Gear Review: Sony PMW-EX1R

3 02 2012

Sony stock photo

Make: Sony

Model: PMW-EX1R

My use: We got one of these packages, along with an extra battery, 64GB SxS card and SD SxS adapter at my current full-time gig.  I use it for the various promotional purposes and in-house training videos.

Average Price: $6,299

My thoughts: I’ve enjoyed using this camera more than I thought I would.  I’ve shot the EX line in the past, but never at any real length, and this camera is essentially the second generation of the popular EX1.  The “R” denotation has taken into account several issues with the first version and provides such things as a DVCAM SD mode, an inversion tool for use with 35mm adapters (wouldn’t this have been nice 5 years ago?), XDCAM HD compatibility to work with the big boys and an HDMI output, among other little surprises.  The EX1 already was a nice little prosumer camcorder, but Sony has definitely improved its appeal and even slightly boosted the sensitivity of the sensor on this model.  I’ve heard a few variances in what different people are getting shooting 1080/24p, but with the scene file profile I’m using (which is a custom profile), my rating is 500 ISO, which is really nice after being used to the abysmal sensitivity  of such models as the HVX200.  Currently, if I was in the market, well let me rephrase, if I had the cash on hand for a new camcorder, then I would definitely put this camera near the top of the pack.  Sure, the DSLR proponents of the world will state that the arena has largely moved past this time of camera, but let’s face it, most of the work I do is simpler and smoother with a field production camcorder.  Furthermore, if I’m shooting narrative pieces, I’ll go with something better than a DSLR if I have the choice.  My only big complaint with this camera is the electronic viewfinder and LCD monitor; they are pieces of crap.  Then again, almost every Sony camera I’ve ever used has had a lackluster viewfinder and LCD monitor, so there’s no surprise there.  Use your meter if you’re not already doing so, even on run and gun and docu-style shoots!

Technical Specs from the Manufacturer (for 35mm Prime as representational of other 6 prime lenses included): 

Signal System XDCAM EX, NTSC/PALNTSC area:
HD HQ mode: 1920 x 1080/59.94i, 29.97p, 23.98p, 1440 x 1080/59.94i, 29.97p, 23.98p, 1280 x 720/59.94p, 29.97p, 23.98p (native)
HD SP mode: 1440 x 1080/59.94i
SD mode: 720 x 480/59.94i, 29.97p

PAL area:
HD HQ mode: 1920 x 1080/50i, 25p, 1440 x 1080/50i, 25p, 1280 x 720/50p, 25p
HD SP mode: 1440 x 1080/50i

Image Device 3-chip 1/2″-type Exmor CMOS
Lens Fujinon 14x Optical Zoom with Image Stabilization
5.8-81.2mm, f/1.9
Signal-to-Noise Ratio 54dB
Horizontal Resolution 1000 Lines or more
Sensitivity 2000 lux, 89.9% Reflectance, f/10 (Typical, 1920 x 1080 59.94i)
Minimum Illumination 0.14 lux (Typical)
1920 x 1080/59.94i mode, f/1.9, +18 dB gain, with 64-Frame Accumulation
Vertical Smear N/A
Built-in Filters OFF: Clear, 1: 1/8 ND, 2: 1/64 ND
LCD Monitor 3.5″, 16:9 Aspect Ratio, 921,000 Effective Pixels
Viewfinder 0.54″ Color/B&W, 16:9 Aspect Ratio, 1,226,000 Effective Pixels
Scan Matching Yes
Memory Card Slot ExpressCard/34
Shutter Speed Range 1/60-1/2000 sec + ECS
Slow Shutter (SLS): 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 16, 32 and 64-frame accumulation
Gain Selection -3, 0, 3, 6, 9, 12, 18dB, AGC
Maximum Recording Time 32GB
HQ: 100 min
SP/SD: 140 min
16GB
HQ: 50 min
SP/SD: 70 min8GB
HQ: 25 min
SP/SD: 35 min
Audio
Audio Dynamic Range 90dB
Audio Signal Format Linear PCM (2ch, 16-bit, 48-kHz)
Audio Frequency Response 20Hz to 20kHz, +3dB/-3dB
Signal to Noise Ratio Not Specified by Manufacturer
General
Input and Output Connectors Component: MiniD (x1 Output)
Composite: Phono via A/V Multi-Connector (x1 Output)
HD/SD-SDI: BNC (x1 Output)
HDMI: A-type (x1 Output)
Audio: XLR 3-Pin Female (x2 Input)
Audio: Phono via A/V Multi-Connector (x2 Output)
Speaker: Monaural (x1 Output) i.LINK: FireWire 4-Pin (x1 Input/Output)
USB: Mini-B
Headphone: Stereo Mini Jack (x1 Output)
Power Requirements 12VDC
Power Consumption 12.5W
Operating Temperature 32-104°F (0-40°C)
Dimensions (WxHxD) 7.13 x 7.9 x 12.25″ (17.9 x 19.9 x 30.8cm)
Weight 5.25 lbs (2.4kg)


Bottom Line
: Solid prosumer grade field production camcorder.  From what I’ve used so far, best pick in its class and price range.

