Adobe started officially supporting the Radeon R9 290 series graphics cards in december and the original list prices for these GPU’s looked pretty nice at $399 for the R9 290 and $549 for the R9 290x. In most tests the R9 290 and R9 290x performs with in about 5% of the GTX 780 at $499 and GTX 780 ti at $699. If the MSRP of the R9 290 cards would have been consistent, the $100 to $150 in savings would have made the Radeon cards very attractive.
Unfortunately there have been two issues plaguing these GPUs. First, up until a few weeks ago virtual currency mining was driving the R9 290 series card prices up as high as $800 to $900 a piece, making the GTX 780 and 780 ti much more attractive for both video editing and gaming. Second, the stock Radeon design for these cards only provided a single, very loud cooling fan.
Thankfully both of these problems are starting to fade away. Virtual currency prices have dropped down low enough that they no longer seem to be effecting Radeon GPU prices. Also brands like Sapphire (Tri-X above) and ASUS have started to release cards with much quieter and more efficient custom cooling shrouds that keep noise levels and operating temperatures down.
Where things start to get interesting is that as the virtual currency prices fall a lot of people are beginning to unload large amounts of R9 290 and R9 290x cards on to ebay. This has been driving the used prices of these cards down by an extra $100 to $150 on ebay while the GTX Titan, GTX 780, and GTX 780 ti prices stay about the same. If the prices of a Nvidia 780 ti and Radeon R9 290x is the same, i’d say go with an Nvidia card but if you can save a few hundred dollars for 5% less performance and higher operating temperatures, the Radeon cards start to look like a pretty good value.
I ended up winning a Sapphire R9 290x Tri-X card for $380 on ebay yesterday while I was in the doctors office waiting room which is what actually got me started looking at current GPU prices. I was very impressed with the 4k Radeon Adobe CC editing demos and rendering tests I say at NAB this year. They were getting great playback and rendering at 4k on a 4k timeline with nothing more than a R9 290x and a i7 4770. Plus the $319 price savings over a GTX 780 ti is money I can spend on a nice monitor upgrade.
In my two editing bays I currently run a GTX 680 and a Radeon HD 7970. After the updates that were released by Adobe at the end of last year, it seems like both of these cards have been keeping up with editing tasks quite nicely. Each card supports a few different effects in my timeline, but it seems like there is a lot of overlap right now between OpenCL and CUDA support in Adobe CC. Both seem to be helpful in both rendering and real time playback, especially when the layer count gets above 5.
There have been a few affordably priced 4k monitors on the market, but all of them were limited to 30 hz refresh rate. While 30 hz is fine for video, it can be a little painful for normal computing tasks. The Samsung 28 inch 4k monitor is one of the first somewhat affordable 4k panels running at 60 hz to hit the market. At a price of $599 you get a 3840 x 2160 (Ultra HD) workspace in a 28 inch desktop friendly package.
Originally the estimated price on the Samsung 28 inch 4k monitor was $699, but amazon dropped the price to $599 this morning so I ended up pulling the trigger. This will be replacing my much loved Catleap 2560×1440 panel that I’ve been using over the last few years.
Apparently one of the benefits of the Samsung 28 inch 4k monitor is that you can run the monitor off of a single displayport cable at 60 hz making it much more attractive than some of the dual DVI 4k options. I’ll let you know how it turns out when it finally shows up. Might have to upgrade my graphics card, not sure if my HD 7970 GHz Edition or my GTX 680 4GB will be enough to handle a 4k panel. I’ll only be using this monitor for editing so I might end up with enough GPU power to get by.
On a side note, if you are running Nvidia cards in SLI there is currently no support for this monitor. So if that’s your setup you might want to hold off until Nvidia finally releases an updated driver.
Varavon had some very interesting prototypes at their booth this year at NAB. They had one of the sexest looking Panasonic GH3/GH4 cages I came across on the floor. Machined from a single block of aluminum, the reps said this was actually one of the first prototypes from the factory floor. The final version will be anodized black.
The Varavon Panasonic camera cage has a nice lip at the front of the unit to prevent any kind of camera twisting and built in cold shoe adapter at the top of the unit. It’s less of a protective cage and more of a all in one mounting solution.
There are cut outs around pretty much every control you’d need to reach on the camera with plenty of 1/4 20 mounting points. They’ve also included a nice leather hand strap for hand held use. It’s hard to get an idea of the actual size of the cage from these photos, but the camera cage is slightly smaller than a Canon 6d body.
Varavon also included a locking mic port as well as a cut out for the LCD screen that allows for full rotation. The reps said there would also be an optional HDMI locking port available upon release. Estimated street price is $200 for the cage and leather handle, but they weren’t sure if the HDMI lock would be included in that price or if it would be sold separately.
There are cages like the PNC Honu Panasonic cage for around $99 but the bolted side and top plates tend to make them flimsy. I haven’t seen a whole lot of other options in this price range that look as well polished. This will be on my buy list once it’s released, should be a perfect fit for the Panasonic GH4.
Quick heads, after NAB I went straight to another hotel and I’ll be living out of a hotel room until the end of this week so I apologize for my lack of updates. I’m looking forward to getting home on Sunday and getting back to a normal schedule.
