’ is a personal thing. I personally like the ‘look’ of higher end Panasonic models such as the AJ-HPX3700 for example, as well as Sony’s own DigiBeta and HDCAM range. However, with more modestly priced cameras I have mixed feelings. Years ago I preferred the look of JVCs over Canons and Sonys, but these days Sony have really come into there own with their ‘PICTURE PROFILE’ settings. Sony has not only caught up with the competition with regard to picture ‘feel’, but they have overtaken. Considering the price of the NX5, it is incredible how you can fine-tune the ‘feel’ of the picture, and even the preset picture profiles are absolutely outstanding. Comparing the NX5 to the Panasonic HMC151 is chalk and cheese. I owned a 151 for a few years and I had some clips I shot from outside my house. I shot the same clips on the NX5. I know they were both shot at different times, but nonetheless, the difference is obvious. The said shot was a ‘wide’ landscape shot with a small cottage in the distance with some surrounding treas. On the 151 you cannot even see that the small window in the cottage has a large cross pattern as part of the frame. This cross is clear as daylight when viewing the NX5 footage. Also, the surrounding trees in the distance look like the entire trees were dabbed on with a thick paintbrush with the 151, whereas with the NX5 you can make out the leaves and individual branches. Overall, the 151 is soft, with no definition or detail at all. The NX5 on the other hand is sharp with plenty of punch and resolution.

Comparing the NX5 to the JVC GY-HM700 (though the JVC does have interchangeable lenses), the difference is not quite as obvious, but it is clear. The JVC suffers from lots of noise and serious compression artefacts. The JVC’s resolution is also notable with the same ‘landscape’ shot. The trees have no detail via the JVC and the foliage has way too much artefacting and ‘marching ants’. The NX5 is by no way free of artefacts, but it is way ahead of anything else at this price range.

There is also something else about the picture quality and ‘feel’ of the image of the NX5 that I can’t quite put my finger on. I just appears to have that extra “Je ne sais quoi”. Somehow, the images produced by the NX5 don’t appear to be quite so ‘digital’ in ‘look’, which I really prefer. Independent low-budget filmmakers will love this.

PLAYING BACK CLIPS DIRECT FROM CARDS:
For simple playback on many consumer devices and players (from computers and video game consoles like the Sony PS3 to Blu-ray players and flat panel displays with SD card slots), with AVCHD it is easier and quicker to view your footage on other devices without having to edit, burn, or plug your camcorder into the HDMI socket of your TV. Sony’s PS3 for example has a USB slot right on the front. Simply remove the card from your camcorder and pop it into a USB card reader, then into the PS3. Once the card is in the USB slot via USB/SD card reader on the PS3, you simply select ‘USB Slot’ from the PS3’s menu and hit play. You can then flick through clips and play them as you would a DVD. In this instance, the PS3 is acting like a regular solid-state playback deck. You can play back AVCHD footage off SD/HC cards or Memory Sticks on many other regular games consoles and domestic Blu-Ray players that have the SD or MS card slot.

EDITING:
I’m an Apple Final Cut Pro user, which means it is time to complain. Really complain. Apple’s Final Cut Pro does not support the NX5’s native AVCHD codec. FCP has to transcode the AVCHD codec into Apple’s own ProRres format, which takes a long time. Did I say a long time? Sorry, I meant to say a bloody long time. It’s long. Painfully long.

I took the opportunity to shoot my latest SIV (Special Interest Video) with two cameras; one NX5 and an EX3. Importing the AVCHD clips from the NX5 involves using FCPs Log & Transfer window. I had 76 minutes of clips, 30 clips in total ranging from 20 seconds to 14 minutes and everything in-between. Well, 6 hours later FCP was still importing clip 11; Hmm. It took over 12 hours to import just 76 minutes worth of clips. That’s about 10 times slower than real time tape. 20 years ago I could have got 8mm Cine Film sent off and processed and delivered back to me via courier bike in less time than that. This is a backward step, a very backward one indeed - and it is for this reason that I personally would not buy an NX5. It’s not Sony’s fault of course - this is an Apple issue, but I edit with Apple, which means the NX5 is out of the question for me as I refuse to pay ‘Adobe’ prices for the Mac version of Premiere Pro, which does support AVCHD on the Mac. Sony’s Vegas and Canopos Edius also supports AVCHD natively, but as I don’t have any of these Windows-based editors I could not comment on how long importing would take.

FINAL VERDICT:
I have to admit I’m quite enthused by this new NXCAM hand-held camcorder: it’s the hand-held camcorder that I’ve been waiting for! (Apple FCP update support for AVCHD permitting) Reasonably priced at £3,450 inc., with low-cost media cards, and outstanding picture quality for the money. It’s a real world-beater!

On a final note, the NX5 is not a replacement for the HDV tape-based Z5, it’s an entirely new system (the NXCAM System) designed to fit into a solid-state marketplace. There are still thousands of videographers out there who are committed to tape for various reasons and Sony fully intend to support the HDV tape-based system for as long as there is a market for it, as well as augmenting it with the new Hybrid system for recording to tape and/or CompactFlash. Having said that, I personally think, wait, let me rephrase, I personally ‘know’ that tape is dead. Once you’ve worked in a tapeless environment you’ll never turn back.

I believe that this is the best camcorder available for under £4,000. Nothing else compares. Sony has produced the perfect balance with the NX5. It has a superb G-lens, great ClearVid CMOS Exmor sensors, and the cracking AVCHD codec. These three ingredients all add up to one amazing piece of kit. The quality of the NX5’s images suggest a more expensive camcorder. Add to that the multitude of recording formats and options and the low-cost solid-state recording media and we have a real world-beater for just £3,500 inc.

I’d like to give the cute little NX5 top marks, but the lack of ‘last clip delete’ as an assignable button and poor native support for AVCHD from the likes of Apple (although this is no really fault of Sony’s) I’ll give the NX5 8 out of 10.

©2010 Nigel Cooper

Panasonic AG-AF101 HD Camcorder - Full Review


Please note that this review is based on a pre-production Panasonic AG-AF101, that was only 75% finished. I make reference to this on occasion throughout this review.

After spending four days shooting with this camera, I've decided that the Panasonic AG-AF101 film-like HD camcorder is absolutely, unequivocally the all-new independent low-budget filmmakers weapon of choice; it’s the camcorder filmmakers have been waiting on for 20 years. In fact it’s the camcorder we’ve ALL been waiting for; read on and I’ll explain why everyone including independent filmmakers, video production companies, music video producers, corporate video producers, wedding videographers and freelance lighting cameraman, can benefit from using this amazing new film-like HD camcorder from Panasonic.

For years now independent low-budget filmmakers have been forced to shoot their movies on VHS, Hi8, MiniDV, DVCAM, HDV and the like, with a few favorites such as Panasonic’s own DVX100b because of it’s 25p progressive shooting mode. However, all these camcorders have one thing in common, tiny little sensors, which made achieving narrow depth of field next door to impossible, crippling any attempt at getting artistic shots; until now! Enter Panasonic’s all-new AG-AF101 film-like HD camcorder.

Panasonic’s AG-AF101 is revolutionary, is the first ever portable HD camcorder in the world to feature a large film-size sensor, so for the first time in digital history filmmakers, video producers and lighting cameraman alike can now achieve a shallow depth of field, throwing that background out of focus.

But what about the Canon EOS 5D MK2 DSLR? I hear you shout. As Samuel L Jackson said in the movie Pulp Fiction “well, allow me to retort!” Please read the following three paragraphs.



