Canon kyboshes the competition – full cinema system

Canon has launched, out of the blue as far as we were concerned, a complete fully featured Cinema HD production system including full-frame digital video camcorder and EF-fit lenses designed to compete head-on with the top offerings from Zeiss/Arri and Red.

The Cinema EOS system also competes with Sony right in the heart of Sony prime territory. It looks like nothing so much as an acknowledgement that Sony has attacked Canon’s primary still imaging market effectively, and Canon, instead of competing in that arena, has decided to hit their rival where it really hurts. Their announcement feels like ‘right, we’ll show them – this will be the best HD movie production system in the world’.

Porn film makers will be rubbing their hands with glee – or something, not sure if you call it glee…

At the heart of this is optical excellence. They have created a 4K (the higher resolution than 1080p HD, full large screen cinema format) lens system. Imagine these – they come in the ciné PL mount, but also in the full frame EF camera mount. You could use these on a regular Canon. And they will not have the shortcomings of lenses such as the 24-105mm f/4 L – these will be better than CZ quality if Canon is to secure a market share.

CN-E 14.5-60mm f/2.6 L S (Super-35 or APS-C is what the S stands for, like EF-S)

CN-E 30-300mm f/2.95-3.7 L S

CN-E 24mm f/1.5 L F (the F stands for Full Frame)

CN-E 50mm f/1.3 L F

CN-E 85mm f/1.3 L F

Look at those apertures – they are like Angenieux apertures! Bet you they are also true T-stop figures. Here’s their wording:

Wide-Angle and Telephoto Cinema Zoom Lenses for EF and PL Mounts
CN-E14.5–60mm T2.6 L S / CN-E14.5–60mm T2.6 L SP
CN-E30–300mm T2.95–3.7 L S / CN-E30–300mm T2.95–3.7 L SP

The four new Canon zoom cinema lenses comprise the CN-E14.5–60mm T2.6 L S (for EF mounts) and CN-E14.5–60mm T2.6 L SP (for PL mounts) wide-angle cinema zoom lenses, and the CN-E30–300mm T2.95–3.7 L S (for EF mounts) and CN-E30–300mm T2.95–3.7 L SP (for PL mounts) telephoto cinema zoom lenses. Each lens supports 4K (4096 x 2160 pixels) resolution, which delivers a pixel count four times that of Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels), and offers compatibility with industry-standard Super 35 mm-equivalent cameras as well as APS-C cameras (Not compatible with 35mm full-frame or APS-H camera sensors).

Employing anomalous dispersion glass, effective in eliminating chromatic aberration, and large-diameter aspherical lenses, the zoom lenses achieve high-resolution imaging from the centre of the frame to the outer edges. Each lens is equipped with a newly designed 11-blade aperture diaphragm for soft, attractive blur characteristics, making them ideally suited for cinematographic applications.

The focal length range of 14.5–300 mm covered by the new zoom lenses represents the most frequently used focal lengths in theatrical motion picture production, a range that often requires a combination of three or more separate zoom lenses. Canon’s new wide-angle and telephoto cinema zoom lenses, however, offer a wider angle and powerful zooming to provide complete coverage across this range with just two lenses. The new wide-angle cinema zoom lenses will offer the industry’s widest angle of view among 35 mm digital cinema lenses with a wide-angle-end focal length of 14.5 mm (as of November 3rd 2011, according to published competitive data).

Zoom, focus and iris markings are all engraved on angled surfaces for improved readability from behind the camera. With a focus rotation angle of approximately 300 degrees and a zoom rotation angle of approximately 160 degrees, the lenses facilitate precise focusing performance while making possible smooth and subtle zoom operation.

The new top-end cinema zoom lens line-up can be used with standard manual and electronic movie industry accessories, as well as matte boxes. Featuring a unified front lens diameter and uniform gear positions, the lenses do away with the need to adjust or reposition accessory gear when switching between other lenses in the series.

