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Taking Advantage of Crop Factor

Should I get a Canon 5D MKII, 7D, or 1Ds MKIV ?  This is a question I am often asked when someone is looking to buy or rent an HDSLR.  There are several trains of thought that seem to be the main focus from one camera to another, and usually the conversation boils down to a low light and sensor size issue.  Yes, the 5D MKII has a significantly larger sensor over the 7D, and it does have better low light capability as a result, but there are other factors to be considered.  The focus of this specific blog entry is to address the factor of crop with the 7D and 1Ds MKIV, and how this can be seen as a positive rather than a negative.  I say this because I often hear people complain about using full frame lenses and the focal length multiplier as though this is a bad thing.   With regard to wide angle — yes, it greatly reduces your focal length options.  On the telephoto end, however, is where this can be a huge advantage. Before I go any further I will explain crop factor (I have seen several people try to explain it so I will keep it as simple as possible): When you use full frame lenses on non-full frame cameras (7D APS-C and 1Ds MKIV APS-H for example), the image appears bigger (magnified) because the field of view is smaller giving the lens a focal length multiplier.   If you are shooting sports or nature subjects on stills or HD, you will want to leverage the focal multiplier of 1.6x of the 7D and the 1.3x of the 1Ds MKIV.  The benefits are — you do not require a telephoto adapter or 2x or 1.5x extender.  The reasons for avoiding both are due to loss of 1 – 2 stops of light and the possible introduction of aberrations (chromatic and otherwise), flaring, trapping dust between optics, weight, etc.  You can always add a 2x extender onto a crop camera to get even tighter on your subject if applicable. Here is a brief breakdown of some common telephoto focal lengths when coupling a full frame lens with a 7D: 85mm = 136mm,  100mm = 160mm, 135mm = 216mm, 200mm = 320mm, 400mm = 640mm, 600mm = 960mm & 800mm = 1280mm Now if you apply a 2x extender like the Canon 2x EF Extender II your 960mm (600mm) will become a 1920mm (with a loss of 2 f stops ). There are factors to consider when using these new-found focal multipliers.  First thing to remember is that your foreground / background relationship does not change.  The lens properties remain the same unlike if you switched to a different lens. Second, you want to ensure that when using long lenses like the 100mm and above that you have some form of image stabilization built into the lens or a sturdy support system.  I managed to use the Canon 600mm this weekend on loan and threw it on my 7D for a 960mm equivalent focal length.  To use a multiplier like this requires you to either trigger the camera via remote or hold your breath while shooting as any bump, wind, etc. on the lens amplifies.  I had to use a heavy-duty video tripod with the release plate mounted to the lens foot to get anything useful on video.  This, of course, was an extreme field of view and not typical with focal lengths under 300mm. A large benefit for crop factor is for use with macro video and stills.  I shoot a lot of macro HD video of everything from insects, reptiles, textiles,  products, etc.  Macro functionality even with the focal multiplier is retained — which is important.  This can be handy when dealing with subject matter that may dangerous (shooting scorpions), or jumpy (see frog below), or when you just need more detail or a closer view without losing any stops of light.

Green Frog with 160mm equivalent field of view. (JPEG still pulled from HD Video shot on 7D w/ 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS  @ f2.8 shutter 50, ISO 320 *scaled down from 1080)

If you are going to focus shooting HD video of  nature or sports, you should  take a look at the Canon 7D and Canon 1Ds MKIV as alternatives to the 5D.  The crop factor will save you the weight of lugging around a 400mm or 600mm lens, plus it will save money (long lenses are expensive), and it will keep you more inconspicuous when needed.

Mike Sutton, Senior Account Manager Twitter: @MNS1974

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Expendables for Students at Production Outfitters!

