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April 05, 2010

Table of Contents

In the Field: Panasonic AG-HMC40
New "Introduction to MXO2 Mini" Tutorial for Matrox Users
Music 2 Hues Announces New Flagship Series CD Release
Boris FX Announces New Boris Continuum Unit: Shaders
Shared Storage is on the Move at NAB 2010 with Small Tree's Introduction of GraniteSTOR ST-RAID Mobile
Anton/Bauer to Debut New High-Tech, High-Current DIONIC HC Battery at NAB 2010
Switronix Debuts New DSLR Power Solution for Canon 1D MkIV
Fujinon To Introduce Two New PL Zooms At NAB 2010

In the Field: Panasonic AG-HMC40

When I first heard about the Panasonic AG-HMC40, I was excited to see how it would compare with the AG-HMC150, which is my primary camera. At a street price of $1,850–$1,995, how would the HMC40 match up with the HMC150, which has a street price of $3,250? The HMC40 (Figure 1, below) is a much smaller and lighter camera than the HMC150, which makes the HMC40 an ideal camera to use with a Glidecam or Steadicam.

Panasonic AG-HMC40

The HMC40 uses 3 1/4" CMOS imagers, which Panasonic calls 3MOS. The 3MOS imager captures at a full-raster 1920x1080. It records to the AVCHD format with a maximum bitrate of 21Mbps. It records in 1080/60i, 30p, and 24p as well as 720/60p, 30p, and 24p. In addition to these video options, the HCM40 also shoots approximately 10.6-megapixel stills, all to a Class 4 or higher SDHC card. At the highest recording setting, a 16GB card will hold about 1.5 hours of footage.

As far as optics go, the HMC40 has a 12x Leica Dicomar lens with a 35mm equivalence of 40mm–490mm. Compared to the HMC150, the HMC40’s lens is not as wide, but it will zoom in tighter.

The HMC40 can be configured in three different ways. Without the handle, the HMC40 resembles a larger Sony HVR-A1. In fact, the HMC40 is just a little larger than the JVC GY-HM100 (Figure 2, below). When using the camera without the handle, it would be very easy to pass the HMC40 off as a consumer camera—that is, if you ever needed to shoot in an inconspicuous manner. A second way of configuring the camera is with the included top-mounted handle, which really gives it more of a pro feel.

Left to right: The Panasonic AG-HMC150, the Panasonic AG-HMC40, the JVC GY-HM100, the Sony HVR-A1

A third configuration is to purchase the optional AG-MYA30G, which allows the use of dual XLR inputs along with a mic holder, which provides +48V phantom power, as well as mic level/line level controls. I see the AG-MYA30G XLR/mic holder adapter as a much better solution than adding one of the popular XLR boxes to the bottom of the camera. Not only does it greatly add to the audio capabilities, it also makes the camera look more professional. The street price of the AG-MYA30G is about $260.

Manual Controls
One of my concerns when seeing the size of the HMC40 was how Panasonic would deal with important manual controls. Would many of the manual controls be menu-based? That might be acceptable for casual shooters, but it is a bad solution for pros who need to make adjustments on-the-fly at a wedding or other live event.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how efficiently Panasonic used the limited real estate of the HMC40 chassis. What I consider to be must-have features are not hidden in a menu or limited to a small, multifunction scroll wheel, which limits the functionality of shooting in manual mode. Features such as focus, white balance exposure, zebras, and OIS (Optical Image Stabilizer) all have their own separate control button or ring/dial.

Additionally, the HMC40 has buttons for three user presets (which I’ll cover later), a timecode counter selector and reset button, bars, auto/manual selector, auto/manual focus selector, focus assist (which I’ll also cover later), record check (to review the last scene recorded), and a selector that will change the focus ring to control either the iris or zoom.

Speaking of zoom, the zoom rocker has a nice feel and will allow for those ultra-slow, creeping zooms. dditionally, the HMC40 has an option to end the zoom smoothly instead of ending abruptly. There are times that you may want your zoom to end abruptly and there are times you may want the zoom to end smoothly, much like the keyframe ability in After Effects, which lets you “ease in” to the end of your movement. I certainly did not expect this level of control in a camera priced below $2,000.

