Author Topic: Beginners experience, filming with a reflex... WTH?  (Read 1352 times)


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Beginners experience, filming with a reflex... WTH?
« on: July 13, 2018, 09:21:28 PM »
hey there :-)

I'd like to share a little smalltalk I just wrote, well, have fun, and don't hesitate to kill me if I said something stupid... :-) Oh, just before getting flamed about my english, it's not my mothertongue... I'm more used to french or german speaking, but I think you'll get a brief idea of what I'm talking about here under :-)

It's a little beginners guide, mistakes, choices, and so on...

Making videos with a reflex cam. What the hell? Aren’t they not only for photo shooting?

This little article is intended to help beginners with making their choices, and especially to demonstrate that theory and practice are not always pairing well… and some will smile seeing I ran into the same **** of problems and questioning :-) Or maybe not, just laughing how dumb I am, why not :-)

Yeah… years ago a colleague of mine used a reflex cam to shoot videos, where I had an expensive (1000€) Full HD video cam that time. Maybe expensive isn’t the right word here, but at least you see at what level I’m playing at…not at the 10k base for sure!
I asked him why, he answered: so I have choices over lenses and field of view and other things over surroundings… yeah, that idea wasn’t that bad, had to think about.

And here it started… around Mai 2018…

I started this year, making videos with a reflex. What a hard way… now the choices were all made and I’m already working with them, I’d like to share my experience to beginners who want to shoot videos too, not exceeding a certain budget where you’d have to sell your house, jokingly. Because between making a choice and then live with it, differs sometimes here and there, the unexpected way, of course, how else :-)

I’ll cover different things: gimbal, reflex, lenses, filter, … I’ll try not getting lost, promise!

First, the reflex-cam choice. (I tell you immediately: it won’t be a Full frame, too expensive, not even thinking full frame lenses!).
After reading weeks about different Canon models, I proceed through elimination. I wrote down only the MUST BE points needed for my needs, on the reflex to choose. I had an easy start for the made: CANON. Why? I already had a canon cam with an expensive lens (sigma 120-400), and wanted to keep that zoom lens. But even though, knowing it would be a canon, it took me miles before getting THE model I wanted for what I needed.

As said above, first things of: write down the MUST BE point of your wanted reflex. Mine was: max focus follow points, FullHD and flip screen. And the choice, for my needs, ended up in the Canon 77D models. To be said, but you’ll see that later here in my experience: flip screen wasn’t necessary being a MUST BE in my list, but… I couldn’t know that before! More about later on! Oh, and other point I made wrong: I should have bought just the reflex body, without the lens… bad move on this one, will explain later on, why…or not, I’ll do it now: I just don’t use the default lens due to its high F4-5,6 value. So, that’s done.

So, over at least 2 weeks searching and reading, I’ve made my choice and bought the 77D. That said I was lucky, Canon had an offer running on this model, cash-back found accidentally. More on how to buy at lowest price, at the end of this article, if I don’t get lost with all points I wanna go through with and for you…

Now to the gimbal choice: For me the choice was easy, after understanding the different models, my choice headed to the Zhiyun Crane 2.
Zhiyun models I were confused with were the Z. crane, Z. crane v2, Z crane 2… and now days the new Z. Crane plus, evolution of the Z. crane v2. They came all out in the order I’ve enumerated them but not as fast I wrote it :-) )… Now you might say: hey, what about the Ronin S?!
And you’re so right, the evening I went home with my firm will to order the Z. crane 2, I stumbled on a newsfeed mentioning the new comer (that time being) DJI Ronin S.

As I wanted to start filming as soon as possible, I ordered the Z. crane 2 over amazon with the intention to send it back, ordering the Ronin S within the month once available. Bad news: the Ronin S went out of stock at release. At the other hand, I started to use the Z. crane 2 and could more likely understand the good and bad points of such a thing. Well, I wanted the Ronin S, first of because of his motor wasn’t in sight of the LCD screen of the cam. And here all reviews and experience comparison start to get interesting. As this was a MUST BE point on my gimbal choice, I can now say that it’s not a MUST BE anymore… but again, couldn’t know that at first! And why it wasn’t that important anymore will be revealed here soon...

Little info about balancing your gimbal with your mounted cam… a thing I learned whilst using it: Before starting to balance your gimbal, make sure it’s in the exact state you’d film!
When I first balanced the gimbal, I did it wrong and didn’t understood right away what was wrong. Well, solution is simple when thinking about: Before starting balancing it, I had to connect the USB cable from the crane 2 to the 77D and remove the lens hood. It’s very little weight, but that’s just the point, all is about weight, and every gram counts here! So again, balance it in the exact state you’d use your cam, hope that makes sense… even if it sounds jokingly, it isn’t.

I first started to film with the canon 77D sitting on its Zhiyun Crane 2, inside my own house. Cats, kids and so forth. I encountered already one practical problem, which explains the flip screen MUST BE, isn’t a MUST BE at the end… The camera is connected through a USB cable to the zhiyun. Problem is, that yes, the screen still flips vertically out from the camera, so you can look at it on its left side, but when I went down, filming just over floor height, I couldn’t flip the screen horizontally so I couldn’t easily see what I’m filming at. The usb connected cable prevents the screen from being flipped horizontally.

