Friday, September 19, 2014

My thoughts on Sony A7s

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Sony's A7s is out for months now and so many reviews and videos out there on the net. Therefore now we can say very clearly what this camera is truly capable of.

I love sensitivity, Sony delivered that in A7s. The capability of capturing usable frames in very low light in this camera is incredible. Philip Bloom showed us how much capable A7s is in capturing low light, it is simply mind blowing. The S-Log is brilliant feature although there are some limits in using it. The ergonomics is not too bad. Looks like mirrorless design is going to be the dominant feature for the future dslrs. However there are some tradeoffs. I'll discuss two of them.

No internal 4K recording:
A user has to spend around $2000 extra for a 4K external recorder on top of the camera price of $3000 to shoot 4k video which makes a minimum system costs around $5000. This fact is being ignored by many. There is only 8 bit 4:2:2 colour depth for both HD and 4K recording which may cause some issues while grading.

Rolling shutter/jello effect:
It is terribly visible even for simple moves. Even after doing some tweaking, as suggested by Philip Bloom in his review, the jello effect can still be very much visible. Although the full frame sensor is very good for low light but the jello effect is a huge tradeoff. In fact this camera can be useless in shooting action movie/video where you need be handheld most of the time and do lots of panning. Interestingly neither the promotional video released by Sony, nor in the video reviews made by Philip Bloom and Den Lennie have any movement at all. The reason is unknown. Maintaining focus is likely to be challenging in this camera along with other full frame dslrs.


Looks like Den struggled a bit in maintaining focus while shooting on the boat. At around 2.18 of the video below he seemed to lose focus.

Top video reviews on A7s :

01. Andrew Reid :  Evolving Sony A7S Review
03. Philip Bloom: Video review of the Sony A7s

Other reviews/articles on A7s:

Monday, August 25, 2014

Good Night Gloria: finally the trailer of the feature is out!

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Finally the trailer is out and feature film is at the queue in film festivals . Director Jack Everit has finally delivered his promise. He is working hard to make it to the theater. It was a snowy morning in February 2012 when we started shooting the film. Being one of the cinematographers, it was not an easy task to carry on the project for almost two and half years. Now after watching the trailer it seems all the pains and hard work had been paid off.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Battle for 4K

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Sony FDR - AX100

Sony announced its fist consumer level 4K camcorder Ultra-HD FDR-AX100 Handycam in this year's CES at $2,000. This is indeed an aggressive push from Sony to make a head start in the 4K race at consumer level. Apart from the price, there are few things that are very interesting about this camcorder. The sensor used is a 1" Exmor R CMOS sensor which is around 8x larger than the typical camcorders. This is important for many reasons and one of them could be that the current DSLR generation  has got used to in taking advantage of larger sensors. They love beautiful shallow depth of field, beautiful bokeh and other creative choices offered by the larger sensor. The lens used in this camera is also interesting. Sony used Zeiss Vario Sonnar T* lens with 12x optical zoom plus 24x digital zoom. The focal length of this lens is 29 to 348mm. The aperture is 2.8 to 4.5.  Sony said that the camcorder boasts with Optical SteadyShot image stabilization with Active Mode which delivers smooth video. A 3-Way-Shake-Canceling is also there which adds electronic roll stability for even smoother results. It lets you capture 4K 3840x2160 video at 24 and 30 fps. You can also record in 1920x1080. The recording codec used are XAVC S for 4K and AVCHD for normal HD video. It has a 3.5" XtraFine LCD touchscreen and a high-contrast 0.39" OLED EVF. Among other notable features, the camcorder has a USB 2.0 port, Micro HDMI output, and a Composite Video output. The composite video output is important for professional use. There are also Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC support that lets you use your smartphone or tablet to control the camera, as well as wirelessly transfer files to your mobile devices and your computer. These are all looks good for a 4K camcorder at $2,000 price point. However, the question is whether these specs will satisfy the growing indie makers or videographers? 

Important Features: 
  • 1″ Exmor R CMOS Sensor
  • 3840 x 2160p XAVC S: 30/24 fps
  • 1920 x 1080p XAVC: 60/30/24 fps
  • 1920 x 1080p AVCHD: 60/24 fps
  • Memory Stick Pro Duo (Mark 2)
  • Memory Stick XC-HG Duo
  • High Speed at 120fps (Likely lower quality)
  • 20MP Still Images at 5024 x 2824 (16:9)
  • 15MP Still Images at 4464 x 3352 (4:3)
  • Zeiss Lens f/2.8-f/4.5 9.3mm-111.6mm (29-348mm equiv.)
  • Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization
  • 0.39″ OLED EVF / 3.5″ XtraFine LCD
  • Wi-Fi / NFC Connectivity
  • Availability: 2014