Single-Focal-Length Cinema Lenses for EF Mounts
CN-E24mm T1.5 L F / CN-E50mm T1.3 L F / CN-E85mm T1.3 L F

Like their wide-angle and telephoto cinema zoom lens co-stars, Canon’s new CN-E24mm T1.5 L F, CN-E50mm T1.3 L F and CN-E85mm T1.3 L F cinema lenses deliver 4K optical performance. The three lenses, designed for use with EF mounts, are compatible with not only industry-standard Super 35 mm-equivalent cameras, but also 35 mm full-frame, APS-H and APS-C sensor sizes. The trio incorporates anomalous dispersion glass and large-diameter aspherical lenses for high resolution imaging throughout the frame, and features a newly designed 11-blade aperture diaphragm for gentle, attractive blurring.

With focus and iris markings that are easily visible from behind the camera, Canon’s three new fixed-focal-length lenses support convenient film-style operation and, offering a focus rotation angle of approximately 300 degrees, facilitate precise focusing performance.

The CN-E24mm T1.5 L F, CN-E50mm T1.3 L F and CN-E85mm T1.3 L F support standard manual and electronic industry accessories and matte boxes, and have a unified front lens diameter and uniform gear positions, eliminating the need for adjustments when switching lenses.


Is there a snag? Maybe. The cheapest of the prime lenses will be over £4000/$6,300 and the zooms will cost a cool… $47,000 each. That is not a misprint. That is not even my income. But it shows you how big the stakes are in movie making gear PROPER.

The movie camcorder

Then there’s the camera to go with them – the EOS C300/C300PL interchangeable lens digital video camcorder. It may only have an 8.29 megapixel Super-35mm CMOS sensor. It’s only 1080p but it claims to read coincident or complete RGB pixels for each pixel location, using 4:2:2 sampling, and to record at 50 Mbps (almost twice the data rate of the best DSLR video). It has twin CF card slots. It has many other features including things like metadata coding for better identification of lenses in edit work, and the capacity to be controlled remotely from an iPad or iPhone (with accessory WFT-E6B wireless transmitter).

A new DSLR

Canon is developing a new-concept EOS-series digital single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. Incorporating an enhanced version of the video-capture capability offered in the current EOS-series line-up, the new camera will be ideally suited for cinematographic and other digital high-resolution production applications. The model will be equipped with a 35 mm full-frame CMOS sensor and, enabling the recording of 4K video* (at a frame rate of 24P, with Motion-JPEG compression), will make possible the type of exceptional image quality and sublime imaging expression to be expected from the next generation of “EOS Movies.”

So why have I posted this on Photoclubalpha? Easy. I was still up and around at 1am when the news had come in by email. And it matters, because Sony will react to this. Canon has just moved in on their home territory, where they were already getting a foothold through EOS-movies and existing Canon video offerings, in a much bigger way. This could be the best thing Alpha owners could see happen because it will force Sony to update their lens range quickly and to improve the overall offering their DSLR division makes to their camcorder division (via adaptors).

– DK

Sony – please add gain control to A77 sound

When I had the Canon 60D and 600D cameras for the usual brief period of magazine review loan, one of the things I could have tested more thoroughly was the excellent implementation of sound input gain control. Since it worked, and worked really well, I had no need to. Any system with auto gain, in contrast, needs to be hauled out to big rock music gigs, into busy urban environments, stuck close to the speaker at public events and so on.

This is the screen from the Canon 600D, which is not an expensive camera. Being realistic, it and the 60D with their usefully articulated rear screens and 18 megapixel filesize are more than decent competition from some months ago for the forthcoming Alpha 77. At the moment it seems as if Sony has leapfrogged Canon, but when you actually look at the capabilities of the 60/600 for practical everyday work they remain competitive.

This audio control screen is one of the main reasons why. I read people, Sony users, on forums saying that lack of audio control is quite simply a deal-breaker. And I know why. I am an occasional musician and occasionally my wife will press the MOVIE button on an Alpha or NEX aimed at me. It’s a complete lottery as to whether than button is pressed during a quiet microsecond between notes, in dead silence, with a full PA sound level or whatever. When making a recording using one of these cameras, I will often ask the subject to speak or play a loud chord so that I can press MOVIE and get a low auto mic gain preset. The worst scenario is to press MOVIE in total silence because the auto gain will then try to boost the sound to pick up the birds outside the window and the floorboards creaking. And it will stay on that gain level for the entire take.

