Welcome to the first of our post-NAB reports! We saw so much it’s hard to know where to start, but we may as well start with the product type that got the most attention: The small matter of new cameras…
The Large Sensor Camcorders
In the large-sensor arena, this year’s NAB saw the genesis of low-cost 4K acquisition in the shape of new models from Sony and Canon, and the curious 2.5K resolution debut of Blackmagic’s Cinema Camera. Let’s deal with these one by one…
Sony’s latest large sensor camcorder has been designed around the body chassis, layout and lens mount of their FS100 model, but the similarity really ends there: The internal specifications of FS700 make this a different beast altogether.
First of all we have totally new sensor capable of delivering 4K resolution via the 3G-SDI output when using an external recorder. The 4K output will not be active straight away, and will become usable with a future firmware upgrade. Although there is potentially a 4K recorder coming from Sony in the future, this NAB saw the launch of some third-party 4K capable external recorders which I shall cover in more detail next week.
So if 4K for the FS700 is a “future” capability, then what of the specifications on release? Well, as you may have read in previous blogs, the FS700 is set apart from closely priced rivals by its unique framerate capabilities. To quote the marketing blurb from Sony: “The camcorder delivers Full-HD quality images at 120 and 240 frames per second in an 8 or 16 seconds burst mode respectively. The NEX-FS700’s high sensitivity and low noise shooting capability makes super slow motion shooting more convenient without additional equipment. 480 fps and 960 fps rates at reduced resolution are available for faster frame rate recording.”
We saw some slow motion footage of the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas shot by Alister Chapman, which you can see for yourself by clicking here. The YouTube footage doesn’t really do it justice: We saw it on Full HD OLED monitors on the Sony stand and it looked brilliant. There really isn’t another camera even remotely in this price range that has this kind of capability when it comes to frame rates and scalable resolution. Another nice touch is the inclusion of ND filters built into the front of the camera. Yes, that does mean increased girth at the lens mount end but it’s worth it if it means being able to knock down light at the flick of a switch.
All sounding good? Well, it gets better because the handgrip incorporates a zoom rocker. We all know what that means: Sony are planning a motorised servo zoom lens, meaning that the FS700 isn’t just for prime lenses and other fast optics. With the addition of a zoom controlled by the rocker, you’ll be able to use the camcorder in much the same way as a standard small sensor camcorder but with all the added benefits of the FS700’s impressive specification and capabilities (great low light performance, high framerates etc).
All in all the FS700 excites us. It’s scalable in terms of resolution, offers unique features at an excellent price and the eventual introduction of a powered zoom lens make it a great all round camcorder that will be ideal for accomplishing both cinematic and televisual aesthetics. And we’re taking pre-orders now…
Canon’s follow up to the wildly popular C300 gets their 4K ball rolling in a similar way to the Sony FS700 by equipping the camcorder with a sensor capable of 4K and a 3G-SDI output that will send out the 4K stream. So – like the Sony – no 4K on board but instead you’ll able to get that huge resolution onto the imminent range of 4K capable external recorders.
The C500 differs to the C300 in other ways as well. The 3G-SDI output will be capable of 10bit output, allowing you to go to recorder capable of that bit depth and technically extending the limits of what is possible in the post production grading process. Moreover, on-board you’ll be able to record up to 120FPS, making it a powerful slow-motion camcorder that will likely be broadcast legal due to the 50MBPS bitrate. In a necessary chassis design change from the C300, the C500 foregoes the side grip found on the C300 in order to make space for what looks like a heat sync/vent. One imagines that when in 4K mode, it gets a little hotter inside than its 8 bit/1080P relation.
Just like the C300, the camera will be available in the choice of EOS or PL mount. We’d love to know what you guys would put on the front: Would you be inclined to use feature and commercial level PL glass on a camera capable of such a resolution? Or would you stick it out using EOS glass from your DSLR days? It’s an interesting question, and we’d like to know your answers.
