Friday, November 27, 2015

BMD URSA Mini vs Sony FS5 / FS7 vs the rest...

It's that time again.. i'm looking at getting another camera.  My GH4 and Atomos Shogun are awesome and i'm keeping them purely for the beautiful 10bit 422 loveliness while being small and light enough to keep permanently attached to my CameTV Mini2 Gimbal.  What i need now, is a replacement for my ageing Sony FS100. It's been a fantastic camera and i've loved it's flexibility and performance in low-light, but it's time to move to 4K.  Having 4K from the GH4 has been so useful...not just for re-framing, but also for getting incredibly sharp HD pictures from it.

The camera market has been in flux as usual lately, but i have some pretty specific requirements:

  • It must be 4K 10bit. 8bit will not do. 
  • It must be a Super 35mm sized sensor. Much as i like the GH4, i miss having the Super 35mm look.
  • I really don't want any dreadful rolling shutter issues. 

EDIT>>  So this is awkward... after writing this blog, i've been playing with the Sony A7S...the original one, not the A7S II. It's 8bit, it's Full Frame and it only shoots 4K when connected to my Atomos Shogun. BUT - it's bloody nice...  The full frame look combined with the ridiculous low light performance puts it in a whole different league.  The 8bit footage looks stunning most of the time. It DOES fall apart quicker under grading, especially when it's something like a sky or flat wall in shot - 8bit is terrible at gradients. However, combined with my GH4 which is the absolute king of daytime shooting in glorious 10bit 4K, i'll also have some serious power in the low light department.  I've not bought one yet, but they are going pretty cheap right now thanks to the mark 2 coming out and i could afford to get a nice rig, some spare batteries and maybe a lens or two....  tempting... we will have to see!

EDIT > I got the A7S... everything i've shot with it so far looks fantastic. There's some caveats for sure, but it's capable of so much... i really like it.

This really narrows down the contenders a lot!

So... the Sony FS7 - great camera, but expensive (not really, but in comparison) and i'm not massively into buying another Sony. Expensive repairs, very 'distant' customer support.. (try speaking to anyone when you've got a problem with your camera) - but, their products are pretty solid and don't often have problems.  However, the biggest issue is the image. It's very good, but it just doesn't look as nice or 'film-like' as some of the competition... that's just my opinion.

The Sony FS5 - Not seen one yet, but basically all the same issues as the FS7 but it's only 8bit - even on the HDMI output. Ruled out.

The JVC GY-LS300. I used to love my old JVC SD camera... and the LS300 has some really interesting features like the variable scan mapping for using any lens you can imagine.... BUT, it's image just looks a bit lifeless to me and i'm not sure I want to invest 3 grand on something that isn't amazing.  BUT - i haven't tried one and it might be better than the online footage appears.

The BMD URSA Mini 4K - This camera looks really interesting. It needs you to invest in a battery solution and EF lenses (which i don't have many of) and it doesn't come with a viewfinder or even a top handle, but the image looks pretty stunning. Not a low-light performer, but a decent and very sexy looking regular cinema-looking image. Skin tones really sing in URSA footage... and the build quality feels very solid. There's a few issues though The goddamn FPN (FIXED PATTERN NOISE) is still here. Because this is the same sensor as the original 4K Production camera, the FPN is still in evidence. It's only visible when you try to lift the blacks in post, but if you've under-exposed at all, the noise turns up when you lift. This is a massive pain in the arse. The 4.6K version is a new sensor and people are praying that the FPN is gone....but we'll have to wait and see. There's also rumours that a firmware update will improve the FPN on the 4K version, but i'm not investing in a camera that doesn't work on the day i buy it. I suggest you don't either.

EDIT> Feb 2016 - It's still not out yet! It'll be NAB soon... this is getting crazy...stop announcing cameras you can''t make!

EDIT>> March 2016 - The 4.6k Ursa Mini is finally shipping! But... they've scrapped the global shutter.  Such a shame. I'm sure the dynamic range is improved because of it, but i really wanted to see this new sensor paired with a global shutter. The 4k version has the global shutter of course, but it's that old sensor...  

I'm sure more contenders will show up before i make my decision, which will probably make things even more confusing.

Friday, November 20, 2015

New Showreel

Thought it was time to update my showreel... it's been a busy year and i've done some interesting jobs which have some great visuals, so it seemed a good time to put it all in a new reel.

A couple of sneak peeks at PARADOX in here too...  which we're working on the post for at the moment...release coming soon...

Friday, November 13, 2015


Loving this GH4 / Atomos Shogun / CameTV Mini2 Rig... such a useful set-up.

Sorry it's been quiet on here lately... i've been mad busy and not had a chance to update the blog for a while. In September i was shooting 3 new videos for Kim Wilde's Deluxe Edition of her 'Wilde Winter Songbook' album, which i also mixed. Then, in October, me and Jon Atkinson went to LA to film some commercial projects which i can't really talk about to much yet. As i mentioned before, i was working with some of LA's finest SWAT teams, which was awesome. It's a very exciting project which i'm really looking forward to seeing come to fruition in January next year.

The whole time, i've also been editing and doing the post process on PARADOX. Jon is now writing and recording the score and i'm busy working on the foley and sound design. We're still planning on releasing the series this year.... we've even got plans for a second run of episodes in 2016.

Check out next month's Digital FilmMaker Mag for a full update on the PARADOX shoot and also my regular Q & A section.

2016 is going to be new camera time again for me...  The URSA Mini, the FS5 and the A7S II are all looking like contenders...  i'm also hoping to direct more music promos - more news on this soon.

Cheers for now..