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A HDSLR that can hear better – The Nikon D4

The Nikon D4 is the first to do something that no other HDSLR has done, added a headphone jack. This is in a large, heavy, expensive camera body, but it is a step in the right direction. Also including is a clean HDMI monitoring which is very big for those who want to record to an external recorder like the Atomos Ninja. Hopefully the HDMI out includes audio. The Panasonic GH2 was the first with that (but right now only at 60i with no audio).

Here is a description of the video capabilities from DPreview:

“The parallel advances made in sensor technology and Internet video distribution have helped create the ability to capture and broadcast video footage. In turn this has put pressure on many professional photographers to capture clips alongside their stills. In addition, the broadcast and movie industries have adopted the 5D Mark II to a degree that appears to have surprised even Canon. As a result, it’s not surprising that the D4 features more advanced, and better integrated, video capabilities than its predecessor. The immediate giveaway should probably be the inclusion not just of a mic input socket by a headphone output for monitoring the results (both of which have adjustable input/output levels).

The D4 can shoot 1080p movies at 30, 25 or 24 frames per second and at up to 24Mbps. The video is compressed using the B-frame compression section of the H.264 standard, which tries to optimize the capture of motion without hugely inflating the file sizes. It also has manually configurable volume control, including a line-level audio option. However, what may prove to be the camera’s biggest feature is the ability to export its uncompressed video footage via its HDMI port. We suspect that this feature, beyond all others, may help endear the camera to the broadcast and movie crowd. Whether using this for recording the camera’s best quality footage or to use an external monitor as viewfinder, it’s a feature we expect to become increasingly common.

A number of small details show how carefully Nikon has listened to the needs of movie shooters, giving the option to start movies either with a record button or with the shutter button (which, in turn, allows video capture to be started with the 10-pin cable release). Photojournalists meanwhile, get to pick whether pressing the shutter interrupt the video capture to take a still or to take a full-frame 3:2 aspect ratio 2.5MP frame grab.

Movies can also be shot at three different crops from the sensor, which Nikon is describing as FX, DX and 2.7X (native 1920×1080). This makes it easy to vary the field-of-view for grabbing footage, even if you’ve got a prime lens mounted. However, the ‘FX’ size is a significantly cropped version of the full sensor (it’s 91% of the sensor’s width), so the field-of-view will be a little narrower than you’d expect for any given focal length. Also the native 1920×1080 video will be higher quality than the FX and DX versions, since it hasn't been downsized. This difference is likely to be incredibly small (almost certainly irrelevant for most users), but is a consideration for high-end video users.

The D4 gains improved aperture control in movie mode, with the addition of ‘Power aperture'. This simply means that the user can adjust the aperture while recording video in the A and M exposure modes. It's also possible to set the aperture much more precisely in video live view mode before recording starts, in 1/8 stop incrementss using the Pv and Fn buttons on the front of the camera. In principle this should allow more exact matching of recording brightness across multiple camera / lens combinations.”

– No mention of how it deals with moiré, ailising and rolling shutter. Also video has to be monitored with the back of camera LCD only because of the optical viewfinder is blocked by the mirror being up. The beast screams for accessories like an external viewfinder.  Panasonic, please give the GH3 a headphone jack. –

Canon has apparently not yet received the memo

This is a great analysis of the camera industry today by Michael Reichmann over at The luminous-landscape.com.

“Canon has apparently not yet received the memo. Or, if they have, they have chosen thus far to ignore it. As a market leader in DSLRs they clearly have turf to protect. Those cameras and lenses carry higher margins than CSCs, though top of the line CSCs, like the NEX-7, clearly can be quite profitable if they become successes. The lesson that if someone is going to eat your lunch it may as well be you, seems not to resonate with Canon. But as all of the other companies scramble for position in the new CSC marketplace it is highly unlikely that can will sit on their hands for too much longer. The real question will be whether Canon decides to play it safe and follow Nikon with a very small sensor, or attack Sony, potentially Fujifilm, and to a lesser extent Panasonic and Olympus with a 2X or larger sensor.

