Panasonic Gh4

George Derugin

An opinionated guy who doesn't know much about filmmaking, blogging about filmmaking.

Jul 112014
 

Using anamorphic lenses can be very easy or very difficult. Here is an article designed to shed light on some obstacles you might face when setting up an anamorphic system for your DSLR. [Note: I'm working on adding images and diagrams to this post, I hope to have them up soon]

Anamorphic

The Anamorphic Optical Chain

The conventional setup goes like this: DSLR, then taking lens, then anamorphic lens, then diopter (optional). If you have a heavy anamorphic lens, you may want to use a lens clamp to clamp the anamorphic lens to your taking lens. Also, you may choose to support your anamorphic lens via a tripod collar or lens support system. Here are some diagrams of typical anamorphic setups:

Attaching an Anamorphic Lens Directly to Your Taking Lens

Some anamorphic lenses have rear thread diameters that make it easy to attach the lens directly to your taking lens. If the diameters don’t match, you can buy a step down or step up ring. For instance, the Sankor 16C has a 40.5mm rear thread, to attach it directly to my 52mm taking lens thread I would need a 52mm to 40.5mm step down ring. Similarly, I could use a Redstan clamp to clamp the anamorphic lens to my taking lens.

Attaching Heavy Anamorphic Lenses

My Schneider anamorphic lens weighs about 571 grams. Attaching this lens directly to my taking lenses would be preposterous because something would most likely end up breaking (either the anamorphic lens would fall off, or the taking lens would get damaged). The rule of thumb here is be smart. If you are shooting with a cheap plastic Canon as your taking lens, you probably won’t want to mount much weight onto it. I have a vintage Olympus 50mm 1.4 that I directly attach a Sankor 16c to. I have attached the Sankor directly to my Canon 50mm 1.4 but I felt that was too much stress for the Canon. I did not bother trying to attach it directly to my Canon 50mm 1.8 (the built quality of the 50mm 1.8 is awful).

When a lens is too heavy, use additional support. The Velbon SPT-1 is my weapon of choice. It is fairly light weight, and allows me to use a tripod collar for my anamorphic lenses. You can also use a rail system. Rail systems are very popular for filmmakers because they allow you to build a custom rig; follow focusing, barn doors, lens supports, etc…

Does Your Lens Have Internal or External Focusing?

Before you attach your anamorphic lens to your taking lens figure out whether or not the front element of your taking lens moves inward or outward when focusing. Simply manually focus your lens across its focusing range (from up close to infinity). If you odn’t notice any movement, then your lens focuses internally and you are good to go. If your lens moves inward or outward while focusing you must be careful when attaching your anamorphic lens because you do not want your taking lens to hit the anamorphic lens while you focus.

Here is a picture of my Canon 50mm 1.8 with a Schneider anamorphic mounted in front of it. Notice I have a gap in between the two lenses. This is to give my Canon 50mm 1.8 ample room to extend without hitting the Schneider throughout the focusing range .

How to Align an Anamorphic Lens

The best way to align your anamorphic lens is to shine a small focused light strait into your anamorphic lens. Using your viewfinder or LCD screen, you want to rotate the anamorphic lens so that the lens flare is perfectly horizontal. In Live View I use the horizontal line overlay to help align everything. If you don’t align your anamorphic lens your footage will be skewed after you desqueeze it.

Anamorphic Lenses Can Cause Vignetting and Light Loss

Be sure to watch the exposure when you shoot with anamorphic lenses. Generally you will lose a bit of light when you place an anamorphic adapter in front of your taking less. The light loss is not much, maybe one stop of light at worst. A much bigger problem is vignetting. Basically if you shoot too wide, you will experience vignetting. There are two types of vignetting: The most apparent is a darkening of the image  (typical vignetting). The second type is soft vignetting (I made this name up). Soft vignetting is when you experience white colored vignetting when the lens is pointed at a bright light source. Here are examples of what I am talking about:

Both of these suck. The dark vignetting is easy to remedy; just get a longer focal length lens. Soft vignetting can be tougher to fix. Going with a longer focal length and stopping down the lens are common solutions.

The Cost of Setting Up an Anamorphic Lens

If you choose a light weight anamorphic lens and attach it directly to a your lens (an internal focusing lens) you don’t have to spend any money on additional gear. If the threads don’t match you will need a clamp (about $50). If your lens moves in and out when it focuses or is not strong enough to hold an anamorphic lens, you will need a support system. My Velbon SPT-1 costs about $70. A Chinese tripod collar should cost about $10. Additional step up/down rings could run you $10. If you want a lens support plus clamps, the clamps will cost you $35 to $50. A rail system usually starts off at about $50 for the cheap stuff, and can easily climb to several hundred dollars. If your anamorphic lens does not have conventional filter threads on the front, and you want to use filters, you will need a clamp. A Redstan style clamp will cost $50.

