Tag Archives: DSLR

It’s Not a DSLR, It’s Not a Camcorder, It’s Black Magic!

Black Magic Cinema Camera

I’ve been shooting with the Black Magic Cinema Camera for the last month and what follows are my first impressions. In part one of this series on the Black Magic Cinema Camera, I will explain why this camera is different than DSLRs or even pro camcorders

Everybody knows that the Black Magic Cinema Camera was a revolutionary product when it was unveiled at the 2012 NAB show. Why then do they try to compare it to any other camera, and especially the Canon 5DMK2 DSLR? Continue reading

Love and Robots poster frame

“Love and Robots” Hits the Festival Circuit.

Love and Robots poster frame

I’ve wrapped post production for my short film “Love and Robots” and now I am in the process of entering it in film festivals. The film is entered into the Sundance festival, The Boulder International Film Festival, and the Festivus film festival in Denver Colorado. “Love and Robots” is the story of a female robot who wonders if robots can experience the emotion of love. It was shot with a Panasonic GH2 DSLR camera with a dedicated volunteer cast and crew and no budget to speak of.

I am also in the process of finding a venue for the unofficial world premiere. You can check out the trailer at: http://loveandrobotsfilm.com/trailer.html we also have an Internet Movie Database page and a Facebook page.

Sony NEX VG10 Pass and Fail

Sony NEX-VG10I received the Sony NEX VG10 with high expectations, here was a camera that promised to be a DSLR killer at a reasonable price, it’s not. Here’s why.
I was thinking, here is a camera with interchangeable lenses and a APSC sized sensor from Sony, finally a camera that could breach the gap between camcorder convenience and DSLR image quality but I was wrong. As far as video quality is concerned, yes, it is a winner, it has interchangeable lenses and a large APS sized sensor, rivaling the Canon 7D DSLR in a camcorder form factor. It has a flip out LCD and a convenient hand held body with a proper handle, decent on-board mics and both a Sony intelligent shoe and a cold shoe for mounting an external mic or light. The included E-series 18mm-200mm f3.5 lens is great and you can easily adapt the mount to accept not only Sony A series lenses but just about any 35mm still lens out there to wok with it. I bought the E-series to Canon FD lens adapter and threw my good ol’ Canon FD 50mm F1.4 lens on it, and it works wonderfully. The 24Mbs H264 codec delivers exactly what I would expect as far as video quality is concerned, although you are stuck with 1080i 29.97 FPS. I also noticed some moire artifacts when zooming or panning. And I have to say that this camera was ideally suited for the particular shoot where I tested it. I was shooting hand held POV shots with the camera mounted on my Jaybilizer HDSLR camera stabilizer.
So what’s my gripe? First, no manual audio level controls, sure it’s got an 1/8″ external mic input, but only AGC level control, this is totally unacceptable on a $2000 camera. I’ve got several sub-one thousand dollar Sony cameras that have audio level controls. I was actually hoping at this price point to see XLR inputs, but I would accept an 1/8″ mini input with level controls. This is a massive fail that I cannot over state.
Second , I have to address the insufficient user manual and unintuitive user interface. I took the camera out on a shoot and was stymied by such simple task as formating a SD card . You have to go to the Menu button and then the Setup item and scroll down to the Format Card item, where it tells you to press the OK button. there is no OK button. After trying all the available buttons, I discovered that this is the button labeled Focus, nowhere in the manual is there any allusion to the OK button and that it is indeed the Focus button. The manual is horrid, the worst manual I’ve ever seen for a camcorder, let alone a $2k camcorder. It feels like the manual was written by two marketing guys on a 12 hour deadline.
I could go on and on about the audio or lack of audio control, but what about simple things like LANC? It’s a Sony for Chrissake, A Sony without LANC remote? What? And the LCD viewfinder only rotates 90 degrees, again you wonder why? Every other flip out LCD viewfinder in recent history rotates 180 degrees so you can look at it from the front of the camera. Again, a big “What where they thinking?”
Overall this would be a great camera at the $1K price point but at $2K you are at least into the prosumer feature range and the lack of audio control is , as I said before, totally unacceptable. I have a forlorn wish that this is something that can be solved in a firmware update, but I’m not holding my breathe.
In the meantime, I’m torn between the great image quality that the large sensor and interchangeable lenses deliver and the dumbed down audio and the lack other features that we’ve come to expect of a camcorder at this price point. It feels like the whole thing was rushed to market without much thought to what professional videographers really need.

