So, here’s what I am working on. This is a “work in progress” but I’m liking where it’s going. My aim is to create a truly useable kit for the F3 that will turn it into an ENG type camera. Now I’m not suggesting that the F3 is a good camera for news or that type of fast moving thing. But for documentaries it has a big place and the easier I can make it to use, the better. The rig is made up form all kinds of bits and pieces.
1: This is an old Canon J16x8x2 SD broadcast lens, which becomes a 20 to 320mm f4 zoom lens. It works OK, fine when wide but a little soft in the corners at the long end.
2: New metal body HDSDi Cineroid EVF attached with a custom bracket (5)
3: Genus GMB-P ENG camcorder adapter with 15mm bar support. This has the quick release wedge needed to work with the VCT-14 tripod plate.
4: My B4 to F3 adapter. Watch this space, in production very soon.
5: Custom made (by me) PMW-F3 ‘H” plate. This attaches to the two 1/4″ threads on the top of the camera body and gives you lots of 1/4″ threads along the entire length of both sides of the top of the F3. To this attaches a custom fully adjustable viewfinder mounting system.
6: Custom made shoulder mount. On production units this would be a little shorter, it’s a bit tall on the prototype. It features an adjustable soft shoulder pad and mounts for the cheese plate and VCT-14 adapter.
7: Genus cheese plate.
8: IDX V-Lock adapter plate. But you could also use an Anton Bauer plate.
9: DSM V-Lock battery (98Wh). Will run the rig for over 4 hours.
10: VCT-14 quick release plate.
The balance point for the rig is just slightly forward of the centre of the shoulder pad, so it’s really nice to handhold. A slightly bigger battery or a Convergent Design Gemini on the back would give near perfect balance.
So, what do you think, would you by this lot (excluding lens and EVF) as a kit? I’m looking to do a small run of kits, no idea of the price yet. More pictures below, click on the thumbnail for a high-res image.
The Travel Channel show Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations – Haiti has won an Emmy for outstanding Cinematography. The award is shared by Zach Zamboni, Director of Photography and Todd Liebler,Director of Photography. According to my sources the show was shot using a Sony PMW-F3, so congratulations to them. If anyone finds a clip I’d love to see it. The F3 has to be one of my all time favourite cameras, I really enjoy shooting with it as it puts the creativity lost on small sensor cameras back into the hands of the operator.
I was asked by my good friend Rene of Camrade to take a look at some of their new products. So over the next couple of weeks I’ll be looking at the CB Single III camera bag, the PMW F3 rain cover and a new PL lens adapter for the Sony FS100. First I’m going to take a look at the camera bag.
I’ve had Camrade bags before and they have always lasted well, standing up to the knocks and bumps that go along with lugging kit all over the place. I was in the market for a new bag for one of my PMW-F3′s, so I was sent the CB Single III bag. From the outside this is a functional looking bag with a large mesh pocket on one side and further external pockets on the other side and at one end. It has a nice well padded chunky carry strap that is comfortable to use.
The top of the bag opens up with a dual zipper system that gives you completely un hindered access to the bags interior. This is great for run and gun where you may need to quickly grab the camera from the bag and you don’t want to have to squeeze it out through a small opening. The interior of the bag has various dividers that are secured by velcro, so you can customise the layout to suit your needs. One of the dividers forms a clever storage box to one side of the bag. I’ve found this particularly useful with the F3 as I can safely store my Genus 4×4 Matte Box and a couple of DSLR lenses in here.
Then my batteries, other bits and bobs and the rain cover fit comfortably in the end compartments. This bag really works well with the F3 alloying you to get a complete basic shooting kit into one bag without the bag being too big or bulky.
It’s not perhaps the most fancy or sophisticated of bags, but in terms of practicality and functionality it works very well indeed. There is a strap in the main compartment to hold the camera secure if your really going to be bouncing it around. The base and sides of the bag are all semi ridged and have a good layer of shock absorbing foam in them. With one of these bags typically costing a very affordable $200 it really does represent good value for money.
