Compression Session
February 2008

by PF Bentley

It's a new year, a new look for The Digital Journalist and time for some cool new gear to talk about. Let's get to it.


From our friends at Litepanels comes the newest edition to the Litepanels family, the Litepanels Micro.

This handy compact light for on-camera use is powered by 4 AA batteries (rechargeables work with it too) and is daylight balanced. It has an on/off switch dimmer knob on top and LED lights to let you know battery status. The Micro comes with a filter set and built-in removable filter holder.

With a fresh set of batteries, the light will run for 1.5 hours on full power. I like this light since it fits into your bag or fanny pack very easily and attaches right on the hot shoe mount quickly, easily and simply. My only concern is that the plastic is tough enough for professional use, but time will tell. List price is $350 and the product is available now through dealers.


Roger Richards and I have been using this camera for over a month now and all I can say is WOW!

We bought four kits for Reason.TV and once you go tapeless, you're never going back!

On the plane going home I logged 2 hours of footage on my laptop just by inserting the Express Cards into my express card slot and using the Sony XDCAM Transfer software to review and log the clips. Once back home, I reinserted those cards, opened Final Cut Pro and imported the footage onto a hard drive and into the Browser. The clips were logged and ready to go. (Did I mention that about an hour of footage captures in under 10 minutes?)

The camera shoots 1920x1080 true 24p. The image quality is stunning. In addition, frame grabs are a nice 5.9MB file, as seen below:

Okay, all is not perfect. The handgrip sucks. I have no idea who came up with this concept and from whose hand they molded this, but it's the worst handgrip I've ever used and just plain painful on your hand and wrist.

The actual grip is off the camera center, making it nearly impossible to adjust any controls with the other hand and hold the camera steady. Sony had a wonderful, simple grip with the Z1U and should have stuck with it. I'm sure some third-party grip products will be seen shortly or the problem will be changed on the next model.

On another note - the camera has some real software/firmware issues. My Upper Control Panel stopped working - just stopped. The camera had to go to Sony Repair in L.A., which sent it up to San Jose (which "found" the camera after two days of it not being "logged" into the system), and after a few days, they called to say they were sending me a new camera. (I have since gotten the new replacement camera and it's been working fine. Thank you, Steve at Sony in San Jose, for expediting the process).

Memo to Sony: Please end the Byzantine nightmare at Sony Repair. There must be an easier, more consumer-friendly way to register complaints and have problems addressed.

The Upper Control Panel problem has happened to other users too. Other quirks include the battery draining to zero if stored on the camera. Batteries not stored on camera hold their charge. Finally, my colleague, Rick Ray, lost all controls on his handgrip. He was given a replacement camera by his dealer.

Memo to Sony: I think we could use firmware update ASAP.

Despite the issues, which I'm sure will be addressed by Sony and others, the introduction of the EX1 is a pivotal turning point in the world of videojournalism and digital filmmaking and opens up new horizons for all of us.

© PF Bentley

PF Bentley is lead Final Cut Pro instructor at the Platypus Workshops. We won't bore you here with his 12-page bio & resume.