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A6000 with Ninja Star


DDagg

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Andrew has written that the Sony A6000 has been much improved for video. Phillip Bloom said it was one of the nicest HD images he has seen out of a stills camera. The major complaint has been the AVCHD codec. Now we have a very small Ninja Star external recorder with Pro Res.

 

Any comments about this combination would be greatly appreciated.

 

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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

I would love to know if there any noticeable image quality increase too. I was considering a Ninja for the D5300 (probably similar situation to the A6000). If it's the same IQ I would just stick to the internal SD card slots better. Anybody tried recooding these cameras HDMI output? Advice?

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Have a look at this review from the guys at Alpha/ Omega:

 

 

The HDMI out section starts around the 10:12 mark. (although there is a very brief side-by-side of HDMI vs internal earlier on, at the 6 minute mark). Basically, as with a lot of cameras, it seems to make a barely perceptible difference. I guess it would give you some audio inputs.

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Thank you utsira. This was very helpful. I also watched a few reviews comparing internal codec samples versus the pro res of the external recorder and they looked the same in every review. I am confused because all I ever read about is how much better pro res is with the high bit rate. If Sony came out with an A6100 with internal pro res codec at 220 megabits everyone would be so excited. What am I missing here?

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I am confused because all I ever read about is how much better pro res is with the high bit rate. 

 

The ProRes codec of your external recorder has little to do with the a6000 internal video performance. Ever heard of the notion of garbage in, garbage out?

ProRes codec alone cannot do magic to the signal that comes out of the HDMI port. It simply records it with a higher bitrate into an edit-friendly format, onto a recording device fast and spacious enough. The end result depends on what the incoming signal to be recorded is like.

 

 

If Sony came out with an A6100 with internal pro res codec at 220 megabits everyone would be so excited. What am I missing here?

 

Simply increasing the maximum rpm a car engine can reach won't make the overall driving performance much better, if the rest of the car remain the same. Not an ideal analogy, I know, but hopefully you'll get the picture. For ideal performance, you'll need to have more than just a higher bitrate codec.

 

On the other hand, in theory, if the a6000 had internal ProRes built in, that would have made bigger headlines, at least in this video enthusiast circle. Had Sony done that, they would probably done more than just that, for the aforementioned reason.

 

 

Any comments about this combination would be greatly appreciated.

 

I haven't tried an external recorder with an a6000, but I have done so with an RX10. The signal out of the HDMI port of the RX10 may be different from that of the a6000, but the principle is the same. The difference an external recorder will give you is subtle, but there is a difference. Whether that's worth the investment in the case of the a6000, that's another story. Suppose it depends.

 

Anyway, the basic AVCHD footage out of the RX10 looks fairly decent as is, especially when the scene is reasonably static. But when you add camera movement, things tend to get a bit muddy. Record the same scene onto a Ninja 2, for example, and the motion mud mostly disappears, and therefore the overall footage looks slightly better. 

 

The other benefit of the externally recorded ProRes footage is that it's likely to have more latency for editing/grading. The lower bitrate H264 AVCHD footage is likely to fall apart sooner than the ProRes footage, and the codec is designed for delivery and playback, rather than editing. Recording externally won't change the original 8-bit 422 or 420 signal into anything more than it already is, though.

 

FWIW, I for one would not use that video review as a guide to set anything in the camera. I'd recommend ignoring the settings suggested and doing your own experiments, starting from the default settings of that camera, and tweaking it as little as possible at first. 

 

Chances are that either the 'normal' (or whatever it's called) profile is designed to give decent out of the camera look, as cameras like these are aimed for the so called average user who don't do colour grading. The other profiles and sliders are there mostly to tweak the end result to the user's liking. They're not intended to deliver a "log" or something fancy for a seasoned colour grader to start working with. If they were, the cameras wouldn't come with just the basic H264 or AVCHD delivery format to begin with.

 

So don't expect miracles when you start 'grading' the internal footage of the camera. You might even end up with something worse than the default footage, like the clip with the standing girl holding a pint of beer and a phone in that video, for example.

When you record onto a Ninja 2 or Star, you may have a bit more to work with before things start looking terrible but again, don't expect miracles from a $600 consumer camera. 

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Thanks Quirky. Appreciate the lesson. What camera do you recommend for better video? GH4 or A7s or maybe something else. Just would like your opinion as to what you really like out there.