WHY DSLR's ARE NO GOOD FOR HD VIDEO:
Many of you will know that I am one of the few people in the world of video who has not had anything good to say about the so-called Digital SLR revolution for HD video. I’ve used and tried some of them, including Canon’s EOS 5D MK2 and for video, it is next door to useless. It would appear that the world jumped on the 5D MK2 for video for one reason and one reason only; shallow depth-of-field; that’s it.

Although not strictly a digital video format, digital SLRs have made serious in-roads into the world of video since the launch of the EOS 5D MK2 in 2008. However, there are no DSLRs currently on the market that can produce the quality of video that could be considered for any serious applications. Due to the 'line-skipping' down-converting methods of cameras like Canon's EOS 5D MK2 where the method of downscaling to get a HD video picture size of 1920x1080 is achieved by simply deleting (skipping) lines on the large sensor. This, and other limitations such as a lack of decent low-pass video filtering, means that DSLRs like the 5D MK2 suffer from chronic aliasing, compression artifacts, bayer-type patterning, stepping and other retarded picture degrading phenomena. However, for soft rounded objects such as people's faces, with hard backgrounds thrown way out-of-focus by use of narrow depth-of-field, and little (or preferably no) movement in the picture, it is possible to achieve some interestingly artsy results. Hopefully, in the future, DSLR manufacturers will strive to fix the serious gremlins that the current first crop of DSLRs are riddled with. But even if they do, we will still be stuck with a tiny impossible to use form-factor digital SLR that is designed to be gripped in the palm of ones hand to enable taking of stills pictures, as for video work; forget it, even if you spend thousands of pounds more on clumsy rail systems and ridiculous add-ons and other expensive, unrealistic and unusual paraphernalia, DSLRs are simply useless for serious HD video work.

The world has gone shallow depth-of-field mad, everyone wants to throw that background right out of focus, in fact, people want to throw it so far out of focus that it positively knocks it back in time a few hundred years to a time before that background was even there. We all know that throwing the background out of focus will make the main subject stand out, there is more definition between subject and background. Using a shallow depth-of-field can also yield some very artsy shots. But more importantly, controlling the depth-of-field allows you to work cinematically by directing the viewer’s eye with clever use of depth-of-field. A camcorder with a large sensor also makes pull-focus shots more obvious and easier to achieve. We have wanted a camcorder that can do this for 20 years or so, but because there is no such camcorder (unless you can afford to hire a Panavision 35mm film camera), we have been forced to use camcorders with tiny sensors, or more recently and worse still, DSLRS; until now that is!



ENTER THE PANASONIC AG-AF101:
Enter Panasonic’s all-new AG-AF101 film-like digital camcorder. The AG-AF101 is a serious digital SLR killer. It is a PROPER HD camcorder. The big deal (and this is a very big deal) is that the AG-AF101 uses a full size 35mm MOS sensor, well almost 35mm size. It is in fact a 4/3” sensor, which is virtually the same size as a 35mm Hollywood film camera. Unlike Digital SLRs, Panasonic have put all the right technology into the AG-AF101camcorder to utilize this large sensor and the amazing shallow depth-of-field that can be achieved from it by using correct optical low-pass video filtering and proper downscaling technology, eliminating any aliasing and other nasty gremlins that DSLRs are riddled with.

The result, a proper HD video camcorder that works like a proper video camcorder with all the usual camcorder features like white-balance, zebra stripes, cine-gamma settings, time code recording, balanced XLR inputs with Phantom Power, 48-kHz/16-bit two-channel audio recording, HD-SDI out, HDMI out, headphone out for monitoring your audio, a Built in optical ND (natural density) filter wheel with 2, 4 and 6 stop so you don’t have to mess around dropping ND filters into a matte box anymore. You can shoot in bright conditions and use these ND filters to get the lens open for depth of field control with no need to change the shutter speed. You also have all the other usual video socketry and features, but on top of all that, you can achieve very shallow depth-of-field because of the large sensor. If you haven’t figured it out yet, the Panasonic AG-AF101 takes interchangeable lenses, in fact just about any interchangeable lens. Simply buy the adaptor you require and stick on your Canon EOS EF-S series lens, your Nikon AIS lens, your Olympus lens, your PL-mount lens, 35mm prime lenses; pretty much anything you like. Then go on out there and shoot proper HD video with none of the digital SLR gremlins or form-factor issues, but with all of the depth-of-field control you require, be it shallow or deep. That’s right, remember you don’t always have to open up that aperture to F1.4 to get a shallow depth-of-field of just a few inches. Sometimes (just like in Hollywood movies) the shot might require a deeper depth-of-field with much more of a shot in focus. You can still shoot regular video with a reasonable amount of depth-of-field by shooting at F8 or F16 for example; you don’t always want or need to throw everything out of focus, but at least we now have the choice; for the first time in the history of digital HD camcorders.

The nice people at Panasonic UK were kind enough to send me one of two preproduction prototypes of the all-new AG-AF101 HD camcorder. I’ve spent four solid days shooting with this camera and seeing what it is capable of.

To say I’m impressed by the AG-AF101 would be a gross understatement; the AG-AF101 is quite simply one of the best HD camcorders I’ve seen in many years. Everything this camcorder stands for is incredible; it is totally revolutionary, the large sensor, the HD viewfinder and LCD screen, uncompressed audio recording, interchangeable lenses, solid-state recording to low-cost SD/HC and SD/XC media, over-crank and under-crank at full 1920x1080p up to 60 fps, time-lapse, the list is endless; and all for £4,295 plus vat; it is expected that the AG-AF101 will ship with a budget lens, this remains to be seen. What is there not to like; this camcorder is totally freaking awesome. Oh, and the picture quality, well that certainly has the ‘wow’ factor too!



OPENING THE BOXES:
I eagerly unpacked the two boxes that arrived from Panasonic UK. One contained the AG-AF101 camcorder itself, while the other contained two lenses, an Olympus lens and a Panasonic lens, a lens adapter, batteries, charger, and various leads etc. My first impressions of the camcorder body itself were very good, it felt tough enough and all the switches, dials and controls are logically laid out, easy to get to and chunky enough to be able to operate while wearing gloves. I instantly fell in love with the oversized handle on top and the chunky handgrip to the side; both of which are removable via two large screws, allowing you to strip the camera down to a small body size. Once the two handles have been removed they reveal hot shoes underneath, which not only aid in holding the handle and side grip in place, but you can also add accessories to them.

The HD viewfinder is also reassuringly large and chunky, making for easier viewing. To the side of the viewfinder at the top are the two balanced audio XLR inputs with LINE/MIC select switches. The only other functions on the right side of the camcorder is a START/STOP record button and a USER-3 button. On the other side of the viewfinder you’ll find the MENU button, another START/STOP record button, controls for AUDIO volume monitoring and playback controls for when you want to preview the thumbnail video clips.

On the other side of the camcorder is a fold-out HD LCD screen, again, with a reassuringly solid feel to it. Located behind the LCD screen and buttons for: BARS, ZEBRA, OIS (optical image stabilizer), EVF DTL (electronic viewfinder detail), WFM (waveform monitor), COUNTER, TC SET, and audio controls for CH1 SEL, CH2 SEL, INPUT 1 and INPUT 2. Below the LCD screen you’ll find the usual controls for PUSH AUTO-FOCUS, a FUNCTION mini joystick, USER 1, DISP/MODE CHECK, POWER ON/OFF, CAMERA/MEDIA MODE, IRIS with a dial wheel, GAIN, WHITE BALANCE, USER 2, AUDIO CH1 and CH2 level wheels.