But there is no question that the traditional DSLRs segment has lots of life left in it. It's a big “but” though, and its my belief that while pros and advanced amateurs in various fields (fashion, advertising, sports, wildlife, landscape) will continue to appreciate and demand the advantages that DSLRs have to offer, consumers and prosumers looking for versatility and image quality will increasingly be turning to CSCs. Smaller size, lighter weight and lower cost are the ingredients that appeal. And if a camera can also offer a large sensor (APS-C or MFT) than there is no serious compromise in image quality or availability of shallow DOF.

I'll close this out with a personal anecdote. Because of this web site, my workshops, seminars, writing and teaching, I meet and communicate with a lot of pros and advanced amateurs. We chat about photography, the industry, gear, and related topics. A year ago I hardly knew any that owned or even stated an interest in owning a CSC. But this is changing at a very fast clip. A great many are now saying that they've bought a Panasonic, Olympus or Sony Compact System Camera, and with the success and appeal of the Fujifilm X100 are hoping that an interchangeable lens version is under consideration from that company as well. I even know some serious photographers who are selling their DSLRs, and who are looking at advanced CSCs like the Panasonic GH2 and Sony NEX-7. Those that own legacy lenses also find these very appealing, since they can take virtually any lens ever made via adaptors.

Are we at the beginning of a new revolution? The entire world of photographic technology has been in a state of revolution for the past decade. The emergence of the CLC is simply another step in this evolutionary process. And with products like the Sony NEX-7, the category isn't going to remain an under-appreciated one for much longer.”

Yes we are at the beginning of a new revolution. I chose with my pocketbook by switching systems.

“Trendy” Part III: Then came the HDSLR

Part III is about the change to HDSLR's for video.

I had just bought the JVC HM100 tapeless video camera to replace my Sony V1, but my clients wanted the HDSLR look.  With the Redrock the image was soft and hard to get because of all the adjustments.  It was a beast and it did not like being handheld.  Then came the HDSLR.  The Canon 5D markII came out which shot 1080p video and some my associates were buying Canon.  I realized that I was behind and that I needed to catch up.

I was interested in the Panasonic DMC-GH1.  I saw the GH1 at the Panasonic booth at CES in 2010.  The GH1 was small and It had an electronic viewfinder.  There were some nice lenses but only the Lumix G 7-14mm F4 would I consider exceptional.  The Panasonic G Vario 14-140mm F4-5.8 has been optimized for video.  It is an amazing lens for the price and being a 10X zoom.  But the aperture is dark compared to prime lenses.  I was impressed that the camera has a stereo microphonene.  I did not like it having only 24p.  That you had to remove the 2:3 pull down did not appeal to me.  The 24p was written to the SD card in 1080i format and had to be converted to be progressive.  The recording format was AVCHD.  I could not play the files in Quicktime or the Mac finder.  VLC Player will view the .mts files on a Mac.  You have to use software to convert the files to Quicktime.  Not a lot does this.  I would use Final Cut 7 in Log And Transfer.

After seeing what Canon HDSLR's could do, I sold my Olympus E-System and bought the Canon 7D.  The 7D is a mixed blessing.  A 35mm motion picture sized sensor instead of 35mm still sized sensor on the 5D.  The Canon shot h264 video in Quicktime and could be viewed easily in the finder.  There is 1080p at 24 and 30 fps. 720p at 60 fps.  All modes are not interlaced and at broadcast friendly frame rates.  They are progressive.  Great looking video in a small package but only in certain circumstances.

There is moiré and ailising because Canon line skips the CMOS chip because it has much resolution that HD video.  There is Rolling Shutter which makes the video look like jello.  So I also bought the better “L-Glass” for my Canon because I could afford it now because it was for my video camera.  In fact I bought the Canon 24-105 f/4 L IS instead of the Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 IS because the 17-55 was too short for interviews.  I bought Image Stabilized lenses because it minimizes the rolling shutter.  The camera overheated on shoots and we had to shut down.

