Controlling An ENG Broadcast Lens Without An Expensive Controller

I recently acquired a Panasonic AW-E800 camera and fully motorised fujinon lens from the BBC World Service Auction.  Fortunately as it was predominantly a radio auction a few tv related bits seemed to slip under the radar of most bidders and I managed to pick this up for mere £150. The quality is surprisingly good and when I went to Bush House to collect it I was pleased to discover it had the SDI output card intact.

I’ve had a small amount of experience with these cameras at ITV Millbank Studios, where they are installed in small rooms for “down the line” interviews to the ITV regions. They normally pair up with a motorised pan and tilt head and lens controller, neither of which were included in my BBC auction win. As a manually operated camera it’s fine but as I want to eventually mount it on a Jib I’m looking for some remote control action!

As you can see from the picture I’ve already modified a basic CCTV pan and tilt head to use with the camera. It’s not ideal but will do for now until I can afford something better.  But my challenge is to find a way of controlling the lens without an expensive lens controller.

This blog post might be of interest to DSLR owners looking to use professional ENG lenses with their camera bodies, as DSLRs do not have the facility to power or drive the automated functions of the lens directly.  I’ve not explored this possibility due to the expense of the lens adaptors but it’s an option that’s there and one that’s been tried.

Most cameras use a Hirose 12 pin connector between the camera body and the lens and the internet suggests the pin-out is as follows:

1  RET switch
2  VTR trigger
3  GND
4  Lens Auto/Manual control
5  Iris control
6  +12vdc
7  Iris position
8  Iris A/R input
9  Extender (doubler) position
10  Zoom position
11  —
12  —

For a DSLR user all you’d need to activate your ENG lens is 12v across pins 6 and 3. This would give you servo power for your zoom rocker and you’re ready to go!

The Fujinon lens on my camera has two drives within one unit, one for the focus and one for the zoom. Normally on an ENG lens you have a zoom servo but not a focus one, which you would purchase separately.  So this rules out me using a zoom controller as I’d lose the focus control.  I’m assuming either pin 11 or 12 will carry the focus position information.

That’s the extent of my findings so far. I’ll update this blog page as I learn more.  Of course I could just buy one of these and be done with it but that’s no fun is it?

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