Or… physically hold the anamorphic lens in front of your taking lens. I shot a whole test video by holding a Singer 16D in front of a vintage Olympus 75-150mm. The video was a bit shaky, and the lenses were not perfectly aligned, but the video still turned out very cinematic and sharp. This is a great way too shoot anamorphic video if you can’t afford to purchase additional support equipment. Plus its a good work out! Holding a DSLR with one hand, and an anamorphic lens with the other hand builds your muscles!

Jun 282014
 

If you read Part 1 of my guide, you will know that all the anamorphic talk in my posts is for anamorphic projection lenses, not $50,000 anamorphic primes used by Hollywood. This page focuses on lens mechanics, and how to choose a good anamorphic lens. There are three main variables when it comes to anamorphic lenses: focusing type, squeeze amount, and vignetting.

Anamorphic

Focus Through vs Dual Focus Anamorphic Lenses

Strait through focusing lenses cost more. If you buy an anamorphic projection lens that can be focused through that means that you can set your taking lens to infinity and use the anamorphic lens to focus. This is a very attractive set up because it makes focusing very easy: basically you focus like you would normally focus only instead of using your regular lens for focusing you use the anamorphic attachment for focusing.

Dual Focusing Anamorphic Lenses

These are the most common lenses on eBay. Dual Focusing means that you have to focus your taking lens as well as your anamorphic lens. This makes focusing more difficult. Some people learn to dual focus quite effectively, with practice it becomes easier. Though even with practice you will often miss the focus. If you have a projection lens that requires dual focusing it most likely means that you will not be changing focus during your shot (which is fine).

Anamorphic Squeeze Ratio

A second factor is the amount of squeeze the anamorphic lens applies to your footage. Most lenses found on Ebay have a 2x squeeze. This is because older projection lenses were designed to take a 4:3 video aspect ratio and turn it into 8:3, resulting in a convention 16mm 2.67 aspect ratio. But today, our cameras shoot widescreen 16:9 video. Putting that same 2x lens attachment results in a ginormous 32:9 (3.55) aspect ratio!

Usually the 1.5x and 1.33x anamorphic adapters cost more. This is because they give a more conventional aspect ratio when paired with today’s cameras, and also because they are often focus through type lenses (conventional aspect ratio + no dual focusing = win).

Personally, I find the 3.55 aspect ratio very awesome, but a bit too awesome. I prefer something in the range of 2.67 (which is still wider than today’s standard of 2.39). If you want an epic anamorphic look, get the 2x projection lens. If you want something close to the cinema standard of 2.39, get a 1.33x anamorphic lens. And if you want the best of both worlds, get a 1.5x lens. People argue (myself included) that anamorphic lenses with a squeeze under 1.5x give a fairly boring look. The bokeh is less stretched, and the overall image looks too similar to conventional 16:9 video.

Anamorphic Lens Vignetting

The rule of thumb is this: the bigger the squeeze, the more vignetting you will experience. Also, if you shoot on a full frame sensor, you will experience more vignetting than one would on a APS-C or an MFT sensor. I shoot on an APS-C and usually experience vignetting around 50mm with my 2x anamorphic attachments.

Each anamorphic lens is built differently; for instance my Schneider Cinelux MC 2X has ~67mm barrel, and the lens objectives on it are much wider than the ones on my Sankor 16c (rear thread is only 42mm). The bigger lens objectives on the Schneider result in less vignetting (I can use 50mm lenses on the Schneider, the Sankor requires something in the neighborhood of 85mm). Lens vignetting is another reason why 1.5x and 1.33x anamorphic lenses cost more; less squeeze experiences less vignetting.

Best Anamorphic Lenses Under $300

If you are patient, you can find plenty of fun lenses to dip your toes with. All of the following models I have listed are dual focus 2x anamorphic lenses. You may be able to find a focus through or a 1.5x lens in this price range, but it is rare and it may not have good optics. The models I recommend are:

  • Schneider Cinelux MC 2X
  • Sankor (16C, 16D, 16F)
  • Kowa (8Z/16H, 16A, 16C, 16D, 16F)
  • Singer (16D)
  • ElmoScope
  • Eik
  • Sun Anamorphic
  • Proskar
  • Hypergonar

Best Anamorphic Lenses Under $500

For around $500, you can get creative. You may be able to find some focus through lenses, as well as some sharp 1.5x lenses. Personally, I would stick with the sub $300 projection lenses until I could afford a high quality anamorphic ($1,000+). Some of the lenses I listed are tough to find under $500.

  • Optex 16:9 Adapter
  • Century Optics 16:9 Adapter
  • Panasonic AG-LA7200
  • SLR Magic Anamorphot
  • Kowa for Bell and Howell 2x
  • Sankyoscope 1.5X
  • Yashica SCOPE 1.5x

Anamorphic Lenses Over $1,000

I think the best value is the Letus AnamorphX. It is huge, but it is priced very handsomely at ~$1,800 and has great optics. It’s not very well suited for run and gun style shooting. For run and gun you may want to get the SLR Magic Anamorphot which is smaller and cheaper and… crappier (ugly flares!).