Monitoring was interesting in that because the camera had an optical viewfinder, video could only be seen with the LCD on the back.  So external monitors helped but then you lost the LCD on the camera for using as a monitor as well.  This had never happen on any video camera I had had.  Also the output to an external monitor would not be clean, displays on the screen.  Not true with any video camera I had ever used.

Then there is audio.  There is no headphone jack.  The 7D had a pumping auto gain on the audio that could not be overdid, which is not good.  The internal mic was mono.  Most people used double system audio with a separate audio recorder.  This does not fit into my book of simple and small.  I found the JuicedLink DT454 preamp with an auto gain disabler that took one of the two audio channels and it had headphone monitoring.  I always play back audio to make sure it recorded.  It worked like a charm and I have never had my clients complain about the quality of the audio.

The 7D was the best at the time for me but then the Canon 60D came out.  Gone was the audio auto gain problem because it had manual control.  I could also now use both channels.  It still a mono internal mic.  It has a high resolution swivel LCD.  This makes low angle, high angle and any shooting easier.  I created the L-Finder.  I also found my HoodLoupe would mount on the LCD and make it like a video camera's viewfinder.  No need for camera rigs because I could hold the camera steady with image stabilized lenses.  In the 60D, Canon also added a histogram to the video mode.  I was happy.

“Trendy” Part II: Digital Still Photography

In Part 2 I will talk about my conversion to digital for still photography.

Through out all this time I still had my film Nikon F3‘s even though a lot of others had moved on to autofocus cameras. I shot slides instead of prints and loved my beloved Kodachrome. I loved my Nikons and had used them for over 30 years. As you can see I used the “professional big boys of the business, Sony, Nikon” when it was the best for me. They might had not been the most cost efficient but did turn out to be frugal because of the way I used them.

In 2001 I sold my beloved Nikons for this new thing called a digital still camera. I had already converted to digital with video and was taking stills from my VX1000 video camera. I bought a Sony F707 consumer camera with built in lens instead of a SLR because they were still $3,000. It had a low resolution electronic viewfinder. I really liked the smallness of the camera and instant feedback that digital gave me.

When the Canon Digital Rebel came out, I got a DSLR. At the time I could not afford “L-Glass”, so I had consumer lenses because still photography was secondary to video. A few years later when going on a vacation trip I need a second still camera so I bought at Costco an Olympus E300. I was immediately impressed with the quality of the lenses and the camera. The jpegs out of the camera looked the best in terms of color quality compared to using any other camera. I was used to shooting slides so I like shooting jpeg and mostly do. I also had an Olympus E1 and then an Olympus E3 and was very happy. I truly loved the swivel LCD on the E3.

The Redrock M2 35mm lens adapter came out and I put it on my Sony V1 HDV video camera to get that elusive “35mm lens look.” The Sony had 1/4 inch chips. Tons of depth of field. The Redrock solved that problem. I already had some Olympus OM lenses that I had bought for my Olympus E series of cameras because I could use them with an adapter. Most people had a Nikon mount on their Redrock, I had an OM mount on mine.

GH2 Lenses for Frugal

Now that I have a Panasonic GH2, you might want to know which lenses I have bought.

Here is a run down of the spending so far.
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm F2.5 ASPH – Excellent wide angle and very tiny for low light. Smallest lens for m4/3rds. Small enough to coat pocket my GH2.
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-140mm F4-5.8 Mega O.I.S. – Great range for daylight shooting with O.I.S. (image stabilization)
Panasonic Lumix Leica DG Summilux 25mm F1.4 ASPH – Spectacular, now lives on the camera.
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm F4-5.6 Mega O.I.S. – Needed for birding and telephoto work.

This makes a small lightweight package for my camera bag. Considerably lighter than my old Canon system.

