Tagged: Review

Whilst movies are a form of escapism in the sense that they’re warm and comforting, some try to use that escapism to bring us pain. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu and DP Emmanuel Lubezki are at the top of their game. I loved Iñárritu’s previous movie Birdman and of course Lubezki’s cinematography on that as well as Gravity. I [...]

All credit is given to author EOSHDAndrew Reid (EOSHD)

Whilst movies are a form of escapism in the sense that they’re warm and comforting, some try to use that escapism to bring us pain. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu and DP Emmanuel Lubezki are at the top of their game. I loved Iñárritu’s previous movie Birdman and of course Lubezki’s cinematography on that as well as Gravity. I [...]

All credit is given to author EOSHDAndrew Reid (EOSHD)

The Sony FS5 is a miniature version of the FS7 cinema camera and Sony’s competitor to the Canon C100 Mk II. It’s also one of the most capable slow-mo cameras, with a 10bit 4:2:2 internal codec at 240fps. Over Christmas I had a bit of luck thanks to WEX Photographic in the UK, they had an ex-educational demo FS5 with 16-105mm [...]

All credit is given to author EOSHDAndrew Reid (EOSHD)

Leica-SL-review-lab

After Leica first entered the video market last year, the Leica SL is their second attempt at a 4K camera that is aimed at filmmakers. But is this camera ready for primetime filmmaking? Just like many other cinema cameras currently on the market we have assessed its qualities in our test lab and in this part 2 of our Leica SL review we will show you how it performed.

The Leica SL raised our hopes when it was introduced last October. A camera with Leica’s reputation in photography, that shoots 4K and outputs 10-bit 4:2:2 video with slow motion in HD at up to 120 frames per second. Nice. The 10 bit option is just what we’re missing on other mirrorless cameras currently available. It seems only the price of the Leica SL sours the mood.

In this lab test we found some reasons for concern on the Leica SL, but there are also good things to say. The organic image quality of this camera stands out, while lowlight performance and dynamic range could be improved.

Check out our real world Leica SL Review Part 1 HERE
For this test we used the latest available firmware (V1.2) and the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm F/2.8-4.0 lens.

Note: We were not able to use the Zeiss 50mm CP2 T/2.1 makro lens, which we have used to test the other cameras mentioned in this article. At the time of the review there was no compatible adapter available by Leica. Due to the nature of this particular test, the influence on the verdicts of this variation is minor, but must be noted.

Dynamic Range

Let’s start with dynamic range. A very important attribute of a camera sensor that is often overlooked and hard to measure. More often than not we find that this is where many camera sensors fail to amaze. The Leica SL is no exception. We’re testing with a DSC labs XYLA-21 transmissive test chart (More on how we test HERE).

Leica SL Review - Dynamic Range

In the chart above you can see the performance of the different cameras. The Leica only reaches a bit more than 9 usable stops of dynamic range between ISO 50 and ISO 400, while ISO 400 is slightly lower than 9 stops. (Avoid ISO 200 if possible, slight sensor pattern)

The way the camera processes the image is very very strange. The log file here looks unlike anything we’ve seen and it is necessary to overexpose in order to get your image in a “safe place”, as from a certain point in your mid-tones noise appears with sensor patterns and then the image very quickly drops into pitch black. A very unnatural looking log gamma.

In practice this means it’s very hard to expose correctly with this camera. When your scene has too much contrast you will very easily over or underexpose and if you make a mistake your shots can easily be ruined. We even had troubles to expose a normal test chart. Leica needs to address the way the image is processed. Something seems wrong here.

ISO and Noise

As mentioned above there is a lot of noise in the dark areas on recordings from this camera. This wouldn’t be so bad was the dynamic range not so limited, as this means your dark areas start where the mid tones start on other cameras.

ISO 400 is as high as you should go on this camera at any time. The reason for this is that starting with ISO 800 a very strange looking noise reduction kicks in that cannot be disabled. You will not want this kind of noise reduction in your shots as it ruins any detail in mid tones and dark areas.

This also needs to be addressed by Leica.

Leica SL Review - Automatic Noise Reduction at ISO 800

Leica SL – Automatic Noise Reduction at ISO 800

External 10 bit?

According to the press release in Ultra-HD (3840×2160) resolution the camera outputs 10bit 4:2:2 via HDMI. Indeed we could record an image at this size to the Atomos Shogun.

The upside here is that before rec is triggered (when the camera is on standby) the automatic noise reduction, mentioned above, does not kick in yet, so you get images above ISO 400 without the horrible noise reduction.

The dynamic range did not increase on external recordings. Also we did not notice a significant increase in video quality on the external HDMI feed vs. the internal 100mbit H.264 8bit recording. We were not able to test wether there is a true increase in bitrate. There are some hardly noticeable compression artefacts on the internal recording, but the video looks identical, also during heavy grading.

