How Many Pixels Do You Have?

Posted on 5/27/2011 5:40:00 PM

Our friend Terry Belanger from Winnipeg Canada (tbelanger@advance.mb.ca) shared with us his monthly blog article.

The cost of cameras-Camcorders ownership keeps falling. It started with the Sony DCR VX 1000, the pro version was the DSR-PD-150. A small and affordable camcorder compared to a shoulder mounted Betacam that the broadcasters were using. Around this time Hi-8mm was the semi-professional format used in Canada. U-matic 3/4 inches was starting to be replaced by half inches.
 
Lets step back to a time before Video. The days where Kodak roamed the world of film production. Kodak had just three formats Super 8mm, 16mm and 35mm. Lets compare film formats to cameras of today.
 
Super 8, with its consumer cameras, easy cartridges and endless depth of field, always easy to use. It was your only choice if you wanted to capture motion. Not much in photographic skill was required. Super 8 corresponds to todays HD-enabled cell phones and Flip cameras any device with a 1/4-inch sensor or smaller. That all those palmcorder that Sony Canon and Panasonic make.
 

 
16mm meant business: news-gathering, documentary, industrials. 16mm of the 60s is to todays camcorders with 1/3-inch to 2/3-inch sensors. Most of this technology used 3 CCD in a prism block to create an image that got stored on tape. This was first as analog signal then with DV it became digital ( HD was years later)
 

Do you remember Bell and Howell film cameras?


35MM was the "Hollywood format". Films for theater distribution used Panavision and Arri and other cameras. In the last ten years theaters have been replacing the FILM Projectors with Video projectors. Gone are the days of one big theater with one big screen. Now we have one big theater with 6 to 10 screens. . While Kodak took 30 years to scale 35mm down to 16mm, Video camcorders evolved in the opposite direction, starting with 2/3-inch tube type cameras with a separate recorder and then to 1/3-inch CCD sensors in the 1980s. A quarter century later, Panavisions Genesis and Sonys F35, each boasting of a Super 35-size CCD camera. Today Kodak is more into printers and document scanners than "film stock".
 
Its important to remember that the film industry has its roots back to the 1930s and older. The specification on lens go back that far. (more about that later)
 
I have read so many reviews of how great DSLRs are to use to capture Video. I stood in the crowd at NAB this year and listen to presenter after presenter speaking how great DSLR are to use in film production. When Nikon and Canon were airing commercials saying that the commercial was shot using a DSLR. I admit I was impressed. When they took a reverse angle shot I saw the crew and a DSLR camera in use. Was I the only one that noticed a FULL crew used to shoot the video.(more about that later too)
 
This is what Lipes had to say in a recent IFC interview about shooting Tiny Furniture with a Canon 7D: The toughest thing about Tiny Furniture was the camera we were using. Its not very forgiving, and its painful to operate. My longtime friend and AC quit the first day because it was so difficult to work with. In the end, the movie got a lot of attention because we were one of the first couple of features to work with that technology, but its not something Im planning on doing again.
 
I had to look up what a AC was. They are the focus puller I found it at Wikipedia.
 
In Filmmaker's own coverage, focus puller Joe Anderson said, Our fears about horizontal movement, however, were realized. When panning left or right too quickly, the camera displayed the very distracting Jell-O Effect, a result of the cameras CMOS sensor not scanning quickly enough. And Technicolor colorist Sam Daley noted, beware of moir, not just in clothing but in hair as well.
 
WHAT!!! the Emperor has no clothes!!! (Apology to Hans Christian Anderson)
 
You may have heard, correctly, that digital SLRs acquired HD capability after large news organizations pressed Japanese manufacturers on the issue. Why shouldnt photojournalists in faraway war zones, they insisted, double as videographers when needed?
 
That was Canon that was asked and it does make sense for news. Just have one journalist dodge bullets. Yes: I read the headlines but I have yet to read of the Free Press loosing a photojournalist in a hail of bullets.
 

What I see as Problems

Lens: Its important to understand that HDSLRs are first and foremost still cameras. Design, ergonomics and functionality answer to the needs of still photographers. In order to use CINE style PL lenses, for instance, HDSLRs such as Canons EOS 5D Mark II and EOS 7D must have their movable mirror extracted and a custom PL mount attached, the machining of which is expensive and voids warranties.
 
PL lens( Positive Lock) were designed by Arri for 16mm and 35mm film camera. Often PL lens and Prime get intermixed. All PL are fixed focus. Prime refers to a NON-Zoom lens but not the mount. Canon mounts are different than Nikon that are different from Alfa(Sony).
 
