7.27.2017

The "Sunk Cost Fallacy" and how it (tragically) relates to buying camera gear.

Someone asked me in a comment this evening "what happened to the Sony RX10s?" I presumed that he assumed my camera buying was more or less a zero sum operation in which some things always have to be sacrificed when new things are purchased. A sort of equilibrium that balances the equation of gear ownership. Like the endocrine system constantly balancing hormones or blood sugar.

The underlying idea about every new camera purchase, in some quarters, is that by purchasing something new you've lost an advantage of continuing to use a system or tool that's already been paid for.

This why people persevere with an obsolete camera system when buying a new camera system would make better sense. They rationalize that since they've already "sunk" so much money in, say, a Nikon system over the years that even though they now do more video than still photography they'll need to figure out how to keep working with the Nikon system or suffer from the emotional loss of all they've invested up to that point. When we decide to go with a system we need a much stronger promise of reward than we do a threat of loss in order to move us away from our decision.

Here's a good article about the whole concept of Sunk Cost Fallacy. Article

There seem to be three types of camera buyers, at least in the market of professionals. The first are the people who feel loss most strongly. If they have invested $10,000 in several cameras bodies, a group of lenses and associated, dedicated equipment such as speed lights, software, battery grips, etc. they have a very hard time justifying a wholesale switch even if something demonstrably better comes along. Just can't do it. The usual argument is, "I'd love to switch but I have way too much money invested in XXXXX and besides, I've worked with it long enough that I have all the menus memorized." If these people needed a new feature not offered by their current cameras system it's almost predictable that they would rather rationalize that they did not need the new feature rather than make a change that might "jeopardize" their initial investment. They will be shooting Canon or Nikon for a long, long time.

The second type of buyer sees themselves as far more logical. They are willing to upgrade; to a point. They'd prefer that the upgrade be incremental and they'd prefer it even more if the upgrade allowed them to stay in the system they are currently invested in. If the reward of buying the new type of system gave them a 2 to 1 advantage over the perceived loss they would consider it and perhaps make the switch.

Then there is the group that understands and is keenly aware of the sunk cost fallacy. They understand that a nostalgia and an emotional sense of loss is just that. An emotional attachment to the idea of ownership and potential reward. They value the return on investment that being fast movers/adapters in a niche or industry will give them and are more than willing to toss away previous investments if there is a more than even chance that embracing new tech will give them more opportunity to make profits. Or make demonstrably better content.

I learned many years ago that a steadfast allegiance to a brand, technology or way of doing things is highly counterproductive in a world market in constant flux. My firm belief at this time is that video production, and hybrid assignments combining video and still imaging, are much more profitable and prevalent than the traditional still imaging assignments I was doing a year or two years ago. I further believe that the path forward is video creation in 4K. For my higher end clients and clients who do much work with green screen I believe that access to real 10 bit color is nearly mandatory now, as is a 4:2:2 color space. If I had stayed with my still imaging cameras from Nikon or Canon over the last two years I would have lost out on the potential (and actual) income that could have been derived by creating video with newly appropriate tools.

My move to Sony, and to the RX10 cameras, was motivated by the intersection of two valued technologies for me. The first was the implementation of very good 4K video capability and the second was the benefit of EVF monitoring. The very first corporate assignment on which I used two different RX10 cameras for video creation returned a profit equalling ten times the purchase price of both cameras combined. Had I not had the practice and access to the cameras; along with the generation of  samples of my mastery of the cameras to present, I would not have gotten the first assignment which then led to a year's worth of assignments that have thus far returned at least twenty five times my initial investment in the cameras.

That's a good return and a good reason to have a nostalgic attachment to the cameras which subsequently fuels the Sunk Cost Fallacy in a big way. Mostly because the past is so much easier to understand and predict than the future.

At some point all logic about the current and near future markets more or less defined the need for video features that had recently evolved and were introduced into the consumer space by several Panasonic cameras. The ability to shoot files with real 10 bit color is not possible with any of my current Sony cameras; even when hooked up to digital recorders like the Atomos Ninja Flame or Atomos Shogun. The cameras just aren't wired to do that. You can get 4:2:2 in combination with the recorders but not 10 bit color.

And none of the Sony cameras will get you to 10 bit if you have to (or want to) shoot in 4K.

You could be blindly loyal to the system since you've had past success with it and it's brought along opportunities but that kind of blind loyalty to a machine is logically misguided. The actual machines are a small part of the overall investment we make in imaging. So much more of our investments are in experience, learned seeing, business acumen and process control. The camera is an interchangeable and transient cog.

I imagine the question about keeping or not keeping the RX10 cameras was meant to be a rebuke or a criticism of what might be perceived as a "flip-flopping" or flippant approach to gear. But it's folded around the fallacy that technology and client preference is static and so equipment ownership should also be static because, after all, you'll never get that money back. But what if parting with the previous investment enables a new investment that yields more profit, better clients or just a sustainable position in a market in constant flux? Wouldn't that be more economically prudent? More logical?

In the end few of my new camera/lens purchases are dependent on or linked to the sale of existing inventory. There's not an imperative for me to make the outgoing gear pay a part for their replacements.

But think for a moment. If a year ago the majority of my fees came from operating a high resolution camera while the modest video productions could be done on cameras on hand it would make sense to continue using the same gear until something changes; right? But by an equal amount of logic if your mainstay of income producing work changed so that a greater percentage of fees came from higher production value video and you need new video tools to do the kind of work you are either doing or aspiring to do it would make a lot more sense to cut loose the anchors of the past in order to buy the tools one needs to navigate the current marketplace.

If you make great cupcakes out of the oven in your house but your success means you need bigger and more ovens to meet growing demand you have to choose between baking in one small oven twenty four hours a day or buying newer bigger ovens that can deliver three times the product in the same amount of time and working only eight hours a day. A nostalgic desire to continue with the original oven "because it is already paid for" is part and parcel of the Sunk Cost Fallacy and may be a significant reason why bakers and photographers have such a hard time transitioning to newer process paradigms.

It's hard enough to know what to do during times of stable markets but it's even  harder to know with certainty when markets are in wholesale chaos.

If I sell an RX10xxx to make mental space to work with a GH5 and a very versatile (and high performing) lens I am making a conscious decision to embrace a newer level of production quality that has a high level of certainty that it will be more profitable. I think that represents a smart business decision.