Image Quality

Yes, there’s also something positive to say. At the right ISO speeds and contrast, image quality of the Leica SL is superb. The noise looks very organic, the compression is significantly better than on the Sony a7S II and the true 4K (24fps only) image looks stunning and clean.

leica-sl_resolution

400% crop: Horizontal Resolution / Detail (Red Line is where resolution tops out)

The chart above is a comparison of horizontal resolution. The Leica SL was shot at 4K, all other cameras at UHD resolution. When we see this image at its original size we notice the following:

  • The Leica SL produces the most natural looking and clean image, no aliasing is visible, very natural looking noise.
  • The Sony FS7 has more detail and less noise, but also produces some unnatural aliasing.
  • The Leica SL is on par in terms of detail / resolution with the Samsung NX1 and Sony a7S II.
  • The Sony a7S II image looks least clean (lots of compression artefacts and some aliasing)

You should know, that this is really pixel peeping here with a 400% crop. You will not notice a resolution difference when played back at 1080p. But one thing is for sure: The clean image of the Leica SL stands out and reminds us of how the Arri AMIRA captures light (see image below, 300% crop, contrast slightly matched), but the colours seem less accurate (notice the red).

Leica SL Review - Image Quality

Rolling Shutter

Rolling shutter behaviour on the Leica SL is about 22ms which is very similar to most other mirrorless and DSLR cameras, a bit better than the Sony a7S II, but significantly worse than the Sony FS7 for example.

Conclusion

This camera is very interesting. Personally I was at first very put off by the limited dynamic range and weird automatic noise reduction starting at ISO 800. But the organic, clean images the camera can produce in the right shooting environment and the well compressed video files are something to note and will have a significant impact on the look of your films.

When Johnnie shot his nice Leica SL Review Video I could see him struggle to get the camera working with the dynamic range and ISO limitations, but I could also see his positive surprise when he saw how nice the footage had turned out. We all thought that there was clearly a more neutral and organic feel to it than on a Sony a7S II for example. This lab test confirms those observations.

There are many things speaking against this camera. Not only the limited dynamic range and bad lowlight performance, but also the high price and closed off Leica eco system are a problem. Once proper adapters for a wide range of lenses become available and if the price goes down, this camera could become a serious alternative to some other large sensor video systems, especially on shoots with controlled lighting. We’re looking forward to the next Leica and possible firmware updates.

Thank you LEICA STORE WIEN for supplying the camera and lens.

The post Leica SL Review – Part 2 – Filmmaking Lab Test: Serious Potential and Issues Found appeared first on cinema5D.

All credit is given to author cinema5DSebastian Wöber

Tascam DR 70d tripod mount is junk

Tascam DR 70d busted-1

I picked up the Tascam DR 70D a few months ago to replace my Tascam DR 60D. The DR 60D has been a great unit over the last few years and still does a decent job, but the attractive size of the new DR 70D tempted me into an upgrade.

Tascam DR 70d busted-5

There are a number of good upgrades to the Tascam DR 70D over the original. With the DR 70D you get individual volume controls for every channel, XLR channels for every input,  a 3.5mm stereo input option for channels one and two and a better overall control layout. Menus are virtually unchanged and recording mode labels in the menu system are still as confusing as the original.

Audio quality in the Tascam DR 70D is pretty comparable if not identical to the Tascam DR 60D. Each channel features the same 64db of gain available in the DR60D, and the noise floor seems to be about the same so don’t expect much change in that department.

Tascam DR 70d busted-3

While the Tascam DR 70D is thinner and provides a lot of upgrades to its older brother, there are still some problems with build quality. This is actually one of the more frustrating aspects of the DR 70D design. Tascam lulls you into a false sense of security with the what appears to be a metal 1/4 20 tripod mount. While the mount is metal, it’s cheap cast pot metal. This is something that’s supposed to support a full DSLR camera and lens , yet it snapped off on me after only a few uses.

While I under understand that a device at this price point isn’t going to be as durable as a $1000+ Sound devices unit, it should be able to withstand normal use. After all, every picture you see of the Tascam DR 70D shows it under a camera, yet mine managed to break under the weight of a 5d mark III and Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 lens. While that’s a somewhat heavy combination, it shouldn’t be enough to send your camera crashing to the ground.

Tascam DR 70d busted-2

This piece of low grade cast metal and a bit of plastic are all that keeps your camera gear in place.  It’s unfortunate that Tascam decided to go cheap on this portion of the DR 70D, This problem ends up being a black spot on what would other wise be a great little field recorder.

 

The post Tascam DR 70d tripod mount is junk appeared first on DSLR Film Noob.

All credit is given to author DSLR Film NoobDeejay

PNY 90mbs 64gb card-1

I’ve been using Sandisk micro SDXC cards for a few years now and despite the claims of quality I’ve often had dropouts. Normally it doesn’t start causing a problem until I get a good 20 or 30 minutes of footage on a card, but lately it’s been getting worse. Now that I’m starting to put the Z-cam E1 through testing, I figured it might be time to pick up some more reliable cards.

PNY 90mbs 64gb card-2

After doing a little bit of looking around, I came across these 64GB PNY cards. I haven’t taken a look at the price of Micro SDXC cards in 6 or 7 months and the $28 price tag was surprising. I asked around and it turns out a number people I know were actually using these cards with positive results across the board. With that in mind I figured I may as well pick one up for testing.

PNY 64GB Read-write speeds

Crystal Disk Mark tests were extremely respectable for such an affordable card. Read speeds are hitting higher than advertised and write speeds are keeping up with more expensive Lexar x1000 cards of the same size (and double the price).