What this means in practice is that different takes have different gain levels. It would be even worse if the gain was dynamic during the take, varying with the level so that quiet moments suddenly get rewarded by an increase in hiss and irrelevant noises. There are plenty of camcorder devices which do that and they are unusable.

Auto gain – which applies to both the internal and external mic feeds for the Alpha 77, and also to the NEX models and earlier Alphas – is simply not acceptable as the only option in an age where users like to film concerts and gigs, live music, bands, parades, festivals and noisy events. Small condensor mics are very prone to clipping (distorting loud sounds) in what are known as ‘high sound pressure’ environments. That is, stuff which hurts your ears if you are a dog or under 30.

You can avoid high sound pressure clipping by using a top quality external plug-in mic, as you are never going to eliminate it with the internal mics. But you can only do so reliably if the camera offers manual control of audio level. Nikon’s cameras – even the expensive D3S – only offer three levels of sound gain and no ability to monitor or test the effect. Canon’s latest models have an exemplary interface with 22 visible dB (deciBel) levels and an even finer graded adjustment with a continuous Rec. Level scale. This applies to either the internal (mono, less satisfactory) mic or external stereo.

Although Canon’s official line is that the external mic socket is for mic only, not for line mixers, it is in fact compatible with any good quality line source you can control for volume level. The setup above is just an imaginary studio shot, not real recording, but shows two Behringer condensor mics routed through a Mackie Onyx Satellite twin mic preamp. I used the headphone output, with its controllable volume, to feed the Canon 600D. There did not appear to be any impedance issues but of course I started with the sound output at zero and used the Canon’s manual sound monitor to adjust it.

This is not advanced audio. This is basic home recording stuff. It’s well within the target owner bracket of the Alpha 77. Sony, if Canon can do this, so can you. Even just implementing three manually set High, Normal, Low fixed volume (gain) settings like Nikon would be a partial cure. Nikon’s solution is not total, and I sold my Nikon D5000 because of the terrible clipping which happened on any setting when trying to record amplified solo gigs. Even little 40W solo amps and a simple vocal and guitar would send the Nikon into a crackle of distorted mess. The Sony mics seems to be much better and do not clip so readily. They are stereo and I’d rate the sound quality from the internal mics on NEX and Alpha so far to be much better than Canon’s internal mono (the AVCHD recording standard helps too). But without proper control of sound, the Alpha 77 is hamstrung. It is indeed a deal-breaker for some buyers.

It can be fixed if the firmware allows access to that function.

The video area issue

While you are at it, fix the HD video framing screen marks on some earlier and current models – we hope it has been sorted in the new ones.

It’s simple enough. The Sony CMOS 14 megapixel sensor crops to 16:9 for panoramic shots (you can select yo shoot in this format if you want) and also crop to 16:9 for HD1080 video. But these two crops are not the same. The still 16:9 just trims a bit off the top and bottom of the image. The HD video format trims even more and also takes some off both ends, zooming in (in effect) on an overall sensor crop.

When you shoot normal 3:2 ratio 35mm shape shots, and press the MOVIE button, the resulting crop is so dramatic that you can cut someone’s head off in the movie having thought it was well within the frame for stills.

As you can see in the shot above, the NEX does display some faint corner crop marks to indicate the video frame. But no-one I have shown the camera to actually notices these crops at all, especially if other grids or marking are displayed. Setting the camera to 16:9 stills improves the position, the faint crop marks are now equally distant from all four corners but still unlikely to be clearly visible. It’s clear from forum comments and messages elsewhere that many owners have never spotted these marks at all. The frame corner markings are not easily seen against some subjects (example above, lower marks), and you need to know where they are in order to recognise them.

This issue is not present in the Alpha 55, where the movie is only cropped top and bottom, and slightly bolder frame crop marks are shown in the finder. Even so, two very clear lines which can be turned on or off would be a better indicator and help users frame video correctly before pressing the record button. If you set 16:9 still shooting on the A55, you can go into movie capture without any change to the image framing.

