Monday, April 11, 2011

Sony Chat on the NEX-FS100

Last Tuesday Sony Europe held a webchat on the NEX-FS100 with DPs Den Lennie of F-Stop Academy and Zulqar Cheema, and Sony Europe product specialist’s Kanta Yamamoto and Anna Doublet. Den and Zulqar were part of a focus group that took part in preliminary discussions about the camera while it was under development, and got to play with a pre-production version of the camera briefly prior to it's announcement.

Here’s an edited transcript of the chat. I’ve put the answers with the questions, deleted non-answers and off-topic comments, corrected typing errors and edited for clarity, and reordered the questions to put similar topics together.

You can read the entire chat online at Facebook Sony Professional Europe (click the Live Web Chat button on the left-hand menu to access.)

Q: What’s the HDMI output? Is HDMI as effective as HD-SDI?
Den Lennie: I've also been informed that HDMI is 8 bit. I was told by the guys who make the nanoFlash that HDMI and HD-SDI use the same signal and that the only difference is the physical connector.
Zulqar Cheema: As far as I am aware the HDMI is only 4:2:2. The F3 has 4:4:4 via the SDI [The F3 has 4:4:4 as part of a paid upgrade]
Kanta Yamamoto: HDMI could support 10-bit, same as SDI. On the other hand, the internal processor decided the output bit depth.
The HDMI output from the FS100 has embedded TimeCode. Several external recorders will support this TC.


Q: Is it possible to trigger the HDMI out when using an external recorder (start/stop?)
Kanta Yamamoto: I don't think so. Instead some external recorders have remote in/out connectors. The remote signal from generic LANC remote controller can trigger the recorder then the camcorder.

Q: Is there an HDMI connector lock or the possibility to use a third-party lock?
Kanta Yamamoto: The FS100 uses a normal large HDMI connector.

Q: Are there major advantages to using a nanoFlash in conjunction with the camera?
Den Lennie: The main advantage of HDMI out is that you can use any third party recorder, so nanoFlash, Atamos Ninja , etc. With 3rd part recorders you are able to record at a higher bit rate, however don’t be put off by the 24mb/s AVCHD. We were very impressed with it on "Vertigo" you can judge for yourself here is the 1080P version: Vimeo: Cozi: 'Vertigo' Music Video

Q: Why doesn't the NEX-FS100 have a build-in ND filter?
Den Lennie: If you consider the 35mm sensor and therefore a filter wheel would have to be quite large, hence the F3 is a larger body.

One of the KEY factors in designing this camera was to retain as close to as possible the form factor of a DSLR...if we want to keep the size small we can 't have all bells and whistles.

I'd suggest a matte box with ND filters or Variable ND. Remember this camera is a new concept. DSLR users from a video background will love this. Traditional video users will perhaps find the form factor a little peculiar until you have it in their hands and then everything makes sense.
There are many Vari ND manufacturers, [i.e. Genus 77mm ND (Neutral Density) Fader Filter] make one that's a very good value

Q: I understand NEX-FS100E has smooth slow record? Does it degrade the quality? Have you tested this and if so how does it look?
Zulqar Cheema: Noticed a very slight loss in the Slow Motion when enlarged on the screen, but nothing to write home about.
Kanta Yamamoto: FS100 has 1080/50p scanning for Full-HD half-speed slowmotion at 25p playback.
Also it has 1/4 slowmotion with degraded image quality (Smooth Slow Rec). Smooth Slowmo is good for SD production and Web.

Q: "Recording 1080/50p" and "Smooth Slow Rec" are different functions aren’t they?
Kanta Yamamoto: Full HD Slowmo and Smooth Slowmo are different from each other. For Full HD, the camcorder sensor can work at 50p/sec and the captured images are recorded in full HD 25P. As a result you can get Full HD 25P in 1/2 speed without quality degradation. For Smooth Slowmo, the sensor can work at 200fps, then recored as 50i. As result you can get 1/4 slowmo but with quality loss.

For the Smooth Slowmo mode, (Not Full HD Slowmo mode), please refer to this page: Special Shooting: Smooth Slow Motion. Same function is on the FS100.

Again, there are two slow-motion modes in FS100.
Smooth Slow motion (1/4 slow mo)
Full HD Slow motion (1/2 slow mo)

Q: Does the European version of the FS100 have 24p or is it only for the US version?
Kanta Yamamoto: For 24p on European model, we are planning to offer it via firmware upgrade. Its availability is yet to be decided.

Q: Regarding frame rate recording, what is the range in 1920x1080?
Kanta Yamamoto: 50i, 50p and 25p are default. [for the European version - Ed]

Q: Is there anything you can tell me about the 11x zoom lens? I tried an Nex-5 and the E lenses were quite stiff and difficult to use.
Zulqar Cheema: I did notice you had to open up the iris a stop or two when you zoomed with that lens. The lens was easy to use and a good rubber grip on it and a locking feature to hold it at the wide end.
Den Lennie: It's a solid piece of glass with a metal housing, very nice optical quality and resolving power. For shooting outdoors it’s a very good lens. Only f3.5 though, so indoors a little slow, but we used a Alpha 50mm f1.4 for the majority of "Vertigo," and the 16mm f2.8 Sony E mount - the 50mm f1.4 was under £400.
Kanta Yamamoto: The current E-mount lenses were developed for both still and movie purpose with auto focus. On the other hand, other lenses such as Zeiss CP2 have a mechanical wheel structure which is good for more accurate manual operation.

