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Old May 14th, 2008, 12:21 PM   #1
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Sony EX3 or Varicam 2700?

Hey guys,

Sorry this is one of those annoying apples/oranges types of comparos, but after reading and watching Philip Bloom's review of the EX3, I'm more seriously considering this camera instead of the Varicam 2700.

The main benefits I see with the Sony:

1. Much lower cost
2. Full raster 1080p
3. Smaller/lighter form factor (I do mostly doc work, and also some corporate. Would be great for the doc work, and as long as it looks good my corporate clients will be happy).
4. Technically, all EX cams are accepted by Discovery Channel, so I don't see a problem with the codec etc here for any broadcast outlet.

Benefits of Panny (for me):

1. I already have a large investment in P2 and I already own a Fujinon 13x4.5 BERM -- big investment.
2. Robustness of Varicam, AVC-Intra, more professional camera all around.
3. 4 discrete audio inputs

I could afford either camera, but the biggest thing pushing me to the EX3 is form factor. The Varicam is a big beast for shooting handheld doc all day, and a big shoulder-mount cam doesn't allow the intimacy of a smaller camera.

I know the Varicam will produce some stunning, film-like images, but the Sony's images are really great as well, and truthfully with documentary these days, just about anything flies aesthetically as long as the story is there.

I'd certainly be able to get more money renting the Varicam, but I'm not a rental house and my main clients probably wouldn't be able to pay full boat for it anyway.

So, a tough decision. Curious to hear everyone's thoughts.

Thanks!

Peter
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Old May 14th, 2008, 12:33 PM   #2
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Forgot to mention: there will be a 1/2" to 2/3" B4 adaptor, so I could still use my Fuji lens on this Sony, assuming it didn't totally throw off the ergonomics. There would be a magnification factor, as well.

Peter
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Old May 14th, 2008, 01:13 PM   #3
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This will sound cliche, but do you want a Corolla or do you want a Ferrari? Either will get you there but one will be much faster and more fun to drive.

Do you have all of the necessary lighting, grip, sound, killer tripod? If not, get the Sony and buy the RIGHT support gear. If you do already have a real tripod, grip, lighting and audio, buy the 2700, it is a better camera and will undoubtedly have a better image.

Best,

Dan
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Old May 14th, 2008, 01:28 PM   #4
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Thanks Dan! Yep, I've got all the necessary support gear (OConnor 1030HD, Kino and Arri Kits, etc). I think my biggest question mark right now is how much I would really gain in image quality by going with the Varicam over the EX3 weighed against how much I would lose in terms having a camera with a smaller form factor. I guess the only way to really know is get the two next two each other and check out image and ergonomics and make a determination. So looks like I'll be waiting till the fall for that. Thanks again,

Peter
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Old May 14th, 2008, 02:24 PM   #5
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I think you know my answer already, Peter, but for the sake of others considering the same...

I don't see the two being competitors at all; two completely different form factors (handheld with a proprietary lens adapter option vs. ENG shoulder-rig), two different chip sizes (1/2" inch vs. 2/3") and two different codecs/color spaces (XDCAM long-GOP 4:2:0 vs. I-frame DVCPRO 4:2:2 with AVC-I option). The EX's only have (2) cards slots - the 2700 has 5. Not to mention completely different price-point/markets - they're separated by more than $30k!. These two cams couldn't be further apart in all aspects.

As with so many of the "which is better" questions it's all about personal preferences, workflow and your own production needs.

The EX's are much more affordable but comparatively limited in options.

If money is the determining factor then go with the EX's; but if you want a system you can actually grow with and that won't be outmoded in 5 years get the 2700. Not to mention the "dog & pony show" factor of showing up with a full-size rig that has the "Varicam" label on it's casing. And if you need the perfect visual match-up for the handheld arena, get the 200A.