Note that the ends of the composition are cropped, as well as the top and bottom, when pressing MOVIE Record from the startpoint of a 3:2 format still shot on the NEX-3 and NEX-5 with their 14 megapixel sensors. When shooting HD video, note that frame corners for the 4:3 TV format (non-HD crop) are displayed.

In an ideal world, the HD movie would be the full 16:9 still size as on the A55, giving you the best use of wide-angle lenses. But that is probably not possible because of the way HD1080 is extracted from the overall sensor area of the NEX-3/5.

So, what we need is simple enough – a firmware option to display the HD Movie crop area far more distinctly on the EVF or rear LCD screen, whatever still shooting mode is being used. Ideally it should be a complete rectangle to show the actual area which will be active when you press MOVIE and record.

Like the audio control issue, this is a firmware fix and could also be applied to earlier models like the NEX-5. It’s probably a simpler fix than audio.

Of more concern is whether or not the 24 megapixel sensor behaves like the 14 megapixel (HD movies cropped all round) or like the 16 megapixel sensor (HD movies cropped top and bottom only). So far this has not been made clear by early testers or Sony sources. If it is a cropped HD, let’s hope that a very clear and obvious movie-frame preview can be added, or the MOVIE  button function changed so that one press activates the movie frame view, the next press starts record, the next press ends record. I would actually like to see a menu option where ending a recording does not exit movie mode, but leaves you able to press the movie button again to resume filming, and to end movie capture you need instead to press the shutter button (with or without a still capture).

– David Kilpatrick

Sony DEV-5 and DEV-3 digital HD filming binoculars

An invitation to a Sony event on August 15th seemed perfectly timed for the announcement of the Alpha 77 and 65, NEX-7 and NEX-5n. In fact, those cameras were launched in Greece on August 24th – and Photoclubalpha, as a very minor player in this business, was not on the guest list. Nor could we have attended if invited as the diary was already full that week (four days of the Master Photography Awards judging and their Fellowship and Associate annual admissions to be covered).

Wild geese – red-breasted geese, Branta ruficollis, fleeing the camera (©Shirley Kilpatrick, A580, Sigma 18-250mm OS)

However, when the invitation to an event at the London Wetland Centre was issued, with strict limits on the numbers able to register and some air of importance, we decided to do the 700 mile round trip, stay a couple of days for some stock photo shooting, and hope for the best. My mistake, one of our photo mag friends said he didn’t attend because he was tipped off it was not really for photo mags. Even so, most of those present seemed to be photo press not wildlife press…

The Wetland Centre, while a fairly poor location for photography due to the extreme distance the hides are from the wildlife, would have been a good place to launch an Alpha 77 and Alpha 65 (both equipped with improved GPS) and teamed up with the long-awaited 500mm f/4.5 Sony Apo G SSM.

Sadly, it all turned out to be a wild goose chase for Photclubalpha. The object being launched was the new Sony invention of 3D digital binoculars, the DEV-3 and DEV-5 models aimed at high end binocular users wanting to spend their £1300-£2000 on something novel. While impressive enough if you want an electronic viewfinder version of binoculars, they are almost useless to photographers as the still capture resolution is a mere 7.1 megapixels from a small EXMOR-R back illuminated sensor. JPEG only, no raw, no control of still capture settings beyond very basic adjustments.

Digital scoping

Sony took their lead on development, it seems, from digiscoping. Their research showed that serious bird watchers have been fixing compact digital cameras (and occasional DSLRs) to the end of high power spotting scopes to secure unfeasibly long focal length equivalents and capture acceptable frame-fillers of bird life from the distances bird life prefers to remain.

Their research also showed that bird watchers will spend £2000 without hesitation on a high end pair of binoculars.

Now I’m going to stick my neck out and suggest that much of the appeal of digiscoping is exactly the same as the appeal of adaptors and alien lenses used on the NEX. One of Sony’s own Japanese executives at the event was wearing a NEX-5 with a Voigtländer adaptor and a 21mm f/4 Voigtländer lens in Leica M mount.

