Nikon D3S video: dark, rain and wind 400mm f/2.8

As part of my tests of the Nikon D3S (British Journal, report in December, with additional material by Richard Kilpatrick who is shooting with Nikon on November 25th at a press event) I dragged the £6,000 400mm f/2.8 AF-S IF ED G supertele into the rain as darkness gradually forced the ISO up from a mere 10,000 to the maximum 102,400. The object was make a short video showing rising floodwaters, no threat in our town but still dramatic to watch.

wet400mmcombo-web

Here’s how it came back from the hour in the rain, a quick wipe down with an oily rag and it was all as good as new. Actually, it needed a thorough drying with the towel then a clean up with a lint free microfibre cloth to remove dust and towelly stuff. The very deep lens shade kept the exposed front element totally dry despite the wind and rain; I just made sure it was never aiming into the wind.

During the shoot, wind noise was a major problem. I locked the microphone to level 2 manual gain, not automatic which would have been a disaster. Many clips had to be shortened, some discarded due to violent wind noise I could not mask. The sheer weight of this combo made lugging it with a decent Slik tripod (pan and tilt head for video) difficult; I drove to the evening location with the rig laid flat on the back seat of the car, but still had to walk several hundred yards for some shots. I wore a Tog24 parka and found that by pulling the fur-lined hood over the camera body I could cut out nearly all the wind noise. I must have looked like a view camera operator with a dark cloth, or something out of Monty Python with my jacket pulled up and the hood over the Nikon!

But, this seemed such a good solution to the wind noise I would consider unzipping the hood from the parka and using it as a baffle in finer weather.

My favourite part of the video is the one with the worst noise, where I was not able to keep the wind away from the direction of shooting – the sequence of the road (flooded by the morning) with headlights, tail lights and cars in rain. This consists of three takes blended with long crossfades. During each take, the manual focus of the 400mm used at near wide open f/3.2 aperture was pulled to bring the moving traffic in and out of focus, and create huge bokeh circles from the lights. This would be impossible with a camcorder and not all that easy with a conventional high-end video kit. The combination of full frame 35mm format and the fast 400mm has enabled a highly effective cinematic technique to succeed on the first time of trying. With some markers on the focus ring, some practice and many more takes the result could have been refined further.

But I was getting very wet and so was the camera!

The first part of the video is all on the 400mm with tripod, with High ISO video enabled. The ‘next morning’ stuff is on the 24-70mm, hand held, locked down to ISO 200 at f/8.

I’m not sure when our final review of the camera will appear in the British Journal, it should be early December.

The video is encoded to best quality 720p from iMovie09, and can be best be downloaded and viewed without any YouTube jerkiness at full res if your connection is not good.

– David Kilpatrick

Nikon D5000 short film with pull focus

Though autofocus is not possible with live video in any current true DSLR (the Panasonic GH1 promises this) it is possible to use pull-focus effects with a little planning. We now have a Nikon D5000 – it won the competition for best fine image detail when comparing results frame by frame with Canon’s nominally higher resolution rival. It was also a very good deal, £629 inc VAT with an 18-55mm VR kit lens and a SanDisk Ultra II 8GB SDHC card plus Crumpler Messenger Boy 2500 bag thrown in free (from Jacobs). You Tube sample –

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Free Photo Tools Lite download

OnOne Software has made available an entire free download including Lite versions of 14 of their PhotoTools plug-ins for Photoshop and other image editing programs. All you have to do to obtain the download is visit their website using the link below and provide a valid email address for verification. We have tested the entire OnOne software range – including the full PhotoTools 2 package – with excellent performance on CS4/MacOSX 10.5+.

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Portrait Professional v9 update

Portrait Professional’s updated version 9 is due to be launched from Anthropics Technology in around 20 days. If you buy the current version 8 (see our earlier reviews) you will automatically receive the Version 9 update free as well, and be buying at the old price saving an extra £10. Literally in a few minutes, this quick and intuitive photo editing and airbrushing software subtly reshapes faces, fix skin blemishes, whitens teeth, removes wrinkles and adjusts lighting plus much more – all at the click of a mouse.  It is a dual platform programme which works well on both Mac and PC.

Portrait Professional is currently on offer at half price for only £39.95. Master Photo Digital and dPhotoexpert readers can claim a further 10% off by quoting code mpa609

To purchase the software or download a free trial please go to www.pprof.com

Kelso Races – D5000 freehand with 70-300mm VR

The wind noise has made filming with the D5000 almost impossible for the last few days, because it has been very windy. Simple as that. So I devised a popshield or wind sock for the tiny microphone by cutting a piece of red nyloop fabric from a pad which once belonged in the bottom of a lens case. Then the 70-300mm lens arrived, so I tried this combination on a race when the light was reasonable and it was not raining.

Technically, it’s not a good idea to pan with action when holding a lens of this size at arms’ length in order to see the framing on a rear screen. However, I had already experimented with a monopod and found that didn’t work – my pans tended to skew the horizon too easily – and for this clip, I did not want to use a tripod. I wanted to see what the VR did, and how well it worked with a fixed focus set on the fence before starting.

– DK

Full frame demands inclined planes

After just a short while working with full frame, high resolution DSLRs the need for tilt lenses has really come home to me. Most lenses deliver their best results at fairly wide apertures like f8, it’s easy for detail to begin to look soft and lacking impact if you are forced to stop down to f22 to get everything sharp. Tilt adaptors and tilt lenses solve the problem.

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Cloning between images

MANY photographers habitually use layers from everything. I don’t! In fact, I try to minimise my time spent on post-processing shots for stock library sale, and work very quickly. If it needs complex setup or demands working using layers to be able to go back and change things, I’ve probably already wasted too much time.
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Portrait Professsional 8 – now for Mac

Portrait Professional, the downloadable software from Anthropics which resculpts face shapes while smoothing out skin imperfections and signs of ageing, has been updated to Version 8 and launched for Apple Mac as well as Windows PC. We tested it briefly as a first look in our magazine Master Photo>Digital.
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Live view versus the cheating DSLR viewfinder

CANON may get some stick from their own users who reckon Live View is not much use, and Sony’s decision not to put it in the A700 may well be defended on the same basis. How wrong that is. Here’s one (plus another two) good reasons why Live View is your best friend in the studio. Continue reading

Judging colour in the darkroom

David Kilpatrick explains why controlled conditions are important and shows an example of a ring-around chart – something to keep pinned on your darkroom wall, made from your own test negatives or slides. This article was first published in 1996, and the principles if not the identical corrections can be applied to making inkjet tests from digital images. It is still most relevant to darkroom colour printing, for those who want to keep this art alive.

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