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Hands on with the ENG-Style Sony NEX-EA50, Lack of ND Filters Explained

08.25.12 @ 4:30PM Tags : , , ,

Announced seemingly out of the blue, the new Sony NEX-EA50 has a 16 megapixel APS-C sensor very similar to their mirrorless line of cameras. It may or may not be the same sensor, but according to Dan Chung over at DSLR News Shooter, the video quality is improved over those small cameras. While the price seemed to fluctuate in the first few hours of announcement, it looks like it has settled for the moment around $4,500 (including the power zoom lens). It’s interesting that Sony made some of the decisions they did about the camera, but one of the biggest omissions, ND filters, is explained in Dan’s video below.

The EA50 is definitely light, so the camera being as far out in front as it is probably won’t be an issue. One of the big complaints that seemed to take this from being a perfect cheap and light shoulder camera to a questionable buy is the lack of ND filters. While many will call this an ENG camera, not having ND filters actually makes it a bit more difficult for ENG (electronic news gathering) since often that type of shooting is unpredictable. If you didn’t catch it, the reason this camera does not have NDs is because of the mechanical shutter for still photography. Sony made the decision to make this a dual-function camera rather than a fully-featured ENG camera. I’m not sure why they decided to make stills such a priority, but as I said before, this is really a perfect camera for shooting weddings. It has literally everything those shooters need in a camera except NDs – which isn’t as big of a deal since so many weddings take place inside.

The most exciting part of the introduction of this camera is a real zoom lens. Dan clearly shows that the lens can use the power zoom function on a small camera like the NEX-5N. That would be a little unwieldy, but if you really needed a small camera package with the ability to do smooth zooms, you could hook that lens up to any of the smaller NEX series cameras. As for the talked about digital zoom for prime lenses (which could be really interesting or could look as bad as it does on point and shoot cameras), we’ll just have to wait to see that mode in action.

Another feature of note — the camera can record simultaneously to the FMU and an SD card, so you can get true redundancy if you need it. Also, some have complained about the fact that the viewfinder attachment moves the LCD on the FS100 and FS700, and Sony has tried to address this with a sturdier LCD and a screw knob that tightens the swivel. Whether that will truly fix the problem is unclear until people really start using it — but at least Sony recognized that in a shoulder configuration it is important that the viewfinder stays in place.

What do you guys think — is the lack of ND still at serious issue at $4,500?

Link: Video Interview: Sony’s NEX EA50 Demonstrated – DSLR News Shooter


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  • Alright guys, I need your help.

    I really can’t decide between this and the BMCC. I know a lot of you would think this a stupid question and hands down would choose the cinema camera but here’s the deal- I film primarily in clubs (dark, packed, lots of activity) that I need to capture for promotional purposes. My next biggest thing is music videos followed by weddings, then commercials. I don’t really make short films or anything like that.

    So should I get the BMCC or Sony NEX-EA50? After reading (and if my budget allows it) I might end up getting both- both seem to be meant for different purposes. Thoughts?

    • If you got money for both I suggest you get a used FS100 instead. Great low light, s35 sensor (no problem getting fast wides) and good DR with G-log and can be quite filmic if you expose for the highlights.

    • Getting both would mean a total investment of around $7500 right? Seeing as you film primarily in clubs but also deal with music videos I would say go with the FS700. It has pretty good low light (apparently not as good as the FS100 but having seen footage from both I’d say the difference is pretty small), has built in ND filters so you don’t need to rely on a mattebox etc, has the whole 240fps functionality which will open up a ton of creative possibilities for music video making, and is a 4k ready camera, so further down the line you can just get a 4k recorder and you’ll be able to stay current in terms of image quality.
      If you only have enough money for one, I’d say go with a second hand FS100, as Hampus above suggested. You get 1080p60 and a pretty good, robust image out of it.
      The BMCC is not really ideal for documentary type of work – it’s the sort of camera which will shine in a controlled environment and for projects where you will have the time to focus on the image, grade it at your leisure etc.

    • The FS100 willbe abetter fit for you since clubs are primarily has superior low light sensitivity than this EA50.

    • If you’re shooting clubs the most, focus on low light capability. The other guys have good suggestions. I’d suggest a DSLR; the low light on those blows most ENG cameras out of the water, at least a stop or two more. I’ve shot on an EX-1, a 5D Mark II and a 7D in a club. The light effects did fine against the rolling shutter on the 5D, and it wasn’t as washed out as the other two.

      I shot with and without lights, and I much prefer the natural look, as well as being able to shoot further than 3 feet.

