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Sony XDCAM PMW-F3 CineAlta
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Old June 1st, 2012, 12:30 PM   #16
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Re: F3 vs Alexa

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Originally Posted by Leonard Levy View Post
The left image is more out of focus on the background also though which implies to me either different lenses or f stops. What's up with that?
I gave the details in the first post. F3 had Red 18-50, Alexa had an Optimo Rouge. I made efforts to get stops somewhat close, but was difficult with the Alexa kit I had, and trying to keep the Alexa at 800.
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Old June 1st, 2012, 10:11 PM   #17
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Re: F3 vs Alexa

Regardless of which one is from which camera, I significantly prefer the image on the right. It's sharper, has better contrast, the background is more focussed.

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Old June 2nd, 2012, 12:16 AM   #18
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Re: F3 vs Alexa

I'm guessing both Sharpness and contrast are quiet likely the difference between the Rouge and the Red lens. Huge difference in price between these. That's why its hard to do comparison shoots, people are often comparing things that aren't matched. It's easy to imagine how close these might be of it was the same lens.
What was the f stop on the Alexa ( or will that give it away?)
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Old June 2nd, 2012, 04:23 AM   #19
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Re: F3 vs Alexa

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Regardless of which one is from which camera, I significantly prefer the image on the right. It's sharper, has better contrast, the background is more focussed.
The contrast is just the way the chips fell as I was trying to match the two cameras, you have to understand both frames are slightly graded. They look the same to me, in terms of contrast. (not sure if you're looking at the first set of stills or the second, I'm speaking of the first set). Background more in focus? That's just a deeper stop on the Alexa, as the heaviest ND I had was a .9.

When you're shooting 10 and 12 bit, contrast is whatever you want it to be in the grade. Adding or removing the amount of the difference between lenses is beyond trivial, in my experience.

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Originally Posted by Leonard Levy View Post
I'm guessing both Sharpness and contrast are quiet likely the difference between the Rouge and the Red lens.
Sharpness yes. Contrast, no. Again, it's hard to know if you're talking about the first set of stills or the second. Contrast on the Alexa in the second set is lower because it's squeezing ~1.5 more stops of latitude into the same "space".

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Originally Posted by Leonard Levy View Post
Huge difference in price between these. That's why its hard to do comparison shoots, people are often comparing things that aren't matched. It's easy to imagine how close these might be of it was the same lens.
What was the f stop on the Alexa ( or will that give it away?)
Going back to 2005, I was involved in not one but two "camera shootouts", one published by DV Magazine, and the other instigated by our very own Chris Hurd (2006). Both had some very respected camera technologists involved. My lesson? You can try to match as many things as you can, but there will ALWAYS be things you can't match, which bring uncertainties into the equation. I cannot even pretend this was a scientific comparison...I've been a party to that, it's sh___ton on work, and for little reward. :-)

But anyway, in this case, it was mainly a question of Rec709 mode on the Alexa or Log-C mode, to compare with S-Log. One Alexa mode sacrifices latitude for ease of use, the other stuffs as much latitude into the codec as possible at the expense of unaided viewing. Then you have lenses....it goes on and on.

In the end the little "test" I shot was for my own curiosity, so I chose modes and lenses to suit my likely scenarios. I've always wondered just how much softer the Red 18-50 lens is than a modern zoom (turns out, not much to my eye), and how much more latitude the Alexa records (a noticeable amount, but only in extreme situations).
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Old June 2nd, 2012, 04:28 AM   #20
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Re: F3 vs Alexa

And I forgot of course the REAL thing I was trying to accomplish with this little comparison...can I, in good conscience, book my own camera on shoots I'm hired for and tell the client "it's kinda like a budget Alexa".

I now feel I can say that, and I have a couple of stills to argue my case :-)
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Old June 2nd, 2012, 05:49 AM   #21
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Re: F3 vs Alexa

Nate, I'm fully with you on the difficulties of getting a truly level playing field for camera tests. Even in a completely controlled studio environment it takes a lot of time and effort to minimise any un equality. I've done quick comparisons before and been shot down in flames because this or that was not perfectly matched. I think the whole point of quick tests is to show any gross differences or as in this case striking similarities. Very often the minute differences end up being in consequential anyway simply due to differences in lighting, location, shooting style etc.

I don't think there is any doubt that the Alexa is the better camera overall, but the F3 is just so incredibly close and at such a fraction of the price. I'd love to see a big budget movie shot on an F3, I bet the audience wouldn't guess it was shot with a sub $20k camera. Whenever I've seen my F3 footage projected I've been impressed with the way the image looks.
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Old June 2nd, 2012, 06:55 AM   #22
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Re: F3 vs Alexa

I am impressed by the F3, no doubt. But I still think the Alexa has better image quality. I still think it's enough that if I were shooting a movie, I'd want it.

It might be meaningful to do a comparison using film-quality lighting. (ie tons more light, cast directly on the subject).

And by the way, I don't think you said explicitly that the Alexa was on the right. Is the cat officially out of the bag now?

