Raafi Rivero’s Kinefinity MAVO LF Review

Raafi Rivero has probably shot more footage and had more hands-on time with the Kinefinity MAVO LF than just about anyone.

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Raafi has produced a rather unique review about the MAVO LF that is certainly very unconventional. If you are after a traditional review of the MAVO LF then this is certainly not it!

I have been in contact with Raafi and I wanted to ask him about his experiences with the MAVO LF.

What got you originally interested in the Kinefinity MAVO LF?

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I’ve been interested in Kinefinity for some time and took the plunge with the Terra4k in late 2017. (I even watched this conversation with you and Rob Bannister years ago – https://vimeo.com/118329088 ). I’ve been working professionally for 15 years but the only camera I owned prior to the Terra was the Canon 5D Mk II. I understand lenses and composition best in full-frame, so being able to use that format again with great specs was enticing.

What do you think makes the MAVO LF different or unique from other cameras on the market at this price?

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Kinefinity’s cameras have very few proprietary accessories. The system is flexible. You can shoot on affordable media like SSDs, and adapt to many lens mounts – PL, EF, Nikon, and even manual E-Mount. ProRes is a big plus. Killer low light. A lot of cameras can beat the LF in one area, but few can beet it in all of them, especially at its price.

For you, what is the appeal of using full frame or larger sensors?

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I spent years shooting on the Canon 5D Mk II, so full-frame has always felt like home. It’s more difficult to get the image in focus wide-open but there is a magic to the format as well. Selective focus is one of the things that separates the “cinema” look from the “video” look.

The other less-obvious thing about full-frame is the performance in low-light. Because the image is composed of more photosites there is less perception of noise.

Your review is quite different from anything else that I have seen. Why did you choose to do it in this way?

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Whenever you talk with other film people about gear there’s always someone who says, “But, in the end, it’s really about the story.” And everyone kind of rolls their eyes. But I wanted to tell a story somehow and thought recording little talks about the camera over months would give it a loose, jazzy feel, and save me from having to say everything perfectly in one go. I actually recorded tons of commentary about stuff like format, highlight roll-off, and dynamic range, but in the edit, it just felt boring.

Even before the camera got stolen I’d basically cut anything remotely specs-related out of the review. I mentioned size and weight in reviewing the Terra4K and the form factor hadn’t changed, so it wasn’t worth talking about that again. The last part of the video with my final thoughts was recorded the day before the theft.

Even though there’s a story of loss that drives the review, I feel very lucky to be able to do this job and wanted to share the feeling I get from it: joy.

How long have you been using the MAVO LF?

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About eight months.

What have you shot with the MAVO LF?

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The camera arrived in late November 2018 and we shot three big projects on it – a sci-fi short film, three doc-style commercials, and an hour-long documentary that aired in June.

We shot the documentary for three weeks on the road in Oklahoma, Detroit, Atlanta, with a final week in NYC, so it was a great test of reliability. The Mavo LF was the main camera and the Terra4k was the b-cam. There was a big corporate sponsor behind the project and my client asked, “Are your cameras up for this?” I said yes. We ripped through a lot of cheap gear on that trip and a bunch of stuff didn’t make it back. But the cameras stood up to the test.

Above you can see some of the projects that Raafi has shot with the camera.

What are its biggest strengths and weaknesses?

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The biggest weakness is definitely audio. Not having manual pots to adjust the levels and having to go through a menu every time you want to adjust a setting is a little clunky for run-and-gun situations. The other thing is that the audio channels are linked so you can’t adjust the levels independently. A couple of sound people we hired said that the timecode on the camera wasn’t compatible with their system. Most of the time we did two-system audio with a wireless feed into the XLR for backup.

The new OS and menus are a big improvement but there could be another leap in that area.

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The biggest strength to me is the color science – the camera is not biased toward a color the way I perceive other brands to be. I find the color to be pleasing right away, and with the supplied LUT and can get by with a minimal grade when under a time crunch.

The small form factor is another big plus. The camera can be stripped down to make it small enough for a gimbal or for DSLR-style handheld work, or it can build all the way up to a cine system with matte boxes, etc.

I also love being able to shoot to SSDs rather than proprietary media. I can use the SSDs for other purposes when I’m not on shoots.

Who is the camera suitable for?

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It’s more of a cinema camera than a documentary camera. Most doc cameras have ND, auto-focus, and better audio setups. That said, we shot a big documentary in four cities and it held up well. Cinema or commercials are probably its ideal uses, though.

You had the camera stolen, Tell us about what happened.

I broke a cardinal rule and paid the ultimate price. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in a Starbucks or a restaurant with a big-old camera on the table because you’re never supposed to leave a camera in the car. Ever.

Some friends and I were visiting a favorite professor from film school and we parked in the lot next to his office. The car had tinted windows and the camera was in a black backpack on the floor. I figured it would be safe.

When we came outside a couple of hours later someone joked, “I hope the camera’s still there.” It wasn’t. I don’t own a car or a house so to lose the most expensive thing I own because of a dumb mistake felt devastating. Telling the story through the review has been a part of the healing process.

Are cameras getting to the point where they are all capable of producing great imagery?

A few years ago I wrote down a list of wants for a camera: 4k resolution, 13 stops dynamic range, 10-bit color, S35 sensor or larger, and internal ProRes. These days you can’t turn around without bumping into a camera that meets those specs. It really is all about the story these days.

What is your final overall impression of the MAVO LF?

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The images speak for themselves. For me, the Mavo LF performed incredibly well over a series of very different conditions. And having access to full-frame is like a turbo booster. I think the camera produces an excellent image and offers great value. I want another one.

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