  • Baby Hypergonar
  • Baby Iscorama
  • Bolex Moller 1.5x
  • Letus AnamorphX
  • Iscorama 36
  • Iscorama 42
  • Iscorama 54
  • Lomo Square Front
  • ISCO 2000

Thanks for reading. My next article will most likely focus on how to set up an anamorphic lens so that you can start shooting!

Jun 272014
 

I hope this will become a multipart series (hope I don’t get lazy). Basically shooting anamorphic video on a DSLR can be a hassle. But it is very rewarding. Here are the basics of anamorphic video:

Anamorphic

Anamorphic Lenses vs Regular Lenses

Most people who shoot anamorphically on DSLRs use projection lenses. Anamorphic projector lenses were originally used for film projectors but lately DSLR shooters have snagged them up to use for DSLR videos. The good news is that anyone with a Canon, Nikon, Panasonic or GoPro can shoot anamorphic video. Hell, if you have an iPhone you can shoot anamorphic video! All you need is an anamorphic lens.

Anamorphic Aspect Ratio

An anamorphic lens uses internal lens elements that are shaped so that the aspect ratio ends up wider. Lots of people add black bars to the top and bottom of their footage, but this reduces the video’s resolution. By using an anamorphic adapter, you get the same effect (plus other goodies I will discuss later) without affecting the resolution.

When you use an anamorphic lens the image will look squeezed. It looks as if someone took the image by its left and right sides and smushed it together. This is called “squeeze”, and in order to have normal looking footage you need to desqueeze your footage with software (like After Effects, or Adobe Premier). When you offload your footage from your camera into your editing software, you need to stretch the footage horizontally so that your footage will look normal. By stretching it, you are taking the original 16:9 aspect ratio (lets assume you are shooting on a Canon DSLR, the aspect ratio might be different on other cameras) and stretching it beyond 16:9. So your aspect ratio might eventually be stretched by a factor of 1.33, 1.5, or 2 depending on the particular anamorphic lens you are using.

Most Anamorphic Projector Lenses Are 2X

If you have a lens with a 2x squeeze, your final aspect ratio will be 3.56 (we stretch the original 16:9, footage so that the aspect ratio becomes 32:9, which is equivalent to ~3.56). This is very wide; much wider than the standard aspect ratio you fin at theaters. Today, the standard is 2.39:1. To get a 2.39 aspcet ratio, you would need to use a ~1.33x anamorphic attachment. Anamorphic projection lenses that have a 15x or 1.3x squeeze usually cost more than the common 2x lenses.

How to Use an Anamorphic Lens on a DSLR

Getting true anamorphic footage from your DSLR is very simple, just put an anamorphic projection lens in front of your normal lens (taking lens). A common setup would be to attach your favorite 50mm prime to your DSLR, and then mount a 2x anamorphic attachment in front of your 50mm prime. Word of caution: are lots of small problems that may arise, read part 2 for an in depth guide on attaching anamorphic projector lenses to your current DSLR setup.

Anamorphic Focal Length

If you shoot on an anamorphic lens, your footage will be more zoomed out horizontally. So an anamorphic lens essentially decreases the horizontal focal length. As a rough rule of thumb the focal length gets reduced by the squeeze factor of the lens. Lets say I have an anamorphic lens with a 2x squeeze factor, and my taking lens is 50mm. The horizontal focal length of this combination will be 25mm (50mm/2 = 25mm). If my anamorphic lens had a 1.5x squeeze factor and was used with a 50mm lens, the horizontal focal length would be 33.3 (50mm/1.5 = 33.3). Anamorphic lenses do not affect vertical focal lengths (unless you miss-align the lens). Anamorphic projection lenses do not affect aperture or light transmission (well, less light will hit the DSLR sensor because there is more glass in the way).

Anamorphic Bokeh

Simply put the bokeh of your footage will look slightly different. It will look stretched vertically (not horizontally). I believe this is the main reason people shoot anamorphic.

Unique Character

Anamorphic lenses are similar to regular lenses in that they can add a distinct look or character to your image. By using anamorphic lenses, you introduce more glass and it can often result in crazy looking shit. Sometimes stuff shot on cheap anamorphic lenses looks awful and sometimes it looks awesome. Part of the fun of shooting with anamorphic lenses is discovering ways of making your footage look unique.

Lens Flares

One thing that distinguishes regular lenses from anamorphic lenses is that regular lenses don’t flare as aggressively as anamorphic lenses. The flares change from lens to lens. If you get a multicoated anamorphic lens it will not flare as aggressively as non multicoated lenses. I like Video Copilot’s Optical Flares plugin and all, but it doesn’t come close to achieving the beauty and character of real lens flares.

Anamorphic Mumps

This is a unique lens breathing. When you drastically change focus from the background to the foreground (or from foreground to background), the image appears to get a bit squeezed on unsqueezed.

