Friday, November 29, 2013

Sony RX10 with Atomos ProRes Recorder - Pocket Cinema Camera Killer?

The biggest challenge with the new Sony DSC-RX10 still/video hybrid camera for serious video projects has been its relatively low bitrate AVCHD codec. Despite this limitation, with a good grade, this camera can produce decent results (see Andrew Reid's RX10 test video, Run and Gun).

But what if you could combine the RX10's downscaling algorithms with a decent codec?  Last night, Atomos posted this tutorial on how to use their Ninja 2 external monitor/recorder with the RX10:

The Atomos Ninja 2 gives the RX10 the ability to record 233mbps ProRes 422, the same codec available on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera when it was first released.

This codec takes up less space on cards and drives than RAW, and some shooters prefer it as a good compromise between the limitations of 8 bit and the complexity of dealing with RAW.

If you're planning to buy the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera for ProRes only, don't need a lens faster than f2.8 or longer than 200mm, and don't want to deal with RAW, you might want to look at the $1298 RX10 plus a $675 Ninja 2 instead (and don't forget the $6.99 micro-HDMI to HDMI Cable).

Add the fact that the RX10 is a 20.2MP still camera; has a bright OLED viewfinder; a great de-clicked Zeiss constant f2.8, an 8x power zoom; a built-in ND filter; 1080/60p; usable onboard sound plus audio level meters (not to mention little niceties such as a recording time remaining indicator, the ability to delete files in camera and a battery that lasts more than a few minutes) - all features the Blackmagic lacks - and buying a finicky $995 BMPCC plus some kind of viewfinder or LCD shade, an expensive constant f2.8 lens, a superfast SanDisk Extreme Pro card, extra batteries and a screw on ND filter just to shoot gradeable ProRes 422 doesn't make a lot of sense.

If you're a low budget RAW shooter (or want to be), the BMPCC continues to be the absolute best straight out-of-the-box solution.

ProRes shooters, however, now have another, very usable, option.  I'll say it again, it's a great time to be a hybrid photographer/filmmaker!

As usual, if anything here has helped you reach a buying decision, please click on one of the links above or the display ads below to order your RX10, Ninja 2 or BMPCC.

If you don't need a camera or external recorder right now, please shop with our other sponsors, Adorama, Amazon, BorrowLenses, CoolLCD, DigitalRev, uBid, Vimeo, the the Warner Brothers Shop and others whose display ads you see in the margins.  It won't cost you anything extra, and it will help to keep these blog posts coming.  Thanks so much!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Blackmagic CEO: 4K Production Camera Shipping "This Quarter"

In an excerpt from an interview with TVBEurope, Blackmagic Design CEO Grant Petty has nice things to say about ARRI and Chyron - but he also has some choice words for other camera manufacturers.  The headline for all the folks who have Blackmagic Production Cameras on pre-order, however, is the lead para of the article, which says, "After a short delay caused by issues related to the sensor, Blackmagic Design says its £2500 4K Super 35mm digital camera will ship this quarter..."
Let's hope that's true. It would be a great Christmas present for all the folks on the pre-order list!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Upcoming German Film "Frauen" (Women) Shoots With 10 GH3s!

The venerable Panasonic GH2 has been the principal or backup camera for several theatrical feature films, but, as far as I know, we haven't seen the Panasonic GH3 on the cinema screen yet.

There have been several cinematic shorts shot with the camera (notably the GH3 intro video, Genesis, directed by Bruce Logan, ASC and shot by Philip Bloom) - but no theatrical features.

Until now.  Working with Panasonic Germany, filmmaker Nikolai Müllerschön and cinematographer Klaus Merkel shot their new movie, "Frauen" (Women) with 10 Panasonic GH3s.

Translated from German, here's the Panasonic press release, and here is a nice writeup from the Swiss film magazine fotointern.

