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Old March 17th, 2011, 09:56 PM   #1
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Outdoor video with fast lens, striking the right balance

I took my 50mm 1.4 out today to begin the process of learning how to use it under sunny conditions. I tried it with ND filters, without filter, with a circular polarizer, and a so called enhancing polarizing lens as well.

The problem I encountered was that there were so many combinations of stopping down the lens, upping the shutter speed, filter/no filter, I became completely confused. There are likely thousands of potential combinations to use.

I'm looking for a general idea of how to shoot with the lens for outdoor group shots, and general wedding stuff at the park. Should I stop down the lens completely and then adjust shutter speed?

Or is it better to set shutter speed to 60fps, which is where I have my shutter speed set under normal conditions, and then add the correct ND filter as needed so I can run with the lens wide open?

Or should I just ditch the fast lens and go with my 14-140mm f/4.0-5.8 for the outdoor stuff? It would certainly be easier, but what a waste of a great Canon lens that would seem to be.
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Old March 17th, 2011, 11:46 PM   #2
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Re: Outdoor video with fast lens, striking the right balance

It will depend alot on the type of subject you want to shoot and the "look" you want for the footage.

For weddings, I'm assuming you want a classic, natural looking image, with a fair degree of subject isolation - what some people might call 'cinematic'.

In this case, you should leave the shutter at 1/60th, and select whatever aperture you want for the right balance of bokeh/DOF depending on how much you want to be in focus. Then use ND's to bring the exposure down to where you want it (if required).

Going too small with the aperture can result in diffraction, which leads to more chromatic abberations and possibly softness depending on the lens. It will also put everything in focus which will defeat the purpose of using a DSLR in the first place!
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Old March 18th, 2011, 12:38 AM   #3
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Re: Outdoor video with fast lens, striking the right balance

Yeah Jeff....
I see your point..But let's not forget. The advantage of a fast lens is being able to work in low-light conditions. This of course isn't your scenario..

Have you tried stacking your ND filters?
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Old March 18th, 2011, 01:27 AM   #4
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Re: Outdoor video with fast lens, striking the right balance

Also if you are worried about constantly screwing filters on and off you could take a look at the Cokin sytem - it's much lighter and more compact than a regular matte box but it allows you to quickly slide filters in and out.
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Old March 18th, 2011, 02:51 AM   #5
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Re: Outdoor video with fast lens, striking the right balance

Thanks guys...John, your statement is right on the money: I need a stronger ND filter! I kind of came to that conclusion after I wrote the post, it just seem logical! Thanks for the Cokin suggestion.
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Old March 18th, 2011, 04:37 AM   #6
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Re: Outdoor video with fast lens, striking the right balance

If you think of it in terms of a videocamera, my FX7 has 2 internal ND's which I believe are 1/4 and 1/16 (or the equivelant of 2 stops each). Normally in bright sunlight I always have the ND switch set to the second one - so effectively a 4 stop difference in the light hitting the sensor.

Take into account the higher sensitivity of the DSLR's and you might find that you need something even stronger than this - a 1/32 perhaps, or maybe a stacked combination of a 1/4 and 1/16 filter.

Now you might begin to understand why people love to put a matte box on their DSLR (apart from looking cool) - because otherwise you are constantly screwing and unscrewing filters every time the sun goes behind a cloud.
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Old March 18th, 2011, 06:15 AM   #7
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Re: Outdoor video with fast lens, striking the right balance

Great advice, John. I wanted to think in terms of the conventional video camera, but had lack of undestanding of what ND2 meant.

With a ND 4 I still had to stop down completely, then increase shutter speed to 400. I think you are right on the money, an ND 32 or 64 might be good for a 1.2 lens on a DSLR.

I'm going to the store today and see, and I'll play with stacking filters to see what I can come up with.

Best regards, Jeff H
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Old March 18th, 2011, 10:10 AM   #8
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Re: Outdoor video with fast lens, striking the right balance

"Now you might begin to understand why people love to put a matte box on their DSLR (apart from looking cool) - because otherwise you are constantly screwing and unscrewing filters every time the sun goes behind a cloud. "

I don't think its that much range with clouds. You could put the camera in aperture priority mode and not deal with the ND filters. I think its more of a indoor/outdoor thing.
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Old March 18th, 2011, 01:24 PM   #9
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Re: Outdoor video with fast lens, striking the right balance

Be very careful of "brand" if you are going to be "stacking" filters. "Bargain" priced brands will very likely cause a significant color shift.

Mine are Tiffen which is not an extremely high quality brand such as Hoya or even pricier Singh-Ray. However Tiffen has had a fairly good rep in the past. When I stack the .6 and .9 for about a 5 f stop reduction in light I do get a very slight magenta shift which if at all noticeable is very easily corrected.

I'm using mostly HD DSLR's and for video prefer to work with 3 prime lenses; the EF 24mm f2.8, EF 28mm f1.8, and the EF 50mm f1.8 (the older original version with metal barrel and the focusing ring in the "correct" place).

If you have enough distance between your subject (couple or group) and background elements, even f5.6 can give a pleasant selective focus effect with background just enough out of focus to not "compete" for attention. In late afternoon as the sun begins casting long shadows, the two "stacked" filters allow me to get close to (if not all the way) f1.8 when I want that narrow a "zone of acceptable sharpness".

