ReplayXD 1080 Review - Part 3

Well, my intent has been to post the results of my testing with the RePlay XD as compared to the other action cams on the market before posting the results from a real world production, but as luck and scheduling would have it, the testing has been on hold.  Sometimes real production gets in the way of testing, and thank goodness for it.

BCII has partnered with RePlayXD for 2 race related shows and a extreme environment documentary.  The camera have been a pleasure to work with and all of the features noted in my first post have proven as useful as I thought they would be.  There have been a few issues however that I hope can be addressed in future versions of the camera, and possibly even through firmware updates.  More on that in a bit.  I'd like to start with an example of just how beautiful these little cameras can look.  Here is a quick highlight video I cut from the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational.  Every frame of this video was captured by on of 35 RePlayXD 1080's.

ReplayXD 1080 Review - Part 1

For some upcoming projects, we have been supplied with 4 RePlayXD 1080 "Action Cams" to run through their paces.  I remember seeing the announcements for these sexy little chunks of aluminum a few months ago I was very excited by what the specs had to offer.  Now that I have the units in hand, I can say they don't disappoint.

We have been working with the GoPros for a little over a year now, and while they do exactly what they are meant to, namely go to the depths of electronics hell and return with the pictures to prove the trip, the pictures they bring back aren't all that impressive once you get past the element of"ooohhh I've never seen a camera mounted there before".  Lets face it, the picture quality from a GoPro is marginal at best.

The design and build quality of the RePlay is pretty obvious from the moment you open the box.  It's a solid aluminum shell that could easily be confused with a tactical flashlight.  It feels like it can take a beating.  The controls are extremely well thought out and simple.  This masks a secret, the XH1080 is a very competent camera with much more sophistication than it's simple interface would suggest.

Aside from the now standard HD specs, 1080 30P (sorry, no 24P), 720 30P and 60P, there are a few other options:  what RePlay calls "Tall HD" which is a 4:3 960 varient that I don't see being all that useful and a very surprising time lapse still mode that clocks in at 5mp.

 

The time lapse function is surprisingly well thought out with options to dial in an interval of 1 frame per 3, 5, 15, and 30 seconds.  All of this functionality is accessed through the very clever use of 4 buttons and a few multicolor LEDs.  It's very easy to set up in full daylight, something that the LCD toting action cams struggle with.  The instructions for navigating the modes are thoughtfully printed on the inside of the rear cap.

Here is a short sample of footage from the first flight of the RePlayXD for American Trucker:

  • In Part 2 I will be testing the RePlayXD against the GoPro, Drift, and ContourHD. Detailing the battery life and data consumption and testing the usefulness of external power sources. 
  • In Part 3 I will chronicle the RePlayXD's performance on a race pilot where we will put 40 of them through their paces.

Panasonic HCK10G Product Review

I've had a HCK10G on and off for the past few weeks to try out in a variety of shooting scenarios and have a great deal of fondness for Panasonic's fore into POV cameras and one potentially deal breaking complaint.

THE GOOD

I have started referring to the HCK10 as the "Stick of Butter" camera since it is a pretty good approximation of size, and calling it Twinkie seemed rude.  The camera is small, strong, and light.  It features a 10x optical zoom (equivalent to a 35mm lens from 43mm-430mm) and can accept a variety of screw on  wide angle adapters.  The head is about as simple as you can get.  A lens on the front, a 20pin screw lock connector on the back, vent holes on the sides, and a 1/4x20 mounting hole on the bottom.  Optical image stabilization rounds out the optics on this little dynamo.

THE BAD

I found out the hard way that although the HCK10 shares the same 20pin threaded connectors with the Toshiba ICE Cam, the pin outs are different and cables from either are not compatible.

THE UGLY

Here's where I think Panasonic made a critical mistake with the HCK10 and why I've held off placing an order for the 10 I'd planned on purchasing for my driving plate rig.

A quick sample of the Panasonic HCK10G used for driving shots. Rolling shutter has produced about 15 degrees of skew on a car traveling only 15mph. "Jello-Cam" is also a problem.

Fuji E Series Product Review

For a recent batch of commercials, I discovered my favorite lenses of all time, the Fuji E Series Zooms for 2/3" bayonet cameras.  For 11 spots, we carried only the 5-15mm zoom (HAe3x5)
and the 10-100mm zoom (HAe10x10).  With these two lenses, I was completely covered and was left wanting for nothing.  With these two zooms, I honestly don't see a need for primes aside from weight...

FORM FACTOR

The 5-15 and 10-100 share identical form factors which makes lens changes a quick and simple affair.  Not only do the lenses share front diameter and length, but each gear (including a back focus gear for some odd reason) are perfectly matched, so nothing needs to move on the rails when switching lenses.  The focus and zoom have near full revolution travel and are clearly marked with large easy to read scales.  These lenses were certainly made with the AC's comfort in mind.  At 11 pounds, these are never going to be confused with ENG zooms but the extra heft is well worth it when you see how beautifully these lenses push light.

PERFORMANCE

One of my spots involved shooting a classic 57 Chevy inside the worlds tiniest garage.  OK, maybe there are smaller ones out there, but it certainly didn't feel like it once we shoe-horned the Chevy in place.  The car was posed at a 45 degree angle to the garage and camera was positioned at the corner leaving only about 5 feet between the car and the lens.  I knew that the 5mm would carry the car bumper to bumper, what I didn't expect was the complete lack of distortion at that wide of an angle.  Every line in the garage was rendered perfectly straight, from the diagonal where the ceiling met the wall to the verticals at the corners, if I didn't know how close we were to the car, I would have sworn we were on a lens twice as long as we were.  This one angle proved the worth of the E series, it allowed a tricky shot to feel cinematic and have a beauty shot feel rather than the reality show vibe a normal wide angle zoom's barrel distortion would have imparted.

These lenses are blistering fast, a true t1.6 across the entire zoom range making them faster than the wide prime from the same family.  And the 1.6 feels just as sharp as the 2.8.  There is no perceptible roll off when working wide open.  There is no breathing at any focal length and close focus is under 3 feet for both lenses.

RESULTS

For these spots we shot with the Panasonic HDX900 that was owned by the production company.  They usually fly the venerable Fuji HA14x4.5BERM ENG style wide angle zoom and are very familiar with the way it looks.  The E Series glass made the 900 feel like an entirely new camera, and I wasn't alone if feeling this way.  I received numerous unsolicited comments from everyone; client, producer, and even sales that they couldn't believe they were looking at the same camera.  For a similar campaign last year, the Panavision Primos were used on the Panavised HDX900 and everyone familiar with both spots, confirmed that these zooms blew the Panavision primes out of the water.  No small feet.