Documenting Istanbul, Paris and Brussels as a one-man crew.
Except for a couple of days where I had the priceless guidance of my friend Levent, I worked alone for three weeks between Istanbul, Paris and Brussels. The assignments required to capture stills, shoot video, record soundscapes, write, and edit everything together as I was moving alone. No problem!
The single operator/producer/editor assignment is becoming increasingly common for several reasons, among them lower production costs, as well as easier access to difficult locations.
I see a lot of opportunities for shooters currently doing weddings, corporate and sporting events, product launches, trade shows, video podcasts, student films or as in this specific project, travel and documentaries.
The main challenge is that on these hybrid productions getting the shot is paramount. There are no second chances, so preparing the shoot and planning for different situations is key. Another big challenge is how to travel as light as possible, but still carry a full production and post-production setup literally on your back.
After Istanbul I went to Brussels with its ancient roots, unique architecture, and bilingual arrangement. From there I went to Paris, the legendary City of Light, which always offers up myriad imaging possibilities. As you can imagine, all these cities were a playground ripe with incredible photo opportunities, and amazing food.
If you enjoy my work, please consider sharing it with others. In today’s world, every click, share, and like counts. =)
Photokina, after the dust has finally settled.
It feels like six months but it’s been only a month since we had the great privilege to once again attend the largest and arguably most important trade show in the photo industry: Photokina.
One month on and the dust has settled, sample photos and videos are popping everywhere, most specs are now confirmed, and rumor websites have moved on to tell new tall tales.
This time I found the show less crowded and less exciting than previous years. Perhaps it’s because most manufactures now announce products before, not during, trade shows, and the expectation and surprise factor is quickly ebbing away. But there are always interesting surprises, especially in the “Chinese” hall, and it is also nice to be able to touch the toys everybody is drooling over.
The following is my very personal, unscientific, but also unbiased list of products that got my attention, in no specific order.
• Canon offered a mind-blowing low light test. If I remember correctly, they called it “See in the dark.” They used an EOS C300 and a 7D Mark II to shoot some props in a darkroom. There were only a few tiny light bulbs covering the scene. When I entered the room I couldn’t even see the cameras, but somehow the cameras saw the props and were able to get a decent exposure. I believe the 7D Mark II was set at 12,500 ISO and the image on the camera’s monitor looked usable but not amazing. The C300 was set at something like 25,000 ISO and the image on an external monitor looked decent. Other than that, nothing else was remarkable at the Canon booth.
• Panasonic consistently surprises me. The CM1 is something I have NEVER seen before, and I’m very surprised with the lack of coverage this amazing piece of technology has received.
Take a Nexus 5, iPhone 6, or Lumia 1320, stick a tiny and beautiful Leica 28mm F2.8 Elmarit DC lens coupled with a 20MP MOS sensor, a crazy fast Qualcomm MSM8974AB 2.3GHz Quad-Core running on Android 4.4 (Kit Kat), then add a super user-friendly interface with all kinds of clever and customizable options including Manual Exposure setting, 1920 x 1080 video, and just for fun throw in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, and GPS. Did I mention that this CELL PHONE also captures 4K video? I’m still processing that too! Simply mind blowing. Forget the iPhone 6 or Nexus 6. The CM1 will be my next camera/phone.
Complete specs for the Panasonic CM1 are available here.
Panasonic’s ultra-compact Lumix 35-100mm f/4 lens, equivalent to a 70-200mm on a full frame camera, is incredibly small and lightweight (0.48 pounds), and it’s about 75% the size of the already tiny (and excellent) Panasonic Lumix 12-35mm f/2.8 ASPH X lens (68.0 x 74.0 x 1.0 inches and 0.7 pounds). Regardless of its size, it comes with O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilization) and it is fully compatible with high-speed AF cameras up to 240 fps. That should do it…
The Panasonic ultra-compact Lumix 35-100mm f/4 lens is currently available for pre-order from Amazon and B&H.
• Light field photography has been on my radar for a while and we finally had a chance to play with a Lytro camera. The ability to focus images after they have been captured, change the perspective, increase the sharpness, and create 3D images or presentations are some of the many potential developments. I had a chance to play with Lytro’s Illum camera, and while I find the technology amazing, the software still needs some serious work. Here are the camera’s specs.
• I simply don’t get it. Samsung released several interesting products and the booth was almost empty. And, that’s the GOOD news. The company reported earlier this month a 60% drop in operating profit for Q3 2014.