      Both the BlackMagic and NEX-EA50 probably won’t compare. It’s a shame, but the sensors are just too small. Other than the club settings, I second the FS100 or FS700. No raw workflow hassles, and I assume decent color and dynamic range.

      • The NEX-EA50 will probably have equal or better low-light performance compared to the Canon 7D. You might be thinking that the EA50 has a small sensor but it is APS-C sized, which is the size of the 7D, T4i, etc.

    • Everyone, thanks so much. After reading this I think I’m going to go with an FS100. For what I do it sounds like the best fit. I’ve been shooting on a 7D for awhile now and though it’s been acceptable for what I do, I’m ready to take my work to another level. Thanks again!

  • Remember when GH2HD said the image quality would be identical to that of the NEX-5n? That was hilarious.

    Anyway, the possibility to control power/servo zoom from the NEX-5n (and presumably subsequent portable shooters like the forthcoming NEX-6) is intriguing — a firmware update is necessary at minimum, but I wonder which ergonomic keys they would assign for in/out?

    • EDIT: Just realized (after seeing the relevant section of the video) that it’s not a true power/servo zoom lens, conventionally — activation of the motor is via a rocker on the lens itself.

  • I have professional Panasonic camcorders to shoot events, and while this may have its place, I wouldn’t buy this for $4500.00 if I was a serious event shooter, because of the ND.

    The FS100 or Sony’s full frame camcorder the VG-900 may be the better bet for narrative types too, which leaves this camera in an odd position.

  • Just wanted to say thanks to nofilmschool. The website is even more active in recent times and is a constant source or really valuable information to me and (I’m sure) countless others.

  • I really don’t know any wedding videographers that shoot stills during the wedding. I thought that’s why couples hire… wait for it… photographers.

    And of course, almost all of the weddings I shoot are outdoors in harsh sunlight. I’m sure there are a ton of weddings in the mainland that shoot indoors, however for my purposes, the lack of ND filters is the defining reason that turns me away from it. So close Sony! Even for a drop in theoretical image quality, when compared to other DSLRs this looks like it would be perfect for weddings and other event gigs, since most people can’t tell the difference anyways between 24mbs and 40mbs.

    Everything else looks like a modern event videographer’s dream camera.

  • Sorry, but the ND issue renders this camera useless in most run and gun / eng type scenarios. And if the reason for the ND thing was to make this is a funcitonal stills camera, that’s doubly sad. Its not basically a terrible-form-factor stills camera combined with a crippled video camera. I just don’t get it. It’s not a DSLR. Don’t pretend it is. Ugh. So close but SOOOOO far. Frustrating. Still though, my hats off to Sony for really being on top of things this year. Left panasonic in the DUST.

  • Tell me if I’m missing something, but if everything looks good about this camera except the lack of ND, wouldn’t slapping a variable ND filter on the front of this camera solve the problem?

  • Seriuosly..whats with the ND issue for event work. You dont need the 180 shutter motion blur stuff on even coverage..whats more important ois capturing moment with fantastic image quality. Even the highest paid wedding videographers dont use matte-boxes on their 5Ds..its just too bulky for less than noticeable improvement in image quality!

    And have you read this recently… . Higher shutter speeds creates better looking images..Phantom cameras anyone? I think we should stop this BS about NDs and whist..we can use 1/10,000 at ISO 100 with this camera in bright sunlight, as we can with the VGs and is enough. The only time you’d need the 24p motion if your shooting drama/indies – controlled shots. But on events…its bullshit.

    • Shooting fast-paced reality or doc where you have less than a second to get the camera set before the shot, and you have a specific look you’re going for, the shutter speed and aperture are usually set prior to starting production. It’s a small range. NDs on ENG cameras allow rapid adjustment of exposure without changing the other aspects of the image. It’s literally a flip of a switch. I try to stay off the gain, iris, and never touch the shutter. It gets way too complicated if you start playing with all four during a hectic on the fly shooting schedule.

      Matteboxes are for holding filters but moreso for avoiding flares. I wouldn’t look to wedding videography as a bastion. There are some amazing wedding videographers, but wedding videography is much more planned and methodic than the speed top documentary and reality shooters have to be at. Often having an ND is the difference between getting the shot or not.

  • This is an interesting camera. I’m run a Wedding Videography company and am sitting here with about $12k looking for the best cameras to use for 2013. I plan to make my purchase in about 6-8 months or so. I see this camera and I’m instantly intrigued only to find out that it’s missing a few features like no ND filter on a cam that’s supposed to cater to the run n’ gun peeps, and then for me personally, no HDSDI out which on a $4500 video camera seems strange. They were so close. I even like the idea of it being ASP-C and not 35 if that means I get fairly shallow DoF, but not so crazy that I don’t have a little play in there. C’mon Sony! Before you make a camera for events, talk to someone who shoots events!