Exposure on the HMC40 is controlled by a single exposure dial that is easy to reach, just in front of the LCD screen. Those who have owned a Sony PD150/170 or VX2000/2100 will remember how the exposure dial was placed so close to the LCD screen that it was difficult to reach. Not so with the HMC40. Locating the exposure dial by feel is very easy. However, the exposure dial does function in a similar fashion to the one on the VX2000/2100. Push the dial in to A/B between auto and manual exposure. Once the lens is opened up to the maximum, the HMC40 starts introducing gain in single-digit increments, from 0dB to 24dB.

The HMC40 has three distinct menus that are located at the bottom of the touchscreen LCD. The first two are physical buttons. The Q. Menu accesses the shooting mode (1080 or 720) along with all of the frame rate choices, prerecord (the function that records a few seconds before you hit the record button), fixed or manual audio, and exposure +/–.

The second physical button is the main menu. The third menu is hidden, at least at first glance. When you press the lower left corner of the screen, the lower third of the screen allows you to access a customizable auto focus, A/B white balance, shutter speed, sync for shooting a computer screen, and manual audio.

In the past I have not been a fan of touchscreen menu systems, but the HMC40 has changed my perspective. It’s very easy to navigate and set up the camera and customize it to fit my shooting style.

The HMC40 is a dream to customize. There are several features that you can customize, but I’ll go into detail on only a few. You can adjust the Scene Files to match the HMC150, which is a really nice feature. If you’re unfamiliar with Scene Files, they allow you to adjust the Detail, Vertical Detail, Detail Coring, Chroma Level, Chroma Phase, Color Temperature, Mater Pedestal, Auto Iris Level, DRS, Gamma, Knee, Matrix, and Skin Tone Detail.

I set the first of the three user buttons to A/B between auto and manual focus. When the camera is in manual focus, pressing the first user button causes it to go to autofocus as long as the button is pushed. It goes back to manual focus when the button is released, which basically makes it a push-for-autofocus button. I set the second user button to activate the LCD detail, which helps in manual focus; the Zebra function works when the detail is turned on. I set up the third user button to delete the last clip, which is a really handy feature. You can set up the user buttons for any of the 14 choices.

Focus Assist
The Focus Assist feature on the HMC150 is huge for me, so I was very happy to see a Focus Assist button on the HMC40. However, I found that it does respond differently. The location of the button is perfect, allowing for easy access when shooting handheld or on a tripod.

When I activate Focus Assist, the camera zooms in, making it easier to focus. In addition to that there is a small white bar that appears across the bottom of the screen. As you bring the subject into focus, the bar extends from left to right. A little white arrow shows when you have reached maximum focus (Figure 3, below). As you go past the focus point, the bar recedes from the arrow. This may be hard to imagine, but you can see it in action in the video clip that accompanies the online version of this article. The most important question of Focus Assist: Does it work while recording? The answer is yes, which is wonderful news!

The HMC40 in Focus Assist mode

While on the subject of focus, which is a huge topic when shooting HD, the lower-right corner of the LCD screen can show the lens status, which you can turn on or off, as with most of the information in the LCD screen. In addition to showing where you are in the zoom range, it shows if you are in manual focus or autofocus and, more importantly, where you are in the focus range by showing a numerical value between 00 and 99. This number is very valuable when you’re doing a rack focus or when tracking focus as a subject is walking toward you.

Other Features
Other features of the camera include Component Out, A/V Out, Headphone Jack, Camera Remote, HDMI Out, 1/8" Mini Jack Mic Input, USB out, and an XLR Adapter slot. A big improvement over the HMC150 is that each of these outputs has its own protective cover, which is marked by the corresponding name. This is huge. If you need access to only the Headphone Jack, you do not have to expose the A/V Out, Component Out, and Lens Controller to the elements (Figure 4, below).

Each of the HMC40's outputs has its own protective covering

The HMC40 uses the same batteries as the HMC150, but it requires a lot less juice. Panasonic’s large battery, the VW-VBG6PPK, will run the HMC40 for about 7 hours!
Additional features that I was surprised to see include a waveform monitor and time lapse recording. The HMC40 even has several different ways to view timecode, including the ability to display how many seconds the current clip has been recording. For legal videographers, the HMC40 will record the time date stamp.

