“As a follow-up to recent communications regarding firmware issues for the PXW-FS5 (V.4.0) and PXW-Z150 (V.2.0), Sony has now released version 4.02 for the FS5 and version 2.02 for the Z150. These new versions address both the previously confirmed issues related to HDR in specific applications of HLG in HD shooting modes, and to audio sync. The new versions are available for download, for the FS5 and the Z150.”
I’ve recently been thinking about what might be the best most cost effective studio camera set-up on the market for small HD mobiles. I’m of the opinion that any camera in this scenario must have a power zoom parfocal lens with a reasonable range and no iris ramping, and has to have an HD-SDI connector (I hate HDMI). However in this scenario, you’re likely going to be getting a Blackmagic ATEM box for distance runs and intercom, so it could only have HDMI output…if you had to…God I hate HDMI.
The 1/3″ sensor cameras with LANC controls and an external screen would be the most cost-effective ones, but not necessarily the best looking ones, and if there were to be any handheld use, I’d want something shoulder mountable. If you needed to run them off battery, it’s possible. Make sure you get a monitor that takes the same batteries as the camera.
2/3″ B4 mount camcorders, or B4 “mobile” cameras without a recorder section are the norm, but they are expensive, and their lenses are even more expensive. If you want to do a CCU and fiber, be prepared to spend big money.
The Blackmagic studio cameras check off almost all the boxes, but they are not great in low light, and lens options using the M4/3 mount are not great. Again, if you’re looking to do handheld, forget it. Their incredible low price, 10″ viewfinder and fiber/intercom integration makes one want to overlook their lens limitations. But at the end of the day, unless you’re adapting a B4 mount lens to them, they aren’t very practical, and if you do that, your costs again skyrocket.
The Blackmagic Ursa Mini is another interesting option. Normally I would avoid large sensor cameras in this scenario because of the limitations in zoom lengths. You could get it in EF mount and use Canon’s two parfocal S35 zooms with it. They are pretty slow zooms though, and the Ursa again is not that great in low light. They do have the option of using a B4 lens in HD, with its price limitation. As I said, I’m only looking at a HD mobile, but the Ursa is one of the only cameras on the market with a 4K SDI output if you’re looking for that capability.
What I ended up settling on is a Sony FS5 with their newer 18-105mm lens. It is parfocal, power zoom, F4 and has focus gearing built in (as well as autofocus). It comes with a zoom handle that can be separated off the camera. That zoom handle has function buttons that can be used to “punch-in” and scan the center of the sensor for an electronic doubling of focal length (in HD) with no loss of light gathering ability or perceived output quality (in HD). Its real iris control and variable ND would help in uncontrolled lighting scenarios outside of the studio. Something that was enabled with this latest firmware update is the ability to now use Sony’s RM-30BP with this set-up (I think, I haven’t actually had hands on time).
This would allow the operator behind the camera to have zoom, focus and most importantly iris control without having to reach up to the lens from the rear. I think it even allows “stacking” of controllers. Does this mean you could use it for focus/iris, and plug the zoom control that comes with the FS5 into it for zoom control? Anyone? You could rig the camera for handheld shoulder shooting reasonably easily by equipping it with aftermarket accessories like the ones shown in the picture at the top of this post. The FS5 looks great, is excellent in low light, and will give that limited DOF look if thats what you’re going for. A Blackmagic 7″ screen as a viewfinder, and an ATEM fiber box for long distance and intercom, and away we go.
Opinions? Additions? Something I missed? Know of a cheap/good wired follow focus? Feel free to comment…respectfully.