Hey there everyone. Once again it’s been too long. Since my last post, there’s been a lot of work and a lot of learning. I’ve spent a lot of time with my Panasonic AF100, the Canon 7D and the Canon XF300. In between all of that, there’s been plenty going on with the JVC GY-HM700 and most recently, I had the opportunity to spend the day in northern Michigan working with the new Sony FS100.
Now let me start off by saying that I was super excited about getting my hands on the FS100. It’s great to have a chance to shoot with the camera that is the direct competition of the camera I purchased. I was curious to see if I made the right personal choice and also wanted to get familiar with both the similarities and the differences in these cameras. I also wanted to find out how intuitive the camera is in the trenches. I want to know what frustrates me and what makes me grateful and compare it to my AF100 and 7D experiences.
The good: During my prep with the FS100, I was really impressed with the camera’s low light performance. Judging the image off of the LCD, I was floored by the limited amount of noise I saw all the way up to +30db. During our shoot, the camera produced beautiful images and showed comparable latitude to other cameras in its price range. The menu structure is pretty intuitive. It seems as if most manufacturers have formulated menu structures that can be figured out relatively fast. Given a brief amount of time to dive in and look around, a seasoned shooter should feel pretty comfortable tweaking and manipulating settings on the fly.
The bad: To be polite, the FS100 has a LCD placement that I will call “unique”. The LCD also functions as the EVF once you’ve attached the eyepiece. That’s all well and good as long as you are shooting at eye level or lower. Once the camera is over your eyes, you can not see what you’re shooting. Now let me say that I asked the owner of the camera if I was missing something because I was telling myself that there is no way that Sony would do that and he assured me that I was correct. Also, no HD-SDI. I still don’t understand how HDMI crept into our world but I wish it would just go away. I’ll leave it at that. And lastly, no ND filter wheel. We were fortunate on this shoot to have a circular ND filter wheel from Nature and that worked great for our needs on this shoot but there weren’t many lens changes. Granted, I know ND filter wheels like the one on the AF100 aren’t perfect but it’s certainly better than nothing. Come on Sony. They put out this wonderful camera and make it affordable but now I must have a base plate so I can attach a matte box and use ND filters. That kind of defeats the purpose of these cameras to me. Granted, I usually work with a fully tricked out beast, but having the ability to break it down to the bare minimum is crucial.
Overall, the Sony FS100 is great camera that creates beautiful images, is easy to understand and affordable. But considering the price point and all of the extras on the AF100, like HD-SDI and a ND filter wheel, I gotta say that I’ll take my Micro 4/3 Panasonic AF100 over the Super 35 Sony FS100. It’s a better purchase for me personally and I’m thrilled with the camera. I would like to spend more time on the FS100 to get even more familiar with it. I can say that what the FS100 does well, it really knocks it out of the park. But there are just a few so-so points that keep me scratching my head. Maybe the next version of the Sony FS100 will have me ready to switch things up. I guess we’ll have to see.
Well, this past holiday weekend while most people were giving summer its proper introduction, I was fortunate enough to begin work on a new web series. It was great to settle in as the director of photography with a talented cast and crew of about 50 or so people. The camera department spent two days two Canon XF300 cameras with all the proper accessories and a few extras. I’ve been eager to get in the field with one of these cameras for a long time. You see, it’s always seemed odd to me that Canon would release a direct competitor to the Sony EX1 and not elect to go with 1/2″ sensors. Why, why, why give us a great 50Mbps 4:2:2 codec and then “drop the ball” on sensor size? As a point of reference, the Sony EX1 has 1/2″ sensors and a 35Mbps 4:2:0 codec. Of course, now the debate can begin, which is better, larger sensors or a higher-res codec?
Well after spending 1 prep day and two packed shooting days with the Canon XF300, I have to admit that it’s a rock solid camera. It has a great LCD that will allow you to get critical focus, a waveform and vectorscope feature, great glass as one would expect from Canon and it’s more comfortable in your hands than the Sony EX1. My concerns about the 1/3″ sensors quickly vanished and I like the decision to go with affordable Compact Flash media over Sony’s proprietary SxS cards. I would have liked an HD-SDI output. That feature is available on the Canon XF305 only so if I was to ever make a purchase, the XF305 is the way to go. I also like the menu structure on the XF line up of cameras. I’m used to Canon’s so it’s very familar to me.
