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Nautilus Tripod Wheels Just Launched!

The Nautilus Tripod Wheels™ are a Track Dolly and Camera Slider system that provides the ability to achieve beautiful cinematic motion in one affordable package. We make them right here in the USA.

Go check them out now, or read on…

Tripod Wheels Nautilus - Camera Slider, Track Dolly, Camera Dolly

This has been one of the most pleasurable product developments that we have ever undertaken. We originally set out to develop a camera slider that could travel 10 feet. We had no idea that after several scrapped prototypes, we would end up with such a simple design that exceeded our goal in so many ways. We have been using the tripod wheels in-house for a few months now and LOVE all the filming options they open up for us.

Tripod Wheels - Camera-Slider - Track-Dolly -- Workshop Table

The development approach with all our products removes complexity resulting in a clear path for each product to “show itself”. It is quite surprising how much ideas change when all the existing design obstacles are removed. We hope you all enjoy what we have come up with as much as we do. This product truly has changed how we shoot video.

My sincere thanks goes out to our micro team for bringing this innovative product design to market. It was truly a group effort with important contributions from everyone involved.

With Gratitude,
A Spence
DSLR Solutions

What is in the Camera Bag for HDSLR Video?

What is in the Camera Bag for HDSLR Video?What is inside your camera bag for a video shoot? Here is a peek inside my camera bag before I head out to do some lens testing (Takumar vs. Canon) on a cold day. I am traveling on foot and thought you may find it interesting what I chose to include in my bag for this outing.

What is in your bag when you are headed out to do video? Share your recommended gear in the comments area below.

For anyone who is interested, items in the video are linked below:

If you found this post informative, please be sure to spread the word using one of the “Share this page” links below.

Using Takumar Vintage Lenses for Video with M42 to EOS Adapter

Awhile back I ran across an article about using older M42 lenses for video on newer Canon cameras with an M42 to EOS adapter. I was pretty excited because, thanks to my father in law, we have quite a nice set of old Takumar lenses.

Vintage Takumar Lens Set - 135mm f/3.5, 55mm f/1.8, 28mm f/3.5, 50mm Macro f/3.5 and 85mm f/1.9

Thinking about older lenses brought back memories of that buttery smooth focus ring on the old Canon FD 50mm prime used with my Canon FTB body. I can remember the moment I extracted the Takumar lenses from their leather cases and twisted the focus ring. WOW! I had forgotten how nice the older lenses were made.

I immediately bought an M42 to EOS adapter (without chip). Unfortunately, my current camera (Canon 60D) did not recognize that a lens was attached. I wound up needing to purchase the adapter with the chip, which worked perfectly. Keep in mind that these older lenses are completely manual and YOU will need to adjust the aperture and focus ring, the camera does none of it for you.

At this point I was getting really excited about using these older lenses for video, but it remained to be seen what kind of optical quality would be achieved. I assumed it would be pretty decent, but had not idea how nice of images from the older Takumar lenses would produce. One word “Fantastic!” The images are organic and the lens bodies are beautifully machined and they are truly a pleasure to use. Here is a shot testing lens flare on the Canon 50mm f/1.4 and the Takumar 55mm f/1.8

Canon 50mm f/1.4 @ f/1.8 and Takumar 55mm f/1.8 @ f/1.8 - Lens Flare Test

Wide open, the Canon 85mm f/1.8 beats the Takumar 85mm f/1.9 in sharpness (at least in my initial tests), but when reviewing the video, I actually think the Takumar 85mm has a more cinematic image. The Canon 50mm f/1.4 and the Takumar 55mm f/1.8 are very close in sharpness, and again I prefer the Takumar image over the Canon. I am manual focusing and using a variable ND filter which adds a layer into the mix, but these frame grabs should show how the lenses compare after small color correction. Also keep in mind that lighting is constantly changing and can affect the final comparison. Here a few sample frame grabs from some recent footage for non-scientific comparison (click any image to enlarge).

