Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The New Wave of Stabilizers

At NAB this year a come company called Freeflysystems showed off a new type of stabilizer that really turned some heads. Compared to the traditional Steadicam this stabilizer was smaller, lighter and could be completely handheld. No vest required. It uses a gimbal similar to what is seen on many quadcopter stabilization systems for video cameras and DSLR's. In this post we will take a look at three companies setting a new trend in camera stabilization.

First off  Freeflysystems

This company was the first to get peoples attention when they announced the Movi M10 and M5 stabilized gimbal systems. Check out the videos below to see what M10 and M5 are all about:




The M10 is available for pre-order and will start shipping on August 15th 2013 at price of
$14,995 US.


The next system we will take a look at is the G2 and G5 DEFY products from company called Relentless Inc:

Their stabilizers come in at much cheaper price point however with much less payload capacity as well.  The DEFY G2 can hold only up to 2lbs however this is perfect for the Blackmagic Pocket Camera or the Panasonic GH3. The DEFY G5 Can hold up 5lbs, perfect or Full body DSLR's. They are also currently working a system that can handle even larger payloads for cameras such as the RED Scarlet and Epic.

       DEFY G5 Preorder Launch from DEFY Gimbal on Vimeo.

Here is a link to their Vimeo page where you can see the units in action.
DEFY G2/G5 Videos    

The DEFY G2 will cost $2,300 US and the G5 will come in at $3,200 US. The G2 is currently shipping and the G5 is expected to ship this month.

The third company we will take a look at is Kickstarter project by Jesse Spaulding:

Jesse has been working on a stabilization system since 2011, his product is The Ghost and there is great video that explains the whole system in great detail.


Here is a link to his Kickstarter page: The Ghost   
His unit will hold up to 3.5lbs and will cost $1,995 US

So these are just three of the companies making waves in the new stabilization industry. There are many others currently working on similar products as well. I am sure you will see some sort answer from Steadicam and Glidecam very soon as these new breed of stabilizers gain steam in the hands of film makers around the world.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Big Blackmagic Cinema Camera price drop!

Looks like Blackmagic has dropped the price of the 2.5K Cinema Camera by a massive $1000 dollars. Bringing the price to around $2000 dollars depending where you shop. This should make anyone who was interested in picking up one of these cameras decision a lot easier, also considering that it still comes with a full version of DaVinci Resolve. This all comes at a time when the Pocket Camera and 4K Production Camera are right around the corner and in some cases with the Pocket Camera already shipping. It will be interesting to see if Blackmagic still continues the production of the 2.5K BMCC or if this an attempt just to clear out stock.


Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Accessories for the Blackmagic Pocket Camera

I thought it would be useful to take a look at some of the accessories that will be needed to make the camera ready to shoot. 
First off batteries: When the camera was first announced many of us were extremely happy to see that Blackmagic implemented a removable, rechargeable battery. Better yet this battery was inexpensive, reliable and something you can pick up at any camera store. Blackmagic decided to go with Nikon’s EN-EL20 battery. They have there own version of this battery but most people will go with the cheaper Nikon EN-EL20. There is of course off brand versions of this battery available as well, in some cases for a cheaper price. As always make sure you choose a company that has been well reviewed when choosing off brand batteries. 
Here is a link where you can purchase one of these batteries: EN-EL20

Blackmagic is claiming that you will get one hour of continuous recording time. Charging time will be around 1 hour and 15 minutes when the camera is off and approximately 2 hours when in use. This a welcomed improvement over the 2.5K BMCC which had a not removable built in battery with lousy operating times. .


The Pocket Camera will take standard SDHC and SDXC cards. This is fantastic but it’s important to keep in mind that  you will need fast cards as the camera will be recording to Apple ProRes 200mbps HQ 422 (RAW capability promised in a future firmware update). Blackmagic recommends 
class 10 cards at 45Mbps or 95Mbps. Even for ProRes I would recommend going with the 95Mbps cards and when RAW comes to the camera forsure going with the higher cards will be a necessity. Blackmagic on their site is claiming record times of 37 minutes to 64GB cards at 24fps. In the coming weeks I will be able to do some proper record time testing to different cards and see how accurate that number is. Also we don’t know yet if they will allow you to record at lower levels of ProRes. For example ProRes 422 or ProRes Lite. If it is anything like the BMCC we may be stuck at 220mbps HQ 422, which is fine by me.