Hope this info helps and good luck to you.
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Old March 18th, 2011, 02:48 PM   #10
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Re: Outdoor video with fast lens, striking the right balance

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Originally Posted by Bruce Foreman View Post
Mine are Tiffen which is not an extremely high quality brand such as Hoya or even pricier Singh-Ray.
FYI, Tiffen has been given Oscars & Emmys for it's "not extremely hight quality" filters.

About Tiffen
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Old March 18th, 2011, 02:51 PM   #11
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Re: Outdoor video with fast lens, striking the right balance

Tiffen makes cheap junk filters as well as high-end ones. Bruce did not disparage Tiffen, he said his were not of high quality, which obviously means he has the budget line.

A $10-15 filter with any name on it is going to be pretty much junk, and yes Tiffen makes some of those, as do some other manufacturers.

His remarks are correct, cheap filters can be effective, but you have to watch out with them.
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Old March 18th, 2011, 08:29 PM   #12
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Re: Outdoor video with fast lens, striking the right balance

Hey Jeff....

I just realized something...
I've been playing around with a 7D myself..

Depending whether you're in Aperture, or Shutter priority, the camera should automatically adjust for proper exposure. Coupled with a strong ND filter, you shouldn't have any problems with exposure..

Shutter, Aperture and ISO control the exposure, and if you close one of them, the other one will open to adjust.
The only way you can throw this out of whack, is by being in manual mode, in which case, you'll need to decide which of the three features need adjusting for proper exposure..

Personally, for outdoor stuff, I would stay with Aperture priority, and pick an Fstop of 5.6-11, and let the camera decide what ISO or shutter speed to choose...
If you're looking to get really close on focus, and need that small depth of field, then open up the Aperture, and allow the camera to correct the exposure..I wouldn't bother worrying about shutter priority..It's an outdoor wedding you're filming anyways..It's not like you're filming a waterfall or something...

See if the camera has Auto ISO..This might be handy, rather than hunting for it...
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Old March 18th, 2011, 10:34 PM   #13
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Re: Outdoor video with fast lens, striking the right balance

Jeff,

I have that 50mm f1.4 lens as well - with the 5d, and I have a Fader variable ND with it. I have 2 variable ND - one is a Light Craft Workshop (LCW) and one is a Fader - though they seem identical. I have a 77mm for my bigger lenses and a 52mm (i believe-it's at my office). I'm not sure what the minimum and maximum equates to, but unless you're pointing it at the sun, they're pretty effective in taking the edge off of bright days when set near maximum.

I would highly recommend them, though you do need to play with them. I was worried inially on how to calibrate my eye to LCD to get the correct exposure.

You can also shoot some cool long exposure stills during the day.
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Old March 20th, 2011, 04:42 AM   #14
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Re: Outdoor video with fast lens, striking the right balance

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Originally Posted by Greg Fiske View Post
I don't think its that much range with clouds. You could put the camera in aperture priority mode and not deal with the ND filters. I think its more of a indoor/outdoor thing.
I was shooting at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast last week (first event on the surfing World Tour each year) and it was exteremely sunny and hot with regular showers lasting for about 5 minutes each. It was a 4 stop difference between when the sun was out and when a shower passed over. I think that warrants a change in ND filters!
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Old March 20th, 2011, 01:31 PM   #15
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Re: Outdoor video with fast lens, striking the right balance

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Originally Posted by Peter Manojlovic View Post
Hey Jeff....

I just realized something...
I've been playing around with a 7D myself..

Depending whether you're in Aperture, or Shutter priority, the camera should automatically adjust for proper exposure. Coupled with a strong ND filter, you shouldn't have any problems with exposure..
Everything I've read on the 7D has indicated that in video, if you do not have MANUAL exposure mode selected with the mode dial, exposure is full AUTO regardless of whether you have Av, Tv, or P selected.

The T2i and 60D require setting the mode dial on top to the "movie" icon to be in video mode and the only two options in the menu for exposure are MANUAL or AUTO.

If you want to do something like Av in video mode on the 7D it is easy enough. Set the mode dial to MANUAL on top, move the lever on the start/stop button over to video mode, then select desired aperture with the dial. Camera will then adjust shutter and ISO to get correct exposure.

You need to take it one step further and select a shutter speed with the other dial, 1/50th or 1/60th for starters depending on you being in PAL or NTSC country. Either of those shutter speeds are close enough to the film 1/48th on a 180 degree shutter so just enough motion blur occurs to look similar to what we are used to in the theaters.

Here is where ND filtration comes in to keep shutter speed down in that range with wider apertures. You can get away with high shutter speeds if there is little or no motion in the scene. Otherwise higher shutter speeds can cause a "strobing" effect like is seen in some scenes in "Saving Private Ryan".

Now if your ISO is still set to AUTO it will try to adjust as necessary to keep the exposure "right". I don't like it doing that so I "lock" it by dialing in the ISO value the camera wants for correct exposure. If you are using a viewfinder loupe that blocks extraneous light so you can really see the LCD image tones, you can use the ISO to adjust exposure up or down for specific exposure effect desired.

But if you have the mode dial on top set to anything but MANUAL you have full auto exposure.

On the T2i and 60D you have two options for video mode exposure in the LCD menu, MANUAL or AUTO, set it for MANUAL and everything I've described above as far as settings applies to them also.
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