Posts Tagged ‘sony


AF101 / AF100 vs GH2 vs ? – Stop moaning, Start shooting!

af100 af101 cinematized ssv

Courtesy of Shooting Star Video

When i bought a demo Panasonic AF101 two weeks ago, and tweeted about it, i received an unexpected number of negative responses. Not that the responses were negative as-such, but were mainly providing me with links that showed me that i’d made the wrong choice. People were eager to point out that the AF101 sucks and that there are much better cameras on the market today. I had to endure watching crazy comparisons with Red and Sony F3 cameras (that cost 4 times the price of an AF101) and even with the Canon 5D and 7D, in order to learn that the Panasonic AF101 is probably even worse a camera than the 900 euro Panasonic GH2.

But thank you all, i knew all that the moment i bought this camera. Before i get into detail about the possible shortcomings, and explaining why i still went for this camera,  let’s see what some shooters have found testing the AF101. I’ve included links to the discussions.


  • bad handling of highlights, color channels burn out easily and give these parts a nasty yellow hue – link – link
  • “plastic-looking” skintones when not correctly exposed (see the point above) – link – link
  • noisy, and the noise is linearly distributed along the gamma curve; so: noise everywhere – link – link
  • the BBC has tested this camera thoroughly and came to the conclusion that the sensor sucks with less than 1300 lines and a lot of distortion – link
  • it has an old HVX type of sensor and not the new GH2 type generation; it is not suitable for taking stills or according to some, not even suitable for shooting HD video
  •  it is a commercial hype; a cheap DSLR in a videocam housing and the rest is a lot of marketing – link
  • the affordable Panasonic GH2 is better than the much more expensive AF101 – link
If you read the articles carefully, including the comments, you learn that 33% of all “problems” can be solved by properly exposing and dialing down the detail settings. Another 33% of the camera-bashing is delivered by people that have never used the camera themselves and judge quality based on Vimeo movies. The final 33% base their judgement on comparing the camera with the Sony F3, a camera four times as expensive as the AF101.
Did i start worrying after reading all the provided “thumbs down” links? Well, to be honest…. a bit…
I was very happy and even a little surprised to see that the camera performed surprisingly well in The Great Zacuto Camera Shootout 2011, episode II
When i finally had the chance to play with the camera for a few days, i was able to redeem all the bullshit about this camera. When properly set up, using the flattest picture profile, with “Detail” AND “Coring” dialed down all the way (-6 or -7), properly exposed using the great waveform monitor, this camera DELIVERS! With the right lens (Voigtlander Nokton 24/0.95 or better) and maybe occasionally underexposing 1/2 to 1 stop, you get your filmic quality.
Oh, yeah… Since i own both the GH2 and the AF101, i can tell you that the whole “The GH2 is better than the AF101” is another myth, plugged by GH2 fanboys, and regularly by people not even owning either one of these cameras. They can hardly be compared, specially if the comparison is done based on charts. The AF101 sensor works in a totally different manner. It derives perceptual detail in a totally different and also inventive manner compared to the GH2 (using aliasing as a vehicle). The perceptual detail of the GH2 could look better when shooting charts, but the GH2 is using straight-forward electronic detail-enhancing that you can’t switch off AND uses a totally different way of rendering the picture from chip data.
Recording from the HDMI output using the Atomos Ninja recorder delivers great images from both the GH2 and AF101, but they are different! I can’t say that one is better that the other, just different.
My personal feeling is, that the GH2 has smooth roll-off of highlights by using a kind of auto-knee mechanism. It protects the highlights, but only up to 100-ire! This is a pure consumer camera that performs best as a run-and-gun camera. The AF101 has several controls for protecting the highlights, as well as a 110-ire range! Considering this, the GH2 has less latitude than the AF101 when both are exposed “to the right”; the GH2 up to 100-ire and the AF101 to 110-ire (“super-white”). The AF101 is not a consumer camera, simply because it’s too complex for most amateur users.
Out of the box, the AF101 is NOT a run-and-gun camera at all; it will produce video-like images, instead of the GH2. The AF101 is a video camera, the GH2 is a photo camera. At least, out of the box that is.
People who don’t understand how waveform-monitors, picture styles, matrices, gammas and knees work, should not even consider testing or reviewing the AF101, and keep their comments to themselves…
To loosely quote Philip Bloom: stop shooting charts, start shooting people!
Fort those interested. I’ll publish our AF101 settings in the following post.
Martin Beek
Twitter: @martinbeek

