Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Canon CN-E Primes: An In-Depth Look

We added a Canon CN-E Super Speed PL-mount Cine prime lens set for 2015, the only one in the SF Bay Area. It consists of  a 35mm T1.5, 50mm T1.3, and 85mm T1.3, all with PL-mounts, converted by Duclos Lenses. Super fast for low light and ultra shallow depth of field, 4K plus, edge to edge resolution, Cine lens build quality and precision, with a warm, organic look that matches our Canon CN-E 30-105mm T2.8 PL-mount Compact Cine zoom lens.

These are the same lenses used on the Showtime series "Homeland". Below is a link to Matthew Duclos of Duclos Lenses blog, which interviews  Canon product specialists and the DP of "Homeland":

Duclos Lenses Blog

As always, all of our PL-mount Cine primes and zooms are available at very low rates when rented with our Cine cameras. Most rent for no more than stills lenses!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

35mm Cine Lenses vs. Stills Lenses

35mm motion imagery has been captured using PL-mount Cine lenses for decades. They are the standard of motion picture production. These lenses are designed with the highest quality, most efficient acquisition for Cine style shooting. It is for this reason that SSV offers Super 35mm digital Cine cameras with the PL-mount rather than still photo lens mounts and stills lenses.

Advantages of PL-mount Cine Lenses:

PL-mount stands for "Positive Lock", the most rigid, exacting and rugged lens mount available for digital Cine cameras. This is important for precise flange distance on sharp lenses, support of heavy lenses and eliminating frame movement due to torque exerted by follow focus systems and zoom motors.

PL-mount cameras can take advantage of any Cine lens built in the past 30 years, the lenses that Hollywood depends on everyday.

Cine lenses offer the highest quality available, are much more rugged and reliable than stills lenses. They are built especially for the image quality and rigors demanded by professional Cinematographers.

Cine lenses have fully manual, de-clicked, numbered iris rings for precise exposure setting and on the fly exposure changes, unlike most modern stills lenses. They also have gears for remote activation. Cine lenses often feature more iris blades for a more pleasing, circular "bokeh" when specular highlights are out of focus. These lenses are typically optimized for good sharpness and contrast when wide open.

Cine zoom lenses are Parfocal, meaning that when zoomed, they track focus, unlike many stills lenses that require refocusing every time focal length is changed. They feature smooth, dampened manual operation and precise markings on both sides of the lens(for operator and Assistant Camera) with gears for precision zoom motors. They usually feature constant aperture throughout the zoom range vs. low cost stills lenses that "ramp" downward in light transmission when zooming in. They typically have less chromatic aberration or soft corners than low cost stills lenses.

Cine lenses often have much greater focus rotation(throw) for much more precise, repeatable focus pulling. A typical stills lens has a focus rotation of around 100 degrees, whereas a Cine lens is often over 300 degrees.  The focus barrels have calibrated distance marks on both sides of the lens. They are geared so that follow focus systems can be used. Cine lenses are less likely to "breathe" while focusing. They are not optimized for auto focus, found on modern stills lenses, where manual focus is an after thought, and barely turning the focus barrel changes the focus setting significantly.

SSV offers full Cine lens focal length coverage from 11mm to 200mm with speeds of T1.5 to T3.0. Most of our Cine lenses rent for no more than a typical good quality stills lens(we offer some rehoused stills lenses that are modified in the above ways for Cine housings). Cine Support accessories include Arri, Elements base plates and rods, 12" dove tails, Arri, Chrosziel matte boxes and Arri, Zacuto follow focus systems for ultimate support and control of Cine style shooting.

 Our Cine Lenses:
• Arri Alura 18-80mm T2.6 PL-mount Cine zoom
• GL Optics 11-16mm f2.8 PL-mount Cine zoom
• RED 17-50mm T2.9 PL-mount Cine zoom
* AllStar Cine 50mm T1.5 PL-mount Cine prime
• RED 85mm T1.8 PL-mount Cine prime
• AllStar Cine 80-200mm T3.0 PL-Mount Cine zoom

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Why So Many Cameras?