Canon 85mm @ f/1.8 vs. Takumar 85mm @ f/1.9Canon 85mm @ f/8 vs. Takumar 85mm @ f/8Canon 50mm f/1.4 @ f/1.7 and Takumar 55mm f/1.8 @ f/1.8Canon 50mm f/1.4 @ f/8 and Takumar 55mm f/1.8 @ f/8

Let me qualify this with saying that if you require auto aperture or auto focusing you will be disappointed. But, if you are shooting video on a DSLR, Cinema, or Mirrorless camera, these older lenses are so much better than the new offerings you will wonder why you had not tried them sooner. Seriously, some of the old Takumar lenses can be picked up for around $100 and in my opinion out perform their newer several hundred dollar counterparts in many ways.

First thing you will notice is the lenses actually have a focus ring that is super smooth when turned. No more jerky missed focuses, which can sometimes happen with the newer lenses when shooting video. Most of the older lenses also have more throw, meaning that they have more degrees of rotating between infinity and close focus giving you a finer level of focus adjustment. Many old lenses also have machined metal enclosures unlike the plastic lens enclosures that are so common today.

Takumar 55mm & 85mm -- Canon-85mm & 50mm

Most of the new lenses were built for fast, silent auto focus. The technology got so good that the camera manufactures no longer needed to focus on the manual capabilities of lenses as the camera computers were doing the adjustments so darn well. With the implementation of video into the HDSLR cameras however, users found themselves stuck with the new technology lenses, most of which are not ideal for smooth video focusing.

Canon recognized the need and reached for more technology to solve the smoother focusing needed for video. They began offering their STM lenses, which are focus-by-wire (computer driven focusing), and in my opinion leave a lot to be desired. Sure, with cameras like the new 70D and the firmware-updated 7D, these lenses can be very useful if you need the camera to do the work of focus tracking for you. But, unfortunately the STM lenses can be quite noisy and sometimes unpredictable in manual mode. The STM lenses can be especially annoying if you are needing to hit a specific focus point repeatedly during multiple takes, making them nearly useless to serious or semi-serious filmmakers.

Takumar 55mm & 85mm -- Canon-85mm & 50mm

Sometimes new technology is not the answer to solving our latest problems. There was a day not so long ago when lenses were built to last a lifetime. Those types of lenses now cost more than most independent filmmakers can afford. So, I say go “Old School” and take a look at some of the older manual lenses. Be aware thought that the old lenses will make your newer ones feel like toys. Two words, “Fisher Price”, now always come to mind when I forced to use my newer lenses, yes, even my “L” lenses.

Canon 60D with Takumar 85mm f/1.8 Lens

The Takumar lenses I am now using are in most cases, 50 years older than their more modern counterparts and I could not be happier with their performance. They produce great video images, are quality built, and have predictable focus rings that are buttery smooth providing the perfect complement to shooting video on any HDSLR, Cinema or Mirrorless camera. I just wish I had discovered that they could be adapted to my EOS camera sooner. They are now my go to lenses for video and travel with me everywhere.

Bottom line
, if you are looking for some great glass at a bargain price, look no further than some of the old vintage lenses. Your local pawnshop may even have a few jewels just waiting to be adapted to your camera. Keep in mind that older lenses from brands like Leica and Zeiss can be pretty costly while other brands like Takumar and Olympus can still acquired for a reasonable price.

Stay tuned: We are currently working on a video that will compare the Takumar 85mm f/1.9 to the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 as well as the Takumar 55mm f/1.8 to the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4. We are not going to perform any scientific tests, but rather, we will be testing the lenses in real world shooting conditions and comparing the results.

Anything you would like to see done in our tests? Let us know by commenting below or contacting us and we will see what we can do.

If you found this post informative, please be sure to spread the word using one of the “Share this page” links below.

Lastly, you may also want to check out our Ultra-Simple Follow Focus, which helps give you more precise control of newer lens focus rings and also works wonderfully with the old manual lenses.

A. Spence
DSLR Solutions

A new approach to royalty free & stock music (Updated December 2013)

Neumann Films - The Drama ToolbagI recently had the pleasure of purchasing the latest album from Luke Neumann at Neumann Films titled “The Drama Toolbag“. The vibe of this new album fit perfectly into a project that I have had on the back burner for awhile now. In fact, the album has provided some needed inspiration to get back out and do some filming.

At this point, you might be asking what the “new approach” is that I referred to in the title of this post. Well, the way Neumann Films sells music is quite unique and unlike anything I have come across before.

