A test shoot at Ulriksdal castle to see how well the new Sony NEX-C3 performs as a video camera in combination with Leica M lenses.

Music: Theme from "A Bittersweet Life".

Gear used:
Sony NEX-C3

Zeiss 18/4 Distagon ZM
Leica Summicron-M 28/2 ASPH
Leica Summilux-M 35/1.4 ASPH
Leica Summilux-M 50/1.4 ASPH
Leica APO-Summicron-M 90/2 ASPH

Glidetrack Shooter SD
Zacuto DSLR baseplate / Rails
Manfrotto 535 CF / 503 HDV

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Review:

So, is the NEX-C3 good for video? Err...no, it isn't.

Actually, that's not fair. The NEX-C3 features a large sensor that will run circles around any consumer small sensor video camera when it comes to image quality. The value for money that you get is amazing from this camera which after all is the cheapest in the NEX range. If you are a casual user that wants to be able to record video from time to time, it's certainly good.

For the advanced users however it has some severe limitations that makes it unable to compete with the current kings of the large sensor video - the Canon DSLRs. The limitations are as follows:

-No manual exposure control. There is no way of setting shutter speed and ISO

-It uses an MP4 codec with extremely high compression that regularly ruins the image quality.

-30 fps only

-720p only

There are some good things as well, such as the peaking function that helps enormously with manual focus and the tiltable screen is very good.

The small size of the NEX-C3 is a double edged sword. It is convenient with a small and light camera but at the same time this reduces stability. With a relatively heavy lens mounted on it there's a certain degree of give between the quick release clamp and the camera so you get vibrations when you pull focus. The thing is also that you can't get away from using a proper (heavy) video tripod and a good video head. On the contrary as the camera lacks any weight, all the stability must come from the tripod. So in the end you gain very little by the camera being small.

As for the Leica M lenses, it was fun to see the look they produced when used for video. I liked what I saw. The problem is that they are really unsuitable for video use as most of them are very compact and have a focusing tab mechanism instead of a classic focus ring. This makes the use of a follow focus impossible and for that reason unsuitable for any critical video work. When you have to turn the focus ring directly by hand, precise repeatability of focus is impossible and you can't avoid inducing vibrations. It is possible that one could construct some form of ring that covers the focusing tab, but in their regular form the M lenses are for the most part unfortunately not candidates for use in more serious video productions.
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The bottom line is that this is a consumer camera with video functions to match. It provides good image quality in a small package and at an affordable price. It's not however a tool for serious cinematographers - they will have to wait for the NEX-7 which supposedly should have all the manual controls you can eat, full HD and 24/25p. If you want a full frame camera, the venerable and now quite old 5DII remains the only choice.

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