Everything Looks Better in Anamorphic

Basically, if you are a DSLR video enthusiast, shooting anamorphically is one of the great joys in life. Once you start, you won’t want to stop. On top of all the characteristics I have outlined above, anamorphic video gives you a more organic, less digital look. Setting up a system that works well can be cumbersome and expensive. Read my future articles on the subject where I will explain what problems you may run into as well as what specific anamorphic lenses you should buy.

Jun 252014
 

It was a cold winter afternoon. There I was, standing at the edge of a 200 foot pier on Lake Tahoe. The wind was killer at the lake. I’m guessing 30+ miles an hour. 200 feet into the lake, on the edge of the pier it was probably 40+ miles an hour. It was miserable and I didn’t know what I was doing.I managed to get down onto an area where boaters/kayakers and jet skiers get onto their aquatic vessel of choice. This vantage point meant I was closer to the water and that no railings would obstruct my views.

All I remember from that day was how frustrating it was to use my cheap crappy tripod. The aluminum was cold. The feet were impossible to level, and the whole thing felt like it was going to fly into the lake. I was squatting throughout because I was afraid to extend the legs, figuring the whole system would topple into the lake or onto the icy pier. I don’t even think I got any scenic photos form this particular visit. I packed my gear and got the hell out.

Tripods

Using Cheap Tripod for Telephoto Lenses

When people say that you can put a telephoto lens onto a cheap tripod; say a 300mm f/4L onto and AmazonBasics tripod, what they really are saying is: Under perfect conditions, the tripod will hold a heavy lens. What they are not saying is:

  • The tripod setup will be hassle free
  • The tripod will be very stable
  • You will get good vibration dampening
  • The tripod is versatile

Can I mount a telephoto lens on my crappy old Velbon? Yes. It will easily hold a telephoto lens. Its not like mounting 5 or 6lbs on a tripod makes it explode. Most tripods will hold gear weighing 5, even 10 lbs. Does this mean you should mount heavy gear on cheap tripods? Not really. Chances are it won’t be stable, won’t dampen the vibrations well, and be a pain in the ass to use.

Tripod Height: Why 60 Inches is Not Enough

Usually cheap tripods don’t extend very high. If you are a six foot human, your eyes are probably around 64 inches off the ground. This means that you likely need a 56 inch tripod. The problem with cheap 50-60 inch tripods is that to get the tripod head 60 inches high you need to extend the center column all the way up. Extending the center column introduces lots of vibration and instability. Not only that, but extending the feet all the way out on a cheap tripod generally sucks because the feet are very flimsy.

So to optimally get the tripod to eye level you need solid feet and must avoid extending the center column. I wouldn’t bother looking at cheap 60 inch tripods, and even the 70 inch tripods wouldn’t cut it (remember, the bottom leg section of a cheap tripod will be very flimsy). In other words, I wouldn’t buy any cheap tripods if I needed a stable setup for my personal eye level.

Forget About Fancy Features: Focus on Build Quality and Design

The main function of a tripod is stability. Thicker aluminum tubes result in more stability. Lack of plastic parts results in fewer breakable parts. Adjustable screws allow for customizing the tightness of your legs and levers to suit your needs. This is what really matters in a tripod. Whether or not a tripod has weight hooks (you can usually add your own), a storage bag, or foam grips is not as important as stability and build quality.

A Good Tripod Head

Part of the reason cheap tripods suck is that they come with crappy tripod heads. The more expensive tripods usually don’t come with tripod heads because the manufacturer expects you to add a custom tripod head that fits your needs.

Manfrotto 055xProB ($150) vs Dolica Proline ($60) vs Velbon ($???) vs Ambico ($???)

You literally get what you pay for. I’d say each tripod has the same bang for your buck. The Manfrotto is big, heavy, almost entirely aluminum (has a few pieces of plastic),  and well built. The Dolica is light, has flimsy lower leg sections, is mostly aluminum, and makes a great light travel tripod (for light gear). The Velbon is old and also mostly aluminum. It is made in America, and that counts for nothing. It is clunky, old, fragile, and not stable. The Ambico is also a piece of crap. I either got it for free, or paid less than $1 for it.

Who Should Buy a Cheap Tripod

Cheap tripods have their place. Basically you should buy one if you feel like you will not use a tripod often. What’s the point of shelling out money for gear you seldomly use? If you need a tripod in an easy going environment (like a family portrait) a cheap tripod is fine. If you don’t have heavy/expensive gear a cheap tripod is fine. If you are a patient person who is gentle and won’t get frustrated by the quirks of a cheap tripod then by all means get one. And if you need a second tripod, for a second camera body, or flash, or ??? a cheap tripod may fit the bill.

