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Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens review

I have owned the 100mm Macro IS for approximately a month now and have used it mostly for nature video and still work. Although this lens is labeled and intended for Macro work it is a fully functional 100mm lens for telephoto use as well. The lens features Canon’s new Hybrid image stabilization which provides 4stops of stabilization correction which allows for hand held work were normally only a tripod would do. The lens is an L series but unlike most is made of a durable black plastic instead of a metal body. Do not let this fool you as the lens is very durable and I think it might be used on future lenses because of its weight, thermal properties, and for cost. The lens still features a weather sealed ring to mate up with your 5DMKII, 1DMKIV, or 7D. Another great feature of this lens is that it has life-size close-up capabilities, something that would require the life-size adapter in the past with other macro lenses. The fast 2.8 aperture is great for documentary work and in the field where bringing in additional light may not be an option. The aperture features 9 blades in a circular pattern that provides a consistent bokeh. The lens features a three position focus limiter to allow for quick AF if you are not in manual mode. Reducing the range of focus that the lens has to hunt for makes the USM work within a split second to achieve subject focus, which can save your shot. I sometimes find myself using this feature and once I am within range switching over to manual focus. A great feature of this macro lens is adding the 2x extender which then gives you 200mm but retains the minimum focus distance. I used this last weekend to shoot macro footage of a Praying Mantis eating an aphid for a project I am working on. I knew I needed to be within 8 inches of the subject to achieve the framing I wanted but the 2x extender made it happen without sacrifice. Because the lens is fast at 2.8 the lose of a stop was still well within the perimeters of the light that was available. For video use the 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is well matched in color and consistency to the typical lenses used. I found it matched nicely with the 16-35, 24-70, 70-200. Some post correction was required when inter-cutting with the 85mm 1.2, and the 600mm but overall it was minimal. This is a still taken with the 100mm f/2.8L Maco IS USM lens at Lake Fairlee Vermont dusk, wide open 2.8 ISO 200 from a deck approx 100meters from the waters edge. Using the lens as a telephoto instead of a macro. 1″ Tree Frog taken with same lens but using it as a Macro instead of telephoto mode. Overall I think if you require a macro lens the 100mm f/2.8L IS USM is the route to go over the 50, 60, 65 and the 180. Canon only has two L series macros, the 100mm and the 180mm, but the 180mm is f/3.5, does not feature IS, requires a tripod and is much heavier than the 100mm. It is a great lens to have in your kit and I recommend you test one out when you have the chance as I have found myself using the lens as my standard 100mm tele for non-macro use. Michael Sutton Senior Account Manager Twitter: @MNS1974

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Philip Bloom DSLR Workshop @ Rule