First, rather than one song (30 second, 60 second & full length) like you would commonly get for $40 at other stock music sites, with the Nuemann Films albums you get several songs for that price. Specifically with the Drama Toolbag, you get ten unique songs, ranging from 48 seconds to 1 minute 45 seconds in length. Second, this album will receive additions to it over the next year and by buying in now, you get a “free upgrade path”. This means, you will receive an email when there are are additions to the album and can download them at no charge. The album price goes up with every addition and thus you will pay more if you buy the album later. Now you see why it is called a free upgrade. Keep in mind that the earlier you get in, the less the toolbag will cost you.

Update: Due to the recent new additions the Drama Toolbag is currently running around $70 (on sale), still a major bargin for all that is included.

Think of the Neumann Films “Toolbag” albums as the Swiss Army Knife of stock and royalty free music.

So, here is where it really starts to get interesting. The reason it is called a “Toolbag” is that you get over 70 files (now over 100 files) including Atmospheres (9), Orchestral Elements (10), Piano (15 x 4 bpm variations of each), Songs (17) and Transitions (3). The unique format gives the end user WAY more options than one would normally get with standard stock music purchases.

Neumann Films Drama Toolbag Folder StructureClick the image above to see the complete folder structure.

You can now mix and match the proper song and other album elements to your footage, not the other way around. For instance, you might combine a piano track that transitions into a song for one scene. Then for another scene, you may just want to use just an atmosphere as the background, you get the idea. Quite frankly, it does not seem like stock music at all, it seems more like “music stock options.” Think of the Neumann Films “Toolbag” albums as the Swiss Army Knife of stock and royalty free music.

So, why am I writing this post? Well, I have followed the Neumann Films video tutorials for quite some time, but never really explored their royalty free music until recently. I have a hunch that others may not be aware their music offerings either.

It is such a pleasure and so refreshing when someone thinks outside the normal boundaries of their industry to come up with a great product at a reasonable price. Hat tip to Neumann Films for doing just this.

December 2013 update: The first update to the Drama Toolbag was delivered on December 1st (Update #2 will be sent out in February), the update size was 439MB with 21 more files which included 7 more songs, 2 more atmospheres and 3 more piano tracks in 4 different beats per minute options.

The Drama Toolbag: Update #1

My favorite additions are the two new atmospheres and the songs Change of Guard and Memories. However, all the additions are excellent and will provide some great options when trying to find or fit a piece of music to a particular scene or piece of footage. Here are some samples of songs from the update: https://soundcloud.com/luke-daniel-neumann/sets/the-drama-t

Just a reminder that the earlier you purchase the “Toolbag” the more files you get at the current price. If you wait, you will pay more for the same content you could have received for less. If you have ever been inspired by any of Neumann Films work, go show you support and purchase something from his site. There truly is something for everybody.

What are you wanting for? Go check out all their Cinematic Music offerings.

Other ways to connect with Neumann Films:
Website: http://neumannfilms.net/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/NeumannFilms
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NeumannFilms
Youtube Main account: http://www.youtube.com/user/Neumannfilms/
Youtube Short Films account: http://www.youtube.com/user/Dod3032

BTW, I received no compensation or other incentive for writing this post. I am simply a happy customer enjoying a excellent product. Cheers

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Canon 5D Mark II 5th year Anniversary: State of the HDSLR Nation

Canon 5D Mark IIThe 5th anniversary of the Canon 5D Mark II it is a great time to take a step back and assess where we have been and where we might still travel down the HDSLR road. Is the HDSLR market dead or dying? I say emphatically no, but it is changing and progressing into more of an HD (including 2k & 4k) market. To quote from Star Wars, “I Think It Is Time We Demonstrated The Full Power Of This Station.

Technology has jumped ahead of where many of the camera manufacturers feel comfortable treading. Thus, they hold back major improvements in favor of smaller ones, falsely thinking that they only need to keep up with their competitors. Let’s not forget that the Nikon D90 rocked the market and was the first DSLR to offer HD video. Soon after, Canon, to stay competitive, introduced the Canon 5D Mark II. The HD video capability was obviously pretty mature in-house or Canon would not have been able to so quickly bring the industry-changing 5D Mark II to market. Large camera manufacturers appear to offer only whatever updates are necessary to sell the next batch of new model cameras, and that is truly a shame for the entire industry.

