Cameras and Such

The iPhone 13 Pro is the first phone camera I’ve had that I’m happy with just as a camera. Not as “good for a phone camera” but as a tool I can use to capture exactly the image I want when I see it. Also, importantly, I’m getting the image I want on the first or second attempt, which is super important for catching the exact moment.

It’s got me enthusiastic about photography again, enthusiasm that was previously dampened by having to carry a DSLR.

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The Leica M11 is here. If anyone else has $9k to burn, you know what to get me.

https://leica-camera.com/en-US/photography/cameras/m/m11-black/details

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They finally officially announced it. The only major feature it has that would matter to me is real-time desqueezed anamorphic output. This would allow live streaming with an anamorphic lens, a truly unique feature.

Every other feature is just more pixels, frames, quality. Nothing that justifies the expense to someone like me who isn’t doing professional work.

There’s also the Olympus OM-1 announced last week.

And the A7 IV announced the week before that. I guess that’s exciting for SONY people.

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I haven’t bought any camera anything in a long time. I sort of maxed out all my photo/video needs. There’s just one thing I’m missing and I think it’s going to be announced in two days. That thing is a gimbal. I was live streaming myself in the park and boy did my hand hurt from holding the camera a way it was not meant to be held.

The DJI Ronin SC2 is basically the ideal. It probably even does more than what I need. I was going to get one, but it looks like the Ronin 3 is set to be announced.

Seeing as how the 2 has more features than I would ever need, I’m not sure what the 3 will improve that matters to me. I guess if it’s lighter and has better battery life, that could be nice. But hey, always good to get the newest one for the sake of support and such. Or maybe get a used 2 for cheap if someone sells to upgrade?

Guess I’ll report back here in two days.

I don’t want to be “you’re doing it wrong” guy, but have you experimented with a handle, or a mini tripod? I’m not sure what a gimbal will add that a gorilla pod won’t.

Yeah, I’m somewhat with Luke on this one - Unless you’re trying to do video that would benefit from dynamic stabilization, regular tripods/monopods/whatever else like that would serve you just as well. And they do exist for SLRs, thanks to the proliferation of youtubers with great cameras doing selfie-style shots.

That said, not saying there’s no case for them, I’m mostly just curious as to what you’re getting up to. I’m even in support if you just want to get one to fuck around with and see what you CAN do with one, it’s a valid reason as any other.

I bought a DJI Osmo gimbal for my cell phone years ago. I think I used it like 2-3 times. And the most useful video was a test video I shot while riding my longboard down my street. I just never needed stabilized video while on the move at a time when I had the forethought or space to have brought the gimbal with me. That is not to say they are useless, but I didn’t think through my need sufficiently before buying it.

If anyone wants to buy it off me, make me an offer.

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Yeah, I tried some other options, a grip, a monopod, a gorillapod equivalent. They’re definitely more than good enough in a lot of situations. And yes, the main use of the gimbal where the camera person is running taking action footage is not something I will do often.

But the main feature the gimbal has that is really appealing is the ability to automatically follow the subject. A camera on a tripod doesn’t move on its own. If I’m all alone I would have to keep walking over to it every time I wanted it to aim differently. With the gimbal I can walk around and it will track me. That’s really useful even if I put the gimbal itself on a tripod and I’m waking back and forth on a stage giving a lecture. And if you compare the price to the cost of hiring a camera operator, it’s a bargain.

Also, while the main feature, the stabilization, is merely a nice to have for my use case, it really does drastically increase the watchability of the resulting video while avoiding the need to do GPU-intensive and time consuming stabilization during post. If I just casually walk down the street with a camera on some kind of grip vs walk down the street with the gimbal, the gimbal video will have the subject centered the whole time, and won’t cause viewer sickness.

And hey, if turns out to be not as useful as I thought, i can just sell it.

Sure enough the rumors were true. Today DJI announced the RS3 Pro and RS3. Lots of general improvements as expected, but nothing truly outrageous. The coolest feature is that it locks and unlocks on its own. That’s not really necessary, but is pretty big quality of life improvement. Also, it seems like they did quite a good job of maintaining backwards compatibility with regards to accessories, so that’s nice.

The real announcement, which was quite a surprise to me at least, was the DJI Transmission system.

This is obviously something that only professionals are ever going to need, but on paper it seems very very nice. With this system you can take just about any camera and operate it, and the gimbal it is on, from quite far away while still seeing what the camera sees in HD. All this functionality already exists in many other products, but this bundles it all into one neat package. The price of $2500 puts it well within reach of a lot of lower budget productions.

I can see this being useful not just for productions where the camera must go to a dangerous or hard-to-reach area, but also just as a means to get the camera operators away from the subject matter. Imagine being able to put a really fucking good camera out in the forest for some wildlife videos and being able to completely control it from afar instead of using a boring old stationary GoPro on a stick. It definitely unlocks some creative potential that was previously only possible for those with deeper pockets.

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Mirrors, rest in peace.