Digiscopers like their rigs of camera and scope because part of the challenge is to create a perfect digiscoping set up and discover the best cameras, scopes, eyepieces and adaptors for the job. Creating the equipment is part of the hobby. Also, the scope continues to have a purpose of its own as an optical device. It does not matter that the combo weighs 4.5kg and needs a tripod (even that is part of the Meccano-Lego factor, building your personal solution).

Paul Genge of Sony explained how much lighter the system will be than digiscoping – but omitted the fun of making your own digiscoping rig, which is half the point of it

The Sony Electronic HD video capable binoculars do one thing well, and only one thing. They capture HD1080p video at 50fps (60fps in the USA) with the option to use both sensors for 3D video, which is interlaced instead. With lens-based stabilisation counteracting complex rotational movements which may affect each of the two lenses reciprocally, they are a technical masterpiece.

Unfortunately, they don’t have the new high resolution EVF of the Alpha 77/65/NEX-7, but use one closer to the Alpha 55 in detail. Actually, they use two, fed by separate sensors, as a true binocular system with the eyepieces adjustable for interpupillary distance and dioptre settings. They can simulate using electronic screens a binocular view, with a 16:9 or 4:3 format (the sensor is actually 4:3 ratio, and cropped for HD).

This was not at the Wetland Centre (mother coot feeding chick) but at Kew Gardens, which actually put photographers much closer to wildlife more accustomed to humans at close quarters (©Shirley Kilpatrick, A580, Sigma 18-250mm)

But in my pocket was a Minox 6x16X monocular, and in Shirley’s bag a similar Minox 8x16X – lovely little Zeiss-optic metal devices intended for concerts and travel. So I was able to compare the view through the 10X DEV-3 with a simple, monocular, low-cost Minox optical image. There is simply no way ever that any serious nature-watcher would wish to observe the world through the electronic version. It is a world without the individual colours within the feathers of a bird; indeed, it doesn’t even have the individual feathers. Compared to looking through the electronic finder, the optical view was breathtaking in crystal clarity and brightness with exquisite detail enabling the identification and study of subjects.

Real birders use 20×30, 20×50, even up to 30X (Olympus zoom binoculars, for example). Some may choose stabilised binoculars, offered by Canon in specifications including an 18 x 50 with all-weather body. The stabilised view of the DEV-3 and DEV-5 is still a good feature and goes some way to make up for the lack of true image detail.

The zoom of these devices is not the same as the limited range of binocular zooming – and the same goes for focusing. They can focus down to 80cm and retain 3D video, due to the close spacing of the objective lenses; in 2D, macro shots close to the lens are possible, and indoors you can even shoot normal people and group shots though there’s no flash of course. In this sense the Sony invention goes beyond being a binocular, just as much as it falls short of being a true one.

If this looks familiar, the embedded front bit is basically a Sony Handycam TD10E lens and sensor assembly

That’s because all the DEV-3 and DEV-5 actually consist of is the front part of the Sony Handycam TD10E with some optical and design modifications, and a stereo viewing system bolted on the back. This £1300 camcorder offers a 17X zoom range but it’s hard to express that in the same terms as binocular magnification. Its recording is technically identical, the same bitrate and quality of 1080p or 3D 1080i, and its stills are the same 7.1 megapixel maximum. This was admitted by Paul Genge, Sony’s technical sales executive, when showing us the DEV-5.

Most oddly for the target markets of birding, wildlife, safaris, peeping toms, police, military, racegoers and suchlike the DEV models are not ruggedized or water and dust proof. They do accept an external microphone but it’s most unlikely any camera-mounted mic, even a special shotgun unidirectional type, will satisfy wildlife film makers.

Of course, the DEV-5 does include GPS and will record the location of filming but there’s no built-in magnetic compass so it does not tell the full story. The DEV-3, with its lower maximum zoom power, omits the GPS and that is reflected in the price (update – we are told by Paul that the interest shown since the launch is almost entirely in the higher end model with GPS – it provides valuable evidence to bird-spotters, and evidence appears to be what they value most).

Despite the two lenses, the DEV models do not capture 3D stills – only 3D video. Binocular experts will point out that the closely spaced objectives reduce the 3D impression given by long-range binos which have a wider front lens separation. This is vital for close focusing. You either must have adjustable front lens spacing for close-ups (difficult to achieve) or a very limited true stereoscopic effect.

