Saturday 31 December 2011

At Billingsgate Fish Market with the Canon C300, Rodney Charters and Lan Bui

We shot a bit more footage at Billingsgate Fish Market yesterday.

What a great camera to handhold...particularly when no tripods are allowed.

We were lucky enough to have Rodney Charters, the DP of '24' along for the ride and he shot this short BTS video of us in the market.

Much more to come.

Back to New Years eve..

Thursday 29 December 2011

My goose is well and truly cooked - A left field short with the Canon C300

No executions in the desert

No gang fights


Just real life at Christmas.

I was cooking dinner for six after pounding the phone to set up our main feature.

Lan Bui was keen to video me cooking the sublime but simple 'Michaelemas Goose' from the award winning 'Loose birds and Game' by Andrew Pern.

So all pretty fraught on the cookery front has you might imagine.

But just check the video out.

Filthy,horrid, florescent lighting but the Canon C300 just shone.

Once again Apple's FCP X made for rapid colour correction

The whole thing was shot using Canon Log mode, which gives 14 stops dynamic range.

14 Stops....

Anyhow off to bed right now as we are up super early for what should be a fun shoot over the next 2 days.

More adventures with friends old and new.

With more than a sprinkling of Hollywood on hand.

What a tease I am, stay tuned and all will be revealed.

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Our first video with the Canon C300

Lan Bui shot this beautiful sequence titled 'Grand Union Canal'

It is exceptional in many ways.

Primarily in that it was shot in under an hour.

Read his blog for full details of the gear used.

But aside from that it is an eye opener to just how well this camera works with existing Canon glass which you may well already own.

This is a big, big deal.

Yes, I know it is obvious, but when the penny drops....

We have been organising permissions for our 'main' feature shoot's

Doing this over the Christmas period has been a challenge to say the very least.

Canon C300 Day 2- Discussing the strengths and weakness's, as I cook dinner.

We shot a little bit of footage yesterday on the Canon C300 which we will be posting a little later on today, we think it is an EXCELLENT camera.

But we wanted to share a conversation we were having about the Canon C300 as I was cooking dinner.

As we thought people might find it interesting.

Is it just a glorified DSLR? What about the Sony F3 shooting 10 bit? (Phillip Bloom touched on this in his review)

Have a look and join the debate

As I said more footage on its way later today......

Saturday 24 December 2011

Joining the fortunate few - Having a Canon C300 on loan

It should really say joining the VERY fortunate few.

Lan Bui and I have a Canon C300 on loan.

It arrived on Friday and we will be putting it thorough its paces over the next few days.

So many things to try, so little time.

You can see our very first impressions of what promises to be a truly remarkable camera.

I say promises as we have not had chance to shoot anything just yet.

We will be shooting a couple of shorts and running some tests too.

In fact we have to get back to that...right now.

Please do ask any questions and we will do our very best to answer them.

Saturday 17 December 2011

Changing your mind about the Canon C300

The much trailed Hollywood 'Historic announcement' which heralded the launch of the Canon C300 and strategic announcement by RED of the Scarlet X.

The amount of negative comments regarding the C300 were many.

And from people who had never used it.

One which stood out for me, and was often quoted was by Nino Leitner

He said in a blog post on November 4th

RED announces SCARLET X, totally blows Canon C300 out of the water


Strong stuff.

Pretty unfair I thought too.

Fast forward to early December and Nino was one of the lucky select few who got their hands on a C300 and made this really cool short with the C300 

He posted tests and BTS on his blog too.

Informative and enjoyable stuff.

But I still had the inflammatory 'Dead in the water' comment in my mind.

So I Tweeted him.

The conversation went like this....

Drew Gardner @Photogardner13 Dec

interesting to see that @NinoLeitner says that the Canon C300 will be his next camera, having previously said 'It was dead in the water'

Nino Leitner @NinoLeitner

@Photogardner yep I changed my opinion 180 degrees after I worked with it. I still think it's a bit overpriced, but it fits most of my needs

Nino Leitner @NinoLeitner
@Photogardner RED Scarlet is great, but overkill for 95% of what I do - also the additional investments in postpro hardware are considerable

Drew Gardner @Photogardner13 Dec

@NinoLeitner just messing with you :) it is bloody fantastic isn't it? Really enjoyed your 'cigarette' short and informative comparisons

Nino Leitner @NinoLeitner

@Photogardner thanks mate! Yeah it's really great

So as you can see Nino has been won over by the C300 and he is a good guy as well as a top film maker.

As a foot note, one really has to wonder what was going on with the whole unfortunate episode with the RED community and Phillip Bloom.

One of the most influential video voices on the web had a RED Epic, and he doesn't anymore.

How on earth could RED have let this happen?

Phil's comments regarding the RED Epic and RED Scarlet would have been difficult to take but they were in my opinion at least fair and considered.

The words of Lyndon B. Johnson in regard to FBI director J Edgar Hoover came to mind...

'It's probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in' 

With Phil heading off to France for a week with a pre production Canon C300, one cannot help but think the chill wind of this spat will be felt by RED for a long, long time to come.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

L'Oreal/UNESCO 'For Women in Science Video' shot with Canon DSLR's...with a little help from the XF 305

I was commissioned to shoot a video for a very cool project earlier this year

The L'Oreal UNESCO 'For Women is Science' award which aims to 'promote and highlight the critical importance of ensuring greater participation of women in Science'

Every year a bursary is given to four women in the UK and in other countries around the world to help women fund their research.