If I lived over on the opposite side of the Bell Curve as it relates to the Sunk Cost Fallacy I'd still be toting a brace of Kodak's DCS 760s, a bunch of screwdriver drive Nikon professional zoom lenses and I'd be trying to convince my friends, peers and clients that, "All you ever need for great photographs is 6 megapixels of resolution. All you need for great low light files is ISO 200. Video is a totally different animal and I have no interest in learning it. EVFs will never be useful. I'm fine getting 100 shots out of a battery. Who needs good autofocus? Don't trust any camera that weighs less than five pounds. Nikon says no one will ever need a bigger sensor than APS-C. Etc. Etc. Etc."

At times we act as though our gear is incredibly expensive and therefore we need to be extremely careful in the purchase process to make sure we buy stuff that has staying power. The reality is that we spend a very small percentage of our income on cameras and lenses compared to the investments in equipment and infrastructure that other businesses invest. In businesses with incomes over six figures purchases of $2K cameras are a small line on the spread sheet. It may be a false economy to hold onto stuff too long, especially if it's gear that's become obsolete. There is no honor or business intelligence in riding an investment all the way down to salvage value if you can turn it while it still has good value and move on to tools that allow for either greater productivity, greater fun quotients or new capabilities that you can market.

As to what I still have in inventory? I'll let that remain a mystery for now...

Buying a Olympus 12-100mm f4.0 makes it pretty clear that I'm back in "Two System Hell" again.


After my shoot on Tues. at Zach Theatre I couldn't get one idea out of my head; that it would be really cool to have a very sharp lens that covered all the focal lengths between the equivalents of 24 to 200mm in a lens with a fixed, fairly fast aperture. A lens that could cover all the near and far shots in a theatrical dress rehearsal without breaking a sweat. One that I could use on the GH5 to use when shooting video or regular photographs. Turns out that such an animal does exist and all the feedback that I've gotten here, via e-mail, and in trusted blogger reviews made the lens out to be pretty fantastic.

I've been testing my GH5 and find it to be a wonderful camera to work with but I wanted a lens that could take advantage of the autofocus capabilities of the camera but would also be optimized for manual focusing in video. Seems that the 12/100mm from Olympus checked all the boxes.

I didn't know what the supply might be like in the bold world outside the cocoon of my studio so I called the folks at Precision Camera to find that they had three in stock. I only needed one.

With the eternal, maddening construction and consequential delays on our major north/south road from my studio to the camera store I was able to "enjoy" a half hour of driving to go ten miles north and then nearly 45 minutes to make the same trip back south. But I had a new goal in mind besides just buying local, my plan was to negotiate a deal which would also get me a free, vacuum insulated, stainless steel water bottle from the store. Yes, it has a logo on it but it's still a very cool (and effective water bottle).

I've been walking around the studio, the house and the neighborhood from the minute I got back snapping images willy-nilly and everything I focus the new lens on looks very cool.

So here we are again. Two systems deep. Unwilling to fully commit to one or the other. At least it's a hell of a lot of fun.....

Looks like we've got at least one foot in that small sensor camp. What keeps you shooting m4:3?

Answer to reader who wants to know if I'll be returning my GH5 for a refund...


For a while here at the VSL's massive testing laboratory it looked like sheer gloom and doom for the GH5. The darn thing is about the same size as our beloved Sony A7Rii but that Sony camera just blows the GH5 out of the water when it comes to mind altering levels of resolution and detail. The A7Rii makes the Panasonic cry like a little girl when it comes to dynamic range and highlight recovery. And, it's got that all important more narrow depth of field when used with fast (or any) glass in the same basic angle of view.  Add to this that the A7Rii already had pretty nice 4K video (in APS-C mode) and it seems like a total smackdown. Who in their right mind would keep the 5?

My accounting department came in early this morning to box up the Panasonic and get the paperwork in order to make a return today. When I found out I fired everyone in that department. Who needs logic and metrics where camera body decisions are made?

You're damn right we're keeping the GH5, and here's why: The video performance from this camera is fantastic. Reason enough to own it. When used in conjunction with an external video recorder/monitor like the Atomos Shogun, in the 4K Pro Res set up it holds its own with anything out there except maybe a giant Red or Arri Alexa camera. For the kind of corporate work I do even staying all in camera delivers the good and does so in a very small form factor. While the Sony has an advantage in the arena of noise performance at higher ISOs the GH5 has much, much nicer skin tones and overall color and gradation. We'll keep it for anything that demands great, fast, happy video. 

But wait, there's more! Few other cameras (maybe the Olympus EM-1.2) are set up to use my dear old Pen FT lenses as well. At last count there are seven that we actively use... 

In either video or stills the GH4 runs circles around the Sonys when it comes to battery capacity and power management. Two extra batteries will get me through a full day of shooting while three pockets full of Sony batteries might be needed for the same run. 

Another difference is in handling. The Panasonic is designed for someone who actually shoots all day long. The Sony can deliver the goods and it's head and shoulders above most cameras for imaging performance but the Panasonic feels good. Works well. Has some winning personality. Got the good genetics when it comes to the menu UI and so much more. 

I can see a difference in image files. The Sony is lush and luxurious. You reach the end of your tether a little quicker with the Panasonic. But, again, we're talking the difference between 100% and 95%. I could make a living with either system. And do it pretty well. 

So, I'm getting rid of all the Sony stuff, right? Not so fast. There's a lot I like about the two Sony FF bodies I have and the selection of lenses I've put together. But the kicker is that big sensor hiding behind that weird body design. 

The Panasonic is fun to shoot. The Sony will deliver when the art director with OCD comes through the door. Let's keep both. 

Starting my personal KirkStarter Campaign to raise money for my hotly anticipated acquisition of the Olympus 12-100mm f4.0 to round out my m4:3 system. I've already donated some and I guess I'll keep donating until I've reached my goal. Sorry, there's no website for donations. 

Sony vs. Panasonic. No contest. Both.



A very important test for my new GH5...


Sure, the GH5 can work with "legacy" lenses and it can work shooting stage shows in near darkness but can it bring home the bacon on a really tough assignment? I thought I'd take some time this morning to see. 

It was a fun, tough day in the pool. The water temperature was creeping up to 86(f) but the hard charging folks in my lane were loathe to back away from the kinds of intervals they usually do on sets when the water is 78. We ground through much swimming but I saved my real energy for my most definitive test yet of the new GH5. Could it handle full daylight at ISO 200? Would the files fall apart at such a dicey sensitivity setting? Would we get all the color saturation and sharpness we were used to getting at ISO 1600? 

The testing crew was on pins and needles for sure. Why? Well, I think today is the last day I could return the camera for a full refund...

I took no chances with sissy-style autofocus lenses. I precision-attached a proven favorite, the Olympus Pen FT 40mm f1.4. Since this was to be a "real whirled" test I eschewed the false support of a tripod and relied on the in-body image stabilization. 

