As little as ten years ago the market for video cameras was well-defined, with a clear line between consumer and professional gear. The large sensor digital video revolution has completely shaken up the field, with much of the innovation in digital imaging happening in this space that welcomes new entrants (RED, Blackmagic, DigitalBolex, etc…) and now this, the POS-86 from Walley. Walley makes the bold claim that the POS-86 is “The most advanced camera ever built.” And many websites have blindly proclaimed it to be so. But here at the NCN Rigorous Testing Lab (NCN RTL), all cameras are subject to the most rigorous testing in the industry. Let’s see how the POS-86 really fares despite this puff PR video…
The POS-86 is a camera designed to go up against the likes of RED, Alexa, Blackmagic, Sony, Panasonic, Canon, and other major players in the industry, and it has the specs to bring to the fight:
That’s nothing to sneeze at and on par with the best in the industry. The NCN RTL has confirmed, via their rigorous testing, that all these things do in fact exist, which is a huge plus for the POS-86.
Let’s talk about the lenses for a second. Yes, that’s plural. Whereas other cameras like the Canon C100, Blackmagic Cinema Cameras, RED cameras, and others require you to buy separate lenses, the POS-86 ships with four lenses integrated into the body – wide, normal, telephoto, and macro. This single design decision will save cinematographers hundreds of hours trolling online forums for lens advice. In one fell swoop, the POS-86 has changed the game. Just like Apple does it.
But the idea of having multiple, integrated lenses, while interesting (most recently seen in Kodak’s dual lens EASYSHARE point-and-shoots) brings with it some challenges of its own, namely, the changing POV when switching between lenses. But truthfully, Walley doesn’t not see the POS-86 as a “place on sticks and forget” kind of camera. In fact, we couldn’t find a tripod socket. Still, switching lenses in the middle of the shot will cause a shift in the vertical plane, something that only the best DPs will be able to deal with creatively.
In addition to these various and sundry bits, the power of the POS-86 is unlocked via the front-mounted keypad. Upon entering a code, the POS-86 is automagically reconfigured to one of tens of possible effects filters; quite an accomplishment for a new entry to the marketplace. But the keypad, while convenient, requires the user to carry around the User’s Manual to access the codes. Owners could, we suppose, write the most often used codes on a Post-It note and stick it to the side of the camera, but it’s such an inelegant solution. Walley, in our opinion, should have attached a whiteboard to the side of the unit. We did, and it looks great. We predict a thriving aftermarket for such bits.
In testing, recording a single minute of video required 642 1.4Mb floppy disks, which severely hampered workflow and created additional challenges when shooting in the field. In order to keep the files properly organized, we resorted to a three ring binder with plastic inserts for holding floppy disks, along with Avery labels and a steady supply of Sharpies. Granted, it felt like 1988 all over again, and while we generally liked the 1980s, we don’t like them that much.
While the integrated LED light is a nice idea, it’s placed much too close to the lens axis, resulting in harsh subject lighting. We’d much prefer the light mounted on a telescoping arm to permit it to be moved farther away from the lens axis. We in fact tested this idea, scavenging an antenna from an old transistor radio, Krazy Gluing it to the POS-86, and mounting the LED light there. It worked a treat and is something that Walley should give us credit for in their next camera.
Our biggest issues with the Walley POS-86 is the form factor. Let’s not beat around the bush–the POS-86 is a big camera, about the size of an old Dell minitower…not that we’re are inferring any relationship between the POS-86 and a computer, it’s just the first thing that randomly springs to mind. But due to the size, our trendiest and dearest camera bags (festooned as they are with bits of leather trim and such) could not handle the POS-86, and we were forced to call Crumpler and have them custom build a messenger bag for us. The result is the “Sultan of Brunei Palace” messenger bag, which is big enough for the POS-86, the owner’s manual, the binder of floppy disks, and some Skittles. This should definitely be considered in the purchase price.
All in all, the POS-86 is a decent first effort from newcomer Walley, and four years ago it might have made waves in the then-nascent large sensor digital video market. But four years is a long time ago and the game has moved on. Panasonic, for example, is on the fourth iteration of its GH series cameras, each one bigger and fatter than the previous one with more megapickles and more HDs.
We do see the potential of the POS-86, but we just can’t be the PR lackeys like our competitors are and declare it the best camera ever. It isn’t, and we here at NCN aren’t afraid to say it. We only wish that the rest of the camera blogosphere were as brave and handsome as we are.
[All photos courtesy of Walley. Ok, we stole them from their Flickr.]