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So I am still using my Lumix G7 as a general purpose photo and video camera. However a recent event I tried to film has really left me disappointed in both my own abilities as a camera operator, and the abilities of my current setup. Right now my biggest lens is only a 45-150mm from the Lumix lineup. I have a decent fluid base tripod from Manfrotto and I’m happy enough with my Rode shotgun mic for sound.

An airplane I’ve spent the last 6 years designing and building has flown! We hired a professional test pilot to do those first honors, and it went as expected for first flights. Prove it works, but find that some things need additional attention before flying again. We’re currently working on those things.

Anyway here’s one of the clips I’ve edited down for sharing, but otherwise has no effects or alterations done to the footage/audio:

Needless to say it’s not great! Issues I had was significant heat mirage and very bright daylight conditions making it almost impossible to see anything through the viewfinder or the display, even with the brightness maxed. So when our aircraft was at the far end of the runway the only way to locate it was sun reflecting off the propeller, which looked a lot like other beacons and reflections in the distance. Additionally even after takeoff, when zoomed in it’s very difficult to find a relatively small aircraft against a pure blue sky if you loose it. Additionally I had autofocus set but I may not have had it optimized for the type of shot I was trying to make, and at some point later on I just disabled AF entirely.

There are other things that made taking this video frustrating: my investment in the project, and seeing this yellow truck driving towards the runway to cross and not being sure the airplane and truck saw eachother, so I suddenly started thinking the worst and whether we could call anything off. it was very distracting right at the critical moment! However what I couldn’t see due to trying to see everything zoomed in through a tiny viewfinder was the aircraft was already starting to lift off the ground!

Another thing, my tripod, while decent, has no stabilization augmentation of any kind, plus trying to quickly pan as the aircraft zooms across and then slow down and zoom as it turns away means dancing around tripod legs and manipulating the tension knobs and tracking and pulling focus and zooming all simultaneously. I don’t know if a standard tripod like this is ideal. I imagine professional camera folks would have some kind of gimbal on a cradle system and potentially someone else pulling focus and aiming/zooming via remote. Or they’d have the track of the flight and the motions meticulously rehearsed and cameras set to do the exact shot? I have no idea.

While I know I can do more practice at things taking off and flying overhead, and I should have been doing a lot of that in the months leading up to this event, and probably need to work to find better vantage points to account for things like ground topology and heat shimmer, I feel like inherently the zoom capabilities, lens quality, sensor quality, and crummy autofocus of my consumer grade body from years ago, mean at some point I’m going to either need to replace the body or get more/better lenses, or both. If I want to get clean footage of flights such as these that are good enough to use for promotional purposes on things like YouTube and so-on.

As a comparison, here’s another aircraft’s first flight which happened recently and I feel they did a good enough job of the ground footage:

Of course later they switch to air-to-air footage which is something we hope to do down the road, but that requires hiring a crew that knows how to do that stuff and generally has a specifically setup aircraft with open camera doors. We did have GoPro cameras setup on the aircraft that the test pilot brought for his program, and we’ll have access to that footage, but he’s not been able to get us everything. I have my own GoPro 7 and may get another 1-2 for doing in-flight test footage, but there’s not much to those I need to figure out.

On some level of course for major stuff, we will try and schedule professionals to come down and help do this work, and for critical events I think it’s good to bring in dedicated photogs, but for a lot of the time we won’t have that option and I’ll need to be the one with some gear to help capture things.

Think I need to focus on just getting gud, or do I need some crucial gear like a 300-400mm lens and a better viewfinder, or maybe some kind of hood or external viewfinder, in order to have better situational awareness on a bright filming day? Or do I need a rig with a gimbal and the ability to freehand things in order to capture these dynamic shots? Open to thoughts.

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I’ll get back to you on a lot of this, since I’m running about like a maniac right now trying to get things done, but I do have an old trick that might help with the gear you already have.

With the tripod you already have, set the tension so it’s relatively mobile, and then get one of those bigger rubber bands, like the kind you can get from the post office, about 3-4 inches across when slack. loop one end securely around the pan handle on your tripod(Like, looping it through itself and tightening it on the arm), and instead of pulling it directly, put tension on the band and let the band pull it. Takes a lot of shake and jumpiness out of it that you’d otherwise get from panning by hand. It can’t do EVERYTHING obviously, but it’s a good rough-and-ready way, with a little practice, to get very smooth panning shots.

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Really, no matter how good the tripod or equipment, doing any kind of filming of movie objects takes SO MUCH PRACTICE!!! There isn’t an amount of money you can throw at equipment that will solve your problem without ALSO practicing for hours with that same equipment.

It always annoys me, because I think I’m good with cameras, but the few times I’ve shot juggling combat I find the results super disappointing compared to the camerawork of my girlfriend, who has spent dozens of hours filming juggling combat. And that’s the key difference: same camera, same subject, same event… but it’s something I film very rarely compared to countless hours of practice.

The first flight of an exciting plane build shouldn’t also be the first time filming :confused:

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Good points. It’s not the first time I’ve used this rig, I’ve actually been using it for years. I just haven’t been using it much in the last year for anything quite so dynamic. I’m definitely kicking myself now for not thinking to practice by doing some ‘airplane watching’ especially as we have a fairly active banner tow operation going on at the airport; where they essentially dive straight at the ground and pull out at the last second so that the tow line will smack the ground and drag into the banner pick up. Dramatic stuff. Just never thought to try recording it.

