5.19.2020

How flat can an 8 bit, .Mov file from a Sigma fp camera get (video)? I thought I'd test it myself just to see. Click through to Vimeo to see it full screen in 4K.

https://vimeo.com/420498736


Sigma flat and otherwise from Kirk Tuck on Vimeo.

After watching the video shot with the Sigma fp in .Mov at DPR I decided to test my camera to see just how flat a file I could pull out of the camera without jumping into Cinema DNG (raw file).

I took the camera to the bridge over Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas and shot some tests.

I used the camera's "neutral" profile, turned down the sharpening and the contrast in the "color" parameters and then used the manual tone curves to add +4 to the shadows and -4 to the highlights for even flatter files.

All shot at 29.97, 8 bit, All-I, 4K onto a regular V90 SD card.

I used ISO 400 as it is the camera's native video ISO. I used a variable neutral density filter to adjust exposure. We were in full sun on a very bright afternoon. No fill.

I shot with the camera for about an hour in 97 degree heat, mostly in direct sun, with no heat issues from the camera.

That's all. Thanks. KT

A jumbled mess of thoughts for a super hot Tuesday in May. Copy stand magic. Crazy optics. Weird equipment longings and one off topic section just because: 2.5 months of deprivation.

This is a photograph of Belinda printed on a sheet of 
8x10 Ilfobrom double-weight paper. 
It's in a box with 250 other double weight 8x10s. 
I'm having fun looking at them again...

I'll get the totally off topic stuff out of the way first. Then we'll swing back to the "important" stuff. 

5:24 a.m. I don't know why but whenever I set an alarm on my phone I always seem to wake up five or ten minutes before the alarm goes off. I turn it off and get out of bed before I can change my mind and postpone whatever it was that prompted me to set an alarm. Then I get started. 

Today is the first day the Western Hills Athletic Club Masters Swimmers are allowed back in the (wondrous, mystical and transplendent) swimming pool to work out with a coach and fellow swimmers. It's been a long, long hiatus. The message that came last week announcing our careful and well choreographed re-entry was like stone tablets from heaven. 

I've been walking, running, lifting weights, working out with stretch cords and hiking, in some form or another every single day since the pool closure. I have to have an outlet for all the reckless energy so it's either exercise or spend time searching for new photo gear to buy. A couple pairs of running and hiking shoes is a much cheaper alternative.

The masters program has a short amount of time allotted to use the pool since there needs to also be time for kids competitive swim programs and adult/member lap swimming as well. We get three slots on weekdays. 6-7, 7-8 and noon - 1 pm, we get two slots in the mornings on Saturday and Sunday. In conjunction with advice from the city attorneys and heath experts, we've devised a safety protocol which mandates only two people per lane across the seven lanes. Each person in the lane starts and ends at opposite ends of the pool. The workouts are now only 55 minutes to allow for transitions between time slots. Everyone has to sign up online to reserve their space. It's first come first served. 

I swam in high school and college and have vast, vast experience doing early morning workouts. We used to hit the water six days a week in high school at 5:30 a.m. And back then we had school, dating, homework, etc. to schedule in. It should be a piece of cake for me to do the 6 a.m. workouts now that my biggest responsibilities in the present are dabbling the stock market and getting in that crucial nap during the heat of the day (of which there is much). 

There were three of us in the pool at six this morning, with two coaches on the deck. There are entry and exit protocols and even a tub with water and bleach for sterilizing the club kick boards after use. 
When I first thought of all the steps I worried that we'd have parts of each lap where we'd be closer than six feet and I thought about the aerosol effect of breathing. But as soon as I started swimming I realized that we are all trained to exhale all of our air with our faces down in the water and only bring our faces to the side to inhale. So we are basically blowing out our air, and any aerosol component, directly into highly chlorinated water. I can't imagine a safer "filtering" scenario. 

As there were only three of us this morning at the earliest workout we were easily able to maintain a safe distance as well...

Since none of us have been in the water and swimming hard for the last two months our coach, Chris, (former UT All American) took it easy on us. We got in a little over 2,000 yards today and a good portion of that was kicking with a board. The only "tough" part was the eight X 25 yard butterfly sprints. 

I was home having coffee by 7:15 and out walking the hills with Belinda by 8 a.m. Already a productive and happy day. And I'm especially glad we got our exercise early because today will be our first day of the year to probably crest 100 degrees. It's nothing but blue skies and intense sun from dawn to dusk. If that amount of UV doesn't kill the virus in the chlorinated water then I give up all hope...

