Author Topic: How do I choose a camera  (Read 2293 times)


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How do I choose a camera
« on: October 15, 2012, 12:57:45 AM »
How do I chose a camera: Remember you do not need to agree with me. What is good for me can be bad for you. But if you want better DR for an affordable price think about this:

First I was hungry for a high resolution, moire/aliasing free, no compression artifacts camera. I could not accept defects in the image. So when the DSLR revolution begun I waited until the almost perfect image camera was released: the hacked GH2.

Looking further, There was another must have features:

I found I could not live without an articulated LCD. Carry, install and handle an external monitor is annoying. Weight on backpack and over the camera, size, batteries to charge and so on.

Good low light performance, at least iso 3200 was a must too. In some tests I found the human eye can see the same of 6400 iso at shutter 1/25 and f1.4, so if the camera can do this it is better.

Small, lightweight camera.

Affordable price, no more than 1K usd.

An EVF would be great, but without it I can use a dslr loupe.

Manual audio control, another must to avoid hiss using a preamp and also get constant audio level.

low noise at low light or, if there was noise, not so hard to be cleaned with denoise software.

I like big sensors. I come from a full frame 35mm still photo background and big sensors delight me. But the GH2 won the game due to the amazing image quality.

At that time I was not worried about dynamic range or about slow motion resolution. 720p slow motion in GH2 was good enough.

I even got used to the lack of headphoes connector and accepted work looking at the audio metering on screen or use phones connected to the wireless receiver.

But suddenly the highlight clipping in GH2 and the no option to get good shadows at same time of good light area start to annoy me. The i.dynamic feature does not work with legacy lenses, it just works with native/electronic m43 lenses, and it does not solve the problem at all. So I started to look around on internet to try to find the "magical camera" a GH2 with better dynamic range. But the answer was simple: it did not exist. But new models and hacks starts to show up.

The BMCC: 13 sftops DR, but it is not for me. no articulated lcd, maximum iso just 1600, difficult to do handheld shooting, not expensive for many people, but expensive for me, small sensor, large file sizes and expensive storage.

All other affordable cameras do not improve the DR enough to worth buy.

I even started drol about the VG900 due to the camcorder form factor and FF sensor, but the DR is not that great to handle highlights.

I know magic lantern HDR video was laying around since december 2011 but there was some issues I did not like. To work in 1080p it needs optical flow and it gives some annoying artifacts to the image movement. And working with 720p in Canon cameras was considered by me the "never option" due to low resolution, softness, aliasing, moire and so on.

The Magic Lantern HDR uses different iso in alternate frames to get two streams to merge in post. If you work with 720p 50p you get two 25p streams and you just need to do optical flow in the highlight stream to do merge, so the movements are good.

I did a research in reduser forum and people says you just need to interpret footage to change 25p to 23,976p, no need anything else, audio pitch correction is an option, but people say tv stations in europe do not do it. The ML allows to work with 48fps, but without audio, so 50fps is the way to go.

I become so hungry for DR I start new researches about the Canon cameras in 720p quality. I downloaded lots of videos from vimeo and review websites And I found it is not that bad. It is bad if you put it side by side with GH2, but if you look at it alone, to be honest: it is good enough!

Resolution is not everything, dynamic range start to become more important for me than resolution and there are some shoots impossible for any affordable camera to do, like a person inside a house against a opened window. The ML HDR can do it, and can do great! Vimeo have lots of videos showing this, just search magic lantern hdr. Also search for T3i 720p to download some videos to see the quality.

If you know how to work with the Canon 720p it can be good. tripod and shallow dof helps a lot, but do not feel tied to this. You can do handheld and architecture no problem. People who watch the videos will look at the main subject and will not be looking for image imperfections. The 50 inch LCD tv sets from 10 feet distance shows no significant difference between 1080p and 720p. We keep looking at our computer monitors so close and due to this we get hungry for resolution, but if you look at a 720p DLP or 3LCD projector in average distance the image will be amazing!

So after this conclusions I found the T3i 600D with HDR magic lantern is THE camera to go. Also Canon cameras have the Highlight Tone Priority function. It improves 1,3-1,7 fstops highlight over GH2 and there are some picture style profiles which allow even better DR in 1080p: Lightform, Cinema PS, Visioncolor / Visiontech, Marvel

The T3i 600D have all features: good codec and datarate, sdhc and sdxc cards, manual audio, articulated LCD, 6400 iso good enough to clean, aps size sensor, affordable price, image stabilization in kit lens, can use nikon lenses, good DR picture profiles to load into camera, highlight tone priority, 3,5mm mic jack, magic lantern is almost finishing the audio monitoring and agc disable for it, but canon original firmware allows manual audio control also. Also ML allows peaking, zebra, histogram, vectorscope, waveform, HDR video and lots of other features. It has manual exposure: iso, shutter and aperture, also there is a company developing a moire/aliasing filter to fit near the mirror which can clean the image imperfections. It is shipping for 7d and 5d and almost shipping for T3i.

So why will I keep myself a resolution slave? I like the Canon 720p quality to do better DR with ML HDR or with HTP and picture profiles. It is very cinematic in a projector. 115 inch screen from 10 to 12 feet is great for 720p.

Remember you do not need to agree with me. What is good for me can be bad for you. But if you want better DR for an affordable price think about it.