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Quality of picture IS important. The first two things that register when watching a video/film – quality of picture and sound. If a certain standard isn’t met with either of those elements, 9 out of 10 times we’ll switch off.

Mike Ruppert at Marlin PR/Sony, has been following me on Twitter for a while and asked me if i’d be interested in having a new Sony PMW-F3 kit for a week. A no brainer.

The kit arrived and it contained the following:

    • Sony PMW-F3 body
    • 35mm, 50mm, 85mm Sony prime lenses (T2.0)
    • 9″ HD directors monitor
    • 32GB SxS card
    • Batteries etc.

First up, I don’t claim to be a cinematographer. I’m not an expert on camera’s and all that technical stuff. I’m a filmmaker keen on getting behind the camera and learning the art of cinematography. I own a well respected video productions company which means I’m a cameraman, producer, editor etc. I know the basics and have a fair grasp on camera technology.

As soon as I was told I could have the camera, I had to work out what to film over the week. Luckily I was able to make a few things happen to give me a couple of projects to work on. The first was a live indoor concert event organised by the drummer of Embrace (big 90’s band), and the other was a music video for an incredibly talented singer/songwriter. I was also going to get out there and film a lot of random things to test the camera under various lighting conditions.

Having used the Sony EX1 previously, navigating the F3’s menu’s was easy – it’s the same kind of set-up. Very easy to find things, incredibly user friendly with plenty of programmable preset buttons scattered around the camera’s body.

My experience with the camera was a very pleasant one. The only thing I missed was a zoom lens. Especially when you’re shooting documentary/guerilla style. You need to be able to zoom in quickly, frame up and get that shot. With the prime lenses it took a little longer to get that shot, some shots I had to miss as the moment had passed. Anyway.

The first thing I shot was outdoors in bright sunlight. I filmed everything using the cool slo-mo function on the camera, you can over-crank to 50/25p at 720p resolution. A great feature. I was mainly using the 50mm lens on this occasion. A great start to my week with the camera as I was getting some stunning sunshiny shots. I was using the histogram function to help guide me on exposure because of the very bright lighting conditions. You can’t trust the 3.5″ LCD screen to give you accurate exposure.

Working with the F3 was like using a proper ‘film’ camera. It’s weighty and with the large prime lenses just looks like a grown-ups camera. Silly I know.

Next on the list was filming a behind the scenes documentary at a battle of the bands type event. Here is where the low light capability of the camera would be put to the test. Again, not having a zoom lens was going to cause me a few problems and would mean me not being able to get closer to the subject. This is where I made my first mistake. I’d accidentally knocked the ND filter lever and had a ND1 filter on in VERY low light conditions. I opened the iris and cranked up the gain and it did a great job – I was scratching my head though thinking it should be brighter than this surely? Anyway, it didn’t take me long to realise what I had done.

The low light capabilities of this camera are amazing! Crisp, clean and almost noise free pictures. I guess that’ll be the Super35mm sensor.

The highlight of my week was always going to be shooting another music video. Under controlled lighting conditions and in one location. Making camera set-up easier to manage. It was also the first real chance I had at using the 9″ HD monitor. It was a dream working with the external monitor! The majority of the video was in very low light conditions, and with candle light. The pictures were stunning. Beautiful skin tones from the candlelight, worked a treat. This is where working with the prime lenses really worked. It’s this kind of environment that they were designed for.

After the music video I ended up filming a lot random things, including a day filming at a local abbey, with lots of people shots. I tried to use as much of the various settings as possible. Filming fast moving objects in the slo-mo setting and turning up the shutter speed to 1/1000 and so on.

The post-production workflow of the F3 is great. I’ve been editing in Final Cut Pro with the XDCAM EX codec (35mb/s) that the camera records on to the SxS cards. I didn’t convert to ProRes 422 (not sure if this was the right move, but so far the images have been fine). Grading has been a treat, I’m used to grading video shot on the Canon 5D MKII, there’s so much more colour information to play with from the F3 (lots more).

I’m so pleased with the camera, I’ve decided to shoot future corporate video projects on the F3 as the hire price is very reasonable. I won’t be buying one anytime soon though as I just don’t have £15k+ available.

I’ve included the Natalie McCool music video on this page, shot on the F3. There’s was only me behind the camera. I’ll soon be uploading the other two projects shortly. You can see several screen grabs below (scroll down).

Many thanks to Mike at Marlin for letting me loose with this amazing camera.

Have you used the F3? Do you have anything to add? Maybe you could go a little deeper with the technology? Please do add a comment below.

Thanks for stopping by


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