June 29, 2013


Pro video cameras are dead

Today Paul Janssens came around to my studio and I gave him his new camera—a second-hand Sony NEX 7 with the PZ 16–50 (24 to 75mm EFOV in ‘old-speak, 35mm camera terms) lens, and the truly excellent Jim Buchanan ‘palm grip‘. I have written about the NEX 6 camera on this blog in a number of posts before; the ‘6’ is the slightly lower-spec version of the 7, but for my eyes, has the better EVF and ergonomics (the 6 has a mode dial; on the 7, you need to menu dive to select manual, or other modes—who was in charge of that design team one wonders?

The reason why Paul wanted a NEX 7 is that it has a 3.5 mm mini-jack (allowing microphones or external sound equipment to be connected) and 6 does not. As discussed before though, this is not a problem for me because I always record second system sound. With the 7 in the bag, we have this additional option.

And today, as two ex-professional videographers and filmmakers, we made a truly momentous decision, wherein the title of today’s blog post. We are selling the relatively very expensive Panasonic HMC-152 cameras; we have two between us, and this has allowed the many two-camera video shoots we have done. For people that haven’t looked into this, shooting any video live to two cameras means that the editing process is simplified enormously. One of us holds a wide shot and the other is on a closer, or ‘tighter’, shot showing details of what the presenter is explaining. Laying both video and both audio tracks on the timeline in Final Cut Studio and using the razor blade tool means that both shooting and editing are very rapid processes compared to yesteryear. We have been using the pair of HMC-152 cameras for this purpose for a number of years now.

But with two NEX 6 bodies and the NEX 7 as a backup, and all the Sony cameras being able to shoot 1080/60p or 24p video means that we no longer need the Panasonics. The only advantage of the Panasonic is that they can take XLR connectors directly into the camera on two channels. Shooting second system sound mean that this is no longer an important factor for us. And a direct comparison of video quality shows us that the Sony video quality (with its much larger sensors) is a step ahead of the Panasonics’. And because the Sonys are stills cameras at heart, directly controlling white balance, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO (and a host of other things that one needs is a professional videographer) is very easily achieved. Further, because the NEX bodies are so tiny and the entire two camera recording setup can fit into a bag that is well below the carry on weight limit (including a remote screen), travel is hugely expedited. And the tripod that we need (and the fluid head that sits on it) is minute compared to the pro video camera setup—the tripod and fluid head alone weighs 20kg.

A side note: the NEX 6/7 can take almost all of the previous generation manual focus lenses via simple blind no-optics adapter—many specialist lens options are available. I am using a 40-year-old Olympus 50/3.5 macro lens, and a Minolta 50/1.4 lens, and the lens I am awaiting is a Cosina Voigtländer 35/2.5 Color Skopar (Leica M-mount), that will see double duty as my main still lens AND my main video lens. Pretty much ALL the lenses of previous eras can be used this way, and all have their own signature look.

For the YouTube market, we were way ahead of the curve in using a pair of the video cameras for the last few years—as you all know the majority of YouTube videos are shot on iPhones or other similar devices. And you have probably already noticed, the audio quality on the standard YouTube clip is wretched—most new directors are fascinated with image quality and forget that the major informational and emotional content is carried on the soundtrack. Note to new directors: make sure you get good sound!

So, and this is a huge decision and change of position for us, the week after next both of our Panasonic cameras, their fluid heads, and their carbon fibre tripods will be put up on Gumtree or eBay for their next owner to find. Pro video is dead; long live the King.

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