September 12, 2012

Sony Unveils World's First Full-Frame Video Camera

Today is quite the announcement day for Sony. As I hinted at in the previous A99 post, there were more cameras to come. One of the other major announcements today is a first of its kind: a full frame video camera. That camera, the NEX-VG900, joins the replacement to the VG20, the new NEX-VG30. While both of these are consumer options, they feature the same very adaptable E-mount as well as uncompressed HDMI -- with the VG900 actually including an adapter for A-mount lenses to be able to be electronically controlled by the camera. Check out some footage from the VG900 full frame video camera below:

Here are the specs for the NEX-VG900:

  • Full-Frame 24.3MP Exmor CMOS Sensor
  • Sony E-mount (A-mount lens compatible via included adapter)
  • Automatic APS-C mode is triggered when E-mount lenses are attached
  • 3.0″ TruBlack Tilting LCD Display
  • Uncompressed HDMI (mini-connector)
  • XGA OLED Electronic Viewfinder
  • (Partial) Data/Frame Rates: AVCHD: PS – 1920 x 1080/60p@28Mbps — FX 1920 x 1080/24p@24Mbps
  • Still Image ISO: 100-25600
  • Video ISO: 0-30db gain (100-3200 ISO)
  • Quad Capsule Spatial Array Surround mic (5.1 channel)
  • Expanded Focus, Peaking, Zebras
  • No ND Filters
  • Memory Stick PRO Duo™/Pro-HG Duo™/PRO-HG HX Duo™ media - SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory card
  • Release Date: November 2012
  • Price: $3,300 (body only)

The specs for the VG30 are practically the same except the sensor is a 16 megapixel APS-C, probably the same sensor that Sony is using in the NEX-EA50 camera. There is also another interesting addition with the VG30, and that is the camera comes with Sony Vegas 11 software (something I'm surprised they haven't offered with more cameras to encourage people to use the software). There seems to be some discrepancy between ISO values between this camera and the A99, but since they didn't give the video specification in ISO I had to give my best guess based on 6db equaling 1 stop. I'll adjust this when I find out for sure, but it's odd that Sony is using anything but ISO when you've got literally the same technology in the stills cameras.

A picture of the VG30:

I would expect the image quality between the A99 and the VG900 to be very similar (if not the same). They're both using the same sensor, and what might be the exact same image processor, so the only thing you're losing is the better autofocus capability of the A99. This would be a good camera for people who care more about shooting video first, since you've got the ability to use a true zoom lens with the on-board rocker switch, and you've also got a better on-board microphone. You can get XLR inputs with an option adapter, or you could also go from XLR to the 1/8" jack on the camera.

These sure are exciting times, and it will be an interesting to see how the VG900 fits between the DSLRs and the FS100 (which should have slightly better video quality and low-light performance). Sony is pulling out all of the stops with these cameras, especially little additions like an APS-C crop mode that is automatically enabled when you attached E-mount lenses (which were designed for a smaller-than-full-frame sensor). The VG30 should be a slight improvement over the VG20, and it will cost $2,700 with the 18-200mm zoom lens, or just $1,800 for the body only. Check out the pictures below for some more shots of both cameras.

What do you guys think? Is the VG900 intriguing as a more fully-featured full-frame video option than some other DSLRs for under $3,500?

Links:

[via The Verge]

Your Comment

38 Comments

The abundantly obvious product opportunity right now is an EF to E mount adapter that not only gives the FF EF lenses full functionality on the E mount but also adds stackable ND filters. Not only all of that, but is in stock with a 30-day MBG from Amazon/Adorama/B&H rather than having to sit in a preorder queue from some little shop in Hong Kong.

Canon has failed in its own mirrorless mount as the EF-M cannot support full frame, while Sony thought ahead and did it right.

This camera doesn't have the ergonomics and build of the C100 (the handle balance is going to be poor, no NDs etc) but otherwise apparently kills the FS100. I'm not sure how you see the FS100 as being better in any capacity really. Is there something wrong with this implementation?

September 12, 2012

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Peter

Well I think the sensor in the FS100 is supposed to be better in terms of resolution and, well, sensitivity. That said, for some reason I have always disliked images from the FS100 even compared to much blurrier DSLR's (it's mostly a totally subjective thing but I think the FS100 tends to look too falsely sharp and the highlights are a bit weird) so I'll be very curious to watch videos from the VG900 when I get the chance.

September 12, 2012

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cows

So watching the videos it's definitely softer than the FS100, but I like the soft look better in some ways, even with the loss of resolution. Probably partly because with shallow depth of field a bit of softness isn't as noticeable. I'm still not thrilled with the highlight behavior, though.

September 12, 2012

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cows

Going from 6K (or 5K) to 1080p with the VG900 and VG30 is a lot harder and less efficient than going from 3K to 1080p. That also means bigger pixels for the FS100, and that will mean lower noise - unless Sony has made some radical improvements to the noise reduction in video mode. Image quality will be better on the FS100 - the amount that it is better is unclear at the moment. The FS100 also has a full-size HDMI port and on-board XLR without any adapters.