Q: The Sony Alpha lens is quite small and delicate looking. Were you able to use follow focus with them?
Den Lennie: Yes the Alpha lenses do have a narrow focus ring, And yes we did use a follow-focus from Zacuto with their Zip gears. We used the Sony Alpha 50mm f1.4 with the adapter to E Mount.

Q: Are there plans to add faster lenses with E-mounts?
Kanta Yamamoto: For E-mount, Sony will produce 4 lenses including Carl Zeiss high quality lens this year and 3 more in next year. Carl Zeiss announced the development of the CP2 lens with A-mount. Also, Sony announced that Carl Zeiss is one of the partner companies of the E-mount lens. [And they have announced CP2 lenses with the E-Mount as well - Ed]

Q: Did you try the auto-focus with the Alpha lenses? How well did it work?
Den Lennie: Sorry we didn't try the auto focus.
Zulqar Cheema: Tried the auto focus. It's OK in good light, bit slow in low light like most cameras really. It does have an expand function to help with the manual focus and a one push focus button.

Q: What kind of stabilization does it have?
Anna Doublet: The FS100 has 2 type of stabilization: standard steadyshot (hard, standard, soft & wide conversion) and active steadyshot (standard or wide).
Kanta Yamamoto: The Steadyshot is a function in the lens. The FS100 body doesn't have it. The E18-200 lens coming with the FS100EK has Normal Steadyshot and Active Steadyshot.

Q: How about overheat issues with the FS100? Will recording 50p generate more heat?
Kanta Yamamoto: The sensor in the FS100 was purely developed for Professional Video shooting. [Unlike] some camcorders utilizing a DSLR Still Photo Sensor which may have such over-heat trouble.

Q: Is the FS100 capable of recording for more than 30 mins?
Kanta Yamamoto: Yes of course.
Den Lennie: We shot all day and night with no heat issues whatsoever. Also we ran the camera with LCD on one NPF - 970 for over 7 hours.

Q: I see the handgrip has a cable attached to 'Remote' connection. Is this actually standard LANC?
Zulqar Cheema: I used the hand grip last night on the camera and found it flexible and solid in use and fairly comfortable. The lead is a standard LANC I believe.

Q:How do you rate the low light performance of the FS100 compared to similar level cameras on the market? Does it handle low light without introducing noise?
Den Lennie: The low light performance is staggering. What noise you do see is very soft noise and clean. Check out the 108oP video f-stop Academy: **UPDATE*** Full 1080P version of FS100 Footage now Available
James, who worked with me on the video has shot everything from Red to DSLR. He was extremely pleased with the noise levels and said that the FS100 was clean and reminded him of shooting RED, but with a much similar post workflow.
Zulqar Cheema: Low light is an issue for me on live events so I looked at this with some detail last night. I set the camera to 0dB Gain 24p and the iris on 3.5 and the image looked very natural indeed and at 9dB it looked more then acceptable.
Zoomed into the image on the NLE and there was some noise, but at normal viewing distance it’s not really noticeable.

Q: Did you color it in post?
Den Lennie: James graded the video using Blackmagic Resolve. There are some frame grabs pre and post grade in this months HD Magazine online edition

Q: What should we expect from the post-prod workflow? Will the FS100 footage be natively supported in Final Cut Pro?
Den Lennie: We pulled it in using Log and Transfer and converted to ProRes, easy. We absolutely loved it on all levels.
Zulqar Cheema: I have used the clips on Sony Vegas 10 Pro and they work OK.

Q: Any thoughts on inter-cutting footage from the FS100 with footage from other cameras (particularly Canon DSLRs)?
Den Lennie: The DSLRs are much noisier side by side. I'm going to do some comparrisons on the blog soon at

Q: Can you tell us what the vertical and horizontal resolution of the sensor is, and also what filter pattern is used? Is it a Bayer pattern, or something else?
Kanta Yamamoto: Unfortunately, we don't disclose that info currently.

Q: Could you comment on the new chassis?
Kanta Yamamoto: You can easily attach and detach the parts as you like. I did it without any instructions when I experienced it first.
Zulqar Cheema: When I opened the camera out of the packaging for the first time my son said WOW what a weird looking camera. But it does grow on you and is quite easy to use, and most controls are there on the side panel for instant use.
Kanta Yamamoto: You can find lots of screw holes on the body. 1/4-inch or 3/8-inch holes on top and on grip, on bottom. Also you can find a 1/4-inch hole when detaching the grip. You can use generic lens support accessories using these holes.
Zulqar Cheema: The screw on the side of the camera is so you can rotate the camera on its side to enable filming that can be used on those advertising panels seen at stores in Portrait mode.

Q: Does the FS100 have selectable gamma modes like the F3?
Den Lennie: Yes the FS100 has selectable gamma.
Zulqar Cheema: It does have gamma modes in the menus.

