It had been a long wait since the Mavo Edge was announced and finally getting a hands-on look. Kinefinity have been plagued by setbacks in chip availability, exacerbated by the worldwide pandemic. Patience however is a virtue and the ‘unboxing moment’ didn’t disappoint. From the beginning, the case itself was reassuringly well-constructed and as I retrieved the camera from it, I could tell this was leaps and bounds from the last Kinefinity camera I had used; the Mavo LF. The juxtaposition of materials; from carbon-fibre elements to plastic and metal has been meticulously assembled, with a hand-crafted touch. Everything has its place, everything looks replaceable and accessible – a far cry from the mass-produced construction of my FS7.
Overall, the camera feels solid, compact and durable. The thumb wheel is, on the demo unit I was testing, however flimsy, with lots of play as you move it round. Since this is one of the most-used physical elements on the camera this was disappointing – hopefully Kinefinity can address this before the main release.
You can’t talk about this camera without mentioning the plethora of inputs and outputs which will satisfy even the most demanding cinematographer. The Mavo Edge has packed it all in – from D-tap, ethernet, genlock, SDI and HDMI, to the V lock/BPU battery power options on the rear of the camera, every eventuality is catered for. It is a far cry from many other cameras, which require additional extension devices to get the full range of connectivity options. The built-in variable ND filter is a winner for me and something which prevented me from investing in Kinefinity before. I shoot mainly documentaries and having a built-in ND filter is essential to being able to work quickly.
The physical button layout isn’t obvious at first, but after a couple of hours, it did start to become second nature. However, once I got used to it, I was craving the ability to start customising the setup but with only 2 assignable buttons there wasn’t many options to refine how I would like to use the camera. After being a Sony user for 10 years, the lack of user-assignable buttons (and ability to customise the menu) is a bit of a let-down. Having said that, Kinefinity have designed a very pragmatic menu system that let’s the camera’s hardware do the work.
The range of recording modes is, as with previous Kinefinity camera models, impressive. On attaching my Fujinon MK zoom lenses, I was disappointed though, to find that the image circle was too narrow to work in S35 mode with all but one of the Edge’s recording resolutions; 5K DCI. This uses a smaller image circle than the other DCI resolutions. Whilst it’s not too much of a drama to record 5K for a 4K project and downsize in post, but it would be nice to see the added option to reduce the image circle so that a full range of S35 lenses could be used throughout the different resolutions.
In contrast, my Contax Zeiss primes worked perfectly in full-frame mode in all resolutions. However because of the image circle size again, vignetting occurred with my 21mm f2.8, – not because of the lens, but the UV filter and matte box; something which doesn’t happen on the Sony FX9 for example.
On recording footage; the image is noticeably richer and significantly sharper than the FS7’s. The image has a beautiful, cinematic look to it. I was slightly surprised by the noise levels which seemed more than those which I remember on the Mavo LF. I guess I was expecting a super-clean image completely devoid of noise, especially when shooting at the base iso of 640 at Prores444 and in daylight. Noise was present, even in the midtowns and even after applying a LUT. There is no doubt it beats the image from my FS7 hands down, which is muddy and soft in comparison, but I was expecting to be blown away when recording in the highest codec Prores4444 XQ, especially considering the huge file size this codec produces.
It’s a shame that Kinefinity offer audio connectivity seemingly only as a cursory addition. The lack of physical audio level wheels and decent monitoring options mean the Edge is only sensibly used in conjunction with a separate sound recordist. The position of the XLR inputs didn’t seem that well thought out; if you factor in the top handle and position of an external shotgun microphone, it would be tricky to get the XLR cables into position.
It’s been a long wait for this camera and whilst Kinefinity’s communication during the wait has been poor, they’ve produced a fantastic camera. The Edge is super-impressive in terms of its form factor, design, weight, and size – well over half the overall length of my FS7 and a good degree lighter. This is helped by the ingenious battery-back-end and range of inputs and outputs, without the need for additional attachments. This alone, along with the built-in ND filter make it a worthwhile upgrade for me. Factoring in the ability to shoot in resolutions up to 8K, this is a camera that will surely last years, since it has all the features and resolutions I would need for the foreseeable future and beyond. My main hesitation is the lack of a compressed codec, should I want or need it. Sony’s XAVC codec for example comes in at a fraction of the file size, yet still retains reasonable image quality and depth for editing. Investing in the Edge will also mean investing in considerable amounts of extra storage.
I wasn’t so impressed by the Movcam baseplate which integrates batteries to also power the Edge. It added considerable weight to the setup and since it can’t be used on the shoulder or on a VCU style baseplate (which is pretty standard) I can’t quite see the point of using this over a shoulder-mounted baseplate from Zacuto for example. The same goes for the viewfinder. I much prefer my Zacuto Gratical Eye to monitor, simply because of the range of menu options and easy to read Waveform.
Is this the perfect camera? No, but it very nearly is, and there is little competition currently out there to rival this camera at this price point. Paired with the Fujinon MK zooms, this is also a fantastic, lightweight setup for documentary work. I will almost certainly be investing in one when it is available.
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