One thing when choosing cards. I recommend with going with a well known trusted brand like SanDisk or Panasonic for example. The reason I feel strongly about this is because some cheaper brands will often claim higher write speeds than their cards actually preform at. Also quality from card to card may vary when going with some discount brand cards. With the codec being used by the Pocket Camera it will be important to have good cards you can count on to keep up with the data stream being recorded.


The Pocket Camera has one built in stereo microphone. This mic will be good for little else most likely then recording reference sound for syncing your secondary sound recording in post. Most people will use an additional mic or interface. The camera does have one mic input which consists of a 3.5mm mini jack input. Now if the BMCC camera is anything to go by, don’t expect amazing things out of the
 pre-amp in the Pocket Camera. The signal to noise ratio was quite horrendous on the BMCC. In this case you will need a decent interface with high quality pre-amps to get your audio into the camera if you are not recording sound separately. I recommend the Tascam DR-60D interface as a good solution.


Benefits of using the DR-60D recorder.

-       The Pocket Camera can be attached to the top of DR-60D via a standard ¼ thread.

-       Two XLR inputs can be fed into the unit. These inputs also provide phantom power for mics which need it.

-       It uses standard SD cards to record to, which you will already have since it is the same media the camera takes.

-       The DR-60D will last about 3 hours on 4 double AA batteries.

-       It has the capability of also being a 4 track recorder.

-       Broadcast WAV coded

-       Built in slate feature which will send a tone to the camera and the card for easy syncing in post when lining up waveforms.

This is only one of many interfaces/pre-amps available. Also checkout some of the great solutions from JuicedLink They have a number of different devices that will help you record great audio.



By far this will be the biggest and probably the most important topic covered in this post. The Pocket Camera uses a Micro Four Thirds mount to interface with it’s lenses. This mount offers some unique advantages when it comes to lens selection. The main one being that MFT mount can be adapted to almost any lens. Nikon, Canon, PL Mount and even C-Mount all can be utilized with the correct adaptor. Many people who are heavly invested in Canon and Nikon glass can still use their lenses on the Pocket Camera.

First off lets take a look at the large selection of Micro Third Lenses available out there. These lenses have typically been cheaper in the past and offer some unique focal lengths, T and F stop choices that will really come in handy when shooting with the Pocket Camera. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular ones.

Panasonic Lumix Lenses: Pansonic MFT lenses offer great value for someone looking to start out with some inexpensive glass and get shooting. However their lenses aren’t the fastest out there they have a large selection of zooms and some decent primes as well. Check out the link below for their full line up.
Olympus: Another good choice for inexpensive MFT lenses. They have some nice wide zooms to choose from as well as some decent primes. They are always easily attainable from most photography stores. Link

Samyang and Rokinon: These two lines of lenses from the same company have some interesting choices for fast cheap MFT primes at some wide focal lengths that will really benefit the Pocket Camera. One thing to look out for is quality from lens to lens, make not be the same consistency you would expect from companies like Nikon and Canon. Link


SLR Magic: The latest super star to hit the inexpensive, fast, super sharp lens market. This company has been making waves lately with their crazy fast primes.  Some MFT lenses boast T stops of 0.95! These lenses are also know for being very sharp and really inexpensiv. Great value. However build quality has been an issue with some of their lenses in the past. Link 


Voigtlaender: This German company has become synonyms with great optics and great build quality. Despite having only a small selection of MFT primes, they are a company I would check out. They also have released an adapter for MFT bodies to use their wide range of VM mount lenses. These lenses are great, check out some of the reviews online. However they don’t come cheap. Link


So those are only a few of the Micro Four Third mount lenses available. However if you are invested in other lenses like Canon, Nikon or even PL. well you are only just an adapter away from being able to use your glass on the Pocket Camera.

Here is a list of some of the more popular adapters out there for you to use to attach your favorite glass.

