Why I’m Disappointed with Canon

I’ve been a Canon user for a very long time, in fact since 1984. Over most of that time, I’ve been pretty happy with Canon. I’ve liked their innovation and their support of what photographers wanted to do with their gear.

But over recent years, as my own artistic practice has grown and developed, I have become disappointed. My main disappointment is that it seems that Canon no longer understands my needs or the needs of similar creatives. You see, the problem is that I am no longer just a photographer and I am not just a filmmaker. I am both.

Driven by marketing decisions, it seems, Canon developed the EOS Cinema line for filmmakers and the EOS line for still photographers. This split, which does not take into account users who need BOTH capabilities, is best shown in the recent release of the 6D Mark II. Great still camera, like the previous 6D Mark I that I have, but while the rest of the world has moved to 4k video capture, the 6D Mark II is limited to Full HD.

Come on Canon. Even my iPhone (7S) can capture 4k and do so very well with any of the accessory lens systems, like the ExoLens shown below with a Zeiss lens.

Yes, I have a huge investment in L-series glass. But Canon needs to remember that with the rise of mirrorless cameras I can fit that glass onto a Sony or Panasonic body.

So I no longer view myself as a Canon camera user. I’ve become a Canon lens mount system user. My lens mount of choice is the Canon EOS one. I have Canon lenses. I also have a lot of Lensbaby lenses in the Canon mount. And I will have a range of camera bodies from a number of manufacturers, with lens mount adapters, where needed. My next camera body purchase will likely be a Sony or Panasonic.

By failing to recognise that a growing proportion of image makers require both excellent still image shooting and excellent video shooting in one body, Canon has dropped the ball on innovation. A bad move in my opinion.

Panasonic VariCam 35 sheds light on BBC’s Moorside

The VariCam 35 was chosen for the popular BBC One docu-drama The Moorside, the most successful debut of a drama for the Corporation in 15 years.

The Moorside Photo credit – Stuart Wood

Set on Dewsbury’s Moorside estate, the series follows how a group of ordinary women brought the community together as one to try and find a child who had disappeared in their midst.

The ITV Studios-made drama, produced by Ken Horn (The Street, Our Girl) and directed by Paul Whittington (Cilla, Mrs Biggs) was shot on the Panasonic VariCam 35 supplied by rental provider Provision.

The series is based on the real life story of Shannon Matthews, whose 2008 disappearance sparked a major police search before it was revealed that her mother knew where she was, and had colluded with a relative to hide her in the hopes of claiming reward money.

The focus of the drama is on the spirit and determination of the women who led the local campaign to find Shannon, and the impact on them when the truth was revealed that her disappearance was a sham.

Shot in nearby Halifax in the interest of sensitivity, filming took place in January and February 2016 meaning natural light was limited. After carrying out side-by-side camera tests, looking at how they would handle the sodium street lighting of the estate, the VariCam 35 won out as it offered a more true-to-life image.

“The sodium colour came out so well on the VariCam, the other camera we were testing turned the street lighting quite red”, said Stephan Pehrsson, Director of Photography on the shoot with previous credits including Luther, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.

The VariCam 35 has a Super 35 sized sensor. It features a dynamic range with 14+ stops of latitude and a wide color gamut, acquisition functions that
support 4K/120fps uncompressed RAW recording using V-log. The camera uses a PL lens mount.

The Moorside Photo credit – Stuart Wood


“Our mission was to be as invisible as possible, to allow that cinéma vérité feel. Because we weren’t spending so much time resetting lights, we could spend more time shooting and getting better performances from a brilliant cast. We were shooting each setup 7 or 8 times as we were able to turn around on the location so quickly. I pity the DIT who had to deal with such a massive amount of material.”

With two native ISO settings of 800 and 5000 the VariCam 35 is able to achieve very high sensitivity while maintaining a low noise level at 5000 ISO. The noise level at 5000 is nearly identical to that seen at 800 ISO, according to Panasonic.

“We tested the 5000 ISO, as well as 1600, but most of the drama was shot at 3200 ISO. Anything you could see with your eyes the camera saw, maybe more,” continued Stephan Pehrsson.