So enough of the tech talk on the Canon C500, onto what the footage looked like…
We saw a demonstration film played on Canon’s insanely impressive 30” 4K monitor (yes, I did say 30” and 4K in the same sentence) and put simply: It was quite beautiful. It probably helped that it had clearly been shot by a very talented crew, but what was striking was how sharp and “filmic” it was. I’m not normally one for the occasionally vague language employed by some of the online production community, and I would never say “filmic” unless I was attempting to convey the textural quality of celluloid itself, but in this case I can’t really find another adjective that really nails the feel of the C500 footage. Even then, it wasn’t so much texture on its own in a tactile sense, but more the way it interacted with the movement, colour and latitude around it. It was a type of aesthetic I hadn’t seen since I first looked at a Red R3D file with the RedSpace setting switched on: Full of detail, colour and punch, but without ever feeling like the OLPF-compensated sharpness of other camcorder footage. Of course, a demo real made to look brilliant through talented crew, high level grading and then displayed on a 4K monitor was always going to look great, but even if you’ve taken all that into account and the hairs on your neck still stand up…then surely you’ve just seen something that is just a little bit special.
The camera will be arriving sometime in the last quarter of this year. I can’t wait.
Blackmagic Cinema Camera
At a broadcast exhibition, always expect the unexpected. The unexpected can come in various forms: At last year’s IBC exhibition in Amsterdam, a man in a gorilla costume demonstrating a very strange piece of camera suspension kit casually sped past me with the aid of rollerblades. This year at I saw a middle-aged businessman singing “My Way” at a dedicated Karaoke tent (yes, really) outside the North hall. His audience? Nobody in particular, just exhibition attendee’s walking past.
Of course, the unexpected can also come in the form of a new product…
This year’s unexpected product was the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, which judging by its pricing, ergonomics and capabilities is directly aimed at the DSLR filmmaking community.
It’s intriguing, curious, it looks seriously weird…but boy could it be a neat little B-camera if it does what the specification says. We’ve blogged this already but I’ll run the important specs past you one more time: a 16mm (or ½”) sized sensor/EOS lens mount/touch screen interface/big range of recording options including uncompressed, Avid DNX and Pro Res/records to removable SSD drives. And the cost? About £2,000.
I have seen no footage to wax lyrical about like the aforementioned Sony and Canon cameras, and my experience so far has been limited to peering at this strange, silver, miniature monolith through the glass cabinet you can see in the picture above (which, in a way is kind of apt: the camera looks a little like a science project or an experiment). It essentially feels like a recorder with a sensor and lens mount installed, and of course the 16mm sized sensor will mean a 2x crop over 35mm. Still, the planned capabilities are impressive, and it will be interesting to see a company more famed for converters and recorders make their debut in the world of large sensor camcorders.
The camera is due for release in June.
The Small Sensor Camcorders
Sony expanded their range of small sensor camcorders with the introduction of two new models. They are actually covered in detail in a previous blog which you can read here. Suffice to say we saw them in action on the (enormous) Sony stand and they both look good.
The first model is the NXR-NX30, which is a like a cross between the MC50 and NX70. That means small and neat, recording onto internal memory or onto SD card in the NXCAM format.
The second model is the 50MBPS recording PMW-100 camcorder, which uses SxS cards. Think of this as a 1/3” sensor sidekick to the larger, shoulder mounted PDW-500 camcorder.
Pumping bass. A racing car. Lots and lots of people. It could only be the Go Pro stand.
Last year GoPro acquired a company called Cineform, who create RAW codecs for high end recorders. It may have seemed an odd choice for an up and coming point-of-view camera company primarily concerned with extreme sports, but our visit to the Go Pro at NAB 2012 pushed a little logic our way and now we get it.
The result of the partnership is threefold: An upcoming flat/LOG picture profile to get the most dynamic range possible out the GoPro 2, the ability to shoot at a datarate of 35mbps (just under double the existing data rate) and their new “Protune Software” (basic version is free, fully spec version you need to pay for) which allows manipulation of footage, application of simple LUTs and some 3D manipulation when having shot stereoscopically.
The introduction of a higher data rate and flat picture profiles will make the GoPro 2 a more flexible and powerful tool than it already is, and make it easier to match the footage from the diminutive shooter to other high end camcorders.
