Posts Tagged ‘camera’

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Lighting is the Key!

January 1, 2016

In the world of media production (unless a person is dealing strictly with audio) lighting is key. While the amount of light used can set a different tone for the scene you are filming or photographing it all basically comes down to the fact that you need a measure of light to start. Still and video cameras have improved over the last decade being able to capture usable (if not clean) images even in low light situations. I often come across astounding stats about the ability of certain cameras to captures “more latitude” or “greater dynamic range” and the price point of these cameras are ever dropping well past the $10k or even $5k price point. But you still need to start off with some light and sometimes I’ve found it downright difficult to get the right amount of light in the right places. Read the rest of this entry ?

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4K for the Prosumer

May 19, 2014

When I first heard about the Sony 4K camera at a consumer level price I knew I wanted to take it for a spin. Coming in at under $2200 I really had high hopes for the camera especially having recently used a Canon XA20 that is currently selling at around the same price. I really enjoyed the XA20 and felt that if Sony could come close to the look and feel of the the Canon while adding 4k it would have a real winner on its hand. And while the fact that the Sony FDR-AX100 could record at Ultra HD 3840×2160 is a major selling point what jumped out at me was the 1″ EXMOR R CMOS sensor that it is using. That size sensor should mean a more narrow depth of field as well as better recording in low light.

I rented the camera from Lensrentals.com, used it to record my interview and then took it out to my usual spot to run it through a few tests. Here is the video of those tests:

 

I like the camera but the ability to shoot 4k doesn’t make up for a few deficiencies on the AX100. I was not fond of the touchscreen as it seems way too small for all the menu information that is displayed. Often times it took a few tries for me to select the right option as my fingers would brush against other menu items. It is fortunate that many buttons are made available on the camera body so the user may not have to use the touchscreen for everything. Lack of XLR input should not be counted as a real negative since this is not billed as a professional model like the Sony PXW-Z100. Ergonomically the camera felt to small for my hands and I was hoping for a little more weight and perhaps a handle. I had a problem accessing the Manual Focus button because of where it was placed.

Visually the camera records very good quality video. As you have seen from the clips I shot the camera will need a little gamma correction and some contrast in post but there is plenty of detail available to work with. When I put up my interview video you will be able to see how well the 1″ sensor shoots indoors. The CMOS sensor, however, has a pronounced problem with Rolling Shutter so fast panning is out of the questions unless don’t mind fixing the issue in post. (Speaking of which, I’m going to test out This Software to see how well it works. Look for a review soon!)

In the same $1900 – $2200  price range there are quite a few non-4K options available that include handles, XLR inputs and a plethora of buttons along with their touchscreens. Why would I choose the AX100 over the other options? I’m not certain I would as I’m not certain 4K ultra HD is worth it yet. One of the reason to shoot in 4K now would be the ability to apply zooming and panning when down converting to 1080p but I notice quite a bit of artifact when I tried that (clips coming soon).

Some additional things to note:

  1. You can only shoot 4k if you have an SDXC card; with an SDHC card you are limited to 1080p. I’m very fortunate that my last purchase was a 64GB SDXC card to that I could get the most out of the AX100. It would have been a shame if I couldn’t test it out completely.
  2. The auto focus is slow. Really slow and switching to manual in a run-n-gun situation is a little awkward because of the MF button placement.
  3. I didn’t do enough 4K low light recording. It would have been easy to setup a candle after it got dark outside and see how well the camera did in low light.

For $2000 I think the camera is good, though not great. I was not as impressed with it as I was with the XA20 but I could definitely see how it could be useful in quite a few spots.

 

BTW – I love doing hardware reviews. If there are any products that you suggest I take a look at please let me know.

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Sigma 10-20mm EF-S Lens

May 24, 2013

This past weekend I was hired to shoot an interview and photograph an interior so an architectural firm. Since I imagined a great big expansive setting I wanted to get a really wide angle lens but not an 8mm fisheye which would give a distorted view. After pursuing the selection on LensRental.com (yes, I mention them quite often; no they don’t pay me a dime or give me any freebies) and reading a few reviews I decided on the Sigma 10-20MM f/3.5 lens. I was not disappointed… Read the rest of this entry ?

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Customer service still exists….

February 8, 2013

Kudos to Lensrentals.com!

A few weeks ago because of a comment made on this blog I was introduced to a new camera soon to hit the market: the JVC GC-PX100 . Because my pockets are not (yet) deep enough to buy every new camera for testing I go through rental companies to “Try before I Buy”. Lensrentals.com is a company that I have used in the past as when I was able to write the article about the Canon XA10. So I went to their site to see if they list the JVC GC-PX100  or something in its class as being in stock to rent. Unfortunately they did not carry anything like compariable to the JVC. On a whim I sent an email to their support personnel about the JVC GC-PX100  wondering if it is something they carry or would even consider carrying. Not only did I get a reply but the reply blew me away. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Canon XA10 – It’s no GL2 Upgrade…

July 27, 2012

It may be strange to compare a 10 year old Standard Definition, Tape based camera to a current gen HD, SD card based (with 64GB internal memory) camera but bare with me for a moment.

When the Canon GL2 was released in 2002 for a retail price of around $2400 it was the successor to the GL1 but because of the many improvements the GL2 became wildly popular. At the time there were no 3 CCD cameras in that price range especially not with features that rivaled bigger, more expensive camera. While it lacked interchangeable lenses and XLR inputs it’s size, L class 20x lens and rock solid performance made it a hit. The GL2, along with the  Sony DCR-VX2000 ushered in a golden age of “Prosumer”
Cameras.