We planned on having an extensive crew on hand but our digital tech couldn't get his three ergo carts through the pool door and up the little hill. Our grip crew, along with our grip truck, got caught in rush hour traffic on the insidious Mopac "Expressway" (where good commuters go to die from boredom) so we had to make due without the diesel generator, the sky crane and the raft of 18K HMIs. My original plan was to "fly" a giant scrim over the entire pool area and then come back in and emulate the effects of sunlight by using a bank of large HMI lights. Sadly, logistics prevented this critical part of my test. 

We had hired America's best towel fluffer from Miami but her flight into Austin was delayed. She and her three assistants are recovering from their horrendous flight delays over at the Four Seasons Hotel and, as of 8:00 am this morning she was not returning my calls...

On the call sheet for this test was a small (twelve persons) crew of grass stylists who were supposed to be on site by 5 a.m, this morning  removing any brown grass in the frame and replacing it with bright green grass that we had flown in from Scotland but when they arrived the team of barristas we'd arranged to be on site was nowhere in sight so the grass experts left in protest. Can't blame them. Who can style turf without a good cup of coffee?

I had to send my two assistants home sick. Once we lost the DIT and the turf crew they began to suffer from existential angst, which both assured me was a real condition and covered extensively in the beta of the DSM-VI. Just go look it up. I'm sure it's there. Photographic Existential Angst or "PEA". Few cures, many symptoms. 

Trooper that I am I went boldly ahead with the critical towel testing pretty much on my own. The almost final straw was when I got the text from our model, Karlie Kloss. Her Toyota Corolla had broken down just a few miles from her secret home in Pflugerville, Texas and she was waiting for a tow.  Now I was starting to panic because I'd been led to believe that few could wrangle a Marvel-themed towel like Karlie. 

Fortunately one of my lane mates agreed to hold the towel. I proceeded with understandable trepidation. Could Anne really manage to hold the towel exactly as Karlie Kloss would have? Who would do Anne's nails? 

Amazingly we were able to pull it off. The towel went up and the necessary shots were taken. I've analyzed the nano-contrast and the bokeh and integrated it into my DXO data. 

The upshot? Even without a vast crew of highly trained helpers we were able to do a successful test of the GH5 and the best towel ever made for swimmers. My conclusions? My verdict? My assessment?

Yeah. The towel looks pretty good. Now we'll all sleep just a little bit better.......

7.26.2017

Photography would not be as much fun without a little risky experimentation. Right?

So, let's play "guess this lens."

Last night was the dress rehearsal for Zach  Theatre's production of Million Dollar Quartet and I was in a quandary. I really wanted to play with my new GH5 but the only Panasonic lens I currently have for it is the 12-60mm f3.5-5.6. It's a nice lens; especially for a kit lens, but that long end is really slow for shooting stage shows and, actually, the long end isn't that long. I was looking around for something closer to the 90-100mm range. I guess I could have cobbled on my older Nikon 105mm f2.5 or something but I wanted the ability to recompose on there fly and that meant I really wanted something zoom-y. 

Yesterday's discussion about the Olympus 12-100mm lens really whetted my appetite but I felt a bit reticent, after having dropped kilo-bucks on the GH5, to return to the trough too soon... that, and the fact that projects have been a bit "light on the ground" this Summer. Something to do with having an overweight position in healthcare clients in the middle of a period of funding uncertainty brought about by our elected officials...

So I rummaged around in the equipment cases and came across two copies of a very old lens that would work with one of my Pen FT to m4:3 adapters. It's a lens I seldom use and one I never had much luck  with on the first and second generation of micro four thirds cameras: it's the Pen FT 50 to 90mm f3.5 zoom lens. 

I carefully inspected the glass and tried it on the GH5, just shooting inane images around the studio. I set the image stabilization on the GH5 to 90mm since I figured that was the focal length I'd need the most help with, and the one I'd mostly be shooting at the theater. I dived into my saved archives and found an original Modern Photography Magazine review of the Olympus PenFT lenses from 1970. Yes, that's 47 years ago. It's a lens that hit the market when I was twelve or thirteen years old....

I hadn't remembered the magazine's scoring but I was pretty surprised when I found it. They rated the lens as "excellent" in both the center and edges at f3.5 and f4.0. The sharpness dropped off as it was stopped down but never fell below "good." It's pretty impressive that the lens hit such good performance metrics wide open and at all focal lengths. Two things help this lens; one is the very low zoom ratio and the other is many fewer lens elements than current zooms. While I know that modern zooms can correct all sorts of things with moving lens groups and fancy elements I also know that mechanical precision and tolerances can be a bitch to achieve and thereby deliver the theoretical performance in the "real world." A lens in which on the zoom mechanism and the focusing group moves may not self-optimize for close ups but a nice, tight mechanical package will less often fail or go out of pristine alignment. 

After a bit of shooting and testing I dropped the lens and camera into my tool bag, along with the reliably good fz2500 and headed over to see the show. 

Here are my few observations after examining about 650 shots from the GH5+Ancient lens combination: 

1. Manual focusing with moving targets on a dark stage using an older lens that shoots at the stopped down aperture can be a bear. Focus peaking seems to be, in this case, more of a general guide than a precision measurement.... I'm assuming that practice would really be helpful and I'll have to shoehorn in some addition time behind the finder to the schedule. But here's the deal; if you hit focus you are rewarded with a fairly sharp and detailed image. You can't blame poor lens performance on your own focusing inadequacies. Sorry, that doesn't fly. If the lens is sharp on a tripod it's a sharp lens. If it's dull because you can't focus it's still a sharp lens. 

2. Older lenses seem to transmit color differently. I keep saying it's more rounded but that may not convey what I really mean. The color tonality just looks different to me than current lenses or mid-1990's Zeiss lenses. Rounded. Less fine gradation?

3. The I.S. at 90mm with the camera set to the same was very good. You could see it in the finder as you touched the shutter button; the frame calmed down and got very stable. I didn't notice much of a problem with wider focal lengths, but, again, we're just heading down from 90mm to a minimum of 50mm. 

I'll readily admit that I think the big Sony A7Rii does a better job with this kind of stage photography but only because there's so much more detail to work with. I'm not bothered by noise in the GH5 files (shot here at 1250) but I do hit a resolution limit. Part of that could be the resolution of the lens but when I look closely I see the kind of difference that 20 megapixels vs. 42 megapixel shows.

The zoom, focus and aperture rings of the 50-90mm lens are smooth and still well damped. They roll between your fingers exactly like high priced, precision engineering is supposed to work. They are so smooth that you end up wanting an excuse to focus or zoom. Kinda nutty, for sure. 

