Another year, another trip down to London for the BSC Expo. It's easily the best trade show in the UK for Cinematographers - unlike others, there's no sound, editing or broadcast stuff - it's all cameras, lenses, lighting and grip! With too many stands and things to see, it's impossible to write up a comprehensive report about everything that was present. Instead, I'll highlight just some of the goodies on show that caught my eye.
Kippertie were showing off their brand new 'Revolva' for the first time - a lens mount for the RED DSMC2 family with internal NDs. Bright Tangerine products were to be seen all over, despite them not actually exhibiting. That may change next year - though we'll just have to wait and see. Hawkwoods were promoting their new Mini V-lock batteries - very interesting to me given that I've just examined exactly this market. I think I'll have to amend the article and update it very soon!
I attended a number of seminars this year, all of which were informative and packed with valuable information - all of which were both technically and creatively enlightening. Panavision's Michael Cioni talked at length about large format, 8K capture and workflow, plus a panel of world class cinematographers hosted by John de Boorman BSC discussed their careers and how each of their respective nationalities and upbringings may have influenced their style and work.
The theme this year was clearly 'large format'. Not only was there a heap of full frame (and larger) lenses to examine, but more and more manufacturers are making the move to larger sensors. The Sony Venice was on show, as was Panavision's DXL2. Featuring RED's Monstro sensor, the dynamic range, native ISO, noise performance and colour reproduction have all improved significantly. The Panavision stand in fact was so popular throughout the Friday that it was impossible to get anywhere near their gear. They did have an excellent 'lens bar' - probably part of the draw. The RED Weapon VistaVision (Monstro) was to be seen not only on RED's own stand but throughout the show - a big difference from last year's VistaVision (Dragon) which, at the time, numbered only ten in the world. (One was present!)
I couldn't write about this years expo without mentioning one more camera - the one that probably got talked about the most. Arri have finally created a 4K camera - the Alexa LF (for large format.) A hair larger than full frame, it's the exact same (eight year old) sensor design found in all their other cameras, but larger. Fitting exactly half way between the Alexa and the Alexa 65 and unlike the latter, the LF is available for purchase (between £67k and £88k plus VAT, depending on options). Aside from having a larger sensor, the other main difference is it has a new lens mount - LPL (large positive lock). Initially I wondered about the necessity of introducing yet another mount (the Alexa 65 has an XPL - maxi PL), however it does actually make sense. Firstly, it's important to note that it does not make the PL mount and all full frame PL lenses redundant! The camera comes with an LPL-PL adapter, allowing Super 35 and full frame PL lenses to continue to be used as normal. The decision to introduce the LPL mount is because it has a shorter flange distance. This allows full frame lenses to be mounted closer to the sensor and in turn, means their design is smaller and lighter that would otherwise be possible with a regular PL mount. A fantastic analogy would be that of Fujinon's wonderful MK lenses - made in Sony E mount (with a very short flange distance), it means they're far smaller and lighter than any of their immediate competition.
To go with the LF and the LPL, Arri announced a new set of lenses - their 'Signature Primes'. Not dissimilar from Master Primes, they're very sharp - though slightly more 'organic', according to Arri. Not made by Zeiss or Fujinon however - traditionally Arri's go-to brands for lens manufacturing; I was told that they're by a Japanese company "that you won't have heard of". As with any new product from Arri, the Alexa LF received a lot of attention. However, much of the talk seems to be that of an underwhelmed nature. Nobody questions or doubts the Alexa's fantastic image quality, however many comment on the fact that their sensor is essentially unchanged in 8 years - when most other manufacturers are coming out with new and improved sensor technology every 18 months. Others would say if it isn't broken, don't fix it I suppose! Who knows, whilst everyone is continually and incrementally improving their designs, maybe in two years or so Arri will finally announce a new sensor that blows away the competition and will become the technology to beat for the next decade, just as the original Alexa did back in 2010.