EDGERTRONIC SC2X REVIEW – PART 1

edgertronic SC2X Review Part 1

Last year we reviewed the edgertronic SC2+ affordable professional high-speed camera with a near 5000fps 720p performance and it offered the best price/performance yield in the high-speed camera world. The first edgertronic was revolutionary in price and features and was a big disruptor in the slow-motion camera space as many competitors that offered essentially the same performance, were left with price tags several orders of magnitude higher which limited their adoption to only a handful of users in some cases.

This year Sanstreak the company founded by Mike Matter the mind behind the edgertronic SC1 and SC2+ is now launching the edgertronic SC2X 1080p Full HD slow-motion camera, which offers performance that rivals the most demanding competitor products in the space of professional high frame rate capture.  Software wise it shares an evolving code base with other edgertronic cameras that continually improve features, stability and user interface.

A Little History on the original edgertronic:

Back in September 2013 Michael Matter the brains behind the edgertronic hardware development went to Kickstarter in an effort to gather funds to support the project and gauge the interest for such a  product for the camera gear community.

By that time the project already had gone through two revisions or hardware prototypes A and B that were working fully.  The project was headed to final revision C with a finalized hardware circuitry, case design, camera mount, and ports.  In just a month that the project was posted on Kickstarter, it was fully funded with 109 backers who pledged $170,175 USD.  

With the development money in hand, and cameras now expected by backers; Sanstreak, Mike Matter and also Juan Pineda “the software architect behind the camera” went to work on finishing and building the final cameras.  These cameras were ready and delivered to backers starting in December 2013.  To the surprise of many the cameras performed and worked as advertised and lots of content started to be produced and science experiments to be performed.

Launch video for Kickstarter campaign by edgertronic:

The name of edgertronic as the video shows is in honor of Harold Eugene “Doc” Edgerton (April 6, 1903 – January 4, 1990) who was a professor of electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology credited with the development of the stroboscope which is a precursor to today’s high speed video. He is also commonly mentioned as the father of modern high speed imaging.

Shadowgraph of bullet in flight using Edgerton’s equipment

Flash pulses freeze objects in motion at high speed and captured on film like that of a modern DSLR high-speed stroboscopic hot shoe flash function. Doc inspired Mike Matter to develop his own flash strobe and take high-speed images and eventually go to MIT himself to become an engineer. Mike Matter has since worked at Apple among other Silicon Valley companies developing top products for decades. The edgertronic is his own creation and contribution for the world of high-speed imaging.

Development has continued on the camera and lots of new features have been added to the software that is hardly present in many high-speed camera solutions.  To their credit, the edgertronic engineers delivered a product on time, that exceeded backer expectations and continues to sell.  By mid April 2015, the edgertronic has been shipped to nearly 400 buyers.  Talk about a concept well executed.

An interesting note is that manufacturing, assembly, and design are done in the USA, for those folks who are keen on buying products made in America, this camera fits the bill perfectly!

The edgertronic SC2X Makes Its Debut in 2017!

The new edgertronic SC2X is reminiscent of the original SC1 camera and last years SC2 and SC2+ in body build and design. Nearly unchanged in the body and design except for a golden anodized aluminum ring before the Nikon F Mount to allow for infinity focus on the lenses. This extra ring is needed because the sensor is a little higher in the board stack which makes it closer to the front of the camera. The added distance is needed to allow for the shutter curtain to fit and for infinity focus to be maintained on Nikon F mount lenses.

The Main internal hardware differences in the SC2X vs the SC2+ and SC1 are that there is only a Color cameras option with no Monochrome. The camera is intended for filmmakers and video production due to the added “Full HD 1080p” resolution. A new sensor with 1920*1088 pixels is now the imaging part with a maximum frame rate of 1910fps at full resolution.  16GB of DDR3 RAM is also standard now in the camera giving a maximum recording time at the highest resolution and frame rate of 4.3 seconds.  Maximum frame rate performance is 20,132fps at 1920*96px. This compares well with the SC1 which maxed out at 22,236fps at 192*96px.  It is, however, lower than the SC2+’s 31,191fps at 1280*96px. At those smaller resolutions quality is not the primary goal but capturing a really fast event in time.