At SSV, we try hard to keep up with what's new in cameras and support gear, and if a new model offers something valuable to our clients, we add it to rental inventory--but any new camera or support gear has to meet the criteria of high quality, reliability, simple work flow and affordability.   No one camera is going to do it all for our clients, that camera just hasn't been invented yet.  Here is an explanation of what our current camera inventory offers:

Canon C300 PL Super 35mm Digital Cine camera--this is the most popular rental video camera in the world, currently.  This small camera makes gorgeous images in any light with fantastic resolution, Canon colorimetry, super low noise, 12 + stops of latitude, records on dual CF memory cards, offers all the features of DSLR's, like shallow depth of field, low light capability, small size, without any of the compromises.  Recording format is Canon XF at 50Mbps, 4:2:2 color space, 80 minutes on a single 32Gb CF card.  We offer the PL-mount version because it is the cinema standard--very rigid, cine lenses offer complete manual control, great optics, great ruggedness, comprehensive distance markings for zoom and focus, much more focus rotation for subtle, repeatable focusing than auto focus optimized stills lenses, gears for zoom motors and follow focus.  The C300 is a lot of fun to shoot with while giving the cinematic imagery so many are looking for!  We also have affordable 35mm Cine zoom and prime lens options for the C300 PL.

Panasonic HPX250 and HPX255 P2 1/3" CMOS camcorders--these are the successors to the famous Panasonic DVX100 and HVX200 24P camcorders.  These newest generations give us full raster HD sensors, 22x zoom lens, and DVCPRO HD or AVC-Intra 100 recording formats on P2 cards.  The latter format is 10-bit, 100Mbps, 4:2:2, I-Frame, so a great choice for green screen and any project where extensive grading and color correction is planned-it's the first time a 10-bit studio quality codec has been put into a camera of this form factor and price-point.  Low noise, variable frame rates, Panasonic color and better highlight handling than previous Panasonic camcorders round out the feature set.  The HPX255 adds the ability to be used with our Panasonic EC4 remote camera paint box for precise color and shading control plus remote record trigger and playback.

Panasonic HPX2700 P2 Varicam ENG 2/3" CCD--this camera is the successor to the original Varicam, which was known for variable frame rates and good latitude using Film-Rec gamma.  The HPX2700 offers frame rates from 2fps to 60fps at 720P and can be ramped mid-shot.  It also records in 1080.  Film-Rec gamma now has up to 600% dynamic range for improved latitude and highlight handling.  2/3" CCD's have no skewing issues, and provide a good compromise between super shallow depth of field and getting the shot on the first take.  Recording formats are DVCPRO HD and studio quality AVC-Intra 100 with five P2 cards for lots of record time.  A great camera for documentary style shooting, sports, interviews.  Rugged and reliable, P2 Varicam is to video what 16mm was to film cameras.

Panasonic AF100 micro 4/3" Digital Cine camera-the first of the true video cameras that give the large sensor DSLR look, while adding in-board audio XLR recording and headphone monitoring, built-in ND filters, no moire or aliasing artifacts and low motion skewing, unlike DSLR's.  You also get time code, waveform/vector, focus in red, zebras, HD-SDI and HDMI out for full HD monitoring, variable frame rates, flip out high res. LCD, EVF and camera mic.  Recording format is AVCCAM. This is a real large sensor video camera at a DSLR day rate.  It can use virtually any 35mm lens, still or cine, plus native micro 4/3" lenses.  Very versatile and affordable.

Sony EX1 Cine Alta 1/2" CMOS camcorder--this camera has been around for a bit and has made a reputation for itself.  First of the affordable Cine Alta HD cameras, this workhorse can do many things well with variable frame rates, native full HD resolution, and cine gammas.  Recording format is XDCAM EX, via SxS cards, which is a full raster, low bit rate MPEG 2 codec, providing a simple workflow that doesn't require a lot of computer processing horsepower.  Still very popular for many kinds of projects, this little camera delivers.