September 12, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

I'm not sure I agree that downsampling is particularly harder the greater the zoom factor. There are shortcut ways like binning that e.g. the 5D3 does that this sensor most likely doesn't do, but would doing a proper e.g. Lanczos algorithm be harder to do?

Per-photosite dynamic range will be theoretically better with larger photo sites, but we are talking about the same number of delivered pixels in the end result (1080p). Downsampling increases dynamic range because noise destructively interferes with itself as it is averaged while signal constructively does so. You can think of it as simply taking that larger photosite and dividing it up into more pieces...each of the pieces will harvest less photons and thus be more susceptible to thermal noise, but combined together, they will have roughly the same harvesting ability and noise susceptibility as the larger light well would.

So a larger sensor is almost always going to win out over a smaller one even if it is chopped up into a million pieces. Whether Sony has seen fit to implement it better than the FS100 sensor is a good question, but I don't see any physical laws that would need to be broken off hand.

September 12, 2012

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Peter

Peter can you please elaborate on this EF to NEX adapter. What do you mean by stackable ND's?

September 12, 2012

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Dimitri

Typically video cameras have two glass Neutral Density filters between the lens and the sensor. This is because you can't reduce exposure time in video without it looking strobey, so if you are in bright light, you have to do something else, either close down the aperture (deeping your depth of field) or use a neutral density filter which are like sunglasses for your camera. Neutral means they aren't supposed to give a color cast to the image.

The two usually are 2x and 4x (in stops or "exposure values") and they can be stacked together to make a 6x equivalent filter. The E mount has the sensor right up close to the flange, so there's less room to put the ND filters, though they did it on the FS700 with apparently very thin ones. But an EF lens to E mount adapter would have space where the mirror would have been on an EF SLR, so the stackable ND filters could be slid in with a lever on the side of the adapter.

I'm saying this because Sony is putting out a lot of products with E mount but no ND's, and most people have EF lenses they might want to put on there for video, so... I think they would sell like hotcakes until Sony decides to make NDs standard on its E mount videocams.

September 12, 2012

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Peter

This really peaks my interest. I'm in the process of making a purchasing decision for a set of cameras for a venue to shoot live music videos for smaller artists, with the only viable option for good picture quality being the FS100. No, I'm not saying this image will be comprable with an FS100, but it was found cost-prohibitive to purchase a set of FS100's for what we plan on shooting. This camera might just be the answer. Too early to tell though.

September 12, 2012

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This is really interesting. The addition of Sony Vegas is great as well. I personally love Vegas and prefer it over the latest Premiere Pro any day of the week.

September 12, 2012

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The VG900 seems interesting purely because of the sensor size but its that same sensor which makes the whole camera branding somewhat strange. From the one side it's absolutely awesome - a full frame sensor gives you a very unique aesthete which I personally find very appealing. On the other hand this is a consumer camera with consumer related limitations - I'm guessing no advanced monitoring issues, same 4:2:0 AVCHD codec etc.
Though all this shows that Sony isn't afraid of self-cannibalization, one could argue that perhaps they're moving a tiny bit too fast maybe?

September 12, 2012

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Here's a better footage from the VG900 and at 1080p, looks killer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGrVXJqmIwE

How easy is to mount EF or EF-S lenses on these two?

September 12, 2012

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I agree I think it looks a little better also. thanks for the link.

September 13, 2012

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Gary Simmons

Does this footage look really soft to any body ells? the a99 also?

September 12, 2012

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September 12, 2012

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Huh. That didn't look as good to me as the earlier promo you posted. I saw something that looked like a hitch in some of the pans, that bothers me terribly on the RX100. It seems Sony has this NR technology built into their video processing that you can't turn off that is scene-dependent. If the scene is bright enough, the NR goes off, and you get noise in the shadows. If you pan to a darker area, the NR suddenly turns on. If this camera suffers from that problem then it's definitely consumer/ENG grade and won't be a cinema camera.

September 12, 2012

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Peter

I had a VG20 that I liked very much, but did not like the manual zoom lens. I didn't know there was, or is now, a powered zoom lens and XLR adapter, so I sold it and got a Canon XA10 instead.

September 12, 2012

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Colin Head

Any word on the maximum ISO equivalent gain? The VG20's maximum (30dB) was about ISO 3200. If they keep the same self-inflicted limit on the VG900 and VG30, it doesn't bode well from a marketing perception against Canon and Nikon.

September 12, 2012

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dural78

That also looks to be the case here, too. Sony lists 30db for both cameras.

September 12, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

That's a shame, since both the 5D mk III and D800 have usable ISO 12800. I suppose it's because Sony has the FS100 to protect.

September 12, 2012

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dural78

Well maybe they are limiting it because it's a consumer product and consumers don't know anything about noise reduction?