Around the back of the camera is where the removable battery is housed, just above this you’ll find two slots for SD/HC or SD/XC solid-state cards with a neat cover. To the left of the battery is a SLOT SELECT button, a DIAL SELECT button and a SHUTR/F.RATE dial allowing you to change the frame-rate, shutter speed for over/undercrank right on the camera without having to dig around in the menus; nice one Panasonic. To the right side of the battery are inputs/outputs for AV OUT, USB 2.0, HDMI, INDEX, CAMERA REMOTE, HEADPHONES, HD/SDI.



On the front of the camera just below the lens you will find a button for setting the white balance, and just above this there is a button for releasing the lens, and above this an ND filter wheel with four strengths.

Just above the ND wheel on top of the camera is a very ingenious feature indeed; independent filmmakers who employ a focus puller will love this. At first glance it looks like a metal hook to attach a camcorder strap, but no, it is in fact a hook for focus pullers to attach their tape measures to; this is further indicated by the small ‘sensor is here’ icon next to it.



In the second box there were two lenses, one Olympus F2.8 zoom lens with an adaptor and one Panasonic Lumix zoom lens, which needed no adaptor as the AG-AF101 has the same 4/3rd micro lens mount. So with battery charged, camcorder and two lenses in hand, and obligatory tripod, it was time to go out and put the AG-AF101 to the test.

IN USE:
Using the AG-AF101 was an absolute pleasure. Although I spent four days shooting in various locations with this camera, I instantly felt at one with it. Although the camera is brand-new and it was the first time I picked one up, it somehow felt familiar; kind of like a long lost brother. All the knobs, levers, and dials are all logically laid out, easily identified with commonly used video terms in bald white lettering next to the dials. They were also surprisingly chunky with all the switches having a reassuring and positive feel to them; up to a point they can even be operated with gloves on. Handholding the camera using the side grip is somewhat tiresome due to the physical dimensions and weight; though this is no more awkward than other similar size/weight camcorders from other makers. However, with heavier and longer lenses it would become very front-heavy. For lower shots, holding the camera by the top handle is much easier, with a nice balance and feel to it. However, I would imagine this camera would spend most of its time mounted on a tripod. Balancing the camera on the Vinton Vision Blue tripod required the tripod plate to be mounted towards the front of the camera, with the camera then set quite far back in the tripod head; this was due to the heavy glass lens I had mounted on the front, but perfect balance was still easily achievable.

The foldout LCD screen is a relatively standard affair, giving good visibility outdoors in bright light. The 3.45-inch LCD screen has very good definition with vibrant colours making it easy for setting white balance and other basic colour adjustments. The foldout HD LCD screen also displays a very cool waveform monitor for exposure tools with the usual two levels of zebras, coloured peaking focus assist with red/blue outline, and if that isn’t enough, there is also a spot meter, and a vector-scope. This makes achieving perfect focus and exposure a breeze. The waveform and vectorscopes are absolutely fantastic, this makes judging exposure so much easier; and it still has zebras too. The 1,1cm (0,45") viewfinder was not that great, but it is still in the pre-production stage and it will be considerably improved by the time it is released in December; it will certainly come in useful for those days when the sun is just too bright to clearly view the LCD screen.

The AG-AF101 has a whole string of very cool tricks up its sleeve, many of which have never been seen before on a digital HD camcorder. One such feature is the automatic focus tracking. The AG-AF101 can automatically track somebody’s face and constantly adjust the focus on them as that person moves around the scene or moves towards the camera. This is achieved by setting the camera to recognize the subjects face using the small joystick on the side of the camera (or should I say thumb-pad-stick as it is quite small), then shifting the small spot meter box on the LCD screen and positioning it over the subject’s face; one set, simply hit the record button and step back in amazement as the camera tracks focus on the person’s face as they walked towards the camera. Of course it goes without saying that you have to have an autofocus lens for this feature to work. I never got to test the Facial tracking system as that is part of the 25% that is missing, so too is white balance so I was stuck with auto-white-trace.

While I’m on the subject of focus, focus pullers or DoPs who hire them will totally love the AG-AF101 for many reasons, but one such reason is the nifty little hook that Panasonic have positioned on top of the camera for focus-pullers to attach their tape measures to; this focus-pullers hook has a ‘sensor here’ icon next to it, confirming this is what it is for.

Independent filmmakers will also love the fact that this camera has under-crank and over-crank, and unlike pretty much every other camcorder out there, the AG-AF101 does over-crank (slow-motion) in full 1920x1080p from 12fps up to 60fps in NTSC or 50fps in PAL, with most other camcorders out there the resolution drops to 720p. From what I can gather this is a first! I could record 1080p 25p at 50FPS or 60FPS in 24p mode! Wonderful, no more limited to 720p mode here!

The AG-AF101 also has a time-lapse function, however it can only record single frames at preset intervals as opposed to multiple frames. For me personally this doesn’t create a problem, as when I shoot time-lapse I only ever record single frames at preset intervals anyway as I’ve never found a use for recording several frames together at predefined intervals.

I particularly like the SHUTTER/FRAME-RATE wheel on the back of the camera, this allows you to change your shutter speed and frame rate, and other functions, right there on the camera using the dial and the DIAL SELECT button, as opposed to having to dig around in the menus.

If that’s not enough, the AG-AF101 also has a pre-record cache function of 3-seconds. This means that when this function is turned on, the camera is always recording a 3-second loop, then when you press the record button (either by hand or using the included remote control) the AF101 will put the 3-seconds preceding the moment you pressed the record button at the head of the clip that is being recorded post pressing the record button; how cool is that!

Overall, I found using the Panasonic AG-AF101 very easy, I felt at home with this camera straight away. Is comfortable in the hand, especially using the large handle on top, and all the buttons, knobs, and dials are logically laid out and feel good to the touch. All the various inputs and outputs on the back of the camera are easily accessible and clearly marked.

The Natural Density filter wheel on the front of the camera is a necessity considering the large sensor and interchangeable lenses. That ND filter wheel is a big help when it comes to controlling depth-of-field i.e. if you want a shallow depth-of-field with a wide aperture, you can prevent overexposure by dialing in one of the four ND filters on the wheel.



The menus are logically written and it is easy to navigate around them to find the various options and settings. There is a multitude of settings for adjusting picture parameters, including Panasonic’s famous Cine-like gamma curves. In the menu is where you assign various functions to the assign buttons on the camcorder body. Setting the recording quality, format and all the usual zebra, pre-set white balance and the many other options are self-explanatory. But there is another really cool menu option that digital filmmakers from a celluloid background will absolutely love. In the menu you can switch from VIDEO CAM mode to FILM CAM mode. In VIDEO CAM mode your gain is viewed in the usual db i.e. 16db gain, and shutter speeds are laid out in the usual 1/50th for example. But switch over into FILM CAM mode and the entire menu system turns to film, so your shutter speed is now displayed in degrees and your gain is now displayed in ISO i.e. 200 ISO for example; how cool is that. Another advantage of this is in FILM CAM mode you an set the shutter to 180 degrees, which will give you perfect film motion, and even if you change the frame rate, the shutter remains at 180 degrees regardless; nice!

IMAGE QUALITY:
The AG-AF101 has a beautiful large 4/3rd MOS sensor that is virtually the same size as a 35mm film camera; this should mean the picture quality produced by it should be absolutely breathtaking, however, we’ve all seen the images produced by the Canon EOS 5D MK2 complete with aliasing, artifacts, and other gremlins due to its nasty line skipping and other hideous attempts at downscaling to a 1920x1080 HD image. But the Panasonic does no such thing, instead the AG-AF101 implements the correct optical low-pass video filtering that eliminates alienating, as well as proper built-in software implementation and other hardware electronics; all of which add up to a superb 1920x1080 HD image that is free of aliasing, artifacts and other gremlins.