Don't think that I'm being unfair to my client by tossing in this kind of experimentation. On some level there is the expectation that we'll find a look that resonates with the time period of the play. On another level you have to understand that this was the third rehearsal I've shot of the same play and we covered the hell out of it on Sunday night. Also, playing is good. Fun is good. 

While I'm getting more and more serious about the Olympus 12-100mm f4.0 (modern lens) I am slowing down that acquisition and spending a bit more time exploring this fun, new, 47 year old lens I have attached to the GH5. If the lens does a good job with moving stage actors from halfway up the house I'm looking forward to walking around with the combination to see what we can do in fun sun with time to focus diligently. 

Finally, the lens looks funny on the camera. It's long and skinny. But to my eye it looks just like the Angenieux 12-120mm I used to have on the front of my Bolex Rex 5, 16mm movie camera. Hmmm. I wonder if that lens would work on m4:3 ??????



7.25.2017

A quick question to the VSL braintrust: Tell me your experiences with the Olympus 12-100mm f4.0.

I'm thinking I might buy one... Figured I'd slow down until I heard back some good or bad reports. Hit the comments below please!

Thanks, Kirk

Using a Contax/Yashica Zoom Lens on a Panasonic GH5 and a G85. Interesting...

I've become quite agnostic about camera formats and brands over the last two years. If I buy a new camera these days it has to bring something valuable and different to the table. While I have a camera (the Sony A7rii) that is arguably one of the top cameras in the marketplace today for dynamic range, resolution and color I recently purchased the Panasonic GH5 for its video prowess (features not equalled in the current marketplace, under $6000). It was the fz2500's video performance that convinced me and the handling and image stabilization of the G85 that made me write the check.

I have a handful of really wonderful, old Olympus half frame lenses that I intended to press into service with the new cameras, as well as the nice 12-60mm kit lens from Panasonic but, on a lark, I decided to buy an inexpensive adapter for the Carl Zeiss C/Y lenses I've picked up over the past two years. I specifically wanted to try out the heavy, massive but well corrected

7.24.2017

Spending a lot of time making short movies for Zach Theatre.



I definitely bit off more than I could chew for what is basically a one person shop. In a moment of languorous downtime I agreed to make five short videos to help Zach Theatre market a fun new production: Million Dollar Quartet. The video above is the first one out of the chute and I'm pretty happy with it. As usual, I learned a lot in the shooting and there are things I would change, but for the most part I am happy with our mini-movie.

I was happy to be able to work with #1 (and only) son, Ben. He helped me schlepp way too much gear over to the Topfer Stage at the Zach Theatre campus on a very hot day. Helped set up the lighting and also ran the second camera. His footage is the stuff you'll like of Cole while mine is the stuff of which you'll say, "Dude, you lit this way too flat..." 

We shot four interviews on location over the course of a long afternoon and then I came back the next day to interview the show's director. After the interviews Ben helped me disassemble all the junk and get it back to the studio. Today he dropped by the studio to see what kind of progress I was making in the editing and it took all his restraint to keep from pushing me out of the edit chair and jumping in, elbow deep. He gave me a legal pad page of "suggestions" and then left for lunch. I'd be stern and cajole him into doing the actual work but I value his expertise more and don't want to push ---- especially since there's no real budget for editing....

The one thing I would like to direct your attention to is the sound. As I wrote a week or so ago, this was our first real immersion using the Samson C02 cardioid microphone and I am blown away with how clean and noise free it is. I would buy a second one if they did not already come two to a package. It's astoundingly good, in my opinion.

I'm always happy when I can shoot an early rehearsal to get some good photos/stills for b-roll but then you get into an ongoing debate of where to stop. I had the piece almost fully edited when I went over to Zach yesterday to watch the technical rehearsal. Of course the actors were now in (nearly complete) costumes and so when I looked at some photographs I'd taken at an earlier rehearsal I immediately wanted to pull the older ones and drop in the new ones. Sounds easy but everything takes time....

So, what did I shoot with?  Most of the stills come from a Panasonic G85 equipped with various ancient Olympus Pen FT lenses. A few of the shots are from yesterday and were shot with the GH5 and an older Carl Zeiss 28-85mm f3.5-4 that was originally made to work on the Contax/Yashica SLRs.

When I actually hit focus both rigs worked very well. If anything I'd say the G85 outperformed the GH5 for exposure and accuracy of exposure and color on the EVF. But take that with a grain of salt because I am still in early days with the GH5.

The b-roll video of stage performances was done with the G85 and the same Pen FT lenses; all handheld and initially shot in 4k and downsampled. The interview footage was shot with two cameras: the frontal camera (my less favorite footage) was my Panasonic fz2500. My mistake? Combining an inadvertently introduced shadow/highlight curve along with the typical flat CineLike D profile. Ouch. (Lesson: always zero out your camera before each new project...). Now that's hard to post process. Ben was much more meticulous with his side angle shots of Cole. He was using a Sony RX10ii. And apparently he used it well.

Our sound track is from live recordings made during rehearsals. My thanks to Allen Robertson for his generous musical assist. The errant guitar riff at the mention of "Elvis" was added by me. Tacky but fun. Just don't blame Allen.

As usual, as long as you aren't snarky, vindictive and mostly say nice things about my work I'd welcome your feedback. I've got a few more videos to go so now is the time for feedback. Really.


David B. Jenkins has a great new book! It's a 300+ page guide to Georgia.

Dave Jenkins has been commenting here at VSL and offering me gentle course corrections almost from the beginning. A couple of years ago he sent me a note and let me know that he was working on a book. I love book projects so I wished him my best and hoped that he would follow through.

Boy. He followed through. About two weeks ago I got a package in my mailbox with a nice surprise inside; it was a copy of the finished book. It's entitled,

Backroads & Byways of Georgia. Drives, Daytrips and Weekend Excursions. 

And it's a beautiful book.



Rather than me trying to re-explain it I'm including the press release here:

Backroads And Byways of Georgia 
An Off-The-Beaten-Path Guide to the Peach State

Photographer and author Dave Jenkins spent the better part of a year crisscrossing Georgia for more than 10,000 miles, exploring the nooks and crannies of the Peach State. He visited old mills, covered bridges (almost every one in the state), courthouses, historic houses and old churches without number, and whatever else caught his fancy. And then he organized it all into 15 tours covering various parts of the state, and wrote it up in a book appropriately titled, Backroads and Byways of Georgia. 

Ride the historic Atlantic coast from Savannah to St. Mary's, ramble the Appalachian northwest, cruise the broad plains of the southwest, or roam the Blue Ridge Mountains of the northeast. Each tour is carefully mapped out with precise driving directions and information about points of interest. Even explore a bit on your own if you like, because there's something new to discover everywhere you look: the historic, the quirky and offbeat, the strange and unusual, and abundant beauty.

