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Monthly Archives: January 2009

Early last August, I had an opportunity to shoot wedding pictures for a couple in New York’s Central Park.  As my assistant and I were walking a few hundred feet behind the happy couple, and I looked at them leaning into each other as we moved to another location, I remarked how we were witnessing a video moment!  The problem was that I had no video camera:  Just two dslrs, one a Nikon and the other a Canon.  Just a few short weeks later,  Nikon and Canon announced the D90 and the 5D Mark ll respectively, both of which would have high definition video capability, and in many respects will alter the feature set of still cameras going forward.

 

Now the reaction to video in dslrs has been mixed to say the least.  Some people both professional and enthusiast, embrace it, and others call it a gimmick.  Funny, I think back to only a few short years ago when Olympus put a dust shake system, and live view in their cameras.  Features which many marginalized then have become the expected norm today.

 

After experiencing that “Ah Ha” moment in Central Park last August, I am happy that I now have the option to shoot a little video and stills in a single package.  We do live in a multimedia age.  With the rise of YouTube, Vimeo, social networking and image sharing sites such as My Space and Flicker, as well as commercial product advertisement and news sites, the importance of video capture capability in any imaging device, should not be lost or minimized.

 

These hybrid cameras, as I refer to them, are not meant to replace dedicated hi def video cameras nor are they intended to shoot a box office blockbuster; but for clips and  even shorts, they are indeed valuable and intriguing tools.  I can tell you in shooting with both available options, that there are things I like about both and things which I don’t care for!  Each manufacturer could learn a thing or two from how the other has incorporated the video feature for future refinement.  The most important thing for those of us who are embracing the feature is to learn how the system of our choice operates and to exploit it to the fullest. What is clear is that the technology will develop and develop rapidly. A year or two from now the amount of control and flexibility in shooting speed will make today’s groundbreakers seem crude.  But for now I encourage all who have purchased them to enjoy the feature.

Coming next week – Part 2:  Mounting the Hybrid Camera for Movement

 

Resources for learning more on shooting video with dslrs:

http://www.usa.canon.com/dlc/controller?act=GetArticleAct&articleID=2186
 
http://cpn.canon-europe.com/content/masterclass/eos_5d_mark_II_masterclass.do
 

 

rear view-d90-left-5d2-right

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the mighty light!!Ask most people about on-camera lighting options for their dslr, and the default response is usually a dedicated flash unit.  And certainly the ttl capabilities of these units make them a natural.  But over the last six months I have been exploring alternative on camera lighting options and have found myself genuinely excited over the new generation of LED continuous lighting options.  They are small, don’t give off much heat, and what you see, is what you get.  They also don’t give that obvious “flash” look image that can result with speedlights .

 

With the arrival of the Nikon d90 and the Canon 5d Mark II, both of which have hi def video capability, continuous supplemental light sources are going to grow in popularity as they can be used for both still and video capture. While there are several manufacturers who have led lighting available.  I have been using the Litepanels Micro units.  I found my units at the Calumet Photographic Store, here in NYC, but they are available at other major photo retailers as well.

 

What I like about the Litepanels Micro specifically, are the following:

  • They are daylight balanced( about 5600k)
  • They can be mounted in the hot shoe or off camera. They are a little over 3”x3”x1.5” in size and weigh about a quarter of a pound.
  • No power tap compatibility issues.
  • They are fully dimmable and flicker free!  You can dial in your desired fill easily.
  • There is an integrated filter holder and you get a tungsten conversion gel, as well as warming and diffusion gels in the kit.
  • The run time using lithium batteries is about 7 hours.
  • They can be run off ac with an optional adapter.
  • They allow for quick location shooting without drawing the kind of attention that flash use often does.

While Litepanels doesn’t indicate the power rating, I suspect that at full power the micro is equivalent to about 25-30 watts. The 3”x3” panel configuration results in a pretty wide beam coverage area, and can impact scene illumination up to 10 to 12 or so, feet away.

 

If you are interested in continuous lighting options, such as LEDs for your still or hybrid (still and video capable) camera, make sure the unit is fully dimmable.  You definitely want this level of control.  Some products offer it while others do not.  Try to buy a unit that has gels/filters available.  If you do not buy one with gels, you should fashion them on your own.

For still and video work, the latest LED products are definitely worth exploring.  As LEDS go, I have been extremely pleased with the performance of the Litepanels Micros.

Here are a few samples of images taken where one or two Litepanels Micro units:

Outdoors:

jian

Two Litepanels Micros were mounted on a dual light head cross bar and oriented vertically to the right of the camera. A silver reflector was used camera left for additional fill.

Indoors:

Micro placed above camera and angled down towards model

A single Micro was placed above the camera and angled down towards model. The balance of the illumination in the scene is provided by one shaded lamp, camera left.

When I decided to blog on photographic equipment,  I did not want to end up doing what is becoming  typical in reviews,  where products are evaluated as if they are an “Immortal”  from  “The Highlander” movie or series, “where there can only be one!”  Frankly some of the language used by reviewers such as “category killers” or “brand/product  slayers”  is plain juvenile!  The state of equipment reviews and previews, had a lot to do with my decision to move forward here.  I also did not want to write lenghty pieces  which combine lots of information,  diagrams, and images available through the manufacturer, with  impressions after using something on a limited basis, to come up with  sweeping endorsements or pans.  Far too much of what is in print and available on the internet already does this. 

   I think you can effectively take great images with just about any camera or using just about any brand of lighting.  And frankly, control, layouts and ergonomics is a very personal thing:  While some prefer how one brand works over the other,  so many reviews are written with a sense of one company’s approach being definitively better than another!   The fact is that there is a lot of variety out there, and consumers have tremendous choices.

The real key is learning how to use your imaging  equipment, and learning what its’ strenghts and limits are.  Often reviews  talks about what the equipment  can’t do, or what it should have done as opposed to what it can do.  A 21 or 24 mp dslr is a very different animal than a 39 or 50 mp digital back, but there are lots of situations where the operating environment would make the dslr a more appropriate choice than the resolution king: a dslr with video capability is not a replacement for a dedicated high definition video recorder.   There are very few all in one solutions in imaging!  In fact the all-in-one printer where fax, phone and printer functions have been combined, is the exception rather than the rule. 

So with tremendous excitement I am launching this blog, HDHD, which stands for High Definition-High Drama, to discuss aspects of imaging products that I find interesting and discussion worthy.  Sometimes I will discuss products which are well known, and sometimes they will be less recognized, but all in all I am hoping to provide you with an informative read on a regular basis.  The first product post will be up on Monday,  January 26.

Regards,

Byron