5.14.2013

Pernicious camera envy.

I've got a temporary case of it and I'm fighting it....

But Olympus and Magic Lantern aren't making it easy. Let's start with the ground breaking change to the Canon 5D mk3 first. If you are a still photography only person this may not shake the ground under your feet or cause you to do much more than walk down the hall for another cup of coffee, but for the people who want to do commercials, movies and other kinds of video with their hybrid (still+digital) camera this is big.

There is a company/group/source called Magic Lantern and they've made a hobby of writing terrific hacks for cameras that can do video but seem to be a bit crippled by their manufacturers. When the Canon 5D mk2 first came out videographers flocked to buy it because it was the first time a full frame (35mm frame) camera could be pressed into making video and that meant that film makers of all stripes could take advantage of the big sensor size to do all sorts of effects with shallow depth of field. But the camera had some flaws for video production. The biggest was no control over audio. The camera handled external microphones about the way a point and shoot would, it used automatic gain control, which results in compressed dynamic range (audio) and a lot of hiss and noise during quiet moments.

The industry went into work around mode. Film makers started buying up digital audio recorders and shooting second sound. This means they shot video with the 5D2 and recorded audio on a separate device and then tried to marry up the two tracks in post production. That led to another workaround in the form of some software called, Pluraleyes, which automatically sync'd up the tracks. The camera was also locked at 30 fps while film makers also wanted access to 24 fps.

So Magic Lantern created a "hack" that gave the 5D2 both fully manual sound control and 24 fps. Embarrassed, Canon later added both features in a long overdue firmware upgrade. Something they may have never done if the Magic Lantern folks hadn't showed the buying public how easy it was...

Now we've got the Canon 5Dmk3 and it comes factory equipped with both of the features that were missing at the previous model's launch. But video makers keep evolving and what they currently, desparately want is video with much better codecs or, even better, no compression at all. The current holy grail is to be able to shoot raw files. It's something offered by the Red cameras and a few other manufacturers but not by any DSLR hybrid maker. The general wisdom is that the thing holding back full frame video from ultimate quality is precisely the codec, of the way the files are compressed and then uncompressed.

You guessed it. About a week ago the Magic Lantern people announced and have distributed for beta testing a hack that does just that. It allows the 5D3 to shoot in raw. And the content I saw on EOSHD (yes, click the link for samples and details) is pretty compelling. It leapfrogs the 5Dmk3 well ahead of many dedicated, high end video cameras in the nose bleed price territory. Even those over $20,000. And unliked the uncompressed files you can get from some camera via the clean HDMI output into a digital recorder the hacked 5D3 will write directly to fast CF cards.

So now budding film makers can scale the capabilities of their 5D3's to match final use, creative expectations or client budgets. While the camera is still a 2k device there is the potential to sample from the entire frame and get a higher level of resolution as well.  Do I wish I also had a Canon 5D3 for the times I want the ultimate in video quality? Yes. As a still shooter do I have the same grass is greener on the other side of the fence envy? Nope.  Go to this link and read all about it because this will change the professional film and video market: http://www.eoshd.com/content/10324/big-news-hands-on-with-continuous-raw-recording-on-canon-5d-mark-iii

The potential downside (and we may already be seeing this in the introduction of new lenses like the 24-70mm 2.8, is that high end videographers may drive Canon to up the quality levels of their premium lenses and to (expensively) optimize them for shooting video. It all depends on where the market momentum winds up.... At the moment, through no hard work of their own, Canon takes the lead.

My second hunk of envy is much more straightforward. I was an early Olympus Pen adopter. I owned the original Pen film cameras, those cuddly little half frame cameras with the extra dose of great industrial design, that came out in the 1960's and soldiered on through part of the 1970's. I also bought several of the newer digital Pens. I loved the EP-2 camera and the EP-3 was even better but when we seemed forever stuck at a kludgy 12 megapixels I got lured away by the siren call of the IQ in the Sony Nex 7.

When Olympus came out with the OMD EM-5 camera last year I looked at it and played with it a dozen times but I didn't like the way the body was designed and it didn't evoke the warm and fuzzy nostalgia for the OM-1 that Oly hoped. I bonded with the cleaner and more logical EP/rangefinder-esque bodies and couldn't make the leap. But I did love what I saw from the camera and I still wish, from time to time, that my current cameras had the same prodigious image stabilization as the OMD EM-5.

