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Old May 12th, 2012, 04:05 PM   #1
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Digiscoping video with DSLR vs a good camcorder

I'm curious if any wildlife videographers have made the switch from a good camcorder (like an EX3 or XLH1)
to a spotting scope with a DSLR, and are blown away by (or at least happy with) the change. Last year, the adage "if you want to shoot video, use a camcorder; if you want to shoot photos, use a DSLR" seemed to be true. Is it still?
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Old May 30th, 2012, 03:59 AM   #2
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Re: Digiscoping video with DSLR vs a good camcorder

I shall state without the slightest hesitation that the above traditional quote is redundant, literally. Nevertheless, it is well to remember it was not so long ago that if you wanted to shoot video you had no choice but to use a video camera and to shoot stills anything from a box Brownie to you name it was a go, but not a video camera.

It seems to me we have reached the delightful stage where there is a tool available no matter the context and the trick is to select the most appropriate tool for the occasion. The DSLR has not replaced the video camera for capturing moving pictures no more than the shovel has replace the spade (or vice versa) for digging holes in the ground. The notion that one now consigns the video camera to the attic because one has a DSLR is nonsense in my experience.

If I have a blind equipped with hot and cold running everything and close enough to the target then I use my EX1 and set up a couple of microphones strategically placed and connected to the camera. On the other hand if I must walk a few kilometres then clamber around a treacherous rocky face high above outrageously dangerous waves crashing on sharp hard rocks below to shoot a creature in that environment then I bring my Sony HX100v (bet you never even heard of that lightweight about $400.00 device) which has excellent built in stabilization allowing me to capture hand-held (bringing a tripod is quite out of the question - a small bottle of water is about it) watchable 60p AVCHD footage and the built in super-zoom lens is 30x which allows me to capture more than a faint spot in the distance. I’m not suggesting for one moment that National Geographic will pay me a small fortune for this footage but without spending an arm and a leg, helicopters and such like, I defy anyone to do much better under the circumstances. And frankly, the quality of footage obtained with this device is remarkably satisfactory especially if the viewer is unaware of the device used.

So my somewhat long-winded response based on my personal experience is to suggest you don’t even ask that question but ask rather what is the most appropriate device I might use given the context. And of course the context includes your budget, your level of fitness, the geography, the weather...the list is long.

Wildlife video-photography and regular photography are my favourite ways of wasting time these days. I have several image capturing devices available and select the one most appropriate for the task at hand. No doubt there will be situations where you will be blown away by a spotting scope with a DSLR and other situations where you will be blown away with your EX3 or XLH1. The context should determine the tool and not a dogma about equipment (not uncommon methinks).
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Old June 7th, 2012, 03:55 AM   #3
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Re: Digiscoping video with DSLR vs a good camcorder

As John says, it's horses for courses. Like him, I have a variety of video capturing devices - too many according to my husband.

I am primarily a stills wildlife photographer who also enjoys videography. No way can I carry both video and stills gear. If I am going out primarily to take video, I'll use the video camera (Canon A1) as I find it much more versatile. But if I'm doing stills photography, I do like having the option of taking supplementary video with my stills camera - Nikon D7000 with a 300mm +1.4 teleconverter. But the subject has to remain in the plane of focus, and the sound is limited.

And having never personally succeeded in digiscoping will anything attached to a telescope, I think it's something you really have to almost specialise in to get good results - or maybe you have more time than I do to devote to the subject.
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Old June 7th, 2012, 08:22 AM   #4
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Re: Digiscoping video with DSLR vs a good camcorder

I'm using the Panasonic GH2 and Canon telephoto lenses as an alternative to digiscoping. With a 300 F4, the Canon 1.4 TC, and the GH2 set to extended telephoto mode (no loss of resolution just more cropping), I can get the equivalent of 2100 mm focal length. Longer lenses, and a 2.0 Tc can get you around 4000 mm. Here are some samples:


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Old June 7th, 2012, 09:02 AM   #5
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Re: Digiscoping video with DSLR vs a good camcorder

The video isn't playing well on my computer, but the picture quality looks wonderful. I was wondering about trying one of the Nikon compacts - the V1 - which should give some 2000mm or more equivalent with the 300mm lens and converter.
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Old June 7th, 2012, 09:18 AM   #6
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Re: Digiscoping video with DSLR vs a good camcorder

Pat

That footage looks very good. Presumably an adaptor is needed to attach Canon EF lenses to the GH2 - which one have you used and are you happy with it?
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Old June 9th, 2012, 09:09 AM   #7
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Re: Digiscoping video with DSLR vs a good camcorder

I used a cheap Dot Line adaptor:

Dot Line Micro Four Thirds Adapter for Canon EOS Lenses DL-0822

I have to set the aperture on a Canon DSLR, then press the depth of field preview button while removing the lens. So you shoot at a fixed aperture. I have been using f13 or f14 for the 300 f4/L, and adjusting exposure with neutral density filters and shutter speed. This all seems to work well, and the minor hassles are worth it.