Along with the mounts PL lens use T-stop instead of F-stops. Back in the Pre Digital film production days that was critical. A Director of Photography( DOP) could look at a chart and determine what T-stop the camera should be at, in relationship to the film stock in the camera and the lights on the set. ( remember that no one got to see the shot till the next day. The lab processed the film over night) That process went on for decades. It started in Hollywood in the 20s and 30s. Do you remember seeing a director was a one eye sight glass? Well he had 3 or 4 sight glasses. Depending on the Prime lens they had on the camera, each one gave the the same point of view as the lens they each using on the camera.
 
(BTW..a prime lens is a NON zoom lens) Prime lens are usually of higher image quality and faster ( shallower depth of field)
 
I bought my first SLR in the 1970s. It was a Minolta. The style of a new Nikon or Canon or my Pentax has the same form factor. Look at the style of the Panasonic and Sony out this year. They get held different than DSLR. Mute point is you plan to tripod every shot. I have seen many DSLR shooting video hand held.
 
Yes I know users of DSLR dont use PL lens. In use in Winnipeg, both Sony and RED cameras use PL lens out of the box. The Sony PMW-F3 come with 3 Lens ( a 35, 50 and 85mm) Canon and Nikon use lens designed for Photographic use. Canon has 85 different lens to pick from.
 
That one of the NEW options that you as videographer will need to come to grips with. The lens. I think of myself as a semi pro Still photographer. When I decided on what I wanted as a photographic kits, I spent more time researching lens than a camera. I have a photo kit that valued over $4000.00 but my camera body is about $1200. When I go out to capture stills I
usually take my 3 lens with me. ( an Ultra wide,a fast 16-50 zoom and my telephoto). I am researching lens options for the F-3 and the new FS100.
 
Viewfinder: Canons EOS 5D Mark II and EOS 7D provide live view from a small, rear-facing LCD that cant be angled or repositioned. You can attach an independent HD monitor or viewfinder by HDMI, but the live image doesnt entirely fill the screen due to conflicts between HDs 16:9 aspect ratio and the HDSLRs native 3:2 aspect ratio. Only upon playback is the full 1920 x 1080 image available.
 
Pixels and Sensor size: More troublesome is the fact that the 12-, 16-, 18- or 21-megapixel sensors in these HDSLRs must somehow contrive a 1920 x 1080 HD image made up of only two megapixels. But isnt oversampling the original image a good thing, you ask? Yes, but thats not what happens here. Instead of using an excess of active pixels to create a super-detailed subsample for HD use, HDSLRs do the opposite. They simply throw away every two or three horizontal lines of picture, which results in the 1080 horizontal lines needed for HD but also picture sampling at a reduced vertical frequency.
 

Is this a problem?

Video camera manufacturers such as Sony and Panasonic have recently awakened to a growing hue and cry for 35mm. size sensors in true video products: camcorders with real viewfinders, with dual XLR audio inputs, traditional controls like gain and white balance and most critically, an item most people are hardly aware of: an effective optical low-pass filter (OLPF).
 
An OLPF is a glass filter inside every digital video camera, mounted just in front of its sensor (or sensors), which is why you never see it. Its job is to blur the very finest bits of image, only those details smaller than the gaps between the sensors individual photo sites detail that cant be resolved anyway. This technique curbs moir and false color flickering in moving shots.
 
I learned years ago that Standard Resolution lens(SD) have filters that block out High frequencies ( Fine detail) one reason you couldnt use a SD lens on a HD camcorder.
 
To prevent moir in stills, the OLPF in an HDSLR is calibrated to blur image detail too fine for, say, its 21-megapixel sensor to resolve. What gets filtered out are image detail too fine for the coarser 2-megapixel scan created for HD output. In HD video images containing high-contrast horizontal lines or grids, is often shown as ugly stair-step aliasing or a patch of strobing moir that ruins the shot, as there is no fix in post. Try shooting Brick buildings in daylight.
 
As I said, HDSLRs remain, at heart, still cameras. I am going to do an article on just this topic HDSLR and camcorders. It important to look at how you want to work in the field and then you pick the right tool.
 
Someone working of a FILM STYLE production is not working like someone doing Documentaries.
 
(Wait till next month till I rant about this more.)
 