I asked a Samsung staff member what the unique features were on the brand new NX1. He replied that it has a 28MP APS-C CMOS sensor, it can record 4K and UHD video using H.265 codec, it offers a weather-resistant magnesium alloy body… I interrupted and asked him this: if I’m debating over a Nikon D7100, a Canon EOS 7D Mark II, a Panasonic GH4 or a Fujifilm X-T1, why should I consider the NX1? Picture a deer caught in the headlights. His answer was, “I guess I wouldn’t consider the NX1.”
Wow! And that’s exactly how I feel about Samsung’s flagship camera. Nice, decent specs, but unremarkable overall. An additional potential issue is Samsung’s relatively new NX mount, so you can use Samsung’s proprietary lenses, or other brands’ with an adapter, which requires an additional investment.
Some other quick notes I took while playing with the NX1: The 3″ tilting Super AMOLED touchscreen display works well. Very fast shutter, nice colors, the 85mm f/1.4 is very sharp, pretty standard menus, kinda slow AF tracking, interesting built-in color corrections and presets. The lenses come with “i-function” which allows you to control them from the touchscreen.
• We saw some of the coolest developments at Fujifilm, but for some reason not even Fuji’s staff knew about them. There are two new services: Magic Video Print and Magic Video Print Share, which according to the company will be available in the “1st half of 2015”. Not to be confused with Fuji’s Instax Printer (also available here), which is basically a portable printer that allows users to print smartphone photos on the go.
Magic Video Print is basically a software that extracts 10 still images per second from videos, analyzes faces, focus, brightness, and other characteristics, and then recommends approximately 20 images from the video to be printed. That’s cool.
But, what is REALLY cool is Magic Video Print Share. Using Augmented Reality voodoo, the technology allows users to share prints extracted from video footage. Using a smartphone or tablet (and soon, I imagine, a smart watch) to “scan” the printed image, the original video with sound is replayed automatically on the scanning device. Are you finding it hard to imagine all of this? I don’t blame you. I saw it and couldn’t believe it.
Here’s a quick cellphone video:
Now, the potential for this is huge. Proud grandparents framing their favorite images and watching the kids play? Wedding images that contain laughs and special songs? Awesome!
A few more cool things we saw during the show:
Some Post-Photokina thoughts
Every year and every trade show comes with a set of buzzwords and catch phrases. Sometimes it seems that manufactures have a pre-show meeting and agree to only talk about two or three topics. Remember 3D? You get my drift. The flavors of the year have been 4K, WiFi, GPS, Curved Sensor, and even CGI.
Image capturing and recording devices, be it stills or motion, have become much more multifunctional. Photographers can now handle many tasks with a single device. Because of this, over the years I’ve been happy to see (at WPPI, NAB, Photokina, and most likely at the upcoming PhotoPlus) that the focus has shifted (slightly) from the megapixels war to perhaps more important topics like image editing, archiving, presentation, and file sharing.
For the longest time, the 24 x 36 has been considered the “gold standard” for sensor formats, but in the past couple of years, the clear improvements on Micro Four Thirds systems have blurred the lines between professional and non-professional camera equipment. Is the $500 GoPro Hero4 capable of 12MP stills, and 4K 30 fps, 2.7K 50 fps, 1080p 120 fps video LESS professional than a three-year old DSLR? Good example: even the Medium Format systems are shrinking with the Pentax 645z.
Take a look at this recent poll on DPReview:
So, what’s coming next? Nobody can predict the future, but the current trends seem to give us some clues on what to expect:
• Cheaper and more efficient processors, faster transfer rates and huge but increasingly cheaper storage devices will enable higher quality videos in 4K or higher resolution. Ultra fast frame rates, continuous-tracking, internal RAW processing and perspective correction, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, and GPS will become standard features.
• Cameras and photo and video hardware will be easier to operate, will require less people to do so, and they will be controlled wirelessly via tablets and smartphones. Redrock Micro’s One Man Crew, the heavy but amazing DJI’s Ronin and Syrp’s Genie are just but a few quick examples. With the complete separation of camera support and camera operation, the camera can transition to and from cranes, hand-held, or flying drones with no significant effort from the comfortably seated operator.
• Lenses will continue to improve, not only in resolution and speed, but also with much better internal optical image stabilization for action shooters and filmmakers. Good examples of lenses that are setting the path are Sigma’s 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM and Sigma’s 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM, two of the most amazing lenses I’ve ever used.
• For monitors, I expect to see higher resolutions, better contrasts and expanded gamuts, but also the possibility to use smaller screens as color-accurate external monitors and viewfinders while also controlling the capturing device.