Martin’s personal recap 2007-2011

Martin and daughter Ramona, 2011

When i started this blog a few years ago, it was intended for ventilating my thoughts, feelings and adventures in filmmaking. It turned out that talking about what drives, enthuses or infuriates me is not all that easy. Sometimes even not allowed. For example, i’ve visited Iraq five times from 2007 through 2009. Each of them classified missions, with almost all material (footage&stills) part of a rigorous non-disclosure agreement; leaving me with nothing to show or tell. Another example is my work for the Dutch justice department (via a subcontractor) which can also not be discussed here.
Other projects, such as the documentary work for Steven Spielberg’s “Survivors of the Shoah” and – another example – the interviews i held with people in the last days of their lives, are both very private and sometimes copyrighted and owned by families or a foundation. Footage i shot in a coroner’s mortuary in England last october are absolutely indescribable, let alone publishable in any way…

Los Angeles Movie Awards

So, this blog became a tech blog during 2008 discussing anything ranging from prosumer camera equipment, shooting workflows, picture styles to post-production and using DSLR cameras for professional productions. This changed a bit during 2009, when i was asked to do the camerawork for a short movie (“Free Fall”) for the Dutch Aids Fund, that was shot using a Sony EX1 camera plus a DOF adapter. I spent ages experimenting with the camera’s settings and different DOF adapters and lenses. Nevertheless did i spent a lot of time (and money…) on this short movie that year. We did the postproduction mainly in 2010 and the movie was released to film festivals in march 2010. MotherWhen my mother died in may that year, i realised that she’d never seen “my” movie, simply because i didn’t know that she didn’t have a DVD player. She probably spent some time trying to put it in her CD player, or stuffing it in the VHS. Dear old mom.She was 83 and had enough of life. I am fortunate to have shot a three hour interview with her, taken in december 2009.

During 2009 and 2010 my team and i were hit by the worldwide recession in many different ways, resulting in a temporary breakup of the “fellowship” – trying to make a living in the film business or beyond. For me that meant partly doing multimedia productions and programming for websites and press publications. I’ve done some experimental filming with different cameras and i had a few camera jobs. Not all that exciting to blog about… Using the Panasonic GH2 in combination with the Atomos Ninja recorder and creating the shooting conditions and workflow for low-budget indie film production are getting on really well, thanks to the cooperation of Panasonic Netherlands.

We (Marvels Film = Patrick, Karel, Aukje, Denise, Bas, Martin) organised a great after-party for our short movie early this year (2011) and released the short into the public domain through YouTube (watch here).

But, the beast has awoken (again)… 😉
I’ve started to work on a script for a feature film in january and Patrick and i are working hard to turn it into a white-version screenplay (script) as we speak. We’re also casting at the moment and planning test shoots and auditions sometime during may. We are hoping to get the initial funding to shoot 3/4 of the script (omitting expensive scenes – those to be shot abroad and star cameo appearance) and then cut a teaser to assist the further fundraising.

The story has the Italian working title “i miei geni” (my genes) and tells the true story of a young woman in search of her biological father. As a kid, her desire to know who her father is, is constantly hampered and sabotaged by an abusive and violent mother. After a final confrontation and great row, she leaves home at the age of eighteen to go on a quest to find her father – alone. She has only a few leads that lead her to Italy via France, where some “complications” distract her from her route, resulting in arriving to late to meet her real father, who has died and been buried at an Italian small-town graveyard just days before her arrival. No spoiler here, because this is not yet the (surprising) end of the story! And i refuse to reveal more… 😉

Jean RenoThere is one part, just one or two scenes for a specific character, that plays in France. For that role (can’t get into detail now), we are currently speaking with the agent of Jean Reno. Mr. Reno would be perfect for that character. This is not an easy route, promises to be expensive, but would be a great “cameo”. Also a great name to have for the movie, and it will help the further fundraising. Jean Reno is my favorite actor!

For other important characters, we’re having talks with the agents of Dutch actors, AND we have casted our main character.
As with our last little movie, there will be a dedicated website and weblog for this new movie – so more news and details to come…

We are hoping to start shooting this year. We are also hoping for camera sponsorship, from either Sony or Panasonic, in order to achieve filming this picture using one of their top-range ProSumer camera’s (e.g. Panny AF101, or Sony F3) – that’d be an exciting and prestigious operation – not only for us, but also for the camera’s manufacturer. The movie’s target is international film festivals and cinema release. It’d be an affordable alternative for the Red camera rental we had initially in mind and give us some more budget headroom for renting better (the best) actors. We have even looked into using several Panasonic GH2 DSLRs for the job, but i’m still not confident of it’s performance, although this magic little camera delivers beautiful footage when it’s output is recorded with a digital recorder such as the Atomos Ninja or the Convergent Design NanoFlash. It still has one F-stop less dynamic range than the AF101 and even less compared to the F3.

