Phantom Flex

What are the main differences between the Phantom Flex and the Phantom HD GOLD?
Here are a few of the major differences:

  • The Phantom Flex can run faster – take more pictures per second – than the HD. This is especially true in Standard Mode where the Flex is up to 2.5X faster. Even in HQ mode the Flex is about 20% faster than the HD Gold.

  • The Phantom Flex has a global shutter. The HD Gold has a progressive shutter. This means the Flex will be better at shooting super-fast-changing events such as lightning strikes.

  • The Flex has dual shooting modes: Standard Mode is a good general purpose mode when you need high frame rates, HQ Mode is best for superb picture quality. The Flex puts the choice between speed and image quality into the hands of the user.

  • The Flex has Dual Link HD-SDI outputs for 4:4:4 video. Or the two ports can be used to provide identical 4:2:2 video.

  • The Flex housing offers some advantages over the HD Gold with the viewfinder port toward the front of the camera, two 12V auxiliary power ports, and it is smaller and lighter.

  • The Flex camera comes with a 3-year warranty.

  • The Flex has dual power input ports. These can be used to provide 'hot swappable' power either from AC or batteries. One port can provide AC power while the other port provides battery backup in case of power loss.

In terms of image quality, the two cameras are about the same, especially when using HQ mode on the Phantom Flex. We still expect the HD Gold to be a popular camera choice – especially now that it is available at a lower price point (refurbished 'like new' cameras.)

When should I use HQ mode, and what are the trade-offs?
HQ mode uses a proprietary technology to enhance each frame of your shot. Each frame is analyzed for noise and image artifacts that can occur under continuously changing shooting environments. Using HQ mode means that you will always get the best images possible even when changing frame rates, exposure settings, resolution, or if ambient and camera temperatures are changing. Use this mode when you are changing camera settings often or working in an ever-changing physical environment and when you need your last shot of the day to look just as good as your first shot. HQ mode reduces maximum frame rates by about ½ and each frame requires twice the internal camera memory. However, saved cine files are the same size as in Standard Mode and recording directly to CineMag has the same speed and size specifications as Standard Mode.

If you find yourself in an application where you need very, very short exposure times, you may need to use Standard mode. In HQ mode, the Phantom Flex uses some of the time during the frame acquisition to enhance the image for that frame. This time is not available for digital exposure. So, the exposure times in HQ mode are a bit more limited than in Standard mode. See the FAQ on this topic for more explanation.

What are the benefits of over sampling and using image scaling?
There are two main benefits from oversampling on the Phantom Flex camera:

  • When shooting at full resolution of 2560x1600 (or 2560x1440 for 16:9 aspect ratio), the active sensor area (25.6mm x 16.0mm) is very close to the size of a 35mm film frame – meaning, when using 35mm lenses, you will get the field-of-view and depth-of-view you have come to expect with 35mm cameras.
  • When an oversampled image is scaled to HD, the scaling process tends to reduce noise and increase dynamic range. Scaling can be done automatically in-camera for the video signals from the camera, and it can be done in post-production using compatible tools.
The data sheet refers to a 'low fan mode for near silent shooting'. What is this and how do I access this mode?
When the Phantom Flex camera is used at 'normal' speeds where sound recording may also be used, it is important that it is as quiet as possible. While the new dual-fan cooling system on the Phantom Flex runs very quiet, the fans are automatically slowed down and become even quieter when shooting in HQ mode AND while recording directly to the CineMag. This is the most likely recording scenario where synchronized sound is also recorded. At all other times (in Standard mode and in loop recording) the fans will run at whatever speed is required to keep the camera at a constant temperature.

Even in the quiet mode, if the camera temperature begins to exceed limits that we've set to protect the camera circuitry, the fans will speed up. Typically, this will not occur except for very, very long takes.

What is the difference between the Dual-Link HD-SDI feature of the Phantom Flex, and the Versatile Dual HD-SDI feature on the v640, v12.1 and v710?
The Versatile Dual HD-SDI feature of the v640, v12.1 and v710 allows the user to have a live image on one of the two HD-SDI ports on the camera while playing back a stored cine on the other port at the same time. This is a feature that is critical in sports broadcast replay applications. The camera operator can always be looking at or recording the live action, while the controllers in an OB truck (for example) can be viewing, saving or even airing a slow-motion playback stored in the camera. This feature, in addition to true HD resolution and great light sensitivity is what has propelled the v640 into the position as the most popular ultra-slow-motion broadcast camera.

Dual-link HD-SDI is a video system which has two HD-SDI outputs, which always have the same content on them – either live OR playback. They can be configured to provide two 4:2:2 video feeds of identical content, or they can be 'combined' to provide a 4:4:4 video feed for maximum video quality. (4:4:4 is typically not available at 60fps playback.)

Dual-link HD-SDI is available on all of our camera with two HD-SDI video ports and is the functionality available on the Phantom Flex.

Why are the exposure times available to me in HQ mode different from what is available in Standard mode?
In Standard mode you can shoot with exposure times as short as 1 microsecond. That is very close to a 0 degree shutter angle! You might need that in rare situations where you are trying to stop all motion blur and you have enough light to shoot at extremely small exposures.

The HQ mode needs time to do the frame-specific image enhancements that are key to the mode. And, it needs to do this as the frame is acquired. The time it takes for these enhancements is not available to the camera as digital exposure time. The greater the frame rate, the less time there is for digital exposure. At the maximum frame rate for any resolution in HQ mode, the exposure time is limited to about ½ of 1/frames-per-second or a 180 degree shutter angle. As you lower the frame rate, the available time increases so that at 24 fps (for example), the range is 7 degrees to 353 degrees.

If you find that the minimum available exposure in HQ mode is insufficient to 'stop motion' and you have unacceptable motion blur, you will need to switch to Standard mode. This will be a very rare situation. At 1920x1080 in HQ mode the minimum exposure will be about 300 microseconds, generally good enough to stop motion for most applications.

What is the "field replaceable pin array" included with my camera?
Unfortunately, in the fast-paced and sometimes hectic production environment, sufficient care is not used when putting a CineMag onto a camera. The result can be bent or broken pins on the CineMag interface. On previous cameras, this could bring the production to a halt and the camera had to be returned to Vision Research for service. On the Phantom Flex, this can be easily fixed by replacing the pin array assembly on the camera – and, it is an end-user repair. A spare pin array assembly is included with the camera, and a damaged one can be returned to Vision Research for replacement for a nominal fee.