Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My thought on pixel peeping...what video nerds do in their spare time

Look up lens comparisons or camera comparisons and you will find countless brutal debates on the quality of images.  People blow up images to extreme zooms, and analyze every single pixel at every single lens/camera setting.  It becomes almost an obsession.  I myself looked at many of these examples and tried to really decide which camera was best...and best for me.  
Doing this does have a can really show the strengths and benefits of different products.  It can help answer questions like, do I really truly want to pay twice as much for this camera...what are the real benefits that I'm getting.  
On chatrooms, there will always be someone as well who makes a rant about how it isn't the's the artist behind the equipment...the camera is only a tool...this always really annoys me.  Comparing cameras does serve some purpose and it also does help people make good decisions with their hard earned money.  Using a minidv camera vs an awesome camera, the production level of my work skyrocketed.  There is a huge difference between watching a cheap film and a big budget...if you turn on the TV it's pretty easy to tell almost instantly whether your watching America's Funniest Home Videos, a big blockbuster movie on TV, or a very local commercial.  This argument annoys me, and someone always has to make it; but...there is some wisdom to it.
I think perhaps the biggest problem is when people constantly obsess with getting the best possible image ever...the desire to always have the very very best quality lens or camera in existence.  Here's the thing...the general public doesn't really care that much about images blown up 800 percent and analyzed pixel by pixel.  Another thing is...right now, unless you're showing something on the big screen...whatever you shoot is going to be compressed for online.  Sites like Vimeo have very high quality online video, but it's still compressed.  All that pixel watching can instantly become meaningless because your video has to be a smaller file size.  
So, image quality does change how people view your film...BUT, with DSLR's, basically all of them are plenty good.  I use the T2I, and it's sharp as can be, with beautiful bokeh and color representation.  If I had a 7d, could I shoot noiseless at slightly higher ISO's...yes, a little higher.  Could I get a sharper image...maybe???  Even after test after test, I am still not certain if there is a big difference in sharpness between 550d, 60d, 7d, and 5d.  They have all reached the level that they look so good that the general public isn't going to be like, man I wish this was a bit sharper. For this reason, if you have an awesome DSLR, try to breath and be happy with the camera you have.  The quest for the best camera ever is one that cannot be won.  I is hard, it is very hard.  The 5d Mark III may switch things up and really make an update worth spending a ton of money, but until then...try and really focus on what you have and focus on technique.  I'll be writing more about the 5d Mark III speculation soon, it is going to hopefully be a camera worth waiting for.  A camera is a tool.  Having a sharp sharp camera that shoots amazing images can really help make your work come alive.  Having the very sharpest and best camera that exists always...well that is a long hard fight that I would argue really isn't worth it in the end.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

What lens should I buy?

Alright, let's talk specifics.  On crop bodies.  If your just starting out the kit 18-55 IS and 18-135mm IS are great choices.  The 28-135 is good too, but I've found I need more of a wide angle than 28mm.  The 50mm 1.8 is a must buy, you can find it for about 93 dollars brand new.  The 55-250mm is also a good lens for the money, and it has IS and a wide zoom range.  It also fits perfectly with the the 18-55mm lens.
So, if I had around 500 dollars to spend on lenses what would I get...

either the Canon 18-55mm (about 100 bundled with the camera), the 55-250 (about 190), and the 50mm 1.8  (93 dollars)
OR 18-135mm (350 dollars) and the 50mm 1.8 (93 dollars)

The choice is up to you, 18-135mm provides a lot more zoom in one lens which is nice and the image quality may be a hair above the 18-55mm and 55-250mm but they are close.  The 18-250 has the benefit of a longer range split between the two lenses.  These two setups should work great for shooters, but if you are finding more money available....

If I had 1000 dollars to spend on lenses, I would buy...
Canon 50mm F1.8 (93 dollars)
Tamron 17-50mm 2.8 (360 dollars)
Canon 55-250mm 4-5.6 (190 dollars)
Canon 100mm Macro 2.8  (350 used)
Tamron 17-50 is a nice fixed 2.8 aperture and is good quality.  The Canon 100mm macro is supposed to be incredible image quality, has a nice 2.8 aperture as well, and does some great close up shots.

