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What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?

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Brad Froman
What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 21, 2011 at 3:40:45 pm

I'm curious with all the pros here, if I were going to purchase a camera, what is the camera out now (or soon to be) that is going to fit the bill for the majority of commercial & documentary work? I would narrow it down to: a full size sensor, tapeless, PL mount, easy media download and post workflow; and durable. I'm tired of the Panasonic Varicam needing the pro-adaptor; the Red One is a download, workflow aggravation: the Canon 5D isn't a workhorse. Those of been my cameras of late. What would be the one camera you would own?

Brad Froman
Director/Cameraman
Cool Blue Pictures
Washington, DC


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Rick Amundson
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 21, 2011 at 3:46:21 pm

Sony F3 with an Atomos Samuri ProRes recorder.

Best of luck!

Rick Amundson
Producer/Director/DP
Screenscape Studios
Bravo Romeo Entertainment
http://www.screenscapestudios.com
http://www.bravoromeo.com
http://www.indeliblemovie.com


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john sharaf
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 21, 2011 at 4:18:54 pm

There's no doubt that the Arri Alexa is the best for what you describe, but the investment for a full kit is in the $150K territory. Next best is F3, but it takes the same lens kit and lots of add-on gack to be completely useful at about a little more than half that amount for all the bells and whistles (meaning a short lightweight zoom or two and/or set of PL mount primes).

Investing in PL lenses is a good idea, although the new larger and/or more densely packed sensors will soon obsolete all but the best and most modern lenses that have been developed for them in mind.

JS



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Todd Terry
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 21, 2011 at 4:27:44 pm

I'll echo... to exactly fit the bill for the various must-haves that you described, the Sony F3 is probably it (unless you have an Alexa budget).

We don't have an F3 yet... but will probably be our next camera. Right now we shoot with the XLH1 with P+S Technik adapter. Since the vast majority of the cost of our present rig is in the PL mount primes, we are a little ahead of the game and swapping out the camera body isn't going to be a huge deal.

John... do you really think my PL mount primes will be obsolete soon (Leitz superspeeds re-barreled by Panavision)? If so, I just might have to cry.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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john sharaf
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 21, 2011 at 4:36:15 pm

Todd,

Unfortunately this is true. With oversized sensors like Epic 5K, and highly packed sensors like the F65 (which records the dense pack as 8K 16bit Raw) and even the 3.5K Alexa in Raw mode many legacy lenses have too small an image circle to be sharp to the edges when "projected" onto the sensor.

Right now the only really safe lenses to buy are the new Leica Summicrons and Fujinon Premier zooms. Even the highly desired 12X Optimo will be an issue on the wide end.

As long as you are recording a de-bayered 1920x1080 or 2K format you'll be fine but if you're going Raw for the additional resolution, you're going to have problems, and this is the direction it's all going.

JS



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Todd Terry
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 21, 2011 at 4:48:17 pm

Well that is sad indeed (light sobbing beginning)...

My lenses are worth more than my first house.

Well, then again, maybe not worth more based on your response... but cost more. Booohoooo....

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Bob Cole
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 3:33:26 pm

[Todd Terry] "Well that is sad indeed (light sobbing beginning).."

I had a similar reaction to John Sharaf's post about lenses.

OTOH...
...look at all the great films that were made with lenses that wouldn't be good enough for an iPhone today.
...think about how you'd feel, if you bought a lens for future-proofing, and it got damaged/stolen before you ever actually used it to its full capability.
...think about the added insurance premiums for a super-expensive lens kit, year after year.

I am sure John is right on target about the future of our current lenses, but we have to live and work with today's tools, and they are amazing.

John's advice is great, provided it doesn't cost the moon. I was quite interested in John's mention of Summicrons. Not crazy expensive, but what about the mounts?

Bob C


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john sharaf
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 3:42:54 pm

Bob,

The Leica Cine lenses are Summicron-C and cost $178000 for a set of seven! The Fujinon Premier zooms in 14.5-45, 18-85, 24-180 and 75-400 are more than $80K each. These are probably the only lenses out there that have been purpose-built for 4K/5K sensors and are future proof.

JS



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Todd Terry
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 3:48:13 pm

Yikes... a single one of those Fujinon zooms costs more than I paid for most of my set of primes. OUCH!