To be honest, if we were still in a pre- AF100, F3, FS100 world, I think the Canon XF line would have been more celebrated than it is now. It really seems to have made a very small splash in a very large pond or maybe it’s a portion of the pond where few people are looking. I understand the large sensor hype. I spent my pennies on a Panasonic AF100. What I don’t get it is why Canon hasn’t introduced a camera to stay on top of Sony and Panasonic. I would love to know how they decided to release a new fixed lens camera over a more contemporary large sensor camera that works with the full spectrum of SLR and cinema glass and also provides the ergonomics and features pro video shooters are looking for. Maybe they don’t want to step on their own 7D’s swagger but I believe it’s telling when I go on a shoot and the AF100 is “A” cam and the 7D is “B” cam. Yes, it’s one instance but I can see a lot more of that happening.
Final thoughts: The Canon XF300 (&XF305) are great fixed lens options for anyone’s line up. The images are comparable to Sony’s EX1 and EX3 cameras. The 1/3″ sensors truly deliver and can compete with Sony’s 1/2″ sensors. The 50Mbps 4:2:2 codec is awesome and is accepted by the likes of Discovery Channel and the BBC. The newer perks like waveform and high-res LCD are fantastic. With all that said, come on Canon, you guys could have bypassed an already cluttered segment of the marketplace and kept pace with Sony and Panasonic. Canon clearly has the technology to take these companies on and chose not to.
Give me more Canon. You can do it!
Is it better to own cameras or to rent cameras? That is the question. It’s a topic that I’ve discussed with many colleagues in a variety of markets and it seems as if everyone has an opinon. As some of you may know, I own a Panasonic AF100 and a Canon XH-A1. My decision to purchase has worked well for me. I like having something I can turn to on a whim and make a few $$.
Of course, formats are changing so fast these days, some feel it’s counter-productive to invest in the technology of the moment, opting instead to keep a variety of support gear around to accommodate any camera package. I get that. As recently as last week, I found myself manipulating my support rig and shooting with a Canon 7D, a camera that I don’t own.
Go back a little bit, Camera Operators back in the day could drop $60,000+ on an investment in their Beta SP camera and ENG lens and trust that the technology was going to last long enough to make the investment profitable. It was also a regularly requested format with competition that was of equal value and price point. Now-a-days, things change so fast that if you miss one NAB, you don’t know what’s what. Less expensive technology, proprietary recording formats, NLE support for codecs, post workflows; all differ greatly depending on the path chosen. Plus you have a lot of third-party outfits that release all sorts of bells-&-whistles to make your square peg fit into a little round hole. Purse string opinions also swing from one end of the spectrum to the other. “Gotta be a Red!” “Nope, now we want to shoot with an iphone…” Technology advances allowing for higher-resolution acquisition. Meanwhile, viewer expectations get lower daily with smaller screen displays and a YouTube culture accustomed to low res video.
With all that said, why did I buy? Because I like my toys. It feels great and it’s a lot of fun. Is it a smart investment? For me, hell yeah. I’ll make sure that it pays for itself and then some. If I want to switch things up, I can sell it. So there you have it, all that education and professional experience and all I can say is that I do it because I think it’s cool. Wow! I’m so lucky.
Keep it real in the field.
Ok, all I can say is “wow”. The Sony PMW-F3 with the S-Log firmware upgrade is truly an impressive piece of technology and for the price point has the potential to move to the top of the list of affordable camera package rentals that truly deliver.
I’ll keep this post brief. Dynamic range has always been the Achilles heel of digital cinema. Time and time again, shooters have cringed at the lack of latitude in a camera. Blown out highlights, icky blobs of shadow area with no detail, we’ve seen it all and struggled to find a happy medium (within the budget). We’ve witnessed improvements across the board in the cameras, the codecs, the color spacing, post workflows, etc. Well I invite you to take a look at the footage posted on the FreshDV website from NAB 2011. A group went out and captured footage with a Sony PMW-F3 and it’s some of the first footage shot with the S-Log firmware upgrade. IMO, it’s worth the money! See for yourself.
Well hey there blogosphere. You’re reading a post from a man that finally got his Panasonic AG-AF100. Can I get a “hell-yeah” from the cheap seats? Now that’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout people!
Damn, I like this little beast… so far. The rig was ready late last week so nothing like going out on the first paying shoot on Sunday. Can’t beat that. It’s already paying for itself. So what did I shoot… we went on location to shoot a :30 second promo for a client of mine. I used Nikkor prime lenses and my media selection was SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC & Compact Flash cards.