Maximum frame rate performance is 20,132fps at 1920*96px. This compares well with the SC1 which maxed out at 22,236fps at 192*96px.  It is, however, lower than the SC2+’s 31,191fps at 1280*96px. At those smaller resolutions quality is not the primary goal but capturing a really fast event in time.  The SC2X is mainly geared at shooting 1080p and or 720p if needed for TV and film production. The camera is no slouch for other uses like lab/industrial settings due to its great performance, but other edgertronic cameras like the SC1 and SC2 series are more geared to those customers.

The chart below shows all three edgertronic cameras and their differences.  SC2X highlighted in Yellow!

edgertronic Camera Product Comparison. – Click for Larger

The pricing for the diverse models is as follows:

edgertronic SC2X Unboxing: 

We were sent a demo “retail”  unit which is a carbon copy of what the customer receives when they get their new edgertronic camera.  The first impression is very good as it resembles serious equipment when looking at the Pelican Case, which comes standard. This case is durable, dust proof, watertight “not waterproof” and resists changes in atmospheric pressure like that of plane cargo bays.  It has built-in purge valve for pressure release before opening. Pelican cases are a de-facto standard for shipping costly camera gear across the globe and shipping the camera in one of these cases is an ideal match for storing it after use as well.  It will be ideal if more manufacturers shipped their cameras in such a case.

EdgertronicPelicanCase

  • After opening the case with both latches you are greeted with a  well-organized foam cut layout of the camera and accessories. Everything is self contained in a comfortable space with even more space for some foam cut modifications if your needs go past the included kit.

  • By tightly fitting the components in foam, the camera can be shipped with minimal external packaging as the kit components are safely stored for shipping and even moderate impacts common on FedEx and UPS shipments.  The Pelican Case is built for severe impacts but you wouldn’t want to test that theory with such a piece of precision gear.
  • On the left, you can find the trigger, extender trigger cable, and ethernet in blue. On the center, the edgertronic body and AC adapter with it’s respective power cord.  The right side is taken by the included 50mm Nikon 1.8 D Lens and the 12v Car style adapter which is recommended for Bescor, Anton Bauer and batteries built for steady output for cameras and other similar gear.  While it could theoretically work of the car connector and probably does, we didn’t want to risk it on this demo unit. We decided to use a Bescor 12v 4.5amp Single Pouch Battery Pack About $80 at AmazonThe Battery pack lasted over 3hrs of continuous portable use of the camera without any problems.

  • The included cables are meant to provide a fully shoot ready camera kit.  You will be hard pressed to go out and find something missing to fully use the camera right out of the box. This is a good decision as it becomes much easier to get started with the camera and forget about connector compatibility nuances.
  • We, however, recommend that after a while you get an even longer Ethernet cable if you plan on mounting it on a crane or hard to reach place. The good thing is that Ethernet is very easily adapted over long distances up to hundreds of feet. We tested a 50ft cable without any need for a router boosting the signal directly to our control laptop. Better yet get a wireless router connected to the camera like a Mini USB Wifi Router like the ZyXEL here $28.99 at Amazon.com that can be powered by USB from the camera.
  • Documentation: There is an included page of instructions printed from both sides. That gives you a quick guide of what to do and where to get the rest of the info about operating the camera. We had no problem operating the camera by following the guide at http://wiki.edgertronic.com/ pointed in the included page. However other users might feel it a little daunting to start using the camera without a friendly quick start guide.  More on this topic on the usability part of the review.

NOTE: The edgertronic SC2X requires a slightly higher capacity AC adapter compared to the original edgertronic SC1 camera. So it is not possible to use that older adapter and you may damage your camera. Use the AC adapter that comes bundled with the edgertronic SC2X!

The Camera Body:

Once you take out the camera body it is apparent that a lot of care went into designing and polishing the little details in the simple but useful case. The Type III Hard Anodized Aluminum enclosure in aqua “Teal” blue color, is beautiful to look at and it is supposed to be hard to scratch or dent easily. We have seen no damage developed to the case during testing which means the body should last forever if taken care of.