Filmmaker / Blogger / Twitter fanatic Philip Bloom came to Rule Boston Camera courtesy of the Boston Final Cut User Group this weekend to hold a two-day workshop on DSLR filmmaking. On Saturday, I was lucky enough to listen in and talk with Philip. If you have followed his Tweets or his Blog you know that Mr. Bloom is very charismatic and witty. He made it clear that he was open for questions and didn’t want anyone to feel cheated by not getting the info they came for. After seeing several examples of his non-commercial work (understandably, he cannot show his commercial work), it was clear that the audience had not yet taken their voyage into DSLR filmmaking as deep as Philip had. His approach to shooting was very personal, and he has an affinity for the products he stands behind. Philip Bloom Workshop shot with iPhone 4 using Hipstamatic Float film and Helga Viking Lens. The focus for the workshop was mainly the Canon DSLR lineup (T2i, 7D, 5DMKII, 1DMKIV), and he made it very clear that Canon was ahead of the game in the Video-via-DSLR department. There were a few GH1 and Nikon users in the crowd, but, for the most part, it was a Canon user base. Philip was very opinionated about the lack of quality on the GH1 (out of the box) and the Sony NEX-5, and the new Sony NEX-VG10 (essentially the same as the NEX-5 but in handycam form factor). There was a lot of talk about codecs and low-light sensitivity which was rounded out with Philip expressing his preference for the Canon 5D Mark II over all the cameras currently on the market. As a 7D and 5D Mark II owner myself, I’ve found that 90% of my kit (lenses, AKS, etc.) was identical to what Philip was using as well. Philip’s preferred lenses are the 16-35mm f/2.8L USM II, the 24-70MM f/2.8L USM, the 70-200MM f/2.8L IS USM II, the 100MM Macro IS USM, 50mm f/1.2L, etc, etc. He suggested buying only L series lenses regardless of owning a T2i, 7D, or 5D MKII which I agree with 100%. This was based on build quality, chromatic and other aberration minimization and their full-frame coverage. For those of us who use Canon EF L series lenses, it was nice to hear Philip declare that the quality of these lenses are to resolve resolution much higher than any video camera lens can achieve, and he has had no issues with them. Some of the best lenses in the world are Canon still lenses. Full disclosure — Philip has several Nikon lenses, a Nikon D3s, Sony EX1, Panasonic GH1, as well as a variety of other cameras. A strong believer in the double sound system, Philip also keeps the Juiced Link 454 and a Beachtek DXA-5D in his kit for reference or shoots — which will fit the bill. His main concern with the single system method is not being able to monitor what the camera is recording and for his piece of mind he prefers an external recorder. Audio bit rate has a lot to do with this as well. His main point is to use what works best for you as long as you have AGC Defeat on the Beachtek or the Juiced Link. For Mics he prefers Sennheiser (as do I). Philip was a sound man back in the day, so it is a subject he is well-educated in with real-world practical experience. For external recorders he stated the Zoom H4 is horrible and it’s better to stick with a Tascam, Foxtex, Sound Devices or Marantz recorder with phantom power and ideally a backup power source. Philip took a portion of the workshop to cover post-production and workflow. His thoughts on it are fairly simple and concise and the defacto standard practice for most professionals. Use the Canon EOS Movie Plugin-E1 for Final Cut Pro and use its Time-of-Day timecode via log and transfer just like P2 or SxS. It’s the easiest way to get footage into your system. You can utilize Magic Bullet Grinder or Squared 5’s MPEG Streamclip if you want batch file copying. Philip prefers the FCP method as it adds Time-of-Day timecode onto your clips which is why most of us use it. A good portion of the workshop was on Time-lapse which featured various vignettes from around the world. Prague, Dubai, Miami, NYC, Bulgaria, etc. Most of these were done with the Canon Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3. With this intervalometer you can adjust start / stop time, length of exposures and the timer can be set for any time from 1 sec. to 99 hrs, 59 min, 59 sec. You can achieve stunning time lapse if you allocate time to watch your camera. Overall, the point of the workshop was to focus on shooting and just getting out there and doing it. Philip’s suggestion to just buy a DSLR camera and stop worrying about what is coming out next was probably the best piece of advice heard at the workshop. Waiting and waiting will not make you any money or get your project off the ground. Technology does not replace talent and you can shoot a good movie regardless of what camera you use. However, having a great inexpensive camera like the 5D mark II or 7D will make your projects more interesting and attract viewers you might not get if shot with a noisy 1/4″ sensor. Philip mentioned he still uses his Sony EX1 and fairly often as it is ergonomically correct for video, and it’s a great camera. DSLR’s are not the one-all be-all solution for all situations. The proper tool for the job might be a 7D or a Varicam 2700. If you are a beginning filmmaker or if you have not yet taken the plunge, I would suggest taking Philip’s workshop when it rolls around again in the Fall. In the meantime, come check out our free Learning Labs held every Wednesday. If you are already in the mix and shooting, the workshop will be fairly redundant but would be worthwhile for networking, meeting new people, and talking with Philip in person. Mike Sutton, Senior Account Manager

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Zacuto Z-Finder Pro 2.5x in the field

If not using an on-board monitor for your HD-SLR camera, the Zacuto Z-Finder Pro 2.5x (Z-FIND-PRO2) is essential for Live View shooting with the Canon 7D and 5D Mark II. Zacuto has constantly improved their viewfinders based on feedback from users. It’s good to see that they are implementing features that professional shooters have craved since the initial version of the finder. Many would say to simply use the magnification button on the camera when setting-up your shot for focus, but if you shoot professionally (be it documentary, commercial, corp, etc.) you are dealing with moving subjects / objects, etc., so this doesn’t work accurately. Having a proper viewfinder and being able to focus with magnification (without taking your eyes off the frame) is a huge asset. Personally, I found the 3x version of the viewfinder to be too much magnification, and it was a distraction when shooting. Most shooters I have worked with and talked to seem to agree that the 2.5x is the perfect solution for handheld and rig shooting when or if an LCD is not viable. First thing I noticed about the Z-Finder Pro 2.5x over the V2 of the finder was the mounting system. The Gorilla Plate with DSLR mounting frame is very adjustable and can be easily mounted to a Canon 7D or 5DMKII without worry of it popping off or using bands like the older Z-Finder. Using the 2.5X on the 5D required a bit of tweaking to the frame in order to position it but once centered, it was secure. Using the 2.5x on the 7D seemed to have the best fit with minimal adjustment needed to center the finder over the LCD. The second major improvement I noticed is that the new Pro finder did not fog up when used. This is a huge improvement, so much to the point that Zacuto now has an anti-fog upgrade kit for the Z-Finder V2. This upgrade is $22 and worth every penny if you have the older finder. The Gorilla Plate comes with the 2.5x and the 3x. It has several taped 1/4 20 holes in the bottom, but I suggest getting the plate adapter (Z-GRP-ADPT) for $17.50. This adapter will center your tripod mounting hole which will keep your pan axis point accurate. For under $400 the Z-Finder 2.5x is a great deal. Unlike monitors, you do not have to deal with power, cables, conversions (HDMI to HDSDI) etc. You also do not have glare to contend with or other reflections on the monitor. The Z-Finder will block out all extraneous light sources so you can see your frame accurately. This is a must for doc filmmakers (where power and excess equipment can be an issue) who plan on using the 7D or 5DMKII camera in the field. For the 5DMKII this will be even more of a must as monitoring the HDMI signal is only standard definition and getting critical focus is not happening with an on-board monitor. This is where the Z-Finder 2.5x saves the shot. You can achieve focus which, for this full-frame camera, is critical especially when using long lenses and wide open apertures. Mike Sutton, Senior Account Manager

