Walkin' in a Camera Wonderland
IBC is my favorite trade show. I can leave work, catch an evening flight to Amsterdam, and take a train directly from the airport to the convention center. If I’m hungry, some exhibitor will be providing food. Thirsty? Water, various forms of coffee, juices, beer, and wine flow freely. IBC even throws a party to which everyone is invited. But none of that is why I like it so much.
Americans tend to forget that we are not alone. Back in the days of RCA cameras, you needed to come to IBC to see those of the UK-based manufacturer Pye.
Today, we tend to think of NAB as an international show. Cameras are shown there by such Japanese manufacturers as Hitachi, JVC, Panasonic, Sony, and Toshiba. And Grass Valley’s cameras at NAB come from Europe. So why bother with IBC?
This year, at IBC, I saw new (or modified) cameras from Acutelogic, ARRI, Astro, Camera Corps, Dalsa, Gigawave, HDAVS, Lux Media Plan, Point Grey, ShenZhen Tiger Information Technology Exploitation Co., Skyline:Views, 3D-One, and Vaddio, among others. And, although Sony was not an IBC exhibitor this year, two of its cameras could nevertheless be found at the IBC Production Village, shooting the same lit set as cameras from Grass Valley, JVC, Panasonic, Red, Silicon Imaging, and Weisscam, as well as some of the other brands mentioned above.
One of those other brands, HDAVS, showed its HDC-680 E2 DataCam, already used at China Central Television. The full-size camcorder uses 2/3-inch CCD sensors and offers 12-axis color correction, but its most unusual feature is probably its storage mechanism. It has two slots for iVDR hard-drive disk packs, and flash memories are available in the same package. The storage types can be mixed and either extended capacity or redundant recording selected.
ARRI’s new camcorders are also shoulder mount but about as compact as can be, given that they use “3.5K” 35-mm movie-frame-sized imagers and have PL lens mounts. Two are to have electronic viewfinders and one a through-the-lens optical viewfinder. Details about recording were not offered, but, although only prototypes were available at the show, ARRI demonstrated sensitivity in a dark set and also showed sequences shot against “Competitor A” in a broad range of lighting conditions. One technique ARRI uses to extend dynamic range (said to be about a stop better than in the company’s own D-21) is using two exposure times per frame, a brief one to capture highlights before they can saturate the photosites and a longer one for dark areas of the scene.
Speaking of extended dynamic range, Lux Media Plan (LMP) is claiming 120 dB in “high dynamic mode” in their new HD 1200 micro camera (38 x 42 x 42 mm, or well under two inches in its biggest dimension). LMP’s HD cameras have always been unique in using 2/3-inch-format sensors instead of the more common micro-cam 1/3, but now they’re using Thomson’s Xensium image sensors, the ones used in the Grass Valley Infinity. A dynamic range of 120 dB translates roughly into 20 stops, which might seem impossible but for what Thomson showed at the Digital Cinema Summit in 2008, a scene with a contrast ratio of 10 million to 1 captured by the Xensium sensor (in which case 120 dB might be a conservative rating).
LMP’s HD 1200 wasn’t the only new tiny camera at IBC 2009. For the first time, wireless-transmission specialist Gigawave came out with its own tiny HD wireless camera. It uses a 2/3-inch imager and a 3.5-mm lens (for an extraordinarily wide-angle view) and is towered over by its “handheld” controller. If even that is not small enough for you, Acutelogic offered a thumb-sized HD camera module that includes a 10:1 zoom lens.
LMP was also not the only exhibitor with a 3-D camera system. Dual-camera rigs could be seen all over the show — even at the EVS exhibit. But one exhibitor, 3D-One, had a unified 3-D camcorder. Its features include a vergence control and a 3-D Viewmaster-style viewfinder. And, unlike what Panasonic showed at its NAB exhibit in April, this 3-D camcorder was fully functional.
There were many other new cameras at IBC 2009. LMP is joining P+S Technik in making a digital HD “magazine” for ARRI’s 16SR film camera. It’s not a new idea. At IBC 2002, the Joe Dunton Company showed its Ikegami-based Mitchell Digital Magazine for the same film camera.
There were also many new camera accessories at IBC 2009, ranging from WiFi-controlled lighting and 5K resolution charts from France to a small-camera turret mount from Poland to a Netherlands rig of a jib on a motion-stabilizing brace on a Segway with knee control. There was even a Victorian steampunk-design server controller, accurately described in the IBC Daily as “jaw-droppingly gorgeous” (pictured at the beginning of this post) from UK-based Hi Tech Systems. But my favorite product at the show was a simple lens.
The Meuser Optik Cine-Lux 101 HR lens wasn’t the widest, tightest, smallest, largest, lightest, heaviest, or least or most expensive at the show. Not having had the chance to test it or compare it to others, I can’t say whether it was the best. But its product sheet included full specifications, including modulation-transfer function charts and other important data with which other suppliers no longer seem to think we need to worry our pretty little minds. Be still my heart!