In the Field Performance
So while the HMC40 has obviously been very well engineered and designed, the big question is, how does it perform out in the field? I had a brief opportunity to see how the HMC40 stacks up against the HMC150 and JVC HM100.

All three cameras record to SDHC cards in the MPEG-4 format. The two Panasonics record to the AVCHD format. The JVC has the option of recording in the MPEG-4 format or MPEG-2. I chose the MPEG-4 format to make the comparison more apples-to-apples. In the MPEG-4 mode, the JVC records at 35Mbps, but it also has 1/4" sensors, so I was curious to see how it would compare.

As a side note, the JVC’s MPEG-4 is actually Sony XDCAM EX format, which can be edited natively in my NLE, EDIUS 5. As of this writing, EDIUS 5 cannot edit AVCHD natively. EDIUS Neo 2.5 does edit AVCHD natively, and it’s reported that EDIUS 5.5, which is slated for release after NAB 2010, will offer native AVCHD editing.

Good Light Comparisons
As expected, all three cameras look great outdoors; however, the HMC40 rates incredibly high in the sharpness category. Note the resolution chart (Figure 5, below), and study the numbers between 800 and 1200. There are four distinct lines, but notice how the four separate lines are a blur on the JVC HM100’s chart. The HMC40 scores big in sharpness and detail.

A resolution chart comparison of the HMC40 and the JVC HM100

It was interesting to note that I had to engage the neutral density filter on the HMC150 to get the exposure near the JVC, and as expected the HMC40 was the least light-sensitive. The JVC was also limited by a 10x zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent of 39mm–390mm.

Low Light Comparisons
I then brought the cameras indoors where I could control the lighting. I framed up all three cameras to be similar, opened up the lenses and set the gain at 0dB (Figure 6, below left). I then tested how noisy 12dB gain would be. I was surprised at how relatively clean all three cameras were at 12dB (Figure 7, below right). Lastly, I really pushed the gain on the HMC40. I started seeing noise at 18dB. It was pretty noisy at 24dB, but that’s how high I had to take the gain to approach the brightness of the HMC150 at 12dB gain.

0dB gain and 12dB gain comparison

On a side note, I usually limit the gain on my HMC150 to 9dB, so I was pleasantly surprised at how clean the HMC40 looked at 15dB and even 18dB. In low-light conditions, I prefer to shoot the image a little darker and use less gain—6dB on the HMC150—and then I have a cleaner image to boost in post. I would never have imagined that 15dB and 18dB could look so clean on the HMC40.

In Conclusion
The HMC40 offers a lot of bang for the buck. In many ways it is a much better engineered camera than the HMC150, even though the HMC150 costs about $1,400 more than the HMC40. The camera has lots of great features, and it also comes with a 3-year warranty and a free copy of EDIUS Neo editing software.

The biggest weakness of the HMC40 is low-light sensitivity. If you must have great low-light performance, I would recommend spending the additional money and buying the HMC150, but if great low-light performance is not a must, the HMC40 could be the perfect camera for you, and it comes at a very good price.

For a more thorough visual comparison of the three cameras discussed in this article, watch the video that accompanies this article.

Mark Von Lanken (info at vonweddingfilms.com) runs Von Wedding Films with his wife, Trisha. Five-time EventDV 25 honorees, WEVA Hall of Famers, and producers of the EventDV-TV series Von Real, the Von Lankens are regular speakers at WEVA Expo and winners of numerous WEVA CEAs. They were "megasession" presenters at In[Focus] 2010. Several times each year, the Von Lankens host intensive 2-day workshops at their Tulsa, Okla. studio.

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New "Introduction to MXO2 Mini" Tutorial for Matrox Users

Safe Harbor Computers, a leading supplier to video professionals, today announced the release of "Introduction to MXO2 Mini w/MAX," a new product tutorial hosted by Jeff Pulera.

The tutorial was created to help users of Matrox MXO2 Mini I/O devices understand the proper use and operation of the product, thus shortening the learning curve and avoiding common mistakes that cost video editors time and money. All aspects of using the hardware and included software utilities are covered with easy to follow instructions, with many technical issues being discussed in layman's terms for easier understanding of the concepts.

