Hello Everybody,

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 FS700

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 C500

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.

 

GoPro

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