The VariCam was used in conjunction with 35mm Cooke S4i’s and Angenieux Optimo 15-40 & Angenieux Optimo 45-120 lenses, and shot at ProRes 4444, as the BBC didn’t request 4K.

“The Line Producer loved it, the economic saving from having such limited lighting on set allowed us to bring in more extras, which just enhanced the show,” added Stephan Pehrsson.

“Keeping it small meant that we were also able to have a much lower profile. Obviously it is a sensitive subject and we didn’t want to over-do it. In actual fact, we had such a minimal lighting set-up that Jeff Pope, the Executive Producer, came on set and couldn’t find us. Normally you can’t miss a drama crew.”

Thanks to Panasonic for the quotes, images and information from the press release.

When Documentarians are Journalists: Managing the Blowback Threat

Last night I went to a talk at RMIT University organised by the Docuverse research group. The speaker was Patricia Aufderheide, a visiting academic from the US examining work she has been involved with that looks at the differences and similarities between journalists and documentarians, their attitudes and the issues they face (and the solutions they use).

The talk and discussion that followed was most interesting. As someone who was a print journalist who made the transition to multimedia journalism and who has now added documentary film making to the mix, I could relate to the discussion very closely. A conclusion was that while so many things are in common for the two groups, there are differences. A significant one is that journalists feel much more protected than documentary film makers do.

Here is a link to the document Dangerous Documentaries: Reducing Risk when Telling Truth to Power on the American University website.

DIMi is Back

DIMi has been very quiet over recent years as I’ve been concentrating on other things, specifically my PhD. That’s now complete and behind me. The website where you can see all the work created for it is waynecosshall.com.

This is a version of the final video piece that shows all three video channels on the one video

Tree of Everywhere Combination of Channels v2 from Dr. Wayne J. Cosshall on Vimeo.

So what’s coming for DIMi next?

Well a new podcast is in the works, as well as a series of photography books and much more, so stay tuned.

Digital Tri-Colour Photography In Full Colour and Infrared

An old technique has a new lease on life in the digital world of Photoshop to create interesting images from both compact digital cameras and from dSLRs.

Back in the dark ages when I shot film 🙂 I used a creative technique called tri-color photography. In this technique I would set my camera, then a wonderful Canon T90, into multiple exposure mode, mount a Cokin filter holder and then, with the camera on a good tripod, shoot three exposures onto the same frame, one through a strong red filter, one through a green and one through a blue. The resulting transparency (that’s what I normally shot) would show a roughly naturally colored image of anything that did not move but wonderful color effects on subjects in motion. The technique worked well but it was not without its issues. Even with the Cokin filter system there was a risk of moving the camera or adjusting the lens zoom or focus while changing filters. Also, whilst in theory the three filters should have given a result in natural color, there were the inevitable differences between the exact exposure required through the three filters so that the result always had a color cast, though sometimes a small one. But the technique worked and I got some lovely images, especially of the sea, that I exhibited as large Cibachromes.

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Now that I work digitally this technique is even easier. Digital cameras have the red, green and blue filters built in, but few have the ability to take multiple exposures. Thankfully there is no need for it.

Digitally, the tri-color process consists of the following steps:

Mount the camera on a sturdy tripod and either use a cable release or the self-timer;

Take three shots of a scene with some part of it moving;

Open the three images in Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro or similar software;

Copy the green channel from the second image and paste it into the green channel of the first image;

Copy the blue channel from the third image and paste it into the blue channel of the first image;

This gives you a composite image with the red channel of the first, green of the second and blue of the third.

You want to time the shooting so there is opportunity for movement to occur between shots. Generally, with things like the ocean or trees on a windy day, you can just shoot. With clouds moving you may want to give more time between shots.

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Here is the step by step in Photoshop:

  1. Open three images in Photoshop. Select the first one;
  2. Do a Select All
  3. Activate the Channels palette and click on the Green channel
  4. Switch to the second file and select its Green channel
  5. Select All and copy the channel to the clipboard
  6. Switch back to the first file and paste the clipboard into the Green channel
  7. Select the Blue channel
  8. Switch to the third file, Select All and select the Blue channel
  9. Copy the Blue channel to the clipboard
  10. Switch back to the first file and Paste the clipboard into the Blue channel
  11. Click on the RGB channel to see the result
  12. The result after a mild sharpen

The above is, if you like, the classic approach. There are lots of variations you can make.

