A Month Ago I Was Nowhere, But Now

My daughter Cissy with Sony a7S II camera, Sony 18-110mm lens, Sony XLR-K2M mic, Atomos Ninja Blade viewfinder and shade, Tilta ES-T17 cage, Axis level bubble. Weighs 6 lb., cost around $7K.My New 4K Rig

Only a month ago, 4K was a total mystery. What to buy? Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Sony? It’s scary when you’re all alone. No experts to turn to. No friends or relations on weekend vacations. Where to start?

But yes, I do have a friend: Chuck. I met him once, for five minutes, at an NAB Show. “Can it really be you? My wife Sarah and I read all your stuff. Love the one about the steel mill.” I like Chuck. He’s my kind of guy.

We do good e-mail. He sends me a YouTube video he shot with a 4K Sony FS7 II. (See it below.) It looks great. At last I have a 4K guru.

But do I really want to spend $10,000 on a camera that’s too heavy for ancient old me? No way.

I read up on Sony’s mirrorless digital camera, the Alpha a7S II. It seems to have the same specs as Chuck’s movie version, and hey, it’s “only” $2,698 without lenses at B&H.

Sarah and Chuck’s Sony PXW-FS7 II with Sony 18-110mm lens. Weighs 10 lb., cost around $13K.

One Good Return Deserves Another

Chuck gives me his blessing on the a7S II and I buy one. Now I need a lens. I’ll try a zoom first.

Google, Google, Google—ah, here it is, the Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS lens. I buy it and OMG, what a disaster. This is a zoom for still cameras, not video. The stupid thing changes exposure as you zoom. Bye, bye; going back home to B&H.

A couple of prime lenses might be the answer. I buy the Zeiss Batis 25mm and 85mm. They’re sharp, fast, full frame—but oh dear, not cine lenses. Sorry B&H, more coming back.

There’s a big difference between lenses for still cameras and movie cameras. OK, Stefan, bite the bullet and get Chuck’s 18-110mm zoom at a whopping $3,498. It will cover everything from wide angle to telephoto.

My “Full Frame” Zoom Arrives

I plug it into the a7S II body and connect up to a 4K LG monitor.

Hit button 4 and then the scroll wheel to zoom in a tad. If you don’t do this, the expensive lens is useless in 4K.

The lens doesn’t cover the full frame! There’s bad vignetting. I rush to Google—yep, everyone says it’s a full-frame/APS-C lens. I read all the “hands-on with the new 18-110 zoom” articles. Come on, why doesn’t anyone mention that it won’t fill the frame shooting 4K?

Yikes, It’s Really an APS-C Lens

Help please, Chuck. He replies, “I’m about to pick up a Sony FS5. It has an amazing feature called Clear Image Zoom or something like that. Its zoom is undetectable, unlike ‘digital zoom.’ BTW, I believe your a7S II has a Clear Image Zoom feature as well.”

In the camera UI, go to Heading 3 and down to Zoom Setting. Select the ClearImage Zoom option from the list. Then in menu 6, find Custom Buttons and assign Zoom to Button 4. Using the scroll wheel, zoom to 1.3 and bingo—it’s a full-frame lens.

Perfect. My rig is almost the same as Chuck’s, but at half the weight and half the price.

Yay Chuck! You are my 4K hero.

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