If I had 1500 dollars to spend on lenses, I would buy...

Canon 50mm F1.8 (93 dollars)
Tamron 17-50mm 2.8 (360 dollars)
Canon 70-200 F4L (630 dollars)
Canon 100mm Macro 2.8  (350 used)

The 70-200L Canon lenses are regarded as the best zoom lenses around.  The image quality is superb, as well as the build quality.  It seems in the zoom range there are 3 decent options...the 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS, the 70-300mm 4.5-5.6 IS, and the 70-200L (priced at 190, 470, and 630 respectively).  The 70-300 is a decent option if you really want image stabilization and more of a zoom, but the 70-200 has better image quality and a lower F number.  If you can afford it, the 70-200L is my most used lens...if not I would recommend the 55-250mm.

If I had 2000 dollars to spend on lenses, I would buy
50mm F1.4 (350 dollars)
Tamron 17-50mm (350 dollars)
70-200mm F/4L (630 dollars)
35mm F2.0  (260 dollars)
and Canon 100mm Macro (350 dollars)

The extra stop of light and build quality of the 50mm 1.4 can be worth it if you can afford the price difference...the 35mm F2.0 is also a great buy, and a really nice focal range to have.  If you shoot less zoom and more of a "normal" field of view, you might want to consider adding this one even if you only have 1000 dollars to spend.

OK, I'll now break up the if I had pattern and talk more specific lens details for full frame bodies,
if you're on full frame, the kit 18-55, 18-135mm and Tamron 17-50mm aren't going to work with a full frame camera.  All of the others I mentioned will.  I would stick with the 70-200 for your rocks.  As far as wider options, you've got 4 decent choices without spending a fortune.  The Canon 17-40F4L, The Canon 24-105LIS, the Canon 28-135mm F3.5-5.6, and the Tamron 28-75 F2.8.  The Canon 24-105 is the kit lens that comes with the 5d.  It is normally about a 1000 dollar lens, but you are only paying about 750 dollars for it bundled with the 5d (it's 2200 dollars for the 5d body only).  It has nice image stabilization and the F4 number should be low enough with the 5d.  It's a great option for a lot of users.  The 17-40mm might be best if you do a lot of wide angle doesn't zoom a lot, but the image quality is great and the price is reasonable (about 700).  The Tamron 28-75 is cheaper and has the 2.8 F stop if that comes in handy.  Image quality might not be quite up to the 24-105 and 17-40 but it would be fairly close.  The 28-135 would only be a good option if you really need the range and IS and want to save some money, the F number and image quality aren't going to be nearly as good quality.

The 24-70 F2.8 and 16-35mm F2.8 are considered really nice lenses, but the consensus of the internet is they are not worth their hefty price tags.  The image quality of the 17-40mm and 24-105mm are just as good, so you are paying almost double the money just for one stop of light.  I recommend you get two decent zooms but get primes for your speed across the range.

Now, let's talk primes.  Depending on you shooting style, it would be nice to have a prime in the 24-35mm range, a 50mm prime, a prime in the 85-100 range, and a prime in the 135mm-200mm range.
In the 24-35mm range, if you are budget conscious you have 3 good options: the 24mm 2.8 (320), the 28mm 2.8 (195), and the 35mm 2.0 (260).  I personally like the 35mm 2.0 since it's a great lens at a decent price and is great in low light.  The 24mm is nice if you like more wide angle, and the 28mm is the cheapest.  I think the 35mm is the most bang for your buck, but it all depends what you need.

For the 50mm it's up to you between the F1.8 and note that the 50mm 1.8 needs to be stopped down to about 2.8 to really be sharp.  The 50mm 1.4 is probably going to be lowest light lens you have.

In the 85-100mm range there are 3 nice options as well, the 85mm 1.8 (370), the 100mm 2.0 (400), and the 100mm 2.8 macro (450).  People use the 85mm a lot for portraits, it's really a great lens; all 3 of these are great options. I personally like the 100mm macro, because of the incredible image quality and the ability to use macro.  I also find the 85mm 1.8 a little too close in focal length to the 50mm 1.8.  If you're not going to use the close up macro though and are mainly focused on low light, the other 2 are definitely worth a look.