For example, if you shoot infrared, as I do, you can do a slightly different sequence:

  1. Open the three IR images
  2. Select the first image, do Select All and then select the Green channel
  3. Switch to the second image, click on the Red channel, do Select All and Copy
  4. Switch back to the first image and Paste the Red channel from the second image into the Green channel of the first
  5. Select the Blue channel
  6. Switch to the third file, select the Red channel, do Select All and Copy
  7. Switch back to the first file and Paste the Red channel from the third image into the Blue channel of the first.

You can, of course combine the green channels, in which case you move the channels into the middle file, moving the Green from the 1st into the Red of the 2nd and the Green of the 3rd into the Blue of the 2nd.

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Remember, the resulting image is just a starting point for further work. You can swap the channels around till you get the color effects you want, do individual adjustments on the channels, apply blur or sharpen and so much more.

These tri-color processes work and work well. Some subjects work better than others, as is true of any technique.

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Sony expands range of compact full-frame mirrorless cameras with the launch of the ultra-sensitive Alpha 7S II

Press Release Sydney, 11 September 2015  Sony today announced the latest addition to its award winning series of compact, full-frame 7 cameras with the introduction of the 7S II. Offering ultra-high sensitivity and wide dynamic range across the entire ISO range and 5-axis image stabilisation for greater shooting control, the 7S II delivers stunning image quality for photographers who shoot in the most challenging light conditions. Be it the brightest of mornings or darkest of nights, the 7S II enables new levels of photographic expression at whatever shutter speed you wish to deploy. The 7S II also incorporates a host of pro-style movie functions including the ability to shoot 4K video with full pixel readout and no pixel binning in full-frame format, making it an extremely appealing proposition for photographers and videographers alike.

 Sony 7S II

The 7S II delivers an awe-inspiring sensitivity range of ISO 50-409600, thanks to the combination of its 35mm full-frame 12.megapixel image sensor and BIONZ X image processing engine. The sensor optimises the dynamic range across the entire ISO range and broadens the range of tonal gradation in bright environments and minimises noise in dark scenes meaning that it delivers impressive results even in the most extreme conditions. The upgraded image processing algorithm of BIONZ X maximises the sensor”Æs capabilities and improves depiction throughout the full sensitivity range with particular emphasis on the mid-to-high range. This means that the resulting stills and movies demonstrate extra-fine detail with minimal noise.

 

Video Master

The 7S II can record 4K movies internally in the XAVC S format meaning that content is wonderfully detailed. Because information from all pixels is utilised without line skipping or pixel binning, the camera can maximise the expanded power of the full-frame image sensor and produce 4K movies with higher image clarity and negligible moire. Full pixel readout without pixel binning is also employed when shooting Full HD[v] movies which means that it collects information from approximately five times as many pixels that are required to generate Full HD and condenses the information to produce extremely high quality movies.

 

In a first for the 7 series, the 7S II can record 120fps at 100Mbps with full pixel readout without pixel binning in full frame format which can be edited into wonderful 4x/5x slow motion footage in Full HD. The 7S II also has the ability to shoot 4x/5x slow motion footage internally which can be immediately reviewed on the camera screen. 

 

Video functionality has been further enhanced with new profiles; S-Gamut3.Cine/S-Log3 and S-Gamut3/S-Log3. These new profiles deliver wide dynamic range and colour correction is easier to perform. The ¦Į7S ll even offers impressive 14-stop latitude in the S-Log3 gamma setting. The camera also supports S-Gamut/S-Log2 which is very popular among cinematographers and videographers. Gamma Display Assist is a new function that allows users to monitor images or check focus when recording S-Log movies and the Zebra function has been improved for even greater control. 

