Friday Night Darkness (Lights?)

© Matthew Jonas 2010/Evergreen Newspapers 2010

Fall sports started a couple of weeks ago and I have been busy Friday nights ever since. For many of us that means high school football. This is a time of year that I both look forward to and dread. The weather is finally cooling off and the days are becoming shorter. Unfortunately that means that the sun sets earlier and with game times starting around 7pm I am forced to deal with awful stadium lights (hence the phrase Friday Night Lights). This used to mean that I had to break out the flash-bracket-battery-pack-monopod contraption in order to stop action and get a decent exposure. Not anymore. I recently acquired a Canon EOS 7D which I have blogged about here and there. With fast lenses (f2.8 or better) and lower noise higher ISOs, football has become fun to shoot again.

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Redrock Micro: Running Man Nano DSLR Rig Review

© Matthew Jonas 2010

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Redrock Micro about my previous post on the Microfinder Accessory. We exchanged several emails and they informed me that an updated version of the Microfinder Loupe Accessory was available. Long story short, I have a review unit of the new finder accessory and of the Running Man Rig. Today we are going to look at the Nano rig. Later this week we will look at the updated loupe accessory.

The one problem that I had with many of the HDSLR rigs that were available was that they were very impractical for the type of work that I do. Most of the systems were built around a rod system with a matte box and shoulder support which are heavy, cumbersome in size and don’t allow me to switch back to shooting stills easily. Redrock Micro must of been listening to their customers when they debuted the Nano rigs at NAB. You get many of the benefits of stabilization without the extra weight and extra cost.

The setup above is what I have been using for the last couple of days to shoot stills and video. It’s made up of a Canon EOS 7D, EF 16-35mm f2.8L wide angle lens, a Sennheiser MKE-400 mic with windscreen, a Rycote hot shoe extension, an audio recorder (soon to be replaced with a Samson Zoom H1 recorder, if it ever arrives) and Sennheiser wireless lav mics.

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Dear Canon, I need a flash memory based HV40

I have been shooting a lot of video with my EOS 7D lately and now have a pretty good understanding of the limitations of the Camera. 12 minute clip length, automatic gain control, having to record audio separately in most cases and sync in post and lack of image stabilization are things I have lived with. There’s a lot to like about the camera but there’s a lot of compromises to make. For some applications a smaller, more traditional camera would be better suited for filming. I have great Sennheiser on camera and off camera mics, an LED light that works pretty well and they all have one thing in common: a standard cold shoe connection.

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The Liberty Belle Video Project

The Liberty Foundation brought the 1943 Liberty Belle B17 out to Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport this weekend. On Monday, they had a media day including a short flight or at least they had planned to if it wasn’t so damn windy. 35 mile per hour sustained winds kept us on the ground but I still put together a short video piece.

Obviously, I would have liked to have taken the flight not only because it would make for great HD video but also it would have been a blast. Speaking of video, it is the second one that I have produced this year. Once again it was a learning experience. The more I use the 7D for shooting video the more I like it. Here is what worked and what did not work.

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EOS 7D and High School Sports

© Matthew Jonas 2010/Evergreen Newspapers 2010

I am becoming more and more impressed by what the Canon EOS 7D is capable of capturing, especially with High School Sports. My main sports camera, the Canon EOS 1D Mark II N, is in the shop this week and I have been using the 7D instead. So far, so good. Another nice trade off is of course the focal length multiplier or field of view crop or whatever you want to call it. The smaller APS-C (1.6x) size sensor gives me an equivelant of 480mm with a 300mm lens. At times, I was using a 300mm lens in conjunction with a Canon EF 1.4x II Extender so I was actually shooting closer to a 700mm (672mm to be exact) lens. Wow. There were lots of tack sharp images to choose from at 672mm at f5.6.

Not bad for ISO3200 at 1/15th

© Matthew Jonas 2010

The files that come out of the Canon EOS 7D continue to amaze me. This photo was made in an extremely dark bar/cafe in Evergreen. Shot at ISO3200, 1/15th at f2.8, 70mm. Take that Image Stabilization. I would not have dreamed of making a photo under these conditions with my EOS 1D Mark II N. Perhaps a second 7D is now in order? Click on the photo to see the actual color.

UPDATED: Redrock Micro microFinder Loupe and Hoodloupe Review

© Matthew Jonas 2010

UPDATED: Shooting video with the Canon EOS 7D is no easy task. Trying to hold the camera steady, keep your subject in focus at f2.8 and remembering to capture usable audio is all part of the game you play every time you press record. There are now a ton of companies out there that are specifically making products that are supposed to help HD DSLR users capture better video and audio.

One of the first companies to do so is Redrock Micro. They make a product called the microFinder Loupe that works in conjunction with the Hoodloupe 3.0. Basically what the microFinder does is securely hold the Hoodloupe in place. Together, they allow you to use the camera’s viewfinder to focus while shooting video. I am going to include a ton of photos with this post due to the fact that when I was researching the microFinder I couldn’t find a good set to get a feel for how this would work on a 7D.

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In case you haven’t noticed…

In case you haven’t noticed I have been really focused on video from DSLRs. I really feel like this is the bridge that will span the gap between the “old” and “new” media and open new doors for current working visual journalists. For me, the problem has always been about missing the moment while gathering audio or shooting video instead of stills. With the new breed of DSLRs, video, and audio to some extent, is easier than ever to gather and takes less time to switch between the 2 formats. You no longer have to worry about missing the moment because even while shooting video its possible to take a “frame grab” that is easily high enough quality to run 3 columns wide. Audio is still a little cumbersome but with some more specialized equipment it can be accomplished.

I believe that with the large number of accessories for HDSLRs that have come onto the market since their introduction that I am not alone in my excitement. Companies such as Think Tank Photo, Zacuto, Red Rock Micro, CAVision and Hoodman are producing some great add-ons that will only make shooting video with HDSLRs even easier.

Long story short, you will definitely see projects that I will be working on posted here shot with Canon’s newest HDSLRs.