While it’s fun to live on the bleeding edge of technology it’s important to remember that everything comes from somewhere else. Our current excitement about Kinefinity cameras is no different. I first became aware of the company in 2014, and really started investigating the brand in 2015. It took until late 2016 to order one, and late 2017 to actually receive the camera I ordered, ha. Then I started shooting footage like crazy.
But there were people who’d shot with the older models, too, and they were just as excited. Before the Facebook group this website is one of the places they’d congregate. A few people who’d bought cameras wanted to talk to one another. One of them happened to know about setting up a website and more people trickled in the door. I found this site on Google, just like you, and would check in every couple days to see if there were any new posts.
The KineRaw begat the KineMini 4k, the KineMax, and now we have the Terra and Mavo lines. It’s a progression. I met Dan Chung at NAB 2018 and he told me he’d been one of the first outside of China to own a Kinefinity. In fact, here’s an article Dan wrote in 2012 (!!!) after he and his then business partner Matt Allard each tested the KineRaw 2K. Allard even shot a music video with it:
When looking at things this way it’s much easier to understand why, say, the color rendition seems so robust on these cameras. The company has been at it for more than six years. More than that if you count the fact that Kinefinity evolved from an aerospace camera company that’s still its parent 2. It’s also more difficult to accept the firmware bugs and communications delays when you consider just how long they’ve been around. But Kinefinity is still a young company, still up-and-coming, still punching above its weight.
One of the reasons I find Kinefinity so fascinating is that a small group of people got the idea in their heads that they would compete with deeply entrenched players, not in the digital sector where new apps regularly upend older behemoths, but in a manufacturing sector, where heavy machinery is needed along with skilled workers. Kinefinity’s rise, then, is comparable to a company like Tesla, whose unique blend of technology and manufacturing (along with notorious delays in production) is making headway in a long-established sector with deep-pocketed competitors. This achievement is all the more notable when compared to other upstarts like the Digital Bolex, AJA Cion, and Craft cameras, who were either pebbles that caused small ripples or flashes in the pan, depending on if you like water or cooking metaphors.
This is not to say that Kinefinity is infallible. Unlike Tesla, who receives near-universal positive press while making a luxury item, Kinefinity aims to upend their competitors by making a more affordable product; the occasional lack of polish does not go unnoticed. For filmmakers, lower prices are good news. The field has always had a high barrier to entry due to costs. With competitive options such as Kine and Blackmagic, and Red before them, there’s at least one part of the process that’s become more accessible via technology 3. But there are hidden costs to using physical products that aren’t yet fully embraced by the marketplace: namely support.
My parents used to tell stories of Volkswagen drivers in the 1970s who’d wave to one another when passing – there were so few Beetles on the road. Most owners learned a tiny bit of repair just to get by, and you could count on another VW owner stopping if you had pulled over with a radiator problem.
We’re not so lucky with digital tech, almost none of it is user-serviceable. I learned this firsthand when, though I was proud to receive the very first Terra 4K in America, I returned it for an upgrade to the 2018 version of the OLPF. The couple-months turnaround was an inconvenience tax that larger brands don’t usually charge. But I still count myself as lucky: I own a camera with specifications I could have only dreamed about just a few years ago.
Zooming out a little further: the hashtag is growing on Instagram and new content is popping up on Vimeo and YouTube every couple days. Kinefinity has made two excellent cameras in the past year. And the granddaddy of them all, the Mavo LF, is on the way. Things are looking up. You just have to look back to know why.
- There I am holding a light in Tom Antos’ review of the KineMax, and some of the footage was shot on my since-stolen vintage Leicas. ∧
- Kinefinity co-founder and CEO Jihua Zheng gives a brief history of the company in this great interview by @carl_proav including its roots in the aerospace industry. ∧
- Postproduction costs have also fallen with the increase in computer power and good-enough software like the Adobe suite and Davinci Resolve. ∧
Hello KineCommunity. We’ve done a little more cleaning up and have created a new showcase on the site for stuff filmed with Kinefinity cameras. In the past I’ve kept playlists on both Vimeo and YouTube of interesting videos shot on the cameras. But doing this makes it so they can all be in one place. Over the next few days I’ll be adding them to the site. Site members can up/down vote anything in the showcase and submit new videos. In the future I’d like to create a charting feature that keeps track of which videos have the most votes so that, for instance, we can have a little “best of the month” or “most liked all time” modules on the sidebar. If anyone has PHP skills to help, let me know. I’ve been doing as much as I can cobbling together bits of code here and there from the web.
Please reach out with any bugs, etc. and show us what you’ve shot.
Want to know more about the Kinefinity Mavo/Nisi F3 prime lenses? I’ve spent hours sifting through forums and poring over frame grabs of test charts so you don’t have to.