To me, that's one of the major selling points of the P2 system: Pick whatever camera you want and the same P2 card works in them all. Sony does not offer this cross-utilization (yet). You can't use the same media between the EX series and the PDW's - SxS cards for the EX's; XDCAM discs for PDW's. It's a no-brainer.
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Old May 14th, 2008, 02:35 PM   #6
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It is an interesting question, even though the price difference suggests that it shouldn't be! It's hard to imagine the two will have similar image quality, though the spec says they should - in fact maybe even that the EX3 should be better.
One HUGE thing I think, is the rolling shutter on the EX3. For moving subjects and even just pans I get the feeling you'll see jerkiness. I think this is the reason why a lot of these high-spec cameras are coming in at a hard to believe low price (EX1, RED, SI-2k, Infinity) - it's because they are cutting a corner to get there.
I must say if it was me I might go for the HPX2000, as it's basically the same as the Varicam except can only do 24/25/30/50/60 fps instead of the inbetween speeds (totally pointless for me), and costs 10k less.
Ready for the flak about the rolling shutter thing - not an expert at all, just been shooting tests with EX1 with a mind to getting an EX3 perhaps, and have done HPX2100 tests recently and that looked fabulous.
Steve
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Old May 14th, 2008, 02:38 PM   #7
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Thanks Robert! I did know where you'd weigh in, but it's always good to hear your analysis.

My biggest thing about discussions regarding chip size, codecs, form factors always come down to: but what does it look like on the viewer's TV? This is where I think the comparison between these two cameras MAY be valid. I say may because of course I haven't seen the new Varicam yet and maybe it just totally blows the EX away. But it's not going to look like a Red, so the comparison isn't totally apples and oranges, and the native res of the EX is actually higher! So I think the comparison, when we strictly talk about what ends out on-screen, may (and I emphasize MAY) be valid. Again, the proof will be lining the two up and comparing images.

The dog and pony of the Varicam will certainly be great for my corporate/commercial clients, but of course any of my doc subjects won't know if from adam, so there's no benefit on that end.

Maybe a Varicam and a Red scarlet is the solution. Horses for courses.

Anyway, thanks again for the input. Can't wait to line up the EX and Varicam next to one another in the fall!

Peter
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Old May 14th, 2008, 02:42 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Phillipps View Post
It is an interesting question, even though the price difference suggests that it shouldn't be! It's hard to imagine the two will have similar image quality, though the spec says they should - in fact maybe even that the EX3 should be better.
One HUGE thing I think, is the rolling shutter on the EX3. For moving subjects and even just pans I get the feeling you'll see jerkiness. I think this is the reason why a lot of these high-spec cameras are coming in at a hard to believe low price (EX1, RED, SI-2k, Infinity) - it's because they are cutting a corner to get there.
I must say if it was me I might go for the HPX2000, as it's basically the same as the Varicam except can only do 24/25/30/50/60 fps instead of the inbetween speeds (totally pointless for me), and costs 10k less.
Ready for the flak about the rolling shutter thing - not an expert at all, just been shooting tests with EX1 with a mind to getting an EX3 perhaps, and have done HPX2100 tests recently and that looked fabulous.
Steve
My point exactly Steve: Even though it SHOULDN'T be a valid comparison, given price points, when it comes down to image quality, maybe it will be.

What has been your experience with the rolling shutter issue with the EX1? The one thing I love about Panasonic is that there is never a mystery about what you're going to get: no codec issues, no rolling shutter. Rock solid.