Woops, almost got stuck into technical issues again there! But the tech stuff is an important part of my work. I use to film on traditional film stock for over 20 years, not worrying much about technical camera issues.

Red OneThe camera did the click-click-click thing or not. A light meter, a few filters, a battery, and a strong back was what we needed. Black&white video assist and having to watch the dailies tomorrow to discover that doghair in the gate, in all shots… Great times? I don’t think so. Unpractical, unaffordable and hopelessly outdated. I love the new challenges, i love the digital workflow, and i love making beautiful images.I love tinkering with cameras and stuff, but i always try to find a balance between dealing with the technique and shooting a beautiful image, that might even be less perfect out of a pure technical viewpoint. To cut a long story short: i have seen terrible, horrible stuff shot with Red cameras and the absolute opposite coming from sub-1ok$ cameras. It’s the hand that operates the gear, and i have to admit that i’m sometimes jealous of the images people are able to squeeze out of their little budget cameras. Not giving a sh*t about megapixels, dynamic range, picture detail and lens specs seems to be the main ingredient, go for the looks! I’m trying to find the middle of the road… I have to care about film-out and how footage “performs” on the big screen.

Tough decisions have to be made, having a lot to do with budget for renting equipment and production expenses, but also with the number of people involved on the set – cast and crew. Talking with agents and distributors. With suspect sponsors and sponsorship brokers…

I’ll keep you informed! Follow my tweets: @martinbeek

This leaves me  cursing you with this old Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times!

Martin Beek.


Our latest short “Free Fall” now full length and HD on YouTube

Youtube has updated our account to “no limits”, so we at Marvels Film were finally able to upload our 43 gig, 25 minute, 1080p short movie “Free Fall” (Dutch: Vrije Val). Winner of the Audience Honorable Mention at the Los Angeles Movie Awards 2010.

Free Fall is a short silent movie – music only – about HIV, Aids and prejudice. For this indie production we used a mix of Sony PMW-EX1 with RedrockMicro DOF adapter,  PMW-EX3 and Canon 7D footage.

Website: (English and Dutch)



Sold my Canon 7D: explaining why…

After some consideration during spring 2010, i decided to stop DSLR video shooting – despite some serious investments in gear and paraphernalia – and return to HD videocamera shooting, using a DOF convertor to taste. For the latter my tools of trade remain the Sony XDCAM-EX, 35mm DOF adapter, Zeiss prime lenses, SmallHD DP1x, Convergent Design Nanoflash, et cetera…

I have been a film cameraman all my life and i’m used to heavy duty cameras with ditto tools. The flimsy and fragile DSLR lenses and focussing, in combination with the clumsy camera design and total lack of control (maybe with the exception of using the Magic Lantern software on the 5DmkII) and lack of a proper viewfinder, made me decide to take my losses and drop the 7D. DSLR cameras are NOT video cameras (yet). They are a gimmick and most of all just still cameras. I still find the amount of compression and micro-blocking artifacts due to downscaling on the Bayer-filter imaging element unbearable, specially when used for blowup to 2K cinema format. There is no “raw” SDI-like output.

I was saving up money to buy the Scarlet by Red, that was announced Spring of four preceding years in a row 😉 When it’s release was delayed again this spring, i decided to just be patient, confident and satisfied with the gear i already owned and spent my money on other more important things.

The XDCam-EX / Nanoflash / DOF adapter / Zeiss lenses combo gives me perfect and professional control over image, depth of field, video signal and exposure. The HD signal is much much cleaner, specially when blown-up for 2K cinema use, and provides me with an outstanding Film Look.

Because the 7D was on the shelf catching dust for over half a year already, i decided to sell it. I don’t feel sorry – not even for the financial loss. I only feel stupid; that i’ve allowed myself being swept away with the whole DSLR hype, with some prominent international filmmakers in the lead. – read updated article above –

DSLR filming = Low Budget. Let’s not forget that and let’s see what the future brings.

Martin Beek.


Sony releases new firmware for PWM-EX1 (Europe)

Sony Europe has released a new firmware for the European models

Direct download without login:


Here comes Sony 3D: prototype single lens 3D 240 fps camera

Maybe not the most up to date news items, but still interesting now more info becomes available.

