ENG camera or cinematographic?

How much is true of the axiom a broadcast or ENG camera can’t produce a nice depth-of-field, as what you’ll get when shooting with a dSLR or other exchangeable lens camera? It depends.

A couple of days ago I received a Sony HRX-NX5E, an entry-level Electronic News Gathering (ENG) and broadcast camera. It has a Sony G-lens permanently fixed to the body. The lens has a zoom ring, a focus and an iris ring. The two last settings can be set to automatic operation — in which case the camera will decide the iris opening (which equals the aperture on a dSLR) and focus. A third setting that you can either have the camera decide upon or yourself is the shutter speed.

The HRX-NX5E

During my one-day playtime with this camera I noticed that when I set the camera to manual operation on those settings that you would manually operate with a dSLR as well, the camera gave me quite a nice shallow depth-of-field. Perhaps not as shallow as what dSLR video shooters are used to, but nice.

Even better was that I didn’t need a complicated, expensive and heavy rig to make it all work a little more comfortably. The camera itself weighs under 3kg, and all of the controls are within reach — although the jogging wheel on the side could be a little bigger to be really comfortable.

More important is that this camera comes with a XLR microphone included, and that it has clean HDMI as well as SDI ports. It can be operated from a CCU (Camera Control Unit — you typically see those installed in OB (Outside Broadcast) trucks) but is equally easy to operate when you’re playing the lonely documentary maker.

It’s not that I think dSLR video hasn’t got its place. I’m sure if you’re going to shoot a real movie, the Sony HRX-NX5E isn’t perhaps the best choice. But I’m not sure if to look good your Vimeo or, worse yet, your YouTube movie has to be shot with a complex setup at best. I for one would love to shoot with this ENG cam that has everything I could wish for, including four ND (neutral density) filters.

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