Photo Stuff: I've made a copy stand from a big Benro tripod, with a smoothly moving center column, and a Gitzo side arm. After leveling the camera carefully and making it parallel to the light box I'm using it's easy to move the center column  up and down to change the magnification for copy work. I appreciate all the feedback I got from everyone last week and I'm making good progress getting very sharp images to play with in PhotoShop. I'm currently using an adapted Leica R 60mm macro lens but I might order the Sigma 70mm f2.8 Art macro; just for grins. I'm using film holders from several older flat bed scanners (which I no longer own) and that works well to keep negatives flat and to also provide a black surround for the film to keep flare to a minimum. More to come shortly, along with examples.

I've been having a satisfying time using one of the S1R cameras, along with the Sigma 85mm Art lens, as a black and white portrait set up for the studio and controlled exterior stuff. So far I have only been able to experiment on myself, Belinda and Ben but I'm hoping that I'll have the opportunity in the second half of the year to recruit and safely photograph a wider group of subjects.

I've got the camera set to shoot squares and use the L. Monochrome setting in the camera with a few tweaks (sharpness down a few clicks, noise reduction reduced a lot, and contrast dropped by two notches). The results are promising. The 85mm Art is a gorgeous lens. Heavy but such a nice imaging tool.

An interaction with a writer from DP Review was refreshing and positive. Richard Butler has been with DP Review as an editor and writer for a long while. He did a video project with a Sigma fp that was posted on the the DPR site over the weekend. On a cursory reading of his attached article I felt that he wasn't giving the camera enough credit for being a great video camera and wrote him a personal note to say so. I mostly took him to task because he was asking for a flatter file and I overlooked the fact that he  was talking about having a flat file (like "flat" in the big Panasnonics or "Eterna" in the Fujis) to use with the 8 bit, .Mov files he wanted to shoot. I though he had overlooked the wide range of controls available with "tone" and "color" settings.

Even though my poorly thought through e-mail could be interpreted as  a bit 'snarky' he quickly and graciously answered me and gently suggested I may have missed something in the article. I went back and re-read the last few paragraphs closely. He was right. I was wrong. I still disagree that the controls won't get one a flat enough file but he was very clear in what he was trying to get across. Occasionally I get moving too fast and miss stuff. But my takeaway was just how gracious and positive Richard's responses were. Now I'm calling my own truce with DP Review. I'll be more inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt in the future.

The Brand New Lens I Deeply Desire but have no apparent use for or rationale for owning. Well, I could easily rationalize owning it but it's the exchange of money for the lens that makes me hesitant. The lens in question is the L-mount version of the Sigma 40mm f1.4 Art lens. It may be the greatest normal lens every made at f1.4 but my hesitation is that I rarely ever shoot at f1.4 with normal focal length lenses and I already have that range so well covered with the Panasonic 24-105mm lens, the Panasonic S-Pro 24-70mm f2.8 lens, two of the 45mm f2.8 Sigma lenses and the Panasonic S-Pro 50mm f1.4. Seems like pretty radical overkill to also covet the 40mm f1.4 Sigma L but there it is.

I've resisted it so far. I guess I'm waiting to see a clearer path to business recovery but the 40mm is a brilliant idea. I just don't have a slot in which to put that idea to work with any sort of logic.

I'm going to see if I can borrow one to test it and perhaps see if there is some reason that it all makes sense for....something.

Sigma fp. I continue to think that this is a delightful camera and I'm currently building a shoulder mount rig for it. The components are mostly from a company called, SmallRig, and it will have padded shoulder mount, 15mm rails to provide for lens support and a top mount arm for a monitor. I'll also have space to mount the SSD required for Cinema Raw as well as a space on which to mount an audio interface. Interestingly, with an Atomos digital monitor/recorder I could pull an audio signal directly into the recorder, bypassing the camera pre-amps altogether. Seems like a lot of complexity but the weight of the rig plus the three points of contact with me should help to calm down camera movements and make shooting off the tripod better.

Sales for Camera Companies are all down dramatically but at this point it doesn't really affect me since there is ample new inventory out in the market and the used market is just bursting with product. Sure, this slowdown will probably put a hold on a lot of new product introductions but generally, unless there's something you really need, those introductions are more of a burden than a blessing. I'm trying to become stupider about new stuff and smarter about using the stuff I already have. Experience with gear is a good thing; a plus. New and Improved don't necessarily go hand in hand....

That's it for this morning. I've got stuff to do and Belinda is telling me that I've got to get the recycling can up to the curb --- stat. Drink good coffee, sell your big stereo and get better ear buds. No one can hear the difference between two speaker wires of the same gauge and length, and people, in general, need to spend a hell of a lot more time outdoors getting some use out of their bodies. We tend to live too much in our minds.

Thank you for letting me share with you. Can't wait to get up at 5:30 tomorrow morning for another life affirming swim. Namasté.