Holy S…ony, The New NEX-VG10 Fires First

Sony NEX-VG10Nobody expects the Sony inquisition! In a surprise announcement, last week Sony unveiled it’s APS-C sensor based interchangable lens camcorder. It’s no surprise that Sony would be working on such a product, knowing that Panasonic is planning on releasing the HF100 on December first. What is surprising is that Sony demoed a working NEX-VG10 London this week and and that it will be available in September (and pre-order today at Sony Style stores) for about $2000!
Why is this camera impressive? First, is that it uses the same APS sensor as the Sony NEX still cameras and that it can use the same “E-mount” and A-Mount” (with an adapter) lenses as it’s DSLRs. It will ship with the E18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS as it’s kit lens. Secondly, is that it shoots 1920 x 1080i @ 24Mbps. Sony is still stuck on interlaced video (Why? WHY?!) but at least you can shoot on SD cards and you’re not stuck with memory sticks. But the most impressive thing is the shipping date and the price. I can’t wait to see what the other manufactures are going to do to follow Sony’s act.
You can check out Sony’s VG10- showcase video on Vimeo and check out the specs on DP Review.

Panasonic Releases More AF100 Info.

Panasonic Ag AF-100

AF100 with a PL mount cine lens

Panasonice released more detailed specs for their new micro four thirds format digital camcorder. Panasonic appears to have beaten other camera manufaturers to the punch in producing a affordable large sensor, interchangable lens digital cinema camera. This camera capitalizes on the HDSLR “film look” craze pioneered by the Canon 5Dmk2 and the Panasonic GH1 DSLR cameras in a more production friendly form factor. Panasonic promises to ship the  AF100 on December 1, 2010 for about $6K.Who knows if the much anticipated, much delayed Red Scarlet will actually be shipping by then. I’m actually hoping that the Scarlet is released for the promised $3K price, so that Panasonic will rethink the $6K price tag that they are floating araound.

Here are some of the specs that Panasonic released:

A 4/3-inch Image Sensor with Digital Still Camera Technology
The same digital single lens still camera technology that’s gathering widespread attention for its innovative motion image techniques, has been applied to this camera recorder.
The 4/3-inch MOS image sensor, with an imaging area similar to that of 35 mm movies, lets you easily shoot film-like movies with the shallow depth of field and soft focus of a film camera lens.
Micro Four Thirds Lens Mount
A wide variety of lenses for Micro Four Thirds standard digital SLR cameras can be used for shooting movies.
With the proper mount adaptor, it is also possible to mount 35mm film camera lenses and prime lenses, to render images that maximize lens characteristics.
Extended Recording in AVCHD
High-Quality PH Mode:  The AVCHD recording format used by the AG-AF100 includes a professional PH mode with maximum AVCHD bit rate for stunning
image quality. Two SD card slots allow continuous recording for up to 12 hours* in PH mode and up to 48 hours* in HE mode with two SD SD/SDHC/SDXC) cards on board.

*Using two 64-GB SDXC Memory Cards.

Multi HD Format and Multi Frame Rate

The AG-AF100 records in 1080:59.94i/50i/29.97p/25p/23.98p or 720:29.94p/50p/29.97p/25p/23.98p with its multi HD format.  When recording in 720p mode, you can render movie-like images with effects like slow and quick motion. The Dynamic Range Stretcher, Gamma Select and other image features have also been inherited from previous Panasonic professional camera recorders.

A Professional Design with HD-SDI, XLR and Other Interfaces

The AG-AF100 features HD-SDI output, XLR audio 2 channel input, and other interfaces that are typically found on professional camera recorders. Time code recording also supports precise video production. In addition to its compact, lightweight body, the AG-AF100’s professional camera recorder design with grip, handle and large viewfinder firmly support reliable camera work.

Download the Panasonic  AF100 PDF brochure

Why the (hacked) Panasonic GH1 is a better video camera than the Canon5DMk2

If you are a Canon 5Dmk2 fanboy you may want to shut your eyes. The lowly Panasonic GH1 just got supercharged with a firmware hack that makes a great HDSLR video camera even better. Here is my list of things that make the GH1 a better video camera than the 5D. First let’s take a look at the 800-pound gorilla in the room, The Canon has a full frame 35mm sensor, therefore, there is no crop factor when using 35mm lenses. Canon’s full size sensor is 4 times the size of the 4/3rds sensor in the GH1, which also means that the Canon must compress 4 time the data for the same bandwidth, all thing being equal (which they are not.) Supposedly the 5D is writing data at 35Mbs, compared to the (stock) 17Mbs of the GH1, which means that it’s still throwing away half again as much data as the GH1 (4 time the sensor and only twice as much data as the GH1).

GH1 Camera rig

My GH1 Camera Rig

But the GH1 has a secret, with the Ptools firmware hack from Tester13, the GH1 can shoot true 1080P 24fps with no pulldown at 50Mbs. And since both cameras use h.264 compression, with the software hack, the GH1 is compressing the data from its sensor far less.

