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Sony 4K Ultra HD Handhelds
Pro and consumer versions including PXW-Z150, PXW-Z100, PXW-X70 / FDR-AX100

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Old February 19th, 2018, 10:28 PM   #1
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Camera upgrade suggestions please

I currently shoot using a Sony FDR-AX100 4K Ultra HD Camcorder. I invariably shoot 4k 30p and generally find the image quality to be excellent. I do have a serious problem and that is when shooting in very bright outdoor light, as is most of my shooting, the EVF and the LCD are way too dim such that I find accurately setting exposure well nigh impossible with no satisfactory work-around available (as has been discussed here previously).

So my question is what would you suggest as an upgrade that would give me the same or similar excellent 4k image quality but also provide an order of magnitude better functionality of the EVF and the LCD. It does not need to be a Sony product, I should add.

Many thanks

John

Last edited by John McCully; February 19th, 2018 at 11:01 PM.
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Old February 19th, 2018, 11:45 PM   #2
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Re: Camera upgrade suggestions please

The large eyecup from a Sony X70 or FS5 will fit the EVF of the AX100.
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Old February 19th, 2018, 11:51 PM   #3
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Re: Camera upgrade suggestions please

Thanks Nate, I gave that a shot already and while it was somewhat helpful it does not get me there.
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Old February 20th, 2018, 12:20 AM   #4
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Re: Camera upgrade suggestions please

John, you don't need a new camera. I think you just need to better understand how to use the one you already have. I've never used an AX100 but I know that it does offer zebras and that is really the only tool you need to set exposure accurately, consistently, quickly, and without any second guessing. How the image looks in the viewfinder should be of no concern at all -- so if you're exposing by how the image looks, I would suggest that you're going about setting exposure all wrong and just making life harder for yourself. Your previous posts on this thread prove my point that exposing by eyeball is a recipe for failure. If you learn to use zebras then you can save yourself thousands of dollars by not having to buy a new camera -- which, even if you did, would just present the same problem anyway.
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Old February 20th, 2018, 01:34 AM   #5
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Re: Camera upgrade suggestions please

Doug, thanks for your input. A long time ago I purchased a copy of your EX1 DVD set which now sits unused alongside my EX1 in a cupboard along with many fond memories. But at the time it changed my life for the better, great stuff, and a belated thanks for that.

The thing is my problem, a love hate relationship with the AX100, is much more than just the problem of setting exposure I spoke of above. I have viewed many of your excellent wildlife videos and enjoyed your contribution here. I just know you are not just in it for the money, important though that undoubtedly is. You enjoy those excursions off the beaten track, a somewhat heavy tripod over your shoulder along with a very good camera, maybe a couple of cool ones in your backpack, and when you come across something promising you are set up in no time and shooting away, delighted and happily in your element, loving being there and doing it, and your results speak to that satisfying reality.

My experience is not initially dissimilar except my tripod is lesser adjusted to my greater years, I forgo the cool ones these days, and when I find something promising I too quickly set things up but when I look at the AX100 LCD or into the VHF I see - sweet fanny adams. I am then not a happy shooter - it is by guess and by god - and yes, often I get nice footage though I don't know it until I get home and view it on my 27" 4K monitor.

Bottom line: I love the footage I can get using my AX100, I hate that often as not I can't see what I'm doing. In this day and age it simply does not have to be like that. The AX100 is 5 year old technology, entry 4k of yesteryear. Huge progress has been made since then. Life is too short to muck around with what by today's standards is such inferior technology. I do take your point about using zebras more effectively and I shall smarten up in that regard. But please understand my grizzle about the useless EVF and LCD on the AX100 is about the ruination of the total out there shooting experience, the thing in itself.

Please pardon my verbosity but my initial post was clearly way too brief.

Cheers.
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Old February 20th, 2018, 01:54 AM   #6
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Re: Camera upgrade suggestions please

Hi John, thanks nice comments, and I understand completely what you are saying. So it sounds like you're happy with the video from the AX100, just not the experience of shooting with it, right? I totally agree that the experience of shooting must be rewarding and enjoyable beyond just how good the footage is that we are capturing. I don't want to shoot with a camera that is a pain in the ass, either.

While I can't say how the OLED viewfinder on the NX80 or Z90 compares to your AX100 (because I have never touched an AX100), I can tell you that I'm very impressed with the viewfinder on my Z90. You should find a way to try one of those new cameras in a showroom and see what you think. The upgrade might be worth it.

But the real answer might be as simple as a new viewfinder for your AX100. Have you considered something like a Zacuto EVF Pro? https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/755493-REG/Zacuto_Z_FIND_EVFP_Z_Finder_EVF_Pro_3_2.html/BI/2855/KBID/3801

It might take a little ingenuity to rig the camera to the viewfinder, but I can assure it will provide a rewarding experience while shooting. For a fraction of the cost of a new camera you get a EVF that is better than any new camera up to the FS7 and above.