This just to demonstrate: the MUST BE write down points, can be reviewed but then it’s too late… even thinking twice, you might miss a point. Here I missed the point that the cam needed to be USB connected to the gimbal: At least, if I want to keep the functionalities out from the crane 2, of course. That’s also a point I love on the Zhiyun, I can change the settings of the cam with the Zhiyun building wheel… very useful, especially when…. Oh, you’ll understand later, read further, I’ll come back to it.
But so far, I was very happy with the 77D and the crane 2. It’s just impressive!

Oh my god, I forgot: with the 77D body came the 18-55 lens, with autofocus and image stabilization. I replaced it very fast by a cheap lens, but really worth it when on low budget: Yongnuo 35mm autofocus! I did it because of its lowlight capabilities (F2), so nicer bokeh, blurred background image… Talking ‘bout lowlight capabilities, I rapidly understood that I needed lowlight lenses, and that this need, would dig big holes into my budget, wait, what budget, it was all gone already (ouch). The more I read, the more I went specific, and the more specific I went the more I started to cry seeing the price tags I were aiming to… but, more to lenses, later on. So here I was with my 35mm F2 lens, impressive, really!

Another point I’ll mention, filters…

…..damn, it’s getting complicated not losing track of what I want to talk about :-) …

…Ok, let’s go short about filters: at F2 with my new lens, meaning letting a lot of light into, focusing on nearby objects giving a nice bokeh (blurred image) on background and vice versa. The will to keep a low ISO, I had to add an ND filter, where I chose to buy a circular ND filter, avoiding having different ND filters to carry with. I let you google why using ND filters because covering everything in detail would make me writing books after books! Last part about filters: I also bought a circular Polarizer (PL) filter.

Ok, to cover it very roughly: the ND circular filter lets you varying the amount of light coming through the lens, just by turning it. Limiting this, I could leave the F value to 2 on my lens and other thing to know about: filming at 60fps I could now increase shutter speed to 125…. Keep in mind: double shutter speed compared to FPS… this also, google it, can’t cover everything into detail :-) In great lines, the result on moving things, makes them look more natural moving due to the blur introduced to less light coming in… you see? You’ll need to google about…

Now, the circular PL filter is used to reduce reflection. For this, 2 simple examples:

Under a sunny day, filming a car without a PL filter will result on its windshields reflections. With the PL filter on, you’ll be more able to see through the windshields. Same for water surfaces: Without a PL filter you’ll get reflection on the water, hiding therefore everything lying below underwater. Screwing the PL filter over the lens will remove those hard reflections and you’ll start to see through the water. Now, this trick doesn’t work on our northern coasts in Belgium, you can’t see through the water even when there’s no sun, it’s by nature… ok, back to serious…

Second example: Real estate roofs. Ever being blinded by reflections of roofs from the sun? The PL filter removes those ‘white’ reflections and the real color of the roofs start to shine through. And you just can’t correct such reflections through software afterwards, impossible.

Last point then I’ll finish the filter part: always put them in the right order when mounting both on the lens: lens – PL filter – ND filter. So the ND filter is the last one to put on.
Keep in mind: lenses have different filter diameter at their front. Here my tip would be: buy the largest available filter, and get filter upscale rings for lower diameter lenses of yours… you’ll see filters get quite expensive, if you need to buy PL & ND filter for each lens you own…I made myself the mistake and ended up buying 3 times PL & ND filters… bummer. And, another not so easy sweet point: as both filters are circular, ie variable, you’ll have to earn some reflexes on how and when to manipulate them. As when you turn one, the other would turn too, well, I leave it to your discovering.

I went filming outside, under bright sun. And here, serious problems started to show up about the flipscreen, remember? My MUST BE flipscreen? Well, under bright sun it’s just no more possible to really see what you’re aiming at through the screen, overwhelmed by sunshine.

Next step: external monitor to view what I’m filming, as in certain circumstances, the flip screen is just unusable…First of, I hear already someone screaming: SMALLHD FOCUS…. Yeah, agree, but… that’s way too much for my budget. So I decided to go for a quarter of an SmallHD Focus price class, the andycine A6 screen, a bit over 5 inch screen. Bad point though, no touch screen. And here again, next things who aren’t as practical as they seemed to be on paper … connecting the screen to the canon, makes the LCD screen of the 77D to switch off! Oh… second problem, mounting it on top the Zhiyun mini dual grip I bought just for this purpose, wasn’t practical at all, as the gimbal or camera hit the screen whilst stabilizing… and I’m not talking about the HDMI cable I had to connect from the screen to the canon. Added weight/imbalance to the gimbal, cable management… it now gets complicated and really serious thinking on what, when and where… the all in one solution dream just went berserk. Remember above where I spoke about camera controls over the spinning wheel mounted on the Zhiyun? Lucky it was there, cause now as the LCD went off, controlling camera settings manual was only doable on the Zhiyun stick, if I didn’t want to touch the cam anymore. Things come handy sometimes, luckily!