What is not missing is a replacement for my Canon EFS 10-22mm F3.5-4.5. I have just purchased the Panasonic Lumix Vario 7-14mm.  It is spectacular and is the best zoom lens for video right now because it does not breath and has a constant aperture. We need a large constant aperture medium zoom with O.I.S. Rumor has it that Panasonic is listening. Well their AG-AF100 needs it too.

Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.8 Lens for Micro Four Thirds Cameras – Extremely small and light weight short telephoto.

I already had some OM glass so I bought a OM to m4/3 mount. This way I can use some of my old glass.

OM 50mm 1.8 – Nice short telephoto in low light but some CA (Chromatic Aberration).
EF Rokinon 85mm 1.4 Fast medium telephoto with EF mount for adapter.  (Focus direction is the same as Pany's)
OM 135mm 2.8 – Great for low light at long distance.
OM Vivitar (Kiron) 55mm 2.8 Macro – Very sharp and close
OM Tamron SP 500mm F8 Mirror – I have had this lens for a long time and it gets me closer than any other but needs tons of light or high ISO.

The manual lenses work great with the GH2.

The GH2 gets 30p

My Panasonic GH2 has gotten a firmware update because Panasonic has released a firmware update for the GH2 camera with some improvements, one of the features being an option for higher video bitrate (quality) and frames per second. This new frame rate is 30p @ 24mps on NTSC cameras and 25p @ 24mps on PAL cameras. This is a big deal for us NTSC people. We now can shoot 30p just like the Canon guys. 30p looks better on the web. 30p looks better on a TV.

The new official GH2 firmware is out now, you can download it at Panasonic here.

These are all the new features and improvements:

Added a video mode [HIGH BIT RATE] which is suitable for editing video recorded at high bit rate(24Mbps). (30p NTSC, 25p PAL)
Added a function [POWER ZOOM LENS] when using power zoom lens.
Full area enlargement of AF area setting.
Improved in the speed of consecutive shooting when shot with auto bracket.
Increased number of recordable images in consecutive shooting.
[EX.TELE CONV. (Extra Tele Conversion)] can be set ON/OFF separately in photo or video recording.
More accurate light adjustment of built-in flash.
Improved in the AF performance in video recording.
Synchronization of alarm volume for low battery with [BEEP VOLUME].
Added a function [HALF PRESS RELEASE].
Improved NR (Noise Reduction) in high sensitivity shooting.
Added a function [TOUCH SCREEN] which is ON/OFF control of touch-screen.

Frugal Buys The Panasonic GH2

Many of you will be wondering why I am blogging about the Panasonic GH2 as I have used the Canon 60D. Well, we bought the GH2. Been testing it for weeks. I wanted to try it at NAB but it is sold by the consumer division of Panasonic and they were not at the show. So I finally saw one at a local camera show. I like it very much and it makes a very frugal buy. They are currently in stock on Sale many online sites.

Why do I like the GH2 over my Canon 60D? It has an electronic viewfinder! This big, very big. I can hold up the camera to my eye and shoot video with no rigs whatsoever. Not even my beloved L-Finder. Less moire and ailising. Stereo built-in mic. Mic level in the viewfinder. No mirror to vibrate still photos. I even shoot with the LCD closed and just check with the finder. Smaller size for a more stealth look. Even when working in Hollywood, I have never gotten a shooting permit and am not about to start now. The GH2 has a HD tele-extender mode that I will demo later.

Will I keep my 60D? I don't know yet. It has been a great camera that I can highly recommend. But, after seeing the Canon C300 announcement, they chose the expensive route for doing video, unlike Panasonic who with the AF100 made their first large sensor video camera at a reasonable cost. Also the GH2 is not limited like the Canon HDLRS in it's capabilities.

JuicedLink’s Robert on Audio Part #1 from Oliviatech

This is part #1 from Olivia of Olivatech.com chats with audio engineer Robert from JuicedLink to talk a little bit about audio for video. This is very informative. In the second part of this series, Robert will talk about HDSLR audio pre-amp noise, external audio recorders, and options to get best audio without Syncing (you don't need to do that) in post. Since HDSLRs have notoriously poor audio quality if used the wrong way, Juicedlink has a number of popular products for HDSLRs and SLEs like the DT454 and DS214 which can be seen on the JuicedLink website (click here). I have the DT454 and swear by it, not at it. All the audio that I have done with Canon HDSLRs have done with it. I have never used double system for my audio. NO Syncing.