September 12, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

interesting that on the VG30 and the VG900 the button is marked "gain/ISO" looks like they are trying to be friendly to people who are used to using video cameras and people who are used to using DSLRs.

Be very interested to see what this camera can do when it gets into the hands of impartial reviewers.

keen to know how moire and rolling shutter are handled e.c.t.

Can't wait for someone to get a "metabones" adaptor on this to see how the EF and EF-S lenses work. (the APS-C compatibility mode can be switched to auto, on or off, so should work with EF-S)

September 12, 2012

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I'm also curious to know whether the camera offers other digital crop modes, such as the 1.4 and 2x crop announced on the RX1. Anyone heard if the A99 has them?

September 12, 2012

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Dimitri

Dear Sony, please don't let this camera be crippled by dodgy NR or lack of image profile control or codec.

September 12, 2012

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Stu Mannion

P.s. just want to say keep up the good work Joe.

September 12, 2012

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Stu Mannion

Thanks - really appreciate the support :)

September 12, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

You're welcome. You do a lot of good work for this community.

September 12, 2012

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Stu Mannion

seconded

September 13, 2012

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Hey also does anyone know if the Metabones works on full frame?

September 12, 2012

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Stu Mannion

Theres also cinemaTome and Cinema Gamma profiles for this camera which would equal GRADEABLE h.264

September 12, 2012

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quobetah

Well it's not clear whether those are flat profiles or they are actually Cine Gamma curves like on the EX1 or other cameras.

September 12, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

September 12, 2012

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Stu Mannion

Thanks for your reply Peter.
I misunderstood your first post in thinking that such an adapter already existed.
You've got me thinking though, would a DIY adapter work for manual lenses. I mean, dumb NEX adapters are so cheap, would adding an ND in there work?

September 13, 2012

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Dimitri

There are already adapters from EF lens to E mount that support electronic control, just not with ND filters included (you would put them in a matte box or screw them onto the front of a lens). http://www.metabones.com

September 13, 2012

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Peter

I'm aware of those adapters Peter. I was thinking more along the lines of ultra wide manual lenses for NEX or the BM camera. Many ultra wide lenses don't accept filters on the front end, so I'm thinking why not try placing a small fader ND inside an EF to NEX or EF to M4/3rds adapter.
Does anyone know if this would work, or am I missing something?

September 13, 2012

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Dimitri

There are several lenses that are designed to have small filters attached to the mount side, but currently, I'm not aware of any lens mount adapters that afford that. Ideally they would have screw-in filter threads, and maybe even more ideally a dial that would let you turn a ND grad or CPol while it was tucked in there. Some people do kludge in netting or gel filters and such on the mount end of a lens, but do so at your own risk.

Fotodiox recently announced a new filter adapter for many wide angle lenses, with 145mm screw-ins they also sell. But it may be better to just get a mattebox and 4x4 or 6x6 glass.

September 13, 2012

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Peter

FYI, for the NEX-VG900, you'll find detailed information (on an ongoing basis) at the User Group, http://facebook.com/vg900. Also at Vimeo, http://vimeo.com/groups/vg900, and Twitter, http://twitter.com/nexvg900.

September 13, 2012

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A whole bunch more footage here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zwh5rOUmFlQ

Looks pretty good though they've overexposed a lot of it to my taste. Certainly has more resolution than the Canon DSLRs. The codec looks a bit thin but then that's probably youtube.

More bits of footage including a low-light and auto-focus test here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awhyJiMsDSQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLzHJ7yqU_M
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SR3Dv0N8FQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7dMhvF1Wyc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZarddgGtpQ

Can you tell I'm excited about this camera? The little thing I like so much is the smooth digital zoom without loosing resolution (great if it works).

September 13, 2012

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Stu Mannion

Unsurprisingly to me it looks like a combination of Sony's prosumer video implementation with a FF DSLR depth of field. They of course aren't showing you the footage pushed yet to reveal how noisy it gets, but of course the low light should be quite good, though perhaps not as good as the 5D3. It was a bit macroblocky in the candlelight clip but again we are viewing through Youtube. It's not clear to me whether these were shot in the log gamma or whether they are unmodified clips from camera. Sony's in-camera digital stabilization I like though so far in my tests on the RX100. But this thing is going to be a pain to balance on a steadycam...I would be mounting the 1/4-20 to the EF adapter and trying not to move the flip out screen.

I would warn about digital zoom: for one thing, the implementation has to be very good regarding aliasing/moire or it will look terrible. For another, the grain of the noise and any banding will change quite dramatically every frame as you zoom digitally, and this will be very difficult to fix with NR in post, just as using AWB makes it difficult to correct color in post.

But the best thing about all this is, Sony is very likely to provide us with a pro-level cinema camera that uses FF e-mount within the next year or so. Couple it with the FS700's feature set (NDs, 240p, 4K output) and a C100-grade build and that's a winning camera. They did make ergonomic improvements to this design. I'm not very interested in switching lens formats though so adapter quality will be key.

September 13, 2012

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Peter