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Tools

Slugline. Simple, elegant screenwriting.

Red Giant Color Suite, with Magic Bullet Looks 2.5 and Colorista II

Needables
  • Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
    Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
    Sony
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
    Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
    Panasonic
  • TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM
  • The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    by Stu Maschwitz
Wednesday
Nov172010

Sony PMW-F3 Shoots, Scores, Has a Little Brother

 

Sony very wisely lent one of their pre-production PMW-F3 cameras to Jason Wingrove, shooter, director, and co-host of the invaluable Red Centre podcast. He made this:

compulsion - teaser from Jason Wingrove on Vimeo.

I’ve seen the raw footage close-up and it looks amazing (Jason let me grade a couple of the shots using Colorista II). Very film-like, very gradable, and the compression is certainly there but nothing like what we’re used to from our DSLRs. I haven’t yet blogged about the F3 because it’s still settling in with me exactly where the camera fits. But it absolutely does fit.

Jason and Mike will be discussing the camera on the next Red Centre, so be sure to tune in.

Director Martin Scanlan also got his hands on an F3 and shot this short film:

Convergence - Short Film shot on Sony PMW-F3 from Martin Scanlan on Vimeo.

Sony also announced another Super-35 camera today, code-named the NXCAM. Little brother to the F3, it features the same sensor (we think), fewer options, but a much lower price point than the F3, which is said to street for about $12,000 when it becomes available [UPDATE: its now up on B&H for $16,000] [Second UPDATE: B&H reduced their price to $13,300 in short order, and added the promised F3K model with its included trio of Sony F2.0 PL primes for $18,950]. Oh, and a design inspired by Stanley Kubrik’s 2001: A Space Odyssey?

Philip Bloom was at the Sony launch and has a great write-up on his blog.

Both of these Sony cameras are, like the Panasonic AF100, examples of a company responding to the turgid love affair the filmmaking world has been enjoying with HDSLRs such as the Canon 5D Mark II, 7D, and my new favorite for video, the Canon 60D. Neither the Panasonic nor the Sonys are breaking new ground in resolution or compression (both are 1920x1080 max, with what are considered to be decent, but not great codecs) the way RED did with the RED One and intends to with future offerings. But both blow HDSLRs away with their professional features that we’ve long taken for granted on proper video cameras, such as XLR audio inputs, exposure and focus assist options, and built-in ND filters. Oh yeah, and true HD images without the aliasing and moiré we get from our SLRs.

It’s a great time to be a filmmaker.

Reader Comments (20)

That is some gorgeous looking grade Stu & Jason, was the initial input 4:2:2 or full RGB uncompressed?

In my view it looks much better than the Panasonic for some reason, it may be just the larger chip area. Great times!

November 17, 2010 | Registered CommenterJames Benet

Thanks James, although we captured some 4:2:2 images on a cinedeck for testing later, all the footage on the teaser was 4:2:0 off the SxS card. Obviously a majority of it was 720P being shot in slow motion with some other shots and the dialogue being in 1080P. The F3 has the film curves which like flattening the custom presets on the 5D give a more filmic look. I presume the AF100 will let you do something similar.. from what i've seen so far.. no one has had the time

November 17, 2010 | Registered CommenterJason Wingrove

I agree Jason, it seems like everyone who has had their hands on an AF100 has shot with the default punchy/clippy colorimetry, rather than digging for the soft CINE_LIKE gammas that Panasonic does so well.

November 17, 2010 | Registered CommenterStu

This looks absolutely gorgeous.

But is using $100k worth of lenses a "real world" test? Especially for the target market of a $12k camera?

November 18, 2010 | Registered CommenterScott Johnson

We owe a big thanks to RED and Canon for putting a fire under Sony and Panasonic. I will have to stay with DSLRs due to budget, but I'm glad that there are finally viable professional options for that day when I'm ready to step up my game. It looks like it will be worth the investment.

November 18, 2010 | Registered CommenterNels Chick

Well said.

November 18, 2010 | Registered CommenterStu

Where does the $12k Sony compete with the cheapest Red?