    Oh and the mechanical shutter?! Name one person in the world who, while, holding a video camera is going to stop rolling to capture a photo. Like “Ryan” said above…there’s a whole other vendor there for that. How is that a good idea? Maybe if it took 16mb stills while recording 2MB video, I’d think okay…but it can’t. It’s got a mechanical shutter. So why. Using your NEX-EA50 for a photo camera would look almost as dumb as those who whip out their iPads to take photos at Weddings. That’s like me bringing my 46″ Sony TV with me to use as my monitor (sorry for the rant). I’m just bummed. I don’t want to wait for the NEX-EA60 where all this crap is fixed. It’s not they if they added an ND filter and hell even an HDSDI out and then charged more people wouldn’t still be interested. I know I’d pay for that.

    So close….but I think I may just hold on to my money and wait to see what else comes by next Spring. Bummer.

    • Does no one have promotional material for their websites and such? If one’s business is videography only, there’s a good chance that the only thing you can put on your website or on the DVD cover and menu are still images from the video. Often these aren’t the best quality and you’ve got to work a little harder to find a good one and make it look presentable. I don’t see how it’s that big of a deal to switch from video to stills quickly if the camera is already on your shoulder or a tripod and you see a quick still image you’d like to have for promotional materials or for the client’s final product.

      While taking stills with a camera like this seems a little ridiculous, I know that I’ve taken plenty of still images while also shooting video so that I can have nice, clean images to put on the DVD cover and menu. The idea would be, why take two cameras with you if you only need one for a few shots?

      • I see what you are saying. And yes, when I first started I used stills from my video too which I sometimes still do. But I guess I’m thinking of this as a Wedding Videographer only. As you know, still photo cameras usually print much better which is why I contact each couple and take their favorite photos from their photographer and use those. They like them, plus it looks better when printing usually and 9 times out of 10 its an angle or a shot that I have in the video but the photo prints better (for DVD cover, etc). Plus, it keeps me connected and appreciated by my fellow photographers who I work with every weekend since I often reach out to them. But that’s the Wedding world…other event work might not be the same.

        True it’s better to have just one camera and not two to walk away with what you need, BUT… (and again, I just do weddings so maybe others who this camera was supposedly “designed for” will really have the need for that feature)…to me, if its a really important or “big” moment, and I stop to take a still with the camera, then I’ve missed shooting it on video.

        Bride: Did you get a shot of the first kiss?
        Videographer: No, I stopped my camera and got a really cool photo of it though.
        Bride: But I have a photographer.
        Videographer: But I wanted to use my special shutter button on my new Sony camera.

        I kid of course…but seriously, the article above states: “the reason this camera does not have an ND filter is because of the mechanical shutter for still photography”…if that’s true, wow. Who did Sony talk to when making this camera? An on-board ND filter is WAY more important to event videographers than a mechanical shutter to take photos when the video camera isn’t rolling.

        PS. Great link a few posts back on the RED site about frame rate, aliasing, and more. Thanks for that!

        • I’m not suggesting you would stop and take a still image at a big moment – there are plenty of moments along the way that are perfect for a cover where you don’t need to keep recording.

          Here’s the thing about getting still images from the photographer – if I were them, I wouldn’t just give them away for free, and if they are, well, more power to them I guess. But I feel like that’s no different than them asking me for raw footage so they can edit a little reel and put it on their site.

    • trackofalljades on 08.28.12 @ 12:21PM

      I can think of a lot of use cases for shooting the odd still image “through the barrel” without swinging the camcorder down to use a secondary camera. For example, you might be rapidly interviewing a lot of people in a crowd/audience/whatever and you or your assistant could be handing each one of them a standard release to sign. Having each one of them hold their release up near their face and snapping it is a SUPER easy way to remember each person’s name (and much much much faster to use as an index later than having to rewatch video clips of them saying “Hi, my name is…”).

  • I see that they are kind of hyping the light-weight aspect of this, but I personally feel that a certain weight is necessary to keep something handy, even when on the shoulder. I kinda like the additional weight.

    • trackofalljades on 08.28.12 @ 2:15AM

      I don’t disagree, but it’s always better to start light with the option of adding weight when it comes to rigging, right? That way you can have it both ways, at whim. The article points out…

      “The shoulder pad is well designed and threaded on the top side when extended – opening up the possibility to add third party accessories or counterweights.”