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Gear Review: Zeiss Compact Prime .2 Cine Set

20 09 2011

Stock Photo from Zeiss who owns Copyright

Make: Zeiss

Model: CP.2 Set

My use: I ordered the 7 lens set while at UNC-Greensboro.  Primarily, this lens set was to be used for the Panasonic AF-100; however, the lenses were also perfectly compatible with the 7d, 5d and RED One.  In fact, I got the Canon mounts on the lenses, as adapter rings on the AF-100 or RED One would sustain the weight better than on a DSLR.

Average Price: $26,700 (for 7 lens set; they are sold in a 5 lens set or individually as well)

My thoughts: To date, these are my favorite lenses that I have used.  They are compact, precise and an excellent quality of glass.  At UNC-Greensboro, we had a set of RED Pro Primes with the RED One package which included a 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 300mm and 18-85mm zoom; these Zeiss CP.2 blew them all out of the water.  Not only are they smaller and easier to handle, but more precise in measurements and calibration.  The 7 lens set includes an 18mm, 21mm, 25mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm prime lenses and two sturdy, well-padded hard plastic carrying cases with rollers.  Though the price sounds high, in terms of good lens cost, it’s actually very reasonable.  If I had the cash on hand and one lens set to buy, it would likely be these wonderful cine lenses.  Though I love Cookes S4s and ARRI Master Primes, these little guys can stand their own and are a fraction of the cost.  If you’re shooting regularly and have the cash on hand, these would be a wonderful investment.

Technical Specs from the Manufacturer (for 35mm Prime as representational of other 6 prime lenses included): 

Mount Interchangeable PL
Focal Length 35mm
Aperture T2.1
Elements/Groups 9/7
Front Lens Diameter 114mm
Minimum Object Distance (M.O.D.) 12″ (0.3m)
Length 3.15″ (8cm)
Weight 2.2 lbs (1kg)

Bottom Line: If you are ready to make the jump to professional grade cine glass, but want to do so at a fraction of the cost in regards to some of the competitors, then I highly recommend the Zeiss CP.2s.  In a perfect world, going with the 7 lens set complete with carrying cases, is a great buy.  But, these are still expensive lenses for small companies and individuals and can be bought separately and built into a nice set over time.  Either way, you will not be disappointed in the sharpness and quality of the image these lenses produce.  Furthermore, you won’t be breaking your back to lug these primes around on set.





Gear Review: Lowel Rifa-Lite EX 500w Soft Light

30 08 2011

Stock Photo from Lowel

Make: Lowel

Model: Rifa-Lite EX55

My use: I’ve used these lights on an array of projects and ordered two of these during my tenure at UNC-Greensboro.  I used them primarily for a key light for interviews and green screen shoots.  Chances are, I will buy one for my personal kit in the near future.

Average Price: $488.50

My thoughts: I love this light.  Absolutely love it.  It is compact, easy to carry and works as a wonderful soft key source for interviews and green screen shoots.  In larger productions, it’s useful for bringing up the ambiance or a small fill.  The light is soft, flattering and has a nice warm tinge (which I prefer).  I bought these lights primarily as replacements for what I was using Kino-Flo lamps for work.  To me, Kino-Flos have always burned a little cool (the 3200 lamps) and never match properly with the rest of a tungsten set.  Now, to be honest, I do love Kino-Flos under certain conditions, especially if time is of the essence or for small doses daylight fill, but for interviews and the like, they are hard to control, burn cool and bulky.  With a Kino-Flo you need to mount on C-Stands, plug the header in the ballast and then the ballast into the wall, which is just a pain in the butt in a small office or the like.  The Lowel Rifa 55 comes in a carrying case that contains the head with folded chimera, stand and power cable; furthermore, it’s about two feet long.  Setting these up takes no time at all and the tungsten filament, though it does get hot, provides a pleasant glow.