My thanks to Rene for the sample bag. http://www.camrade.com/products-page/video/cambags/cb-single-iii1
In my next post I’ll look at the nice rain cover that Camrade make for the F3.
For me early Summer means airshow season and there are a couple of events that I shoot every year. The first is Flying Legends at the Imperial War Museum site at Duxford and features vintage aircraft predominantly from the second world war. The following weekend is the Royal International Air Tattoo, one of the largest military air shows and is all about the latest fast jets and military hardware. For the last 3 years I have been tasked with shooting aircraft being prepared for flight at both shows and for this I have been using a variety of cameras, but almost always some kind of ENG type camera. I’ve used PDW700′s, EX1′s and EX3′s. This year however it was decided to try and use one of my PMW-F3′s in order to take advantage of the shallow Depth of Field and give the footage a higher quality, filmic look.
Of course using the F3 for a shoot like this brings many challenges and one of the reasons for using it on these projects was to discover exactly whether the trade off between ease of use and shallow DoF was worth it. Thankfully, producer Steve Connor (flying machinestv.co.uk) is willing to let me try new things on his productions.
So how was it? Well it was hard work compared to running around with an EX1 or EX3. You have to check, check and double check focus all the time and this slows you down a little. The other thing is the lens. A camera like the EX1 has a 14x zoom lens giving a great range of focal lengths from a good wide angle to a nice long telephoto. With the F3 your lens choices are currently much more limited. While there are some very nice zooms like the Optimo 24-290mm (12x zoom) these just are not practical for run n gun. The Optimo weighs a whopping 24lbs/11kg . The other alternative to PL lenses is to use a DSLR lens. One of my favourites is the old Tokina AT-X Pro 28-70mm as this does not telescope, has a nice big focus scale and proper iris ring, but it’s only a 2.5x wide zoom, not much use for longer shots. The upshot of all this is that you end up doing a lot of lens swaps going from a wide zoom to a longer one (Sigma 70-300mm in my case). In addition the DSLR zooms are varifocal so you can’t zoom during the shot as the focus will shift.
So… I’m running around with the F3 and a rucksack with a couple of lenses and my favourite Vinten 100 tripod, swapping lenses many times for different shots. There’s no one-push auto iris confidence check, no image stabiliser and the batteries don’t last as long. As I said, compared to an EX1 it was hard work. But, I was able to be creative. It was easy to introduce some nice foreground or background soft focus objects. To do gentle pull focuses and to generally get good looking shots as opposed to just getting ordinary looking shots.
When an aircraft is started things can get very busy. There are spinning propellors to be aware of, or dangerous jet blasts (not to mention the noise). Aircraft can taxi with no warning. At these moments I was able to stop down the iris a bit to give myself greater depth of field for a little bit focus tolerance. This is what I like about the F3. It’s got sensitivity to spare so you can pick and choose how much DoF you have.
By the time the second airshow (RIAT) came around I realised that constant lens swapping was costing me shots. So for RIAT I used a Nikon 18-135mm zoom. This 7.5x zoom gave a much better focal length range, but its a rather nasty lens in so much as it’s f3.5 – f5.6 so the aperture changes as you zoom and it’s not particularly fast. It also telescopes and extends a lot as you zoom in, so you can’t use it with a matt box. The focus ring has no scale and iris has to controlled using the MTF adapter iris control. So all in all not my favourite lens, but for this particular shoot it worked out quite well. One thing that did become apparent is that not having a super fast lens, on this particular type of project was not an issue. I could still get reasonable shallow DoF shots when wide and at f3.5. At longer focal lengths the DoF decreases anyway, so shooting at f4 or f5.6 still yields pleasing results.
The footage from the shoots does look good. It has a much nicer look to it than conventional ENG video. The shallow DoF adds a quality feel to the material. While I didn’t shoot as much as I would have done with a more traditional camcorder due to the extra time required for lens changes, focus checking and the need to use the tripod more often, what I did shoot looked better overall so a higher percentage of what I shot will probably make it into the final production.
