Archive for the 'Cameras' Category
Back in 2008 I wrote that DSLRs were starting to include video features and that these new cameras were set to be hugely popular with the movie-making crowd. Well, it turns out I was right. Indie film makers everywhere are making amazing films with DSLRs, and the professionals are starting to take notice. For example, the upcoming season finale of the Fox show House was shot entirely with a Canon 5DmkII. Yep, that’s right, a major television network used a DSLR camera to film one of their top shows. Pretty incredible considering video on digital cameras started off as more of a “gee-whiz” toy feature than a serious tool.
Last year I was watching this trend develop and watching my old gear collect dust, so I sold most everything and waited for the prices on the new generation of “hybrid” DSLRs to come down. In March I had waited long enough and finally got my brand new toy, a Panasonic DMC-GH1. While Canon’s 7D and T2i were appealing options and are very popular with film makers, I settled on the GH1 because its video is as just as good as any of the Canons, but it also has some very user-friendly features that the Canons are lacking, such as a tilt/swivel LCD and a viewfinder that works while recording videos. It also comes with a video-optimized lens that has silent autofocus and a stepless aperture, which can be very important features when trying to shoot video in the real world rather than on a set.
So far I’m really enjoying the camera. It’s so nice to be able to seamlessly switch between taking photos and shooting video, and I love the flexibility of the camera. The Micro Four Thirds mount means that it can use just about any lens ever made via an inexpensive lens mount adapter. My parents were nice enough to give me some old Canon FD lenses they had sitting in the closet, so I’ve been playing with those and getting some nice results.
The movie below was shot early one March morning in my backyard using the FD lenses as well as the kit lens. The shallow depth of field and fine detail rendered by these lenses makes for some darn nice video. I’m currently working on editing footage from my recent trip to Costa Rica, so stay tuned!No comments
Recently the stars aligned and my cell phone contract expired just as Apple unleashed its latest and greatest, the iPhone 3GS. The bump in features and memory was enough to finally push me over the edge and into iPhone ownership. One of the things that differentiates this model from the previous 3G is the new 3 megapixel camera with video recording capability. Maximum photo resolution is 2048 x 1536, while maximum video resolution is 640 x 480 (VGA). This thing is no HD camcorder or DSLR, but for a cell phone these aren’t bad specs.
It got me thinking… Given the best conditions, can a cell phone video camera and some basic editing with iMovie ’09 make a decent video? I took a stroll along the San Diego harbor this afternoon to find out. I’ll let you be the judge, but I’m pleased with the results.
The only hitch I ran into throughout this process was that I imported the videos via iPhoto, but for whatever reason iMovie didn’t list the movies in the “iPhoto Movies” area of the event library, so I had to reimport the clips. This seems like a weird hiccup for Apple, as media integration is usually their forte.
Overall the iPhone makes a great camera and camcorder when the lighting is good and you’ve left your fancy equipment at home. The hardest part was keeping the video stable, but fortunately iMovie ’09 includes an post-processing stabilization feature that actually worked quite well.
I’ve also put together a gallery of photos I took with the phone. Honestly would you guess these were taken with a cell phone if nobody told you? I’m quite impressed.
Well, I did it. I bought myself an early Christmas present: the Panasonic DMC-LX3 I’d been drooling over.
It is an interesting camera; when it comes to the specs everyone knows and loves, it doesn’t stand out. Its megapixel count is “only” 10.0, and the zoom is just 2.5x. Novices will shrug their shoulders and move on. In order to appreciate the camera, you have to know what an aperture number means (f/2.0 to f/2.8 anyone?) and have a feel for what a 24mm lens will do for you.
First impressions are very good. It feels nice in the hand, with a smooth metal case and a hefty piece of glass up front. The camera body is only about 1 inch thick, but the retracted lens adds close to another inch. The screen is very large and bright, and the controls seem decent, although the Menu button seems to function different from my brain, as I keep pressing it at the wrong times.
I bought this camera to fill a gap between my DSLR (Olympus E-500) and my little waterproof point-and-shoot (Olympus 770SW). Both cameras are are good in their respective elements, but neither excels at social occasions. The DSLR is too large to cart around to many events and can make people uncomfortable when you point it at them. The 770SW takes nice photos outside during the day, but is quite poor at night or indoors, when many gatherings take place.
So enter the DMC-LX3. With its fast, stabilized lens and small size, it seems to fill the gap nicely.
I played around in the house last night snapping pictures of every little thing I spotted and was quite impressed with the initial images. In macro mode at wide angle it can focus on things that are practically touching the lens, which is fun but dangerous! Below are some samples. Click here for a couple more.1 comment
I’ve been in a bit of a creative rut the last few months, but I feel that I’m finally starting to come back around with a renewed interest in my favorite creative hobby, photography. To get my mind back on track (and to help convince myself I’m not such a miserable failure), I thought it would be fun to look back on my first 90 days of being serious about taking pictures. On December 26th, 2001 I received a Canon PowerShot G2 for Christmas. This was my first good camera, and I had wanted it for quite a while. I really enjoyed using it and took some really fun pictures those first 90 days.