I was impressed with the level of customization that the AF100 allows. The footage for this promo was shot at PH1080/60i. Because of the bright colors in the store, I knocked the chroma level down to -4 to avoid any chroma clipping and I also fudged the detail down slightly. The footage was recorded to both an SDHC card and a Compact Flash card in my Convergent Design nanoFlash drive at 100Mb 4:2:2. I opted to go to the nanoFlash because I wasn’t sure how the AF100′s native ACVCam codec would hold up. This is my first experience with this codec and after watching the footage from the SDHC card, it seems reasonably solid. Further tests will have to be performed before I can really jump on the AVCCam bandwagon.
So, what did I like… I’ll lay it out for you.
-Customization. I was a DVX man a few years back and it feels good to go back to their scene file layout. It’s familiar to me and I think it’ll be pretty intuitive to anyone that picks up the camera.
-Ergonomics. With my set up on a Zacuto Universal baseplate, I’m able to create a rig that would be comfortable enough to do handheld work. I really didn’t anticipate that and I’m pleasantly surprised.
-Focus Assist. What can I say… it worked the way I wanted. I’ve played with other focus assist features and been unimpressed. In fact, I would say some are useless and should never be turned on. I found that the AF100 focus assist function was something I could trust.
-Depth of Field control. I’ll say this now. I don’t always want to create images where a person’s eyes are in focus and their ears aren’t. It has it’s place. I get it. With that said, after going years with lens adapters, I was happy to see a greater amount of control over depth of field and edge sharpness.
Not So Cool
-HD-SDI out, LCD & the EVF. They don’t all work at the same time. You get to pick 2. I go HD-SDI out to my nanoFlash and then out of that to my Panasonic 17″ monitor. I like to have the LCD in color and to have the EVF in black-n-white (yeah, I’m old school… sue me). I’ll have to adjust my work flow slightly to accommodate that.
-Zebra & Peaking buttons. I really wish I didn’t have the open the LCD to access those. I still put my eye in the viewfinder from time to time and if I’m using HD-SDI out, I can’t have both the LCD and the EVF on.
-AVCCam codec. Yes I know it keeps the price-point down. However, as someone looking to deliver a higher quality image in almost every instance, an external recording device is necessary until AVCCam proves it’s worth to me.
Final First Impressions
Overall; the AF100 was a pleasure to use. It’s so much more user-friendly than shooting with a lens adapter and the ergonomics were refreshing when compared to manipulating a DSLR to function like a video camera. I can’t wait to get more creative with the camera and really push it. FYI: it’s worth mentioning that I had concerns about the crop factor knowing that I needed to get wide shots. I was pleased with the results I got from the AF100. I will be looking to add a wider prime lens to my options. Right now, the widest lens I have is 24mm. Fortunately for me, it was plenty this time around.
Keep coming back for more info on my experiences with the Panasonic AF100. And keep an eye out for plenty of commentary on life as a freelancer in these crazy times.
So, it’s been a while. For some reason, I naively thought that by now, I would be cranking out the posts and informing you all of my first, second and even third impressions of my new camera, the Panasonic, AG-AF100. Well, here we are. I’ve got the camera. It looks great. However, I don’t have all of the pieces to the puzzle just yet. The adapter that will allow me to mount my lenses on the camera is on backorder. What does this mean? Well, it means that I get the opportunity to continue blogging about anything and everything not related to shooting with an AF100. So here we go…
Shameless self-promotion. What’s it mean to you? How much is too much? I’ve asked myself these questions at least 100 times. In these entreprenurial times, it seems to be all about branding. Find your niche and stick with it. As we all know, I’m a director and a cameraman. That seems simple enough. With that said, I’m often called on to be all things to all projects. It depends on the nature (and budget) for the project. Producer: check! Audio Pro: check! Gaffer: check! AD, Grip and PA: check, check and check! And the list goes on.
The goal of any freelancer is to genrate income so that they can provide and acceptable lifestyle for their family. But, what about the crunchy feeling in the back of my mind when I’m on set with the understanding that I mixing up the message? What exactly am I promoting? Am I wrong for doing something that I know how to do and getting paid for it? How many conversations can I kick-off by saying, “I know I’m doing x today, but I’m really z.” That’s not self promotion. That’s not a consistent message thats going to help build the brand (me).
I’m sure seasoned freelancers could take me to school on this subject. As I continue on this path to establish myself, build the brand and learn, I find that it’s the specialists that get the best projects and the specialists that get the most calls. What lesson have I learned from that… specialize! The proof is in the pudding folks. But what about money? But what about staying busy? But what about…. meehhh! I think it’s time to let some of that go. So far, that’s proven to be a lot easier said than done. Today is a new day. Time to go to work.
I’m Darius Mathis. I’m a director and cameraman. I’d like to work on your next project. Lets talk.