Just thinking out loud.
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Old February 20th, 2018, 03:20 AM   #7
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Re: Camera upgrade suggestions please

Unfortunately, the AX100 doesn't output from the HDMI port while recording in 4K mode. All other modes, yes. I have the Z90 and AX100, so for a test, I'll set each one's LCD to max brightness and see if there's any difference out in the sunshine. That won't be for another 12-16 hours Japan time.

I also have that Zacuto EVF, so I'll test with both cameras and report how it works out.

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Old February 20th, 2018, 08:51 AM   #8
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Re: Camera upgrade suggestions please

Are you sure about the HDMI output? Like I said, I don't have an AX100 to try, but with the Z90, NX80, Z150. etc. you can choose to keep the HDMI output active during 4K recording and have the camera blackout the viewfinder instead -- which you won't be using anyway if you're looking through the Zacuto viewfinder. Check to see if that is the case with the AX100. If it works the same as the Z90, NX80, and Z150 you are good to go.
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Old February 20th, 2018, 09:47 AM   #9
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Re: Camera upgrade suggestions please

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Originally Posted by Mark Watson View Post
Unfortunately, the AX100 doesn't output from the HDMI port while recording in 4K mode. All other modes, yes. I have the Z90 and AX100, so for a test, I'll set each one's LCD to max brightness and see if there's any difference out in the sunshine. That won't be for another 12-16 hours Japan time.

I also have that Zacuto EVF, so I'll test with both cameras and report how it works out.

Mark
If you dont want to use the EVF, you could always use a nylon monitor hood. I have HoodMan type hoods for each of the cameras I own.

I have also found that all these Sony cameras that block out live video on the LCD screen when using HDMI work well with Atomos 4k recorders. (I'm guessing they are all based on the exact same Sony "BIONZ" SoC image processors.) You can break away from MPEG Long GOP and go into ProRes and gain double the chroma resolution. (Still stuck in 8bit sampling though) You can always keep the MPEG file on the card as a backup. (If you don't hit the "record" button, you can get live LCD view plus HDMI)

I have found that you can still record and monitor your image with all the great Atomos scopes and focus tools and still be able look down to see camera settings OK. It's a little bit of a pain but it sure is nice to shoot with a "luxurious" bright ,monitor/recorder with extensive tools like that. I LOVE having live waveform scopes.

Rumor has it that Aotoms is working on a much smaller Shogun recorder right now. NAB 2018???

CT

P.s....Sony can you give us live waveform scopes on future cameras the way Panny does?...pleeeeease? (Panny gives both wave and vector)
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Old February 20th, 2018, 10:06 AM   #10
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Re: Camera upgrade suggestions please

I own the AX-700. To maximize my aging eyesight, I utilize the Hoodman EX KIT PRO. Model# HEXKP.

I attach it within seconds via band type straps to the actual LCD monitor. Initially, I used the focus ring to set it up to the proper diopter. Works well. I find I do have to hold the LCD monitor with the left hand as the LCD screen now becomes a large EVF. Hope this helps.
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Old February 20th, 2018, 10:12 AM   #11
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Re: Camera upgrade suggestions please

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Originally Posted by Cliff Totten View Post
Rumor has it that Aotoms is working on a much smaller Shogun recorder right now. NAB 2018???
That is my biggest wish. Using an external recorder to record relatively uncompressed video (and 422)eliminates many issues, including banding from 8bit (it has been shown that it is compression that makes banding worse than going from 8 to 10 bit). And for some cameras it opens up more capabilities than can be exploited internally - like 4K 60P.

I would like the recorder to not have any screen at all, in fact - better battery life, less problem of overheating, cheaper, and of course smaller and lighter. Attach it by a thin SDI cable (on the appropriate cameras) and attach the recorder to one's belt, in one's pocket or in a shoulder bag and you've turned your cheap consumer camera to a pro-level camera in many (yes, not all) ways that can be used handheld.
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Old February 20th, 2018, 11:02 AM   #12
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Re: Camera upgrade suggestions please

Thats true. "Banding" and other "banding-style" artifacts are most often caused by two things. 8bit sampling being REALLY stretched and/or high compression artifacts. Its often very hard to tell the difference!

In a highly compressed h.264 scenerio, the shadows are the very first area that h.264 will sacrifice. It will cluster pixels and average them into "one value blocks" to save data bandwidth. It just keeps macroblocking higher up and higher up the more stesssed h.264 gets. This can look very much like 8bit banding but its not. It can certainly display this in 10bit video too. When you stretch and pull this stuff in post, you bring out all that "ugly" really quick.

ProRes HQ is a very durable. It doesnt do long GOP macroblocking this same way because it has solid frames and doesnt play entropy games in between them. If you see "banding" in 8bit ProRes HQ, you can be sure that its "truely" caused by 8bit sampling stair steps.

But yah,...when we pixel peep "banding" problems all over the web, half of what we think is 8bit banding isn't really that. It's long GOP macro blocking in gradients instead.

Btw...when I say "h.264" I mean the Long GOP flavor, not the all-I type.