During the four days I had the AG-AF101, I shot numerous objects including buildings, swarms on a pond, landscapes and foliage, cars, and various mid-shots and close-up shots of general objects indoors; All of which I shot both locked-off on a tripod, as well as moving shots with a combination of pans and tilts. I also filmed the obligatory Chroma Du Monde CamAlign res-chart. Although Panasonic UK made it clear to me that the camera I had was in fact a preproduction unit and it was not 100% complete i.e. there are still a few tweaks to be made. I told Panasonic UK that I would not publish my technical findings from the Chroma Du Monde CamAlign res-chart. However, the results are so good I’m going to share them with you now.



For reference, Panasonic’s own HMC151 produces 600 lines resolution with moderate signs of aliasing. Sony’s EX1 produces 800 lines with breakup showing in the 1000 lines area with very little visible aliasing. Sony’s NX5 produces 800 lines with breakup showing in the 1000 lines area with obvious signs of aliasing. Panasonic’s 301 produces 600 lines with breakup showing in the 800 lines area with no visible signs of aliasing. JVC’s 700 produces 600 lines with breakup showing in the 800 lines area with obvious signs of aliasing. Canon’s EOS 5D MK2 DSLR produces a very retarded 600 and 800 line area, with a nightmare of rainbow moiré at 1000 lines with so much aliasing it is difficult to even see that there is a resolution chart there at all; it is hideous. Now for the good bit. Panasonic’s all-new AG-AF101 film-like HD camcorder with it’s 4/3rd MOS sensor produced 800 lines of resolution with a little breakup in the 1000 line area with little signs of aliasing and absolutely zero rainbow moiré effects. Considering this is a pre-production prototype that is still being worked on, this is quite incredible for a HD camcorder of this price range with such a large sensor. If Panasonic are still tweaking and working on the AG-AF101 I can’t wait to see the improvements as I’m totally blown away with these results as the camcorder stands in it’s current state. It is also worth noting that these results varied considerably depending on whether I had the Panasonic Lumix zoom, or the Olympus zoom, and at which aperture and focal range; neither of these lenses are what I would call high quality. I know for a fact that better quality prime lenses will resolve 1000 lines of clear resolution and improve other areas also.

In the real world, all the footage I shot indoors and outdoors looked very vibrant with punchy colours, yet very smooth and film-like images with beautiful tonal ranges with a huge dynamic range of about 10 stops.

It’s possible to totally customize the picture with Panasonic’s famous Cine-like gamma curves. There are various pre-sets that you can chose, and once chosen, you can dig into the menu and tweak and customize them even further as you see fit.

For those interested in the AG-AF101's low-light capabilities, I shot some stuff with the ISO (gain) cranked right up to 3200. The ISO ranges from 200 to 3200. Footage shot at 3200 ISO looked incredible with hardly any noise at all. Panasonic UK told me that the 3200 setting was in fact 2000 as it is a pre-production unit; 3200 will be working on the final product. When in FILM CAM mode, the gain switch on the camera switches to have LOW GAIN ISO200, MID GAIN ISO800 and HIGH GAIN ISO3200. This would be 0db, 8db, 32db of gain in VIDEO CAM mode; these settings can be customised to different ISO/db values.

Another thing worth noting is that the AG-AF101 has a 'black & white' shooting mode. If you shoot in this mode the picture quality is increased as all that data that is been saved from the colour channels is pushed into the black & white. The codec doesn't have to work or be so aggressive as there is no colour for it to churn through. So if you are shooting an artsy black & white movie, or intend to do some post-production sepia toning work, shoot in the AG-AF101's black & white mode to get even better picture quality.

AUDIO:
The AG-AF101 just gets better and better. Instead of using the nasty 348Mbps compressed-to-hell audio codec that HDV uses, the AG-AF101 uses uncompressed linear PCM 16-bit audio, which is the same quality as DAT (digital audio tape) and CD. Independent filmmakers will love this as there sound recordists can now go straight into the camera via their monitoring mixer, instead of to a separate DAT machine, which leads to tiresome syncing up issues in post-production. Being something of an audiophile myself, I put audio quality higher than the video images, so the AG-AF101 with it’s uncompressed audio gets a massive thumbs up from me. The great thing about the Linear PCM uncompressed 16-bit audio is that it does not interfere with the quality of the video when it is set to AVCHD 24Mbps variable maximum data-rate. The PCM audio has it's own track, thus it is separate to the video.

INPUTS/OUTPUTS:
The AG-AF101 has all the inputs and outputs you are ever likely to need on a camcorder like this. Apart from the usual A/V in/outs, twin balanced XLR inputs, headphone input, lanc remote input, USB 2 socket, the AG-AF101 has two other outputs that will get you very excited. One of which is a HDMI output, this is superb as it means you can pop out and buy a low-cost HDMI monitor (or TV) of any size you want (personally a nice 18-inch is good) and use it for monitoring. No longer to you have to spend a £995 on a tiny little 7-inch Marshall or Teletest. Instead, think big, and spend £150 on a 18-inch LCD HDMI TV from Argos. Your Director can now view your production from the touchline on a big monitor. Or you could even buy an 8-inch or so and mount it on the handle of the AG-AF101 and use the camera TV pedestal style.

The next big deal is the HD/SDI BNC-socket output. If you are one of those cameramen/women who are constantly ‘pixel-peeping’ screen grabs from your footage in Photoshop and wondering how you can improve the image quality slightly over the standard AVCHD codec, well now you can. Simply attach an external recording device like the NanoFlash (£2,700) and plug it into the HD/SDI output on the AG-AF101 and record at a superior 50 or 100Mbps codec in 4:2:2 colour space. Or use Panasonic’s own AG-HPG20 and record AVC-Intra. For your information, you can record out of the HD-SDI, HDMI digital outputs simultaneously. The SDI outputs 1080/60i, 1080/50i, 1080/30p, 1080//24p, 1080/25p, 720/60p, 720/50p and even 1080/24pSF (Segmented Frame).

Although the HD/SDI only outputs 8-bit, who cares. You can only see the difference between 8-bit and 10-bit if you put your production through several (3 or more) ‘digital washes’ i.e. transcode into a different codec during import, then transcode again, then again before authoring to DVD. Most of us will simply import and keep the same codec from camcorder-to-computer, then the only digital wash we will do is when we down-convert to standard-definition and MPEG for DVD; that’s it. So 8-bit is just fine for me thank you. If you are a very serious filmmaker you might want to invest in a NanoFlash as it will improve the image over the standard AVCHD codec used when recording to SD/HC cards in-camera. Most people wont’ see much difference between the AG-AF101’s built in superb AVCHD codec when compared to recording to a better codec via an add-on recorder, especially if you only do 1 digital washes with minimal post-production grading. AVCHD falls down when it comes to colour grading and pushing and pulling the picture all over the place. For me, good quality glass on the front and good lighting and camerawork are much more important than trying to faff around fine tuning a mediocre picture shot under mediocre lighting conditions by a mediocre cameraman; and it’s usually these guys who spend all day pixel-peeping; professionals don’t concern themselves too much.