Who Should Not Buy a Cheap Tripod

If you have expensive gear, you may want the security of a better designed tripod. If you are out in the elements, and need something that is well built and can handle stress, avoid buying a cheap tripod. If you shoot at the telephoto end, don’t buy a cheap tripod. If you are tall, don’t buy a cheap tripod. If you care how you look, get an expensive tripod. If you want to focus 100% on your photography and video and not worry about the shortfalls of your tripod, spend the money on a better system. If you can afford $150 on a tripod, get a $150 tripod. If you don’t mind spending a bit and having gear that will most likely last a decade+ don’t buy a cheap tripod.

Jun 162014
 

Somewhere on this website, I think I have a post that discusses the best lenses for video. But that post is focused on cinematic lenses, that may be difficult/impractical to use (vintage glass, manual focus, nice bokeh, etc…). Here are a few lenses that I think are amazing for video, are affordable, and practical:

40mm

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 or Canon 10-18mm STM

If you are shooting on a crop sensor, you will want a lens that is under 24mm. 35mm and beyond can be too zoomed in, making it difficult to frame your subject. More often than not 50mm will be way too zoomed in. Phillip Bloom swears by the Tokina 11-16mm, and I certainly love mine. It allows me to get a nice range of wide shots while still maintaining a fast f/2.8 focal ratio. The build quality rocks, and it is a fun lens.

The Canon 10-18mm is the new kid on the block. It is cheaper, sharper, has Image Stabilization, and has STM focusing technology. Without a doubt it is going to sell well. The only problem is that it is a slow lens. F/4.5-5.6 doesn’t cut it for my photography or video needs. If this lens was a fixed f/2.8 or even f/3.5, I am pretty sure I would have instantly sold my Tokina 11-16…

Canon10-18

Canon 35mm f/2 IS USM

This lens is a face melter. At first it got a lot of hate because of the price tag and the competitive Sigma 35mm 1.4. If all you care about is sharpness, contrast, and build quality, get the Sigma 35mm 1.4. It is an amazing lens. If the Sigma had IS, I would have bought it. For video work, the Canon 35mm IS USM takes the cake. It is priced at $350 less, is relatively fast, is very sharp (almost as sharp as the amazing Sigma), and has very useful image stabilization. The IS makes it a no-brainier for video. Where else can you find an extremely sharp F2 lens with IS for $550?.

Canon STM Lenses: Okay for Stills, Excellent for Video

If you have a camera that can use STM technology for  video auto focusing (the new Canon rebels have it, such as the Canon T4i, Canon T5i, and Canon 70D), then you might want to invest in an STM lens. On the Canon T4i and T5i video auto focusing still sucks. But if you have a Canon 70D, the dual pixel technology allows for faster and more accurate video auto focusing (that is still not perfect). If you are on a budget, get the Canon 10-18mm STM and pair it with the Canon 40mm STM. Low light will be an issue (maybe buy a Canon 50mm 1.8 as well?), but you will get two (three?) awesome lenses that are sharp and cheap.

Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM

Sharpest, cheapest, lightest, fastest, smallest. Everyone loves this lens. Pros, amateurs, the rich, and the poor. Its a great lens that has basically left the Canon 50mm 1.8 in the dust. Despite being light weight, it has a very solid build quality with a metal mount.

Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM

The 18-55mm never gets much love despite being a good beginner lens. I have the non STM version, and it is sharp enough for video. It is slow at the tele end, but the image stabilization is very useful throughout. Often times I use my cheap 18-55 instead of my better lenses when I need image stabilization. I think the STM price is fair, you get a sharp lens, Image stabilization, and STM video focusing.

Canon EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS STM

I own the non STM version. Without question, this is an amazing lens. Get this lens only if you need the tele end. Otherwise get the 40mm STM. The IS is excellent, the auto focusing is good, the build quality is better than most other EF-S lenses, and it is sharp. Remember, you are paying for the extra features (IS, STM). If you want a sharp telephoto lens, get a used Canon 300mm F4 (I own it as well and it smokes the 55-250 in terms of sharpness and contrast).

Cheap Canon Lenses vs ???

Canon bias? As usual yes. But who else makes high quality video oriented lenses for such reasonable prices? If you are willing to sacrifice a little bit of build quality, lens character, and sharpness you will make life much easier on yourself. You will save money, and you will be able to use friendly lenses that are jam packed with useful video features. If the only thing you care about is a beautiful image, I would suggest the following lenses:

  • Canon 14mm f/2.8
  • Sigma 35mm f/1.4
  • Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art
  • Canon 85mm f/1.2L
  • Canon 135mm f/2
  • Additional vintage lenses such as Takumar, Mir, Jupter, Zeiss Jena, etc…

And I would pair these lenses with an anamorphic adapter such as the  Iscorama 54. $5,000 for the anamorphic adapter, $7,000 for the lenses… yeah um… let me dream for a bit.

Jun 052014
 

The Canon EF-S 10-18mm is the latest wide angle lens to hit the shelves. It is designed of APS-C sensors. It sports IS, STM focusing, and is priced under $300! Whats not to love?