PNY 64GB card (1 of 1)

I’ve been using the 64GB PNY card in both the Z-cam E1 and the Hero 4 black edition of that last few days for a number of shoots. No drop outs so far, if it makes it through another few weeks of shooting, I might pick up a couple more. I’m still blown away by the $28 price tag.

The post PNY 64GB Micro SDXC card $28 for fast performance appeared first on DSLR Film Noob.

All credit is given to author DSLR Film NoobDeejay

E1 camera -2

I often complain about kickstarter projects, over the years I’ve had bad luck with ruffly two out of every 3 campaigns I’ve contributed to. However I do still occasionally put my money down on things that look extremely interesting and the Z-cam E1 camera looked good. The promise of the kickstarter campaign was a Gopro sized 4k capable M43 camera with the same sensor as the Panasonic GH4. At the time, this was the only camera of it’s type that actually had a release date. Since then, we’ve had announcements for cameras like the DJI X5 and Blackmagic Micro studio, but the Z-cam E1 camera is still basically the first to market in this category.

E1 camera -4

Build quality is a mixed bag. The E1 is made out of metal and feels nice and solid, but the fit and finish falls into the prototype category. Buttons are spongy, protective flaps for usb ports fall off easily and the flange fits some lenses overly tight and others loosely.

E1 camera -9

The battery compartment on the E1 requires a custom battery. While Z-cam is kind enough to include two batteries with the E1, you currently can not buy extra batteries and the only way to charge batteries is via the camera body. So you basically need to charge up both of your batteries, shoot until you run out of juice, and then charge again. If you would like to shoot longer, you’ll need a USB power pack and one of these barrel adapters.

E1 camera -5

On the bright side, we get a mini HDMI port instead of a micro HDMI port. The barrel plug supports 5 volts at 2 amps which leaves open a lot of power supply options. The wifi app works as good or better then the Gopro’s offering and the on screen controls are easy enough to figure out.

Shooting with the E1 isn’t bad but, the firmware is still pretty rough. The quality of the 4k image recorded (above) running firmware version .16 (earliest version) is what I would describe as cellphone camera quality. Down scaled to 1080p, the image is a bit better then a gopro, depending on the lens you choose. At the kickstarter price I paid, I would say it’s still pretty decent, but with full fledged cameras like the Panasonic G7 capable of shooting 4k at a price of under $600, a camera like this is still a pretty hard sell.

E1 camera -10

I’ll continue to shoot with the E1 for a few more weeks before I decide whether it’ll be put on ebay or stay in my normal camera collection. Right now, i’m not very impressed with image quality, the lack of things like audio level meters, poor implementation of Z-log, and poor focus support for Olympus lenses make this a questionable purchase. Hopefully we’ll see major improvements in the E1 camera when future firmware updates are released. I’ll continue to test, and post more results as spend more time with the E1. As of right now, i’m lukewarm on the camera.

The post First look at the Z-cam E1 camera 4k M43 body appeared first on DSLR Film Noob.

All credit is given to author DSLR Film NoobDeejay

Comment on this article at the EOSHD Forum

Leica SL with 24-90mm

The Leica SL has hit Berlin already and retail units will begin to ship in just over a week. I took the final camera in my hands to suss it out from a video point of view.

In the rush to get cameras out for the important Christmas market (mid-August to January!) seemingly a couple of cameras have had major firmware issues on arrival in shops. The A7S II with it’s 25p sunspot problem is one of them.

The Leica SL also suffers in a catastrophic way despite the firmware being retail V1.1. We’ll get into that in a moment.

Original 4K file to download ^^

The Leica SL is a full frame mirrorless camera with the best build quality on the market. It doesn’t abide by the modern gizmo philosophy of shrinking the camera for the sake of it. Like a pro Canon 1D X the grip is the same size as your hand. This is however just as well because what a beast the 24-90mm F2.8-4 is!! Although a stunning lens of zero compromise to image quality, the camera doesn’t feel well balanced with it on, very front heavy. I’m more interested in putting Leica M lenses and PL on this camera. M lenses go onto the mount via an adapter, similar to how such lenses fit a Sony body. The SL’s mount is based on the T mount Leica introduced with the APS-C T camera.

The camera feels a bit like a jewellery shop GH5. Due to being jewellery it doesn’t have the articulated screen but it makes you smile every time you pick it up. I absolutely love the standard of workmanship – no, craftsmanship – that has gone into this body. Aside from the slightly flakey dual SD-card slot door, every small detail is as beautifully implemented as the biggest detail. The main detail of course is the enormous 4 million dot EVF, the best I’ve ever seen and unless I am missing something likely the best ever made. A glimpse into the future. Simpler but no less important details like the top panel LCD are done to such a high standard it makes you sit back and marvel. Oligarchs will look at this camera on their shelf and forget about being empty inside for at least 5 seconds.

Leica SL EVF clarity

A peek through the superb EVF, so crisp it looks real

The irony of Leica’s minimalist approach and the simplicity of use inherent in the SL’s design is that the SL is the only camera you will ever need to pick up the manual to learn how to use. There are hidden functions which aren’t obvious from using it for the first time and no labels on the buttons. Hidden functions include different functions on a long hold of an unlabelled button and a jog wheel you can press, not just turn. A favourite physical control of mine was the superbly implemented joystick for direct selection of AF points and one you can press inwards to focus. That’s very useful for documentary video shoots in the heat of the action, in which case you’d need to quickly lock onto a subject before hitting record. No time for fine tuning MF with the zoomed assist. The speed of the AF is astounding and photographers will love it as well as the massive 2GB buffer for continuous shooting.