Sony HXC-100K/HXCU-100 triax HD camera--this is a full triax camera chain designed for multi-camera productions.  It consists of an HD 2/3" CCD camera head in ENG or studio configuration with a triax CCU(Camera Control Unit) and RCP(Remote Control Panel) for complete camera control at long distances.  One triax cable gives full functionality of every camera operation parameter, including paint and iris control, intercom, power, tally, return, and audio.  HXC-100K's are perfect for use with our HD fly pack with Panasonic HS410 switcher.

So, there's an overview of our HD camera rental options.  Each camera has its strengths, with CCD and CMOS sensors sizes of 1/3", 1/2", 2/3", micro 4/3" and Super 35mm for maximum flexibility.  Five different internal recording formats, plus any of these cameras can be used with our AJA Ki Pro ProRes 422 recorders.

The next time somebody says "one size fits all" about cameras, it might be good to question that, because each project has its own set of unique requirements visually, technically and budget wise.  That's why renting cameras in this time of technical change and progression can make a lot of sense, along with support equipment tailored to get the most out of each camera.  We're here to help!  
Photo by Mike Sly, Sly Digital,

Friday, May 25, 2012

"Canon C300 After Dark"

I've been asked by a few people about the Canon C300's low light capabilities, so I decided to head out to Downtown Redwood City to shoot some night time test footage.  Here's the link:

Canon C300 After Dark

The C300 PL is a very fast camera, with a base ISO of 850 and maximum ISO of 20,000.  While noise is apparent at very high ISO speeds, it is a very fine grain, more film like in its appearance. This is due in part to its 9.84 megapixel Super 35mm sensor.  What also impressed me is how much resolution this camera has.  I used the RED 17-50mm T2.9 PL-mount Cine zoom and a Tiffen Digital Diffusion FX 1/4 filter.  One can only imagine what a fast Zeiss prime lens would look like!

I was also impressed by the color saturation, no matter the light level.  The C300 low light capability can literally pay dividends by needing less light and smaller lighting instruments.  It allows for more softening of lights without worrying about having enough output from the lights.

In short, the C300 is very fast, very clean, very detailed, yet still has a very natural looking image, more like film than any camera we've offered.  The fact that it's super small and lightweight with easy to use controls, makes it that much more enjoyable to shoot with!

Special thank you to Joseph Farfone for assisting me on the night shoot and Mike Sly for editing the test.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Canon C300 PL camera? What was I thinking?

Okay, I admit it, I don't like shooting video with DSLR's, Canon's or any others.  Never really liked Canon palmcorders all that much either. While I'm at it, I don't much enjoy shooting video with modern 35mm SLR auto focus lenses.  Glad I got that off my chest!

We know Canon DSLR's have changed the video production landscape once they became video enabled.  They appeal to filmmakers of all types, are used for every kind of project imaginable.  They also have some serious compromises, due to being intended primarily as still cameras, but in the right hands, can make some very sexy motion images.  It doesn't hurt that the 35mm SLR stills lenses, like the DSLR cameras, are pretty affordable as well.

In the past year and a half, we've seen the advent of large sensor video cameras, intended to deliver the DSLR aesthetic, without the workarounds.  I immediately bought a couple of Panasonic AF100 large sensor video cameras, still the most affordable true video camera option for digital Cine shooting.  

Like my clients, I wanted more.  Bigger sensor, better resolution, better codec, more dynamic range, better low light sensitivity, lower noise, while retaining the small, light weight form factor.

Enter the Canon C300!  It ticked all of the boxes.  Finally, a large sensor video camera with a higher bit rate, 4:2:2 color space, in-board recording codec.  Until the C300, you had to mount an external recorder to get that.  Shooting with the C300 is liberating, much like a DSLR(except you don't need double system sound or external ND filters).  Of course, the C300 also offers the Canon color look found in their DSLR's and a lot more menu control of the image.

This little camera makes images not possible at its size and price point just a few years ago.  It records for hours, has really low power consumption, great low light capability, clean, fantastic resolution, a robust codec, 12-stops of latitude with Canon Log cine gamma, internal ND's, very good EVF and 4" LCD with scopes, HD-SDI and HDMI clean, full HD monitoring, time code, dual CF card slots for spanned or dual recording, and off-speed recording. 