  • The Lens Mount is a Nikon F mount with a very good machined tolerance lens grip and release mechanism.  The lenses will not rattle or wobble by any perceivable amount once they are twisted and locked into the mount.  Quite a solid and pro feel, as good as an SLR Camera. The mount is solid metal “looks to be a Fotodiox built part” and will easily support heavy large aperture lenses. However, if the lens is a large telephoto you will mount the lens and let the camera be locked to the back of it instead as with any large lens.  The camera mount due to the Nikon F mount being of longer flange distance from the sensor plane than other popular systems like Canon EF, Panasonic Micro 4/3, Sony E mountmeans the edgertronic will not support those lenses. However, a multitude of other lens systems can be fitted with adapters see the list we researched:
  • Lenses Compatible with Nikon F Mount – Adapters Sold Separately:
  • Sony A Mount
  • Telescope T Mount
  • Contax/Yashica
  • M42 Mount
  • Canon FD mount 
  • Mamiya 645 Lens Mount
  • Leica R Pro
  • Olympus Zuiko OM Lenses
  • Pentax 67 Lens Mount
  • Voigtlander DKL Pro Lens Mount
  • Minolta MD Mount
  • Pentax K Lens Mount
  • To many the lack of compatibility with the EOS mount will seem disappointing to buyers with a newer set of Canon glass or old dependable lenses,  but considering how many lenses can be adapted and the fact that the mount can’t control the Auto Focus or aperture on those or any lens as its a nonelectronic version of the Nikon F Mount, makes it for less of a possibility in the first place.  In our view, a Micro 4/3 or Sony E Mount are the ideal candidates for camera compatibility as almost any lens can be adapted to those mounts with the respective adapter.
  • The choice of the Nikon F Mount was made by the edgertronic team for having a solid problem-free mount that had popular widely available lenses with manual apertures like those in the Nikon F mount “except Nikkor G lenses that lack an aperture ring”. We tend to agree with the statement and considering how good the implementation turned out it is hard not to see how this was a good compromise. Solid operation and dependability trumps almost any other metric.
  • The Included Lens: 

  • The included 50mm Nikkor 1:1.8 D lens with manual aperture ring and a fast f1.8 maximum aperture is a versatile and useful standard lens. It is sharp, dependable and very high quality above f2.  You could use this lens with the edgertronic exclusively without changing it for other lenses in your use of the camera and be content with the performance.  The idea was to offer a complete kit out of the box with minimum setup time and this lens makes it possible.

The Camera Body:

  • You won’t find a grip or handle on this camera for a simple reason, it is intended to be tripod or cage mounted and not for hand holding but that doesn’t mean holding it and shooting is impossible; the Size: 111x108x79 mm exclusive of lens
  • The weight of just 862 grams without lens;of the camera makes it very easy to adapt handles or grips to easily kit the camera for portable use. More on that later in the review!

edgertroinicSC2PlusBottom

  • The body has two tripod 1/4 inch screw mounts with recessed lock support which is ideal for the camera being oriented properly on a tripod mount at all times with no angle drifting.
    There are vents on the top of the unit and a fan on the back for heat dissipation.  The camera is well cooled and seldom gets hot even in direct sunlight for a few hours the camera never reached an internal top temp over 45 C.  The camera is designed for 24/7 operation and dependability and it delivers on that promise by working non stop for our testing in several conditions.

Back of the Camera:

  • The edgertronic camera has quite a few ports on the back and it allows for good customization and expansion.