Holy S…ony, The New NEX-VG10 Fires First

Sony NEX-VG10Nobody expects the Sony inquisition! In a surprise announcement, last week Sony unveiled it’s APS-C sensor based interchangable lens camcorder. It’s no surprise that Sony would be working on such a product, knowing that Panasonic is planning on releasing the HF100 on December first. What is surprising is that Sony demoed a working NEX-VG10 London this week and and that it will be available in September (and pre-order today at Sony Style stores) for about $2000!
Why is this camera impressive? First, is that it uses the same APS sensor as the Sony NEX still cameras and that it can use the same “E-mount” and A-Mount” (with an adapter) lenses as it’s DSLRs. It will ship with the E18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS as it’s kit lens. Secondly, is that it shoots 1920 x 1080i @ 24Mbps. Sony is still stuck on interlaced video (Why? WHY?!) but at least you can shoot on SD cards and you’re not stuck with memory sticks. But the most impressive thing is the shipping date and the price. I can’t wait to see what the other manufactures are going to do to follow Sony’s act.
You can check out Sony’s VG10- showcase video on Vimeo and check out the specs on DP Review.

Why the (hacked) Panasonic GH1 is a better video camera than the Canon5DMk2

If you are a Canon 5Dmk2 fanboy you may want to shut your eyes. The lowly Panasonic GH1 just got supercharged with a firmware hack that makes a great HDSLR video camera even better. Here is my list of things that make the GH1 a better video camera than the 5D. First let’s take a look at the 800-pound gorilla in the room, The Canon has a full frame 35mm sensor, therefore, there is no crop factor when using 35mm lenses. Canon’s full size sensor is 4 times the size of the 4/3rds sensor in the GH1, which also means that the Canon must compress 4 time the data for the same bandwidth, all thing being equal (which they are not.) Supposedly the 5D is writing data at 35Mbs, compared to the (stock) 17Mbs of the GH1, which means that it’s still throwing away half again as much data as the GH1 (4 time the sensor and only twice as much data as the GH1).

GH1 Camera rig

My GH1 Camera Rig

But the GH1 has a secret, with the Ptools firmware hack from Tester13, the GH1 can shoot true 1080P 24fps with no pulldown at 50Mbs. And since both cameras use h.264 compression, with the software hack, the GH1 is compressing the data from its sensor far less.

But there’s more, the GH1 hack also enables the 1080P mode using MJPEG compression at 100Mbs for short shots. While this setting is kind of like using nitrous and it’s really pushing the limits of the camera, it is a real boon if you want to get the highest quality video possible. The advantage that motion JPEG has over h.264 is that it only uses spatial compression instead of the temporal and spatial compression of h.264. This means prettier pictures. His holiness, Phillip Bloom posted a great blog post on what the firmware hack brings to the GH1 which you can read on his blog.
I’ll admit that image quality is close enough between these two cameras that the 5D might win if that were the only issue. But the GH1 is a far more usable camera than the 5D, First off, for shooting video you can’t beat the fold out LCD screen on the GH1. It’s just better than the Live View screen on the 5D, period, even with a Z-finder. Second, the GH1 has continuous auto focus when using the kit lens. With 5D in live mode, you are stuck with whatever focus you had when you started recording. Thirdly, even un-hacked the GH1 can shoot 30fps 1/2 speed slow motion. You just shoot at 60fps 720p and play back the footage at 30fps, no frame blending or doubling, just plain good old fashioned over-cranking.
Okay, Let’s talk about glass. The 5D still uses an optical viewfinder, which means it has a pentaprism and a mirror, which it must flip up to take video, which, of course, makes the optical viewfinder unusable. This arrangement also means that the Canon has a deep flange distance. the flange is the measurement from the back of the lens to the surface of the sensor. Traditional film and video lenses have a short flange distance and don’t work well with 35mm SLR bodies. The GH1 has no optical viewfinder and therefore has a very short flange distance, which means it can use practically any 35mm SLR, video or film lens that someone is willing to make a adapter for. There is even a PL mount adapter that cost as much as the GH1, so that you can use cine lenses that cost 100 times as much the GH1. I use all my old Canon FD SLR lens as well as some Minolta, Olympus, and16mm film lenses and even cheap CCTV lens with my GH1.
Finally, let’s take a look at the form factor. The 5D is big and relatively heavy DSLR. Great if you’re trying to impress other photographers or the bridesmaids at a wedding shoot, not so good if you’re actually trying to shoot steady handheld video. The GH1 is lighter, smaller, more balanced and just plain easier to handle.
I won’t argue that the Canon 5DMK2 is a great still camera, and better than the GH1. But when it comes to real world video shooting and video quality, 5D, you’ve been served!

Super Simple Second System Sound Syncing for HDSLRs

panasonic-lumix-gh1micIf you’re reading this article you probably are aware that shooting HD video with DSLRs is all the rage among digital filmmakers. There are far more reasons to shoot this way than not, but one of the problems with DSLRs are their sound recording capabilities. THe Canon 5D Mk2, the Canon 7D and the Panasonic GH1 have external microphone inputs but unfortunately these use auto gain control and have no manual control over input levels. Also these cameras don’t have headphone monitoring. Continue reading