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Under Water, Over Land
Tools & Techniques for Nature, Outdoors, Wildlife & Underwater Videography.


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Old January 2nd, 2011, 07:53 PM   #1
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New challenges for wildlife videographers

No, not a conservation issue...this is strictly equipment. I've been shopping around looking for something to replace my trusty Canon XLH-1 and it's noisy soon-to-break-tape-drive. As usual the camcorder manufacturers are being led around by people other than wildlife folks. The trend seems to be toward bigger chips, up to 14 megapixels, 4/3 inches, to give huge detail and a shallow depth of field with a puny 2x crop factor. Who can film small critters with a 2x crop factor?

Tele-converters might help, but they always degrade the image. Blowing up the image from those 14 megapixels in post is a thought, but how to focus on the tiny dot while shooting? I know that Mat Thompson has been grappling with this; probably others too. Any thoughts?
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Old January 2nd, 2011, 08:04 PM   #2
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One option would be to buy a nanoflash - which should squeeze a couple of more years out of your XLH1: you get a higher quality codec, no noise, tapeless, and you get to continue using your existing lenses and set-up...
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Old January 2nd, 2011, 08:31 PM   #3
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Yes, I have used Nanoflash. It's good, but I already have more than my two hands can do. For me was a bit cumbersome.
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Old January 2nd, 2011, 10:38 PM   #4
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I rather like the EX3 with its ½” sensor. For “small critters” I either use the standard lens fitted with the 77 mm Canon Close up lens 500D, which gives excellent results but has a very limited working range. Although it vignettes at short focal lengths the ability to zoom makes finding the subject much easier. I also use Micro Nikkors - particularly the 55 mm and the 105 mm. To get the same angle of view with a 4/3” sensor I would need to multiply these focal lengths by a factor of nearly 3. Another drawback for the 4/3’ system would be a good zoom.

For the subject matter I am interested in the problem is that I have too little depth of field rather than too much. A 4/3” sensor would make matters worse.

I think the ½” sensor is a good compromise.
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Old January 3rd, 2011, 12:59 AM   #5
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Steve,

Have you considered sending the camera in for servicing?

Of the 136 XL-H1 series camera users/owners on this forum, does anyone happen to know what it costs to replace the tape mechanism?
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Old January 3rd, 2011, 04:27 AM   #6
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I have recently been through this. I had a XLH1 and recorded to a Sony HVR-MRC1K CF Card Recorder .
The problem with the canon is there is no way to overcrank. I looked at the ex3 but eventually went for the the JVC gy-hm700 as you could still use reasonable size lenes. A 300mm on ex would be 1500mm on jvc 2100mm. Also the JVC records in xdcam format and now to mp4 to sd cards meaning I edit with my existing system (Edius) Anybody looking at an early hm700 model you can now get a firmware update to facilitate this. Another consideration was a £1.500 uk price difference.
I was about to splash out on a 80-400mm nikon lens when I tried my wife's 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 lens and was surprised by the results of this cheap lens. The results were certainly on a par if not better than my canon h1 with the sigma 100-300mm or the canon f2.8 70- 200mm zoom lenes.
Only time will tell if I have got it right
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Old January 3rd, 2011, 06:13 AM   #7
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Have a look at the Red Scarlet. Soon to be released (NAB?)

Features 2/3" sensor, overcrank 120 fps, small size, RAW footage, high dynamic range (18 steps) and more.

Low price for the brain, but you´ll have to buy some add-ons. Depending on what lenses you want, it could be more expensive than the EX3.
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Old January 4th, 2011, 01:36 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Siegel View Post
I've been shopping around looking for something to replace my trusty Canon XLH-1 and it's noisy soon-to-break-tape-drive. As usual the camcorder manufacturers are being led around by people other than wildlife folks. The trend seems to be toward bigger chips, up to 14 megapixels, 4/3 inches, to give huge detail and a shallow depth of field with a puny 2x crop factor. Who can film small critters with a 2x crop factor?
Since no one else has mentioned it, the Panasonic GH2 has an Extended Tele-Crop mode. It give you an extra 2.6x TC factor in 1080p, and 3.9x factor in 720p. That's over and on top of the 2x crop factor of the 4/3rd sensor. That's a full 5.2x in 1080p, 7.8x in 720p, There's been some really nice footage with the GH2 and the new Panasonic 100-300. That gives you an effective 1500mm in 1080p, 2200mm in 720p. Basically you end up with a 2/3 sensor in a smallish form factor, great ISO performance and even AF works (quite well too).

I've been using the GH1 and 7D, and as you've observed, it's not enough focal length, so I'm definitely considering the GH2.
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Old January 5th, 2011, 11:47 AM   #9
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I'd also stay away from the external storage solutions. I'm my own crew and so products easy to carry, manage and power are high on my list. I bought the Sony NX5 because of its 20x zoom, great storage, relatively light weight and it shared batteries with my now defunct VX2100. I took it ot Vietnam in September and was pleased.
Beware all that huge chip/shallow depth of field stuff for video. If you are using something like a Canon 7d its recording video by throwing out most of the pixels. And though the shallow depth of field is great, it gets tired and if something is moving around (I was recording monkeys moving through the forest) keeping them in focus can be pretty challenging.
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Old January 22nd, 2011, 11:33 PM   #10
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I've been using the 7D for a while with the Canon 100-400mm lens and a 2x teleconverter.

Not sure how a smaller sensor is a good idea since you would start to see really poor quality from the lens at high crop levels. I'll actually get to see this first hand with a T2i shortly. It has a crazy digital zoom that shoots SD resolution video, but you get something like a 7x crop factor. But then, you're at the literal pixel to pixel level on the sensor instead of line skipping, so I'll really see how much my lenses can get away with.