THE SENSOR (IT’S BIG):
The sensor in the Panasonic AG-AF101 is a very big deal; in fact the sensor is what this camcorder is all about. There is a massive 4/3rd inch MOS sensor inside the AG-AF101, and it is this massive sensor that will allow you to control your depth-of-field like never before. It’s four times bigger than a 2/3rd inch sensor. Independent low-budget filmmakers will know what I’m talking about here. In the past filmmakers have had to suffer the tiny little 1/4th, 1/3rd, ½ and 2/3rd imagers of yesterdays camcorders such as High-8, Mini-DV, DVCAM, HDV and the like. Achieving depth-of-field can be done with a little thought on the larger 2/3rd inch cameras, such as DigiBeta, but it was next door to impossible to achieve a shallow depth-of-field with Mini-DV and HDV, with the latter pretty much everything from 3 metres to infinity was sharper than Johnny Depp; well, maybe not quite that sharp, but sharp. A few years ago Canon started the shallow depth-of-field revolution with their infamous EOS 5D MK2 digital SLR. This essentially a stills camera, had a last minute thought HD video recording capability, which means with that massive 35mm sensor, video makers could achieve a shallow depth-of-field if they liked; and they liked. But, the image quality was/is absolutely hideous, full of aliasing, artefacts and other retarded gremlins due to the line-skipping technology (and a bloody crude technology it is too) and lack of optical video low-pass filtering. Did I mention the unusable ‘form factor’ of DSLRs yet? Hmmm. Hardly shoulder-mount camcorders are they. But now, thanks to Panasonic’s amazing AG-AF101 HD ‘CAMCORDER!!!’ the days of DSLRs are well and truly over as the AG-AF101 is not riddled with those DSLR gremlins. The AG-AF101 has proper optical low-pass video filtering and decent down-conversion software and electronics, all of which do the massive 4/3rd inch sensor total and beautifully glorious HD video justice. But don’t worry, if you where one of those who bought a Canon EOS 5D MK2, you can still use it as it does take a lovely stills photograph.

From the footage I shot I found the Panasonic MOS sensor (CMOS technology basically, as apposed to CCD) performed incredibly with no visible artefacts, rainbow moiré or stepping. The images where very clean and film-like in quality. On pans, both gentle and vigorous there was minimal ‘jelly wobble’ off the MOS sensor, nothing worth mentioning anyway and no worse than anything produced by Sony with CMOS sensors. Unfortunately any MOS/CMOS sensor suffers from jelly-wobble; it is just a case of how much or how little. This baby inside the AG-AF101 is as minimal as I have seen and about as good as you will get. I don’t hear people complaining about Sony’s superb EX1R and EX3 so I don’t expect anyone to complain in the Panasonic Pub either. I’m not sure what the heat situation is from this MOS sensor, but the AG-AF101 is so quiet I don’t even know if it has a fan inside; I couldn’t hear anything anyway. Either way, the technology inside the AG-AF101 is incredibly innovative and state-of-the-art. This large 4/3rd MOS sensor is what gives us this new depth-of-field control and a field of view reminiscent to that of a 35mm film camera like those used to shoot Hollywood movies i.e. Panavision.

Some people think that the 4/3rd imager in the AG-AF101 is exactly the same imager as the one in Panasonic's stills camera the GH1, fact is, it is not; it is a bran new sensor. Although the AG-AF101 uses a CMOS sensor (MOS), there is no 'skew' (jelly wobble effect/rolling shutter) as it scans the chip incredibly fast. I tried really hard to get the AG-AF101 to skew with various pans, both fast and slow and I found it virtually impossible to get it to skew. Although there is still flash-banding (all CMOS sensors suffer from this no matter who makes them), as usual, it can be fixed in post. But if you are a filmmaker, you will be in control of that anyway so it doesn't really matter; simply don’t allow anyone to fire off a flash-gun on set. Wedding guys will have to fix those frames in post, no big deal.

Just to visually clarify any confusion over the size of the AG-AF101's sensor and that of a 35mm movie frame, or stills photographic sensor, see the three diagrams below.







LENSES:
If you don’t know by now, the Panasonic AG-AF101 has a 4/3rd Bayonet Micro Mount for interchangeable lenses. This is a digital photographic stills camera standard lens mount established by Panasonic and Olympus. This 4/3rd mount is the same one found on digital SLR stills cameras such as Panasonic’s own Lumix models. This means that you can attach virtually any lens to the AG-AF101 you like. Chose from any of Panasonic’s Lumix 4/3rd mount lenses; they just bayonet right on. Or if you have a stack of Nikon AIS or Canon FD lenses from the 1980s, just buy an adaptor (literally a mechanical adaptor with no optics so no loss in quality) and use those. Or any modern digital SLR auto-focus lens from Nikon, Leica, Olympus, Pentax or Canon and buy the appropriate adapter and away you go. Canon EOS users with a bunch of EOS EF-S lenses will be happy as you can buy an adaptor that retains all electronics from the lens, the aperture is controlled using the scroll wheel just to the bottom/front of the AG-AF101’s body, and get this, the focal length and aperture appear on the AG-AF101’s fold-out LCD screen and in the viewfinder; how cool is that for knowing where you stand.



35mm filmmakers will be glad to know that you can also fit C-mount Cinema lenses and Professional PL mount lenses and other 35mm primes to the AG-AF101; again, with the use of an optic-free adaptor. So as you can see, the world is your oyster when it comes to lenses and the AG-AF101. Just imagine the possibilities. Sure, independent feature filmmakers will love the depth-of-field control, but so can everybody else. Corporate video producers can simply attach a 1980’s Nikon AIS 105mm F2.8 and film that interview of the CEO at there desk and achieve beautiful portrait-style footage with that background thrown nicely out of focus.

There is no doubt that to take full advantage of the super shallow depth-of-field that the AG-AF101 has to offer, you will have to buy some fast prime lenses or a very fast zoom, as regular zooms along the lines of a 70-210 F4.5 won't give you a shallower depth-of-field over a regular 2/3rd inch sensor camcorder. Something along the lines of a 105mm F2.5 prime or a 50mm F1.4 prime would be much better. The Canon EF-S or Nikon AF 70-210 F2.8 will be great as they are F2.8 throughout the focal range i.e. fast at 70mm and still F2.8 at 210mm also; these latter two lenses cost just under £1,000 each, but remember the crop factor so the focal length will become 140-420mm.

If you use stills photographic lens that have full auto-focus, you will have full auto-focus and auto-iris when using them on the AG-AF101; all auto features are retained as the adaptors and the AG-AF101 have all the recognized electronic contacts.

One issue I found with photographic lenses in auto-aperture mode is that the on-board microphone pics up the mechanical/electronic noise made by the aperture as it opens up and closes down. Unlike professional video lenses, photographic lenses open up and stop down in half-stop or one-stop increments so there is a definitive click between each stop. Because of this you can hear the iris continuously clicking in auto-iris mode. This could be a problem if you are using the built in microphone, or an on-camera microphone. Personally I rarely if ever use auto iris so it would not be an issue for me, or others who work in manual iris mode all the time.

The AG-AF101 also does face detection auto-focus; the camera will track somebody’s face as they walk towards the camera, maintaining and automatically pulling focus at all times.

The 4/3rd sensor size means that 35mm lens are a bit on the telephoto size; with a 2x crop from a full frame 35mm sensor. So a regular 50mm lens will give you a field of view of 100mm. On the other hand if you are a wildlife videographer, that 300mm F2.8 will become a 600mm lens. For regular wide work, simply buy a standard 4/3rd lens like one of Panasonic's Lumix lenses for example.

SOLID-STATE RECORDING:
The Panasonic AG-AF101 is a solid-state HD camcorder, recording to solid-state memory cards. On the back of the camcorder are two card slots for SD/HC or the newer SD/XC cards. SD/HC cards are available in capacities up to 32GB, which currently cost around £50. 16GB cost around £30.