From HD Warrior:


This prototype camera from Sony is designed specifically to film 2 images from one lens. Set to debut at CEATEC next week, the HFR Comfort-3D records at 240 fps through just one lens instead of two thanks to a new half-mirror system that takes left and right eye images at the same time, better for capturing fast motion and providing viewers lacking polarized glasses a 2D picture with minimal blurring.


As you can see instead of using two lenses which brings it’s own problems, focusing being one of them, Sony have decided to run with one lens and two recording devices, this in my opinion makes the 3D camera not only aesthetically pleasing but is far more practical and should allow smaller camcorders in the future.

Read the original article on

Some extra pics found by Martin on the web..:

Sony HFR Comfort-3D single-lens 240fps video camera 1

Sony HFR Comfort-3D single-lens 240fps video camera 2



Sony launches it’s own brand SD adapter for EX1 / EX3

Thanks to Alister Chapman,

Sony are to make an SD card adapter for the EX camera range. The MEAD-SD01 will use class 10! SD cards to allow HD recordings in EX cameras. A firmware update will be needed which should be available before the cards release some time around April.See

From the Sony Website:

Designed for XDCAM EX
The MEAD-SD01 has been specifically developed by Sony to operate with XDCAM EX hardware and, as long as users follow the usage guidelines with recommended Class 10 SDHC products, they can be confident of the correct operation of their XDCAM EX hardware.
ExpressCard form factor
The MEAD-SD01 Adaptor has the shape of ExpressCard/34 so it can be slotted into the ExpressCard slot of XDCAM EX equipment and other ExpressCard compatible hardware, such as a Windows PC or Mac. Please note the interface standard between the PC and MEAD-SD01 is not PCI Express but USB2.0 – however both PCI Express and USB2.0 are supported as the ExpressCard interface.
PC Compatible
SD Card media recorded with MEAD-SD01 by XDCAM EX hardware works on a PC without any need for drivers. Folders and files of XDCAM EX are shown in the NLE operation window or in Clip Browser in the same way as with SxS media.
PXU-MS240 Compatible
The PXU-MS240 240GB HDD back up unit for SxS media is fully compatible with the MEAD-SD01 adaptor once a firware upgrade has been applied – due March 2010 – simply slot the adaptor with SD Card into the PXU-MS240 unit to record content onto the MS240’s hard drive.
Additional information
The PMW-350, PMW-EX1R, PMW-EX1 and PMW-EX3 can receive updated firmware via an Internet download, while the PMW-EX30 and PMW-10MD will need returning to a Sony service centre as they do not have a USB service port for connecting with a PC. SBAC-US10 SxS Reader/Writer is not compatible because the SBAC-US10 only has PCI Express interface and no USB interface.

EX1 noise spoils shoot, i’ve really had it with the Sony EX series!!

tv_bad_girlI have been shooting with the Sony EX-1 a few weeks ago. An interior shot with tungsten light – i know, an invitation to noise… Nevertheless three quarters of the shots we’re doing are interiors and i have never seen so much noise in the picture ever before. The difference was that instead of using cine gamma-1, i switched to cine-gamma 3 and 4 for that day. It was probably visible on our reference monitor, but that day i didn’t pay much attention to it because i was on the dolly – my colleague Karl was watching the monitors and i did not hear him complain.

I am even considering a reshoot of all scenes shot that day; i have never seen such a lot of rubbish coming from any modern camera. The levels are OK, no in-camera corrections, just bags of noise – in faces, in shadows, in blues, in grays. Hopeless…

Whe did some further testing that evening; did that before too. I knew that the cine gamma’s above 2 were giving more noise – it’s all my own fault. But… even with the other gamma settings, it’s noise noise noise with the EX1. In daylight it performs OK.

In my opinion; the EX1 is NOT a professional camera and disappoints me on a regular basis. For what it delivers, apart from full HD, it’s not worth the money and this is  definitely the last thing i’ll shoot professionally with that camera. We’ll add it to the rental stock after we are finished, or put it on ebay.

And, yes, the EX3 looks as bad. A lot of crap for a lot of money. You can almost call it an achievement to produce an all-digital solid state camera that produces so much noise and garbage. Sony: i am very disappointed.

If i’d have to buy a camera now today, i’d buy a Scarlet kit and i’d be cheaper off too. But, hey, the EX1 is four months old now – so i’ts almost antique anyway.

I’ll put an apologie on the credits of Birth of a Song saying: Marvels Film apologizes for the electronic noise and defects you have experienced during this film. Please contact Sony Europe for more information…

Blog Stats

  • 1,904,122 hits