The new EP-5 is nearly everything I wanted in a camera configuration I wanted when Olympus came out with the OMD EM5 instead. One thing that makes the new package even sweeter (and better than the OMD) is the upgraded EVF. The new version more that doubles the resolution of the VF2 while shortening the already good lag time down to 30 ms.

The other thing Olympus fixed was the fiddly control dials. Now there are hortizontally oriented control dials on the front and the back of the camera. There's other relatively meaningless stuff, like WiFi but the camera seems to have hit the sweet spot of both industrial design and performance. It's making me sweat a little when I look in the Nex equipment drawer. I'm sure I'm not the only Nex user who's saying: "Where's my Nex 70mm 1.8 ?????"

For more information go to the metrics source, DPReview: http://www.dpreview.com/previews/olympus-pen-ep5/

Just try not to get embroiled in any good forum fights while you're there....

Sunny and happy in Texas, and looking on the other side of the fence...

26 comments:

Peter F. said...

As an E-M5 and NEX-6 user, I can't wait to see what is coming up. I'll skip the EP5 but can't wait to see how they build all the EP5 goodies (customizable mode dial and focus peaking!) and large EVF into the next OM-D. Here's hoping for a fast standard zoom too!

And hopefully Sony will step up to compete, with the NEX 7n (or whatever it will called) by adding an equally large EVF and please enable autoISO when in "M" mode.

These are fun times!

And none of these things will make my photos better (and no worse, either... thankfully)

Peter F.

Frank Grygier said...

I preordered. Just think all those beautiful primes come in black. I will let you hold mine.

Kirk Tuck said...

The power of the dark side is strong with this one....

Bold Photography said...

Let me know if you want to borrow my 5DIII ... :-)

Michael Matthews said...

I'm with you on the E-P5 if the viewfinder pans out. I have no delusion about it making magical advances in my photography, but it would be nice to be able to see a large, detailed image while enjoying the advantages of real-time EVF.

One question about video: do you experience any problem with flicker when using fluorescents? I believe you're using 24 fps, so that might override any out-of-phase phenomena involving shutters and light source. My ignorance abounds.

Kirk Tuck said...

We all struggle with fluorescents on locations. Sometimes it's just a matter of shifting shutter speeds.

Richard Leacock said...

Happily using the EP-3 with a couple of good primes and the VF-2 viewfinder for a lot of my work. Glad to see the tweaks and improvements (great sensor, dual control dials front and back, continuation of great b&w etc, etc). Will wait for the price to go down a tad before picking one up but can hardly wait (pause, take a deep breath but don't "fill the cart"). Still have a slr system that gets used on specific assignments, but the lightweight mirrorless cameras are a pleasure to use especially with all those great small lenses available. How long ago was the E-P1? ; )

meandmycanon said...

I miss your Olympus "phase" Kirk. You could return..........!

David said...

Kirk,
Take the money from 5D and use it for black magic pocket cinema camera and an ep5.
Then you will have best video and still using same lenses. The super 35 on the black magic is said to be wonderful.

David said...

Kirk,
Take the money from 5D and use it for black magic pocket cinema camera and an ep5.
Then you will have best video and still using same lenses. The super 35 on the black magic is said to be wonderful.

Bruce Rubenstein said...

"Rangefinder-esque bodies", should have rangefinder-esque viewfinders in the upper left hand corner of the body, so your nose doesn't get smushed into the LCD. If Olympus had left out the flash and put a viewfinder in there instead, they'd sell 3x as many of these things as they will now. I'll pass on this one, and see what the E-M6 has; besides a big nose print on the LCD.

Dave Jenkins said...

Pay the price of an OMD and then have to pay more for an EVF? Not on your life!

Dave said...

That is amazing footage. You are driving a wannabe photographer turning to wannabe videographer nutso! :) The bar has been raised! Now I'm curious what Canon's response will be.

atmtx said...

I think the E-P5 is overpriced. Here is my analysis.
The Olympus E-P5, is it worth it?

But it does look like a fine camera. Almost everything I wanted in the E-P3 replacement.

Robin Wong said...