Canon10-18

The Canon EF-S 10-18mm is Very Slow

F/4.5-5.6 is very slow by today’s standards. If you dial this lens in at 18mm, you will only be able to shoot at f/5.6 (allowing in 4x less light than the Tokina 11-16 @ f/2.8). What this means is that your bokeh will suffer, your depth of field won’t be very shallow, and you will need to jack the ISO up of use longer exposures. Granted, people don’t really buy wide angle lenses for bokeh or shallow depth of fields.

Even wide open the Canon is slow. F/4.5 lets in about 2.6x less light than the Tokina @ F/2.8. If you plan on shooting at night, or in low light you will always be relying on the Canon’s image stabilization so that you can extend the exposure duration.

Canon EF-S 10-18mm Image Stabilization: Useful? Useless?

At wide angles, you can get introduce a fair bit of camera shake and still get sharp results. So is the IS actually useful at these wide focal lengths? Of course! You will definitely see the difference if you shoot video. As for stills; it depends purely on the shutter speed. If you are in a low light situation, shooting below 1/50s you will likely see increased sharpness. So, given the small aperture of the Canon, the IS could be a life saver.

Canon EF-S 10-18mm vs Tokina 11-16mm Sharpness

The Canon is poised to be one of the sharpest wide angle lenses on the market. Because it can only reach f/4.5 or f/5.6 at its widest setting it is inherently sharp wide open. The following MTF shows that the Canon is sharper corner to corner across its focal range:

mtf-10mm mtf-18mm

You will notice that the Tokina does fairly well. Note that the bottom curves are at f/2.8 as opposed to f/4.5. The Tokina is considered a very sharp lens. The Canon is just sharper. Check out the MTF for the Tokina:L0000068-mtf1 L0000068-mtf2

 The Tokina 11-16mm Build Quality and Design

The Tokina 11-16 feels like a professional lens. It weighs 570g. The Canon 10-18mm weighs 240g. I own the Tokina 11-16 DXII, and I own my share of Canon EF-S lenses, and I will say that the Canon EF-S lenses always feel very cheap. I am yet to handle an EF-S lens that feels solid in my hand. I have no doubts that the the Canon 10-18mm will feel cheap. I doubt it will be as bad as the 50mm 1.8 or 17-55mm, but I don’t expect the build quality to be great.

The Tokina comes with a lens hood, and a pinch design lens cap. The focusing system is whisper quiet, the focusing and zoom rings are large and smooth, and the build quality seems excellent for a $450 lens.  The Tokina 11-16 isn’t weather sealed, but it feels closer to L series quality than EF-S quality.

What is The Best Wide Angle Lens For…

For video? Honestly the Canon 10-18mm seems very appealing given the IS. But, f/4.5 and f/5.6 is not gonna cut it. If you shoot video, you are limited to 1/30 shutter speed @ 24p. 1/30 at f/4.5 is not going to cut it in most low light situations. So, for video, I recommend the Tokina 11-16. The lack of IS is a bummer, but at such wide focal lengths IS isn’t necessary.

For landscape or architectural photography you would do just fine with the Canon 10-18mm. After all, you will be using a tripod (right? get a tripod, at least for interior photography) and so the small aperture won’t matter because you can shoot at extremely slow shutter speeds. Plus, the Canon can go down to 10mm wide, which is about 10% wider than 11mm, allowing you to get that exaggerated wide angle look.

If you are a beginner, get the Canon 10-18mm. It’s lighter, cheaper, sharper, and perfect for daytime use. It’s a nice little lens that Canon randomly dropped on us. If you are a professional, get a Canon 14mm F2.8. You are likely shooting on a full frame sensor, and so the Tokina 11-16 and Canon 10-18mm aren’t ideal (vignetting, and lack of compatibility).

May 142014
 

PanasonicGH4

This post is intended to be kind of silly. I ain’t trying to start no wars. Hell, I have a GH4 ad plastered at the top of my page! Anyway, in case you are afraid that you are getting caught up in the hype, this post is for you. My reasons for not buying a Panasonic GH4 are listed from best (mots logical) to worst (most worstest!).

You Don’t Have Peripheral Equipment to Justify a GH4

There is no point in buying a bomb ass camera if you don’t have the equipment to make it look good. I guess if you intend to film your cat, or personal porn videos a GH4 by itself might be enough. But let’s pretend you want to shoot a short film or a documentary. In fact, maybe you want to shoot something more profound that generic test footage or Vimeo montages. If you are shelling out $1,700 on camera, you better produce some awesome stuff with it. Otherwise I am pretty sure you are going to hell. So if you don’t have a good microphone, a good tripod, a good fluid pan head, some sharp-ass lenses and a good editing platform ask yourself “Why the #$%^* am I buying a GH4″. Oh, don’t forget about an external capture device so that you can record the 4K 10bit 4:2:2 feed…

You Want Pristine In Camera Audio

The GH4 suffers from internal audio noise. There is a very subtle noise heard on the GH4 recordings when 3rd party microphones are used. I guess the Panasonic crew did not bother to test the Rode Video Mic or other popular mics with the GH4. The noise is very subtle and is attributed to poor internal shielding.

