It's not often that the shape of a camera is surprising, but when Sony announced the NEX-EA50, many were not expecting a camera with an APS-C sensor to take on an ENG form. What makes these large sensor cameras so special is that they can shoot in extreme low light, and that's what news, documentary, and event shooters often have to deal with. Johnnie Behiri, a BBC freelance cameraman/editor who also recently took the Sony A99 for a spin, shot some footage with a pre-production Sony NEX-EA50 and offered his thoughts on what he liked and didn't like about the camera.
Some of what Johnnie had to say about the camera:
The camera is very lightweight yet feels comfortable on the shoulder. Lightweight means you can easily mount it on your existing HDSLR accessories like a slider or tripod. Needless to say that by having a shoulder mount video camera the need for a rig and external audio device is eliminated. The most striking weakness of this camera is the absent of a built-in ND filter. I would love to go out with one of the camera engineers and film outdoor in normal lighting conditions and see his response to the footage while shooting without ND filter. Picture quality is good for the price. Be aware that rolling shutter is severe, so plan your shots accordingly when possible. Configuration for this video: 1080/25p "Cine 1" picture profile. Footage is NOT color corrected.
The first thing I noticed about the footage -- besides the interesting subject matter, of course -- is how clean it is and how much dynamic range the sensor seems to have -- though some of that could also be attributed to the Cine profile that was used. The only trouble the camera did have was outside the window, but there aren't too many cameras that are capable of keeping that area from clipping. This camera is using a similar sensor as a few other Sony cameras, but it wouldn't surprise me if the internal processing was better for the NEX-EA50 compared to a sub-$1,000 mirrorless camera.
As far as aliasing and moire, he does mention that they are reduced from what you might find on a normal DSLR, so that lends even more credibility to Sony doing more than just sticking a sensor from one of their other cameras into a larger body. The camera is capable of taking still images, but if aliasing and moire are reduced, it's likely that there is better processing going on and there is a stronger optical low-pass filter that prevents moire from occurring in certain instances.
Even with the lack of an ND filter, the footage from this clip is promising. There are a few options for dealing with this issue, with the easiest being a variable ND filter on the front of the lens. The other big positive for me is that the camera will come with a real 18-200mm zoom lens, so it will be capable of slow punch-ins when you're in a variable focal length situation. The camera is retailing for $3,600 and should be released before the end of the year, but you can pre-order right now from B&H using the link below.
What do you guys think of the footage? Is this a camera you could work into your event/doc/wedding shooting scenarios?