This is nothing new, people have been shooting with this setup for ages but I never had a chance to play with one until recently. Sorry I'm behind the curve. A buddy of mine has a Canon HV30 with the Letus Mini and some old Canon FD zooms. I was playing around with it and I must say, I was pretty surprised by the quality and loved the tinyness. This really is a camera you can throw in a backpack. I wouldn't do commercial work with it but it's great for covertly shooting in the city or if you're traveling somewhere remote and don't want to haul around a big video camera. Seems like it would ALMOST be a great tool for run and gun documentary work. Which got me thinking.. What else is out there with a 43mm filter thread that could take the Letus Mini? How about the Panasonic AG-HMC40? This thing weighs 2 lbs. and is a fully functional camcorder.
It doesn't come with a Mic Mount or XLR inputs but there is an add-on module available. Check it out, it's a little guy and even with the adapter and a lens on, it's still going to be quite small. Bigger than an SLR yes but probably requiring less external stabilization (ie Zacuto, Red Rock, etc) and the audio can be single system. I'm definitely not saying this is a better solution than an SLR. I've never used this. In fact never even seen it. This just seems like an intriguing solution to what seems to be the obsession of the film and video community - tiny cameras with shallow depth of field. Let's say I wanted to shoot an independent documentary in somewhere very remote like.. the Russian Far East. I want to take only the following with me - 1 small camera, a few lenses, on-board shotgun mic, a wireless lav, and my laptop - at a glance, this Panasonic/Letus setup seems like a realistic solution. It shoots a full raster 1080p native 24 frame and has the basic paint controls you find in any small Panasonic camcorder. The AVCCAM codec isn't great at 24 mbps, 4:2:0, 8 bit but there are a lot of ways to electronically control the dynamic range in the camera. That said, could the image be any worse than an SLR? I'd love to do some side by side tests and find out. To be clear, I have no interest in using this camera without a lens adapter. 1/4" chips? No thank you. No shallow depth of field and nice 3-dimensional images = no dice.
Here's the basic cost breakdown (B&H prices):
Panasonic AG-HMC40 AVCCAM HD Camcorder $1,849.00
XLR Module $ 258.95
2x Batteries $ 137.99 x2 = $275.98
2x Class 10 32GB SDHC cards $298.95 = $597.90
Letus Mini $799
BASIC USED LENS SET (Adorama)
Nikkor 28mm 2.8 $220
Nikkor 50mm 1.2 $550
Nikkor 85mm 1.8 $425
BASIC TOTAL: $4975.83 (pretty cheap if I do say so myself.)
PRO's: Single System Sound, camcorder form factor and functionality, ability to smoothly ride the iris, Image Controls / Paintable, does use a Rolling Shutter but is probably closer to an EX1 than an SLR in terms of Skew
CONS: No RAW Stills!, have never actually used (ha.), 1/4" chips = hideous low light performance, with other Letus adapters you really need Rods and a Bridge Plate to hold it all together or else the adapter moves around. That's a huge pain in the ass and if you have to do that to this, suddenly your Tiny Cam isn't so tiny after all..
Truth is, I may be doing something soon that requires a very small footprint and I'm weighing my options. I love the 5D Mark II but I need to make sure the workflow doesn't bury me.
Just thinking out loud really.