So, the C300 makes sense, especially for rental, because it costs more to buy than a DSLR.  The final question was, which lens mount?  The C300 makes you commit to either a Canon EF mount body or motion picture standard PL-mount body.  A bit of a conundrum.  Clearly, if you are buying a C300 and own a bunch of modern Canon EF lenses, the choice is fairly simple--go for the EF mount.

However, if renting a C300, why not choose lenses that are made for motion pictures vs. still photography as long as there are affordable options?  The PL-mount is more rigid than the Canon EF mount.  A Cine zoom allows you to change focal length without having to refocus(many 35mm DSLR lenses are not parfocal, so require refocusing when changing focal length), has very precise control of iris and focus vs. no manual iris ring and auto focus optimized still lenses.  Most Cine zooms and primes don't breathe when focusing, or don't ramp downwards in light transmission when zoomed in.  They have precise lens markings for distance, gears for motors and follow focus, are very rugged and reliable and, of course look fantastic.

Sure, some Cine glass is VERY expensive to buy and even rent, but there are affordable solutions, like our RED 17-50mm T2.9 compact Cine zoom at under 4lbs. and only $100 with rental of our C300 PL, or our amazing Arri Alura 18-80mm T2.6 Cine zoom, which offers a very flexible focal length range, negating the need to change lenses all day long.   We'll soon be adding affordable Cine primes as well.

So, for $475 per day, the Canon C300 PL with compact RED Cine zoom, offers a beautiful, easy to use, flexible, reliable, post friendly, true video camera with Cinematic aesthetic not previously possible.

I challenge anyone to put the Canon C300 side by side with Canon's own DSLR offerings and compare the resolution, noise, dynamic range and of course video camera features!  The C300 is the grown up version of DSLR's.  Photo by Mike Sly, Sly Digital

Thursday, March 15, 2012

New HD Gear Keeps Coming!

2012 brings new gear to SSV. While we have over the past few years become more involved with film style camera packages and accessories--such as our Panasonic AF100 large sensor digital cine cameras, Arri Alura 35mm Cine zoom and Nikon 35mm SLR prime lenses, and camera support--we are investing more into multi-camera HD equipment.

We have just completed an HD Fly Pack featuring the new Panasonic HS410 production switcher. This system can be used with any camera, and offers a very small foot print and affordable rental rate combined with an amazing amount of power and flexibility for signal distribution, transcoding, scaling and routing.

The Panasonic HS410 HD switcher has 13 inputs, including SDI, HD-SDI, DVI(digital and analog) and 5 HD-SDI outputs, plus component and 2 DVI outputs which are scalable to various computer resolutions. The HS410 has a multi-viewer, a built-in 7" LCD display for menus, images and scopes, 4 auxiliary buses, and many advanced features previously not seen at the price point. This switcher is available separately with multi-viewer display or with our new HD Fly Pack. We offer various camera/CCU options, and recording options, such as AJA Ki Pro ProRes decks.

Also new at SSV is the Panasonic HPX250 P2 full raster HD camera that brings a 10-bit, 100Mbps, 4:2:2, I-Frame codec to a palmcorder form factor for the first time with AVC-Intra 100, the same recording format found in our HPX2700 P2 Varicam HD camera. The HPX250 excels at green screen work and heavy grading, color correction.

We also have several high quality HD LCD production monitors/scopes by Flanders Scientific, Leader, Panasonic and TV Logic, ranging from 5.6" to 21" to compliment our cameras and HD fly pack.

Finally, in addition to our Analog Way Di-VentiX 2-channel HD seamless switcher/scaler, which is great for projection and flat panel display switching, we've added an Analog Way Pulse 300 2-channel HD seamless switcher/scaler, offering many of the same features of the Di-VentiX at a lower cost. Either of these units compliment our new HD fly pack for live production nicely.

We plan to add a new Super 35mm Digital Cine camera very soon, because we remain committed to film style production with its cinematic imagery. This means SSV will have cameras with 1/3", 1/2", 2/3", micro 4/3" and Super 35mm sensors and several recording format options to choose from. We're happy to help figure out how to apply these options to best suit your specific project--contact us anytime!