But there’s more, the GH1 hack also enables the 1080P mode using MJPEG compression at 100Mbs for short shots. While this setting is kind of like using nitrous and it’s really pushing the limits of the camera, it is a real boon if you want to get the highest quality video possible. The advantage that motion JPEG has over h.264 is that it only uses spatial compression instead of the temporal and spatial compression of h.264. This means prettier pictures. His holiness, Phillip Bloom posted a great blog post on what the firmware hack brings to the GH1 which you can read on his blog.
I’ll admit that image quality is close enough between these two cameras that the 5D might win if that were the only issue. But the GH1 is a far more usable camera than the 5D, First off, for shooting video you can’t beat the fold out LCD screen on the GH1. It’s just better than the Live View screen on the 5D, period, even with a Z-finder. Second, the GH1 has continuous auto focus when using the kit lens. With 5D in live mode, you are stuck with whatever focus you had when you started recording. Thirdly, even un-hacked the GH1 can shoot 30fps 1/2 speed slow motion. You just shoot at 60fps 720p and play back the footage at 30fps, no frame blending or doubling, just plain good old fashioned over-cranking.
Okay, Let’s talk about glass. The 5D still uses an optical viewfinder, which means it has a pentaprism and a mirror, which it must flip up to take video, which, of course, makes the optical viewfinder unusable. This arrangement also means that the Canon has a deep flange distance. the flange is the measurement from the back of the lens to the surface of the sensor. Traditional film and video lenses have a short flange distance and don’t work well with 35mm SLR bodies. The GH1 has no optical viewfinder and therefore has a very short flange distance, which means it can use practically any 35mm SLR, video or film lens that someone is willing to make a adapter for. There is even a PL mount adapter that cost as much as the GH1, so that you can use cine lenses that cost 100 times as much the GH1. I use all my old Canon FD SLR lens as well as some Minolta, Olympus, and16mm film lenses and even cheap CCTV lens with my GH1.
Finally, let’s take a look at the form factor. The 5D is big and relatively heavy DSLR. Great if you’re trying to impress other photographers or the bridesmaids at a wedding shoot, not so good if you’re actually trying to shoot steady handheld video. The GH1 is lighter, smaller, more balanced and just plain easier to handle.
I won’t argue that the Canon 5DMK2 is a great still camera, and better than the GH1. But when it comes to real world video shooting and video quality, 5D, you’ve been served!

GH1 Low Light Lens Comparison

This is a quick non-scientific comparison video of several lenses. I compared the kit Lumix 14-140 lens to the following:
Canon FD 28mm F2.8
Minolta 35-70mm F2.5
c-mount 35mm F1.8 CCTV
c-mount 25mm F1.2 CCTV
Canon c- mount 11-70mm TV
the c-mount lenses used the SLR Magic adapter.
The subject is a wine glass, lit with 5600K daylight LED light source and the room was lit with 2800K CFL lights. The camera was white balanced for day light.
The GH1 is using the Ptools firmware hack and was shooting 24FPS no pulldown 1080P at 40Mbs with a 1/50th sec. shutter.
Edited as ProRes 422 in FCP. Output to h.264 @400Kbs

Timelapse test GH1

A time lapse test with the Panasonic GH1 with kit lens shooting 1/1000sec shutter in shutter priority. F stop varied between 8 and 4.1. Some shutter “wow”. I’m thinking I should have shot f4.5 in manual. any advice is welcome. Next time , I want to compare using apeture priority. as long as the shutter speed doesn’t exceed the the interval time I should be okay.
Location: Golden Colorado

My First 3-D Anaglyph Video

I shot my first Red-Cyan 3-D anaglyph video for the video open for the 2010 Student Video Expo for Front Range Community College. I shot using two Canon HV-30s mounted as close as was possible (lens centers were about four inches apart.) and obviously shot it against a green screen, just to make it more difficult. Post Production in FCP6, I probably could have got better results using After Effects.
I made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot. One problem that I encountered is since you can’t gen-lock these cameras they were about a half a frame from being in perfect sync. Also due to the crap HDV 4.0.0 color space and temporal compression, quick motion breaks up the video, especially in the red channel.

Panasonic previews the AG-AF100 camcorder at NAB

Panasonic AG-AF100

Panasonic AG-AF100

Panasonic showed off a mock-up of the AG-HF100 at NAB. The AF100 is a “Hybrid” camcorder that uses the micro 4/3 sensor from the Lumix GH1. This allows the use of a wide variety of interchangeable lenses, including 35mm still camera lenses. The AF100 features a camcorder body with XLR audio inputs and uses the AVCHD codec for video and linear PCM for audio. Panasonic says it will be available in December and go for about $6000 US. Considering that the anticipated pricing for the Lumix GH2 is $1500, I’m hoping that Panasonic will lower the price of the AF100 to the $3K range.

Waiting for parts

The trouble with sourcing critical Jaybilizer parts from B&H and Adorama is that they are both closed for Passover. I’m out of stock with some parts of the Jaybilizer 3000 and Adorama wont start shipping again until Wednesday April 7. Hopefully with UPS two day I’ll have parts on Friday or Saturday. This is an unfortunate downside of just in time production. I had to post a notice that I am temporarly out Jaybilizer 3000sand am down to one Jaybilizer HDSLR in stock.

Powdercoating and c mount lenses with the GH1

Lunched with a couple old friends and we are looking into doing some software video tutorials as a business, Then ran down to Blue Flame Power coating to pick up a bunch of Jaybilizer parts that I had powder coated. Yeah baby! powder coating sure beats paint.
Finally got my Canon 11-70mm f 1.8 c-mount tv zoom lens and mounted it to my Panasonic GH1 with a c-mount adapter and I was immediately disappointed to find that it only covered half of the sensor. After a little Google search, I found that the work around is to use the 2X digital zoom to get a full frame image. This actually kinda sucks because you are trading off resolution by the camera interpolating pixels, and you are doubling the crop factor, so that my 11mm now has a 22mm field of view. So in reality if I can shoot at f4 I’m ahead to use the kit 14-140mm lens for wide angle shots. The only upside is that the tv lens will be good for some shots where I want narrow DOF and soft vignetted edges. Note to self, check Google before buying on ebay.