This exclusive tutorial is available as an ESD (Electronic Software Download), included free with purchase of the Matrox MXO2 Mini or MXO2 Mini with Max from Safe Harbor.

About the Instructor
Jeff Pulera has been a professional videographer for over 18 years. His experience includes writing tech reviews and working as an NLE demo artist, trainer, and seminar speaker. Widely known throughout the industry as "the Matrox guru," Jeff is also the producer of the RT.X2 Revealed and HDV & Blu-ray for the RT.X2 tutorials. Currently, Jeff puts his expert knowledge to good use as an NLE specialist at Safe Harbor Computers.

For PC only. Viewer should be familiar with using Adobe Premiere Pro CS4. Requires Windows Media Player, 1024 x 768 resolution and sound card.

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Music 2 Hues Announces New Flagship Series CD Release

Music 2 Hues, a leading supplier of Production Music & Sound Effects to the, Film, Video, Animation, & Multimedia Industries has just added a new Flagship Series CD release.

The company's newest Flagship CD title, Smooth & Silky, is now shipping worldwide and is available on Audio CD, or can be downloaded in Mp3 and WAV file formats. "This release satisfies the needs of our clients that have been asking for a CD of easy listening and retro R & B styles, for all visual and multimedia support," says Andy Wells, president of Music 2 Hues.

Andy Wells, president of Music 2 Hues adds, "Our new updated Download Center offers our clients the ability to purchase individual tracks from all of our current Flagship Series Audio CD's, or entire Audio CD categories with just one click, and have the option to download all tracks instantly in either Mp3 or Wav file formats. For just one price, clients will get all the edited versions of any one music track, including the full length theme, and any 30 and 60 seconds versions when available". New production music will be added monthly.

Visit the Music 2 Hues website for more information on these products: http://www.music2hues.com

Music 2 Hues is a leading supplier of Production Music & Sound Effects to the Pro Sound, Film, Video & Multimedia Industries.

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Boris FX Announces New Boris Continuum Unit: Shaders

Boris FX, the leading developer of integrated effects technology for video and film, announced that a new Boris Continuum Unit, Shaders, is now available. The Boris Continuum Shaders Unit includes 13 Boris Continuum Complete filters and transitions that take advantage of Apple's real-time FxPlug architecture.

Among the included filters are a full suite of keying and compositing tools, film effects, glow effects, 3D perspective filters and transitions, and an all-new Flicker and Shake filter.

"The Boris Continuum Shaders Unit is a perfect starter set of Boris Continuum Complete filters for any Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Express, or Motion user," commented Kevin McAuliffe, Pro Editing @ Home. "The Unit includes many essentials such as robust chroma keying, great-looking film effects, and rays and glows that complement Apple's native feature set."

"The name Shaders stems from the OpenGL technology used in this subset of Boris Continuum Complete filters," commented Boris Yamnitsky, president and founder, Boris FX. "The software algorithms have been re-written in a special shader language for the Graphics Processing Unit under Apple's FxPlug architecture. The result is real-time playback and the ability to stack multiple filters without the render penalty associated with software-based filters."

The Boris Continuum Shaders Unit allows editors to view animated previews of presets and saved effects in a unique, easy-to-use effects browser window. This innovative, try-before-you-apply approach saves endless trips to a pop-up menu or file dialog when searching for just the right look. Presets can be viewed in real-time using actual clips from the timeline.

