Which recorder/monitor is best for the Sony PMW-F3?

The Sony PMW-F3 is an awesome camera, but with an external recorder it turns into a whole new beast! Leaping from its 35Mb/s 8bit 420 internal to uncompressed 12bit 444 RGB with an external recorder!

Atomos Samurai Blade

Tap into ProRes HQ out of the Sony PMW-F3!

Now the internal recordings are still rather nice, and many great things have been shot with just the internal recording such as the feature film “Safety Not Guaranteed” (which was also shot pre s-log update as well!! So basically was shot in the worst configuration of the F3, which in a way shows just how good the camera is). But I know I absolutely do want to get a recorder soon to unleash the power within the F3, and having a new monitor (as most recorders these days are combo monitors/recorders) would be a nice upgrade from my existing Feelworld FW759 monitor. Because its EVF is basically pointless, and its side monitor is positioned too awkwardly for use when on the shoulder.

While 12bit 444 would be nice, recorders which can do that are much rarer and very pricey (with the exception of the newly announced Video Devices PIX-E5, which is bringing this to a new low price), so I might want to limit myself to only checking out 10bit 422 recorders. Because for the vast majority of work having ProRes HQ files recorded is more than sufficient (and for the rare few times 12bit 444 is needed, I can always rent), as I’ve already been using rented/borrowed Atomos Shogun and Atomos Ninja 2 recorders on shoots with my Sony PMW-F3.

And the good news is with the move to 4K, there are now extremely affordable pricing on HD recorders. Last NAB Blackmagic Design announced their new Video Assist for a low low price of only US$495 (and it just finally started shipping in the last few days), and then Atomos responded at IBC by massively dropping the price of their Ninja 2 to US$295 and their Samurai Blade to US$495 match the Video Assist price (which means in total for the Samurai Blade and everything else I’d need with it such as recording media / accessories / batteries / S&H / taxes, I could get one to my door in NZ for somewhere just under NZ$1,500. Very cheap indeed!! Got to love the constant marching forward of technology)

The three main options to look at:

1) BMD Video Assist
Pro: cheap cheap! Has HDMI & SDI, and FHD screen
Con: is micro SDI, and is lacking in shipping firmware

2) Atomos Samurai Blade
Pro: cheap cheap!! Has mature firmware with peaking / waveforms / vectorscopes
Con: no HDMI (so you’ll need an HDMI/SDI converter, only sixty bucks or so from B&H) and no FHD 60fps (limited to 720p when doing slow motion)

3) Video Devices PIX-E5
Pro: the best, everything that you could want! (444 / 12bit / 60fps FHD / waveforms / vectorscopes / HDMI / SDI / 4K for futureproofing / etc). Has great add on audio options, with the top notch reputation of Sound Devices behind them.
Con: price…. is really cheap for what it does, but is more pricey than the other two options :-/ Also its recording media might be seen as a con by some (maybe… I think it is nifty what they’re doing, and is arguably a good choice for media. As it is small and cheap)

Haven’t listed the whole SD vs SSD thing as either Pro or Con for either of the Video Assist or Samurai Blade, as your viewpoint on SD/SSD as Pro/Con can be quite subjective.

I absolutely wouldn’t add Video Devices PIX 240i, Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q/7Q+, or Atomos Shogun to this list, they’re much more pricey (and I do not at all like the bulk of the Shogun when I’ve used it). Atomos Ninja 2 is also out because its monitor is far too low resolution (and it doesn’t have SDI or waveforms like the Samurai Blade has), ditto Atomos Samurai Blade is out because of its missing SDI. Blackmagic Design HyperDeck Shuttle 2 was out because it doesn’t have a monitor at all! (and yet its price is even a little more than the Atomos Ninja 2 is)

Basically my logic process then went, if:
a) you have a bit more cash, get the PIX-E5
Because aside from its price (which is pricey relative to a Samurai Blade or Video Assist, however PIX-E5 is cheap compared to any of its direct competitors!) it is practically almost flawless! Especially as I feel 5 inches is the “sweet spot” for an operator’s monitor while shooting, but if you disagree there is always the PIX-E7 instead with its 7 inch screen.

b) don’t mind focus peaking / waveforms / vector scopes / etc are missing, get the BMD VA!
Some people don’t mind living without these and don’t see what is the big deal, others would shudder at the thought of being without them….

c) otherwise…. am left with the last choice of the three 😛 Get a Samurai Blade

Or at least, that is how my thought process went.

Thus personally I went for the Atomos Samurai Blade, which I’ll use with my PMW-F3. It arrives next week! (it just arrived today at my reshipper service in the USA)

Forgot to order the HDMI/SDI converter at the same time from B&H, but oh well…. not a big issue. As I don’t really *need* one urgently I won’t rush to order one now, I’ll just order it in a month or five when I do my next B&H order (cheaper shipping for me as a NZer if I order a few things at once).

I’ll likely get one of these two:

Sony FS100 discontinued, “Sony FS1” coming soon?

Sony FS100 discontinued

I just discovered the Sony FS100 is marked as discontinued:


Can’t buy it at all from B&H, hopefully that means a “FS1” is just around the corner??