edgertronicSC2PlusBack

  • Storage: On the top left we have the SDHC Card compatible slot “Does not support the SDXC standard” formatted in Fat 32.  We tested a Sandisk 32GB 30MB/sec HD Extreme video rated SDHC card with no problems. We were supplied with an 8GB SD card in the kit which was quickly swapped for more storage space. The SD Card has to have the Label of the card oriented to the left outside of the body and not to the interior for it to insert and lock; Right next to the SD card slot is the Micro SD card slot that has the camera software and space sufficient for customizable settings and software updates as they become available. You do not need to remove this card at any point as all updates can be done from the regular SD card by copying the file to the root folder of the Fat32 formatted card easily.
  • Top Indicator LEDs: The camera has two multi-color LED indicator lights that show the status of the camera at all times. They flash in different patterns and colors to inform the operator of the status of the system.  This sounds complicated but in use it becomes second nature after a while as solid lights in blue “System” and green “Camera” mean the camera is working and ready to take the next shot. For all the patterns and flashing of the LEDs and what the mean see the edgertronic wiki entry here.
  • Multi-Function Button: The only button that the camera has is the one located below the system and camera LEDs.  You do not use this to turn the camera on or off that is done by connecting and disconnecting the power cord like you would do for an appliance. The button if pressed when the camera is ready will start recording footage if pressed exactly what the trigger controller will do if pressed.  the other use of the button is done by leaving it pressed and will reset the camera to factory settings when turned on. Not recommended except in the case of troubleshooting or needing a hard software reset for a reason.
  • Audio Connector: Currently deactivated but it will let the camera record audio from a microphone on a future release if needed.
  • Trigger Connector:  A standard 2.5mm trigger connector and or daisy-chain genlock cable can be inserted in this port allowing for quick recording of an event.
  • Some Compatible triggers:Canon RS-60E3, Vello RS-C1II, Pixel RS-201
  • Dual USB Ports:  The two USB ports supplied allow for connecting a USB portable device like a USB stick, or 2.5 inch 5v portable Hard disk formatted in FAT 32 standard.  If you insert a device while the SD card is also present the recording will default to the USB device automatically.  We tested a Toshiba portable 750GB travel hard drive formatted in FAT32 with success but would rather record to the SDHC card for simplicity. However, it is good to have the ports if the need for expandability arises like that in a lab, studio or industrial setup that needs continuous access to the files.
  • 10/100 Ethernet Connector: This will be the main connector to interface with the camera.  You plug the cable on this end and then directly to a desktop computer, laptop or router for access in the network. You then control the camera by using the browser “Google Chrome Recommended for Stability and Compatibility” The MAC network address is clearly printed in the back of the camera if needed, good thinking on this design decision!

EdgertronicConnectedBack

  • 12v DC Power Connector: This is the power connector which if connected turns on the camera immediately and off when unplugged, the connect-disconnect serves as the camera on and off switch. You plug in the end of the included AC adapter and or you can use the included 12v Car style adapter for portable batteries. If you unplug when the camera has not finished writing the file you will loose the shot or corrupt the memory card, make sure the camera has finished recording before you unplug the power.
  • The Sensor in the edgertronic SC2X: The edgertronic SC1 & SC2+ sported a global shutter sensor as well  but this time around the differences come mostly from the resolution of 1080p Full HD 1920*1088 pixels.
  • SC2X Sensor Specs:
  • 19.20x 10.88 mm 22.2mm diagonal active area on the SC2X.
  • Pixel Size is about 10 Microns vs 13 microns on teh SC2+ & 14microns on the SC1 edgertronics
  • 1920 * 1088 CMOS Global Shutter Image Sensor
  • ISO 1200-19200 sensitivity (color only)
  • 10 to 20,132 fps frames/sec depending on resolution
  • Global shutter settable from 1/30 to 1/800,000 sec
  • Noise Profile and Dynamic Range highly improved from SC1 a little less sensitive than SC2+
  • Sensor Notes: For starters, it is not a CCD but a CMOS Sensor but one with a global shutter. The common CMOS sensor like the one on DSLR cameras has a weak spot called a rolling shutter. The camera records images by lines usually from the top down in order to read the entire extent of the sensor and produce an image.   This creates a wonderful looking image with little noise but the subject is not captured at the same moment in time. It is however captured at a fast but offset speed depending on the sensor and camera used.  The speed at which the subject moves is critical for cameras with rolling shutters to show the artifact or not.