What is available in 2011 in Winnipeg

1) Sony NEX-VG10

$2,000 with 18-200mm zoom
 
Last year, Sony announced the NEX-VG10, a compact palm-held camcorder viewfinder in handle, LCD on side. In addition to the lightweight E-mount zoom bundled with each camera, Sony introduced a wide-angle 16mm E-mount lens and promised more lenses to come all featuring auto focus, auto exposure and optical stabilization. Sony also released an Alpha-to-E-mount adaptor to permit use of Sonys growing line of Alpha DSLR lenses, many made by Zeiss.
 
Because of E-mounts shallow flange focal distance, conjuring third-party adapters for other SLR lens families is duck soup. Novoflex of Germany, for instance, already markets E-mount adapters for Canon FD, Contax/Yashica, Lexica, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, Hasselblad and more.
 
Dont get too excited because the camcorder has the same OLPF problem as all those DSLR.
 
All of the following large-sensor cameras incorporate OLPFs appropriate to their intended image formats. Overt moir is not an issue with them.
 

 

2) Panasonic AG-AF100

PANASONIC AG-AF100. At NAB in April 2010 Panasonic intrigued passersby with a diminutive prototype under glass resembling an HVX200 with the lens sawed off. The glass box came off late last fall and AG-AF100s began to filter into real hands. In Winnipeg it became available.
 
In a nutshell, the AF100 combines a CMOS sensor a tad smaller than Academy Aperture 35mm (known as the Olympus/Kodak Four Thirds standard in the DSLR world) with a Micro Four Thirds (MFT) bayonet mount that specifies a short 20mm flange focal distance akin to the E-mount Sony has standardized to.
 
Effective pixel count for 16:9 is 12.4 megapixels, similar to the 4:3 16.05 megapixel density of Panasonics Lumix DMC-GH2 HDSLR. Again, I ask, why does a 2-megapixel HD image require such pixel density? A BBC crit of the AF100 explores the math here.
 
Panasonics 14-42mm and 14-140mm kit zooms for the GH2 provide auto iris, auto focus and optical image stabilization when used with the AF100. Novoflex makes MFT adapters for the same SLR lens groups as their E-mount adapters, while Micro Four Thirds-to-PL mount adapters are available from Hot Rod Cameras and Solid Camera.
 
The AF100 records to AVCCAM, Panasonics pro nickname for AVCHD (technically known as MPEG-4 AVC/H.264), using SDHC and greater-capacity SDXC cards. There are two slots for relay recording. All HD frame rates are supported including 24p, with variable frame rates up to 60p for slo-mo effects.
 
Nice touches include a generous pixel-free LCoS color viewfinder, ND filter dial, simultaneous HDMI and HD-SDI outputs (both 8-bit uncompressed) and, for on-location flexibility, a removable handle and side grip with three -20 threaded holes for attaching stuff.
 

 

3) Sony NEX-FS100

Announced March of this year and shown all over NAB, ( other than just the Sony booth) Sony again combines E-mount and AVCHD. Sony call AVDHD NXCAM, When we get one in stock in June or July, youll find it is very different than any camcorder you purchased before. Picking up the FS100, the first thing that strikes you is how light it is: a skin of high-impact plastic over a rigid magnesium skeleton, a mere 2lbs., 4 oz. There is no built-in viewfinder. The FS100 steals a page from Sonys EX3 and latches a light viewing tube to its top-mounted LCD. Long-lasting batteries are the same used in Sonys Z1, Z5, Z7 those are 7.2volt L-series
 
The sensor is a Super 35-size CMOS with 1920 x 1080 pixels, which Sony rates at ISO 800. All HD frame rates are supported, including variable 1-60 fps in 60p mode. The FS100s 1080/60p mode, incidentally, cracks AVCHDs 24mbps ceiling, reaching for 28mbps as needed. I dont know what Sony did when I challenge you to shoot at 18db and look for noise. You wont see much if any. Recording is to Memory Stick or SDHC card (single slot accepts either) and/or a 128GB flash-memory solid-state drive called FMU, which captures over 10 hours at the highest AVCHD rate. Whats more, the FS100 can dual-record, sending identical, redundant files to both Memory Stick/SDHC and FMU at the same time for instant back-up. Although the FS100 lacks HD-SDI output, 8-bit uncompressed HD is nevertheless available via HDMI, and Sony has stretched the HDMI standard to enable either RGB 4:4:4 or component 4:2:2, both with timecode (an HDMI first).
 
The FMU, the size of a Mini DV jewel box, slots into FS100s side beneath the handgrip. Like Panasonics AF100, the handgrip can come off, as well as the top handle and mic holder, revealing useful 1/4-20 threaded holes. Turn the FS100 over and you find a riot of additional holes, six 1/4-20s and two 3/8-inch.
 