Leica SL auto ISO video mode

The SL has ‘Floating ISO’ in movie mode – whatever that means!

I rate the ergonomics as excellent, once you get used to them and the menus are very well laid out, quick to navigate.

Let’s cut to the chase now. Video quality.

The codec records at 100Mbit/s like the GH4 in 4K. It is a variable bitrate so it only uses the bitrate it deems necessary at any given moment. Sometimes it will record at 50Mbit/s, sometimes it will use the full 100Mbit/s. There are two file formats but only one codec. It can do MP4 or MOV but both are H.264 100Mbit/s with no difference in quality, audio is 16bit 48Khz PCM on both and both are 8bit 4:2:0. It would have been nice to see 10bit 4:2:2 internal and an ALL-I codec given the price and the amount of pros who will buy it. It is very much a consumer video codec on a professional camera.

Leica SL video resolutions

DCI 4K is available, 4096 x 2160 just like the Panasonic GH4

Also since it is 4K we’re talking about, ProRes would have been desirable for more fluid playback in post. 4K H.264 can get a bit jerky even on a Mac Pro especially with colour grades and other effects applied, whereas machines cut through 4k ProRes like butter as it is computationally simpler. Like on the GH4 though the codec does stand up well and looks great. The quality of the 4K is very crisp but overall it doesn’t look better than an A7R II in Super 35mm mode and it’s a pity you can’t record 4K from the entire full frame sensor as on the Sony. 8bit and externally it is 10bit like the GH4. This won’t improve image quality unless you’re shooting LOG, which the camera does have.

Here I detect an issue (you can download and grade an original file shown below).

I first noticed it with the lens cap on that the blacks in LOG mode seem to start around 100 on the 0-255 luma range. This makes the footage essentially un-gradable, severely limits dynamic range and is an obvious flaw. Who does Leica have testing the video features!?

Here is the kind of ‘curve’ I had to use to get blacks back on the LOG material in Premiere –

Leica SL LOG grade

This is with the default settings. There’s a ‘contrast’ option in the menus but a LOG curve should be standard and fixed, not adjustable like this and I doubt the contrast option fixes the luma issue. The camera seems to compress everything into about half of what is available on the 8bit space. You may say LOG is supposed to bring the blacks up and not crush but this is a bit ridiculous. The blacks are light grey in LOG on the Leica SL!

V-LOG, S-LOG and Canon LOG are nowhere near this extreme and I really do suspect it’s a bug. Until it is fixed I would simply not be able to grade the SL effectively in post. With the internal LOG footage you will get terrible banding on low contrast surfaces and skies as well.

A lot of pros have already shot with the Leica SL but seemingly weren’t able to deduce what I spotted from 10 minutes with it in a shop. If either these Leica shooters A) simply did not notice the obviously messed up LOG profile or B) blogged about the SL but kept a glaring flaw secret from potential buyers, all I can say with bemusement is take a look in the mirror and ask yourself who this helped!

The further downside of video on the Leica SL is unfortunately the quality of the full frame internal 1080/24p and 120fps, it really is very poor, reminiscent of the internal 1080p of the Samsung NX1 rather than the GH4. It is soft with moire & aliasing, coming from a heavily pixel binned sensor output.

Leica SL firmware V1.1

A quick look at high ISO and dynamic range

Let’s look at the dynamic range and high ISO performance of the Leica SL’s new sensor next.

These are nothing to write home about to be honest and lag behind Sony.

Dynamic range by eye looks like about 10 stops. Maybe a little bit more in the raw DNG stills. I wasn’t overly impressed.

The camera is pretty noiseless until ISO 3200. 6400 and the grain starts to intrude. By ISO 25,000 (not 25,600 oddly enough) it has fallen off a cliff and beginning to get into unusable territory. I can only assume 50,000 is a marketing feature as it looks dreadful. I’d class this performance as middle of the road really, not too bad but nothing special. The Sony A7R II’s 42MP sensor has double the megapixel count yet does cleaner 25,600 in Super 35mm 4K video mode.

Leica SL high ISO performance

Conclusion

Taken purely as video camera the Leica SL may not excel in low light, the LOG profile appears to have a serious problem and the price isn’t very competitive considering the 4K competition. However in many ways none of this is a surprise. What we do have here is a camera capable of some superb video quality when the LOG mode is disabled, through the world’s best EVF on a body that is substantially better built than any other mirrorless camera.

Performance and features-wise it is a bit like reaching into the future and having a “full frame GH5” for stills built to Leica standards. For video it is like a Super 35mm GH4 albeit a very expensive one! Not counting the build, design or EVF it doesn’t really reach that far beyond the GH4 for either quality or features when it comes to video. For 7000 euros it should do, because the GH4 costs 1/6th of that.

One final observation, I believe the mount is shallow enough to accommodate Speed Booster glass for a full frame look in Super 35mm mode, although Metabones haven’t made one for it yet obviously.

Will I be buying a Leica SL for video? Nope. Will I maybe one day pick one up second hand for stills? Probably!

