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.


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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Canon video firmware update for 5D MkII

Canon announced today it will release a firmware update for the EOS 5D Mark II allowing users to manually control exposure when shooting video. The new firmware will be available for download from 2 June 2009 on Canon Europe’s support web site.

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Pentax K-7 – pinnacle of video?

PENTAX UK is pleased to announce the launch of the PENTAX K-7 lens-interchangeable digital SLR camera. The K-7 combines a variety of advanced functions and user-friendly features to ensure outstanding reliability and capability within a compact, lightweight body.


The K-7 joins the current PENTAX K digital SLR camera series as a high-end model in the range. True to its series concept, it has been designed to deliver outstanding image quality combined with ease of use, to benefit photo enthusiasts of all levels, including advanced amateurs. The K-7 also includes revised and upgraded features including viewfinder, shutter unit, continuous-shooting capacity, and exposure and autofocus systems.

Protected by a durable, high-quality metallic body, the K-7 is extremely compact and functional — as with all other K-series models — delivering enhanced portability and manoeuverability. The model includes several new user-friendly features, including video recording, high dynamic range (HDR), and automatic horizon correction. All of these features serve to deliver a highly effective photographic tool, perfect for all discerning digital SLR photographers.

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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

Nikon D5000 HD video – May Day evening

True to promise, the Nikon D5000 did become available on May 1st in the UK, and my review camera turned up mid-day in time to be photographed and have its battery charged. Taking it out on my walk to the post (regrettably, to send in large sums of VAT and tax…) the sun came out though it was a very cold and windy day. With the sun, the breeze dropped to a reasonable level and on the way back I was struck by the motion of the trees, leaves and flowers.

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Canon EOS 500D video test

The clip originally shown here has been replaced by an edited selection, shot in a mixture of 1080 and 720 modes, assembled using iMovie and written as a 720p final project for YouTube. Don’t mean to cause confusion, some visitors may have linked to this post already, and I do not want to add another post. Please feel free to link directly to the YouTube vid or to this page.

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Canon 5D MkII: 30fps 1080p, 21mp, ISO 25,600

United Kingdom / Republic of Ireland, 17 September 2008: Canon announces the full frame, 21.1 Megapixel EOS 5D Mark II: the first EOS with full High Definition video capability. They also announced a new 24mm f1.4 lens.

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