After working with one a project back in 2002 I convinced an investor to help me buy one (thanks mom) and have used it to record weddings, concerts, videos, plays, recitals, trips to the beach, air shows, blah-blah. You name it and I’ve captured it with my GL2. But 10 years is a loooong time in technology years (sort of but not quite like dog years). I was getting weary of time spent dumping down from tapes and problems associated with bad tapes. I did buy a DSLR but with it’s limitations it doesn’t work well recording a whole concert. Time to research a replacement for the venerable GL2.

Wanting to stay at my same price point of 10 years ago (~$2500) I had the following to choose from:

  1. Canon XA10
  2. JVC GY-HM150U
  3. Sony NEX-VG10
  4. Panasonic AG-HMC80

There are a few other model but they didn’t fit a few criteria I was looking for.

There are no retail stores close to me that will allow me to view and try out any of these models. Since a major concert was coming up I decided to rent a XA10 and give it a test run. I came across a great equipment rental company of the web (Lensrental.com) and found what I needed (along with a few things I will be trying out later) and placed my order. Kudos to Lensrental.com as the item came on time, with everything I needed for a flawless experience. I even tried out their online Chat communication with some questions and I am completely satisfied with my experience.

I rented the XA10 for 4 days even though I only needed it for a Saturday concert to give myself time to test it out and get familiar with it. As soon as I took it out the box I knew this was no GL2 replacement. At first glance the only thing that separates the XA10 from the Canon Vixia consumer line of cameras is the XLR inputs on the handle. The XA10 is tiny, about one-third the size of a GL2 and half the size of an XH-A1 or XF100. It didn’t even seem to register on my tripod and I had to practice to avoid overshooting my target during pans and tilts.

The XA10 has few buttons because it is using touch screen technology, this means menu hunting to find a way to change certain options. To be fair the GL2 has a menu system as well that is accessed by one button/toggle switch and some had found that to be troublesome compared to more advanced cameras.

One great source of disappoint for me on the XA10 was the weak 10x optical zoom lens.  It is a 30.4 to 305mm equivalent to a 35mm camera as opposed to the 20x zoom of the GL2 which was great selling point to me a decade ago. (I *never* used digital zoom while recording). IMHO (In My Humble Opinion) this class of camera needs more than a 10x optical zoom.

(EDIT
A quick search of other cameras in the $2000 – 2500 price range reveal ~10x is the norm. sigh)

Video quality is not as robust as I would have hoped for. Utilizing a single 1/3 inch CMOS sensor (same as the XF100 & 105 – for a comparison view this Philip Bloom review). The XA10 does not shoot nearly as well in low light as I would like and even in manual mode I could not find the option to open the iris further or lower the shutter speed.

The biggest issue I had with the XA10, however, is the so called Auto Mode. While in Auto Mode it seems that nothing could be adjusted; most menu options were greyed out. It was more like a Dummy Mode than an Auto and even options that should have been accessible, such as choosing whether to record to internal memory or SDHC card was greyed out. I found that mode utterly useless.

Perhaps I was expecting too much from the XA10. I’m just surprised at how far backwards we have gone while claiming progress. Next up I will test the XF100 and others in the next price range.

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Swann Freestyle HD Update

June 13, 2012
Action Cam

Freestyle HD Box

After the initial testing of the video capabilities of the Freestyle pro I had an idea to timelapse capture my neighborhood and created a test video (see below).

I had a problem, though; the unit made a loud noise mimicking a camera taking a picture. But it is a camera taking a picture, why should I have a problem with that? Well, to me the sound the camera produced was not proportional to the size of the camera: small camera should make little noise, big camera can make big noise. How that affects me is when I want the camera to take time lapse pictures in a quiet setting a loud ‘CLICK‘ every 10 seconds would become annoying and draw attention to the camera.  I looked through the menu options and couldn’t find a way to turn the noise off.

The next issue I had was the fact that the included LCD screen (a bonus above other models) was needed to configure the camera because each time you turn it off the camera mode would reset back to single pictures only, however you couldn’t use the LCD screen in the included waterproof case which would make it impossible to do time lapse underwater.

I read through the manual and couldn’t find a solution, so I went on the website to contact Swann tech support. Because they are in Australia and they start their live chat or phone support at 6am PDT (9am for me) I sent an email even though they mentioned it may take a few days to get back to me as they improve their staffing. I was prepared to have to wait a few days. Imagine my surprise when less than 24 hours later I got a reply back that answered all my questions.

The screen produces the camera click sound and the screen is needed to set the menu options, however, the screen does not have to remain on the unit during video or picture taking. What that means is I can setup the timing of the pictures, remove the screen,  place the unit in the waterproof case the start taking pictures without turning the device off and loosing my settings. That also means no loud clicking noises to annoy people.

I will point out that nothing in the manual indicates you can remove the screen while the unit is on and most technicians would not think to unplug or insert any electrical device with anything is running; it just not something we do as we are most often left with a smoldering mass of rubble if we attempt it.

That being said all of this means a great deal to me. What I thought was a good purchase has now moved up a few notches to being a great purchase AND more importantly I can vouch for the speed of communication from the support technicians. In an industry where support is so important and out of country support can be spotty at best I can give Swann a KUDOS for their active support personnel.

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Swann Freestyle HD Action Cam

June 7, 2012

I love the versatility of an action cam, not that *I* do anything you see in the GoPro commercials, but action cameras give you the ability to capture footage in a way that might be hard for other cameras. As I mentioned before I’ve been looking for an action camera so that I can take shots from unique angles and view points and I had been looking at a few models: GoPro Hero and Hero2, Swann Freestyle HD and a Contour Roam.  When I compared price, features and accessories I decided to start with the Freestyle HD; for the lowest price it comes with the most accessories in the box. Read the rest of this entry ?