For those using Nikon. Novoflex has a great adapter here with a built in aperture ring. Link

For those using Canon Redrock Micro has an adapter for MFT bodies. Link 

Here is a great PL Mount by 16x9 that’s built like a tank. Link 

Other lens consideration:

One of the most important things to keep in mind when selecting lenses for the Pocket Camera is the crop factor of this camera. The magnification is about 2.7 times. This is important because when trying to go wide or calculating depth of field your choices of lenses will be much different. These two charts below will illustrate the differences compared to other popular sensors and crop factors.



So you can easily see how when estimating field of view in the Pocket Camera you will have to choose a wider lens to achieve similar results as you would with an APS-C or a full frame sensor.

Below is a great field of view calculator from Abelcine. This will help you to compare how images will look using the Blackmagic compared to other cameras like the 5D Mark 3 when comparing the crop factor and field of view. 

The Metabones Speedbooster: The Blackmagic Pocket’s new best friend. A while back I did post about this incredible adapter from Metabones called the Speed Booster. Here is the link for those who are newto  this blog or curious regarding what the Speed Booster is all about.

The Speed Booster will benefit the Pocket Camera in a couple of different ways.
First and for-most: The massive crop factor in the Pocket Camera will be less of an issue as the Speed Booster will make any lens’s field of view automatically wider.


Secondly the Speed Booster automatically increases the amount of light coming into the lens, helping the camera in low light situations. If the 2.5K BMCC is anything to go by it will not be a super star in lowlight compared to camera’s like the Sony FS100 and Canon C300.

Here is a link where you can check the Speed Booster and learn more about this great little adapter that will you instantly double the focal length and F stop range of all your lenses in your kit. Link

Shoulder Supports/Rigs/Stabilizers

The Black Magic Pocket Camera is tiny, really tiny. It is about the same size a consumer point & shoot camera. Only slightly bigger than your smart phone and it weighs next to nothing. This can be a great thing but also a huge pain when shooting handheld. Because of the CMOS sensor in this camera there will be rolling shutter issues. How bad? Well that remains to be seen. If it is indeed the same sensor that is in the 2.5K BMCC then it is fairly prevalent. What is rolling shutter or the so called
“Jello Effect” Check out the link for a full explanation of the what rolling shutter is below.

In the meantime how do you combat it? While you can combat rolling shutter in a couple of different ways:
-Point of contact. Giving your camera a point of contact with your body will help stabilize and minimize rolling shutter. For example a shoulder brace or even having a Loupe or viewfinder will help to stabilize it as it will be pressing against you. 

-Weighing it down. The heavier the camera is the smoother it will be when it moves. Adding weight your camera will force you to move slower and keep the camera more steady when panning. This could be with counter weights or even something a V mount battery. 

-Pan speed. All CMOS sensors by their design will suffer from rolling shutter to some extent. Some better than others, nice slow pans will help show less rolling shutters than fast whip pans.

Most standard 15mm rail shoulder mount systems will be easily adapted to the Pocket Camera. However here are couple examples of some dedicated rigs designed specifically for the Pocket Camera.

Shape, a Canadian company has a great little rig here: Link


Wooden Camera has a cool system here you should check out: Link

As the cameras get in the hands of more and more shooters you will see more creative rigs pop up. In the mean time the above are just some suggestions as to what is available for the camera. 

So hopefully this info was of some use to you. I will be updating this post as I find more a great accessories for the Blackmagic Pocket Camera. 

Friday, 2 August 2013

Blackmagic Pocket Camera Review: Hands On.

Wooden Camera  has posted a hands on review of the Pocket Camera as well as some the accessories they have for it. I thought I would embed it below since the Blackmagic Pocket Camera has started shipping and people who pre-ordered should start seeing them in the coming days and weeks.


Thursday, 1 August 2013

A very in-depth look at the Canon XA20/XA25 a great little camera and a big improvement over the XA10

Earlier this year Canon released an update to the largely successful XA10: The new Canon XA20 camcorder is much more than just a simple update, it is actually a whole new beast!