If you do, post it, that sounds fukken rad to see.

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That shot you are trying to get is particularly difficult. Not only would you ideally have fancy gear for it, but what Luke said is very true. If you don’t have practice not just with the gear, but also with that exact type of photography, there’s just no hope of getting it on the first try.

I’ve learned that while there are many principles to photography that apply across the board, each different type of photography is really its own art. Fashion photography vs nature photography are as different as playing guitar and playing flute. The same principles of music apply, but that’s pretty much it.

One thing I can recommend, that even professional photographers do, is renting equipment. If you need something like a ridiculously long lens for a special occasion that calls for it, you rent one. It’s only worth owning something so expensive if you are going to use it very frequently. The other bonus of renting is that you will probably get some state of the art stuff that is well maintained. Renting is also a good way to test out something you might consider buying to see if it’s going to work for you.

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The telephoto lens I use has image stabilisation built in, and it works remarkably well. I’ve take lots of photos of bird in flight, and plenty of videos too at maximum zoom (300mm).

It’s my second most-used lens. I’ve never used it on a tripod. Tripods are mostly used by people who don’t know how to hold a camera steady in their hands.

A great feature for moving subjects is the two different stabilisation modes. Mode 1 stabilises horizontally and vertically, and mode 2 only stabilises vertically. This mode is designed for following moving subjects such as cars, planes, people running, etc. It takes away the up-and-down shakiness but still lets you follow the subjects without the stabilisations messing up the shot.

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Whoa there, pardner.

The popularity of film photography has really been exploding for several years. With so few companies manufacturing any analog film or cameras, and economic conditions being what they are, the hobby has become wildly more expensive. Demand up, supply stagnant. I got back into analog film around 2014 just ahead of the boom. Or maybe I was a part of it. As much as I enjoy it, the cost is really pushing me back towards digital photography only.

One thing that looms large in the photography world, and still makes high end analog cameras, is Leica. What was originally at least a somewhat accessible brand at its outset, has long been an overpriced luxury brand. Luxury brands often have superior performance in ways that don’t matter. Many Lamborghinis only ever see a public street, and many dive watches never touch a drop of water. A camera, hopefully, actually gets used to take photos.

Does a Leica camera have superior performance? Quantitatively you’ll have to trust some people who optically measure lenses. Most of its superiority is qualitative. I’ve only ever used a Leica in a camera store. It does feel great to use. Just such a satisfying mechanical construction. The way it sounds and feels gives such good vibes. It could just be a psychological trick, like cheap wine tasting great when it came out of a fancy wine bottle. Even so, it’s hard not to want one. If somehow the supply were greater, and the price were reasonable, just about every photographer would have one.

The only Leica camera I would consider owning is the M6. I could have, and probably should have, bought one in '15 for under $2k. That’s a low price now :laughing:. The M6 is the last good mechanical analog film rangefinder they made. If you actually plan on using the camera, the M6 is ideal. Models M5 and older aren’t as user friendly and advanced. The M7 was weird. The M8 and newer are all digital. They still make the M-A and MP which are analog, but hideously expensive compared to M6. They’re also quite a bit different.

Due to this, the price of an M6 in working condition has gone way up, and rumors have been swirling. We’ve been expecting for a year or more that Leica would re-introduce a camera very much like the M6, but cheaper than the M-A and MP, to capitalize on this renewed demand.

Well, the rumors were true. The M6 is back.

Good news is that the camera seems to be largely identical to the old one. There are differences. Newer modern technology, especially in the electronic parts. Presumably even better manufacturing processes. Some different materials used in some components. But by and large, same camera. Only now you can actually get one new, if you can afford it.

So I’m getting one, right? Hello no! Why? No surprise, the price is $5,295 with no lens. I can snatch a used M6 on eBay in great condition for maybe $3k.

I understand a luxury brand isn’t going to come out with something cheap. It was never going to be $1k. But Rolex does sell watches ranging from around $5k to $100k+. They have a wide range of luxury. Leica doesn’t really have that range. All of their cameras are in the $5k-$10 range. The lenses are also hideously expensive. I thought with the popularity of analog photography likely being temporary that they might come out with the camera for $2.5 or $3k, matching the market price for old M6s and making up the profits on lenses, accessories, and bringing people into their ecosystem.

The end result is a Leica camera is something that I will just have to do without unless there is some unforeseen financial windfall, and I don’t buy lottery tickets.

What I am considering doing camera-wise is

  • Selling all the camera equipment I don’t use enough.
  • Replacing my most-used camera, the Fuji X100F, with the Fuji XPro4 (if and when they ever come out with such a camera). It has to be soon-ish, since the XPro3 is old already.
  • Getting some of the Fuji Instax printers so I can get instant photos from just about any digital camera. My only instant camera now is the Lomo’Instant Square, and it’s more than a bit flaky.
  • After using all the film I have, not buying more film unless prices go down at some point.
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