The recording capacity of the AG-AF101 in full 1920x1080 HD resolution at the highest recording quality mode (PH mode) of 24Mbps variable is 90 minutes onto a single 16GB SD/HC card, or 3 hours onto a single 32GB SD/HC card. So you can achieve 6 hours of continuous recording with two 32GB SD/HC cards in the camcorder (they are also hot-swappable).

The latest SD/XC cards are available in 32GB and 64GB, with1TB and 2TB (terabyte) becoming available in the future. A 64GB SD/XC card currently cost around £195 for a Sandisk Ultra, on which you can record 6 hours, that’s 12 hours continuous onto two 64GB SD/XC cards. As for the 2TB cards that will become available; I’ll let you do the math, but I suspect if you have two 2TB (that’s 2000GB in total) SD/XC cards in the AG-AF101 you will be able to lock your camcorder off on a tripod, point it at a suitable subject, then hit the record button and hop on a plane to Bayreuth to enjoy Wagner’s Ring Cycle, fly back and still have time to spare to read Gone With The Wind out of the 94 hours recording time that you would have. For all you wedding videographers, you need never worry about those boring best man speeches running over 60 minutes of tape again.

RECORDING FORMATS:
Here is the low-down on the recording formats that the AG-AF101 supports: 1080/50i, 1080/25p, 1080/60i, 1080/30p, 1080/24p, 720/50p, 720/25p, 720/60p, 720/30p, 720//24p AVCHD recording options: PH (21 Mbps - Max. 24Mbps), HA (17Mbps), HE (6Mbps), HA, HE only for 1080/60i and 1080/50i

Be aware that you an only shoot one format on any one card. If you switch between say 50 and 59.97 Htz, you will need to use one card for 50 and another card for 59.97.

SUMMING UP:
The Panasonic AG-AF101 is quite simply revolutionary. It is unequivocally and without a doubt the new and first kid on the block with such incredible capabilities at such an incredibly low price. It is the HD camcorder that independent filmmakers, as well as every other video producer and lighting cameraman has been waiting on for 20 odd years or so. At £4,295 plus vat, what is there not to like. The AG-AF101 takes all goodness of DSLRs i.e. depth-of-field and light sensitivity, but gets rid of all the bad stuff such as aliasing, rainbow moiré and other workflow issues, and all encapsulated in a perfectly formed professional video camcorder.

There is nothing like the Panaasonic AG-AF101; it is a brand new concept. Those who have got used to shooting HD video on DSLRs and having to piece together clumsy workarounds, been forced to use a Zacuto Z-finder because DSLRs don’t have a viewfinder need not worry anymore as the AG-AF101 has a HD viewfinder built in, as well as a fold-out HD LCD screen. Or if you had to use a separate sound recorder because you could not get good audio from your EOS 5D MK2, worry no more as the AG-AF101 has two built in professional balanced XLR inputs with uncompressed Linear PCM 16-bit audio.

The Panasonic AG-AF101 is the most promising camcorder to arrive in over twenty years. It is very exciting times for cinema shooters and independent filmmakers.

In a nutshell the Panasonic AG-AF101 is a professional HD video camcorder just like many others such as Panasonic’s own HPX171 or Sony’s EX1R, but the AG-AF101 now gives us that last missing piece of the jigsaw; total depth-of-field control combined with interchangeable lenses, with that cinematic look that we have all been waiting for.

With the price in mind I simply have to give the AG-AF101 a massive recommendation with 5 out of 5 stars.

©2010 Nigel Cooper

Sony announces the PMW F3K! By Philip Bloom


We have seen prototypes of this camera this year but today Sony officially revealed the name and the full specs and it’s pretty damn good!

It’s essentially an ex1 mated with a 35mm cinema camera, having features from both.

Key things are a super 35mm CMOS image sensor (close to APS-C), it comes either body only with PL lens mount or with 3 T2 lenses, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm. They plan on introducing lenses specifically for this new F3 mount…details to follow…

It records in 23.98, 25p and 29.97p in full HD ad 50/ 60p in 720p mode. It records on SxS media like and EX1/ EX3 and offers the same overcrank as the EX1. So you can overcrank from 1 to 60fps in 720p mode and up to 30fps in full HD. It records in the same 35mb/s XDCAM long gop format. I am assuming it’s the same 4:2:0. You can record uncompressed 10bit 4:2:2 out of the SDi socket.

It’s good news for EX owners like myself who already have stacks of media!

Looks awesome to be honest. The key questions is price…how much?

Tentative pricing from Sony Europe is €20,700 (US$28,850) for F3K (with lenses) or €14,500 (US$20,195) for the F3L (without lenses) model – no where near as cheap as the AF100. Estimated shipping date is January 2011. So not cheap am afraid! Which will price it out of most people’s pockets… Cheap in the old days but in today’s aggressive market is it too expensive?

I am very curious about the whole including the PL lens mount as standard, this alone is positioning at the much higher end of the market as very few of us can afford PL lenses. I am certain we will be able to use other lenses with adaptors, whether made by Sony or not. XDCAM 35mbs is pretty damn good. Certainly better than 5Dmk2 54mbs H264 as it’s much better encoding and more video orientated despite the lower number. It’s certainly not going to be appeal to the low budget DSLR indie crowd at that price but it will to the higher end…

I will try and get my hands on one as soon as I can to see just what this camera is capable of. This is a serious camera and definitely aimed at the cinema/ higher end broadcast market despite the lowish bit rate in camera which with Nanoflash type gear can be unlocked into VERY high bit rates. It’s not going to be a consideration for the indie 5Dmk2/ 7D owners as the price point is way way higher and much higher too than the AF-101…Let’s see where all this goes…exciting times..

quarta-feira, 16 de setembro de 2009

Review da JVC GY-HM100

Fonte: Philip Bloom
I first saw this camera at BVE at Earl’s Court earlier this year and thought it was very tasty. Small form factor, a little larger than the Sony A1e but lighter, shoots at XDCAM EX compatible 35mbps full HD on nice and cheap SDHC cards in native FCP quicktime, a nice feature. Downers were the slightly fiddly controls and only 1/4″ ccd chips. But I still was itching to get my hands on it.
I emailed JVC before I even saw it at BVE saying I would love to review it, as an owner of a JVC HD201 and a fan of it, was really keen to try out the new 700 and 100.
Eventually when there was one available I did a review of the 700 which you can see here and when I met with JVC I said would love to review the 100 as well. To be honest I was more excited about the 100 than the 700 as I already own a Sony EX3 and EX1 and the 700 wouldn’t be something I would really need. But the 100 looked bloody interesting. A really small camera with broadcast quality images totally compatible with my EX3.
Yesterday I finally got my hand on it and guess what? I love it! This was a pre-production model so maybe the production one will be even better?


