High-Quality POV

I use GoPros. I own three of them and I use them all over the place: From mounting them to the cold shoe on my A camera to placing them in a VO booth when shooting voice recording sessions to mounting them on cars, boats, athletes and even on dogs. GoPro was a pioneer in POV (point of view—I can’t believe anyone wouldn’t know that, but just in case…) cameras and have evolved and spawned an entire market of competitors and imitators. They’re relatively inexpensive, easy to use and can record in various resolutions up to 4K these days. But let’s face the facts, GoPros record a very highly compressed signal to their own internal recording system. Don’t get me wrong, the lenses on the GoPro cameras are good for the price and, overall, GoPros are very useful and interesting devices that allow me to capture a lot of footage I never could in any other way.

There are entire markets that look at cameras like the GoPro with some frustration though. What if you’re a producer who needs the minute size of a GoPro but you need a more robust and less compressed signal in a higher end codec than GoPros allow? What if you want better low-light capability? What if you want to change lenses to allow for different perspectives that detachable lenses allow? Marshall Electronics, maker of converters, switchers, monitors and, yes, cameras, recently let me try out the CV-502MB POV broadcast camera. Lately, I’ve been shooting a few projects where my GoPros, frankly, just weren’t able to give me what I was looking for—a high-quality signal when recorded in interiors in fixed positions. GoPros are really sports cameras; they capture their best image when used outdoors with an ample supply of light. I needed to capture a POV shot of a piece of equipment being assembled, from a very tight location where a normal camera could never be mounted.

I eagerly tore open the shipping box to reveal the CV-502MB in all of its glory. Wow, this camera is really small. Smaller than a GoPro in its housing. As I unpacked the camera, I was immediately impressed with its solid-as-a-rock build quality; it seems as if the camera body is machined from a solid chunk of aluminum. I don’t have much experience with the CV-502MB’s M12 mount, it’s a highly miniaturized detachable lens mount standard. The camera came with a 3.7mm Megapixel M12 Prime Lens installed; this is definitely the smallest interchangeable lens I’ve ever seen. It’s about the diameter of a toothbrush handle and even has a tiny detachable lens cap.

The camera has a small block of pushpin inputs at the rear for power input and comes with a DC to dual spade power cable. The camera specifies that it needs a 12V input, pretty standard stuff, which means the camera can be powered by an AC/DC wall converter or just about any stable 12V battery. The rear of the camera also has two BNC outputs, one that allows for HD-SDI output and one analog composite video output. It’s nice to have both options for various recording and monitoring setups. The rear panel also includes a tiny four-way joystick for configuring settings. The bottom of the camera includes a single ¼-inch 20 female thread, allowing for many mounting options.

Remember, the CV-502MB is a camera, not a camcorder like a GoPro, so you either have to supply your own recorder or the camera is intended for live broadcast scenarios like sporting or political events. I utilized my Atomos Ninja Blade with a Blackmagic Design HD-SDI to HDMI converter as the Blade only has HDMI inputs. I recorded a 1080 29.97P signal utilizing ProRes HQ. The images were impressive. The camera utilizes a new state-of-the-art 1/2.8-inch high speed sensor packing 2,476,296 pixels (2.5 Megapixels) of resolution outputting at 1920x1080i, 1920x1080p, 1280x720p and frame-rates of 60/59.94/50/30/29.97/25 fps. Marshall claims the camera uses a proprietary pixel technology that offers the lowest noise ratio on the market today capturing sharp, vivid color images in very low light conditions, as low as 0.05 lux. The location I tried the camera out in had black walls, and we weren’t allowed to light the location. We had to record using just the available light coming through the windows. I can vouch that the images looked significantly cleaner than what my Go Pros could have delivered in the same conditions.

In looking around on YouTube and Vimeo, it appears that the CV-502MB is popular for sporting events, reality and event shooting, allowing producers to place the camera in interesting positions and locations. It takes more resources to use a camera like this—an outboard power source, an outboard recorder and cabling and, delving into the CV-502MB’s extensive menus to set up the camera how you like it, there are a lot of parameter settings as you’d expect in a broadcast camera. Marshall offers a nice selection of detachable prime lenses for the CV-502MB, ranging from 2.3mm to 50mm, allowing for whatever field of view you need for your project. The camera also offers three different backlight settings—Back Light Compensation WDR (Wide Dynamic Range), BLC (Back Light Compensation) and HLC (High Light Compensation).

As you might imagine with a 1/3-inch CMOS imager and a 3.7mm lens, pretty much everything seemed to be in focus. I’d think that perhaps some of the longer focal length lenses might need to be focused manually, but I didn’t have any of the longer lenses to evaluate. Marshall offers a full lineup of other POV cameras that offer genlock, IP67 waterproofing and other options as well. The CV-502MB offers a nice alternative to those of us seeking higher quality images than the typical POV camera can provide. The build quality, fit and finish on the camera are top-notch and the images the camera outputs are quite nice. If you need a high-quality POV camera for specific needs where a sports cam may not be the best solution, the CV-502MB is worth checking out.