You can use Nikon, Sony E-mount and Alpha lenses on this camera, We will become Tamron dealer just to offer more lens options.
 

 

4) Sony PMW-F3

$20K with Sony PL mount 35mm, 50mm & 85mm lens
 
Sneak-peeked la Panasonics AF100 a year ago at NAB, this beefy camcorder (like a Handycam on steroids) finally showed up in February and has since taken off like a rocket. Featuring the same Super 35 CMOS sensor as the NEX-FS100 (true), it incorporates signal processing from its CineAlta big sisters, the F23 and F35, and 35mbps MPEG-2 recording to SxS cards from little sister, XDCAM EX. Uncompressed 10-bit 4:2:2 HD, up to 60p, is available from Dual Link HD-SDI connectors at the rear.
 
Physically, the F3 is just a bit more than 5 pounds. It takes the same small batteries as the EX1 and EX3 and can operate three hours on a charge. These are 12 Volts batteries from the broadcast side of Sony. PL and other mounts are attached using the wide breech-lock mount borrowed from Sonys EX3 (larger throat than BNCR or Panavision). Interestingly, Sonys F3 kit lenses, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm all T/2.0 . These three Sony PL mount primes (more are planned) communicate with the F3 in sending f/stop and focus information to the viewfinder like a smaller camcorder would. Hosting two sets of gold contacts in its PL mount, the F3 also
supports Cookes /i Technology and ARRIs similar LDS technology for displaying and recording lens metadata. Near the end of this year Sony has promised two Zoom lens for this camcorder.
 
The F3 is intended as a platform for future developments. At present it can send uncompressed 4:2:2 via HD-SDI to a Sony HDCAM SR recorder; soon Sony will introduce an onboard 1TB solid-state drive the size on an iPhone that can replace the HDCAM SR recorder. F3 firmware upgrades obtained via the Internet will extend the F3s value, for instance, soon adding 10-bit RGB 4:4:4 and S-LOG output (at a price north of $3K). And the F3s unique 3D-LINK option, when activated, will permit two F3s connected by a 10-pin cable to be operated in exact synchrony by a single remote control.
 

 

8) Sony 8K Cineaste camera

Not a product, not yet.
 
Perhaps this camera doesnt belong here not widely available this year No line skipping here either, just real-time debayering (RAW) and subsampling to enable instantaneous 4K output and display. Something to redeem those thousands of Sony 4K SXRD projectors already installed in U.S. commercial theaters?
 
A 4K image is 4096 x 2160 pixels, about four times as detailed as a 1920 x 1080 image. The 8K cameras 20.4 megapixel CMOS sensor is Super 35 in size, with diamond-shaped pixels arranged in an 8K x 2K grid. Oversampling by design no 8K image is possible the camera captures 16-bit RAW images at frame rates up to 120 fps. (A Zeiss Ultra Prime never looked so good.)
 
Sony will soon market an 8K CineAlta camera along with HDCAM SR decks, large-capacity solid-state drives and 4K LCD monitors as Sony Digital Cinema 4K. Consumer 4K cameras will inevitably follow. You heard it here first.
 

Something to consider

I have mentioned before that in 2011 we have a Fork in the Road with it comes to Pro-camcorder. You have the traditional camcorders with 1/3 1/2 and 2/3 imagers. The NEW road is the CMOS 35mm or the smaller 4/3. Both roads go in the same direction. The bumps in the road are at different spots. ( this is just a cute way of saying the workflow is different). Both roads create great video. Its how you plan to shoot. I plan to follow up with another article that explains how I view Documentary style versus Film style.
 
Allen Rhodes from Sony provided me some graphs that show how the different size imagers compare.
 

 
Here a good time to point out that as imagers get larger so does Low Light Sensitivity and Lower Noise. Those specifications are great for everyone. So is Dynamic range ( The difference between the darkest dark and whitest white) Shallow Depth of Field(DOF) is debatable. As a still photographer I use DOF a lot to control what important in my shot. Sometimes I use it to focus attention or something to defocus the background.
 
BUT..imagine you were shooting a wedding and you had shallow DOF and the couple was in focus and the minister was not.
 

My Conclusion

   Super 35 is the common image size.
   1/3 and 1/2 camcorder will not dissappear
   A combined universe of Cine and SLR lenses awaits us.
   Low noise and vastly superior low-light performance is the norm, regardless of price.
 
Terry Belanger
tbelanger@advance.mb.ca
 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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