Boris Continuum Shaders Unit Filters and Transitions

  • Chroma Key Studio. Chroma Key Studio provides real-time keying and compositing tools such as a best-of-breed chroma key process, spill suppression, a matte choker, and a light wrap compositing step. All four tools are combined in one, easy-to-use filter; there is no need to stack multiple filters to pre and post process video.
  • Flicker and Shake. Flicker And Shake is an auto-animating filter that uses bursts of synchronized Exposure, Glow, Blur, X or Y displacement, and RGB channel offset to create a flicker effect for video or graphics elements. The flicker effect has been made popular by recent television commercials and film trailers.
  • 3D Perspective. The 3D Perspective filter creates Apple's popular "Cover Flow" look - complete with floor surface and reflection.
  • MultiTone. The MultiTone filter uses a source image's color, luma, or alpha information to create a toned image that uses up to five independent colors.
  • Film Effect. The Film Effect filter provides a variety of real-time "film look" effects such as Black and White, Bleach Bypass, Bright and Warm Tone, Cool Tone, Color Reversal, Lens Mist, Warm Faded Grainy, Sepia Tone, Platinum, and Misty B&W Vignette.
  • Glow Edge. The Glow Edge filter applies a real-time glow that adheres closely to the contours of an image clip's alpha channel or mask.
  • Luma Rays. Luma Rays is a popular volumetric lighting effect where beams of light push out from infinity toward the camera. The beams of light are typically held back by a block of text or another solid object that is in the path of the light ray.
  • Real-Time Transitions include 3D Pull Swap, 3D Spin Flip, Dissolve Glow, Dissolve, Luma Mask, and Dissolve Rays.

The Boris Continuum Shaders Unit supports Apple Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Express, and Motion. The Shaders Unit is the latest addition to previously-released Boris Continuum Units: Chroma Key, Pan and Zoom, UpRez, Motion Key, Lens Flare, Film Look, Glitters, Optical Stabilizer, Light Rays, 3D Objects, Cartoon Look, Motion Tracker, Image Restoration, and Materials.

Pricing and Availability
The Boris Continuum Shaders Unit is immediately available through the Boris FX worldwide reseller channel and direct from the Boris FX web site at http://www.borisfx.com for an MSRP of $299 USD. Customers who purchase the Boris Continuum Shaders Unit or any other Boris Continuum Unit may credit the price of the Unit towards the full Boris Continuum Complete plug-in suite. For more information, visit the Boris FX web site at http://www.borisfx.com.

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Shared Storage is on the Move at NAB 2010 with Small Tree's Introduction of GraniteSTOR ST-RAID Mobile

To meet the growing demand by audio and video professionals seeking flexible storage solutions, Small Tree will introduce its new GraniteSTOR ST-RAID Mobile at NAB 2010 (booth SL7425).

Ideal for mobile broadcast and live sound applications, as well as post-production professionals who need maximum flexibility, GraniteSTOR ST-RAID Mobile features a complete real-time direct attached shared storage solution in a mobile cabinet that supports a wider range of customer editing demands. Configurable with 12 drives in 1or 2TB disk capacity, ST-RAID Mobile offer on-the-go editing for Pro Tools and Final Cut users.

"As post-production editing continues to migrate from the studio to on-location, editors need a reliable and affordable storage solution that provides the same performance as their studio workstation," said Corky Seeber, president of Small Tree. "GraniteSTOR ST-RAID Mobile will give concurrent access to project files while on location or in a studio, enabling editors to meet extremely tight deadlines."

Providing robust (greater than 500MB/sec), consistent performance over Ethernet networks, GraniteSTOR ST-RAID Mobile enables instant availability and background initialization along with automatic insertion/removal detection and rebuild.

About Small Tree
Designer of simple-to-install, affordable Mac-based networking and shared storage products, Small Tree is the premier multi-port Ethernet networking technology provider for OS X customers, enabling cost effective Ethernet shared storage technology. For more information about the company and its products, please call 1-866-STC4MAC (1-866-782-4622), or visit http://www.small-tree.com

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Anton/Bauer to Debut New High-Tech, High-Current DIONIC HC Battery at NAB 2010

Anton/Bauer®, a brand of The Vitec Group, and the world's premier provider of batteries, chargers, lighting and other mobile power systems for the professional broadcast, video and film industries, will introduce an exciting new addition to its innovative DIONIC® HC battery line at NAB 2010 (Booth C6025).

The company, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, will also showcase its full product line, with special NAB debuts of the Tandem® 150 Modular Power System and its new ULHM-LED® and EledZ® LED light solutions.

A highlight of the show for Anton/Bauer will include the unveiling of an advanced new 120 watt-hour battery with a 10 amp draw for even longer run times. With last year's successful launch of the DIONIC HC 91 watt-hour battery, Anton/Bauer is pleased to continue its expansion of the DIONIC HC series. With unique new features for maximum power-saving, this battery can be stored for years with nearly zero capacity loss.