Peter
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Old May 14th, 2008, 02:46 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Richardson View Post
But it's not going to look like a Red...
Just keep in mind, RED is a digital-film replacement workflow, not video, since RED does not record audio in-camera, so unless you're ready to hire an audio crew or double-up on your responsibilities then you shouldn't put a banana in your "apples to oranges" considerations.
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Old May 14th, 2008, 02:52 PM   #10
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Peter, as I said I've only just done a few tests the last few days so don't know that much - not even got FCP or anything so just viewing played straight from camera. But when filming flying birds for example, the background seems very jerky as you pan along. Same with scenic pans, though less so 'cos the move is slower. I really do think that this cut corner is why these cams can be so "cheap". Agree with you 100% that best thing about Varicam et al is you know exactly what you're gonna get - and so do your producers! The look of the images from the new Varicam shouldn't be an unknown quantity even though it's not out yet - it'll be just like the old one as nothing really important has changed (AVC codec maybe interesting but won't affect pic that much). HPX2100 worked really well, timleapse and loop record great benefit over original Varicam too.
Steve
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Old May 14th, 2008, 03:11 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Peter Richardson View Post
I guess the only way to really know is get the two next two each other and check out image and ergonomics and make a determination. So looks like I'll be waiting till the fall for that.
From what I've heard, (correct me if wrong) the 2700 is a Varicam version of the 2100, and hence for straightforward shooting an EX3/2100 quality comparison is likely to tell you pretty much what an EX3/2700 comparison will.

My own suspicion is that there won't be much difference in quality between the two - one better in some respects, the other in others. I also feel a test is almost impossible to do fairly, put a different lens on one and get a different result. And it's not really possible to say same lens on each, one being 1/2", the other 2/3" - yes, adaptors are available, but with a big change in effective lens angles.

So, given how much more expensive the Varicam is over the EX, what does the money get you? Versatility and connectivity, maybe, but my vote would go for the ability to use the much more industry standard 2/3" lenses. In which case, as a third option, have you looked at Sonys new 700 with 50Mbs recording, which might be more of a 2100/2700 rival? Which will then (with adaptor) record to either disc OR SxS?
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Old May 14th, 2008, 03:27 PM   #12
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I'm not convinced by this statement that it's difficult to compare 'cos you can't get the same lenses etc. it comes up all the time. I think as long as you know you've a good lens on each (ideally the one that you'd likely be using if you bought one) and set them to an equivalent fov then it'll do fine. I think the sort of comparison that we're often talking about is finding out whether the two are close, not whether one might have a minute edge which could be attributed to the lens differences. We know that the Varicam/Sony 750 etc. are the defacto standards at present and accepted by all, so if the EX3 stands side-by-side with one of these and is fairly close in field conditions (which must include motion artefacts, codec problems on transmission, whether your editor can actually get it into his system, even things like whether you can focus the thing with the built in EVF -tricky on the EX1) and gets pretty close then that's goo enough. I'm yet to be convinced of this though.
Steve
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Old May 14th, 2008, 07:32 PM   #13
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if the ex3 were priced higher than the varicam what would people advise? "if you really want more resolution go with the ex3" "you get a heavy body with teh varicam, but if you pay more you can get everything miniaturized." etc.

when something costs more than something else, people generally believe it is better... probably because most of the time it is. sometimes that's not precisely true.
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Old May 14th, 2008, 07:42 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Robert Lane View Post
Just keep in mind, RED is a digital-film replacement workflow, not video, since RED does not record audio in-camera, so unless you're ready to hire an audio crew or double-up on your responsibilities then you shouldn't put a banana in your "apples to oranges" considerations.
Hi Robert:

From what I was told at the first LA RED User Group meeting, the RED does record audio in camera, they were waiting for the latest software build and it delivered a few months ago so audio is up and recording.

Have you ever seen Mini XLR connections? Neither had I but that is what the RED One has on the body. Nobody I have seen on the web has reported back on the audio quality recorded by the RED though.

Dan
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Old May 14th, 2008, 08:29 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Robert Lane View Post
Just keep in mind, RED is a digital-film replacement workflow, not video, since RED does not record audio in-camera, so unless you're ready to hire an audio crew or double-up on your responsibilities then you shouldn't put a banana in your "apples to oranges" considerations.

I was really citing the Red for the purpose of giving an example of a camera that will produce an image dramatically different to either the EX or the 2700 -- 4k, DOF, codec, etc. Obviously the EX and 2700 are much more similar to one another and therefore an image comparison will be more valid. The Red DOES record audio in-camera, BTW. I should know, I have one :)

Peter
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