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Old August 5th, 2006, 11:02 AM   #1
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Location: Ketchikan, Alaska
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500mm f/4 critical focus

Greetings to All - This is my first post. It is good to have such a wealth of information from such knowledgeable people.

I have lurked for several months and now I must ask a question that I have not found an adequate answer to.

I am using an XL H1 with a Canon 500mm f/4, and 200mm f/1.8 with a tele extenders 1.4 and 2.0 attached.

Achieving critical focus on moving animals, most recently bears and eagles in Alaska, has been difficult, at best. I have seen threads recommending the FU-1000 and external monitors, but not used in an outdoor enviroment.

Before experimenting with these options I would like to see if any of you have used these items as focusing aids and the results.

I have tried switching the VF to B&W, and using the magnifiy setting, but magnify only works when not filming (hardly useful on an approaching bear).

An external monitor attached to the camera would have the sun shining directly on it's surface (I try to shoot with the sun directly behind me) resulting in a washed out image to use for focus confirmation.

I also would like to know what tripod and head you are using with these long lenses because I'm unable to touch the lens without shaking the image. This makes getting quality images impossible while focusing.

I'm using a Libec LZ-60M2C Carbon Fibre video tripod that seems solid, but the head and quick release seem to allow camera vibration.

I don't know if i will be able to use these long lense as I had planned.

Ansel Adams was right when he said the ideal tripod was a cubic yard of concrete with a bolt sticking out the top.

Thanks for any advice and/ or experiences,

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Old August 5th, 2006, 02:17 PM   #2
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Akershus, Norway
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Law, hello from Norway and welcome onboard! You might have seen some of my previous posts.

I'm using the XL2 camcorder with an ef-adapter and mostly a 300mm Sigma f/2.8. I found that using extenders (1.4x or 2.0x) can cause to a softer picture. So I try to avoid this most of the time. And I'm using the FU-1000 viewfinder which helps me to get good focus. This is much, much better than the original viewfinder at least on the XL2.

I have never used any 500mm lense so I can not tell you how hard it is to get good focus with that kind of huge lense, but I can not understand why you want to use an extender on such a huge lense? The 500mm will give you at least 3900mm (in 16:9 mode).

My favorite tripod is the Miller Arrow HD, this is very huge and heavy, but I prefere to carry it with me cause of the steadyness. You can view a picture of my rig at my website: http://www.video-film.no/galleri.html whith the huge lense I always use a rail to connect both the lense and the camcorder to the tripod.

I have put some small videoes on the web (click on the link in my sig. below), most of them are shoot with the 300mm lense and the heavy Miller Arrow tripod. As you can see its not so much shaking even in pans in the footage.
- Per Johan

Last edited by Per Johan Naesje; August 5th, 2006 at 02:50 PM.
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Old August 5th, 2006, 03:13 PM   #3
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Hi Per - Thanks for your reply.

I haven't used the tele converters on the 500mm lens yet. It is not stable enough alone. But after looking at your moon shoot, I will try stacking both the 1.4 and the 2.0 on the 500mm and see what the moon looks like. I don't know how to post pictures or clips, but it's moot because I'm not allowed to by the management.

I have the RonsRail too. It's the only way to mount all that glass on the camera.

I like being as far away as possible from the animals I film, but I still want intimate close shots.

My tripod looks as if it were made on the same assembly line as yours, and isn't too shaky with the 200mm f/1.8 and the 1.4 TC mounted, but the 500mm seems to much. I can not touch, no matter how lightly, the camera or lens, without shaking the image.

I think the problem is the adapter plate, quick release, and camera mount do not provide a solid connection to the tripod. At least that is my theory. i'd like to see if any one else has had that problem, and how they solved it.


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Old August 6th, 2006, 01:03 AM   #4
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Location: Tampere, Finland
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The key issue is to balance the mass to minimize mechanical oscillation. What ever tripod you have, it's not sturdy enough to prevent shaking unless you have centered the mass above the support. In practice, loosen the fluid head such that the head can be easily tilted. Then adjust the XL H1 + lens combo such that if you set it in horizontal position and take your hands off the camera, the combo does not start to tilt but instead stays on the position you left it. This way you should be able to shoot with a 600mm lens as I do.
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Old August 6th, 2006, 06:41 PM   #5
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It sounds as though you have a balanced setup (good tripod and fluid head, Ronsrail etc) which is the most critical part with long lenses and, as Lauri says, you must have it centered. I believe any lens over 400mm you will find focusing without shake near impossible with these multiplication factors. However, these are not photographs, so you should have plenty of opportunities to video the scene you need and edit out the camcorder handling portion. If your wildlife scene occurs with only seconds to spare, then that's just a bad break that we all experience. A good rule of thumb IMO is if you have a scene which you must capture then increase your depth of field to f8 or f11 just so you have it on tape so you won't have to focus when your subject is always moving. After you acquire your subject, then you can change your settings for visual effects. Experience with the XLH1 is the only other factor that will save you time as far as the setup goes.
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Old August 6th, 2006, 08:45 PM   #6
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Lauri & Bill - Thanks for your replys.