Magic Lantern Menu 1The developers at Magic Lantern have proven time and time again that even cameras like the Canon 50D, which is over five years old, are capable of shooting RAW video using their innovative free tool. The capabilities of my Canon 60D are spectacular using the Magic Lantern add-on and if the same capabilities were offered in a stock camera, I would likely purchase it.

The new RAW video feature that the Magic Lantern team has enabled on the Canon 5D Mark III is truly amazing! I predict that the first company to produce a top notch algorithm to help reduce the RAW video file size in-camera without losing color and dynamic range quality will rule the market for a couple of years. You see, RAW video files require lots of computer power and storage space to cope with them and thus will be limited, at least for now, to those who have the time and processor power to incorporate RAW into their workflow. The developers at Magic Lantern have truly moved the bar and they are dragging the major camera manufacturers kicking and screaming into the next generation of video capture. Perhaps the upcoming H.265 codec will make the 2k and 4k file sizes manageable for everyone, but RAW video files are likely still going to be huge.

Canon 70D Flip-out LCDFor my style of shooting, the flip-out LCD is really appreciated and something that helps me introduce alternate creative shooting angles into my footage, not to mention the beauty of being able to reverse the screen for protection when the camera is not in use. So, here is the question: Why is there no full-frame sensor camera on the market that offers a large flip-out high-resolution LCD screen? I was really hoping the Canon 5D Mark III would have this feature, but again Canon went with the status quo. There is no doubt that the Canon 5D Mark III is a great camera and a large jump ahead, but it could have been a quantum leap rather than a just another standard upgrade. The new Canon 70D is a great example of focus innovation mixed with the same video quality of the previous generation 60D. I am sure there are some minimal improvements, ISO etc., but again the upgrade is underwhelming and my guess is that sales of the 70D camera will be as well.

Black Magic Pocket Camera

Will the HDSLR market still exist in 5 years? Unless Canon and the other big name manufacturers start putting the features into their cameras that the independent filmmakers are clamoring for, the HDSLR market share will dwindle and they will lose dollars to the other more nimble and innovative companies like Black Magic. I personally think we are moving toward the mirrorless cameras, as the smaller form is something that we can all appreciate. Give me a full-frame sensor, mirrorless camera, large enough to hold comfortably, that will shoot a modified version of RAW video and fit my existing Canon glass with good audio capabilities along with a high resolution EVF plus a large high resolution flip-out LCD screen and I will be a pretty happy camper.

If you found this blog interesting, please be sure to share it on Facebook or Twitter.

P.S. This was my contribution to the Planet5D eBook which includes over 30 contributions from various people from all over the world. You can get your copy of the full version on Planet5D.

DSLR Shoulder Rig: A brief history of the shoulder-mounted video camera

The face of professional video cameras has changed a lot over the last several years, bringing ever more capable cameras like the Canon’s 5D Mark II, Mark III 6D & 70D and Panasonic’s GH2 & GH3 and Nikon D600 & D800 into the hands of the amateur and professional alike. What used to be two distinct markets, video camera, and movie camera, have now nearly merged into one.

Shoulder mounted camera - Camcorder - DSLR Comparison

I remember when I first heard about DSLR cameras getting video capabilities. At the time, I owned a Panasonic DVX100 and I was not sure why anyone would want to capture video with a DSLR when they lacked the much-needed features only available on professional video cameras. Well, times have changed rather quickly and thanks to tools like Magic Lantern, the DSLR can now compete with many of the professional video cameras. In fact, many DSLRs like the Canon 5D Mark III are being considered professional video cameras in their own right.

Betacam SP Camcorder by KMJ - WikipediaEven now, some electronic news gathering (ENG) organizations are choosing the DSLR for its portability and the robust capabilities housed in such a small form factor. As sensors have gotten better, and most recording mechanisms have moved to solid state, the need for these large cameras is shrinking along with the cameras themselves. However, many news gathering cameramen and camerawomen love the stability a large shoulder mounted camera provides, but many of them also have related back problems brought on by lugging around such a large camera.