More that 200 color photographs make Backroads and Byways of Georgia a visual treat, whether you're in your car of your armchair. And if you're traveling in fact, rather than fancy, the book equips you with itineraries for trips of differing durations and in different seasons plus information about comfortable accommodations, great food, and good shopping too. 

David B. Jenkins is a photographer and writer whose previous books include Georgia: A Backroads Portrait and the best-selling Rock City Barns: A Passing Era, which won the Benjamin Franklin Gold Medal. His domain is the old, the odd, and the ordinary; the beautiful, the abandoned, and the about to vanish away. He is a visual historian of mid-20th-century America and a recorder of the interface between man and nature; a keeper of vanishing ways of life. 

He and his wife live on a small farm in the Northwest Georgia mountains. 

The book is published by Countryman Press, it is priced at $19.95 and is available wherever books are sold. Signed copies are available directly from the author at 706-539-2114 or e-mail dbjphoto@gmail.com

*********************************

Here's my review: Dave sent along a book that made me want to take the rest of the year off and see his home state. His writing is clean, welcoming and direct. His photography did a great job showing the character and personality of the many locations he visited. If I were a Georgian this book would be my travel bible. Not just the site but the commentaries about travel, restaurants, interesting asides and the road stories.

This is not a flimsy book tossed together quickly. It is well researched, complete and it earns a privileged place in the pantheon of regional travel guides; and it does so while also being a printed witness to part of our national history. 

While the book is also available as a Kindle book I would suggest that folks get the paperback. It's a 6x9 so it's easy to handle and it's one I'd want to carry with me as I explored Georgia. 

Congratulations are in order! Way to go Dave Jenkins !!!!

Here's hoping the Visual Science Lab readers are enthusiastic about supporting one of their own. Head over to Amazon and grab yourself a platinum level guide to traveling through Georgia. 

7.22.2017

Thinking about the closure of Bowens. Where is the flash industry headed?


People on various forums and on photo industry blogs have suggested that Bowens, a long time maker of electronic flash equipment for photographers, was forced out of business because they either could not compete with the lower priced gear coming out of China or because they were unable to innovate fast enough in order to stay relevant to consumers. 

Of course I think there is a quite different reason for their demise and it's one that must be haunting Profoto, Elinchrom, PhotoGenic, and even Alien Bees. I think there is a tidal wave of change coming in the practice of photography and it's rendering traditional working methodologies, gear and business constructs obsolete. And it's happening at an accelerating pace...

While photography is a growing hobby and pastime the traditional approaches to photography as a business are in flux. The mainstay customers for studio electronic flash gear (especially stuff that plugs into the wall); the kind of lighting Bowens was selling, was aimed at, and mostly purchased by, photography studio owners. The gear was set up in a "camera room" and used on a daily basis for years and years. Every studio had its own collection of electronic flashes and as technology advanced the studio owners might upgrade or add to their collection. 

In the beginning nearly everything on the market was some variation of a central power pack/generator and an orbit of flash heads with long cables that were plugged into the generators. When I taught photography in the early 1980's the only people we knew who

7.21.2017

It's hot here in Austin. But that didn't stop the intrepid VSL testers from taking a long walk with a GH5.

Selena.

We matched a long standing heat record here in Austin today. It was 104(f) at camp Mabry which matched a record from 2000. With the humidity moderately high the "feels like" temperature is simmering around 108. To be frank, it's a crappy time to be here in Austin. The lake water is about 86 degrees and keeping the swimming pool cool enough to actually do heavy duty swim workouts requires running multiple aerator sprays all night long. It also means that working outside is iffy for a lot of people.

If you are working outside you move a little slower and try to always stay in the shade. A nice, insulated bottle of water helps.

I swam this morning and then I had stuff that had to get done today in the morning. Around noon I was ready to take my first excursion with the new camera. I put on one of my favorite anonymous shoulder straps, latched in a 64 gigabyte SD card, and headed downtown with my newest camera, the GH5.

I have only two things to report. First, the EVF is very nice and much preferred to an OVF. I love being able to see a representation of the camera's reality in the finder. This one is beautiful. The second thing I have to report is that there's nothing remarkable to point a camera at in downtown Austin today. I have made much progress though in getting deep into the 300+ page owner's manual.

Since I had nothing of substance from the walk to post I thought I'd toss up this image of Selena from a few years back. As I remember that was a pretty hot day as well....

More soon. KT

The GH5 in VSL. First Up: The rationalization. Sure to be an interesting flight of fancy....

Ah. The "good old days" of shooting fill flash with film. We actually used light meters then....

I was pretty sure I'd get a lot of responses to my latest purchase along the lines of: "He needs an intervention." "Here we go again." "He's back into m4:3." "But wait, I thought you said Sony (Nikon, Canon, Leica) was best!?!" "It's just Gear Acquisition Syndrome." etc., etc.  But I was equally sure I could come up with at least one convincing rationale for my seemingly illogical purchase.

A few years ago, around 2013, I looked at the market for photography and made a few decisions. My read of the trajectory of paid photography was not optimistic. I saw evidence of financial decline in the actual profession that mirrored the slow down in the camera sales world. Not being anxious to ride the trend to the bottom without some sort of plan "B" I started looking around at options which could leverage the position I built in my market and also leverage many of the skills sets I'd learned over the years. While re-engaging with my advertising background seemed possible it was more of a long shot, in my mind, than ramping up my comfort level with video production and setting marketing goals to sell more video services. The benefit with this second choice is that I would get to play with technical toys (always a plus) and learn new things. If I played my cards right

7.20.2017

So, which VSL reader had "July" as the anticipated tipping point month for a GH5 acquisition?

Was it the same wag who called the fz2500 a "gateway drug?" I was working on video files today and marveling at how great the files looked from the fz2500 camera. Then I grabbed some of the handheld video files I'd taken with the G85 and marveled at them. The next thing I knew I was driving up Mopac Expressway toward Precision Camera and Video with the intention of grabbing for the new gold ring of consumer video cameras; the GH5. It just came over me like sun stroke. But with far fewer ill effects.

As of 3:30 pm, CST, I am in possession of a GH5 and two extra Lumix batteries. I'm setting up the menus this evening and the daily reporting about the camera will most likely begin tomorrow. I have to shoot some stuff first.

Here's how the reporting will go: Part one = The big rationale.  Part two: All the stuff I like about the camera and the files I get from it.  Part three: The stuff that bugs me.