If you are familiar with the XA10 then you will know what great little camera it is and why it was such a hit with event shooters and documentarians alike.  It offered some great pro features like balanced XLR audio inputs, relay recording for continuous shooting and a waveform monitor. All of this in a very small package that can be stripped down into an even smaller and less conspicuous package when removing the handle/XLR module. I have talked to many of my clients who say they loved working with the XA10 for run & gun documentary work and getting in and out of places where shooting was risky or deterred. Stripping the camera down gives it a very streamlined "consumer" camera look which is great for crossing borders where custom officials like to ask a lot of questions.

The XA20 expands on all of this and more. Let's take an in-depth look at what this camera offers and the main differences over the XA10.

Size and visually the XA20 is very similar to the old XA10 however the XA20 is a bit wider, this is due to the full zoom rocker they have added onto this camera. The full zoom rocker is  a big improvement as the XA10's zoom rocker felt cheap and had less finer control. With the full variable zoom rocker on the XA20 I now feel I can properly control my smooth zooms with confidence.

Canon has added an assignable accessory wheel shown below. A feature borrowed off of the more pro XF100 series cameras. This dial is great when you quickly want to access manual controls such as Iris and still have the main lens ring for manual focus or zoom. 


Having the additional accessory wheel directly below and to the right of the main lens ring is a great improvement over the thumb dial that was located on the back of the XA10. 

One notable improved feature is the a-posable viewfinder they have added to the XA20. Having the ability to tilt up and while handheld shooting to get the perfect angle for image and comfort is a nice feature. The viewfinder is still very tiny and some people will find it difficult to use however on those very bright days when the main OLED screen is unusable the viewfinder will be a welcomed option, not to mention another point of contact to help steady the camera while handheld shooting. 

Another feature they have added is the ability to switch the main lens focus ring over to a zoom ring. This is now possible via a switch close to the back of the camera shown below. 

For those who dislike using touch screens Canon has decided to add an additional manual menu control joystick with a menu access button located at the rear of the camera. Those who wish operate the camera with the OLED monitor closed can still access the menu via this this joystick. It is conveniently located close to the record button for quick access while shooting. 

An integrated lens cap? Yep they added that too. Nice addition Canon! No more misplaced or lost lens caps to do deal with. Check out the images below. 

This lens cap can be closed via a switch on the side of the lens hood. Unlike other intergraded lens caps on some consumer cameras this does not feel cheap and has a very simple mechanism to close it,
so there is very little to go wrong with it and should be an easy repair if it breaks. 

Now the technical stuff. The above features are nice but what does this camera really bring to the table in-terms of image quality. Well one of  the biggest differences is the newly designed sensor Canon has put into this camera, it is slightly larger and offers more dynamic range than the XA10. They also have a new processor onboard. the Digic DV 4. This new chip is responsible for the increased dynamic range. 

The XA20 has now the option of recording in AVCHD Progressive at 28Mbps as well as MP4 35Mbps for sharper images. This also the first Canon video camera to do a true 1920x1080 60p record mode. Which is great for those looking to get full HD slow mo. Something Canon has been trailing in to competitors like Sony.

The lens. This is another area where Canon has decided to make a really big leap. With a 20x optical zoom the Canon XA20 is really unique when it comes to price point and size. Most cameras with a 20x optical zoom traditionally have been much larger due to the larger lens size and more elements of glass needed to optically enhance the image. The XA20 has a thread size of only 58mm and still keeps the same 8 blade aperture as the XA10 however delivers twice the magnification while maintaining a sharper image.  

Wifi Capability: 

So Wifi is a feature we have seen lately being added to many different cameras. From point & shoots to DSLRS, from consumer palmcorders to pro-sumer camcorders, this trend is only going to continue as the integration between web & video become more streamlined and unified. The XA20 is no different and embraces its Wifi capability in a couple of different ways. 

First and for most you can control the XA20 from a smart phone or tablet. You do not need to download an app as the camera shows up as a wifi hot spot on your phone/tablet's network. First you must setup a in camera wifi password before connecting. Once connected this will bring up a web interface that allows you to control the camera. Check out the video below for a great walk through of how to setup the remote control from your smartphone/tablet, as well as additional features. 

You can also now not only control the XA20 via Wifi but also upload files directly from the field using FTP file transfer via wifi.  This make it a great camera for news gathering, when getting files uploaded quickly to the web is a priority. 