The 135mm 2.0 is considered to be one of the best lenses Canon makes at any price.  Although the 1000 dollars might seem steep, it outperforms lenses that cost 3 times as much as it.  If you can afford it, it is an outstanding lens.

The 200mm F2.8 is also considered a fantastic lens, and it is one of the cheapest L lenses.  It runs about 700 bucks.

The last lens I've heard a lot about is the Tokina 11-16.  This will go very wide on a crop sensor and is supposed to have incredible image quality.  I've heard it also works on a full frame body at 16mm, and works great on a steadicam.  It's another one to look at, I've been hearing a lot about it.

So, what are the 15 lenses I think are the most awesome under 1000 dollars

Canon 50mm 1.8 (93)
55-250mm 4-5.6 (190)
Canon 35mm 2.0 (260)
Canon 24mm 2.8 (320)
Tamron 17-50mm 2.8 (350)
Canon 85mm 1.8 (370)
Tamron 28-75mm (400)
Canon 100mm Macro 2.8 (450)
Tokina 11-16mm 2.8 (600)
Canon 70-200F4L (630)
Canon 17-40mm F4L (650)
Canon 200mm 2.8 (700)
Canon 24-105F4L (970)
Canon 135mm 2.0 (1000)
Canon 70-200F4L IS(1000)

Questions, concerns, advice, post me a comment!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Let's talk lenses, the basics

Alright, now let's talk lenses.  Being able to switch out lenses is both a gift and a curse.  I'm mainly going to talk lenses for Canon bodies since that's what I know best.

The first thing that's important to know is that there are EF lenses and EF-S lenses.  EF lenses work on both full frame and crop sensor bodies, whereas EF-S only work on crop sensors.  It's something to keep in mind as you're buying your lenses.  If you're upgrading to the 5D at some point your EF-S lenses won't carry over.  My plan is to keep my T2I when I eventually upgrade, so I think it's good to have a variety.  Anyways, before going out and buying a lens, it's important to note your shooting's nice to have a lens to figure out what you need.  Prime lenses do not zoom, you need to zoom with your feet.  It's nice to have a zoom or two, but I find a lot of more professional videos will move the camera and focus a lot more often than zooming in and out.  The benefits of prime lenses is they are super sharp and give you really low F numbers at a good price.  I'll talk more about that in a moment.
Your F stop is how much light is being let into the lens.  The lower the number the better.  A stop of light is  3 clicks on the F-Stop wheel.  The very most expensive lenses go down to 1.2.  The F-Stop numbers go:
1.2, 1.4, 1.6, 1.8, 2.0, 2.2, 2.5, 2.8, 3.1,3.5, 4.0, 4.5, 5.0, 5.6, 6.3 etc
You can take a look at little video I shot to illustrate the change in F-number.  My ISO is at only 100 and my shutter speed is at 50.

So, you can see the light difference between an F2.0 and F2.8 is the same as between an F2.8 and and F4.0 (and also between F4.0 and 5.6).  Primes are great for low light for this reason.  Sharpness is still a factor in video mode, but due to the output image being smaller, the F number is perhaps even more important.
Your F number also affects your depth of field.  The lower your F stop the smaller amount is in focus.  This can really give you a really professional look.
Also note, cheaper lenses have a F-number that changes, for example 3.5-5.6.  This means that zoomed out all the way, the lens will give you a 3.5, but zoomed in it will give you a 5.6.  This also means that in video mode if you zoom the image will darken or brighten to compensate which is bad.  A fixed F number is always better (and often more expensive).  However, 3.5-5.6 isn't too bad, especially if you more often than not have your camera zoomed out (my 18-55 I almost always use at 18mm which gives me F3.5 to work with which isn't bad).
Another important thing to note is that most lenses do not perform as well all the way open (at their lowest F number!).  They can have serious vignetting (loss of sharpness around the edges) and a loss of overall sharpness.  This is especially true of cheaper lenses.  That can be a problem, for example...the 18-55mm at 55mm zoom only gives you an F5.6, but to get a really good image out of it you need to stop it down to F6.8 which is very high/barely usable indoors.
So, put into practice with video, what F numbers do you need to make it work?
Well, outdoors you can set any F-Number you want.  Indoors you'll want at least an F4 aperture if not a 2.8.  At night, at least a 2.8 aperture is often needed.  Even on really cloudy days my kit 3.5-5.6 is sometimes not enough.  I think a 2.8 aperture is great to shoot for since it gives you a lot of flexibility, I'll talk about some options that don't destroy your wallet in the next lens blog section.  2.0 and below is pretty nice, but 2.8 does the trick a lot of the time.  5.6 or above won't really work indoors.
Check out a video I did of the various F numbers and the affect on light on my 50mm 1.8.