• We have talked about pulling stills from video for a while, and RED shooters have been able to do this for a while, but the tools to do it quickly while keeping as much data as possible are still lacking. This is about to change; Panasonic’s “4K Photo” system allows users to pull images (16:9, 4:3, 3:2 and even 1:1) with complete EXIF data from 4K footage captured on a number of devices, including the Panasonic GH4, the super compact FZ1000, the high-end HC-X1000, the tiny LX100 and even the CM1 camera phone!
Fuji’s Magic Video Print Share is a huge leap forward and I expect other manufacturers (hear that Adobe?) to quickly jump in the ring.
Shooting with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3. Field report and impressions.
The friendly waiter at the Turkish restaurant in Sohar, Oman, saw the camera on the table and asked “Nikon? Canon? Which one is better?” To which I replied, “actually, this is the Panasonic GH3.” He stared at me, his expression turned from excited to perplexed to confused to annoyed within seconds. After an uncomfortable silence he finally asked, “Are you ready to order?”
That was pretty much my reaction when, a few weeks ago, just two days before I started teaching a “Digital Cinema for Photographers” event in Dubai, I found out that Panasonic, a major sponsor of the event, REALLY wanted me and my students to use a couple of GH3s and several lenses in my hands-on workshop.
Panasonic is one of the largest consumer electronics companies, and the GH3 is the third generation of their very successful Micro Fourth Thirds DSLM (Digital Single Lens Mirrorless) system. For a while I have been aware of the low-budget-filmmaking community’s devotion to the hacked DMC-GH2 and its ALL-I codec. I saw the DMC-GH3 at Photokina last year, but I had never before shot a single frame with a Panasonic camera. The bodies that I was given were running Firmware v0.5. Add to this a nine-hour time zone difference and jet lag, and you can begin to imagine my pain.
While I’ll be using some geeky terms, this is not an in-depth technical review, nor a scientific analysis of the GH3. You can dig into tech specs and MTF charts somewhere else. My goal is simply to share my honest and independent impressions, go over the things I liked and didn’t like, and communicate my wish list for future features. I want to emphasize that all the conclusions in this article are subjective and strictly based on my own personal experience.
“I have to warn you, I’ve heard relationships based on intense experiences never work.”
-Keanu Reeves in “Speed”
I have to respectfully disagree with Keanu on this one. Much to my surprise, the camera was much more intuitive than Sony’s NEX system, and several video features got my full attention right away.
• Full HD 1920×1080 60p/50p (NTSC/PAL) with 30p/25p/24p options.
• Ultra-high bit rate video recorded at 72 Mbps (ALL-I) or 50 Mbps (IPB).
• Capable of recording continuously for an unlimited time for NTSC and 29 min 59 sec for PAL.
• Native support for MOV (h.264), MP4, and AVCHD formats.
• Time Code support in the MOV and AVCHD formats.
• Extremely fast and accurate contrast-detection Autofocus.
• A 3.5mm mic input AND a headphone jack AND the option to manually adjust the sound recording levels via touchscreen controls.
• Full-time AF, AF Tracking, and Face Recognition AF are available for VIDEO. The Touch AF mimics rack focusing.
THE WORKSHOP STORY
Not having enough time to field test the Panasonic systems before the Workshop, I shot dummy clips in my hotel room and made sure that the footage would work in Adobe Premiere Pro CS6. The test went surprisingly smoothly. I then set both GH3 cameras to the same video settings: MOV at 1920×1080, 24p, 72 Mbps ALL-I, Standard Photo Style, White Balance at 5500K, got ND filters for all the lenses, extra batteries, and a few Class 10 SD cards. And then I prayed.
Note: It’s extremely important to point out that full HD on this camera requires memory cards with the fastest speed available. My “older” memory cards didn’t work, giving me only four seconds of recording time.
We spent the first day of my three-day Digital Cinema Workshop covering all the technical similarities and differences between stills and video. On the second day, we planned a location shoot with a Capoeira team and spent a couple hours shooting in the afternoon. On the third and last day we covered the different hardware and software requirements for post production and spent three hours editing the footage. I am especially proud of the short clip my students put together in such a limited amount of time and with newly acquired knowledge (and using brand new gear!).
We could obviously use a few more days sweetening the audio, fine tuning transitions, and grading, but for a two-hour shoot and a three-hour edit, I believe this is a good example of what can be accomplished with great teamwork, interesting subjects, and the GH3’s many customizable options.