 

You're welcome, but that wasn't really intended to be a lesson, just my 2c on the subject.  ;)

 

What to recommend to someone else, I'd rather not do that, because our personal preferences and needs are so different. I often try to get away from that question by saying something like "your money, your decision." 

 

To be able to give you any usable suggestions I/we should know more about your personal preferences, and what you wish to accomplish with the camera. Just like a proper salesman in a camera store would start by asking you plenty of questions first.

 

Nevertheless, here are some thoughts, so anyone else reading this please skip the rest of this post.  :)

 

Being a photographer, too, a fancy MILC with an EVF built in would be an obvious choice for me. Single purpose cameras are fine, too, but I don't prefer typical ENG/camcorder style cameras or rigs. The ergonomics often don't quite work for me. Besides that, it's up to the specs and ergonomics of the camera. It has to feel 'right' in my hand. 

 

I don't own GH4 or A7s, (yet, anyway), but I believe either of those would be a nice choice. But when comparing those two pricey primadonnas to something like the $600 a6000, we're comparing apples to oranges, aren't we. Maybe our budget won't stretch all the way to the A7s right now.

 

If we look into the $600 or thereabouts price range, suppose the a6000 is not such a bad choice, provided that you're okay with the one hotshoe mic that works with the camera, or recording primary audio with an external recorder. And that the camera itself feels 'right' in your own hand. I've played with one a bit, and I got some mixed feelings about it. I decided that it's not quite my cup of tea, but not because of the footage it delivers. It's not bad, suppose I could live with one, but it didn't feel just 'right.'

 

Then, if we go up in the price range, there's the BMPCC, for example, but it's a bit quirky, and needs plenty of additional gear, not just lenses. They all cost money. You'll easily end up with a system costing nearly $1,500, with just one lens. But the footage is nice enough, although it's not a lazy shooter's tool.

There's also the aforementioned RX10 and its Panasonic rival, the RZ1000 around $1k, but those come with a fixed lens. Which is also a good way to start, or to use as a secondary camera, because you can then concentrate on other essential gear, like a good tripod, lights and so on. The RX10 would also benefit from an external recorder, within certain limits, as described above. Which is another extra cost, of course.

 

Some people are quite happy shooting with 'older' models like Panasonic GH3 and G6, and neither of those look to be too shabby for video, in their current sub-$1k price range. Personally I didn't quite like some of the knobs and bits in the GH3, but that's just me. Probably just a matter of getting used to. the GH3 doesn't have focus peaking and the 'zebras' are a bit different, but you can get along fine without those, or you can get an external monitor or recorder which come with peaking, zebras and stuff.

 

But the bottom line is, it's a matter of taste, and it all boils down to your wants and needs, so...  -_-

 

If you fancy the a6000 and it feels right in your hand, just go for it. It's not too bad. To get something significantly better, you'd have to spend clearly more money. If you don't know what you want, just wait for a while. Maybe even few months, if you can.

 

No doubt there will be another batch of cool new cameras coming within the next few months. From the usual suspects.  ;)

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I have an A6000 and although I find the AVCHD codec quality is very good in most normal scenes when you have a central subject, in other shots when there is a ton of high-frequency information AND a lot of motion in the scene sometimes the compression can't keep up.  Here are some examples:

 

Shot #1 - central subject, light camera and subject motion, not a ton of high-frequency detail in the scene.  Don't see much in the way of compression artifacts.

 

shot1.png

 

Shot #2 - lots of high-frequency detail but shot is fairly static.  Pretty decent detail, don't see a lot of compression artifacts.

 

shot2.png
 

 

Shot #3 - subject in motion, camera in motion, lots of high-frequency detail in the background.  Although sometimes it's hard to distinguish motion blur from compression artifacts here (I'm shooting at 1/50), there are some noticeable compression artifacts on the trees, the subject's t-shirt, and the edge of the subject against the background.

 

shot3.png

 

 

I'm curious if recording the raw HDMI output with the Ninja Star would eliminate these artifacts.

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Shot #3 - subject in motion, camera in motion, lots of high-frequency detail in the background.  Although sometimes it's hard to distinguish motion blur from compression artifacts here (I'm shooting at 1/50), there are some noticeable compression artifacts on the trees, the subject's t-shirt, and the edge of the subject against the background.


This is exactly the kind of bad quality compression that I hated seeing out of my NEX. I found it good at the shallow depth of field shots, but it was so nasty seeing how fast motion shots fell apart...

Sony really should update the firmware of A6000 to have equal features to A5100 (XAVC-S at 50 Mbps, 720p at 120fps).
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