New Found Love of Video

As of late, I seem to be shifting my focus away from photography and more toward videography.  Not that video is suddenly new to me or anything like that – because I’ve owned and used a video camera for years. (Canon HF-R11).  But for some strange reason, I find myself elevating the significance of video more than photos.

Photos have, and will always have, a place of importance in our lives, but videos capture life as it moves, breathes and lives. If a photo is worth a thousand words, then a video must be worth a million.

My new found appreciation of video initially came about when I stumbled across some old videos that my late Uncle made around the farm back in the 80’s. Even though the technology, and quality of his videos is not even close to what can be achieved today, they still brought “life” back to those days and their memories – I became transported back to that time, and a new appreciation of the value of videos was born!

Canon HF-R11

Anyway… As I mentioned briefly at the top of this post, I’ve owned a Canon HF-R11 video camera for years, and during this time span, I’ve shot numerous videos with it.

It’s very easy to use, and up until just very recently, I’ve been very happy with the results that this camcorder produces. But recently I discovered that in certain conditions, the videos suffer from “ghosting” in high contrast situations. I never noticed it before, but now that I’ve see it – I can’t un-see it…

Nikon D800

I then started to mess around with the video abilities of my Nikon D800 DSLR and discovered a whole new world. First off, even though both the Canon and Nikon will shoot 1080P video, the Nikon blows the Canon out of the water. This isn’t really surprising really because the DSLR has a full frame image sensor, and the interchangeable lenses that are available for it are also far superior as well. As you can see from the still frames taken from each of the cameras shooting at 1080P at 30fps. The difference in image quality is striking.

Canon HF-R11 Camcorder (click for larger view) Nikon D800 DSLR (click for larger view)

In the Canon shot, the “ghosting” I mentioned, though not horrible, is quite distracting once you notice it. The Nikon shot however is tack sharp with smooth edges. Plus the overall dynamic range of the image is superior as well.

So all is perfect in the world now, correct? Well not quite…

A DSLR is first and foremost a camera used to take photographs, and it is designed to be really great at doing so. The design however isn’t optimal for video.

  • First, the viewfinder that works wonderful for photos, can’t be used at all for video – the mirror that reflects the view up to the viewfinder so you can focus and compose your photos, has to be held up, blocking the view through the viewfinder, so that video can be shot. That leaves only the “live view” LCD screen on the back of the camera to compose your videos, and unfortunately that has a few issues as well – namely it’s hard to see outside, and it’s equally hard to tell if you have the focus correct even if you can see the image in it.
  • Second, the internal microphone on the camera body picks up noise from the lens motors as it adjusts the focus…

Thankfully, both of these issues are correctable! For the LCD screen issue, you can purchase sun shades to block out sun glare, or you can get larger external monitors to better view the image as it records, or, you can opt for what I decided to do, and purchase a “LCD hood loupe” that attaches to the back of the camera that not only blocks out the glare, but with the optics in the eyepiece, it also enlarges the monitor image so you can better see focus and other factors.

For the second issue concerning the built in microphone, the solution here is quite simple as well – don’t use it, use an external microphone attached to the hot shoe instead! The only real downside to the external microphone approach is the fact that it needs a AA battery to work, AND you absolutely must remember to turn the microphone on when recording or else you’ll end up with pure silence. Oops!

The above video is a lens and microphone test clip that I shot. I’m still awaiting delivery of the “LCD hood loupe” unit, so haven’t had a chance to test that yet. The lens I used is the Sigma 50-500mm Zoom lens, that has a fairly loud focus motor. My Nikon 28-300mm lens is much more quiet.

The test reveals that the external microphone not only reduces the auto-focus motor noise to barely noticeable levels, but it also works really well in windy conditions eliminating the “roar and popping” noise that the camcorder produces in windy conditions.

If the monitor hood loupe works as well as the reviews claim it does, then I should be well on my way to the best quality videos that I’ve ever taken!

My first take on the LCD Hood Loupe Attachment.