So folks, that all for today. This week we’ll have blogs on camera grip, lighting and the latest on external recorders.
Today’s blog by Stuart Dennis
It’s been an exciting few months for cutting edge camera technology. So far this year we’ve seen the launches of the Canon C300, the Canon 5D Mark 3 and also JVC’s entry into 4K imaging. It was about time Sony reacted, and reacted they have…
This coming NAB Exhibition will see three new – and very different- professional camcorders from Sony.
Sony NEX-FS700E Super 35mm Camcorder
The model that steals the headlines is the NEX-FS700E, which looks and sounds like a future-proofed update to the NEX-FS100, and to all intents and purposes it is an FS100 with the helpful and sensible addition of in-built Neutral Density filters. Using the same body chassis as the FS100, this camcorder packs a Super 35mm sensor behind a familiar E-mount and records AVCHD to SD-HC card. So far, so similar to the NEX-FS100. But the next two features set this apart from its predecessor and indeed the competition:
Getting 4K from this camcorder will have large benefits: you’ll be able to shoot for cinema, have the option of cropping into shots if you’re going for a 1080P/2K finish, and get ultra clean chromakey shots thanks to this heightened resolution to name a few. However this 4K recording will not be on board the camera, and will instead be via the 3G-SDI output and onto an external recorder. Both output and recorder options will be added after the planned release of the camcorder in late June this year.
Now, there will be a bit of a resolution compromise for those ultra-high framerates, and right at the top end they are really “burst modes” (ie you only get it for a very short period) but still, Sony are neatly filling a gap here: quality high-speed filming at a low cost.
The estimated price of this camcorder will be around £7,000 for a body only and £7,600 with a 18-200mm E-Mount lens. Add to this that Birger Engineering’s long awaited Canon EF adapter is launching at NAB in two weeks, and the large sensor camcorder world just got a whole lot sharper.
Sony PMW-100 Compact Solid State Camcorder
Canon have had 50 megabits 422 single-chip shooters for nearly two years now in the form of the XF100 and XF105. In Sony’s world, 50 megabits has either meant spending £20K on the shoulder mount PDW models or adding a third party recorder onto their sub £10K range camcorders to record beyond the on-board datarates.
However, Sony have sensibly seen the high data rate light and will be debuting the PMW-100 compact camcorder at the NAB Exhibition. Here are the main features:
Preliminary pricing looks to be just over £3,000. This camcorder will be ideal for events and corporate videography. Moreover the high data rate and colour compression will make it ideal for chromakey work. No word yet on some of the more specific features: Hopefully a “world” camera? Hopefully the familiar Sony menu system from their professional range? Hopefully uses an existing battery system? Make it happen, Sony.
Sony NXR-NX30E UItra Compact NXCAM Camcorder
Is the diminutive size of the Sony HXR-NX70 still too large for you? Want something even smaller, still supplied with professional level XLR inputs but with the added bonus of an in-built projector? If you answered yes to all of the above then the upcoming NXR-NX30E is for you.
This looks to be the smallest professional level camcorder we have seen. It uses the NXCAM format and looks absolutely tiny. Pro level XLR inputs allow you to use real shotgun and radio microphones, and the inclusion of a projector means you can review your rushes whilst on location/in a hotel room/with your clients. At Prokit we got to have sneak peak of this projector technology in its prototype stage last year and it really is very impressive!
Pricing looks to be a little over £2,000. We still can’t quite get over how small this camcorder looks: let’s hope professional features haven’t been sacrificed in the same way Canon did with the XA10!
So there you go guys. Three new Sony models: One is a biggie in terms of capabilities and potential, one fills a high bitrate gap in the Sony entry-level range and the other is a pro level travel camcorder. We’ll be checking these out at NAB in two weeks and we’ll be keeping you updated with our impressions of the new Sony’s, as well as responding to Canon’s upcoming “EOS 4K” announcement, and the hot new products from other camcorder manufacturers. Sony have set a precedent with these new announcements…it will be fascinating to see how the competition responds.
Today’s blog by Stuart Dennis