I should note that you can boost the brightness with ISO, at a certain point this adds noise though.  With a 5D and it's big sensor, you might be able to get away with an F4 indoors without too much trouble, but with a T2i you'd be introducing a fair amount of noise with an F4.

So, is it worth it to get super expensive lenses...yes and no.  Can you shoot some pretty incredible, sharp, and great videos with the kit lens that came with...yes.  Will these work fine for many people...yes.  However, better lenses can boost your quality of your video overall and will also stay with you for a long time.  Read onto the next article where I talk about the best lenses to get at various price points.

Camera smackdown

Alright, I've done a fair amount of research, but I eventually decided rather than telling you every single spec about every single camera I would let you look up all of the minute details yourself and instead talk about some of the bigger details.

Let's start with the Nikon D7000.
This is Nikon trying to take on Canon's DSLRs.  It's comparable in price and specs to Canon's 60D, priced at about 1500 dollars.  It has a 16.2 megapixel sensor (compared with Canon's 18 Megapixel for it's 550D, 60D, and 7D).  This camera also tries to implement autofocus, but it does a lot of searching, so most serious filmmakers would (should) never use this feature.  Nikons also tend to be rather good at low light.  The camera seems solid, but unless you are a photographer or have a lot of equipment, Canon still seems to be ahead of the game with video, and it's really nice that you can easily switch Canon bodies while keeping the expensive lenses.

Panasonic GH2
The best non-Canon option would in my opinion be the Panasonic GH2.  It can be had with a really nice included lens for about 1300 dollars (body only is about the same price as the T2I, about 750 dollars).  It has a cool feature where you can just record the pixels in the middle of the sensor, giving you true HD with an added zoom (much like the crop movie mode, but in full HD).  It seems to do pretty well with moire and rolling shutter, and has pretty good HD outputs (for viewing on a monitor when shooting).  It's a solid option to look at.  Disadvantage would be the sensor size is a little bit smaller, meaning less low light capabilities and the same thing I talked about with the isn't Canon.  You really need to invest in a brand with lenses, and Canon just has a lot of great options and lenses, which make it easier to switch from model to model.

Alright, now onto the Canon models.

 The 1D Mark IV
It's 3400 dollars with no lens, and although it has better low light capabilities than any other Canon, it's mainly a still camera.  The 5D's video quality is probably better at a lower price, so unless your main focus is stills this isn't your best option.

5D Mark II:
  The big daddy that really got the DSLR revolution going, this is a really nice camera.  It's a full frame camera meaning the full 35mm film sensor size, wider field of view, better low light...etc.  There are a lot of debates of whether the quality is better than the 7D, it might be a touch sharper, but the two are very close.  This one is 3000 with the lens, but you also have to figure in that it comes with a 1000 dollar lens.  It's only about 2,200 with no lens.  So, if I had 3000 dollars would I get a I wouldn't.  Accessories add up pretty quick and you'll definitely want some.  There are rumors that the 5D Mark III is due out in a year, and it seems likely that Canon will make some innovations, so start saving now.

  This thing is built like a tank.  It's 1.6 Crop sensor meaning a smaller sensor than the 5D, and it also means that a 50mm lens on the 5d is equivalent to 80mm on the 7d.  This one is very similar to the 60d and 550d, it has Full HD monitor output (not true of the 5d actually) and 19 point autofocusing for those still photographers out there.  This is a pretty great option, at around 1500 dollars, but with the 60d coming out recently it would be more difficult to justify the price difference until the 7d update comes out.  You can get it with the 18-135mm EF-S lens (about a 350 dollar lens) or the EF 28-135mm lens, although I love the flexibility of the wider 18mm.