My gear reviews have been evolving somewhat over that past year since I did my first one almost a year ago for NAB, that was the EX3. Since then I have tried to make them more interesting and less static. The last one I did, for the JVC 700, had two other people helping me. Dennis Lennie shot the Letus Elite PTCs and Mark Dawson shot the behind the scenes stuff of my in Battersea Park. This time it was just me, well almost just me, my friend Joe Shaw, him of “The Echo” popped over for 20 minutes to help, you will understand once you have seen the video!
I recently did a blog about filming in public places so I thought I would try and take the JVC to some places where permission was needed and see if I could look like a tourist but film like a professional…So I took two 16gb cards, one lone little battery as it was all JVC had, a small camera bag, a baby cinesaddle (the large Cinesaddle is the single most useful piece of camera gear I can recommend to anyone!) and my Macbook Pro in case I overshot and needed to dump down. No tripod, no car, no 35mm adaptor, no lenses. Basically travelling really light! Image stabiliser was good once zoomed in a little.
It was a lot of fun, all done guerilla style, I got away with filming everywhere I wanted to and wasn’t looked at or questioned once. Such a pleasure and the camera is so light…the only heavy thing was my laptop! I had to stop halfway through the day and popped into Soho House to recharge the battery for an hour, bit of a pain, but the Hendricks and Tonic went down a treat.
Two other cameras were used to shoot this review. 90% was shot on the JVC HM100, a very small section was shot on the HVX200 and the stuff in my edit suite was shot on the EX3. As you can see the JVC stood up pretty well compared to them and was certainly sharper than the HVX, sorry Joe (and thanks SO much for helping out!)
Likes…the picture quality is superb. The recording to SDHC is cheap and super reliable. Tapeless recording is quite wonderful. I actually seemed to find the image slightly less noisy than the HM700. So light and the full auto function and auto focus worked really well. I almost never use this feature but wanted to review it as I am sure many people will use it. It was quite subtle, especially the auto iris. There is no overcrank or undercrank but you can shoot in 720p 50/60p then use compressor to convert to 25p slow motion really easily and the results are excellent. The LCD and viewfinder were good. HDMI out is nice. Proper separate gain controls just like a full size pro camera, same with the WB. Nice menu options. Loved the ability to take handle off making camera VERY small.
Dislikes…The iris control should at least be at the front of the camera even if it can’t be a wheel. Having it at the back is a pain. Same with shutter. But at least you have full manual control over focus, iris, shutter and gain. 1/4″ chips do kind of suck in low light compared to 1/3″ but surprisingly it still performed OK, especially as I tweaked the gamma when it got dark to compensate meaning I didn’t have to use so much gain. No timelapse or interval recording. Shame. Needs a separate zoom wheel independent of the focus wheel which is switchable between zoom and focus. servo zooms are just horrible and I never use the. I wish I had shot with detail off, I normally always do. I found some of the edges to be too sharp. Don’t use details guys!
But mostly the camera is really really good. Whether you want it as an B camera for you 700 or your EX cameras or to be honest any camera. It has a terrific full auto mode so you can give it to producers to shoot with (oh dear) but you can control it fully yourself and get some cracking images out of it.
You won’t be surprised to know I want one. What a great little camera to take around!
No laws were broken during the making of this video and PLEASE don’t try what I did halfway through or you will be shot . I cheated on that one a little!! Obviously the parts where it says ungraded are the ungraded pics raw out of the camera. The rest are graded with Magic Bullet Looks.
Thanks so much to the band “Davito” for their kind permission to use their track “Disconnect”. Please visit their website here

JVC GY-HM700 solid-state HD camcorder review



Yes I know that this new JVC GY-HM700 camcorder cost just £5,500 with a standard Canon or Fujinon 1/3rd inch lens, and that many might consider it not a true broadcast camera. However, most of you will be well aware that Sony’s EX1 and EX3 camcorders are making serious inroads into broadcast waters and many professional broadcast cameramen are being forced to work with these new smaller camcorders. The GY-HM700 is JVCs latest offering and it is in the same price range as Sony’s EX3. Both JVC’s GY-HM700 and Sony’s EX3 are solid-state camcorders with interchangeable lenses, but the JVC has one big advantage over the Sony; IT ACTUALLY LOOKS, FEELS AND WORKS LIKE A ‘PROPER’ CAMERA, that is, it is shoulder mounted, it has a proper manual focus lens and all the knobs and switches are exactly where you would expect to find them. Most of you will be used to shooting on camcorders such as Digibeta, HDCAM, Varicam and even 35mm. Those of you who do, and have been unfortunate enough to have been placed in the position that you have had to use a Sony EX1 or EX3, will know and understand just how frustrating these cameras are to operate. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing these Sony camcorders, they produce amazing picture quality for the money; but boy is it difficult achieving those pictures in the field. You will find yourself cursing your way through the shoot as you fiddle with those impossible to find miniscule buttons, or worse still, faff around in the menus as you try to find a setting that should be available via a dial or lever on the camera body itself; logically placed of course. Enter the JVC GY-HM700. This little beauty from JVC physically looks just like a professional full-size broadcast camera, albeit a baby one. It takes professional style1/3rd inch lenses and the White Balance presets, Gain presets, Zebra and Skin detail levers, User buttons, Zoom, Focus and Iris controls etc, are all exactly where you would expect to find them. As for the menus, they look slick, professional, and are incredibly easy to navigate, and written in the language that we all understand; and I haven’t even got to the best yet. The GY-HM700 is not only solid-state, but it uses the very affordable SD/HC card media (costing around £12 for a 16GB card), yet it records to the same (higher) 35Mbps variable bit-rate that Sony’s EX series do; JVC have also made an optional bolt-on SxS card recorder (more on this later). The GY-HM700 also takes regular V-loc (Sony type) batteries and a regular V-plate for tripod mount; fixing at both the front and the back for a nicely locked-down and secure fixing. So, now that I’ve whetted your appetite, what kind of image quality does this new JVC produce?

IMAGE QUALITY & USABILITY

Well let me tell you straight off that this new JVC is definitely not up there with professional formats such as HDCAM or Varicam, or even Digibeta, but it doesn’t pretend to be; it only costs £5,500 including a lens. What I’m aiming to do throughout this review is to establish the usability and image quality of this camera, with a little side-by-side comparison with Sony’s EX3, the latter already established in low-budget broadcast productions. I think it is totally fair to compare this new JVC with the Sony EX3, as both use interchangeable lenses and are of similar price, but most importantly, because Sony’s EX3 (and EX1) is the budget boy that everybody is talking about. So, can this new JVC knock the Sony EX3 off its perch?

JVC were kind enough to lend me a brand-new GY-HM700 along with three 1/3rd inch lenses; a Fujinon 16x5.5, a Fujinon 16.5 and a Canon KT20; the latter being the flagship £6,500 model, whereas the two Fujinon’s are around the £1,000 mark.
The GY-HM700 camcorder itself feels pretty robust and much more substantial in build quality than Sony’s somewhat plasticy EX series. The GY-HM700 smacks of a solid die-cast aluminium body with rugged plastic over the top. The metal levers for White balance and Gain feel just as they do on high-end broadcast cameras, the same can be said for the Zebra lever and various other controls such as VF Peaking, VF Brightness, Auto-White trace, User buttons, Monitor, Audio levels etc. As for the various sockets, most of these are professional BNC-type and they too feel just as rugged as those on cameras costing eight times the price. As for the lens, the Zoom ring, Focus ring and Aperture ring, these all feel just like those on professional 2/3rd inch lenses; perhaps slicker and obviously slightly smaller in size. The lens’s Zoom rocker lever, Record start/stop button, Auto/Manual iris switch, Rec preview button, Iris button and Macro and Flange-back levers all feel and function just as they do on professional 2/3rd inch lenses. On the whole, I found this camera to be beautifully crafted, cute and endearing. It’s almost like a high-end full-size professional broadcast camera gave birth to a baby one; I can’t get enough of the superb form-factor of this JVC camcorder.

The attention to detail on this camera is phenomenal. Little details such as the Gain lever having a square end while the White Balance preset lever next to it has a rounded end, make them easy to ‘feel’ your way around.