Below you will see a few additional sample clips, all shot as H.264, 1920 x 1080, 23.976 72Mbps ALL-I, using the GH3’s “Standard” profile (Contrats = 0, Sharpness = 0, Saturation = 0, Noise Reduction = 0). The Exposure and White Balance were set manually. The lens was the Lumix GX Vario 12-35mm F2.8 set on AF Tracking mode, which worked very well most of the time. Despite the lens having “environmental sealing,” as you can see the fine desert’s sand inevitably found its way to the sensor. I put the clips together on Adobe Premiere Pro CS6, and have NOT done any grading nor sharpening. These short clips are intended to show you what the GH3 is capable of, not to tell a specific story.
So, mission accomplished, right? Not so fast. A couple of days later, as I was wrapping up my day, a friend asked “Are you busy? I wanna show you something interesting.” With only the GH3, the 12-35mm 2.8 lens, a 4GB card and a low battery I jumped into his car. The “something interesting” happened to be access to the Royal Suite at the 7-star Hotel Burj Al Arab—a notoriously difficult area to access. With limited amount of storage space and battery life I managed to capture a few keepers.
The very next morning (on my “day off”), I headed out to meet an old friend for brunch at the Atlantis. Should you ever find yourself in this neck of the woods, I strongly recommend that you pay the Atlantis a visit. As we enjoyed the seemingly endless food, my friend received a call to drive to Abu Dhabi right away to pick someone up and then drive back to Dubai. Would I like to come? Guess what I had hanging on my shoulder? This time I had a full battery and a 16GB card, but nothing else to shoot the magnificent mosque and the impossibly opulent Emirates Palace. Once again, the GH3 did a fantastic job.
These are some of the GH3’s features that are not obvious to the naked eye, but are interesting once you are aware of them:
• A magnesium alloy camera body that Panasonic describes as “splash proof and dust proof.”
• The Panasonic RAW files (RW2) work fine in Adobe Lightroom [add link to LR workshop] but the most current version (4.3 as of this writing) is needed. Unfortunately there are no Panasonic lens profiles available as of this writing.
• All the video formats worked seamlessly on Adobe Premiere Pro CS6. Even the video recorded at 72 Mbps was easy to preview and edit on a two-year old MacBook Pro (with 8GB of RAM and an external 7200 RPM Hard Drive as a Scratch Disk).
• HDMI monitor output can be sent with or without information overlays.
• I had a DMW-MS2 Stereo Shotgun Mic with me, but was happy to learn that the camera’s built-in internal microphones provide stereo audio.
• The GH3’s sensor has a 4:3 aspect ratio.
• Built-in Time Lapse, and HDR but unfortunately it works only for JPGs not RAW.
• Five physical function buttons, and two touch-screen function buttons, all customizable with close to 40 options to choose from.
• Virtually all the key shooting controls are within the right hand’s reach. This frees up the left hand to hold the camera or focus manually.
• Excellent battery life, lasting a full day under normal operation. For extended video sessions I’d consider getting the DMW-BGGH3 Battery Grip.
• Apparently (I have not tested this) the GH3 is also capable of real-time image output to the LVF or the rear monitor AND to an external monitor via HDMI.
I shot extensively (more than 2,000 images in 18 days) with the Lumix GX Vario 12-35mm F2.8. The lens is tiny. And fast. And awesome. It has the equivalent focal length to a 24-70mm F2.8 on a 35mm system but it is a fraction of the size and weight. As you already know, this is a very good start when dealing with packing issues.
In terms of depth of field, the lens behaves like a 16-45mm F3.5 lens on an APS-C sensor, or a 24-70mm F5.6 lens on a Full Frame sensor. It is hard to get used to this, especially when shooting another system simultaneously, but it is not a disadvantage per se.
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Our 10 hidden gems of 2012.
Earlier this week we shared with you our “Crème de la Crème” of 2012, the 10 most visited articles on this site. Today, we would like to share 10 more articles that we feel should have made our top ten list. As a team of educators, technology consultants, and visual storytellers, we are very proud of these posts as we feel that they are extremely relevant and worth your time. We encourage you to read them, share them with those who might be interested, and respond by starting a conversation below.
Without further ado here they are:
We believe young students should be learning flexibility, teamwork, accounting, time management, project management, and languages (especially Spanish and Chinese), to be prepared for the future job markets.
Check out my personal notes and pre-production techniques for photographers and filmmakers.
We explained the 5 main similarities, and 5 main differences between shooting stills and shooting motion.
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Life after Photokina: Canon EOS 6D.
Since we arrived from Photokina we have been bombarded with questions about the 6D. “Did you see it?” “Do you like it better than the 7D?” “Should I buy it?”