Technical Specs from the Manufacturer: 

Rating 500 watt maximum
Socket (Lampholder) 2-Pin
Lens (Condenser) Not Applicable
Reflector (Mirror) Silver interior softbox
Mounting Fits any standard 5/8″ stand or stud
Yoke Not Applicable
Cable 4′ Captive cable, 120V power cable, line switch, 120V Grounded Edison Plug
Focusing Not Applicable
Weight 2.5 lbs (1.1 kg)
Dimensions Collapsed length: 24″ (61 cm)
Face: 21 x 21″ (53 x 53 cm)


Bottom Line
: If I’m traveling light and shooting interiors, then chances are I have one or two of these instruments with me.  They are a versatile, compact soft light that provides a beautiful warm glow, perfect for interior interview setups, lighting talent on green screen shoots and easy-to-tuck away fill/ambient lights on larger sets.  For the price, you can’t beat it.





Gear Review: Panasonic AG-AF100

18 08 2011

Panasonic AF-100 stock photo

Make: Panasonic

Model: AG-AF100

My use: We ordered one of these during my time at UNC-Greensboro’s Office of Online Learning.  Before I left, we used it to film several marketing campaigns.  In addition, I have also had the opportunity to shoot one short film on this model camera.

Average Price: $4,795 (body only)

My thoughts: Having owned an HVX-200 since 2006, the menu system and generalized area of where various buttons are on the AF-100 are familiar.  They are not exact replicas, but if  you know one, it won’t take long to learn your way around the other.  The AF-100 shoots onto SDHC cards in the AVCHD format at up to 1920×1080 resolution and contains a micro 4/3 CMOS sensor.  In relation to size, the micro 4/3 sensor is very similar to the size of a 35mm motion picture film frame.  Because of this, the depth of field is quite comparable.  However, in relation to lenses, the AF-100 is more like a 16mm camera.  A 50mm relative 35mm full frame lens will crop to the approximate equivalence of a 100mm lens field of view on this camera.  The ACVHD compression is definitely more compressed than the DVCPRO HD format of the HVX, so this is one point of contention considering how much newer the release is from its predecessor.  Another thing I was not happy about is that the max Mbs onto your SDHC card is 24Mbs, which is a fairly low bit-rate considering the 5d and 7d will capture footage at around 35Mbs.  However, I have to admit, that the image itself is quite appealing.  There are several HDR modes, but at a normal setting, you do have to watch your highlights very closely.  I personally own a Lumix GH2 (which is a DSLR), also micro 4/3,  and was surprised that the sensor on it holds highlights better than the much more expensive AF-100!  The AF-100, in turn, though has the functions of a camcorder that are sorely missed on DSLRs, such as: multiple XLR mic inputs, multiple IN/OUTs, built-in ND filters and a more ergonomic and friendly design.

Technical Specs from the Manufacturer: 

Image Device 4/3-type MOS Fixed Pickup
Picture Elements Approx. 12.4MP (Effective) (16:9)
Video Recording System NTSC/PAL
4:2:0 Color Space
Lens Mount Micro Four Thirds
Horizontal Resolution 800 TV Lines
Built-in Filters Neutral Density 1/4, 1/16, 1/64 or OFF (rotary switch)
Gain Selection VIDEO CAM mode: −6dB to 18dB (3dB step)
FILM CAM mode: ISO200 to ISO3200
Color Temperature Control ATW, ATW LOCK, preset 3200K, preset 5600K, preset VAR, Ach, Bch
Sensitivity F8.0 normal (2000lx, 3200K, 89.9% reflex, 1080 59.94i)
Recording Format AVCHD Compliant (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264) @21Mbps (max)
Recording Modes PH:
1920 x 1080 / 1280 x 720
21Mbps (average), 24Mbps (max)
LPCM/2ch or Dolby Digital/2chHA:
1920 x 1080
17Mbps (average)
Dolby Digital/2ch