No test

We were not allowed to take any footage with the DEV-5 or DEV-3 though Paul showed some tests of his own, taken during a week trying out the new product all round Britain (between visits to key dealers such as Park Cameras, who are selling them at the Bird Fair which opened on August 19th at Rutland Water, with a free extra chunky high power battery thrown in).

Report from this event, added September 8th – Paul Genge says it was a great success, with over one thousand visitors to the Sony stand trying the DEV models. Many of these visitors had tried digiscoping but had consistently poor results despite much investment in bits and pieces to get it working, and saw the DEV concept as a simple, elegant, nearly perfect solution to their problems.

Birdfair at Rutland Water on August 19th – the blueprint above turned into a real Sony DEV-3/5 booth. Park Cameras offered special deals as the first main distributor and took several orders, all for the DEV-5 model, on the day.

The results looked very impressive as HD movies.

However, there are a few functions which the DEV models could have included had they been designed from the ground up and not based on an existing camcorder. One is pre-shot capture, where the buffer is constantly recording a rolling second or two of video, to be included with the take when you press the button to film. This avoids missing the critical first part of movement of the subject which triggers your own reactions.

The second is slow-motion capture at reduced resolution; 50/60p is already capable of half-speed playback and the shutter speed control use in the DEV models favours better motion freezing than some camcorders which aim for purely cinematic shutter speeds (1/30-1/50th and so on). Had controls been added to force fast shutter speed capture that is very useful for analysing wildlife film frame by frame, or extracting a valuable still image. Had 720p at 100/120 frames per second been enabled, that enables quarter-speed playback of action.

Single-handed operation by Paul Genge – but he’s had a week of weight training before the event! They are actually pretty light, just rather large.

Finally, make no mistake these babies are big. They are not overly heavy, as they are mainly empty plastic shaped to look like a military device. But they are not especially travel friendly, or all that easy to pop under your jacket in a cloudburst.

The ultimate use

Shirley’s verdict was – these are just made for festivals and stadium gigs! The one use not mentioned in Sony’s presentation, and a very popular use for binoculars and camcorders alike, is to see stage performances better and record music. Those little Minox monoculars we carry everywhere with us now were bought some years ago, en-route to an R.E.M concert. And sure enough, from our vantage point in Stirling Castle, they were a good investment.

Now if the tiny Minox monocular happened to include a 1080p HD movie recorder – which it very easily could in terms of size, think of mobile phones, Sony Bloggie and the like – it would be an even better concert companion.

The Sony DEV digital binoculars might get in past some security staff but we reckon they will soon be recognised and banned from events.

Nothing new

The first time we discovered binoculars combined with a camera, we actually got to be the first UK journalists to write them up. This was the Nicnon binocular camera, in its final version around 1975 (it had existed in a cruder design from the late 1960s) – it worked fairly well, but didn’t give any more real magnification than a regular 35mm camera with a 165mm lens and had a useless fastest shutter speed of 1/250th, only barely short enough to avoid camera shake in every shot and never able to stop action.

Later on we tried the Tasco 110 binocular camera but the results were almost useless. Today, of course, we have pocket digicams with zoom lenses going to an equivalent of over 500mm and a resolution which matches 35mm not 110. These can even challenge the concept of the DEV-3 and DEV-5, though I doubt that anything made comes close to the HD video quality. In the end, something is new about the DEV-3 and DEV-5, and that is the HD video in a binocular form.

We can only wish Sony the best of luck with this product. Any serious wildlife watcher or bird spotter will need their regular optical binoculars and their regular tele-equipped DSLR in addition to the DEV-3 or DEV-5. Regardless of six hour battery life and other commendable features, they simply do not and can not replace the other key equipment used in the field, with the exception of digiscope rigs or tele-capable camcorders.

