The Sleeping Giant Awakens

In the evolving motion-picture production industry, we’re living in radical times. Who would have predicted the Canon EOS 5D Mark II—a godsend to the production industry during the worst economic crisis in decades—would be used on feature films and broadcast television shows? After being branded the "Tucker" of the camera world, who would have predicted that RED would change the professional production space with the release of its RED ONE and EPIC cameras, not to mention its highly regarded Mysterium-X sensor. (I’m sure Panavision never did.) Some have dubbed these two camera formats "disruptive technology."

Some are calling Sony’s new NEX-FS100U an "HD DSLR killer" for narrative filmmaking.

So where has Sony been through both of these revolutions? After all, it’s the company that pretty much kickstarted the high-def production industry with the F900 CineAlta HD camera back in 2000. Around the same time, Sony also released a prosumer DV camcorder, the DSR-PD150 DVCAM, which helped revolutionize indie filmmaking. Well, at NAB 2011, it looks as if the sleeping giant has awoken. For those of you who didn’t attend the show, Sony pulled out all the stops by releasing a multitude of new cameras and products that might start another revolution—not only in the professional production space, but also for indie and 3D productions.

The HD DSLR Killer?

Last issue, we did a First Look profile on the PMW-F3, a compact camcorder that contains a Super 35mm-sized sensor and a PL-mount lens kit, and is based on Sony’s XDCAM EX workflow. On a more professional scale, the camera also contains HD-SDI dual-link output for external recording, and you’ll be able to capture in S-Log (available as an upgrade for under $3,500 soon), which is Sony’s version of a digital negative, to capitalize on the full dynamic range of the CMOS sensor. Many are predicting the F3 will be a direct competitor to the RED ONE.

Sony’s PMW-F3 soon will be offering S-Log capture.

Although the F3 is a great professional camera, its price point of $16,000 (body only) and $23,000 for a package that includes three Sony-branded prime lenses is more along the lines of a camera you’d rent rather than purchase, especially for indie filmmakers. No worries, because at NAB, Sony released the flagship camera of its "priced to own" NXCAM line, the NEX-FS100U. I saw a prototype of the camera at Sony’s Atsugi Technology Center in Japan, where it was the biggest hit among the American journalists by far. Many think the FS100U will be the "HD DSLR killer" for narrative filmmaking.

The FS100U contains an Exmor Super 35mm-sized single CMOS sensor, which is the same sensor that the F3 uses, and an E-mount, which is Sony’s new interchangeable-lens system for its NEX line of cameras. Although the current number of E-mount lenses is limited, there are several adapters being released that will allow you to mount almost any lens. At NAB, Zeiss debuted an E-mount version of its popular CP.2 lenses, which will be a must-have for narrative filmmakers. In terms of recording, the FS100U accepts compatible SD, SDHC and SDXC cards, as well as Sony’s proprietary Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. It also has 96 GB of internal memory and AVCHD recording, and shoots with a maximum frame rate of 1920×1080/60p (28 Mb/s).

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