So as for my original question.. was it worth the effort? Well I think the answer is yes. The F3 can be used for run n gun, but it’s hard work, however the results are worth the extra effort.
I was sent a couple of Adaptimax lens mount adapters to test on my PMW-F3. I have used some of their EX3 adapters in the past and these worked very well. The new PMW-F3 adapters are finished with a very nice hard black anodised finish and look very smart indeed. I had 3 adapters to try, one F3 to Canon and two F3 to Nikon adapters. The Canon adapter is a “dumb” adapter, so there is no way to control the lenses iris. If your using Canon lenses this means using a DSLR body to set the iris before using the lens on the F3. Obviously this is not ideal, but you do have to consider that there is a massive range of lenses that can be used with this Canon adapter via a secondary adapter ring.
Canon’s flange back distance (the sensor to lens distance) is the shortest in the DSLR world. So this means that there is space to adapt to other lens mounts with longer flange back distances such as M42, Nikon, Pentax, Pentacon etc. This opens up a whole world of possibilities as now you can use those nice M42 Zeiss lenses that can be picked up cheap on ebay by adding a cheap M42 to Canon adapter.
If you have already invested in Nikon fit glass then you can use a Nikon to Canon adapter or you can use one of Adaptimax’s purpose built F3 to Nikon adapters.
There are two varieties, the original Adaptimax and the Adaptimax Plus. The Plus version includes a long screw that pushes the iris pin on the rear of the lens to give you iris control even when the lens does not have an iris ring. While this is not as elegant as MTF Services rotating adapter barrel, it works fine and the simplicity of the design means the adapter is a little cheaper. The standard version has no iris control, so you need to ensure your lens has a proper iris ring. Priced at £255 for the standard adapters and £265 for the plus versions these are good value for money.
I’m currently in Singapore staying at Clarke Quay. Most evenings a group of radio control kite flyers from a local store (goflykite.com) bring out their illuminated kites and fly them in the local park. It’s very pretty and seemed an interesting thing to try and shoot with my F3. As I’m travelling light, trying (and failing) to keep within a 20kg baggage allowance, I don’t have a tripod and I’ve only got a couple of lenses, my trusty 50mm Nikon f1.8 and my Tokina 28-70mm f2.6 zoom. Most of this was shot with the Nikon lens at +6db. I really wish I had a tripod and a longer lens! I did a little bit of grading work here and there to balance out the very orange street lights a little.
Well I’m a happy chappy. Took delivery of my second PMW-F3 today so that I can shoot my 3D projects using a pair of F3′s rather than my EX1/EX3. Now I have a working lens converter that allows me to use standard 2/3″ broadcast lenses on the F3 the F3 is fast becoming my default camera for almost everything. So the I took the decision to trade in my EX3 against a second F3. For lenses on the 3D rig I’m going to use DSLR lenses. Today I checked out my Nikon 50mm f1.8′s and these were just fine but my Tokina 28mm f2.8′s are un-useable as the lens optical axis shifts as you focus causing alignment errors, so I need to find some alternative wide angle lenses. I’d really like two sets of Zeiss PL mount Compact Primes, but that’s way beyond my budget. I might try and stretch to a couple of sets of Zeiss ZF.2′s, but I think that for the moment it’s going to have to be a case of building up pairs of lenses as I can afford them.
OK folks. I wanted to see just how well a 2/3″ broadcast lens would work on an F3, but don’t have $5.5k to fork out on one of the Abel adapters. So with a bit of head scratching, a few, lowish cost lens purchases and a few hours in the workshop I cobbled together my own adapter. At first I tried a 2x magnifier but this didn’t quite give me full sensor coverage and was soft out in the corners. With a little more work I took the magnification up to 2.5x and I have clean corners. I’m really pleased with the performance, although one lens element needs changing for a higher quality element to combat some softness when the iris is fully open.
My old Canon J16x8 f1.8 becomes a 24 to 320mm f4(ish) par-focal lens which is actually quite handy. Next step is to make up a power cable for the lens so I can use the zoom servo.
I’m considering trying to find a manufacturer that can make these up for me properly, the converter should cost a lot less than $5.5k
UPDATED: SEE UPDATE AT END!