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Old June 2nd, 2012, 12:55 PM   #23
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Re: F3 vs Alexa

Nate,
I trust you realize my comments weren't meant as a criticism of the comparison but just a confirmation that its murder to make perfect comparisons and many of the subtle differences people were noticing probably had nothing to do with Alexa vs F3.
A fun exercise though and I learned quite a bit especially with your comments about the added latittude of the Alexa.
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Old June 2nd, 2012, 01:15 PM   #24
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Re: F3 vs Alexa

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I am impressed by the F3, no doubt. But I still think the Alexa has better image quality. I still think it's enough that if I were shooting a movie, I'd want it.
Agreed, on all points.

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Originally Posted by Richard Cavell View Post
It might be meaningful to do a comparison using film-quality lighting. (ie tons more light, cast directly on the subject).
Really? Tons more light? It was the sun, unobstructed :-) Takes some awful big HMI guns to output more than that!

I find cams like the F3, Alexa, etc have enough latitude to handle even the most ham-fisted lighting approaches and make them look dang nice...direct sun with no fill though...that's a tough one I feel, and one we all regularly encounter.

I dunno, I know how to light and make any camera look great, so I guess I want to know about how a camera's going to do when I can't control things at all.

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Originally Posted by Richard Cavell View Post
And by the way, I don't think you said explicitly that the Alexa was on the right. Is the cat officially out of the bag now?
Yeah, Alexa on right. Wasn't trying to be obtuse on that anymore.

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Originally Posted by Alister Chapman View Post
....Very often the minute differences end up being in consequential anyway simply due to differences in lighting, location, shooting style etc.
That is very much my experience!

I'm interested in aspects that can't be helped in post. Latitude. Highlight handling. To a certain extent, resolution. Anything else like small differences in color rendering, warm/cool preferences, those are 2 ticks away in color correction, and with a 10bit/12bit camera, those changes can be made so transparently they effectively disappear. Very much UNLIKE traditional 8bit cameras, where fixes are much more visible in post.

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Originally Posted by Alister Chapman View Post
I don't think there is any doubt that the Alexa is the better camera overall, but the F3 is just so incredibly close and at such a fraction of the price.
We agree :-)
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Old June 2nd, 2012, 01:32 PM   #25
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Re: F3 vs Alexa

My feelings about these cameras on an image quality level is that I'm very happy with the F3, and ecstatic about the Alexa. If you factor in ergonomics, efficiency and reliability (which with the F3 means including the outboard recording necessity), the F3 pales in comparison. Ultimately, we like to say that the images are all that count because that's the only thing that exists after the shoot, but it's important to remember what compromises may have been made on set because of viewfinder issues or how long it took to rebuild the camera from handheld to studio or an external recorder crash or overheating, even down to how long it takes to changing settings etc. All of these add up to time lost, which means losing setups or rushing through them, which affects the final product.

The F3 is amazing for the money. The Alexa is, simply, amazing.

Last note, on the latitude--I'm finding myself shooting in mixed shade and sun far more than I have ever have before (including the film days) with minimal fill into the shade. If I wasn't shooting predominantly black actors on this show I wouldn't even need the fill most of the time. As the next generation of cameras improve on the dynamic range further, the need for big bounces and flyswatters will really diminish, which is fine by me.
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Old June 2nd, 2012, 06:16 PM   #26
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Re: F3 vs Alexa

I think we are getting to a point where image quality will plateau or only incrementally improve, much as has already happened with audio recording. Hopefully this will mean that manufacturers can focus on improving ergonomics and "usability" in the field, an area largely ignored in the development of the F3. IMO, the design of the F3 is unacceptably compromised although it is capable of images good enough for virtually any level of production.

I would happily forgo 4K and 3D for decent HD and good ergonomics.
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Old June 3rd, 2012, 01:27 PM   #27
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Re: F3 vs Alexa

The F65's latitude is remarkable and because it records linear RAW it is amazing what you can pull from seemingly totally over exposed images. It's actually really hard to over expose it if your using it even remotely close to optimum. The problem then becomes displaying the images in a way that looks nice. While you can push and pull the image in post, say to bring up a backlit face against a bright background. It still doesn't look as nice as if it was lit less harshly in the first place. If the scene has an excessive contrast range it's real hard to show that range on most existing display systems. OLED is getting there, but there is still a long way to go.

Cameras like the Alexa, F3, F65 etc are very forgiving, but that doesn't mean the need to manage light well goes away.
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Old June 3rd, 2012, 01:32 PM   #28
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Re: F3 vs Alexa

Naturally, good choices will always be important. Shooting someone in shade against a full sunlit background of over-exposed trees, for instance, will remain a bad choice. However, today's cameras already handle that situation far better than they did five years ago. We are now able to allow highlights to blow in the way that we could with film. Time and money dictates the necessity of "whatever you can do, as quickly as you can" for all but the biggest projects. I'm slowly learning to let go of the "need to fill".
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Old June 3rd, 2012, 09:16 PM   #29
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Re: F3 vs Alexa

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Originally Posted by Mike Marriage View Post
Hopefully this will mean that manufacturers can focus on improving ergonomics and "usability" in the field, an area largely ignored in the development of the F3. IMO, the design of the F3 is unacceptably compromised although it is capable of images good enough for virtually any level of production.
Yes, ergonomics, the final frontier.
My theory is there is an entire generation of shooters that came over from DSLRs and HVX-style cams that have no idea what joy a full-sized ENG-style camera body can bring to busy shoot...
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