 This is a mighty good deal, sharp, good in low light, same sensor as the 7D, and a great price (1170 for it with the 18-135mm lens).  If you have 1500-3000 dollar to spend, this would probably be the one to get.  It's body is sturdy, it uses the kelvin white balance scale unlike the 550d and is really nice in low light.  It also has a swivel LCD on the back which comes in handy.

If you're on a tight budget though, the 550d cannot be beat.  It can be had for under 1000 dollars, actually under 900 with the 18-55mm kit lens.  It has the 18mp sensor, is incredibly sharp, and is a great great deal.  This is the best camera out in this price range right now...don't get the T1I for video, you lose so much features and quality.  It may be slightly less sharp then the 7D and 60D, it's difficult to prove, and it might have a more plasticey body, and only has one back display and click wheel, but it is still an incredible camera that you will love, I would highly recommend.

Here's a link to some specs if you're interested in comparing

So, to sum up...if you're really budget conscious, the T2I rocks.  The 60D and GH2 are great options as well if your willing to spend a little more dough, and the 5D is still an awesome camera, and quite possibly the best if you've got the money to burn.

*A note on kits...generally I wouldn't recommend them.  When someone makes a camera kit, they have to save money somewhere which means those sweet included lenses they give you are terrible quality.  It may make sense if the company your shopping from has the best deal on everything included in the kit, but often if you shop around you can get things cheaper and pick out the exact things that you want.  Generally speaking...kits aren't that amazing of deals, that's one of the few things I would do differently if I bought my camera again.
Questions, concerns, advice?  Write a comment below!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Welcome! About the site and DSLR history

Hey everyone!  This is a cite dedicated to all things DSLR (digital single lens reflex cameras).  The site is mainly going to be dedicated to using DLSR for high definition video, but I will also talk about using the cameras for still photos as well.  Since I've decided to invest my life savings in the DSLR, I've been constantly researching the best cameras, accessories, and lenses.

A little history on the DSLR's for those unfamiliar.  The Nikon D90 was the first still camera to ever feature 720p video on a DSLR.  However, 2009, the Canon 5d Mark II was the first DLSR to feature 1080p video.  It cost about 3,000 dollars.  Well, the thing about DSLRs is they take absolutely amazing photographs, which means they take absolutely amazing video.  It is quite frankly some of the crispest, sharpest HD video I have ever seen.
Seriously, look at this...unbelievable.
While it had a lot of limitations over creative control when it first came out, the camera now gives you full creative control and 24 frames per second.
Then, in November, 2009 the Canon EOS 7d came out.  It has a slightly smaller sensor (still enormous), and shoots with a 1.6 crop sensor, which means what is 50mm on a 7d is the equivalent to an 80mm lens on the  5d.  Most of Canon's cameras under $3000 shoot on a crop sensor.  7d was about 2000 dollars and also a great bargain.  The image quality was very comparable (some would argue indistinguishable) from the 5D. Then in April 2010 the Canon T2i (or 550d) was released at only 1000 dollars!  It has the same sensor as the 7d and produces video that is arguably either very, very close or indistinguishable.  The most recent release is the Canon 60d which came out this past October.  It is sort of halfway in between the 7d and the T2I.
I should also mention that Nikon and Panasonic make some pretty rad DLSRs with video features.
Nikon just announced 4 new 1080p cameras, the D400 at about 2000 dollars, the D800 at about $3000, and the D4 for around $5000 just for the body, and the D4x for about $7000 for just the body.  They have also recently released the D7000 for about $1500.
Panansonic's new GH2 also looks promising (replacing the GH1) and is priced at about $1400.
In the next blog post, I'll go into more of a camera to camera comparison, but I just wanted to first establish what is out there.
One of the things that makes DLSR so awesome is it's huge sensor size. A bigger sensor means more detail, better low light capabilities, and that beautiful shallow depth of field.  There are a few limitations that get a lot publicity that I'll talk about in a later post (moire, rolling shutter, overheating, etc) that are slightly annoying, but honestly they are not that big of an issue.  Here is a chart of the sensor size on various cameras.  Please read the next post which will have an in depth comparison of every awesome DLSR that is available.

DV101-Sensor Comparison Chart