As the school year approaches, the Production Outfitters store here at Rule Boston Camera is gearing up for the influx of new and returning students! With a wide inventory of expendables such as light meters, American Cinematographer Manuals, and many different technical books on Video, Audio, and Film, students will receive a discount on all light meters with a special discount on autographed copies of David E. Elkins, book, “The Camera Assistant’s Manual” during his Learning Lab “Nuts & Bolts of the AC Position” held on Wednesday, August 25th from 10am to 12n. Visit the Production Outfitters store for all the essential items a student needs to round out their film classes! Gen Andrews, Production Outfitters Store

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Cartoni Lambda the Perfect SFX and Zero Gravity Head

I have worked with numerous tripods and heads over the past 18+ years, using the worst-to-the-best tripod heads. Some of my favorites are the O’Connor 1030, the Sachtler 7+7, Cartoni 120EX, Ronford Fluid 7 (a bit old school), Weaver Steadman 2 axis, and the Cartoni Lambda.  Most DPs and camera operators choose a tripod and head they are familiar with because of past experience, word-of-mouth or brand loyalty. What do you do when your brand (Sachtler, O’Connor, etc.) doesn’t offer a solution for a specific type of shot? You need to look at complimentary gear or other solid foundations — enter the Cartoni Lambda nodal mount head. There are several nodal mount 2 and 3 axis heads currently in the rental world but none that have the versatility and the adjustment capacity of the Lambda. I think it hasn’t yet taken off due to the lack of education on how and why you would need a nodal head to begin with. The size and weight (46lbs) of the head can also be intimidating if you don’t know how it works. Many people assume it’s only for large film cameras like the Arri 535 or BL4s, etc., but this is not the case. You can use the Lambda head for two different, but similar situations. The first one is if you want a head for instantaneous moves using the mass of the head and camera weight, but on a zero gravity basis. This can be achieved by mounting the camera on the head by balancing the camera’s weight evenly on the horizontal and vertical axis of the head. Because the head is under slung and features numerous adjustments, you can also nodal-mount the camera on the horizontal and vertical axis of the camera’s sensor or film gate and use counter weights if needed for perfect balance. This is the reason why this head is great for SFX work, and it’s the main reason you’ll want to look at this head as an option for your next project. Why would you want to mount the camera on its nodal axis points? The main reason is that with traditional pan-and-tilt tripod heads, you cannot pivot on the horizontal or vertical axis of the cameras sensor or gate. You can achieve horizontal axis centering but only with an additional side-to-side camera adjustment plate. Vertical axis centering on the focal plane is impossible when tilting with a standard head as the camera sits on top of the head’s pivot point and therefore cannot be aligned. To get vertical axis centering on the camera sensor (or film gate), a nodal head or 2 or 3 axis head is required as its pivot point (axis point) can be aligned with the camera’s gate or sensor plane.  Its can do this because the camera mounting plate sits below the pivot point.

What does pivoting on horizontal and vertical axis’ do? It allows for parallax free imaging, meaning you can remove foreground-to-background shifting that occurs with traditional heads. This is important when you need to isolate and lock up your foreground / background relationship. For any shots requiring forced perspective, a nodal mount head is required. If you look at a movie like Elf or Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, these were shot primarily with nodal mount heads. Mind you, for those types of shots, when you have something in the background and in the foreground that appear to be the same distance apart, you would also require either a split field diopter or a large depth of field. Outside of that, however, the Lambda allows for these types of pan-and-tilt shots where traditionally these shots have to be locked off. Using a nodal mount head also allows for focus retention when using a shallow depth of field as the distance on the sensor or the film gate does not change on pan and tilt. There is no shifting or movement (as with a traditional tilt on a standard head) to throw your focus off with regard to distance; and with sensors on cameras getting larger and shallow depth-of-field being popular, this head will allow for greater accuracy with even conventional use. A great aspect of the Cartoni Lambda head is that you can effortlessly tilt 360 degrees even with large cameras like the Arri BL4s including a large lens and 1000′ mag.  You cannot do this on the Ronford F7, and it’s much easier to set-up the Lambda than a Weaver, for example.  The Lambda features a small hand crank that allows for a large amount of overall vertical adjustment and a smaller crank for nodal vertical axis centering, all with indexing. This is built on solid dovetail plates unlike other nodal heads that use tubing. The head will also accommodate wide cameras or simply allow your 1st AC or video assist the necessary tech access to both sides of the camera with a fair amount of room on the right side to make adjustments. This is achieved by unlocking the sliding dovetail and extending the head horizontally. Again–all indexed. Once you have the camera centered and the head counter-weighted, you can achieve zero gravity panning and tilting. If the camera being used has a smaller-than-the-minimal adjustment allowance on the head, a camera riser or mounting block is required to match head pivot axis with the camera’s gate/sensor vertical axis. You will want to drop drag for both panning and tilting to zero for any camera lighter than 10lbs.