Comment on the forum

The post Leica SL hands-on first impressions review from a video perspective appeared first on EOSHD.

All credit is given to author EOSHDAndrew Reid (EOSHD)

Comment on this article at the EOSHD Forum

Leica SL with 24-90mm

The Leica SL has hit Berlin already and retail units will begin to ship in just over a week. I took the final camera in my hands to suss it out from a video point of view.

In the rush to get cameras out for the important Christmas market (mid-August to January!) seemingly a couple of cameras have had major firmware issues on arrival in shops. The A7S II with it’s 25p sunspot problem is one of them.

The Leica SL also suffers in a catastrophic way despite the firmware being retail V1.1. We’ll get into that in a moment.

Original 4K file to download ^^

The Leica SL is a full frame mirrorless camera with the best build quality on the market. It doesn’t abide by the modern gizmo philosophy of shrinking the camera for the sake of it. Like a pro Canon 1D X the grip is the same size as your hand. This is however just as well because what a beast the 24-90mm F2.8-4 is!! Although a stunning lens of zero compromise to image quality, the camera doesn’t feel well balanced with it on, very front heavy. I’m more interested in putting Leica M lenses and PL on this camera. M lenses go onto the mount via an adapter, similar to how such lenses fit a Sony body. The SL’s mount is based on the T mount Leica introduced with the APS-C T camera.

The camera feels a bit like a jewellery shop GH5. Due to being jewellery it doesn’t have the articulated screen but it makes you smile every time you pick it up. I absolutely love the standard of workmanship – no, craftsmanship – that has gone into this body. Aside from the slightly flakey dual SD-card slot door, every small detail is as beautifully implemented as the biggest detail. The main detail of course is the enormous 4 million dot EVF, the best I’ve ever seen and unless I am missing something likely the best ever made. A glimpse into the future. Simpler but no less important details like the top panel LCD are done to such a high standard it makes you sit back and marvel. Oligarchs will look at this camera on their shelf and forget about being empty inside for at least 5 seconds.

Leica SL EVF clarity

A peek through the superb EVF, so crisp it looks real

The irony of Leica’s minimalist approach and the simplicity of use inherent in the SL’s design is that the SL is the only camera you will ever need to pick up the manual to learn how to use. There are hidden functions which aren’t obvious from using it for the first time and no labels on the buttons. Hidden functions include different functions on a long hold of an unlabelled button and a jog wheel you can press, not just turn. A favourite physical control of mine was the superbly implemented joystick for direct selection of AF points and one you can press inwards to focus. That’s very useful for documentary video shoots in the heat of the action, in which case you’d need to quickly lock onto a subject before hitting record. No time for fine tuning MF with the zoomed assist. The speed of the AF is astounding and photographers will love it as well as the massive 2GB buffer for continuous shooting.

Leica SL auto ISO video mode

The SL has ‘Floating ISO’ in movie mode – whatever that means!

I rate the ergonomics as excellent, once you get used to them and the menus are very well laid out, quick to navigate.

Let’s cut to the chase now. Video quality.

The codec records at 100Mbit/s like the GH4 in 4K. It is a variable bitrate so it only uses the bitrate it deems necessary at any given moment. Sometimes it will record at 50Mbit/s, sometimes it will use the full 100Mbit/s. There are two file formats but only one codec. It can do MP4 or MOV but both are H.264 100Mbit/s with no difference in quality, audio is 16bit 48Khz PCM on both and both are 8bit 4:2:0. It would have been nice to see 10bit 4:2:2 internal and an ALL-I codec given the price and the amount of pros who will buy it. It is very much a consumer video codec on a professional camera.

Leica SL video resolutions

DCI 4K is available, 4096 x 2160 just like the Panasonic GH4

Also since it is 4K we’re talking about, ProRes would have been desirable for more fluid playback in post. 4K H.264 can get a bit jerky even on a Mac Pro especially with colour grades and other effects applied, whereas machines cut through 4k ProRes like butter as it is computationally simpler. Like on the GH4 though the codec does stand up well and looks great. The quality of the 4K is very crisp but overall it doesn’t look better than an A7R II in Super 35mm mode and it’s a pity you can’t record 4K from the entire full frame sensor as on the Sony. 8bit and externally it is 10bit like the GH4. This won’t improve image quality unless you’re shooting LOG, which the camera does have.

Here I detect an issue (you can download and grade an original file shown below).

I first noticed it with the lens cap on that the blacks in LOG mode seem to start around 100 on the 0-255 luma range. This makes the footage essentially un-gradable, severely limits dynamic range and is an obvious flaw. Who does Leica have testing the video features!?

Here is the kind of ‘curve’ I had to use to get blacks back on the LOG material in Premiere –

Leica SL LOG grade

This is with the default settings. There’s a ‘contrast’ option in the menus but a LOG curve should be standard and fixed, not adjustable like this and I doubt the contrast option fixes the luma issue. The camera seems to compress everything into about half of what is available on the 8bit space. You may say LOG is supposed to bring the blacks up and not crush but this is a bit ridiculous. The blacks are light grey in LOG on the Leica SL!

V-LOG, S-LOG and Canon LOG are nowhere near this extreme and I really do suspect it’s a bug. Until it is fixed I would simply not be able to grade the SL effectively in post. With the internal LOG footage you will get terrible banding on low contrast surfaces and skies as well.