 

5-Axis Image Stabilisation

The new 7S II is equipped with the innovative 5-axis image stabilisation system that is proving extremely popular in the 7 II and 7R II cameras. The system corrects camera shake along five axes during shooting, including angular shake (pitch and yaw) which has the greatest impact on image quality and tends to occur with a telephoto lens, shift shake (X and Y axes) which becomes noticeable as magnification increases, and rotational shake (roll) that often affects night shooting or video recording.

 

Autofocus accuracy

The autofocus system on the ¦Į7S II has been upgraded and now offers 169 AF points for fast, precise focusing with greater accuracy. The power of the image sensor means that the absence of noise in images generated enables the Fast Intelligent AF to detect contrast more easily and react speedily even in low-light situations (as low as EV-4), when it”Æs even tough to check with the naked eye. When shooting video, the AF performance is twice as fast as the predecessor model.

 

Electronic Viewfinder

The XGA OLED Tru-Finder in the ¦Į7S II has been upgraded and offers the world”Æs highest viewfinder magnification of 0.78x (roughly 38.5 degrees in diagonal field of view) and shows clear images across the entire display area. The use of ZEISS T* Coating ensures sharp reduction of reflections on the viewfinder and unlike an optical viewfinder, the OLED Tru-Finder can be used to instantly show how exposure compensation, white balance and other selected settings are affecting the displayed image.

 

User upgrades

A number of enhancements have been made to the look and feel of the 7S II to make it more user friendly, reliable and intuitive. Its magnesium-alloy body is both light and highly robust and the grip and shutter buttons have been re-designed so that the camera feels more natural in the hand. For situations when you just want to blend into the background, silent shooting mode can be activated for 5fps continuous shooting and reliability has been enhanced with reduced-vibration shutter movement. The lens mount has been further reinforced to ensure greater resilience, particularly when attaching third party lenses and users can now charge the camera via a USB power supply whilst the camera is in operation, thus extending battery life. For greater comfort and safety, Sony is also launching the LCS-EBF; a new premium leather body case for the 7S II which is also compatible with the 7R II and 7 II.

 

The 7S II is also Wi-Fi and NFC compatible and fully functional with Sony”Æs PlayMemories Mobile application available for Android and iOS platforms, as well as Sony”Æs growing range of PlayMemories Camera Apps, which add a range of fun creative capabilities to the camera.  Learn more at www.sony.net/pmca.

 

Pricing and availability

The new 7S II full-frame interchangeable lens digital camera from Sony will be available in Australia before the end of this year. Pricing is TBC.

Frame.io with FCPX integration is a great platform for video editing collaboration

Frame.io has now been around for a few months and already had over 30,000 users. They now have a desktop app that integrates into FCPX and makes it really easy to share the timeline or part of it with collaborators and team members.

Frame.io is kind of a better hybrid of Dropbox and Vimeo. It provides for very fast upload of video files, makes sharing easier with collaborators and team members and provides an integrated commenting system that is tied to the timeline so that comments are synced to the video exactly. This alone makes Frame.io a better way to work that uploading video to Dropbox or Vimeo and then using email communicate with collaborators by sharing links and timecodes that people often get wrong. The system supports versioning and makes this very easy to work with, including synchronised playback of two versions for visual comparison purposes in a web browser.

Now with the app for Mac OS and FCPX this process is more integrated into FCPX and you can easily share the timeline in whole or part, particular clips, etc with collaborators. Support for other NLEs is not there yet but underway.

We are just starting to work with it and so will have more to report down the track.

Frame.io

Frame.io FCPX app

Frame.io

No Film School has an article about the FCPX integration app

 

 

Tangerine movie shot with iPhones and anamorphic lens adapters

Sean Baker’s latest film, Tangerine, was shot on iPhones using the FiLMiC app and Moondog Labs 1.33x anamorphic lens adapters to give a wide screen but full 2k resolution film. The result is not only an amazing film but an impressive demonstration of just what you can do with an iPhone. The iPhones were mounted on Steadicam type devices for fast movement and quick setups.

Read the FastCreate article here.

FiLMiC App

Moondog Labs 1.33x Anamorphic adapter

Schneider Optics iPro Case

tangerine