Since the temperature hit 104(f) at the house today and the "feels like" temperature was closer to 108(f) I wonder if the purchase was a subliminal response. You know, buying a camera that isn't prone to shut down from overheating.....

So far it's almost exactly like the GH4s I used to own only with a much more complex menu and a much more robust video feature set. More tomorrow....

I tried to put into words the "personality" of some older lenses I was using; maybe photos are worth thousands of inaccurate words...



Yesterday, in a blog I wrote, I was trying to describe the difference in the look and visual "personality" of a set of older Olympus Pen FT lenses. Lenses from the late 1960s and early 1970s. As I swam this morning I wondered to myself, "Why talk about it? Just show some images!" So here are a dozen images from the shoot I did on Tues. evening at a Zach rehearsal of "Million Dollar Quartet." They were shot in a 16:9 aspect ratio so I can slip them into video without cropping. All shot with a Panasonic G85 camera and mostly with the 60mm f1.5 and 40mm f1.4 lenses. 

These were not made as "standalone" images for public relations or marketing but I'm sharing them here so you can see what I mean when I talk about a "rounded" sort of sharpness or a richer color palette. I guess it's all subjective. I hope Google's Blogger doesn't compress these in a ham-fisted fashion. Ah well, back to the edit...












7.19.2017

Two interesting shoots done nearly back to back.

Portrait of Sarah shot years ago on film.

Works comes in with no particular pattern. On Saturday afternoon I videotaped four interviews with the four musical leads for the musical/play, "Million Dollar Quartet." I liked each of the interviews and on each one we shot with a second camera to get different angles, but even so I knew I needed some interesting shots to use as "cutaways" for those (numerous) times when I need to cover over visually obvious edits in the program. I also needed to get interview footage of the director who was unable to make it by for his session on Saturday. I cleared yesterday afternoon/evening with the stage manager (48 hour notice needs to be given to equity actors when we schedule media shoots) and showed up with an assortment of cameras with which to capture stage shots in rehearsal, along with the lights and microphone I'd need to capture the missing interview.

The play celebrates an actual event, an evening in the 1950's (December 4, 1956) when four musical talents all met in an unplanned session at Sun Studios and played together. The musicians were: Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. 

I got to the theater around 3:30 in the afternoon and grabbed an

7.18.2017

A quick note about providing all of my Sony A7xx, RX10xx and Panasonic fz2500 with instant dual card slots.


The argument generally revolves around shooting a "ONCE IN A LIFETIME" "MISSION CRITICAL" event or person or launch. How can one be a professional videographer using cameras with ONLY one SD card slot? ( I wonder how the old guys got two Beta SP tapes crammed into a single Betacam.....).

I can't help photographers who want to shoot raw still images with fault tolerant redundancy but I can help all the hapless Sony and Panasonic (not counting the new GH5...) owners who feel helpless and vulnerable shooting only to their one bare and rickety internal SD card!

If you shoot with an Atomos Ninja Flame or the Shogun model of external video recorder you can default to 8-bit capture and send video to both the camera card and the recorder's SSD. You'll have the back-up video you've been pining for over the years along with the bonus of having a great monitor. 

Problem solved. At least for video. Might even be a hack to record still images on your external recorder. I haven't looked into that yet. Growth market for Atomos?


A Few Thoughts About Shooting Green Screen.



West Texas Rest Stop. 

I'm resistant to shooting "off the cuff" green screen for clients. Like anyone not directly in our business clients tend to have a simplified view of the technique required to do it well. We use green screens in order to easily drop out the green background behind a subject and replace the background with a different image. Compositing is so easy in still photography now that one rarely even needs to bother with a green (or blue) screen but video comes at you at 30 frames a second and it would be more than a little time consuming to go into each frame and do selections, etc. so green screen is still standard if you want to layer in a different background behind a person or object in video. 

Like everything there is a right way to shoot green screen and a wrong way. The wrong way is to set up a green background without lighting and hope that available light and luck will get you a clean enough background to composite. It kinda works but requires a lot of post production masking to deal with variations in tone and color that make automated background drop outs tough.

I've done half-assed green screen in the past with reasonable results but I'm shooting a big video project tomorrow for a larger ad agency. It's mostly green screen and I wanted to understand the best way to do the work and what kinds of things to watch out for. Nobody likes having to make excuses

A Short, Celebratory Note: Another Mile Stone.

Barton Springs Pool. My new Monday morning habit.
1/8th mile long. Temperature +/- 70 degrees.
A great training pool for distance swimming.
Not too crowded at 6 am. 

The counter on the VSL blog just clicked over the 23,000,000 mark. That's a count of page views which happen here on the site. The Google counter for all reads (RSS, etc.) now exceeds 90,000,000. I'm pretty happy with either metric. I use the 23,000,000 for analytical purposes. 

We've shared over 3,000 posts in the last eight years. We're in the middle of a slow motion embrace of video but I still consider myself a photographer. The core audience I write for is fellow photographers.

I appreciate all the loyal readers I've gotten comments and e-mails from over the years and look forward to many more. 

Occasionally I put up little Amazon ads but I've made it a rule not to ask for donations, not to do Kickstarter campaigns and not to work as a shill for any manufacturers. I hope you know that the writing comes from my honest opinions about trends and photo-philosophy, and my discussions about gear derive from my having purchased said gear and pressed it into use for my own commercial enterprise. Although I do reserve the right to discuss new gear that I don't own but find interesting enough to consider.....

Your only responsibilities as a reader are: To enjoy the writing. To share your knowledge and opinions in the comments. To comment with compassion to the author and to fellow readers. To disagree with me when I've run off course (but gently, gently). To share the blog with like minded friends. That's it. 

I hope you'll stick around for the next 3,000 posts and be part of the next 23,000,000 views. It's been a fun ride so far...

7.17.2017

An Audio and Video Sample from Sunday's Interview Sessions. How does it sound? How does it look?



So often reviewers will write about products without having any real skin in the game. They use the  cameras to shoot "real world tests" which generally involve pointing the handheld camera at a cute person across a table from them in a murky coffee shop, shooting with no thought for the lighting, and then posting the brutally compressed results as "samples." Occasionally they'll present the raw version of the file to allow readers to download and play on their own.

I sometimes do something similar in that I spend a lot of time walking around downtown Austin taking snapshots and then using them to illustrate what I write about here. But generally I try my best to present work we've actually done for clients to showcase the performance of certain pieces of gear. It's better to do it this way you, as a reviewer, are trying to use the equipment exactly as you would use it for a paying job, because.... you are using it for a paying job. Or a real and ongoing personal project.