Last edited by Cliff Totten; February 20th, 2018 at 10:14 PM.
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Old February 20th, 2018, 12:10 PM   #13
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Re: Camera upgrade suggestions please

John - Since I also have the AX100, use outdoors in bright sun on a sailboat, I can feel your pain. This is probably the worst situation (along with being on the ski slope in bright sun) there is. I did get a Newer LCD hood that does help but is still not optimum as glare is still too great. Better, but not perfect. On the plus side, it is easy to put on and remove, and it didn’t cost much. For situations less than severe bright it is marginally “okay”.

One option I’ve considered is the new Atomos monitor with a much brighter screen than what the LCD screen is, but for outdoor purposes that would be a clumsy and expensive accessory. Looking at the Atomos web page, though, they do have an accessory hood that is what one needs. The Atomos Sunhood totally surrounds the screen and has a slit in front that one peers through and, I think, this is the key.

So, what about an LCD hood (the Amazon Neewer 3.5” LCD Screen Sun Shield is $11.99 (US$ in the US) then customize it with an enclosure similar to the Atomos Sunhood. If one can find a pre-made one that is an enclosure with a view hole so much the better.

The Hoodman 350VIDEO is more expensive than the Newer and might be easier to customize.

I don’t know if things have changed since I was in New Zealand but imported items were really REALLY expensive then. For what it’s worth, I Hitch hiked (picked up by a couple with PhDs in Biology) from Queenstown over Haast Pass to Greymouth back then (still impressed by the prehistoric “fern trees”), and also across Cook Strait as a crew on a sailboat. Great times back then!
Left picture is the Newer
Center picture is the Atomos Sunscreen
Right picture is the Hoodman 350VIDEO but I think the picture is taken from the rear and not the viewing side
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Old February 20th, 2018, 03:43 PM   #14
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Re: Camera upgrade suggestions please

Mark, I eagerly await the results of your tests, many thanks for that. I also discovered that when the AX100 is connected via HDMI cable to a monitor all is fine until the record button is pressed and the monitor then goes blank.

John, I am currently located in the Marlborough Sounds with my sailboat in the Waikawa marina. Indeed it is the worst situation for using the AX100 but regarding lifestyle it's hard to beat. I am disinclined to play around with LCD hoods as I seriously doubt that would solve the problem to my satisfaction especially given what I'm up against.

Importing is now a competitive option in New Zealand in fact I purchased the AX100, and a lot of other gear, from B&H in New York. Great service from B&H and a pleasure to deal with them.

I shall also seriously look at the Atomos solution. Clumsy yes, but an option I shall consider, for sure. Care to make a suggestion as to which model?

Regarding sailing I shall send you a PM as if we go down that road here we might have Mr. Obstreperous Rex getting agitated, and rightly so. Thanks for your input John, much appreciated.
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Old February 20th, 2018, 08:28 PM   #15
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Re: Camera upgrade suggestions please

John -

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Originally Posted by John McCully View Post
Importing is now a competitive option in New Zealand in fact I purchased the AX100, and a lot of other gear, from B&H in New York. Great service from B&H and a pleasure to deal with them.

I shall also seriously look at the Atomos solution. Clumsy yes, but an option I shall consider, for sure. Care to make a suggestion as to which model?
It's been a while since I investigated monitors but the Atomos models had the brightest screens then. I think the one that'd work best for outside shooting on the AX100 is the Ninja Flame based on it's size because it is the smallest model. https://www.atomos.com/ninja-flame Not sure, though, if even with the bright screen it would be enough, hence, they also make a hood for it. It'd definitely be worthwhile to investigate further before springing for buying one. There are other features that would be make it worth the money, though. US $795

As for the prices as I remember them, everything imported (from outside the commonwealth) seemed to cost about 3X the price in the US. Mustang car: 3X, Nikon SLR: 3X (SLRs for the younger folks here are 35mm cameras). On the other hand, saw a Ford Model A touring car, unmodified, with cowl mounted lights and plate glass wind deflectors .... NZ £100! Wanted it so bad but the shipping was expensive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John McCully View Post
John, I am currently located in the Marlborough Sounds with my sailboat in the Waikawa marina. Indeed it is the worst situation for using the AX100 but regarding lifestyle it's hard to beat. I am disinclined to play around with LCD hoods as I seriously doubt that would solve the problem to my satisfaction especially given what I'm up against.
Waikawa Marina? Hey, isn't that in, or next to, Picton? Nice! My Cook Strait crossing was pretty nasty. All the blokes from the skippers crew hit the pub for a few flaggins (sp?) the morning before we left. Needless to say, they weren't that usefull afterward.

The "Neewer" LCD hood I've got works better with a baseball cap and some light blocking using the left hand in moderately bright situations. The good part is it's really cheap compared with the alternatives. I've been thinking of how it could be modified to do a better job. It's also really easy to put on and remove, just slides on and off.

Edit: The Ninja Inferno (costing more) vs the Flame has 60P and Cinema vs the Flame's 30P and no Cinema. One report I read recommended buying their kit so that costs more, fortunately, the kits seem to be typically useable on the next models. Every year there is newer stuff and ... what we have gets older.

Last edited by John Nantz; February 20th, 2018 at 08:55 PM. Reason: Newer model: Inferno
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