  • Way too many complaints about the lack of ND filters in this. At $4500, for Events/Weddings/Reality TV, name me one camera which has inbuilt NDs without a fixed lens and will give you a better looking image – and the ability to record audio in camera off XLR inputs? this is a DSLR in a video camera’s body, with video camera functions. I don’t see what the problem is considering most people shoot on DSLRs these days, and then have to shell out for all the expensive peripherals – rigs, outboard audio recorders and such. This camera is great for what it costs and what it does.

    • AF100 with dollars to spare for basic shoulder rig.

      • If only the AF100 didn’t have such a garbage codec and bizarre form factor. Footage from a hacked GH2 looks far better.

        • I think the mentality and work style of camcorder people is very different from film maker types and DSLR shooters who dominate this site.

          I read comments from Philip Johnston and other camcorder guys and they feel the lack of ND is big deal.

          • Can you elaborate on that please? I’m not sure what you mean about the difference in mentality.

          • Forget I said it.

          • Don’t worry, not looking for an argument, just interested if you’ve got a different perspective. My background is as a shooter producer for reality tv. The camera of choice for producion companies for this role for the past 3+ years has been an EX1. We use these cameras in controlled interview environments, controlled live action environments, and uncontrolled live action environments. I shoot music videos and short films on DSLRS and much prefer to use those. I feel that I’ve got enough experience on both sides to be considered a film maker and an ENG shooter, and there’s a lot of cross over in approach and techniques used.

            As a film maker, for this price point, I’d take a BMCC. As an ENG shooter, I’d take the EA50. The amount of extra work that has to go into lighting an interview to make EX footage cut with legit ENG cameras is ridiculous and a waste of time, and a lot of that has to do with the small sensor size and a sliding aperture. ND filters very rarely make a difference and any shooter worth his mettle will have variable NDs to be prepared for outdoor shoots. With a larger sensor and interchangeable lenses one could quite easily capture images that seamlessly cut with high end ENG footage. Give me the NEX-EA50 any day of the week, especially at a cheaper cost to an EX. Which brings me back to my original point – it’s great for the price and what it does.

  • Does anyone know where I could buy just the lens 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Servo Zoom Lens (SELP18200)? I would love to try this on my FS-700.

    • How do you like the FS-700?

      • I absolutely LOVE the FS-700. So many good things about it. I’m amazed at the quality of the AVCHD files at such a low bit rate. I was concerned and thinking of an external recorder at first, but can’t really see why I would need it (so far anyway) – I’ve shot green-screen, tungsten, fluorescent, and available and it all holds up pretty well in post. One of the cool things about this camera over RED is the low cost of all the extras – long life 6 to 7 hour batteries are 100 bucks SDHC cards are around $40 and even the Metabones Nikon adapter is only $89. I had a Z1U before this and the batteries fit as well so it worked out great for me.

  • john jeffreys on 08.27.12 @ 4:01PM

    this seems like every wedding/event/club/live/documentarian/porn producer/snuff film auteur’s dream camera.

    • Well…Close.

      As a full time Wedding Videographer, toss in the now infamous and elusive on board ND’s for run n’ gun work and an HDSDI out for secure pro monitoring and transmission…and then it’s my dream camera. Hell I’d pay more for that.

      Well, 2011-2012 dream anyway.

      Of course, we should probably wait and see what the final specs are and, oh yeah, how the footage actually looks.

      • trackofalljades on 08.28.12 @ 12:26PM

        “Hell I’d pay more for that.”

        I’ve been kind of wondering if maybe that’s the point? Could we not be looking at the first (low end entry) in a line of new Sony camcorders with NEX guts inside?

  • A camera without ND filters? Not an eng camera!
    All the good efforts to make this useable as an eng camera are wasted because ND needs to be onboard.
    When shooting documentary or news type eng, you often have to shoot without an assistant, and you often need to be able to carry everything along on your own.
    You also get into different light situations all the time, so having to schlepp along two or three ND filters that you will constantly need to screw on and off would be a real pain in the ass

  • Very frustrating. Without ND it is useless! So close….!

  • Just got the ea50. The sleeper in this is the lossless digital zoom as using this, in conjunction with fast primes with no loss of speed, makes for an extremely versatile system capable of low light shooting with great flexibility. That alone was the one thing really attractive about the system. Does it shoot as well as the 100 or 700, no but the difference is not that great. NDs are an issue but not a deal breaker as one can put a variable ND filter on as needs warrant. I do this with the VG 20 without issue. Not perfect but doable. Will be testing this system very soon but thus far, it looks pretty good.