(Note: The photos have been “remastered” for your viewing pleasure.)No comments
A while back I asked the question, “Can a camcorder beat a camera at its own game?” Apparently Nikon and Canon feel that I should have asked the opposite question, as they have just bust open a collective can of whoop-ass on the camcorder world with two new Digital SLR cameras.
Nikon landed the first punch with the new D90 DSLR, which can shoot 720P (1280×720) HD video at 24 frames per second. The camera can also take 12.3 megapixel stills and has fun features such as Live View and ultrasonic sensor cleaning. The D90 is available now and costs around $1,050 for the body only.
Canon hopes to land the knockout blow with its soon to be released Canon EOS 5D Mark II, which will bring a jaw-dropping 21.1 megapixel full-frame sensor to the game. The camera will be the first DSLR capable of recording “full HD” 1080P (1920×1080) video. The EOS 5D Mark II will be considerably more expensive than the D90 with a body-only MSRP of $2,699. It hits the markets in November.
So how do these showoff DSLRs compare to their camcorder cousins? Amazingly well, if the clips I’ve found on Vimeo are any indication. Take a look at beer through the lens of the D90.
And here we have some various footage from the heavyweight 5D Mark II:
These two cameras are game-changers. Their still image performance is exceptional as always, but now they allow photographers to shoot professional-quality video. The cameras may seem expensive, but camcorders with interchangeable lenses cost megabucks. The ability to shoot video through the wonderful glass from Canon, Nikon, and others is dream come true for many videographers. The cameras will open up the world of video to the hugely popular prosumer photography market, making cinematography more appealing for photographers with thousands already invested in lenses and other camera gear.
Obviously these cameras are still a bit too pricey for anyone but professionals and loaded amateurs, but the features from flagship models always trickle down to more affordable underlings over time. With the kind of flexibility offered by these cameras, you’d have to make a pretty good case for investing in a top of the line camcorder right now. Sure, the cameras do have downsides. The D90 uses the less than optimal Motion JPEG format for video. (The 5D Mark II records H.264 MOV files.) Also, HD camcorders feature built-in optical image stabilization, whereas the cameras will have to do stabilization on a lens-by-lens basis. Stabilization is very important when shooting HD video, as minor shakes are very obvious in the final product. It’s unclear how well lenses designed for photography will perform for video, and how the cameras will deal with video accessories like microphones and video lights.
Let me assure you, generous reader, that I am more than willing to conduct a full test of both cameras for you. Just send me your donation and/or evaluation units and I’ll get right on it!1 comment
As you know by now, I recently got a Sony HDR-SR11 camcorder. This model proudly proclaims in big bold letters “10.2 MEGAPIXELS Still Image Recording”. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? A camcorder with more megapixels than most digital cameras! So can a camcorder really beat a digital camera at its own game? Let’s find out.
The Megapixel Game
Digital camera manufacturers would have us believe that the more megapixels a camera has the better photos it will take. Even today’s dinky point and shoot digital cameras post megapixel numbers that would embarrass DSLRs from a few years ago. But I guarantee that the old DSLR will take a better photo than that new-fangled point-and-shoot camera. Optics, sensor size, and onboard processing are all a lot more important to overall image quality than megapixel count. Sure, more megapixels means bigger prints, but who among us ever makes sheets of wallpaper from our vacation photos?
Sony felt that they had to join in on this game with the HDR-SR11, and in order to insure an astounding megapixel number they actually cheat! You see, as I mentioned in my first impressions review, the camcorder has a 5.66 megapixel sensor. So how does a 5.66 MP sensor produce a 10.2 MP image? Simple, the same way you’d create a larger image in Photoshop: interpolation. The camera uses onboard processing to automatically stretch the image. Cheesy, no?
What to Compare?
Despite the fact that Sony are big-time cheaters, let’s go ahead and compare the images from the HDR-SR11 to a digital camera. I don’t think a DSLR would be a fair comparison; the still-photo feature of the camcorder is more akin to a typical point-and-shooter in terms of features. Luckily, I happen to have a decent point-and-shooter handy. It’s the Olympus Stylus 770SW, which is a 7.1 megapixel ruggedized digital camera. It takes great pictures despite its small size and robust nature, and since the HDR-SR11 doesn’t really have 10.2 megapixels it seems like a fair comparison. I took a bunch of photos simultaneously with both cameras in full auto mode. To aid in comparison, I’ve resized the images from the 770SW so they are the same resolution as those from the HDR-SR11. You’ll see some difference in zoom due to the fact that the 770SW has a wider angle lens. Okay, enough tech talk, on to the photos…