I've recently been writing a lot about the Panasonic fz2500 camera and how much I like shooting it as a production video camera. I've done a few projects with it that I've posted here including my Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill  video. In this article I'm posting a small clip from a new series of interviews that Ben and I shot last Sunday. There will be a series of five interviews and my edits will become social media content to help sell the play. The material will also be repurposed for television commercials and public service announcements. In other words, real "real world stuff. "

 While the clip above has been compressed by Vimeo.com this too is part of the "real world" scenario. This is how clients will use it. We'll test and tweak and load and re-load until we find the best exposure for the compression....after making all the edits.

What I am attempting to show here is the quality of video I am getting from the Panasonic running into an external digital recorder. We filmed in 1080p, 10 bit, 4:2:2 and brought the files from the recorder into the Final Cut Pro X timeline. The compression makes the video just a bit darker than our reference monitor and just a bit more yellow...we hope to compensate for this in our finals.

Of special interest to Ben and me is the quality of the audio. You have to understand that we were filming this in a room with metal walls on one side (which you can see in the video) and a full wall of glass windows with no window treatments on the opposite side. I'm using one Samson C02 microphone on a boom about two and a half feet above my subject's head. There are industrial bar refrigerators operating in the background that could not be turned off. In spite of any of these obstacles it's my opinion that the audio is very good; very listenable.

I've tweaked the video slightly. I dropped the saturation a bit and pulled 2 small points of green out of the mid-range area. Nothing else has been done to it.

The audio is absolutely straight out of the camera. No E.Q. No sweetening. Not even a touch of level control or loudness normalization. The thing that impresses me is that this is audio from the shooting camera, our microphone runs into the pre-amplifier and then into the microphone jack and is finally written to the SSD in the Atomos recorder. The sound is not from an external audio recorder.

The combination of the different microphone, the introduction of the Saramonic SmartRig+ preamplifier to our tools, and a better understanding of audio level settings seems to be delivering very clear and detailed sound with no hiss or noise (other than room noise...).  It's performance that I am happy to be able to achieve with such an inexpensive camera combined with an even more inexpensive microphone.  Curious to know if you are seeing and hearing what I am here.

At any rate, this is authentically a "Kirk Tuck" real world sample ---- from the world of commercial content creation.

7.16.2017

Follow up to previous post... One made with electronic flash instead...


This looks totally different to me than the image I posted on the previous blog. I like both of them but this seems like a more substantial portrait. I'm not sure if I am mostly responding to the pose and the expression or if I like seeing all the detail in Sara's hair and wardrobe.

Curious which one you prefer.

This was done with the same A7ii camera but with the Sony 70-200mm f4.0. It's really a delightful combination for portraits. I wonder why I ever stray to other set ups....

A portrait made with a 135mm f2.3 lens, shot wide open. Always wondered what that looked like.


Sara and I had just mostly finished up our portrait session. We'd been shooting with flash and the Sony A7ii with a 70-200mm f4.0. I noticed that the afternoon light looked really nice coming through the diffusion I had up over the window so I asked her to be patient while I found my 135mm lens in a drawer. It's a manual focus lens so I was depending on the focus peaking feature in my camera to help nail focus. I'd pretty much given up shooting wide open with long fast lenses when using traditional DSLRs because I had so much trouble with front and back focusing at various distances with that style of camera. With the Sony cameras I am getting my close focusing, wide open confidence back again.

I shot a selection of images with the camera on a tripod and then we called it a day. 

Today I noticed that Sara had selected several of the wide open images. I retouched them in my usual way and sent them along. I really liked the feel of this one so I wanted to share it here. 

The long, fast lenses are why I am loathe to consider changing systems from Sony.....

Here's the lens I was using: 


A mind blowing microphone revelation makes my day. Talking video production here...


Like nearly everyone who enters the field of video as a generalist I always thought that the choice for on camera interview microphone was either between different brands of shotgun (hypercardioid pick up pattern) microphones or between different brands and models of lavaliere microphones. Then one day I stumbled across a person on the web named, Curtis Judd. He's got a terrific YouTube channel that's all about professional, production audio for video. The information there is pretty amazing and the bonus is that he has a thoroughly professional, on camera-demeanor which makes his video programs a joy to watch. 

Here's the latest video that tweaked my thinking about recording dialog: Curtis Judd/Mics

It was here I discovered the Samson C02 supercardioid (and super cheap) microphone and came to understand it's usefulness and high quality as an indoor dialog microphone. Here's that article: Curtis Judd/Samson C02. But first let me back up and explain what I learned....

When I started getting back into video it seemed  that every article I read and every magazine that discussed video production recommended getting a good "shotgun" microphone. These are microphones that have strong

7.14.2017

Sony A6500 and the Panasonic GH5 are locked in a struggle for my attention. And my cash.

Portrait of Jennifer. Triathlete.

The Summer months are interesting. Everyone in Austin tries to escape from the heat and business slows to a crawl. We've kept our heads above water at VSL with a series of portraits and some nice corporate day jobs but in all honesty the second half of June and the first half of July gave me plenty of extra time for swimming and thinking (dangerously) about the state of camera offerings and the shifts in my business that might call for the adoption of new gear. I know that this is all a silly rationalization that stems form having too much time on my hands and an avid appetite for change but it feels real to me all the same.

I'll start out by admitting that there's no rational reason for me to buy yet another camera. I think the Panasonic FZ 2500 is an exemplary camera for the style of video I like to do. I think the Sony A7 series cameras and lenses are great for portrait work. I think all the cameras I own (with the exception of the A7ii) do really nice 4K video and I think they all do great still photography when used in situations where their strengths fit the parameters of the photographs. I hope I come to my senses and keep my cash in the bank. It would be the smart thing to do with the kid heading into his last (and most expensive) year of college. But I'm not always the most practical person when it comes to good planning versus instant gratification, and in this regard my fellow photographer friends are no big help. Two of them actively encourage me to buy, buy, buy and there's no paucity of targets of photographic allure at which to aim.

There is the old saying, "the grass is always greener on the other side." I'll add my favorite variation: "The water is always faster and bluer in the next lane." I think it is human nature that no matter how good or well researched is the equipment in your camera bag you will always suspect that there's a different system or camera that may be a better fit for you or for the imaging tasks you currently have in mind. 

When I bought the majority of the nuts and bolts of my Sony system I envisioned that photography would roll along at a merry pace with only a few transient dips in what would be a long and graceful decline from relevance. I knew I needed cameras that would crank out decent video but conjectured that moving pictures might constitute only 20 or 25% of my total income; the rest being derived from my traditional, commercial pursuit of still photography. And yet, here I sit a year and a half later contemplating the reality of my individual market --- that in 2017 over half of our income has been generated by video productions. 