Will definitely try to get a few more miles out of the glass that I have... definitely.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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john sharaf
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 3:51:30 pm

Todd,

The point is that the current glass is perfectly fine for HD(TV), 2K and Super 35mm film, but when 4K projection in the Cinemas of 4K material shot in 8K becomes the standard, these new lenses will be de rigour.

JS



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Todd Terry
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 3:56:08 pm

Yeah... I understand.

I was curious enough to look up the specs on the Fuji's though, as I especially thought the 24-180 would be pretty darn useful. Wider than that or longer than that and I would most likely only ever shoot primes.

It's probably worth it in terms of resolution... but for the price I sure wish it was at least a half-stop faster, or so.

Thing looks like a beast, too.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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john sharaf
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 4:01:03 pm

Hi Todd,

The 24-180 is actually shorter and lighter than the 12X Optimo which is the same T2.6. With the nominal speed of the Alexa, F3 and F65's being 800ISO (and easily gained up to 1260) the speed is more than adequate in my experience.

JS



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Seth Marshall
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 7:37:48 pm

Forgive my thread hijacking... But I like to be up to speed and news of lens classes possibly becoming obsolete is certainly something I want to know about. Currently I'm not shooting at that level, my best rig being HDX900 and my Canon 21x7.5 Cine (that I bought from YOU!) but I'm young and my goal is to reach that level. Any glass I possibly invest in I want to be the best. (and I thought you just bought an Optimo?!)

Can you point me to literature explaining why you feel even recent PLs won't cut it in the future! Thanks!


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Bob Cole
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 8:00:06 pm

Seth, I know you're writing to John, not me, but I have one minor bit of advice: keep buying used, and sell before what you have is totally obsolete. Or just rent. I don't think many people can afford to buy something that will never be obsolete - it's a pipe dream to try, imho. Technology just changes too dang fast.

That said, it's a good question: what to buy which won't be obsolete before you can get it to pay off for you!

bob c


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john sharaf
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 8:05:03 pm

Hi Seth,

I hope you're enjoying that Canon Cine style zoom, there are many times I wish I had it back!

Anyway, there is no literature explaining this developing trend in lenses, as 4/5K cameras are only now coming available; notably the Epic which is in limited release right now and in January the F65, and relatively few people are privy to the situation (can you keep a secret?).

As I said, as long as these cameras are used for HD (1920x1080) or 2K there is no issue with legacy lenses, and yes I have a 12X Optimo which despite its bulk and size is the epitome of legacy lenses to this point in time, but remember that is an almost 10 year old design conceived in an era before single CMOS imagers.

However there is no doubt that the conversion of Cinemas from film projectors to 4K digital projection is now an unstoppable phenomenon and future "big films" will undoubtedly be finished in the 4K domain to take best advantage of this.

Maybe not all films, just as in the past there was always the 16mm blowup to 35mm releases, there will be many lower budget films shot in HD or 2K that are "up-rezed" to 4K, or up-rezzing might even occur optionally in the projector itself. This will allow distribution of smaller files to smaller theaters of smaller films!

Big budget films however will record their master in 3.5K RAW (Alexa), 5K RAW (Epic) or 8K RAW (F65); it is in these cases where legacy lenses will become an issue, essentially because the pixels are so small that the imager is actually sharper than the lens. This effect will only be seen/noticeable on large screens like in a cinema, or in proper editing/color correction environments with 4K projection.

This is just the beginning of the tale. Stay tuned for the next act.

JS



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Todd Terry
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 8:25:09 pm

Well I'm feeling a bit better about my lenses now, and not too worried about future-proofing. The time will come, when it comes.

For the moment, I have no problems with shooting the glass I have, and figure it will be QUITE a while before I have to worry about the resolution of jumbo-imagers, if ever. I direct television commercials, and that's a whole different ball of wax.

I will echo the earlier suggestion about buying used lenses. I've bought a few new video lenses through the years, but I think I've only ever bought one new cine lens before. All the rest of my 35mm lenses had previous owners. My present set of primes were previously owned by Bojan Bazelli ("Mr. and Mrs. Smith," "The Ring," "Hairspray," etc.) and while they weren't always his primary glass they were used on feature films on occasion. I think they'll serve me well for still quite a while longer.

Also, when you can it's often smart to rent the lenses you need. I only ponied up fairly big dough to buy the lenses we have because we don't have a rental house in my city. The closest one is two hours away in Nashville. We used them quite a while, but it got to be a drag to schlep to the bus station to pick up the lenses, shoot, and quickly ship them back... and maintain the third-party insurance and all that. Plus that required advance planning that is sometimes an unavailable luxury here.