Canon celebrates production of 50 million EOS SLR cameras

As some of you know, I currently use Canon cameras and lenses. Canon celebrates production of 50 million EOS SLR cameras and 70 million lenses. Here is the full press release.

“TOKYO, October 18, 2011—Canon Inc. and Canon Marketing Japan Inc. announced today the achievement of two major manufacturing milestones: combined production of film and digital EOS-series single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras surpassed the 50-million mark in September this year, and the EF series of interchangeable lenses is expected to reach the 70-million-unit milestone later this month.”

What is interesting about this release is this.

“Currently, the company offers a broad product lineup that serves the needs of all levels of users, from entry-level enthusiasts to advanced amateurs and professionals. This lineup has further expanded with the addition of the new high-performance EOS-1D X, Canon's new flagship digital SLR camera, scheduled to go on sale in late March 2012.”

CanonRumors has the video specs:

“Expanded ISO Specs
L = 50
H1 – 102,400
H2 – 204,800

Movie Mode Specs
MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
1920×1080 30p/25p/24p
1280×720 60p/50p
640×480 30p/25p”


Canon EOS-1D X

Full Frame
Dual DIGIC 5+ – 17 Times The Processing Power of DIGIC 4
ISO 100-51200 Native
100,000 Pixel RGB Metering Sensor
EOS iSA (Intelligent Subject Analysis)
61 Point AF
21 f/5.6 Cross Type Sensors
20 f/4 Cross Type Sensors
5 f/2.8 Dual Cross Type Sensors
EOS iTR AF (Intelligent Tracking & Recognition Auto Focus)
12 Frames Per Second
14 Frames Per Second JPG Only
400,000 Shot Rated Shutter
Ethernet Connection
March Availability

What gets more interesting is from the official Canon press release.

Enhanced EOS HD Video – New Compressions, Longer Recording
Centered around an all-new full-frame CMOS sensor with larger pixels than those found on the EOS 5D Mark II image sensor, the EOS-1D X utilizes new HD video formats to simplify and speed up post-production work. The two new compression formats offered on the EOS-1D X include intraframe (ALL-i ) compression for an editing-friendly format and interframe (IPB) compression for superior data compression, giving professionals the options they need for their ideal workflow. Answering the requests of cinematographers and filmmakers, the EOS-1D X includes two methods of SMPTE-compliant timecode embedding, Rec Run and Free Run, allowing multiple cameras or separate sound recording to be synced together in post production.

Canon's all new full-frame CMOS sensor ensures that video footage captured on the EOS-1D X will exhibit less moiré than any previous Canon model, resulting in a significant improvement in HD video quality. A desired feature for many documentary filmmakers using Canon DSLRs was to enable recording beyond the four gigabyte (GB) file capacity and the EOS-1D X is the answer. The new camera features automatic splitting of movie files when a single file exceeds 4GB. The new file splitting function allows for continuous video recording up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds across multiple 4GB files; no frames are dropped and the multiple files can be seamlessly connected in post production, providing filmmakers the recording time they want in the same convenient DSLR form factor. The camera records Full HD at 1920 x 1080 in selectable frame rates of 24p (23.976), 25p, or 30p (29.97); and 720p HD or SD video recording at either 50p or 60p (59.94). SD video can be recorded in either NTSC or PAL standards.

The Canon EOS-1D X also includes manual audio level control, adjustable both before and during movie recording, an automatic setting, or it can be turned off entirely. A wind filter is also included. Sound can be recorded either through the internal monaural microphone or via an optional external microphone through the stereo mic input.”

I am hoping this technology will filter down to the 70D. It would be wonderful addition to the Canon family. We live in exciting times.