HSC Tests the edgertronic Global Shutter vs GH4 Rolling Shutter:

  • In the above video, rolling shutter vs global shutter test; you can see that in reality the strings on the guitar do not bend but just vibrate and stay almost completely in a straight line on the edgertronic camera with a global shutter. On the GH4 with it’s rolling shutter the strings vibrate in a wave pattern showing deformations that are not actually there. Hence why for scientific purposes the Global shutter is a must have!
  • For a high-speed camera, the rolling shutter would be a complete disaster. The camera would not be able to read the action as it happens with enough speed and would deform the subjects making them elongated or curved. This for scientific applications is prohibited as measurements and phenomena need to be studied in complete detail.  For Filmmakers, cameras like the Sony FS700 with a rolling shutter, do work fast enough for frame rates of 240p or even 480p with reduced line readout. However, for faster frame rates you need a global shutter to preserve image integrity.
  • The edgertronic sensor in the SC2X has an advanced global shutter circuitry that allows it to avoid rolling shutter completely as a CMOS  sensor.  This, however, does limit the ISO range of the camera as the extra circuitry creates added heat and noise in the analog to digital signal stage.   In the end, the edgertronic SC2X is capable of up to 20,132 frames a second with no rolling shutter to speak of. This spec until recently was extremely expensive to include in a camera. Other high-speed cameras that cost several orders of magnitude more than the edgertronic SC2X have had a global shutter for years in a CMOS senor but never at this price/performance metric.
The excellent sensor in the SC2X delivering Full HD quality and hyper fast frame rates.

The pixels on the sensor are still huge at 10 microns in size due to the 1920*1088 resolution, in comparison, a Canon EOS 7D camera at 18MP has 4.3 microns in a similar area on a rolling shutter technology.  The dynamic range and sensitivity of the edgertronic SC2X camera is extremely good especially at base ISO 1200 to 4800.  If this was a rolling shutter sensor it would be a class leading one in the industry.  The dynamic range is so good that it preserves highlight and shadow detail comparable to a 10 bit RAW image on a DSLR.

  • Dynamic Range: We estimate about 11-12 stops depending on ISO setting used and saved on H.264 codec. If it was saved as real RAW 13 or 14 stops could probably be extracted. This new full HD sensor is that good.  It is hard to miss a good exposure with such a good dynamic range latitude. More on this in p2 and p3 of this review!
  • Shutter Mechanism: The edgertronic SC2X also has a physical shutter mechanism that is used for obscuring the camera during automatic black sensor calibration. Black Calibration is something you need to perform to reduce signal noise and tailor the sensor to operate it’s best at a given shutter speed and ISO setting. This reduces the noise pattern on the final image.  It takes a series of black frames to do it and the integrated shutter saves this step transparently to the user. Many high-speed cameras including the Chronos 1.4 released this year have to be calibrated after every ISO and shutter change in order to preserve optimal image quality; it is a manual and painstaking process.  This is a great feature to have and it works very well on the edgertronic and makes for a fluid shooting experience with just 2 seconds of downtime every time it calibrates.
edgertronic SC2X resting on top of it’s case. You can see how small and portable it really is!

Frame Rates Supported SC2X:

