My Little Sony

Sony have always made great little compact cameras and when the Sony RX100mk IV was released not too long ago I decided it was time to try one out.  Unfortunately there's a limit to how many cameras one actually needs so as the Sony came into the fold out went the Fuji X100s - a camera that I liked but never grew to love.  The Fuji had too many quirks that I found irritating - slow to start up; poor battery life; a tendency to go to sleep at the most inconvenient time and no decent video capability - it did however have a lot of pluses but it just never really did it for me.

Enter the Sony RX100mk IV.

My prime reason for buying this camera was size and video performance - it's basically a quality video camera with a 1" chip in about the smallest package it's possible to produce - yes there are problems associated with that but it does mean it's a very useful camera for certain applications.  The video image quality is great, shooting XAVC S files up to 4K/25p/100mbps.  Picture profile settings allow you to shoot in both a variety of presets as well as S-log, allowing full control of the image - a built in ND filter (one setting only) allows a certain amount of control over aperture when shooting video.  The camera also has a very good slow motion capability with a variety of frame rates as high as 1000fps (at much reduced resolution)  but with full 100fps at full 1920 x 1080 resolution.  The video below was shot recently at the Goodwood Revival - I'd finished shooting a short documentary piece I was there to cover and decided to give the little Sony a quick test in shooting slow motion.  All the clips were shot at 100fps and conformed to 25p in FCPx - all the audio on this short piece was recorded in camera.


I've successfully used the Sony as a B camera on a number of shoots recently - notably shooting in Tuscany and Cornwall for a travel company using the camera in a variety of situations where size and speed of set up was paramount - on a Besteady One 3 axis gimbal roaming the streets, on a slider and also on a Delkin Gecko suction mount attached to the bonnet and side of a bus - all worked brilliantly and provided great image quality where otherwise to would have been very difficult to place the larger main camera.


Of course it's never likely to me a main camera - audio capability is very limited and it's ironically TOO small to be handled easily, you pretty much have to add to it in order to make it truly functional.  But it is useful and I can see it being used in situations where you might otherwise use a Gopro or similar. I have improved handheld video shooting dramatically by the addition of a simple handle bracket with quick release plate and by using a Zacuto Z-finder as an eyepiece on the LCD screen - not the most elegant of rigs I agree, but it works and has so far astounded me with the quality of the image.

As a stills camera I don't really like it yet - but then I don't like shooting stills with a camera this small full stop.  The EVF is good and very bright and at a push I'm sure it would be fine but for stills I'm still sticking to my Canon 5d mklll for the time being.

A Moondog at the Circus

The smart guys at Moondog Labs have come up with a very clever Anamorphic lens adaptor for the Apple Iphone.  In their words "Make cinematic video with the gorgeous widescreen impact, subtle distortions and horizontal flares found in landmark films like Apocalypse Now, Alien, and Inception".  Now I'm not sure if it's really quite that simple but it certainly a useful tool if you're wanting to shoot widescreen anamorphic style footage with your Iphone or other Apple device.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 19.08.55
Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 19.08.55

Now for those of you who don't know what "anamorphic" means I'll try to explain.  Basically it involves trying to shoot widescreen footage on a standard sensor or film - the widescreen image is compressed to fit on the frame and then is stretched back to it's widescreen format during playback or projection.  Without this adaptor in place the only way to achieve widescreen style images with an Iphone would be to mask the image in your editing software and basically force the widescreen look by cropping top and bottom.  Of course the drawback with this is you loose a lot of your image.

Using the FilmicPro app to control your filming is the best way to get the best quality video out of your phone and by applying the Moondog anamorphic setting in the app you can correctly capture and unsqueeze your video for display during capture and playback.

The circus came to town last night so with phone in pocket I shot a few clips...

OK so the Iphone has a lot of limitations when it comes to shooting video - after all it's a phone at the end of the day and not a video camera.  But - and here's the big but -  it's not a bad video camera and it's one that you have with you practically all the time.  With the addition of this little adaptor it becomes a more interesting video camera, and that makes a difference.  The Irish News broadcaster RTE has for several years now been experimenting with reporters using the Iphone for reporting, several full length features have been made with just the Iphone and one notable film, Tangerine, was shown at the latest Sundance film festival - all shot on the Iphone with Filmic pro and the Moondog lens.

So it's not perfect but the best camera, whether still or video, is the one you have with you.