A lot of pros have already shot with the Leica SL but seemingly weren’t able to deduce what I spotted from 10 minutes with it in a shop. If either these Leica shooters A) simply did not notice the obviously messed up LOG profile or B) blogged about the SL but kept a glaring flaw secret from potential buyers, all I can say with bemusement is take a look in the mirror and ask yourself who this helped!

The further downside of video on the Leica SL is unfortunately the quality of the full frame internal 1080/24p and 120fps, it really is very poor, reminiscent of the internal 1080p of the Samsung NX1 rather than the GH4. It is soft with moire & aliasing, coming from a heavily pixel binned sensor output.

Leica SL firmware V1.1

A quick look at high ISO and dynamic range

Let’s look at the dynamic range and high ISO performance of the Leica SL’s new sensor next.

These are nothing to write home about to be honest and lag behind Sony.

Dynamic range by eye looks like about 10 stops. Maybe a little bit more in the raw DNG stills. I wasn’t overly impressed.

The camera is pretty noiseless until ISO 3200. 6400 and the grain starts to intrude. By ISO 25,000 (not 25,600 oddly enough) it has fallen off a cliff and beginning to get into unusable territory. I can only assume 50,000 is a marketing feature as it looks dreadful. I’d class this performance as middle of the road really, not too bad but nothing special. The Sony A7R II’s 42MP sensor has double the megapixel count yet does cleaner 25,600 in Super 35mm 4K video mode.

Leica SL high ISO performance

Conclusion

Taken purely as video camera the Leica SL may not excel in low light, the LOG profile appears to have a serious problem and the price isn’t very competitive considering the 4K competition. However in many ways none of this is a surprise. What we do have here is a camera capable of some superb video quality when the LOG mode is disabled, through the world’s best EVF on a body that is substantially better built than any other mirrorless camera.

Performance and features-wise it is a bit like reaching into the future and having a “full frame GH5” for stills built to Leica standards. For video it is like a Super 35mm GH4 albeit a very expensive one! Not counting the build, design or EVF it doesn’t really reach that far beyond the GH4 for either quality or features when it comes to video. For 7000 euros it should do, because the GH4 costs 1/6th of that.

One final observation, I believe the mount is shallow enough to accommodate Speed Booster glass for a full frame look in Super 35mm mode, although Metabones haven’t made one for it yet obviously.

Will I be buying a Leica SL for video? Nope. Will I maybe one day pick one up second hand for stills? Probably!

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I have been shooting with the A7S II for 2 weeks now. Let’s really get under the skin of the camera and see if it is worth your $3000.

A7S II with Canon 135mm F2L

UPDATE on the sunspots (4/11/2015): the problem seems to happen in PAL 25p and not NTSC 24p. European shooters as a workaround for now might need to shoot in 24p if they don’t want to risk trashing material. I’ve notified Sony and will await their reply and official comment. I request a small favour from US readers with the A7S II. Switch your camera to PAL, enter full frame 4K 25p recording mode (XAVC-S). Use an iPhone LED and shine it into the lens with the focus sharply on the back of the phone. Expose upwards until the black spot occurs. If it doesn’t occur it means only the European stock has the issue!

I really appreciate technology like the A7S II and the incredible images this kit is capable of.

It is an amazing camera, nevertheless, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory the A7S II does its best to make you regret it.

I’m going to give you it straight and up front (this ain’t no advertorial) – this camera has issues. Let’s get these out of the way in part 1 so that in part 2 of the review we can have some fun and divert our gaze to the absolutely incredible full frame 4K images at seemingly endless high ISOs.

Intro

The A7S II is of course the 4K recording (internal) full frame mirrorless camera we’ve all been waiting for. As well as 4K XAVC-S at 100Mbit/s it adds 5 axis in-body stabilisation and improves decisively on the build quality of the original model.

Death star?

On my retail model (bought in Europe on day of release, firmware 1.0) sunspots and black holes render it almost unusable. It is a complete lottery whether your shot is going to be ruined or not.

The next shot is not even in direct sunlight – the black hole is produced from a specular bounce of light off the floor.

You can see an example of how the A7S II handles the actual sun below (this file was uploaded direct from the SDXC card and is ungraded) –

This was with the Canon 135mm F2.0L in direct sunlight (XAVC-S 4K 100Mbit/s). Next, with the sun out of focus in the background you can really see the extent it can ruin a shot:

The Sony A7S II is not a cheap camera. $3000 is a lot to most indie filmmakers and enthusiasts. You don’t expect this from a company the size of Sony on such a big production run of consumer gear that is out there right now shooting jobs for people.

The problem might be familiar to Blackmagic owners and I wonder if Sony thought it was a good idea to copy them! The initial 4K Production Camera hardware and firmware suffered the same fate. A fix was a while coming.

On the A7S II these sunspot defects occurs regardless of what video picture profile is selected or even with it turned off. It isn’t an S-LOG issue or an ISO 1600 issue. It doesn’t have to be the sun either – an iPhone torch LED is enough to trigger the blackhole. Nor is it the unlikely scenario of a lens adapter causing malfunctions as it happens with my native Sony 55mm F1.8 FE lens attached. It occurs at all the shutter speeds I’ve tried – 1/50 (180 degrees in 25p) all the way up to 1/8000 if the light is bright enough to trigger it.