Making its NAB debut, the Tandem 150 Modular Power System brings users more power supply options during on-location or outdoor shoots. Weighing just two and a half pounds, the Tandem 150 unit is the smallest and lightest charger and on-camera power supply available on the market. This fully automatic system functions by separating the Gold Mount® device (QR-TM) from the power supply (PSU-150), allowing a user to simultaneously charge a battery and power a camera. When a 75 watt draw is exceeded, the system automatically stops charging and performs solely as a 150 watt power supply. When the camera is turned off or the load is reduced below 75 watts, the Tandem 150 system instantly resumes normal operation, as a simultaneous charger/power supply. Users can operate the system from the AC Mains at 100 to 240 volts AC or 50-60 Hz.

The Tandem 150 system also provides ultimate flexibility for shoots in isolated areas, with two unique methods of charging. For productions where sunlight is available, crews can charge the system using the award-winning Anton/Bauer Solar Panel, previously introduced at NAB 2009. An important component of the Tandem 150 system, the Solar Panel allows users dealing with remote location video capture to charge any battery in the Anton/Bauer product line when sunlight is available. Crews working out of their cars during a night shoot, in an isolated location, or in an area where power is not immediately accessible have yet another simple option for all charging needs - a car's dependable vehicle power outlet.

Anton/Bauer's EledZ and ULHM-LED lights will also be appearing at this year's NAB show. Developed by Anton/Bauer with sister Vitec group brand, Litepanels, these LED light modules complement Anton/Bauer's existing UltraLight® Series and ElipZ® battery systems. Both lights are designed to maximize HD camera battery run time by successfully cutting down the total power consumption of a user's lights. A 3200k filter is included with each light, allowing for quick changes to properly match color temperatures. The LEDs provide heat free and flicker free soft light of 5600K, ideal for many applications while consuming very little battery power.

For more information on additional products Anton/Bauer will showcase at NAB 2010, please visit http://www.antonbauer.com.

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Switronix Debuts New DSLR Power Solution for Canon 1D MkIV

Switronix Inc releases the newest addition to their line of Power and Accessroies for the DSLR Market. The new XP-DSLR-12C allows users to power the Canon 1D MkIV from an external battery source.

The cable features a regulated 12v connector jack for the OEM Canon 1D MKIV (ACK-E4 required for operation) camera with an inline female p-tap connector for 12vdc, housed in an enclosure. The cable comes with both Red and Green LED indication to display status of battery power.

Alongside the Canon 1D power solution Switronix has also introduced the XP-MAGIC-12 cable to power the Black Magic Mini Converter via an inline female P-tap connection. This follows Switronix previous introduction of the XP-AJA-5 for the AJA mini converter.

All Products are Now available.

For more information on both of these products, visit http://www.switronix.com.

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Fujinon To Introduce Two New PL Zooms At NAB 2010

At NAB 2010 (Booth C7425), Fujinon will complete its family of four PL zoom lenses with the introduction of two additional models: the 24-180 mm T2.6 and 14.5-45 mm T2.0. The new lenses join two PL zooms previously introduced: the 18-85 mm T2.0 and 75-400 mm 2.8-T3.8.

Designed for current and emerging 35mm format film and digital cinema motion picture cameras, Fujinon's PL Series offer T-stop, focal range and optical performance previously unavailable in a family of PL zooms. With workable size, industry-inspired functionality and focal range from 14.5 mm to 400 mm, these zooms provide top performance and cost efficiency.

All four Fujinon PL zooms have 136mm front diameters. Focus, zoom, and iris gears are all in the same position-which speeds up lens changes, since follow focus accessories and lens motors can stay in the same position on the rods. Focus barrel rotation is a uniform 280 degrees on all four lenses.

"There is a lot of excitement about Fujinon's new PL zooms because of their speed, ranges, and optical quality. Feedback from early users of the PL Series has been enthusiastic. All have been impressed with their low light capabilities, consistent performance, and close color match to industry leading prime lenses," said Chuck Lee, Fujinon Technology Manager.

Working models will be displayed in Fujinon's booth, and additionally at Sony and Band Pro booth locations. All four PL zoom lenses are now available for purchase, and are becoming increasingly available from top rental house facilities.

For more information about Fujinon's complete PL Series visit http://www.fujinon/digitalcinema.com

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