HE:
1440 x 1080
6Mbps (average)
Dolby Digital/2ch

Audio Sampling 48kHz (16-bit Encoding)
Maximum Recording Time Using Two 64GB SDXC Cards
PH Mode: approx. 720 mins
HA Mode: approx. 960 mins
HE Mode: approx. 2880 mins
Video Formats 1080:
1080/60i, 1080/50i
Only in PH mode: 1080/30p (over 60i), 1080/25p (over 50i), 1080/24p (native)720 (only in PH mode):
720/60p, 720/50p, 720/24p (native), 720/25p (over 50i), 720/30p (over 60i)
Frame Rates 12p, 15p, 18p, 20p, 21p, 22p, 24p,
25p, 26p, 27p, 28p, 30p, 32p, 34p,
36p, 40p, 44p, 48p, 54p, 60p
Inputs/Outputs HD-SDI: BNC (x1 Output)
HDMI: HDMI Type A (x1 Output)
Composite: RCA (x1 Output)
Line/Mic: XLR +48V (x2 Input)
Audio L/R: RCAx2 (x1 Output)
Headphone: 3.5mm Mini Jack (x1 Output)
USB: Type B Mini v2.0 (x1)
Remote: Super Mini Jack (x1 Input)
Memory Card Slot (2) SD/SDHC/SDXC Slots
LCD Monitor 3.45″ Wide LCD (approx. 920,000 dots)
Viewfinder Wide 0.45″ LCD (approx. 1,226,000 dots equivalent)
Power Requirements 7.2VDC
Power Consumption 12.4W
Dimensions (WxHxD) 6.4 x 7.7 x 11.4″ (16.3 x 19.5 x 29 cm)
Weight 2.9 lbs (1.3kg)


Bottom Line
: There are some wonderful things about this camera and it can produce a very admirable image, especially for the price range.  However, it is not a DSLR killer and there are definitely attributes that Panasonic could improve on to make this an even better model in years to come.  Also, don’t be too fooled by the price!  To take full advantage of this camera, you definitely need a good lens set and that makes this camera much more expensive package-wise than it originally appears.





Gear Review: ADAM A3x 50w Studio Monitors

11 08 2011

I try to keep this blog fairly varied between movie reviews, retrospectives, lists and my own personal projects.  One thing that I have not covered very extensively, however,  is gear, which is definitely of interest to those of you practitioners out there.  Through my freelance work, and more so through my positions at UNC-Greensboro and Novant, I have had the ability to use a wide array of motion picture and audio production gear.  So, I have decided to put my two cents into a series of equipment reviews to help those of you who might be considering some of these items.  This series of reviews, which will be ongoing, will not detract from the film reviews and other facets of the site, but rather, be incorporated into the mix.  With that introduction out of the way, on we go to the first review:

Adam Professional A3x stock photo

Make: Adam Professional Audio

Model: A3x

My use: I ordered these as my primary monitors for my workstation at my current position with Novant Health.  I use them daily and they are an integral part of my system.

Average Price: $329 per speaker

My thoughts: Though my primary income comes from visual production, audio quality is very important to me.  I have been a musician for over 10 years and for several years played with a band on a semi-professional level (about 50% of my then income was from the band and, yes, it did pay the bills).  So, having the background of a musician has definitely led me to be a little more audio savvy than your regular cameraman.  When I came on board here at Novant as a Multimedia Specialist about three weeks ago, they let me more-or-less order the workstation I wanted to use.  For audio monitors, in scouring over a lot of various manufacturers and models, I came across the Adam A3x and was intrigued by reviews and it’s size.  I ordered two on that intrigue and they arrived about a week later.  These really are tiny little studio monitors, as you can see by the dimensions in the below manufacturer specs.  However, the sound these speakers put out is amazing.  In listening to Pandora through the day while I work, songs come on that I have heard on the radio for years.  However, theses little guys seem to dig so deep into replicating the mix that I find I hear nuances to the songs that I have never noticed before.  Furthermore, the stereo spectrum these speakers emit is beautifully produced and the highs and lows of various pieces are emitted much better than a lot of much larger studio monitors I have come across over the years.

Technical Specs from the Manufacturer: 

Low Frequency Driver 4.5″ (114mm) Carbon Fiber Woofer
High Frequency Driver X-ART Tweeter
LF Amplifier 25W RMS
HF Amplifier 25W RMS
Crossover 2.8kHz
Frequency Range 60Hz – 50kHz
Maximum Sound Pressure Level (SPL) 106dB, Peak
Connectors 1 x XLR Input
1 x RCA Input
1 x RCA Stereolink Connector (2 Jacks)
1 x Power Input
Input Impedance 10 kOhms
Controls and Indicators 1 x Power Switch
1 x Gain Control
1 x Tweeter Gain Control
Shielded No
Dimensions (HxWxD) 10 x 6 x 7.5″ (252 x 150 x 185mm)
Weight 10.1 lbs (4.6kg)

Bottom Line: These are extremely high quality, versatile mid-range studio monitors.  They sound amazing and pack a huge bang into a little casing.  I would recommend for any small work space, home office or home studio that needs clean audio with punch and clarity.








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