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Sony PMW-300, PXW-X200, PXW-X180 (back to EX3 & EX1) recording to SxS flash memory.


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Old February 26th, 2012, 05:56 PM   #1
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EX3 nanoflash vs samurai?

Is the "upgrade" to a 10 bit recorder over the nanoflash worth it? I just bought a used nanoflash and have a limited time to return it. I like it, but wonder if I should have gone 10 bit. I have heard the noise level of the ex3 may not make the higher 10 bit recorders worth losing features such as over/undercranking, swappable cf cards, and the reported durability of the nanoflash. Has anyone done a good comparison of these two or perhaps the more expensive gemini? I am not finding much info on a true comparison of quality of these with the ex3 anywhere. And, now that they have been out for awhile, how are the samurais holding up in the field?

If it helps, I mainly produce wildlife dvd's and stock footage wildlife shots for tv production. Any help is appreciated.
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Old February 26th, 2012, 09:35 PM   #2
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Re: EX3 nanoflash vs samurai?

Brad,
My personal feeling is that the nanoflash is an excellent match for the EX1 / EX3. The nano has numerous features that truly extend the functionality of the EX cameras, and in the last two years my ex1 hasn't gone anywhere without its companion nano. Obviously there are newer recorders with some interesting features, but when I look at what the nanoflash brings to the table, I'm not ready to jump to anything else for the EX. (I am thinking that a Gemini may be the appropriate companion for my F3, but that's another story.)
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Old February 27th, 2012, 01:34 AM   #3
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Re: EX3 nanoflash vs samurai?

The EX3 and NanoFlash combo is a great one. I have a NanoFlash, Samurai and a Gemini. So I've used all three. Each one has it's strengths and weaknesses.

The EX3 is not the quietest of cameras, it does have a moderate amount of image noise. You will find that this will limit your ability to grade the images more than whether you are using 8 bit as opposed to 10 bit. The compact files from the NanoFlash make using CF cards practical and cost effective. When you move to the Samurai you are generating much bigger files and then you have to use delicate hard drives or costly SSD's and there is no hot-swap possibility. The NanoFlash can do time-lapse, over cranking and a very wide range of bit rates. Use it at 50Mb/s and the files are 100% compatible with the XDCAM HD optical disc system which broadcasters really like as it's very easy for them to handle and archive.

The Samurai does have a built in screen, which is very convenient, but the screen isn't really good enough for accurate exposure or focus, so it's not really a substitute for a decent monitor. ProRes is a great codec and if your Mac based it is nice to have everything in one codec.

The Gemini, despite being a fantastic device is overkill on the EX3. You would certainly be crazy shooting uncompressed with it. The new announcement about also being able to do DNxHD in the future is great, but that's not until later in the year.

Both are great units. The Samurai is now getting past it's initial firmware bugs (the NanoFlash had a few too), and is a great recorder for use on lower noise cameras but IMHO the NanoFlash hits the sweet spot with the EX3. Little things like the way it goes to sleep when you turn the camera off, the tally lights on every side, the way you can run both the camera and recorder from a Swit EX battery with D-Tap without the need for additional adapters and the very light weight make it nice to use.
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Last edited by Alister Chapman; February 27th, 2012 at 03:25 AM.
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Old February 27th, 2012, 10:25 PM   #4
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Re: EX3 nanoflash vs samurai?

Alister, how would the Blackmagic unit fit into this mix? The latest version seems nice and the price is hard to beat.
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Old February 28th, 2012, 01:59 AM   #5
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Re: EX3 nanoflash vs samurai?

The shuttle is interesting. Very compact and certainly cheap. I have not used one so my comments are based on arms length opinion. Like the Samurai your creating much larger files, so backup, transfers and archiving have to be considered, you will need a lot more hard drives for a big project than you would with a NanoFlash. There's no monitor or other LCD display to tell you what's going on, for example trying to diagnose a connection problem. The NanoFlash tells you if the connection is intermittent and exactly what the standard of the signal your sending it is and on the Samurai you'll see any issues on the monitor. Uncompressed is just not worth the data overhead with an EX1/EX3 so you'll use DNxHD.

Not sure about the shuttle, it appears to have the down sides of both the NanoFlash (no monitor) and Samurai (big files, SSD) without the plus points of either. It's own plus is cost.
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Old February 28th, 2012, 02:18 AM   #6
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Re: EX3 nanoflash vs samurai?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alister Chapman View Post
The EX3 and NanoFlash combo is a great one. I have a NanoFlash, Samurai and a Gemini. So I've used all three. Each one has it's strengths and weaknesses.