You Want a Good Low Light Camera

Canon 5D MKIII or Canon 6D. MFT sensors are outperformed by Canon’s full frame. Shame Nikon doesn’t take video seriously, their sensors are even better. If you want low light and 4K get a Sony a7S. The a7S has amazing low light performance. If you want better low light performance on the GH4, you will want to get a Metabones Speed Booster and use Neat Video to clean up noise.

You Want to Shoot Stills

A better camera that combines video power with amazing stills capabilities is the Canon 6D. Yes, the GH4 has way better video capabilities, but the 6D has better low light and can be hacked to shoot RAW video with Magic Lantern. AND the 6D will take better stills. So if you need a combo camera, maybe get the 6D and wait for the GH5?

All You Want is the Best Quality 1080p HD Video

If you shoot in 4K and then downscale the footage to 1080p, you will get better 1080p. Plain and simple. The image is sharper, the pixels are an average of 4 (so the luminance is more accurate) and you get a pseudo 10 bit footage (the chroma blue and red are still 8 bit). How beneficial is this 10 bit footage? Well, the math behind how software downscales stuff is debated and so you may or may not see any benefits. So is GH4 4K footage 10 bit at 1080? No. Will it look nice? Yes, because of the sharpness, not the bit depth.

Do you want better looking HD video? You can get 4K 10 bit 4:2:2 out of a GH4 and downscale it, but it requires an external recorder. Buy a BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera instead (you’ll save $1,000+ in the process).

GH4Ad

You Have A Crappy Computer

How do you expect to edit high quality videos with a crappy computer? High quality video = large file sizes. A 4K 10 bit 4:2:2 file will run you 5 to 6 GB a minute. If you want color grading latitude, you need to shoot in 10 bit 4:2:2. Otherwise you won’t get that jaw dropping look that sold you on the GH4 in the first place.

You Want to Use Canon Lenses

Many people pick Canon DSLR bodies because of the lenses. The Pansonic GH4 can take Canon lenses via an adapter (in fact it can take tons of lenses in various mounts, Nikon included). And you can pimp out your GH4 with a Metabones Speed Booster (a focal reducer designed to alleviate the crop factor and increase low light performance). But none of this beats the ease of grabbing your favorite L series lens, with IS and USM, strapping it on to your Canon body adapter-free, and shooting wide open at F2.8, or F1.2 (if your rich).

You Want the Best Bang For Your Buck

Value is relative. As Griffin Hammond eloquently said “Most of the things that make the GH4 a great camera are also found in the GH3″. Well.. he said something along those lines. Basically if you don’t truly need 4K or 10 bit video, get a GH3. The GH3 is an amazing value at under 1,000. Personally, I think the best values in the industry are used cameras: Canon T2i and Panasonic GH2. These babies sell for pennies on the dollar and provide amazing features/quality for the price.

You Are a Beginner

The GH4 is designed for video enthusiasts and professionals. Luckily for beginners, the camera is really easy to operate. But if you are a beginner, you don’t need to get caught up in high specced cameras and elaborate editing systems. Rather than blowing your budget on a camera body, blow it on lenses. Lenses are the joys of life. Maybe get an entry level DSLR and learn how to shoot cinematic stuff with expensive lenses instead.

You Don’t Have the Time to Edit 4K Video

The workflow for the GH4 will be demanding if you shoot 4K 10bit 4:2:2. If you are just shooting normal 4K or 1080p it’s not so bad. Either way, the file sizes are big and to get the most out of this camera you will have to adopt a workflow that is time consuming. It won’t be as bad as editing BlackMagic uncompressed files or Magic Lantern RAW files. Still, if you need stuff edited quick and easy, its hard to go wrong with entry level canon DSLRs. They are heavily compressed, resulting in a smaller file size. You drag the film into Adobe, color correct for a few seconds, and export.

So there it is, my list of lame reasons not to buy a GH4. If anything, I hope I have made you reflect on your own needs. Sometimes we don’t know what we need. Maybe you need a GH4? Maybe you don’t? Maybe you don’t need one but want one (that’s the mindset with which I buy most of my gear, “I don’t need it, but I want it”).

May 052014
 

filmmaker

I didn’t intend for there to be 10 sites on this list. But as coincidence would have it, there is a nice even 10 sites. Although there is no particular order, I would start at the top and work down. If you follow all these video DSLR sites, you will certainly learn something (or at the very least see some pretty footage :P).