I've seen sooo many people put off projects or buying equipment because something newer was "just about to come out." Well, something new, different, and better will always be coming out next. If you do this for a living, you just have to make decisions, do it, and move on.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Bob Cole
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 8:30:19 pm

Todd, when you buy a used lens, do you have it checked out by someone? If so, who do you use?

Bob C


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Seth Marshall
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 8:35:59 pm

I have my used lenses (and cameras) checked out at AbelCine in NYC where I live. Todd, I'm shooting this week in Memphis--writing from the Peabody hotel right now!


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Todd Terry
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 8:50:07 pm

Hi Bob...

Frankly, I usually don't have them checked out in advance... although if I were buying some now I probably would.

And if so, I'd use Paul Duclos, at Duclos Lenses in L.A. Paul is just great (I think he's a former Panavision lens tech, or something)... and he does incredible work, fast, and fairly inexpensively.

He saved my butt once when some total nimrod let my 50mm Leitz-Panavision prime fall onto a concrete floor on location once (ok... it was me). Paul let me FedEx the lens to him and he worked on it the day it arrived, and overnighted it back the same day he got it. And he charged me something like only 500 bucks or so (the lens is probably worth 20 times that, or more). Great guy, and totally saved me. I know lots of people that use him for repairs, collimation, testing, etc.

http://www.ducloslenses.com

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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john sharaf
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 9:10:42 pm

I second Todd's recommendation of Paul Duclos. He is a real gentleman and probably the best Cine Lens tech in the business (although for Canon or Fujinon video lenses I'd probably use factory service).

Paul was for many years the tech at the Angenieux factory service center in Los Angeles and when they closed up that operation, when video became more ubiquitous and Angenieux had not yet entered that market, he opened his own shop, which has just moved into a new facility in the SF valley area of LA.

In addition to fixing lenses, he remanufactures Nikons, Tokina and Zeiss still photo lenses into Cine versions.

His website is very good and features a terrific lens blog "circle of Confusion" hosted by Mathew Duclos.

JS



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Todd Terry
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 9:32:06 pm

Ahhh, that's it... Paul was an Angenieux guy, I was remembering it wrong. But I knew he had some kind of highbrow lens pedigree.

It's almost always best just to pick up the phone and call Paul. He does respond to emails, but phone is prompter. A real gentleman and super helpful, too. Once I left him an urgent message, and he called me right back even though he was on vacation. Not many people will do that. Me included...ha.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Seth Marshall
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 8:31:28 pm

Thank you so much for your replies. And yes, Bob, great advice, I've been very lucky with finding excellent used gear. John, you kept that lens in immaculate condition! I absolutely love it and jaws drop whenever I pull it out. It looks almost brand new still -- it's hard for me to trust ACs to keep it ding free, haha.

I thought the resolution and MTF on these lenses were more than adequate for cinema. Especially if a still photographer's highest end glass at a fraction the cost resolves fine with 20+MP sensors. Is my misunderstanding because I have no experience with projection? -- I do understand contrast, resolution, MTF, image circle coverage/crop factors. You mention RAW being a contributing factor...? It seems I'm missing something.

(Also, is there a true definition for legacy lenses as I hear the word used incorrectly at times, haha)


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john sharaf
optics
on Oct 28, 2011 at 8:59:56 pm

Seth,

I'd refer to legacy lenses as those designed for film (in this case Super 35mm). Just as the difference in SD vs HD Video lenses is attributable to a smaller "circle of confusion" required for the smaller pixels (more pixels packed into the same area), the same phenomenon controls the softness in the edges issue with larger high density sensors like those in the Epic and F65.

In the F65 for example there are 20 Million (Mega) Pixels.

With digital cinema cameras the first fault revealed by older PL mount lenses is that the light is not parallel as it exits the rear of the lens. As a result the pixels at the edges of the sensor do not receive the same amount of light as those in the center. The result is vignetting. More "modern" lenses designed for single large sensors make the light that emerges from the rear of the lens more parallel and are called "telecentric". UniQptics, Leica Summicron and Fujinon Aluras (I believe) and Premiers are definitely more telecentric, and also somewhat more contrasty than film lenses to increase "apparent" sharpness.