If I really dig down deep and think without emotions clouding the metrics I would have to admit that all the work that generated this income was done with the cameras we already had in hand. The majority being done with an RX10iii and the A7Rii. I should take a deep breath and slide that hot and sticky credit card into the bottom of an ice cube tray and let the water freeze around it. At least that would slow me down on those days when I "decide" to rush out and change everything..... But maybe not. It would probably just entail the additional expenses of a Billingham, gold plated and leather bound ice pick and the heath insurance co-pay for having my hand stitched up after using poor technique in attacking the ice cube tray with the Billingham "Estate" model ice pick. I'd still be rushing off to the store but would be nursing the stitches spawned from the treacheries of gear avarice.

So, after thinking long and hard about how I might want to use cameras in the near future I started with the baseline of my Panasonic FZ2500 and thought about how impressed I have been with the files coming out of that camera and how well set up it is for video. Even in 1080p which seems to be considered already old hat by some, it is capable of generating, in camera, 200 mbs All-I files which edit beautifully. How can I get more of that action? What could my cameras be doing better?

That's when I start looking at the GH5. The brilliant and logical amongst you will just ask, "What is it in the GH5 that the current FZ2500 can't deliver? What feature/file set are you looking for that will improve your work?" If I am realistic I admit that running the current cameras into an Atomos Ninja Flame video recorder and getting lightly compressed, 10 bit 4:2:2 files written to fast memory in ProRes 422 gives me everything I ever wanted out of a video camera ---- and then some. But the GH5 is the current star of the under $5,000 scene and one imagines that those files, from the optimized processor, will be just a bit meatier and yet smooth. Just a bit more noise free and detailed. It's twice the price so it must be better, right?

I start imagining just how good those GH5 files are going to look when they go through the same process and into the Atomos miracle machine and I convince myself that even the vision impaired will instantly recognize and marvel over the difference in image quality (never stopping to remember that my paying clients were more than happy with the video files squirting off the SD cards from various Sony cameras). I also rationalize that the GH5 will write the 4K, 10 bit, 4:2:2 files directly to the cards so I wouldn't need to be encumbered by an external recorder for all those times I want to come off the tripod and handhold my camera rig. 

Then I stop for a while and consider that a wiser person would take some time to see if there are new alternatives to a massive and highly disruptive system change. In re-reading several reviews of the GH5 I noted that everyone was comparing it with the Sony A6500 and the consensus was that their video performance in 4K was very similar. The A6500 was judged to be better in handling high ISO noise and it also has more detailed as a result of the 6K to 4K downsampling from the bigger sensor. 

My brain switched gears and started contemplating adding an A6500. On paper it would make for sense. I can use all of my current lenses and I would be getting wonderfully sharp 4K video files. A plus for that choice would also be more detail and lower noise APS-C generated files. Did anyone notice that A6500s are currently selling for about $1300 which is $200 off the intro pricing? A whopping $700 less than the going price for the Panasonic...

I started going back and forth comparing featuring and examining the pluses and minuses of either choice. With the Sony I get more detailed files but I also gain moire and aliasing, along with more rolling shutter. With the Sony I give up the dream of delivering real 10 bit files even though I would gain 4:2:2 color  ---- but only into an external video recorder.

With the GH5 I get the video files I think I want along with the video niceties that make location production so much easier. Things like waveforms, a vector scope, a large battery with a long run time, unlimited recording time (limited only by internal cards and battery), as well as a handheld shooting package that give me state of the art image stabilization (when used with certain Panasonic lenses).

There are trade-offs all over the place. I'd like to stay in one system. But I've already screwed that up by adopting the FZ2500 (and really liking the handling and the output). If I stay with the Sony cameras I get to continue in the basic methodologies I grew up with: full frame sensor, fast lenses, etc. But I don't get the full video capabilities I really want. If I go with Panasonic I'll have to dump an accumulation of Sony gear which, emotionally, feels like tossing away a life preserver from my traditional career path.

And we have not even begun to think about lenses yet.

If I felt wealthy instead of feeling uncertain I would just buy a GH5 and add it to the mix. I could call it my video system and have some sort of fictive separation between the systems. But I feel a change in the market so profoundly that I'm not sure how relevant any traditional equipment will be going forward.

(Note: everything above was written yesterday. Below is what I finally decided today....):

So, contrary to my typical practice I did not rush out with boxes of my Sony gear and trade it in for a handful of (magic beans) Panasonic gear yesterday. I actually decided to take time worn advice and just sleep on the whole thing. I talked to two of my friends who have both had long careers in video production. In short, I waited for excitement to subside and logic to finally kick in.

Coincidental to my momentary camera lust was a last minute approval for a series of interviews of actors and a director at Zach Theatre for Saturday afternoon. Finally, more fun stuff to do with cameras. With the A6500 versus GH5 stand off fresh in my mind I decided to set up the camera I own that I trust most to shoot high value video; the FZ2500.

I wanted to see exactly what I could expect if I lit the interviews optimally, worked around an low noise ISO (200,400) and ran the signal from the camera into the Atomos Ninja Flame, recording the HDMI signal as a ProRes 422 file at 10 bits with 4:2:2 color. I also wanted to re-familiarize myself with the whole set-up to make sure there would be no confusion during actual production tomorrow afternoon.

The Atomos changes everything. The color and detail out of this $1200 camera is amazing. I pixel peeped the heck out of the files from the recorder on my 27 inch monitor and can't think of what I would change. Sometimes it's reasonable just to hook all the stuff up exactly the way you'll use it and actually test it for yourself before becoming hypnotized by all the stuff you can read on the web.

Of course this is bad new for both Sony and Panasonic as I have no motivation to rush out and buy either of their new cameras. Well, that's not entirely true. There's a thread of an idea that it might be nice to have a second FZ2500 for those (almost every assignment) times when you need two cameras with which to shoot simultaneously. An A camera and a B camera. It would be nice to having matching profiles and a matching look. Continuity in editing is important.

I've done a very thorough pre-production run through. I've experimented with all the controls on both the camera and the monitor/recorder. I've recharged the lithium battery in the NTG-4+ microphone. I've replaced the battery in the Saramonic SmartRig+ pre-amplifier. And now I'm packing with a check list in hand.

We're shooting five interviews tomorrow in several different locations. I've got Ben Tuck as my assistant and b-camera operator. Hopefully someone will bring snacks.

For the moment we've got the "new camera lust" under control. It's good to see just how great your current stuff can be when you start getting the itch to move on. July is a good month to go slow on new purchases.... Who knows what will be announced in September. Good to keep the fiscal powder dry.