I'm anxious to see what it would cost to get the interchangeable Scarlet and what kind of inexpensive glass I can effectively use.
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Old February 14th, 2011, 10:02 PM   #11
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I am very keen to see what's around the corner at NAB. I really hope there will be some new cams coming out that will fill the role for wildlife. The high crop factor of the 1/3" sensors have been really great, & although i haven't had the privelage of shooting with an interchangeable lens camera like the XLH1 or JVC100/200 type cams, i am now in the hunt for something like these cams but ideally without the limitations of the HDV codec. Hopefully we will see some new things soon, i would love to see a competitor to the 1/2" chip EX3 from Canon or JVC i think that would be great. Not sure i want to go to a larger sensor than 2/3", the DOF becomes too hard to control & crop factors mean getting closer to the wildlife is more of a necessity. I prefer to stay as far away as i possibly can when i can, simply to let the wildlife do there thing in their own comfort zone. A new interchangeable lens version of the Sony NX5 might be an option??
Oh well, guess i'll just have to wait & see what's around the corner. Just don't want to be waiting too long, i could really use this type of cam now!
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Old February 15th, 2011, 09:45 PM   #12
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The new T3i that has been announced has a 1:1 1080p sensor crop function. In theory, this will maintain true HD integrity, perhaps even better than the line-skipped 1080p from the whole sensor, and will provide incredible "crop" psuedo-teleconversion.

The Panasonic GH-2 also has this, but the T3i will accept all the Canon EF glass you can throw at it.

This is a huge development for those wanting to film from afar. I'm excited it is included with the T3i, it shows some excellent trending for us long lens enthusiasts.
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Old February 15th, 2011, 10:01 PM   #13
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Ryan,
Would you provide a bit more detail in your explanation? A 1:1 crop factor sounds to me like no crop factor at all. What does "line-skipped 1080p" mean? Do you know what the T3i, as a DSLR, does about the well known drawbacks of DSLRs in video, such as inability to use the viewfinder when filming, out-of sync audio, and "jello-like " motion artifacts. Sorry for the inane questions, but I am unfamiliar with the DSLR/video medium and want to learn.
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Old February 16th, 2011, 01:22 AM   #14
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Hey Ryan,
Well the T3i does look interesting, i've just been reading up about it. Still, it is a DSLR & not really ideal for video in my mind. I would love to see a some new dedicated video cameras come out in the near future that will suit our needs as wildlife videographers.
Maybe i will dabble in one of these DSLR's if nothing is announced at NAB, but i really hope i don't have to.
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Old February 16th, 2011, 08:18 AM   #15
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Hey guys. DSLRs certainly are not "video cameras" in the traditional sense. Their HD capability, coupled with their large sensor and lens mount essentially have come together in a happy coincidence that makes them little digital cinema cameras. In many ways, they're most similar to a small film camera. But even that comparison draws ire from some quarters.

The T2i & T3i sensor is 18 megapixels, so 5184 x 3456 pixels (on the T2i, I assume the T3i will be the same or similar). To get the 1080p, which is 1920x1080, the camera will record the information from a pixel (or photosite? whatever...you get the idea...), then skip several pixels and record another pixel, and so on, thus creating a 1920x1080 sized image, from an 18 megapixel sensor with a native resolution of 5184 x 3456. So it "skips" lines to create the 1080p image.

The 1:1 crop factor I'm talking about is where the camera does not skip any lines. Instead, it will only record the central 1920x1080 pixels. Effectively "cropping" the sensor down to a point where from 1 pixel to 1 pixel to 1 pixel, it is recording the image. It still creates a 1080p image, but ignores most of the sensor outside of the very center 1920x1080. The normal 1080p mode that line skips utilizes the whole sensor, but skips intermittently, thus preserving the sensor size's optical qualities, like depth of field.

As far as drawbacks with DSLR video, they're mostly in the form factor (you need accessories to simulate a normal video camera, like a mic, external monitor, audio monitoring, etc...) but some of those are being mitigated in cameras like the T3i. The LCD screen has always been visible while recording, but the T3i now has an articulating screen, thus enabling easy use in whatever postion you're in, just like a HPX 170 or EX3. So the viewfinder is unnecessary. I wouldn't even want to have to look through that while filming.

Audio is getting better, but you still can't monitor it without accessories. But the T3i has manual audio control as far as I understand it, so you can at least be sure you're getting even and steady audio.

"Jello like" motion artifacts aren't bad at all compared to other prosumer video offerings. As long as your work does not require whip pans, you'll be fine. I've never had a shot ruined because of "jello" or "rolling shutter" with a DSLR.

The biggest drawback of DSLRs currently is the aliasing and moire caused by line skipping. It creates hard pixel stair stepping along straight lines and angular stuff. Typically not a big deal. The moire comes into play on tight patterns, like fabrics or mesh screens. The only time it has been an issue in nature for me was filming a lake with light wind that created very small and intricate wave patterns. It came out looking weird and unusable. But again, that is fairly rare to run into that. You simply have to know about it getting into DSLRs.

I'm young, way interested in electronics and am not using my equipment for paying jobs typically, so I'm both eager and free to "experiment" with DSLRs. There are times where they fail to produce a good image, but that is rare. They are typically stellar and I've had great success and look forward to them just getting better and better.

Most of my videos were shot with the 7D here: Ryan Farnes on Vimeo (T2i & T3i sensor is essentially the same as the 7D)

Last edited by Ryan Farnes; February 16th, 2011 at 09:18 AM.
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