In early 2008 the DSLR Revolution took us by storm, and in response largely to the DSLR revolution mainstream manufacturer giants such as Panasonic with the AF-100 and now Sony with the PWM-F3 are finally listening to the demands for larger sized sensor video cameras. (Or likely caught on after watching record breaking sales on Canon DSLRs.)
On November 8th 2010 Sony announced their new “affordable” Super 35mm digital camcorder to enter the line-up of existing high-end 35mm digital based cameras. Panasonic did introduce the AF-100 earlier in 2010, but it featured a micro 4/3rds sensor which only measures 18.9mm x 10.63mm in size while the F3 with its Super 35mm frame measures 24.89mm x 13.5mm.
Sony had yet another surprise when rumors surfaced that a prosumer version of the F3 was in development and would use the same Exmor CMOS sensor of the F3. The FS-100 was later announced as a prosumer option for recording Super 35mm digital images. One main difference is the F3 uses the XDCAM codec at 35mbit, while the FS-100 uses the AVCHD codec with a maximum bitrate of 28mbit.
Next to the RED line of cameras these cameras are part of the first wave of true Super 35mm video cameras to come close in competing with RED. Slowly we can expect Canon and JVC to follow suit which will be interesting to watch for over the next few months. Obviously RED has a larger frame of 4k and the ability to record using a RAW codec, however the workflow of XDCAM and 2k HD images has several post production advantages and can be really good for most applications. When you consider the option to work in 422 or 444 color space this is perfect for most situations.
One point of consideration is in order to fully utilize the 444 SLOG upgrade offered on the Sony F3, you’ll need an off-board recorder like the Gemeni 444 recorder which retails for $6000. Alternative options exist to record 422 to a variety of devices like the AJA Ki Pro mini, and newer devices coming out soon from Atomos and Sound Devices. To tally up the complete cost of the F3 to shoot SLOG excluding lenses and batteries:
Sony F3 $14,000
444 SLOG Upgrade $3,600
Gemini 444 recorder $6,000
We’re looking at approximately $23,600 excluding any taxes and delivery. The Epic-S is likely just around the corner and Jim Jannard has already hinted at a couple surprises coming out before the end of this year. If the RED company holds true to what they have indicated in the past we could very well see a scaled down version of the Epic-X for a street price of $17k. If this ends up being the case then I see no reason why anyone would choose the Sony F3 over the RED, I certainly would not.