  • The edgertronic SC2X is a pretty versatile little machine when it comes to frame rates. Offering nearly 2,000 fps at full resolution.  Most affordable cameras that offer a high speed function top out at 120fps or 240fps. Some pretty good ones go up to 480fps or 960fps like the Sony FS700  or Sony FS5 or the RX series but at severely reduced resolution.  The edgertronic SC2X on the other hand can do from 1,910fps full res 1920*1088px (With lower frame rates selectable like 1000 and 500fps if needed) all the way to 20,123 fps @ 1920 x 96 px resolution.
  • The Setting that most people will use for TV, the internet and Film that offers the best performance, quality and frame rate will be 1920*1088 Full HD or 1080p.  In this mode, the camera does 1,910 frames a second which is slow enough to record most human motion, wildlife subjects like insects and birds in flight, scientific experiments, and industrial machinery. It is also a great setting for food, object fractures to some degree, falling objects and sports analysis. Filmmakers makers and video pros would want to stay here for optimal quality and slow motion goodness with no resolution loss.
  • Overclocking: The edgertronic SC2X has no overclocking as of yet, we have no information at this time if it will support it. The SC1 camera does overclock to get above 1,000fps.
Resolution edgertronic SC2X Frame Rate
1920*1088 Full Sensor 1,910 fps
1920*736 HD 720p equivalent 2,814 fps
1920*768- 1024*768 equivalent 2,698 fps
1920*672- 768*688 equivalent 3,079 fps
1920*576 3,585 fps
1920*480- 720*480 NTSC equivalent 4,290 fps
1920*480- 640*480 VGA equivalent 4,290 fps
640*352 Half HD 5,816fps
512*288 7,073 fps
1920*224 Half VGA Equivalent 9,025 fps
1920*160 12,463 fps
1920*128 15,395 fps
1920*96 Lowest Res 20,132 fps
  • Note: All resolutions on the table above can work at 1920px horizontal without affecting final frame rate performance. Sensor is locked on the horizontal resolution!
  • The edgertronic SC2X has no pre-determined resolution settings, you can use a plethora of numbers on the vertical resolution on the user interface which will present you with an “actual” number result for your given choice. The camera will do all the adjustments necessary to reach your given resolution choice.  However, it is a little more restricted than the edgertronic SC1. Your horizontal resolution essentially always stays at a locked 1920 pixels wide while the vertical can be varied by closest available resolution. We could get a vertical option every 10-15 lines of resolution which is probably based on the AD converter rows on the sensor.   Staying at 1920 pixels wide will not harm performance frame rate but will allow you to crop action later on if needed. You gain horizontal space in the frame but you lose nothing but a little bit more SD card space.
  • The duration time of recording in seconds will also vary. At full resolution and 1088p it is 4.304 seconds recording while at the lowest resolution 1280*96 it jumps to 23.657 seconds.
  • The camera is capable of recording at 4 Gigabytes a second internally from the sensor to memory so the entire buffer memory of 16GB on our sample SC2X would fill up in 4.304 seconds.   In use, however, you will very rarely be recording 4 seconds of video at 1,910fps, more like 1 to 2 seconds max due to the pre-trigger function and the new Review Before Save Feature implemented in the new firmware. More on this on part two of the review which will go over using the camera while shooting.
Final Design Notes:

We were very impressed by the edgertronic design since it’s inception back when the SC1 was launched. The build quality of the metal anodized case is excellent, fit and finish is durable under a variety of environments and rough treatment. It is rugged and very functional in heat prone environments with ease due to adequate cooling and ventilation. Even in direct sunlight the camera never malfunctioned or locked up while testing.

    • Mounting: The addition of two tripod 1/4″ mounts is ideal for creating a custom setup and the ease of setup is a plus for a variety of mounts and tripods.
    • Weatherproofing: If there is one thing we would love to see either from edgertronic or a third party is a weatherproof enclosure that allows for some degree of water and full dust proofing.  The electronics are exposed to the elements and since the main ventilation grille is on the top, it makes for easy access of water or dust. This could essentially fry the camera if subjected to these conditions.  You could very easily buy an EWA Marine style plastic bag but heat build up could be a problem in a sealed environment, even then the camera could operate for some time under those conditions. Cooling the enclosure either with ice packs or cool air could make it work for a long time in a tightly sealed case. Underwater in cool sea water with a custom dive enclosure will probably self-regulate temperature due to the water dissipating the heat.
  • Rain cover for SLR Used for edgertronic camera with long lens. Cheap weather solution!
    Rain cover for SLR Used for edgertronic camera with long lens. Cheap weather solution!
    • Your best bet for keeping it safe from water splashes or dust is to use a regular video camera water cover like those for ENG cameras.  We used an SLR rain cover with lens extender with great results and resulted in carefree operation in case of mild rain.  For heavy rain, you will need to use a more weatherproof sealed case design. Some owners of the camera have constructed submarine enclosures and blast-proof enclosures with success, however, a product like the Altura Photo Professional Rain Cover for DSLRs could fit the bill in this situation for under $15. We have some recommended solutions below, be aware that due diligence is a big part of keeping your equipment safe. We are not liable for any failure while using any camera cover like the ones listed below. If the weather is hurricane-like, go for shelter and stop using the camera.


Sample SC2X Footage:

Here are some footage samples shot with the edgertronic SC2X at 1,910fps 1080p which is the ideal resolution for TV, film and the Web.

Thanks for your support of HSC, your help keeps reviews like these keep coming! 

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