Kirk, you have got to try the VF4!!! Olympus claims it is the largest viewfinder for today's cameras with exception to canon's 1dx. I know you will love it. I am only waiting for them to put it into the coming OMD camera.

Vu Le, DDS said...

Be careful what you wish for. Raw video means bigger cf cards, a big fat thunderbolt drive, and probably a mac pro instead of an iMac. Like they said in Jaws, "we're gonna need a bigger boat."

I love, love, love my OM-d, especially with the new 17. Can't wait to resume the "downward Blad" shooting position with the articulating VF-4. The VF-2 always felt too small for me.

Eric said...

Heh, heh! I knew you couldn't avoid talking about gear. Why fight it? It is fun. ...Even though it is talking about another tool that may or may not make taking pics and video easier, albeit harder on the pocket book!

Kirk Tuck said...

I wish for RAW video on my a99. I may only use it on special projects but nonetheless it would nice to have, like airbags in your car.....

As to the VF-4 finder.....If I could put that big view finder on my Sony Nexes I'd buy one for each one I own. That's some nice tech.

Peter F. said...

I'm waiting, too, Robin. All the goodies inside the EP5 should be packed in to the next OMD, too. If they add a new "kit" lens that is the rumored fast standard zoom (like the lengendary 12-60 for reg43), then I will be pulling out my Visa card as soon as pre-orders are available.

Peter

dave said...

I share your envy.

However, I could never go to a dslr for video because focusing in dslr's is designed around the mirror - which you do not use in video. Mirrorless camera focusing is the same no matter if you are shooting stills or video.

Sony STL cameras actually the best in this regards as it gives you the focusing ability of a mirror when shooting video.

I ultimately went with NEX because of the size and use its STL adapter when fast focusing is important (sports).

This may be less of an issue for you as you put the camera on a tripod and direct the actors and are in complete control.

Kirk Tuck said...

And Dave, that's why I shoot video with a Sony a99, a57, a58, Nex-6 and Nex-7. Yummmy AF when you want it.... The thing that keeps me from throwing money at Canon or Nikon...

SerrArris said...

Dear Kirk!

Just to clarify: The RED raw format (REDCODE Raw) is NO real RAW format at all, as it is compressed. It is still very hard due to speed limitations of cards/harddisks to get real RAW for video.

The only real options you'll have up to now for real video raw is a Sony F5/F55, the Blackmagic cameras or an Arri Alexa. That Canon hack, however, really gets me! They have indeed done something near to impossible.

But I don't think cinematographers will switch to a Canon after all - there is much more to a camera than just RAW output: Dynamic range (where the Alexas are still in the lead), before all, when it comes to image quality. Untill I tested it for myself I can't believe the 12 stops dynamic range Canon anounces (which would be still less than a Blackmagic, b.t.w., and much less than an Alexa).

For videographers, however, this is good news - but then it comes down to workflow integration, where RAW files are (up to now) seldomly used.

Best regards,
Markus

Kirk Tuck said...

Hmmm. I may not see a lot of battle hardened cinematographers switching but I sure could see a whole new generation of film makers, totally untied to film, use them as great tools for the first parts of their careers.

As to raw, it's good to be aware that all the raw files in our still cameras are also compressed, even when it says "uncompressed". If they weren't they would be the size of their full 14 bit tiff files...

Bob Travaglione said...

I love my Fuji XE-1 because it is just plain comfortable and I figured out most of the basics in 10 minutes. The EVF is wonderful and the files are smooth and glowing. This is the most like my old film cameras so far. ISO up to 1600 is as nice as 400. Black and White is like it should be. Light Weight and easily understood.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Kirk that the PEN line is better looking than the OMD. I still gave in to the OMD, having gotten tired of Olympus not putting a dang viewfinder in the PENs. I can say I've LOVED the 14 months I've had with the EM5. (I've also retro'd it up to the point I constantly get asked if its a vintage camera.) Had Oly put the VF3 in the EP3, the EM5 would be going on eBay. The 1/8000 shutter speed alone would be enough to convince me. But alas, they left the viewfinder off again.

However, this means the EM6 (or whatever its called) should be something else! Bigger viewfinder, 1/8000, focus peak, all the stuff we love now, and the new stuff to come out (PDAF?)...

Anonymous said...

Sorry, forgot to put a name on above. ^

I meant VF4 in EP5.

-Neonart