Is marked as “closeout” at Adorama:

Amazon (which has Adorama listed in their marketplace) states only 15 units are left:

It is not hard to see why they’re bringing to an end selling the Sony FS100, as even after its price drops, you could still buy for the same kind of money the revolutionary Sony A7s new or the awesome Sony PMW-F3 refurbished (which is the one I own, is a great camera!).

This strongly indicates that a successor for the Sony FS100 could be heading our way, a new E mount camcorder which is priced below the Sony FS7. This makes sense too from a timeline perspective for when the model should be refreshed, as the FS100 has been around for a long time (not as long as the F3, but that has been replaced already by Sony PMW-F5, but the FS100 has been around longer than the FS700 which has for all intents and purposes been replaced by the FS7)

Often people express a wish for a “full frame” camcorder with the Sony A7s sensor in it. But I don’t necessarily need a Sony NEX-VG900 with an A7s sensor in it.

I’d be quite happy for an “FS1” to come along to replace the FS100, just like the FS7 “replaced” the FS700.

Its specs could be:

Same form factor as the FS7 is (but even lighter??), and not shaped like the FS100/FS700!!
FHD 422 10bit XAVC
Slow motion of 120fps at FHD
Sticking with SD cards please (not XQD)
4K 420 8bit at 24/25/30 (maybe if lucky 4K 422 10bit over SDI?)
2x SDI
3 stage internal ND filters
S-log 2 / S-log 3
Reuse the same sensor as is currently in the FS700
Priced same as a JVC GY-LS300

I’d buy one of these.

And its specs/price makes it a very attractive upgrade for FS100 owners (or even Sony F3 owners like myself! Even a FS700 owner might consider this as an interesting sideways move).
And of course it will attract lots of interest from other non-Sony owners too, such as C100/C300 users, AF100 users, and BMD camera owners. And every DSLR/MILC shooter will of course be attracted to it!

Yet at the same time I believe it has a sufficiently restrained specs/price mix that FS7/F5/FS700 owners won’t get outright pissed about it being released (like the FS7 did to F5 owners…).

“Dream” Camera?

Note: This post came out of a thread on Facebook, click through there for more info and context.


Answer: Arri Alexa SXT Studio of course! D’oh 😀
Except I think the SXT series is not yet shipping?

So then instead an Arri Alexa XT Studio. Otherwise, Arri Alexa Mini or Arri Alexa Amira.
Or my next choices after them, Arri Alexa 65 or then Arri Alexa XT Plus.

If getting an Arri Alexa is out of the question for whatever reason, next I’d dream of a Panasonic Varicam 35. Or after that, a Phantom Flex4K would be very dreamy to own.

Next on the list after those, Sony F65. Then Sony F55 or RED Weapon.

Anyway, you can see I’ve gone through soooo many options already (& I likely missed a few along the way), yet all of them are ultra expensive.

Thus we need to confront the fact PRICE does matter a *lot*! When choosing your next camera to own.

The cameras which I could own myself if I really stretched my finances to the max would be:
URSA Mini 4.6K, C100mk2 or Sony FS7 or maaaaaaaybe C300mk2 (but crazy Canon prices don’t appeal to me. Thus ruling both C100mk2 and C300mk2 out, but diehard Canon fans might think they’re worth a second look).
Or on the second hand market a RED Scarlet or Sony FS700 (with Odyssey for the 4K raw goodness).

That would be the short list of everything in that price bracket which is appealing, if I cast the net a little wider I’d include AJA Cion (but it appears to be very poor value for many, even after the price drop. It would need a second major price drop to be able to seriously get into contention), Sony F35 (but VERY big and heavy, and so old and expensive to maintain), and the KineFinity KineMini 4K (or maaaaaaaybe at an ultra stretch the KineMax 6K). The KineFinity cameras are *very* appealing, could even go on the initial short list, but I fear their complete lack of brand recognition could make them a hard sell to use on set and I fear what unknown difficulties there might be in dealing with a distant parent company with me being the only person in the country with one. Plus after the URSA Mini announcement KineFinity’s crazy good pricing no longer books quite as good as before.

Out of those, an URSA Mini 4.6K certainly is the most appealing, and for many weeks I had my heart and head set on getting that for sure at the end of the year. But as I said before, price does matter a *lot*….. it isn’t rational to stretch yourself to the max if you don’t have a clear plan to quickly recoup the cost.

Thus for many of us we should set our sights lower. Such as URSA Mini 4K. But I feel there are a lot of bargains to be found in the secondhand market with the older cameras, such as: Panasonic AF100 / Sony FS100 / Sony PMW-F3 / RED One (and of course the original Canon C100, or even C300, but I’m no Canon fan). And out of all of those which I listed in this paragraph, I find the Sony F3 to be the most appealing, which not at all coincidentally I just purchased and I’ll be going into further detail about the F3 in a later blog post (a photo of my Sony F3 is at the start of the blog post).

But I can say the F3 is easily far better than an AF100 or FS100, and based on my experiences shooting with a RED One I find a R1 in a practical sense to be inferior to a F3. Too early to compare with the URSA Mini 4K vs Sony F3, but the 4K sensor is the “same” as the one in the Blackmagic Design Production Camera, and I haven’t been too impressed with that (worse dynamic range and worse low light than my Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera) thus I wouldn’t be surprised if I find the PMW-F3 preferable over even the URSA Mini 4K.