Prior to NAB 2018 Kinefinity announced a lineup of five cine prime lenses with full-frame coverage. At the same time, Nisi, a company primarily known for filters, also announced a lineup of cine primes in the same focal lengths. Both Kinefinity and Nisi have since confirmed that, yes, the Mavo primes are the same optical formula as the Nisi F3’s with slight cosmetic changes to the industrial design.
Upon the announcement, more ambitious diggers such as André Wulf, Bob Gundu, and Mistral75 suspected that the Nisi Primes were actually rebranded versions of the Bokkelux cine primes that were announced at NAB 2016 (one lens) and 2017 (five lenses) and never made it to retail. Recently, Nisi has confirmed that the F3s are indeed “based on the original Bokkelux design.” After acquiring Bokkelux, Nisi set to improve the supply chain and “re-optimize some key elements,” including the “weight and caibre of the lenses.” [h/t 4k Shooters]
A test video on the Nisi website demonstrates the full set of lenses, but I think this unlisted video is more interesting. (<400 views at press time, so basically an exclusive). It compares the Bokkelux 75mm to similar focal lengths from top manufacturers such as the Leica Summicron-C and Arri Ultra Primes, as well as more affordable entrants: the Canon CN-E, Rokinon Xeen, Schneider Xenon, and Zeiss CP.2’s. Bokkelux founder Vincent Huang states in multiple interviews in both 2016 and 2017 that his lenses are apochromatic, meaning they reduce purple fringing. This test bears out that claim while also showing the lens to be a strong contender in many other areas:
What’s visible when looking at the footage in 4k is that the Leica Summicron-C is clear and away the leader in terms of both sharpness and in flare reduction. The Bokkelux lens, however, performs best in chromatic aberration, and in the top half (subjective) for lens flares and sharpness. For all you pixel peepers, here’s a bunch of frame grabs from the charts in that video, downscaled from a 4k copy. In separate folders I rank the charts in terms of chromatic aberration and sharpness. Breathing is incredibly difficult to evaluate but most lenses appear to be within an acceptable range. Taken together, the Bokkelux lens performs second best of a group that includes lenses costing a multiple of the $2500 list price for the Nisi/Mavo lenses. (this chart from Bokkelux’s own now-shuttered website shows their original $3500 price tag).
Do you think this post is nerdy enough? No?? Here’s a spreadsheet with my subjective rankings of the lenses compared to their prices.
[ Dan Chung, pictured right (now of Atomos) told me the Mavo primes were one of the things he was most excited about at NAB. Chung, pictured with Kinefinity founder Jihua Zheng, was one of the Kinefinity’s first customers in 2013 ]
At NAB 2018 I visited both the Kinefinity and the Nisi booths – disclosure: I have owned a Nisi vari-ND filter, and of course, proudly own and have reviewed the Kinefinity Terra 4k. I spent some time testing both the F3 and Mavo cine primes. And while a trade show is no place to do a diagnostic test I can report that the build quality is in league with other cinema lenses I operated on the show floor including at the Sigma, Atlas, Angenieux, Cooke, and SLR Magic booths.
In short, the Mavo primes should be a serious tool that greatly outperform their price bracket. Until I can use them again, I’ll salivate.
I’ve since found tests of the Bokkelux lenses at two other focal lengths. Neither has more than 200 views at post time:
Kinefinity cinema cameras have been gaining in recognition since the release of the KineRaw five years ago. While the color science has always been enviable, we’ve seen large leaps in both specifications and usability with each subsequent camera. With the release of the TERRA series and now the MAVO line Kinefinity is primed to make a huge impact in the English-speaking world. This website was founded by a few intrepid owners several years ago but had gone dark. After participating on a Kinefinity facebook group for several years I thought the world needed a permanent home for some of the same content on the open internet. I’ve since moved KineCommunity to a new server and revamped the experience so that Kinefinity users of all stripes can communicate and share information. Please sign up. I can’t wait to see what you create.
– Raafi Rivero
Review in NoFilmSchool: The Kinefinity Terra 4K Offers Bang-for-Your-Buck.
The Kinefinity Terra 4K enters a suddenly crowded sub-$10k cinema camera market and with a spec sheet that dazzles in places; best-in-class slow motion, dual-native ISO, and minimal rolling shutter are the headline features. It also has competitive dynamic range, light weight, and affordable recording media. There are downsides, too: a sub-Super-35mm sensor, for one, and a relatively unknown brand from China with no support options in the West.
This is an oldie but goodie. In 2015 Rob Bannister, one of the original founders of this site, was interviewed by Matt Allard of NewsShooter about his experience with the KineMini 4k. This is one of the first articles I’d ever read about Kinefinity.
The full-text of the article has some additional pics of Rob’s original camera modifications, which are probably deep in the forums here as well.
Edit: Rob’s original posts about the mod are still in the forums but the uploaded pics were lost when we moved the site to wordpress. You’ll have to click over to the NewsShooter post to see them.