As I’ve already mentioned this JVC camcorder records to solid-state SD/HC cards. These little cards are available in capacities up to 32GB. I buy 16GB Transcend cards for just £10 each, on which I can fit 90 minutes of full HD 1920x1080 footage. Recording to these cheap SD/HC cards have a huge financial benefit compared to the solid-state offerings from Sony and Panasonic; SxS and P2. I haven’t even got to the best bit yet, this JVC camcorder records to the native QuickTime .mov file format at 35Mbps. This is great news if you edit in Final Cut Pro, as you can simply drag your files straight into your clip bin with no transcoding.

The GY-HM 700 still uses a 720 block just like the older ProHD HDV series such as the GY-HD101, but this time it uses ‘Spatial Offset’ to bring it up to full HD resolution. This helps somewhat and works ok, but it is never going to be as good as native 1920x1080. It is more half-way between SD and HD in terms of real resolved resolution. But, there’s more to life than resolution guys. I took the liberty of filming my Chroma-du-monde resolution charts and the JVC happily resolves approximately 800 lines; compared to the 940 or so lines that I could get out of Sony’s EX3 shooting the same chart. I guess what the big question is, will you notice this 140-line difference between these two camcorders in real world shooting?

Overall I was very happy with the quality and ‘look’ of the footage I got from the JVC. After some tweaking around in the menus adjusting black levels and colour gammas etc and setting the outdoor white-balance to 4300K as apposed to the default 5600K standard. For some reason only known to JVC, the default 5600K outdoor setting appears to have a horrible green spike in the colour spectrum; I mean ‘vomit green’ like that of fluorescent lighting. By reducing the setting to 4300K gives the picture a somewhat warmer and more neutral look, and it loses the ‘green’ tint. This default factory setting definitely needs fixing by JVC in the future firmware update. I shot everything in progressive 25P HQ mode. Overall I found the footage to look pleasing with decent colour, good detail, with some ‘filmic’ qualities. Compared to the Sony EX3 there are noticeable differences. The EX3’s images have more detail, richer colours, with virtually no colour fringing. The JVC (or at least the lenses on it) suffer from Green fringing; especially the Canon KT20 when zoomed in; it’s hideous. The cheaper Fujinon lenses didn’t suffer quite as much. In low light shooting situations, the Sony EX3 also beats the JVC, but this is to be expected as the Sony uses CMOS sensors, whilst the JVC uses CCD chips. CCD is not as good in low light as CMOS and the blacks in low light can be a bit noisy. However, CMOS chips suffer from the rolling shutter (jelly) effect and flash photography makes CMOS chips suffer too. Pro’s and Cons to both.
The JVC GY-HM700 is far superior in image quality to camcorders like the Sony Z1, Panasonic HMC151, Canon XLH1, and even JVC’s own ProHD tape-based HDV camcorders. But it is not quite as good as Sony’s EX range due to its 1/3rd CCD 720 block with special offset. But the JVC is a superb camera, and even though its image quality is not quite there with the Sony EX series, it simply wipes the floor with the latter in terms of build quality and usability. I have had extensive experience with Sony’s EX series, and I have to admit, although they produce nice images, they are an absolute nightmare to use and if you don’t treat them tentatively with kid gloves they will break; viewfinders, mic holders etc all have a tendency to break if not treated carefully. These are issues that you simply won’t have with the JVC. Also the JVC’s form factor is more like that of the larger Digibeta style camera; it is a breeze/privilege to work with. Personally, I would rather take the slight hit in image quality, and use the beautifully built and ergonomically friendly JVC any day. The button positioning on the JVC is sublime; especially the nice shutter select button. All are buttons and controls are primarily external and logically laid out, as opposed to the horrible menu-driven systems found on your usual handycams. The LCD is much larger and higher definition than before, though still hard to see in sunlight.
The viewfinder is a totally redesigned affair compared to JVC’s previous ProHD camcorders, where it had a tendency to crack on the corner if knocked. This new viewfinder is a lot tougher. However, if you are use to larger viewfinders on full-size broadcast cameras you won’t like this one as it is smaller in comparison. But focusing is still incredibly easy via the viewfinder due to JVC’s very neat focus-assist button, which turns the viewfinder and LCD black-and-white, and a blue (or red, selectable in menus) outline appears on high contrast areas when they are bang in focus; this works really well. Whilst on the viewfinder, this one is totally removable; great when travelling as there will be less chance of breakage and it allows the camera to fit into a smaller case; we all know what airport baggage handlers can be like.

There is a variable Frame-rate function, but in large step increments. But there is no ‘Time-Lapse’ feature on this camera, which is a shame; this is a feature I’d really miss if I were using this camera all the time.

Unlike the Canon XLH1, which is something of a ‘half-shoulder-mount’ design. The JVC GY-HM700 is a ‘proper’ shoulder-mount design, although not full size, it sits on your shoulder in the correct way just like a full-size camera would. Although the JVC is light, it has a reassuring weight to it and it balances perfectly on the shoulder, the ergonomics are superb. The JVC also takes professional V-lock batteries; just like full-size professional Sony shoulder-mount camcorders.

The GY-HM700 has two professional balanced XLR audio microphone inputs, HD/SDI, Remote and Component BNC sockets as well as FireWire and USB outputs. The DC input is a professional 4-pin affair; thank god. There are two headphone sockets on the back, one for the built in/removable earpiece and a spare just above it. There is a professional D-tap max 50W output on the back of the camera for use with on-camera lights etc as well as bracket adaptor for wireless mic receivers and the like. There are two SD/HC card slots so you can have two 32GB cards in there for over 360 minutes of continuous HD recording at max HQ quality setting. There is also an audio RCA output.

On the other side of the camera you’ll find the Focus assist button, VF peaking, VF bright, audio monitor volume, User 1, 2 and 3 buttons, all of which are assignable in the menus. ND filter switch for ¼ and 1/16, Gain L, M and H, White balance Preset and A/B, Audio record level for right and left channels, display mode for LCD, which switches to the largest ‘time-code’ readout you have ever seen. On the front under the lens there is a white-balance button and a Zebra on/off select, which doubles as a Skin area detect or Spot meter; nice.
The camera mounts to a tripod by way of a professional Sony style V-plate, which locks the camera at both the front and the back for a solid fixing to the tripod.
I totally love this camera, especially the ‘form factor’, sure the image quality is not quite there with Sony’s EX series, but as I’ve already mentioned the build quality and form factor of this JVC camera is simply light years ahead of the EX1/EX3 camcorders. I like the secure feeling I get from the JVC, trust me on this one, I’ve manhandled this camera and given the viewfinder, microphone holder, and various other parts of the body some moderate bashing with the palm of my hand in an attempt to crack or break something, but the camera withstood my moderate punishment; and I’m glad it did otherwise I would have had to have blamed the couriers.
The GY-HM700 costs just £4,250 plus vat for the body only so don’t expect a full-on broadcast picture.
If you want broadcast spend £30,000 plus, or hire something. This JVC has a market - corporate, weddings, SIVs, event work, and to be perfectly honest, certain types of broadcast work for certain Sky channels or news, factual. But not big-budget blue-chip stuff.
On a final note (JVC, if you are reading), I’d like to see JVC bring out a GY-HM700 version 2 model that uses the same CMOS 1/3rd native 1920 chips that Panasonic use in their 301 camcorder. If JVC did this and ditched the somewhat Jurassic period low-res CCD ones that they currently use with all their pixels-shifting, lack of resolution and noisy images in low-light, they would have a winner; a real winner. This camera is ‘good’, but with decent chips it could be ‘amazing’. For me personally, I’d rather use a camera like this JVC that is well-built and works like a proper camera and take a
small hit in image quality, as opposed to working with a non-form-factor nightmare that produces slightly better images. Horses for courses.
Fonte: DVUSER

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