Q: Does it have the same rolling shutter issues as DSLRs?
Den Lennie: Rolling shutter is inherent with all CMOS technology- even the RED.
Kanta Yamamoto: The sensor used in the FS100E was developed purely for video shooting. It has faster signal read-out speed than DSLR's. Less rolling shutter phenomenon can be expected.

Q: Have you run any dynamic range tests on the FS100?
Den Lennie: I'm afraid we didn't have time to test DR. We had the camera for les than 36hrs and so we opted for shooting a low light based music video. And it was a grey weekend!
Anna Doublet: FS100 has almost the same dynamic range on the sensor like F3. approx. ISO800.

Q: How can you playback content?
Zulqar Cheema: You can play the clips back on the LCD or take the HDMI out to a small HD monitor if preferable.
Den Lennie: You can playback via HDMI from the camera.
Kanta Yamamoto: For playback, one of the advantages of AVCHD is its compatibiity with several consumer products. For example, you may playback your recordings on PS3, Handycam, PC and some Blu-ray Disc players.

Q: How many picture profiles can I store? Same as in F3?
Kanta Yamamoto: There are six Picture Profiles

Q: Who do you guys see as the major user of the FS100? Event videographers, indie film, wildlife...?
Zulqar Cheema: I see the FS100 fulfilling a role for the Videographer like myself and am looking forward to doing a live shoot with it.
Den Lennie: I see this as a major advance for event videographers looking to embrace 35mm DOF for cinematic events, but also a powerful tool on corporate video adding huge production value at a low price point. We shot a music video on it very successfully. James Tonkin who's worked with Robbie Williams and Archive said that "his love affair with DSLRS was over" he likened the pictures to that of the RED camera.

Q: What is the one "killer feature" that you think that is going to make the FS100 fly through the dealer's doors?
Den Lennie: For me its the DSLR video camera - 35mm "film Look" with the familiarity of a video camera.
I think videographers are a tentative lot anyway, I don't believe any camera offers an instant 'boom'- this is new concept. But once you get the camera in your hands it feels very natural and intuitive
Zulqar Cheema: For me it was a DSLR with XLR inputs and SDHC cards.
Kanta Yamamoto: The picture quality is really good because of the same sensor as the F3. and 1080P full HD Slow & Quick motion, Module concept design. FS100 is using E-mount lens, AVCHD, consumer memory card etc. it is good for low-budget filming such as pop music videos.
Anna Doublet: The killer features are the sensor with DOF and HDV's accessoiries compatibility.

Q: Do you think it is a good tool for shooting documentary with a large single sensor and with a small depth of focus?
Kanta Yamamoto: The FS100E is also good for some documentaries which needs shallow DoF. The supplied E18-200 lens has built-in Auto Focus and Steadyshot. These are good for documentary, I think.
Zulqar Cheema: I believe it will be excellent for documentary with that DOF and and good in low light, you can be very creative with the FS100.
Anna Doublet: For documentary application it's important to have the low cost support (like MS or SD card) that you can purchase everywhere.

Q: Do you think the FS100 may appeal to those who might otherwise have opted for the (much more expensive) F3? Is this a concern?
Den Lennie: I think the FS100 and F3 are two very different products, F3 has Pl lens mount and Full 4:4:4 capability - FS100 is the super 35mm answer to HDV form factor - i.e. if you are used to shooting with that type of camera this is a big step up in perceived production value (35mm look) but with a familiarity to HDV. The buttons are all intuitively in the right place. Having been one of only the very few to actually shoot with this camera I can confirm that it felt extremely natural in the hand.
Anna Doublet: The main differences of FS100 and F3: FS100 is using E-mount lens, AVCHD, consumer memory card etc. it is good for low-budget filming such as clip, pop music videos. F3 is using a PL mount, Dual link SDI, SxS recording, RGB444 option, etc., and it is good for the high end D cinema cameras.
Kanta Yamamoto: Even though the sensor is the same, the internal signal processor is different and recording on card is done in different format. The FS100E's picture quality (before compression) is comparable with the F3. But again the picture quality is decided by not only the sensor.

Q: What do you think what is the most important advantage compared to the AF101 from Panasonic?
Den Lennie: I think when choosing a camera any format there are many factors to consider and I never subscribe to one over another approach. For me the benefits of the FS100 are the full super 35mm sensor so a lens crop of only 1.6x which is similar to Canon 7D ( If you shoot DSLR movie), no moiré, full video controls, XLR inputs, fantastic LCD screen, small form factor and footprint, incredible low light performance, really nice picture styles to choose from, clean images.
Kanta Yamamoto: Though the final tuning is yet to be done, the FS100 seems to have better picture quality, less aliasing, better low-light sensitivity. Also GPS, shallower DoF, 1080/50p native recording and so on.
Anna Doublet: For my side, the most important advantage is a type of the sensor. For 16/9 recording we use the Super 35 mm sensor (16/9). In the case of AF101 it's a micro 4/3, the resolution, the sensitivity, the quality of details, the contrast changes.

[UPDATE: Added 8-bit output under HDMI]

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