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Old June 10th, 2012, 05:14 AM   #8
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Re: Digiscoping video with DSLR vs a good camcorder

Just returned from a trip to REGUA in Brazil, a reserve located in the Atlantic Rainforest, in fact part of it, in Rio De Janeiro State. (Second visit and can thoroughly recommend.)

Main purpose was to video some of the rain forest birds. Equipment an XLHI (older model) a XHG1s and a little Sony DSC-HX9V for "background" stuff. nanoFlash for the Canons plus a Swit 7inch HDMI monitor for focussing assist (in fact focussing full stop with the XLH1 which by far the main camera).

Lots of batteries (Canons for cams, nano and monitor) and a jungle of cables plus chargers etc.

Zoom lens for XLH1 plus a Canon EF 70-300 F4-5.6 L and a Canon 400 F5.6L. Duplicate EF Adaptor, CH-910 twin battery charger (which also powers the nano) and cables. Also a dupe 4.6 inch Swit. Dupes travelled in check in bag , with all the rest of the video kit either "carry on" or in my voluminous "photographer's jacket" which an agony to actually wear fully loaded.

Gitzo G-1325 legs and a Sachtler DV6 SB head in check in bag plus a monopod. If my check in bag failed to turn up I reckon I could function apart from having to use one of the skimpy photo tripods located in the lodge. (Know of a bloke who took his brand new EX1 on an Antarctic wildlife cruise "of a lifetime" who had his cam and a single battery with him, rest in his check in bags. Bags missed the flight, he had to embark before next flight arrived, no Sony charger on the ship.)

I found that, as expected, I needed the extra "pull" of the EF lenses most of the time, with only occasional recourse to the G1 even with its 1.5x extender, which also a bit of a handful handheld for longer periods. This necessitated recourse to the tripod so might as well use the XLH1. Monopod not good unless static shots.

Mobility became an absolute problem. Quite long walks along rough sometimes steep forest tracks. Had to have help from guides/drivers and the REGUA "proprietor" to carry my kit. Then maybe 15 minutes to set everything up, with 9 cable connections to nano, monitor, batteries standby viewfinder (one of those FU-2000 units as the XLH1 does not output viewfinder information to a monitor.) Everything, including shotgun mike, either attached to the cam, or in two "stone bags" I had on the tripod. Manfrotto 523 remote handle soldered to a Sachtler pan-bar Lanc attached to the cam. Had to dismount and remount all of this, pack into back pack, and stumble on if the site proved bird-less, which often the case.

Occasionally everything jelled and I got some decent footage but so hit and miss and so so strenuous.
Kept thinking about alternatives for "next year" i.e. an EX3 perhaps with a Canon 80-400 zoom lens, maybe with the nano but without a monitor. An alternative "off road lightweight" head for my Gitzo, which I have but couldn't bring with me. Even thought about a little camcorder like an HF-G10 with its short zoom range.

Thinking again I reckon that there is no lightweight solution to adequately filming forest birds. An EX3 perhaps but still a bit of a lump with its lens, so needing a proper pod. Extra cables and battery if with a nano. I've heard that the EX3 has a decent viewfinder but I do like my Swit monitor. Real answer is to pre-plan ones trips into the forest. Guides to locate say a fruiting tree or an open space with some drinking water. Nests perhaps. Then an organised trek, and a wait with everything set up. No need for company except to come and collect self and gear.

My videoing outside the forest was quite straightforward, there is a nice wetland at REGUA which even has a couple of hides. Had my "carp-trolley" with me to tow my kit around albeit still had to mount/dismount all the gear at different stops. Roll on an EX1 size and quality recorder with a 30x zoom lens and a 50mbps codec and an impeccable viewfinder!


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Old June 13th, 2012, 05:53 PM   #9
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Re: Digiscoping video with DSLR vs a good camcorder

We visited REGUA a few years ago and I found myself wishing I'd taken video equipment instead of stills. The rainforest isn't an easy place to do photography of any kind, and I'd like to have spent more time in the more open areas around the Regua reserve itself.

My husband suffered from malaria a few weeks after we got back - despite that area being considered malaria-free so we didn't take anti-malaria tablets.
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