Being a still photogropher for many years and having a Gitzo 1548 with a Wimberly head, I'm well aware of balancing the rig. In fact, I plan to try the XL H1 on the still rig just to see how it does. I do remember shooting the moon with stacked 1.4 & 2.0 TC's. Even on a Mk II 1D with less apparent optical focal length there was a lot of shake involved when focusing, and I had to use the timer to take the picture.

Have either of you tried putting weight on the long lenses, such as a sand bag, to dampen the vibration? I am aware of puting weight on the tripod, but it seems the vibration I'm experiencing is from the camera/lens end.

I have been shooting in the automatic mode, because when taping a black bear at twilight as he is moving through shadows, high grass, and crossing streams (with reflected light), the readings are all over the scale, and I think the camera can adjust faster to these conditions, and with less shake than I can.

The focusing is difficult with the 500mm, not only because of the shake from my hand on the lense, but I can't see focus when he is coming toward me.

I had a wonderful shot when his face, after a long approach, filled the view finder. The shot was ruined by my trying to focus during his approach.

I really don't understand why Canon didn't allow the autofocus feature to come through the EF adapter. It would be nice if someone could figure a hack of some sort to regain autofocus on these marvelous lenses.

I had a 600mm but it went back because of focusing issues, and I have been lusting after the 400mm f/2.8 for years.

Have any of you tried the FD lenses on the H1? Is there an adapter available to attach them to the H1?


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Old August 6th, 2006, 10:20 PM   #7
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Location: Kent, Washington, USA
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Be sure that all your fittings are tight and lock the head down, if you can, when using long lenses. Use a tight friction setting on the head. Follow the excellent suggestions as stated above by some of my RONSRAIL users. Many people are using the rail with great results for the exact reasons you are facing.
I used an FD 50-300 mm lens with an XL1 for years with good results, But found it to be a little soft with the XL H1. Some may call it a "film look". I made an adapter to mount the FD to the XL cams, but I wouldn't recommend trying it!! Contact chris@zgc.com. She may have a source or some stock. They sold Optex items, who manufactured an adapter, until Optex went out of business.
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Old August 7th, 2006, 01:26 AM   #8
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Ron - Thanks for making such a high quality product. Even though I've only used it for a few weeks, I seems that it will last many years. The only suggestion I would like to see changed at this point is that the camera base pad should have the option of being rotated 90 degrees, so that it would have a bit more bearing surface on the camera bottom. I don't know if it would help stabilize the rig, but I'm thinking that the more surface area per contact point, the more stability could be achieved. It would only involve drilling two more holes.

I had a chance at an 800mm f/5.6 FD lense, and thought it would be cool to try it on the XL H1, but I'm not sure it would fit on the rail.

I'll give ZGC a call tomorrow.

I also would like to talk to you about the lens sight too.I need it, but I am not sure how it would function at different ranges. For instance, with the field of view of a super telephoto lense (with TC's), how could it find a target half a mile away as well as 100 yards away. Does it have some adjustment to compensate for widely differing ranges?

Thanks again for your fine product.


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Old August 7th, 2006, 01:03 PM   #9
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The RONSRAIL is able to handle the 800mm lens by using the two additional holes in the camera plate. This moves the plate back, providing an additional 2" of length. Another option is to use a longer lens plate to gain more length. Or use both methods.

The RONSIGHT is accurate from 100 yds to infinity, with little adjustment for closer subjects. Because the sight is above the line of sight of the lens, closer subjects will require that the sight dot will be above the subject by a few inches.
Your bear at 100 yds will have the dot on his ear, at 300 yds the dot will be near his eye, at any shootable distance the bear will be in the center of your lens. Keep in mind, the sight does not magnify, therefor giving maximum FOV.

My procedure for this would be to use the RONSIGHT to locate the bear, pull the trigger, and adjust the lens, knowing, that even though the bear was not visible or out of focus in the lens, that the magnification of the lens would find the animal centered in the viewfinder when focus was achieved.

For close subjects, less tha 100 yds, put the dot on the subject and raise it a few inches to put the lens on the mark.

I have found grizzly's in the brush you couldn't see with the naked eye by sighting on the area and then looking through a 420 or 600 mm lens and seeing the bear in the center of the lens.

It's also great for panning and bird in flight shots. Because of the wide FOV, you can generally see both subjects and pan in a straight line to the end of the pan. It's much easier to find birds in flight and keep them in the lens FOV with the RONSIGHT.

The RONSIGHT is a must for long lens videographers!!

Hope this helps.
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