In the early 80’s the Betacam was introduced and it was one of the first, and most successful video cameras with on board recording. Before that, these types of ENG cameras consisted of a shoulder-mounted camera with a separate backpack or shoulder pack that held the recorder portion, which was then connected to the camera by cable. At least the two-unit system provided for some weight on the other shoulder helping equalize the pressure on the spine a little.

Ikegami Electronics HL-33 Camera by Fletcher6 - Wikipedia

Fortunately technology has progressed and we no longer have to haul around huge weights on our shoulders to achieve great video results… or do we?

From the looks of many of the recent DSLR camera rigs on the market, you would think we are moving backwards. I am quite perplexed as to why so many camera support manufacturers think that placing everything back on the shoulder, creating offset plates, and even adding counter weights is such a great idea. Fatigue is a huge factor when hauling around so much stuff and it eventually affects the resulting video and the health of the operator. Ergonomics seems to take a back seat as designers reach to the past rather than reaching forward for new, more innovative designs.

Manfrotto Fig RigA few manufacturers have created small shoulder braces. Unfortunately, they sacrifice stability for portability in hopes of providing a lighter option for those operators not wanting to haul around so much weight.

Occasionally a new idea will come to market such as the Fig Rig, which puts the camera on a hoop that is supported with both hands. This design ended the myth that stability and good video results could only be achieved with large shoulder-mounted DSLR camera rigs. I am truly surprised that more manufacturers are not thinking outside the 1980s era shoulder-mounted Betacam box.

This is where the new DSLR Solutions Camera Rig comes in. The new camera rig design provides up to three stabilization points per arm giving you really stable video results without having to put additional weight on your shoulder and rig. It also gives the user many ways to comfortably grip the camera rig without needing to adjust a single handle.

DSLR Camera Rig - User

On top of that the design puts the camera in front of the operator (no electronic view finder (EVF) or offset plate required) and gives the ability to rest the rig on the waist between shots, which even allows for hands-free operation when shooting from the hip. Lastly, the DSLR Solutions Camera Rig opens up even more creative options with easy high- and low-angle capabilities.

It is an exciting time to be a videographer or filmmaker. New camera capabilities are continually being developed with increased resolution at lower cost in smaller form factors. I am personally looking forward to seeing even more simple and innovative designs brought to market.

More information about the DSLR Solutions Camera Rig can be found here: http://www.dslrsolutions.net

A. Spence
DSLR Solutions

P.S. Why do we carry such heavy burdens on our shoulders? Here’s a bit of humor from Neumann Films to lighten things up: http://youtu.be/ixVjpvrn7n4

DSLR Solutions Camera Rig Announced

Our latest product, the DSLR Solutions Camera Rig was launched today.

We have put months of hard work into crafting a simple camera support that would give the user lots of creative options without the complexity and weight of a standard shoulder rig. Our camera rig is extremely comfortable to hold, easy to use and provides really stable video results.

DSLR Camera Rig - Basic and Pro Versions

We are quite excited to finally launch this new product and let you all see what we have been working on so diligently. We hope you like what we have come up with.

Check out the DSLR Solutions Camera Rig

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Canon 50mm f/1.8 Follow Focus – Nifty Fifty Follow Focus – Version 2.0

Canon 50mm F/1.8 LensOne of the first lenses a DSLR video shooter usually purchases is the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens. The main reason is price as the 50mm f/1.8 lens is around $200 less than its closest relative the Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens. However, do not let the low price fool you, the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens (aka “Nifty Fifty”) is a solid performer, has great optics and provides excellent results for video. The main problem with the lens is the small focus ring. Not only is the focus ring very small, it is also tapers toward the front making it nearly impossible to attach any follow focus. Notice I said nearly impossible.

Awhile back we developed a follow focus solution for Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens, and while it works pretty well, I was never quite satisfied with the way marking focus points worked out. With that in mind, we went back to the drawing board and came up with a new Main Focus Arrow that is specifically designed to clip over the stainless steel handle and step up to the focus marker strap on the 50mm f/1.8 lens.

Here is a video detailing how Version 2.0 of the Canon 50mm f/1.8 Follow Focus works.

For our friends viewing this post via Feedburner, click here to view the video.

Order Your Follow Focus Here!