Vimeo (vimeo.com)

Vimeo is basically a hipster/art version of Youtube. As annoying and self indulgent as Vimeo is, it does provide excellent content. A great way to become a better DSLR cinematographer/videographer/whatever, is to be engaged on Vimeo. Whether you are searching for the latest GH4 footage,  cinematography techniques, animation projects, Magic Lantern RAW workflows, or DIY Steadicam footage, Vimeo has all the video resources you need. And most of the people are willing to share their creative techniques. It is a recourse that helps me stay current and in the loop. The site forbids random videos, and is focused on “serious” videos. So register, watch, and discuss!

DVX User (dvxuser.com)

This is the best forum for anyone looking to dip their toes in DSLR filmmaking. It has a nice blend of beginners and knowledgeable professionals. This website has many subforums, and you are bound to to find the answers to your questions somewhere on DVXuser. I’m a member! The forum sections I frequent the most are the Industry News & Information section and the Cinematography section.

REDUser (REDUser.net)

Needless to say people who shoot on $50,000 cameras are a bit more knowledgeable than people who shoot on $2,000 cameras. REDUser is a great site that focuses on Red cameras. Because I don’t shoot on expensive DSLRs, I mostly read the audio, cinematography and workflow threads. There are lots of brilliant minds on this forum and you can incorporate what they teach/discuss into your own work. For instance, I have learned how to remove noise and how to upscale videos (efficiently) on this site – universal knowledge that applies to pros as well as novices.

Philip Bloom (philipbloom.net)

Who does every DSLR shooter want to be? Philip Bloom. He is the epitome of cutting edge DSLR intelligence mixed with cinematography genius. When Philip makes a post or a video, it is worth reading/watching. He documents his own journey via his blog and Vimeo channel. Unlike many video DSLR authorities, his cinematic works looks beautiful and original. He is highly knowledgeable and has a reputation for being honest. I highly recommend reading his blog, or at the very least following his Twitter.

CreativeCOW (creativecow.net)

This is a particularly useful site for video editors or anyone working in post production. CreativeCOW has tons of professionals posting on its forums, and often when I need help with After Effects, or compression settings, or with color grading, my Google search brings up CreativeCOW. I owe a lot to this forum. I am not a member, but I highly suggest doing a search on CreativeCOW if you need help with the more technical aspects of filmmaking.

No Film School (nofilmschool.com)

I don’t like this website very much. The articles are mostly discussing other people’s work. A typical No Film School articles goes like this: “Look at this new footage someone uploaded of blah blah blah”. So why do I include No Film School in my list? Sometimes you get a good article, and more often then not the discussion or comments resulting from the article are interesting to read. And usually the comments left by readers are more educational than the article itself.

Griffin Hammond (youtube.com/user/griffinity)

Griffin is a filmmaker. You know how people always talk about wanting to make a film? Well he actually put his money where his mouth was. He created a Sriracha documentary single-handedly (more or less). He is a valuable resource because he thinks like an engineer. He is extremely crafty, clever (in a good way), and thoughtful. His youtube channel is awesome, I just wish he had more time so that he could make videos more often.

EOS HD/ Andrew Reid (eoshd.com)

Andrew Reid is a British… filmmaker? cinematographer? blogger? dslr hacker? asshole? anamorphic lover? lens tester? sensationalist? robot? person? The truth is, I don’t know who Andrew Reid is, what he does, what he looks like, where he got his money, how he came to power, or what he knows. I do know that he is opinionated and writes articles/reviews about amusing DSLR related stuff. He has a tendency to rub people the wrong way (or maybe people rub him the wrong way?), jabbing with people on Twitter (Phillip Bloom), sensationalizing everything and getting into feuds with other websites (DVXuser). Whether you love him or you hate him, he has a great website that he pours tons of effort into. He’s a bit more of a BlackMagic/Panasonic guy than a Canon guy (for a valid reason: Canon makes inferior consumer level DSLRs when it comes to video) and he focuses on lens and camera tests rather than on filmmaking. Either way, read his articles and browse his forum. The anamorphic lens section of his forum is probably the best anamorphic resources in the world. I am a registered user here as well!

Dave Dugdale (youtube.com/user/drumat5280)

Who is Dave? Dave is the man! Seriously if you don’t know Dave Dugdale, then you are missing out on an awesome resource. A few years ago, Dave was a nobody in the DSLR world. Through hard work and persistence he has built a library of DSLR related videos. He rolls Canon (ftw!), and has just about beaten every Canon Video related subject to death. AN top of all his Canon videos, he has random other video on color grading, lenses, lighting, audio, etc… Dave really enjoys color grading and I believe that will be the focus of his future videos. My only criticism is that he likes things too flat (lack of contrast, shadows), and he over-edits a lot of his photographs (he loves HDR).

Film Riot (youtube.com/user/filmriot)

Basically Ryan Connolly, his family, and his friends have created an entertaining way to learn about filmmaking. It’s not your typical dry, boring, technical crap. I’d say his videos are aimed at beginners age 20 and under. I watch ALL the videos put out by Film Riot, they are too funny and awesome to miss.

Film Brute