Additional Features: 
  • Built-in ND filters: Off, 1/4, 1/16, 1/64
  • Manual focus assist: magnified display, peaking, and tracking focus
  • Built-in speaker (monaural)
  • Premium Closer Voice
  • My Voice Cancelling
  • 7 Picture Effects for video and photos
  • LOW LUX mode
  • Manual iris control
  • Self timer
  • Red-eye reduction
  • Black/white fader effects
  • Face detection
  • CinemaTone Gamma/Color
  • NightShot infrared system
  • Airplane mode

Sony FDR - AX1

Sony introduced FDR - AX1 4K Professional Handycam in September 2013 for the prosumer market at $4,498 price point. The camcorder has a 1/2.3" Back-Illuminated 8.3MP Exmor R CMOS Image Sensor that produces 4K 3840 x 2160p Video at 60 fps. It uses XAVC-S format for the 4K recording and is able to record up to 150 Mbps. The FDR-AX1 features two XQD media card slots. Recorded video can be transferred to PC from the camera itself or by using an optional XQD reader/writer with a USB 3.0 connection.

Some Key Features:

  • Sensor:  1/2.3" back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor
  • Lens: Sony G Lens
  • Image Stabilization: Optical SteadyShot image stabilization
  • Aperture: f/1.6 - f/3.4
  • Focal Length: 4.1 - 82 mm; 35mm Equivalent Focal Length, 31.5 - 630 mm
  • Optical Zoom: 20x
  • Filter Diameter: 72 mm
  • Minimum Focus Distance: Wide: Approx. 0.4" (1 cm)
  • Tele: Approx. 31.5" (80 cm),  
  • Aperture Blade: 6 blades
  • ND Filter: Off, 1/4 , 1/16, 1/64
  • Control Rings:  Focus ring, Iris ring, Zoom ring
  • Video Signal: UHDTV, HDTV,  
  • Video Format: XAVC-S format, MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, and others
  • Media Type: XQD memory card x 2
  • Video Resolution: 4K: 3840 x 2160p at 60 fps at 150 Mbps, 30 fps at 100 mbps, 30 fps at 60 mbps,  24 fps at100 Mbps, 24 fps at 60 Mbps,   50 fps at 150 Mbps, 24 fps at 50 Mbps etc
  • Recording Time:  50 min with 64GB XQD card (XAVC-S 3840 x 2160/60p, 150 Mbps), 150 min with 64GB XQD card (XAVC-S 1920 x 1080p/60p, 50 Mbps)
  • Audio Format: Linear PCM (48 kHz / 16-bit)
  • Audio Channels:  2-channels
  • Microphone Max Input Level:  120 dB SPL
  • LCD Type:  3.5" (8.8 cm) Xtra Fine LCD 3D display
  • Pixels: 1,229,000 pixels
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 (wide)
  • Focus System: Contrast AF, AF Modes, Auto, Manual (ring)
  • Focus Area: Full range focus,
  • Push Auto Focus: Yes
  • Manual Focus Assist:  Magnified display for precise manual focus, Peaking display
  • Exposure Compensation: AE level, AE speed (menu)
  •  Noise Reduction: Yes
  • White Balance Modes: Auto, One Push, Outdoor, Indoor, Color Temp
  • WB Shift:  Yes
  • Auto Iris Control: f/1.6 - f/11
  • Manual Iris Control: f/1.6 - f/11
  • Push Auto Iris: Yes
  • Manual Exposure Assist, Zebra pattern display
  • Memory Card Slot, XQD x 2 (for XAVC-S) and more
  •  A/V Outputs:  Composite video (RCA) output x 1 (SD), Analog audio L/R (RCA) output x 1 (SD) , HDMI output x 1 (HD/4K)
  • USB Ports: USB 2.0 Hi-Speed (mini-B) x 1, USB 2.0 Hi-Speed Host (mass-storage type-A) x 1
  • Headphone Jack:  Stereo mini-jack x 1
  • Microphone Input:  XLR jacks x 2 (line/mic)
  • DC Input:  Yes

B&H made a good review of FDR - AX1.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Blackmagic Production Camera 4K rivals RED Epic and Canon 1D-C

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The new Blackmagic Production Camera 4K rivals RED Epic and Canon 1D-C in terms of picture quality and features. Despite of having a smaller sensor and less low light performance than 1D-C, the BMPC 4K is the winner as it has a sensor with global shutter feature and is more than 4 times cheaper than 1D-C. Compared to RED Epic, the BMPC 4K lacks a bit of dynamic range but again people can forget that when it comes to price point. Now the obvious question is will there be any price cut for RED Epic soon. Motionctrl has made an interesting video on comparing Red Epic and BMPC.

The guys at Cinema5D have made another video comparing Canon 1D-C to BMPC.