. Little things like the way it goes to sleep when you turn the camera off, .....
Just a quick question.

I have my Nanoflash powered from the front D=Tap power socket on my 350. The Nano used to power off when the camera switched off but something has changed. It does not turn off unless I pull the power cable. I just cant see a setting to enable power down.

Simple answer I hope?

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Old February 28th, 2012, 05:51 AM   #7
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Re: EX3 nanoflash vs samurai?

Don't have mine in front of me right now but there should be a low power mode option in the system menu somewhere.
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Old February 29th, 2012, 08:41 AM   #8
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Re: EX3 nanoflash vs samurai?

Dear Tim,

If you are running our latest firmware, 1.6.248, then there is a Power Save feature. It works very well.

When the HD-SDI input goes away, the nanoFlash powers down.

When the HD-SDI input returns, it powers on quickly.
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Old March 1st, 2012, 08:54 AM   #9
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Re: EX3 nanoflash vs samurai?

Thanks for all your help guys. That makes me feel better. One more question: I plan to set the nanoflash at Long GOP 100 or 50 mb/s but wondering if 720p60 would still be my best setting? Again, I wish to make dvd's but also, now that I have the nanoflash, I want to be able to sell some footage for broadcast. Please keep in mind that I am shooting wildlife so there will be lots of motion involved. Thanks again for any advice, as these forums have so much info and are great, but I am still undecided on this point as well.
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Old March 1st, 2012, 03:43 PM   #10
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Re: EX3 nanoflash vs samurai?

Well, no broadcaster is broadcasting at 60P as far as I know, so doubt there is a huge demand for 60P footage. As we go forwards I'm sure we will see 60P broadcasts but these are most likely going to be 1080p60. If it was me I'd shoot 1080i60 if your worried about motion or 1080p30.

I'd use at least 80Mbps (long GoP) if you can.
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Old March 1st, 2012, 05:33 PM   #11
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Re: EX3 nanoflash vs samurai?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad Bulin View Post
Thanks again for any advice, as these forums have so much info and are great, but I am still undecided on this point as well.
Hey Brad, I assume if you are in Gardner you'll be spending a lot of time shooting in Yellowstone. I love it there and try to stop by for at least a 2-3 days every year. I highly recommend shooting everyhting at 1080/30P. You'll have a tough time selling any 720P footage. It's only medium definition.

You should be just fine shooting straight to the SxS cards if you take the time to dial in the "look" you want in the camera with a picture profile and get the exposure and white balance correct. However, if you intend on shooting with a flat profile and doing a lot of grading, then I would recommend the 10 bit Samurai. Those files will be a lot bigger than the Nano or Sxs cards, but at least they'll be 10 bit instead of 8 bit. In my opinion, despite the higher bit rate, the Nano doesn't look any different than the SxS cards so I wouldn't waste my time or money on buying one. Do a test of your own if you can borrow one, and you'll be hard pressed to see any difference between the Nano @ 100Mbps and SxS at 35Mbps. It sounds like a big difference on paper, but it doesn't amount to much in the real world.

I'm not saying the difference is that great between the SxS can Samurai either, but at least your dealing a 10 bit file if you're going to be grading.

Here's some Yellowstone stuff I shot last fall and the year before. Can't wait to go back.


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Old March 1st, 2012, 09:27 PM   #12
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Re: EX3 nanoflash vs samurai?

If you are in the UK and the BBC mandates 50Mbps or above, both the Nanoflash and Samurai will help your footage to get accepted. For looser delivery guidelines such as Discovery Channel, you are more than welcome to stick to SxS.
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Old March 2nd, 2012, 02:17 AM   #13
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Re: EX3 nanoflash vs samurai?

I agree with part of Doug's response - there isn't much noticeable difference to the eye between the 35Mb SxS and the nanoFlash's higher bitrates when using an EX1/3. However, recording 10bits isn't going to increase the ability to grade because the image already has quite a lot of noise, which is the limiting factor, not 8bits. I have tested recording uncompressed thru a Blackmagic Decklink Extreme 3D and then reduced noise with Neat Video and then exported to Cineform 422 (Film Scan 2 - highest setting). I also recorded to the nanoFlash at 280Mb I-frame, reduced noise with NV and exported to Cineform with the same settings. I also did the conversions to Cineform without reducing noise and the file sizes were 3-4 times as large due to all of the noise. (with a 12-core PC, it took 12mins of rendering time per 1 minute of video to render from Premiere Pro CS5 using Neat Video)

So, I then brought these files into After Effects and graded in 32bpc mode and every time, the limiting factor was noise. However, the noise reduced images had far more ability to be pushed and altered than any of the 10bit & 8bit source files.