Here are some of the main specs of the XA20 has for quick reference, please note I am not going to list all of them because the Canon website has a full breakdown. 

Sensor size: 1/2.84"
Video Resolution: 1920x1080 
Effective Pixels: 2.91 Mp 
Total Pixels on the XA20's sensor: 3.09 
Color Filter:RGB 

Aperture: 1.8 -2.8 
Focal Length: 3.67 to 73.4mm
35mm Equivalent: 26.8 to 576mm 
Filter size: 58mm 
Minimum Illumination: 1.2 lux 
Low Light Mode: 0.1 lux 

OLED Monitor: 3.5"
Color viewfinder: 0.24" 

Media: Two external SD card slots. Can be setup fro relay or tandem recording. 
No onboard media. 


28 Mb/s 1920x1080 
24 Mb/s 1920x1080
17 Mb/s 1920x1080
 5  Mb/s 1920x1080

35 Mb/s 1920x1080 
24 Mb/s 1920x1080
17 Mb/s 1920x1080
 4  Mb/s 1920x1080
 3  Mb/s 1920x1080

Video outputs: 
1 x HDMI mini 
1 x USB 2.0 mini USB which is an output only. 
1 x mini jack 3.5mm composite A/V output RCA breakout cable 

Audio Inputs:
2 x Balanced XLR inputs with 48v Phantom Power as well as line select input 
1 X stereo mini jack input 

Other specs: 
Power supply 8.4V DC 
Power Requirements: Battery 7.4V DC
Operating Temp: -5 to 45C 
Dimensions: 10.9 x8.4 x 18.3 cm
Weight 1.7 lbs (765 grams) 

So now for the proof. I have gathered some of the better examples of the XA20 in action. Of course when possible download the file for best quality. As I update this blog if I find more footage will add it. This camera is still very new so there isn't a tonne out there... yet. 

Here is some footage shot by jvaphoto in my home city of Toronto:

Some more footage from the XA20:

Some comparison night tests done against the XA10

Some test footage using the HFG10 vs the XA20 

Lowlight test compared to the Panasonic GH3

At this point you are probably wondering why I haven't made a single mention about the XA25 and there is a very good reason for that. The Canon XA25 differs in only one main feature from XA20. 
It's BNC connector to output HD/SD-SDI. That is it. Image quality wise the two cameras are identical.  

Overall I like this camera but there is one complaint I have about the XA20. Check out the pic below. The headphone jack is in a bad spot. Anyone with decent sized hands will find that it is just too close when you grip the camera and gets in the way. It should be in the back of the camera like most other camcorders. i would have also moved the mini HDMI port as well, to a place that was less of an obstruction when holding the camera as many people may want to hook up and an external recorder to the XA10 to achieve a true broadcast codec such as an Atomos Ninja Recorder. 

I hope you have found this information useful. I really think at  $2,200 dollars Canadian the Canon XA20 is a great deal for the amount of features you are getting. The fact that you have 20x optical zoom. balanced XLR inputs, advanced image stabilization, higher grade MPEG 4 codec and WIFI upload capability puts this camera in a class by itself. After using this camera for the past week I have really gotten to appreciate this little camera. I think for documentarians, news gathers in the field, web casters or event shooters this camera will fit their needs perfectly. Please leave your comments and questions below. Any feed back about this blog is greatly appreciated. Also any gear you would like me to review in the future please let me know.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Help my very talented friend David Jacombs promote and finish his film Ermon County

Help my friend and former college classmate David Jacombs finish his film called
Ermon County . It's a sci-fi thriller and a great film but it needs your help to push it over the top.
Here is a link to the Ermon County  page for more info about the film as well as how to donate to help polish the post production and help it reach the audience it deserves.


The latest footage from the Blackmagic Pocket Camera

As the first Blackmagic Pocket Cameras begin to ship in the next few days I thought I would post the latest Pocket Camera footage from a pair of Auckland photographers called A Couple of Night Owls

Check out the embedded video below. A small taste to wet the appetite until we all get our own hands on the little beast in the coming days or weeks.

     Auckland In My Pocket - Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera from A Couple Of Night Owls on