There are multiple field recorders currently on the market with several that stand out from the crowd. The NanoFlash holds a unique position in this area as it is smaller than most units and is completely solid state with no moving components. The NanoFlash is a huge step up from Convergent Design’s first model, the FlashXDR, with regard to size, ease-of-use and flexibility. I think of the Nano as a bug-free version of the XDR, a sort of evolution of the product that was much needed. I want to preface the fact that the NanoFlash is a 100% improvement over the XDR. Not only is the NanoFlash (as it’s named) small, but it’s packed with features that exceed most field recorders. I have used the NanoFlash numerous times on Steadicam shoots as an on-board recorder and back-up for the camera; and it’s always been rock solid — never failing me in terms of functionality or expectations. Eventually I started requesting it on commercial jobs strictly as a secondary (and in some cases as a primary) solid-state back-up recorder.
I recommend the NanoFlash for any camera that has an HD/SD-SDI output or HDMI output as a fail-safe or as a way to rejuvenate life into a tape-based camera that has a great block and sensor. In most cases you can achieve higher quality than the codec in the camera itself (example Sony PMW-EX3 or EX1). Both the EX1R and the EX3 are 35Mbps solid state cameras which are already of a fairly high quality to begin with due to their 1/2″ sensors. They do a pretty decent job with green-screening for example but when coupled with the NanoFlash at 100Mbps the keys are significantly better and require less feathering and tweaking of the image. There is a visible difference between footage shot onto the SxS card versus the NanoFlash. Many field users use the Nanoflash as the primary recorder and the SxS cards as a back-up due to the bump up in quality of the recording. Outside of cameras that have lower bit rates, the NanoFlash also helps retain the value of your higher-quality, tape-based cameras and keep up with current tapeless work flows. Another prime use of the Nanoflash is for POV camera heads like the Iconix HD-RH1 and Toshiba IK-HD1 that do not have a recorder built-in. Because the NanoFlash has a Hirose 4-Pin power connector there is a host of powering options from Hirose, Anton Bauer P-Tap, XLR4 Pin, etc.
Highlights that stand out immediately are the selectable bit rates that vary from 18 to 280Mbps and 4:2:2 sampling. 100Mbps is of course the perfect balance of bit rate and storage availability. Footage can be recording in Quicktime, MXF, or MPG (Sony MPEG2 Codec) formats which work with the majority of NLEs out there including Avid Media Composer and Apple Final Cut Studio. The unit records to compact flash cards which are off the shelf items these days, which is a huge benefit since they are readily available in most cities and towns. You can use two Compact Flash cards in the NanoFlash, but right now you can only record to one card at a time. This will be changed in a future firmware update which, of course, will then allow for you to hand-off a copy to your editor and then vault or archive the second copy. The other benefit over a built-in hard drive is that you can bring a pile of CF cards with you and continue to shoot without the need to dump the media. All-day shoots are possible as the card spans to the next slot allowing you to swap out the card not being used. Hot-swapping is a feature that is going to be added in a future firmware upgrade. The NanoFlash has an on-board LCD display that features recording format, input format, time code, card capacity, battery voltage and audio levels. Both the HD/SD-SDI and HDMI feature loop-thru and can be used as a playback recorder when hooked up to a monitor in the field or studio. The unit features several methods of Timecode input like Embedded via HD/SD-SDI, LTC in, internal record run and Time-of-Day. I should mention audio — the unit features a 3.5mm mini jack which in most cases will not be used if you are using embedded audio. This feature is handy, however, if you want to feed from a field mixer instead of using the on-board camera audio. When recording to 720 and 1090i the NanoFlash has limited capture frame rates but when recording 1080P or 1080PSF most common rates are covered like 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97 and 30. I should mention there is a NanoFlash 3D which is comprised of two synchronized units for stereoscopic recording and playback. The NanoFlash 3D features a combiner function to mix left and right frames to either side-by-side, top and bottom or line-by-line onto one HD-SDI cable. If you are looking for a handy field recorder that will increase the quality of your work for under $3200 you should seriously consider the NanoFlash. The company offers 24/7 support, and in my own experience with the unit, I have never had an issue with the product. Convergent Design has issued numerous free firmware updates over the past year, each adding significant functionality to the product. As a cinematographer, Steadicam operator and editor the benefits of the unit are strong for its price point. For Steadicam, in particular, there really isn’t anything that comes close in regard to size and versatility. I can see hundreds of other applications for the unit like helmet cams for skydiving, covert applications in law enforcement / military use, etc. Wrapping up, if you have space constraints like shooting in a car or a jet, helmet cam, Steadicam, etc., the NanoFlash is a great choice for you. If you are using a lower-end codec or your camera has an HD/SD-SDI spigot or HDMI output the NanoFlash can allow for higher-quality work. If you simply need a simultaneous copy of what you are shooting or just do not have a way to record your footage, the NanoFlash could be the right choice for you. Mike Sutton, Senior Account Manager Twitter: @MNS1974