Strangely the defect doesn’t appear in JPEG stills or the raw files. It seems the camera is correcting for those but not in 4K!

As an A7R II owner also I’ve yet to have the same problem on that model thankfully.

And there is still a chance I have just been unlucky with a faulty unit (unlikely).

But that an obvious defect exists in a released camera makes me speculate a lot – how do you miss something so obvious in the lab?! I do wonder if Sony rushed the A7S II’s release to beat some kind of Canon announcement in November. The first release date they announced for the A7S II was originally December yet it arrived in early October. I’ll let you speculate about what that announcement might be (hint – 5D Mark IV).

When the sun goes down

Let’s get this straight, the A7S II is an incredible low light camera. The footage will be in Part 2.

The problem is, it turns out the A7R II is an incredible low light camera as well.

Of course the main reason for picking up the A7S II is for the outstanding sensitivity and clean low light performance.

I was in for a surprise when both the A7R II and A7S II are set to record 4K S-LOG (the A7R II in Super 35 crop and A7S II in full frame) the A7R II is almost level pegging for noise with the A7S II and not just at ISO 3200, but all the way up to 12,800!! In fact at ISO 1600 the A7R II actually had less noise in the shadows with S-LOG 2 than the A7S II with S-LOG 3 at the same ISO.

Although generally the A7S II’s quality of 4K is outstanding, surprisingly it has some false detail and aliasing when pixel peeped. The Super 35mm 4K footage out of the A7R II is cleaner and more detailed!

Meanwhile the Super 35mm mode of the A7S II is incapable of internal 4K recording altogether. It begs the question, if it isn’t that much better in low light and doesn’t do better video, what exactly does the 12MP sensor give us over the 42MP at all? I hoped for less rolling shutter, but in 4K it has tons. On the end of a 135mm lens it is atrocious –

One advantage is that the A7S II can record for just under 1 hour without over heating. The A7R II will overheat on a hot day in half that time. However neither are suitable for long continuous takes anyway! Both have a 29 minute cut off. Battery life run times are also short when shooting 4K. On the A7S II one battery lasts barely 45 minutes and the large battery grip only fits 2 in a total bulk space which has room for 5. Because of internal 4K recording it has gone backwards for battery life from the A7S.

Lens adapter woes

Sony don’t seem to be helping third parties get their very widely used Canon lens adapters reliable on Sony bodies. This is foolish to the extreme.

I have multiple issues with Canon lenses on the A7S II ranging from merely annoying all the way to shot wreaking.

With some lenses the camera locks up altogether when taking a still and doesn’t record the shot at all.

With some lenses the aperture is buggy and sometimes the connection drops altogether.

When the connection drops the lens no longer reports the correct focal length to the in-body stabilisation system resulting in yet more ruined shots with a ton of jitter.

Why would I want to put up with any of this on an important shoot when I can put my lenses on a Canon or Nikon body and get bullet proof reliability?

I don’t want to invest in a set of Sony lenses all at once that can only be used on one system, unless that system is truly established & reliable. The A7S II is getting there but it isn’t worth dumping 20 Canon lenses for. Sony need to realise this and get a grip on the reliability of third party adapters.

When the most critical accessories that almost everyone needs (and are already using) are reverse engineered, it makes no sense.

S-LOG 3 extreme banding

With the A7S II we now have S-LOG 3 and a View Assist. Is it easier to expose? Is it better to grade?

Sadly not. You really need 10bit and lighter compression for S-LOG 3. It is just so flat. Such flat contrast causes serious banding issues on the A7S II with low contrast subjects. For example below, even when expose perfectly for the sky I ended up with this… (and if you’re really unlucky a sunspot at the end) –

(It is best to download the original at Vimeo to see the banding problem, below is a clear example on the page of what it is actually like…)

4K a7sii-slog3-banding-example

This is a shame as otherwise S-LOG 3 gives some very nice colour and dynamic range on the A7S II, but I just can’t recommend it.

Shoot S-LOG 2 or CINE2 instead. CINE2 especially has a much steeper fall off towards the highlights – what you lose in dynamic range & smooth roll off you gain in tonality. The highs have more contrast (more levels of luminosity and thus less banding).

The advantage of Canon LOG and the Nikon flat picture profile is that they’re ‘light LOG’ and easy to grade. You don’t need to be a video scientist! You don’t need to tweak the colours and you don’t get weird shifts when you adjust the gamma curve in post.

S-LOG is the most difficult LOG format on the market to grade and Sony have put it in a consumer camera. They haven’t even told their customers how to use it. It’s no wonder a lot of A7 footage shot using S-LOG 2 and uploaded to YouTube looks a bit worse for wear colour wise. It isn’t the consumer’s fault. Even pros have issues with it and it takes a long time to learn how to be a professional Resolve user.

The new View Assist meanwhile gives you the gamma of a contrasty Rec.709 profile whilst shooting or playing back S-LOG footage. It is a rough approximation of a final ‘look’ on the LCD. Sadly it has zero options to tweak it and doesn’t make exposure any easier, in fact it makes it harder and less precise! S-LOG 3 still likes to be exposed 2 stops to the right. The View Assist causes you to under expose. With S-LOG the blacks are noisy and need to be pulled down in post. If you under expose S-LOG 3 it is a recipe for disaster because you will have to push the bottom of the gamma curve UP in post and up comes all the noise. Sony really need to give their customers more help with exposing S-LOG. A better histogram, even some official LUTs and LUT support in-camera from the SD card would be a start. The exposure meter and display are almost useless for exposing S-LOG.