Personally, I only use my nanoFlash with my EX3 (or EX1) for a backup recording or for very long record times. Although, I am testing it with a FS100 where dual CF slots and MPEG2 format provide significant advantages to the single internal SD card & H264 recording.

Side note: just in case you are considering the IDX V-mount adapter plate for the EX3, be aware that it blocks the rear shoe and requires some modifications in order to un-block the rear shoe.

Attached are stills from an event last year of the SxS and 100Mb L-GOP nanoFlash as well as a jpeg from Photoshop where I layered the SxS over the nanoFlash and set the SxS image to Difference and then used Levels to make the difference easier to see. I also included JPEGs to make it easier to see the originals if you don't want to download the TIFFs. Btw, I just noticed that the SxS JPEG is only 823KB whereas the nanoFlash's JPEG is 1.00MB. This tells you that there is more information recorded in the nanoFlash's image.
Attached Thumbnails
EX3 nanoflash vs samurai?-sxs.still.tif   EX3 nanoflash vs samurai?-nanoflash.still.tif  

EX3 nanoflash vs samurai?-difference.jpg   EX3 nanoflash vs samurai?-nano.still003.jpg  

EX3 nanoflash vs samurai?-sxs.still005.jpg  
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Old March 2nd, 2012, 02:23 AM   #14
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Re: EX3 nanoflash vs samurai?

I don't agree with Doug on this at all. There is a huge difference between a NanoFlash at 80Mb/s or higher and an EX at 35Mb/s. Like wise between the EX and a Samurai.

As Jack has already said if you want to sell your footage to broadcasters, 50Mb/s plus will widen your possible market no end. Also being able to offer "broadcast quality" may help you differentiate your clips from all the home video clips out there.

Going to 80Mb/s and above on the NanoFlash will lead to much reduced quantisation noise and less macro blocking. If you shoot a big wide static shot then I doubt you see this on a moderate sized TV. But if you have moving objects in your shot then the situation can change very quickly. Something like an erupting geyser with lots of random motion or rippling water can cause the 35Mb/s of the EX cameras to degrade noticeably. Initially the EX codec will deal with this by throwing away more data and the image will soften slightly, which might not be obvious to the viewer, but there comes a point where it just can't cope and as well as the softening you get a lot of additional mosquito/quantisation noise, which will limit how much you can grade the image. This usually shows up as banding on evenly illuminated parts of the image, things like the sky or wall and is often blamed on 8 bit recordings which is very often nothing to do with the problem.

Recording to an external recorder at a higher bit rate, whether a NanoFlash or Samurai will reduce or eliminate these issues. But, the EX3 is quite a noisy camera. The noise level is higher than the sample size of an 8 bit recorder, so an 8 bit recorder is capable of sampling all the real detail and brightness levels from the camera. All going to 10 bit does is create bigger files, it does not give you any significant grading advantage when the noise floor is as high as it is on an EX. This has been discussed on these boards many times and research by the EBU and others (European Broadcasting Union) bears this out. The EBU stating that with most current cameras there is no advantage to be gained from shooting 10 bit for the majority of productions. With a less noisy camera, then 10 bit becomes clearly advantageous and cameras like the F3 can really benefit from a 10 bit recorder, but that's not the case here. The EX's noise levels will limit how far you can push it in post long before any differences between a 10 bit or 8 bit recording become apparent.

For an idea of what can happen to the 35Mb/s EX codec take a look at the images here: This is why you want an external recorder! | XDCAM-USER.COM

Done with a Samurai, but a NanoFlash at 80Mb/s or higher will bring an almost identical reduction in the mosquito noise (all the fuzzy lines around the branches). It looks like a little swarm of mosquitos buzzing around in the branches in the video. I used to have a similar example comparing a Sony PDW-700 (at 50Mb/s) and a NanoFlash at 100Mb/s on my site, but lost that when I had a server drive failure last year.
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Old March 2nd, 2012, 06:18 AM   #15
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Re: EX3 nanoflash vs samurai?

Well, as expected, there is no shortage of opinions on this topic. But I stand by my statements because I have done my own testing under controlled conditions and looked at the results very carefully. I know what I have seen and not seen with my own eyes. I don't have to rely on theory or someone else's opinions. Take that for what is is worth, because it makes no difference at all to me what someone else decides to do with their money and time.

BTW, I actually own a Nanoflash and a Samurai, yet I don't use them for the type of shooting being discussed here because the supposed benefits just don't show up in the real world.
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