A number of you have sent me questions about low price camera stabilizers. There were a lot of camera stabilizers at NAB this year but the Big Balance Mustang gopro Stabilizer was one of the most interesting systems I found under $300. Instead of trying to use a 3 axis gimbal system, the Mustang uses a simple gyroscope in a small box mounted below the camera plate with a free spinning bearing attached to the handle.
The gyroscope design means that you don’t have to balance or adjust your camera on the Mustang making it much easier to use. It’s a pretty old school concept shrunk down to a very tiny little package. I spoke with the guys from Big Balance and they are expecting a May release date with a price somewhere around $220. I’ll most likely be picking one of these up once they show up on the market.
Even though the Sony a7s looks to be an amazing camera, I still have my eye on the Panasonic GH4. Having 4k in such a tiny little package at that price point really makes the GH4 attractive for lightweight travel. The only real concern I had was high ISO shooting. If the GH4 can deliver at 3200 ISO it’ll be good enough for most applications and it looks like the Panasonic GH4 delivers.
The above test was shot in 4k from 1600 ISO to 6400 ISO (the limit of the beta firmware) and to me both 1600 and 3200 ISO look completely usable. Even 6400 ISO could be usable if you are scaling down to 1080p. The Panasonic rep said this might even get a little better when the latest firmware comes out.
As for editing and recording, I used a Sandisk 95mb/s card in the Gh4 without any issue at 4k and I was able to edit at half resolution in Premiere CC on my laptop and full resolution on my desktop. Doesn’t look like the Codec Panasonic is using for 4k will be to much of an issue.
You can download the file here to see it without all the youtube compression. Overall it’s pretty impressive.
At NAB this week I wasn’t able to dismount the a7s from it’s stand or use a memory card in the camera so my low light testing was a little bit crude. This video just released by Sony really gives you a much better idea of how amazing this camera actually is in low light. As I mentioned in my previous post, the Canon 5d mark III starts to break down at around 6400 ISO in video mode, however at 102,400 ISO in this video, the image still looks usable.
A few of you asked about rolling shutter. We were able to do a little bit of fast motion testing on the Sony a7s before we left NAB on friday. The rolling shutter on the a7s is a bit worse than the Canon 6d I had with me. I spoke with the Sony rep about rolling shutter and they said that the firmware on the display cameras still needed a lot of work. They seemed to be confident that rolling shutter would be as good or better than the Canon 5d mark III by the time of the a7s release in the next 3 to 4 months.
As for 4k recording, Atomos announced the Ninja Pocket recorder. While the one on display is only designed for 1080p recording, several reps at multiple booths seem to think that there was a 4k version in the works. One rep even said “I expect to see a 4k version when the new Hero 4 is announced at the end of the year.” The announcement of a 4k capable (at 30 fps) Hero 4 is pretty likely considering Ambarella, the company that makes the current A7 SOC for the hero 3+ has released the new A9 with very good 4k specs.
If a 4k Ninja Pocket was released at around $300 or so, that would really make the Sony a7s an attractive 4k camera, especially with it’s amazing low light performance. Still, it’s a shame Sony’s marketing team wouldn’t allow the a7s to record 4k internally.
I’ll have more updates from our trip to NAB throughout the weekend and into next week as I get a chance to sort through all of my notes. I’ll keep you posted.
Ian and I had a chance to sit down with Tony and Sean from Next Wave DV yesterday morning. It was a bit informal but we had a pretty good time. I might have been off on a few things, i.e. 2.7k on the gopro not 2.5k and 32,000 iso is 8 stops not 10, but at 8 a.m. you make a few mistakes. Regardless, had a great time talking with Tony and Sean.
Panasonic was kind enough to let us play around with the Panasonic GH4 and film at their booth. Not a whole lot has changed in terms of shape and design with the GH4. The body feels very similar to the GH3 I was playing around with last week. Up close the screen looked pretty nice and the viewfinder seemed to be improved. Both 1600 ISO and 3200 ISO looked good on screen but, we didn’t get a chance to record any actually footage in camera. If I get a chance i’d like to try that sometime today or tomorrow.
One thing to note is that Panasonic has finally fixed the on screen displays while recording. When I was playing around with the GH3 last week, i found it incredibly annoying that the on screen displays would go blank after about 10 or 20 seconds of shooting. The on screen displays seem to stay on indefinitely. I’ll keep you posted as our NAB adventures continue.
I mentioned last night that I was very impressed with the Sony a7s low light performance. But sometimes you really have to see it to believe it. Sony was kind enough to let me hang out at their booth and shoot these high ISO tests. They wouldn’t let me use a memory card in the prototype camera but they did allow me to shoot the display monitor as I shifted through the ISO range.
The Sony a7s blows everything else out of the water. Low light performance on the a7s is simply outstanding. I don’t know when I’d ever need to shoot at ISO 80,000, but the Sony can do it and it does it better than the c100 or 5d mark III by a huge margin.
I’ll keep you posted on my continued fun at NAB.
Just announced by Que Audio is the Q210 Hybrid boom mic audio kit. We used the audio directly from the Q 210 to shoot this video. For $349 it’s a pretty decent little kit. This isn’t going to replace larger more expensive booms, but it’s nice and compact and seems pretty decent for travel purposes.
I’d like to see how this stacks up against other boom mics in it’s price range so I’ve added this to my list of things to review this year. Look forward to that coming up in the next few months. Onward to more NAB coverage!