What happens if you do get exposure slightly off with 8bit S-LOG and try to correct in post? This –

a7sii-slog3-banding

There’s simply not enough information in the 8bit file to give fine gradation to highs and lows which are close to clipping.

The sky in this shot was not blown out altogether or off the edge of the histogram. The zebra wouldn’t have warned me either at 100%.

How much use is 14 stop dynamic range when it ends up being better to blow out the highlights altogether?

Manual focus – still an after thought?

In video mode the zoomed focus assist is another major problem with the A7S II. The quality of it doesn’t give you any confidence at all about critical focus and neither does the quality of the focus peaking. On a full frame 4K camera it is essential to get your focus spot on.

The A7R II’s zoomed focus assist is much sharper. The A7S II’s is unacceptably soft and fuzzy. This is especially noticeable when stopped down to F5.6 and trying to nail infinity through the EVF.

Even the 5 year old 5D Mark II had a very crisp zoom for focus. If Sony can do that quality but get it working during a recording like the existing one, then I wouldn’t have anything to complain about. The big question is, why couldn’t they? Did they not think it was important?

Conclusion (Part 1)

Despite the A7S II being the world’s worst camera to shoot the sun in the sky, there’s obviously a lot to like about the specs. The bad news must be tempered with an understanding of the sheer beauty this full frame 4K sensor can create, the extremely low noise and the benefits of image stabilisation with (almost) any lens (it doesn’t work properly with zooms that don’t communicate electronically through the adapter).

It’s also an extensively feature packed camera by consumer standards, although arguably Sony should have taken a few features out in exchange for getting the important stuff actually working.

A7S II on desk

In part 2 we’ll see what the A7S II is capable of once we put aside all the problems. The 5 axis stabilisation and overall image quality for video make it an exciting camera and I am sure Sony will issue a firmware fix for the disturbing sunspot issue.

With these issues and a high price tag of $3000 we really should consider our options. I know for sure I am! The choice between the A7R II and A7S II gives video users a real dilemma.

I am speaking from experience as I bought both but don’t really need to keep two. Sony hope video users buy both. Yes there are logical arguments for owning both but the realistic option for most is either one or the other. Also for most people is the A7S II even worth the (rather expensive) upgrade from the original A7S? The Sony FS5 is also a factor. Until I have shot with that I can’t really comment on it but it does look very appealing for $5k especially with that electronically variable ND.

For me the A7R II is increasingly looking like the more versatile option… The low light was a worry but it turns out the A7R II has some real voodoo going on with that 42MP sensor in Super 35mm mode. The new copper CMOS process likely helps video a lot too (as was the case with another megapixel monster, the 28MP Samsung NX1). The NX1 does a 6K readout for 4K video and the A7R II does a 5K readout. Oversampling improves the image & reduces noise. On the A7S II there’s no oversampling possible in 4K and I believe the architecture of the sensor is older with aluminium wiring.

The A7R II also has the advantage of being able to make optimal use of APS-C and Super 35mm lenses in 4K. My Cooke PL mount lenses for instance work very well with it. It is a confusing strategy from Sony to have a ‘video optimised’ A7S II incapable of shooting 4K with Super 35mm cinema lenses and having to get the ‘stills optimised’ model for that.

Sony A7R II in Super 35mm mode with Cooke S4i Mini 50mm T2.8 PL lens and Metabones PL adapter

Sony A7R II in Super 35mm mode with Cooke S4i Mini 50mm T2.8 PL lens and Metabones PL adapter

Also the much reduced rolling shutter in full frame 4K mode on the A7R II is handy to have on call. If you want to take advantage of the better image quality in Super 35mm mode but don’t want to give up the full frame look to your Canon lenses then just put a Speed Booster on it.

Then there’s the superb 42MP stills on the A7R II vs 12MP on the A7S II. For me personally megapixels aren’t a big consideration but there’s just not the low light disadvantage you’d expect to see on the A7R II to push people into making the trade off for much lower resolution. With S-LOG 4K video at ISO 12,800 & under the A7R II holds its own in low light, especially with Speed Booster.

Finally there’s no View Assist or S-LOG 3 on the A7R II but S-LOG 2 gives you the same usable dynamic range, with the advantage of a minimum ISO of 800 vs 1600 on the A7S II being useful in daylight.

So it is a rocky start for the A7S II. Let’s see if it can fight back in Part 2 and if Sony listen to use and fix what is wrong with it. To summarise we need a firmware fix for –

  • Sunspot defect
  • Manual focus assist quality
  • S-LOG exposure aids and exposure meter
  • Choice of built in LUTs for the View Assist

I mean – we have to be able to point the camera at light, we have to be able to expose it and we have to be able to focus!!

Pretty simple really!

After that everything else is a bonus…

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The post Sony A7S II Review Part 1 – Major Sunspot Defect appeared first on EOSHD.

All credit is given to author EOSHDAndrew Reid (EOSHD)