I won this lens on ebay for the grand total of £44.00. Now for that kind of money you don’t normally expect to get a great deal, but this time I got quite a lot. I certainly got a lot of weight and bulk, this is a big lens. It was designed to work with a Pentacon or Kiev medium format camera with a 6″x6″ frame size. The front element is about 3″ (80mm) in diameter, it’s over a foot long and weighs about 5lbs (2.5kg). One of the things that attracted me to it is the iris which has 19 blades giving a very round aperture, so the bokeh is very pleasant looking. The rear of the lens has a Pentacon to M42 mount onto which I screw a M42 to Nikon adapter ring. Due to it’s length and weight it is vital that the lens is supported. The lens comes with a 3/8″ mounting ring with a 3/8″ to 1/4″ insert.
For the moment I’m using the bracket from a Genus DSLR shoulder rig to support the lens until my new Genus lens support bracket arrives.
So… what are the pictures like? Well at F4 it’s a little soft, but stop it down to f5.6 and it sharpens up nicely. I also tried it with a 1.5x and 2x extender as these will soon show up any lens issues. With both the lens performed respectfully well with the iris at f5.6. Stop down to f8 and the lens really performs very well. Of course with the very small s35 sensor compared to the 6″x6″ that the lens was designed for you are only using the center part of the frame, which always tends to be the sharpest part. While it may not perform as well as the latest state of the art long focal length Canon’s or Nikons, this lens does do a pretty good job and if you only occasionally need a long lens, for the money it’s hard to beat.
UPDATE: To get this lens to work on the F3 I was using a M42 to Nikon adapter. This has a corrective lens in it to enable infinity focus. After playing with this adapter on some other M42 lenses I found it’s performance to be less than satisfactory at large apertures. So I tried the Pentacon 4 again, but this time with a M42 to Canon adapter and one of Steve Shovlar’s new Adaptimax Canon to F3 adapters. The performance improvement was quite noticeable and now I can use the Pentacon fully open at f4 with great results. This really is a rather nice lens.
I recently helped shoot a 3D cinema commercial for the Wimbledon Tennis Finals which will be shown in Cinemas and on TV in 3D. There were two 3D rigs used, an Element Technica rig with a pair of Phantom HD Gold’s, shooting at 1000 fps as well as one of my Genus Hurricane Rigs equipped with a pair of Sony PMW-F3′s with zeiss ultra primes recording onto a Nano3D as well as to the video village. The F3′s were used at both 1080P 25fps and 720P 50fps. We had a wide variety of Chapman grip (no relation) equipment including ride on dolly’s and sliders. The commercial was shot at a tennis club in Kent, dressed up with fake scoreboards, green backdrops and umpires in original wimbledon uniforms to make it look like Wimbledon over two days.
The weather was fantastic and the shoot went very well. The Zeiss Ultra primes worked very well on the 3D rig with each lens pair being very well matched and needing only minimal re-alignment each time we changed focal length. The F3′s were set up with no added detail correction and using cinegamma 1, S-Log not being available at the time of the shoot. My main role was as second unit camera operator/stereographer to shoot some of the main tennis player 3D shots at 25 and 50 fps as well as 3D blue screen effects shots including flying dirt and grass as well as various spinning tennis ball shots. For the 1000 fps shots with the Phantom HD Gold’s we used pairs of 18Kw lamps to light the players, and this on a bright sunny day!! In order to keep a similar look for the F3 shots we took full advantage of the cameras built in ND filters to keep the foregrounds bright with the background dark.
For some of the blue screen tennis ball shots we used some older Arri PL mount macro lenses. Below you’ll find a 2D version of the commercial. If I come across a 3D version I’ll post it here.
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- alisterchapman on 50 Megabits for the masses, the new Sony PMW-200.
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- alisterchapman on Uncompressed 240 fps possible with FS700 and Convergent Design Gemini. Tested!
- alisterchapman on Adaptimax Lens Mount Adapters for PMW-F3, Canon and Nikon.