They will sell to wealthy gadget enthusiasts and garden birdwatchers with poor eyesight and big flat screen teles. Over 50s, get in an orderly queue now…

For us, our four-day venture to the former wastelands of Barnes was a wild goose chase (we did see a few). Life was enlivened by road closures due to Olympic ‘test run’ cyclists. This product is not really of any interest to our dedicated photographer readership, for £2000 an Alpha 65 and 70-400mm SSM G would be a better investment for everything except the 3D video. And the market murmur is that 3D has failed, yet again. It’s simply not selling.

Get the full PRESS RELEASE here.

– David & Shirley Kilpatrick


Sony 5″ video monitor for DSLRs

For some time, I have been using a 7″ Lilliput external monitor for my Alpha and other HDMI output cameras. This is fairly bulky, with its external battery pack, and is mounted on a flash bracket holding it to the side of the camera. The main use of the monitor is for interview-style filming with it facing the subject (self filming) but it also has uses making location shooting simpler. Such monitors are usually mounted within video rigs, off camera, often at waist or chest level even when the camera is held above and forward of them.

The cost of the Lilliput is around £150-£200 depending on supplier and battery/mains power choices. Similar monitors from Marshall and other makers typically cost two to three times this, because they are sold for the photo market – the Lilliput is sold to the in-car entertainment sector, and therefore is not marked up by 300% to allow for the deep pockets of camera owners relative to car owners.

Sony’s new 5″ monitor is much lighter, and comes with mounts for hot shoe and Alpha shoe, and a neat lightweight HDMI-miniHDMI cable (oddly enough, that’s about the hardest thing to find – a short, skinny cable). It costs $395, but for that you do get a folding hood which is neat. They have many photos of it and not one shows it facing forwards, but the use is mentioned in the publicity.

It does not draw power from the HDMI, but requires either a mains adaptor or a battery pack, which is not shown in any of the photos. Sony have done the same as LED-video-light makers – provided a bay for fitting the regular Alpha camera battery as a power source. The press release implies that the battery pack is a separate item (‘optional’) instead of making the point that you use any large Alpha battery (including old ones left over from the A100). I find it very convenient that my video light accepts the same batteries as my camera system, and not very convenient to have a bulky rechargeable pack for my 7″ monitor. (NB: all that white space is part of Sony’s image we have linked to – nothing like wasting a bit of bandwidth by not cropping pix, is there?).

Here’s the press release:


A new clip-on LCD monitor from Sony gives DSLR camera owners a bigger, better view of their footage while shooting HD video.

The CLM-V55 is a portable video monitor featuring a high-resolution WVGA (800 x 480) (5”) LCD panel. Attaching easily to most Interchangeable Lens Digital cameras and compatible HD camcorders via the supplied adaptor, it displays video footage during shooting/playback with excellent clarity and a wide viewing angle.

The clip-on screen tilts and swivels to any angle for comfortable framing in any position – even self-shooting when you’re in the picture.

The CLM-V55 is loaded with pro-style features to help photo enthusiasts and videographers shoot high-quality HD video footage with their Interchangeable Lens Digital camera.

Pixel magnification mode assists with accurate focus confirmation, giving an enlarged pixel-perfect view of a selected portion of the Full HD image. It’s complemented by a colour peaking function that highlights the edges of accurately-focused areas of the video image.

An intuitive control wheel allows quick, positive adjustment of a wide range of monitor settings without interrupting shooting. Adjustable parameters include aspect ratio (16:9/4:3), volume, brightness, contrast, colour tone (phase), colour temp and auto dimmer. On-screen markers aid precise framing by giving precise indication of a TV’s 16:9 or 4:3 actual display area. The LCD monitor’s on-board mono speaker is complemented by a headphone jack for accurate audio monitoring during shooting.

The CLM-V55 attaches easily to a wide range of Interchangeable Lens Digital cameras from Sony and other manufacturers that support HD video shooting. The supplied adaptor simplifies mounting on any camera or HD camcorder that features an auto-lock accessory shoe or ISO shoe. Signal connection from camera to monitor is via the supplied HDMI cable, while power can be supplied using a battery pack or AC adaptor (both optional). The CLM-V55 comes with a detachable LCD hood for more comfortable viewing when shooting outdoors in bright sunlight.

The CLM-V55 LCD video monitor by Sony is available from March 2011.