Point I forgot to mention in the meantime, I bought a battery extension (with add on batteries too) mounted under the camera. This wasn’t a problem with my gimbal, until I bought both sigma lenses, 18-35 F1.8 and the 17-50 F2.8 lens… here again, unexpected problems start to show up…

…who just said “budget” ? What budget? I need those, damn it! …

Why I bought both? Well, the first one because of its very lowlight capacity (F1,8, damn it yeah!) and non-extrusive zoom lens (I mean, it remains all in one block, you’ll understand soon why…) and the second because of its build in image stabilizer… Yeah but I got a Gimbal…. Ok, but on harder moves or runs I’m not able to cover micro vibrations, so an image stab helps though… and inside I don’t run, so that’s ok…

With the battery extension it all worked well with the Yongnuo 35 F2 lens, as this lens is very light weighted. But with each of the 2 new sigma lenses, I came to new problems: they’re so heavy that I had to order the arm extension for the crane 2, lowering the position of the plate/cam-holder, being able to balance it again the right way… this was problem number one with both sigma lenses, problem number 2 was unexpected and so I learned again the same point I mentioned at the very beginning of balancing the crane 2: not only I had to re-balance the gimbal on every lens change, so far no surprise, the 17-50 lens sees its lens move out when zooming, which the 18-35 doesn’t (get the point above about the lens being one block now?)… so, weight changes on zoom levels, hell now I’m getting sick of all parameters to take in consideration!

So, every need, does have its up and downs, and there’s no one-for-all solution.

Oh, I forgot another point which I didn’t get out of any video I watched… about the crane 2: switching up to down position the crane 2 worked fine… the time being the setup remained low (no battery extender on the 77D), and lightweighted (Yongnuo 35mm), all you see on youtube works just great, as expected. With weight and height, new problems occur: I can’t tilt downward anymore without any complicated movement. Think also if you tilting up to down, and you’re using an external monitor, new issues will show up, I let you find it out by yourself, you can imagine!

So, in short words: if your setup and needs remain very standard without getting too complicated or specific, it remains as like as your needs: basic and easy. Everything around growing needs, will play with your nerves around.

I’m sure I could cover WAY more, but the purpose here is to demonstrate through my little and light experience, problems showing up which weren’t expected, at all! Just think about the external control monitor in add on: tell me where on amazon you see a picture where it’s connected with a camera mounted on the gimbal?? I didn’t find any, they are all loose… so it might be misleading as you won’t think immediately about practical side. Sorry, maybe you do or did…. I didn’t, at least not always :-)

Now, how to get things cheaper? Well, a bit of research, compare and luck… check out if the brand you’re buying is not offering a cash back or somelike action (for the canon I could take advantage of their summer action…). Personally I buy a lot over amazon. Now, prices are varying between, .de and… If between them there’s no significant action, maybe you could check at the site, the price history of your wanted item, maybe you’ll see it at its lowest or highest price tag over the time scale… maybe you could check other sites about prices… just beware everything’s coming from certain countries, as above a certain price tag or weight, you might have to pay taxes or whatever when the package arrives: surprise!!!!! Happened to me once, as I ordered a helicopter control stick for my cockpit… it cost around 600€… and when the package arrived I had to drop 120€ more, no choice to pay!

Before you get something about your film-rig, read twice, even more, and make sure it’s doing what you need to, without being overshoot! Always try to play the devils play, search the flaws on what you’re aiming at!
My last stupid move? Wanted to film real estate, inside… well, a wide angle lens is needed and my 2 expensive lenses didn’t do the job, the lowest angle lens with 17mm… so I saw different reviews of the excellent Laowa 12mm Z-Distortion lens! Wow, what a beast! I ordered it…

… WHO SAID BUDGET AGAIN?!... hope my wife won’t hear that!!!!

… now, a mistake happened and the order… and happily it did! The Laowa is of course still a beast and want to have, but not on a APS-C reflex cam! I’d ended up with a 19,2mm lens and would have been shocked by the (non-) result! I read so much about I forgot that I had a cropped sensor, and that the 12mm are for the full frame ones… So well, I bought the tightest I could, the Samyang 10mm F2,8 (couldn’t find wider lense without becoming a fish lens, with a lowlight capacity of F2,8).

… YOU THERE, IT’S YOU!!!!! … Got the one who yelled BUDGET again, hell man!

Now with all those parts, my budget was covered :-) The part I didn’t expected is that I’d explode it to twice its value! If I remember well I wanted basically the Zhiyun, 800€ and the reflex for 870€, as I’m excellent in math, it makes 1670€. To my surprise I found out the cash-back action from Canon, and the price drop from the zhiyun, YEAH, LOW UNDER THE BUDGET! … but… at the end, it went up to 3221€…

Here just for the fun, the price tags (and some are very good, you can try to get them cheaper, good luck!)

For your info: the price I wrote is the price I paid a time being… they vary of course! Items I talked about, not showing up below, is because I sent them back, as of no more use! But just for the info, the 2 Yongnuo lenses, 35mm and 50mm were just excellent on video quality, really!

Hope you enjoyed that little article :-)

// Removed all of the (amazon spam) links, feel free to post them one at a time if asked.  Audionut.