Ok, it’s been a bit too long, almost two weeks since my last post. What happened? Where’d I go? Why didn’t I show up where I was supposed to be. These are the questions I ask myself when I finally do get in front of the computer. The new camera I ordered is still about 2 weeks away. January was a bust. And I’m finally finished digging out of the biggest snow storm of the season. What now? How do I continue this transformation? I’ll tell you how…
I dig in and get to work while holding myself accountable. I make the tough choices that will push me outside of my creative and technical comfort zones. I had a friend remind me of that very recently and I want to thank him for calling me out. Every once in a while, we all need to get called out. I don’t look at it like a scolding. It’s more like a nudge to say, “Hey! Snap out of it! You’re capable of more and you should expect more.”
So to all of you that are cozy in your comfort zones… wake up! Put it on the line today. Test yourself. You’re not alone. If you fail, you’ll learn. If you succeed, dig in and keep pushing.
Feast or famine. It’s an expression I was always familiar with growing up. In my circle of friends it was mostly used to make sense of the phenomenon of having no dates or one too many dates. The expression was humorously injected into conversations to sum up the many weekends spent on the path to realizing that each one of us knows nothing about the opposite sex.
Fast forward to 2011 and once again, it’s feast or famine. Of course, now it has nothing to do with women or the missteps of an adolescent coming of age. These days it seems to be the tagline for life as a freelancer.
Two months great. Another month so-so. And one month that must be a mistake because it’s like I fell off the face of the earth. Time to step back, regroup, rethink this thing through. Get control of the brand. The messge is off, take us to defcon 1! Not really, but I can’t help but go back to those earlier years of “feast or famine”and come to the conclusion that I just don’t have all of the answers. This freelance thing is one tough bird and until I have a couple of steady dates to count on, it’s going to be a wild ride.
Welcome to first entry of my blog! I’ve asked myself what this blog is going to be about and to be honest, I haven’t answered that yet. I’m a freelance director and cameraman. I make my living helping companies, individuals, and organizations communicate their stories and messages to the masses. With that said, I can’t help but think that my personal story and message is about more than the ins-&-outs of the latest piece of tech gear and an upcoming project. While I can say that there will be plenty of posts about such topics, I can also say that I believe I have more to contribute.
A little bit about me; I’m a former Marine. I’ve got a Bachelor’s degree in film and video production from Grand Valley State University. I’m married with three beautiful children. The most peaceful moment of my life happened while I was boxing. For a brief moment, I was enlightened. No past, no future, just the moment. Hell yeah! I worked in a corporate environment for 13 years. I’ve been full time freelance for over two years. I know a lil’ something about tryring to reinvent myself in this economy. I know what it’s like to be the oldest mf’er in the room. I’ve had major successes and resounding failures. I cuss a lot. I don’t know everything and I can still make your project better. I’m a fan of the Michigan Film Incentives. I’m lucky enough to do what I love for a living.
I’m anxious to see how this blog evolves. I don’t know what I’m gonna share. I don’t know what you’re gonna say. What I do know is that I’m inspired to get this blog out there and see how the story unfolds.
To kick things off, I’m excited about my latest purchase, the Pansonic AG-AF100. It hasn’t arrived yet but I’m looking forward to getting my hands on this new camera. It wasn’t easy to pull the trigger on this purchase. It was between the AF100 and Sony’s new camera, the F3 (ships in February). To be honest, the F3 is a much better camera but I don’t bleieve it’s $8000 better like the pricepoints would have you believe. I couldn’t justify buying a $13,300 camera when all I keep thinking is, damn, I will need a seperate recorder so I can bypass the native codec. 35Mbps with 4:2:0 color space for $13,300 just doesn’t cut it for me, especially when Sony is releasing a new shoulder mount camera that’s 50Mbps with 4:2:2 that will be in the same price range. WTF!
While the Panasonic AVCHD codec isn’t the most exciting codec and will also be bypassed, the pricepoint of $4,795 is more reasonable and the camera will deliver a better version of that DSLR look along with all of the controls I want and expect on a professional camera. I’ve shot with a Canon 5Dm2 and a 7D and while both offer a look I can appreciate (when used properly), the ergonomics of a DSLR make it an unattractive option. Are these latest cameras from Panasonic and Sony going to be DSLR kllers, I doubt it. The 5D is full frame and will continue to be relevant for sometime to come.
Keep coming back as I chronicle my experiences with my new camera, my career as a freelancer, and my life thriving in the Michigan economy. It’s all sure to have it’s bright spots and let-downs. And I’m looking forward to sharing all of those points with each and every person that’s inspired to participate.