Here’s a very quick overview: The megapixel count on Canon’s EOS 6Dis virtually identical to the Mark III, but it is 50% cheaper and 20% lighter. The size is very similar to the 60D, without the tilting and swiveling screen, which in my opinion is one of the strongest selling points of the 60D for video shooters. It is great to see a DIGIC 5+ on this camera, which is approximately three times faster than DIGIC 5, and 17 times (yes, seventeen times) faster than the DIGIC 4 found on the Mark II.
Handy comparison chart from DPReview.
By the way, if you are a photographer and you are not shooting video yet, stop right now and read this “This is why photographers need to learn video right now.” After you finish the article, sign up for any of our upcoming video workshops (here and here).
The 6D matches Nikon’s D800 4.5fps. This is hard toi explain but somehow the camera feels as light as the Rebel bodies without feeling cheap.
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Life after Photokina: Sony’s unreachable wonder.
One of the most impressive announcements at Photokina was Sony’s Cyber-shot RX1, which is basically a point-and-shoot with a full-frame sensor.
The RX1 is the first full-frame Leica-imitating AF rangefinder-style camera. Sony posted some “specification changes” two days ago, which might explain why this camera was the only one on my very long “shopping list” that was only visible behind glass.
With a fast but very limiting fixed 35mm f/2 lens and a $2,800 price tag, which becomes close to $4,000 once a lens shade and EVF are added, this potentially great system will only be accessible to very few photographers. The image quality, according to this Flickr gallery, is very high.
In case you missed it, we previously wrote about the good and bad about Sony’s announcements here. We will definitively dig deeper into these systems on our upcoming Google Hangout on Monday October 15 at 1pm EST.
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Life after Photokina: Fuji’s retro sexy X-E1.
During Photokina Olympus, Panasonic, Sony and Fujifilm announced new mirrorless systems. Fuji has not one but two new cameras, the X-E1 and the XF1. The X-E1 is noticeably smaller than the X-Pro1, but it retains the same Leica-esque retro rangefinder design.
The quality of the EVF is amazing, the grip is very comfortable, and the overall size-to-weight ratio is excellent. The X-E1 is available for preordering on Amazon for $900 body only or $1,400 with the 18-55mm f/2.8 lens.
Life after Photokina: Samsung’s Galaxy Camera.
News from Photokina are like Fall leaves. They are everywhere and it is hard to know where to start taking care of them. Because of that, we are doing two things: a few blog posts highlighting the most interesting and influential products, and a paid Google Hangout on Monday October 15 at 1pm EST, where we will discuss what we saw and learned, and how it will affect your business in 2013.
Photokina is a huge show. There are nine giant exhibition halls and most of them are two stories high. Every corner of these buildings is filled with everything having to do with the photo industry. Canon, Leica, Nikon, and Sony introduced full-frame 35mm-sized sensor cameras, ranging from compact (Sony) to low-cost DSLRs (Canon, Nikon) to high-end pro rangefinders (Leica). Almost everybody claimed significant reductions in shutter lag and focusing speed, and many manufacturers added some form of Wi-Fi connectivity. If you think the iPhone 5 blurs the lines between cameras and smartphones you haven’t seen Samsung’s Galaxy Camera, by far the most original product we saw at Photokina.
Interview with ADF at Photokina.
Here’s another interview from last week at Photokina, this time for the Arbeitskreis Digitale Fotografie or ADF, which means the “Working Group on Digital Photography” and is the equivalent to the APA or ASMP in the U.S.
This link has an interesting collection of photography links in Germany, including museums, education, journals, and other relevant online services.
Photokina TV Interview.
Earlier today we sat down for an interview for Photokina TV in Cologne, Germany. Here’s a segment that is available online:
The Dawn of the Innovated Dead.
Photokina started a few hours ago, and Sony is banging its drums. And loud!
Kazuo Hirai, the brand new CEO (since April), seems to finally come to the realization that in order to compete with Canon and Nikon in the HDSLR arena the company needs to provide products that photographers and filmmakers need, and understand.
The most impressive announcement is the Cyber-shot RX1, which is basically a point-and-shoot with a full-frame sensor.
• The Specs:
35mm full-frame 24.3MP Exmor CMOS sensor, ISO 100-25600, 14-bit RAW image capture, f/2.0 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T lens with 9 aperture blades, P/A/S/M modes, Full HD 24p/60i/60p video with manual control. Check all the features here.
• The Good:
1080p video recording at 60fps or 24fps.
Manual exposure controls for both stills and video.
Automated modes for HDR photography.
• The Bad:
35mm fixed lens, even if it is an F2.0.
For $2,800 it is pretty hard to consider this camera over a full-featured HDSLR. If you are still interested, Amazon is taking pre orders now.