The Cartoni Lambda is built like a tank and can accommodate cameras weighing up to 88lbs. The head weighs in at 46lbs, but don’t let that dictate your camera choice. Because its a zero gravity head, there is no minimum camera weight. This isn’t exactly true as the camera either has to weigh equal to or more than the Cartoni’s multi-adjustable tilt/pan handle. I put several cameras on the head — an Arri BL4S (approx 45lbs with 20-100 and 1000′ mag), an SR2.5 Evolution (approx 18lbs with 50mm prime and 400′ mag), a Sony PMW-350 (approx 15lbs with 16x lens and dionic 90 battery), and lastly a Canon 7D (approx 5lbs with 24-70mm, battery grip, and batteries) — all of which exhibited the same effortless panning and tilting. The Lambda features several adjustments of drag on both pan and tilt which even the heaviest of cameras will stay where it is placed (as long as it was balanced properly when centered and counterbalanced). Overall, I would say that the Cartoni Lambda (which is very popular in Europe and on the West Coast) should be seriously considered when looking at a head to rent for your next project. The fact is — the Lambda is pretty much the standard nodal head out west. If you are shooting any type of special effects or force perspective — the head is a must. It should also be considered if you just want to be able to have unrestricted tilting that you cannot get from a traditional head. It’s heavy, but it’s well worth it. I shot with it for 6 hours of testing and it was completely effortless — tracking subjects regardless of how fast they were moving. There is a 3rd axis option with this head for adding roll or dutch, which we currently do not carry, but if you absolutely need a 3 axis nodal head, you’ll want to look at our Weaver Steadman with 3rd Axis option. We will be featuring the Cartoni Lambda in a future Learning Lab. Mention that you read this blog entry and get 10% off your rental of the Cartoni Lambda head. Mike Sutton, Senior Account Manager Twitter: @MNS1974

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Nikon To Enter The Fray With New Video DSLRs?

According to the various rumor sites, Nikon might be close to announcing a new video DSLR camera (D3100) in about a week, with another to follow in mid-september (D95).  While there is a multitude of speculation as to what will come out in press releases before Photokina from Canon and Nikon, we should digest our rumors slowly, and with several grains of hopeful salt. Adam Van Voorhis, Equipment Technician

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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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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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13 High-Speed Phantom Cameras Used at 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa…

Eight Vision Research Phantom v640 and five Phantom HD cameras are currently being used in South Africa to shoot the 2010 World Cup Soccer Tournament.  I watched a few games already, and noticed that the slow motion was used very frequently — and not just for replays of the latest goals, shots or fouls, but also to show the audience dancing, singing and enjoying the show.  I  specifically liked the close-up shots of the athletes’ faces in slow motion with muscles rippling under the skin, showing all the effort and emotion and delivering quite a new visual quality… Zbigniew Twarog, Chief Engineer

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24 Hour Film Race – Boston Winners Announced

The concept of the 24 Hour Film Race is pretty insane.  Late on a Friday night, you’re e-mailed a theme (with a surprise element tossed in),  and you then have approximately 24 hours to write, shoot and edit a final 4-minute piece.  Insane, right?  Challenging, right?  An adrenaline-pumping blast, right?  Yes, yes and yes.  What’s cool about this particular film race is that winners in Boston, for example, go on to compete against winning filmmakers in other cities across the country and in Canada.  The final winners (1 through 20) receive cash and other prizes.  As a result of this cross-country competition, both films and filmmakers get some substantial exposure. Boston’s winners were announced this week, with congratulations going to 1st Prize winner ”I ♥ U” by Neoscape and other runners-up listed in order below: 1)  ”Moving On” by Castparty Productions 2)  “Double Edged Sword” by Mango 3)  ”P.H.O.N.E. 300K” by Electric Shark Dog 4)  ”Pallino” by Bait & Tackle To watch the winning films, go to  It’s not too late to register for film races in Portland (Oregon) and Toronto. Screenings (leading to more winners) will take place in Denver and Seattle.  Winners have also been announced in Chicago, Miami and Minneapolis (in addition to Boston). Lisa D’Angelo Director of Outreach