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Grandpa Rule sees the Future

There is a lot of family lore about my grandfather, John T Rule II, who was an author and Professor of Mathematics at MIT and Dean of Students between 1956 and 1961. He was good friends with Dr. Edwin Land (the founder of Polaroid) and in fact, together during World War II they invented the first 3D bomb-sighting mechanism which greatly improved the Allies’ reconnaissance and bombing efficacy. And this is the really interesting part: Earlier, in 1939, Grandpa and Dr. Land had collaborated on the very first commercial use of polarized 3D when they created the “In Tune With Tomorrow” film for the Chrysler Pavilion at the 1939 Worlds Fair (mentioned here as the no. 9 milestone in 3D Movie history). So as I was researching this subject, I stumbled across this piece that he wrote for the October 1953 edition of the Atlantic, actually posted on the Internet! In it, he discusses the then current state of the nascent 3D industry, decrying it’s tendency towards sensationalistic gimmickry, and cautioning that badly done 3D would negatively impact the box office. He advises that 3D done artistically and in service to the creative goals of the Director will create an experience unmatchable by home televisions, thus stopping the theater industry’s steady drop in customers. Wow. People say that the more things change, the more they stay the same…it’s hard to believe that he wrote this 57 years ago. My favorite part of this article is at the end where he proposes that feature films should be released first on TV with Pay-per-view before going to theaters! He’s talking about Pay-per-view in 1953! It boggles the mind. John Rule

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Waiting for Alexa

As a rental house, we have supplied the lineage of ARRI cameras for close to 30 years.  The transition from film to digital cinema has introduced many players into the camera production game, but for the most part ARRI has been in the digital shadows with the limited mainstream success of their D-20 and D-21 cameras.  The Alexa is the first ARRI Digital Camera that holds great promise for a wide range of cinematographers and a variety of productions.  Our Rental Department is  very excited about the release of this new camera system, and we anticipate the camera quickly becoming the first choice for commercial as well as feature productions.  Its compact design, light-weight and well-conceived accessories along with its affordable price will serve to make it a versatile tool right out of the box. The Alexa is the ideal camera for both the rental house and the shooter because it takes all of the same lenses and accessories which former ARRI cameras used.  The Super 35mm chip size will afford a level of DOF and Field of View familiar to cinematographers.  The Alexa offers multiple options for recording images.  Commercial productions will be attracted to the camera’s ability to record Quicktime/ProRes files to two onboard SxS cards for an easy post workflow.  The Camera also has the ability to record ARRIRAW files to a third party solid-state recorder which will be an attractive option for features demanding the full potential of the 35mm sensor. We will be receiving our first two cameras hopefully as early as this August (yes, next month!).   We’ll quickly offer them to the rental market and host a session in the Learning Lab to detail the production potential of the camera. Brian Malcolm, General Manager

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Arctic Butterfly® 724 Sensor Brush & Amp, BriteVue Sensor Loupe 7X

We had heard about this cleaning brush/loupe combo for CCD/CMOS sensors before.  So we eventually got it, and we’re glad we did.  I’m happy to report that it’s an excellent tool and it works great! We got the Arctic Butterfly® 724 (Super Bright) equipped with 2 super bright LEDs Sensor Brush & Visible Dust BriteVue Sensor Loupe 7X. First, you look at the sensor with lighted loupe, find the dust particles and clean the brush, rotating it (electric motor is built-in) while simultaneously charging the fibers (electrostatic charge).  You then swipe the sensor clean with it and confirm it’s condition with the loupe. Rotate the brush again to get rid of the dust.  Done. Zbigniew Twarog, Chief Engineer