You can download behind-the-scenes (BTS) video here or see it in low-res on YouTube (in German, but you can turn on closed captions and translate them to "YouTube English"):

What struck me the most while reading this and looking closely at the BTS is the coverage they were able to get with 10 $1000 cameras. Not only did they spend a lot less than they would have if they had bought or rented RED or Arri - they had so much coverage, they didn't have to go back and get the second or third (or fourth) angle. This compresses the schedule and probably saved more money than they saved on cameras.

This is pretty compelling math for cash-strapped independent filmmakers, and seems to be the market that Panasonic is aiming at with the GH3 (and the rumored GH4).

If your project only requires 1080p resolution, and you don't need RAW, the GH3 is the absolute best motion picture camera you can buy below $1995.

As usual, if anything here has helped you reach a buying decision, please click on one of the links above or the display ads below to order your GH2 or GH3.

If you don't need a GH camera right now, please shop with our other sponsors, Amazon, BorrowLenses, CoolLCD, DigitalRev, uBid, Vimeo, the the Warner Brothers Shop and others whose display ads you see in the margins.  It won't cost you anything extra, and it will help to keep these blog posts coming.  Thanks so much!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

$252 Markdown - Panasonic G6 with Kit Lens for $498!

This deal is almost unbelievable.  Yes, the GH3 is also marked down to $928 - but for less than $500 for the G6 is an absolute steal.

This camera is the best value for money hybrid still/video camera in its class. It has focus peaking, wi-fi with Near Field Communication (NFC) for wireless control and file transfer and a built-in intervalometer.  All features that are missing from the GH3.

At these prices, they won't last long.  If you want the best large sensor interchangeable lens video/still camera below $750, you may want to pull the trigger on this deal.

(Note: I just looked at the product listing and after only a few hours, the G6 is now backordered at $498.  You can still order it at the sale price, however, and Amazon won't charge your card until the camera ships)

(Note 2: I just checked eBay, and you can still get the G6 for $498 from Adorama via eBay - which is less than you can get them for from Adorama direct)

Sandisk Extreme Pro still the only card for Blackmagic Pocket Cinema RAW

(This post has been edited to reflect the fact that, after testing, the Toshiba Exceria shows dropped frames in RAW and ProRes.  As a result, HCR can no longer recommend it for BMPCC shooters).

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera shooters still have only one choice - if they want to shoot CinemaDNG RAW, they need a SanDisk Extreme Pro 64 GB Card, period.

To date, this has been the only card recommended for recording CinemaDNG RAW on Blackmagic Design's approved list of SD cards.  This card is a solid performer, with a 95MB/s read/write speed, it is the fastest SDXC card on the market today.  But is a relatively expensive.  As of this post, it is $120 at Amazon, $120 at Adorama, and the same price at B&H.

But then came Ruben Kremer's November 18th update of his "Evolving Pocket Cinema Camera SD Card Compatibility List"
UPDATE I 2013, November 18th - I've added the Toshiba Exceria Type 2 64GB SDXC card. This one works flawlessly with the ProRes and initial tests have shown that it might just be the Sandisk-killer ;-) ... A locked-down shot of 5 minutes in CinemaDNG RAW recording was done without any dropped frames. So it's looking good for this card. If it'll pass further tests, it'll be the new recommended card. Since it is (in the Netherlands) on average only 66% of the price of the Sandisk.
Based on Ruben's update, I went ahead and pulled the trigger on a Toshiba Exceria 64GB SDXC card with 95MB/s read, 60MB/s write speeds.  You can get this card from Japan via Amazon for about $80, but I was able to pick one up from a retailer here in the States on eBay for $61.55 (plus $5.39 tax for Californians) - about half the price of the SanDisk.

Sadly, after testing by one of the readers of this blog, and after testing the card here at HCR, the verdict is in: the Exceria is not a substitute for the Sandisk Extreme Pro.   The Exceria is still a decent 64GB card - but not for RAW or ProRes recording.