The issue with the high density large CMOS imagers is that unless the lens' "image circle" is large enough to essentially "overscan" the sensor then the edges of the sensor are perilously close to the edge of the circle and is not the same resolution as the center or nearer the center. If the lens has a large enough image circle to overscan the sensor, then the edge of the picture falls into more of a sweet spot of the lens for resolution.

For example the 12X Optimo has an image circle of 28mm, whereas the UniQoptics primes have 34mm image circle. I cite these two because the specs are available on them. The actual "image circle" is not often advertised other than to say that such-and-such a lens will cover a Super 35mm area, but will become increasingly more important to know as these larger and more populated sensors become commonplace.

JS



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Seth Marshall
Re: optics
on Oct 29, 2011 at 12:42:43 am

Thank you for that detailed explanation. I understand MTF, vignetting, chromatic aberrations, and the other issues at the edges of the image circle. I don't remember hearing about telecentric design for 35mm but I thought m4/3s was created with this in mind (I also own an AF100).

But as far as quality -- Why then in the 35mm still photography world professionals consider Canon L's to be more than adequate (if not top of the line) for full-frame and APS-C? Totally different lens and use, I know, but regarding IQ and MTF still photo pro's don't really require anything better (aside from larger formats of course). And they have pretty high standards.

And why don't Cine lens manufactures make the obvious choice to make use of a sweet spot by designing full frame style lenses with larger image circles?


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Bob Cole
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 4:04:47 pm

[john sharaf] "The Leica Cine lenses are Summicron-C and cost $178000 for a set of seven!"

I was looking at the wrong Summicrons...

Ah well.


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Robin Probyn
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 22, 2011 at 2:37:08 am

It seems there is much more a difference between doc camera,s and drama/commercial camera,s in the video world now.. eg F900R used alot on doc,s and also drama.. even feature films with a bit PL mount lenses. etc..

Alexa /F3 etc with all the bells and whistles primes etc.. great camera,s for sure.. but far from idea for the average doc shoot.. let alone the budgets needed to hire this gear..

So I think basically you are going to need two camera,s if you do doc and drama shoots.. a 2/3 inch chip 3CCD camera with a decent HD wide angle zoom.. Pana 3700 or Sony XDCAM 800 probably being the main work horses as I know it..





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Jan Crittenden Livingston
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 22, 2011 at 4:22:09 pm

No body asked what the budget is and I think that is relevant. In the sub $5000 range would be the Panasonic AG-AF100. Nice camera and lots of features for the cinematic world. Has a large imager and you can mount PL lenses to it with a PL adapter, and virtually any other lens with an adapter. Check here for more details, presentation and a link to footage: http://www.panasonic.com/AF100.

Hope this helps,

Jan

Jan Crittenden Livingston
Product Manager, AVCCAM, AG-3DA1, AG-AF100
Panasonic Broadcast & TV Systems



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Mark Suszko
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 22, 2011 at 11:31:14 pm

The AF 100 makes an absolutely gorgeous image. I would like it more if I could move the VF to the side somehow. A lot of the cameras I looked at put the VF on the back and they don't suit a shoulder-riding style. An LCD on the side is not the same as an honest to God Viewfinder cup.


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Robin Probyn
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 23, 2011 at 12:48:29 am

Zacuto do a very good EVF.. from the HDMI plug.. which is ofcourse the weak point .. a few companies have been clever and seen a market for EVF with these camera,s that can be used for profession work,but still have the pro sumer design.. ( manufacturers just being able to use the parts they already make..) ie Eye piece right where you dont want it..



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Angelo Lorenzo
Re: What Is Today's Workhorse Camera?
on Oct 23, 2011 at 9:36:57 pm

Personally, I don't mind the Red One. I haven't got my hands on the Epic yet, but I feel cozy with it.
I like the workflow and my production partner and I have worked out a DIT scheme that works for us.

At the end of the workflow there are the editing software choices you make. We use Premiere Pro which has native support for R3D, as does Avid. I've seen people try to use the Red with FCP but, in general, the workflow becomes a s-storm really quickly.

I'm interested to see Canon's possible cinema level offering. I've used the Arri Alexa and it's nice, but the price point puts it a notch above the RED, even for rentals.

Panasonic AG-AF100 is a really attractive low budget choice, but I've not used it so I can't speak on it's behalf other than my partner and I put some thought into purchasing it.


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