Nikon D3S video: dark, rain and wind 400mm f/2.8

As part of my tests of the Nikon D3S (British Journal, report in December, with additional material by Richard Kilpatrick who is shooting with Nikon on November 25th at a press event) I dragged the £6,000 400mm f/2.8 AF-S IF ED G supertele into the rain as darkness gradually forced the ISO up from a mere 10,000 to the maximum 102,400. The object was make a short video showing rising floodwaters, no threat in our town but still dramatic to watch.


Here’s how it came back from the hour in the rain, a quick wipe down with an oily rag and it was all as good as new. Actually, it needed a thorough drying with the towel then a clean up with a lint free microfibre cloth to remove dust and towelly stuff. The very deep lens shade kept the exposed front element totally dry despite the wind and rain; I just made sure it was never aiming into the wind.

During the shoot, wind noise was a major problem. I locked the microphone to level 2 manual gain, not automatic which would have been a disaster. Many clips had to be shortened, some discarded due to violent wind noise I could not mask. The sheer weight of this combo made lugging it with a decent Slik tripod (pan and tilt head for video) difficult; I drove to the evening location with the rig laid flat on the back seat of the car, but still had to walk several hundred yards for some shots. I wore a Tog24 parka and found that by pulling the fur-lined hood over the camera body I could cut out nearly all the wind noise. I must have looked like a view camera operator with a dark cloth, or something out of Monty Python with my jacket pulled up and the hood over the Nikon!

But, this seemed such a good solution to the wind noise I would consider unzipping the hood from the parka and using it as a baffle in finer weather.

My favourite part of the video is the one with the worst noise, where I was not able to keep the wind away from the direction of shooting – the sequence of the road (flooded by the morning) with headlights, tail lights and cars in rain. This consists of three takes blended with long crossfades. During each take, the manual focus of the 400mm used at near wide open f/3.2 aperture was pulled to bring the moving traffic in and out of focus, and create huge bokeh circles from the lights. This would be impossible with a camcorder and not all that easy with a conventional high-end video kit. The combination of full frame 35mm format and the fast 400mm has enabled a highly effective cinematic technique to succeed on the first time of trying. With some markers on the focus ring, some practice and many more takes the result could have been refined further.

But I was getting very wet and so was the camera!

The first part of the video is all on the 400mm with tripod, with High ISO video enabled. The ‘next morning’ stuff is on the 24-70mm, hand held, locked down to ISO 200 at f/8.

I’m not sure when our final review of the camera will appear in the British Journal, it should be early December.

The video is encoded to best quality 720p from iMovie09, and can be best be downloaded and viewed without any YouTube jerkiness at full res if your connection is not good.

– David Kilpatrick

Exmor R hits the High Street – new Cyber-shots

SONY puts two 10.2 megapixel consumer digicams on the market in September 2009 using the back-illuminated Exmor R sensor. This CMOS sensor architecture takes the ‘sandwich’ which forms the light-sensitive pixel wells, and reverses it so that the side previously used for connections now faces the image-forming light. This change allows more light to be captured, resulting in improved high ISO performance. So far, the Exmor R technology has only been used in video cameras and this is the first appearance of it in still cameras. The cameras can shoot at 10 frames per second.
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Alpha 500, 550 and 850

Sony’s September launch for 2009 looks set to include three new models – the Alpha 500, 550 and 850. The model numbers are confirmed by the usual backdoor leak, appearing in the registration database for SonyStyle USA in this case (Canada has been a past culprit, updating databases associated with their site before the product is officially released). However, only a few people know what these cameras will be, and they are limited by non-disclosure contracts.
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Nikon D5000 short film with pull focus

Though autofocus is not possible with live video in any current true DSLR (the Panasonic GH1 promises this) it is possible to use pull-focus effects with a little planning. We now have a Nikon D5000 – it won the competition for best fine image detail when comparing results frame by frame with Canon’s nominally higher resolution rival. It was also a very good deal, £629 inc VAT with an 18-55mm VR kit lens and a SanDisk Ultra II 8GB SDHC card plus Crumpler Messenger Boy 2500 bag thrown in free (from Jacobs). You Tube sample –

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