Curious only, my wallet likes moire more than "no moire" at this price point.

November 18, 2010 | Registered CommenterJeremy Smith

Thanks Jason!
4:2:0 ? It looked gorgeous, I would even say inspiring!

We have to put this camera in a class by its own for now, there is nothing close not even the AF100 which uses shortcuts to scale down the sensor, not a true down sample..

According to Bloom, the chip inside is 1920*1080 in an S35 size which could theoretically have enormous dynamic range and low light performance that could even eclipse the new RED chips. However this is not all good news because we are talking Bayer pattern after all. After you de-bayer such a sensor you get much less resolution than the 1080 lines its supposed to. Not only that it creates lower color accuracy and aliasing like the ones pointed out on EOS HD posts.

The camera samples look incredible and quite easily show a sharpness than no SLR can match no matter how much people defend them. Even at 720p it does look better than the 5D or 7D at full 1080, no doubt about it. That is what true full sensor output looks like and it is only a matter of time for Canon , Pana or Sony to crack the DSLR scaling gremlin and give us jaw dropping quality from these cameras.

Honestly my 7D looks less good every single time I look at some of this footage which begs to call once again for Scarlet to show its teeth soon. We all win in the end, prices have fallen 90% in 10 years for a camera of this caliber, just imagine in another 10!

November 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterJames Benet

Jeremy,

First of all, looks like the $12,000 price is that low street price that we hope emerges from a $16,000 list price, which is what is currently listed on B&H (see update above).

So compare $16,000 with a basic RED setup that matches the features of the F3:

RED One MX Body: $25,000
CF Module: $500
Bomb EVF: $3,200
Red LCD: $1,700

Total: $30,400

Which, by the way, is an amazing price for an amazing camera. But it's distant enough from the cost of the F3 that I see them as serving two distinct markets.

Of course, there are a hundred ways to configure each camera, so these numbers are for illustration purposes only.

And it is worth considering that if your kit includes several tens of thousands of dollars worth of PL-mount lenses, follow focus rigs, rail systems, etc., then the price difference between the Red and the F3 becomes a much smaller percentage of your total kit.

But it is also worth considering that the RED body alone weighs 10 pounds, where the Sony weighs 5.3 pounds — so with F3, you might get by with lighter-weight and less expensive support gear.

These are two very different cameras that, in my opinion, each have their place.

November 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterStu

I think the footage looks great. Nice work Jason/Martin. Having just shot on the Alexa, I am in love with that camera's image. That being said, $60k minimum price tag make this one pretty sexy in comparison. Does anyone know how this will work in FCP workflow in post? The greatest thing about shooting on Alexa was walking away with PRO RES files right off the camera.

And we are comparing this to the current RED camera. Anyone have an idea how this will stack up against EPIC? Supposedly they will be coming out around the same time, no? I have been looking for an excuse to not have to use RED anymore and this seems like a good solution. After seeing the movie 'Monster' which was shot on the EX3, I could fall in love with Sony's image as well.

November 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterJason Zada

I am curious, as I am not even close to being in the target market for the F3, where the Pro's see it fitting. Where does a $16k HDCAM body sit in the scheme of things? Is this the kind of money where you buy or rent?

I know Jason works with RED and DSLR so must be in a fairly unique position to judge. If you are renting how do you decide whether the F3 is worth the saving of a few $100s over a RED MX or worth the extra over DSLRs?

November 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterAndrew Howe

@James: You said:

"We have to put this camera in a class by its own for now, there is nothing close not even the AF100 which uses shortcuts to scale down the sensor, not a true down sample.. "

That is the first I have heard about the AF100 using "shortcuts to scale own the sensor". What does that mean and where can I read more about it?

-Brian

November 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterBrian R

All I have heard is Panasonic repeatedly espousing the exact opposite —– that they are doing a clean scale, and promise no aliasing.

November 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterStu

Okay. That's what I heard. :/

Gracias, senor.

November 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterBrian R

Yes but what I mean is that they are taking shortcuts. they are not doing a true scale-down from a fully developed 12.1MP image 60 times a second to 1080p.

From Panasonic Release:
Large 4/3" "Best-in-Class" MOS imager with fast image scanning and optical and low pass filters that eliminate aliasing and moire while minimizing skew

It just reiterates the point where they are using filters and software to eliminate moire and aliasing. RED has time and again explained the harsh reality of truly down-sampling an image in full debayer to 1080p and why the expected frame rates are limited at that res. It takes oogles of computing power which I frankly believe the Panasonic doesn't have unless they have a series of very specialized ASICs that are doing such down-ressing even at 60p 1080. I highly doubt it.

Medium format and Leica cameras use in software de-moire algorithms and it is probably what the AF 100 is using plus the low-pass filter to minimize aliasing to the point of no issue.

Does it matter how it gets there? Probably not and if the image reflects enough quality it sure looks like it from the samples.

The test that has to be done is the AF-100 against the F3 on the same scene or chart and see what the output looks like. A Graeme like test to see what comes out. The Sony is just outputting direct sensor data without re-scaling, wonder why they chose that path. My money is on the simple added cost of boards and battery life to get a real scaled down image. Sony chose the easy direct path to minimize hardware specs and maximize profit. Panasonic probably chose binning without line skipping with optical and software filters.

Who knows maybe the AF-100 could win on resolution due to using even more pixel averaging. It sure has the advantage on still images since it is also a full still camera.

An official word from Panasonic is not enough confirmation if there is one, the test will be the final arbiter. Still the camera that wins in price/performance/features is the Af-100 there is no contest.

November 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterJames Benet

I'm sorry James, but that sounds like pure speculation to me. It actually doesn't take much power at all to scale an image from 14 megapixels to 1080p. The limiting factor in the HDSLRs is the speed with which the images can be pulled off the sensor, not the subsequent processing. Canon is actually doing a ton of post-processing in camera to minimize moiré, but they are subject to a sad rule, which is that post-processing can never eliminate that kind of artifact.

You're right in that all that matters is how the cameras hold up in practical use, and while I haven't seen a test chart shot with an AF100, I've seen plenty of footage from it that exhibits exactly what Panasonic claims — nice clean images.

November 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterStu

While risking sounding like a kiss-ass on his own blog (in reality, Stu knows that I kiss very little ass), I will take a STU "chart-test" over a GRAEME chart test any day. I live and shoot in a real world - subjects that are not just measured lines on a perfectly exposed piece of cardboard.

But yes, all I read there was speculation; I just cant figure out WHY.

November 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterBrian R

I am not a member of REDUSER but found this discussion on the exact subject. While their koolaid is pretty strong as always I still believe the AF-100 is not a true downsample.
Discussion Here

To be clear this is just what Ive come to see in the clips of the AF-100 on the net, Ive seen aliasing but complete lack of moire which gets rid off with the strong OLPF they claim to have implemented on the press release:
From Panasonic Release:
Large 4/3" "Best-in-Class" MOS imager with fast image scanning and optical and low pass filters that eliminate aliasing and moire while minimizing skew"
link
Here

So yes it's pure speculation on my part and until we get a still image from the camera down-sampled to 1080p and comparing a still from the video of the same scene, there is no way of knowing the truth.

The image looks great and it's a huge step up from DSLRs but line skipping being avoided can sure make a huge upgrade in image quality even when they are binning 4:1 with a strong OLPF.

November 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterJames Benet

Hi Stu,

This is my first post in your blog but I've been following you for ages, thanks for your great contribution to independent filmmaking geekiness ;)

You never post much about Nikon... I'm thinking of getting a Nikon D3100 and I could certainly use some of your great advice on this one. I already have Nikon lenses, that's the main reason. Thanks.

Cheers from Spain,

Alberto

November 22, 2010 | Registered CommenterAlberto Luceno

I thought you might want to also mention the A-Cam dii which appears to be spec'd about the same as a the scarlet and is actually for sale.

www.ikonoskop.com/dii/footage

January 5, 2011 | Registered Commenterkevin wong
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