In this world of increasing sexual equality there are still a great disparity of women working in science, so this is a particularly cool programme.

The subject of the short film was Dr Heather Whitney who is studying iridescence in plants.

Iridescent plants have to been seen to be believed.

It was a particularly challenging project as it involved everything from interviews to working in glasshouses to shooting slow motion of insects.

This project used just about every video capable camera I own (as well as a loaner Achromatic Phase One back)

We shot parts of the interview on a Canon XF305 but apart from that it was a Canon DSLR only zone as we wanted to use a shallow depth of field and the light weight of the camera's enabled us to have a bit of fun by making out own Jib Crane, as though the shoot was on a very tight budget we wanted to do some imaginative shots but more of that later.

Kit List for the Shoot


Canon XF305 Used for tight shot in the interview that we we did not have to worry about audio

Canon 5D MkII for just about everything else

Canon 550d  To shoot 60p slow motion of the bees.


Rode NTG-3  Mic for interview, great Mic at a great price

Rycote Mic Mount. say goodbye to handling noise


Canon EF 'L' Series 100mm F2.8 this lens ,which could just be the sharpest lens I have ever used, was used many, many times.

Canon EF 'L' Series 24-105mm F4 Useful all rounder for all the other bits.

Canon EF 'L' Series 16-35mm F2.8 This lens was used for the Jib Crane Shot.


Chimera Triolet 1k with a Chimera Medium Softbox, key light for the interview

3 x Mini Litepanels  We used these for back light in the interview and the Bee sequence

California Sunbounce Small reflector For fill on the interview and also some of the  glasshouse shots.


Manfrotto 546 MVB  I use this for just about everything that involves video

Manfrotto 536 MPRO Great on the uneven ground of the Glasshouse

Other Stuff

Manfrotto Stacker Stands 1005BAC So strong, but so neat and tidy with the added bonus that they don't make a horrid rattle when packed in the car 

Kessler Crane Pocket dolly.Great value, I take it on all my movie shoots.
I use this a lot as it lends a whole level of production to shots. We used this extensively in the glasshouse and for the bee going down the tube and for the specimen shot in the glass case. I have taken this all over the world and it is a very valuable tool....big bang per buck.

Manfrotto Avenger A475B We used it to mount a camera on to hang over the spiral stair case as you will see. If I had one light to use for the rest of my life it would be this one. There truly is very little you cannot do with it. It does cost more than the 'normal' Manfrotto 420B boom stand but is capable of taking much higher loading thanks to its rectangular legs, one of which is adjustable meaning you can set it up on uneven ground or even stairs. There is a modest weight penalty over the 420 too, but I can live with that.

Manfrotto Avenger A4050 CSA large boom stand of seemingly limitless versatility which we used to support the home made jib crane.

Zacuto 'Z' findershooting video is fun, but better to know if it sharp! The 'Z' finder is THE difference when shooting video...perfect for 'Run and Gun' if you buy just one accessory for DSLR shooting it should be this.

Zacuto EVF. Which is one of those that you thought you would never need and when you have one you wonder how you ever did without.

I opted for the EVF 'flip' which has the added advantage of being able to 'Flip' the 'Z' finder out of the way and use it as a 'mini monitor' (if you don't have a 'Z' finder already they do a Pro bundle which works out a little cheaper)

Here is Lan getting down with the beetles with the EVF Slider combo.

Ah yes, the jib crane.

We wanted to add some production value to the shoot without going down the rental and pushing the budget.

How to do it?

I have an excellent and very strong cantilevered lighting boom made by a company called Red Wing.

Normally I use it in conjunction with large Chimera softbox, Chimera Octoplus or Elinchrom Octa for laying down lots of soft light from on high, for this application it is truly superb.

But Lan Bui and thought we might be able to modify it and put a Canon 5D MkII with the 16-35mm F2.8 (we duct taped the lens at 16mm)

To adapt the Red Wing boom end to take the camera lens comboI used a circular Manfrotto clamp, put the shaft from a floor stand through it and then used a super small mini tripod head on it which was just able to do the job without weighing too much.

Are these the optimum components ? No, but they are what we had to hand.

Control was never going to be easy as it was not built for the job so it was a matter of practice

Here are our practice sessions in my back yard.

Lan became quite competent with this rather unique set up in the back yard but we did not factor in how difficult it was going to be when we used it in the glass house of Cambridge University with all of the trees and plants to contend with, and an earth floor.

With a bit of steadying in post though I thing we pulled it off though.

We used the Zacuto EVF on a long HDMI cable to monitor the shot, it was invaluable.

Not only did the Zacuto EVF play a staring role from on high it was great for the low shots of Dr Heather Whitney going up the stairs.When you are lying flat you just cannot monitor the shot with the camera's LCD and the EVF plays it part again. It is highly recommended as it is so light and compact you barely know you have it in your bag. 

The macro Bee photography was where the Canon 550d came in with the 100mm Macro, used again with the Zacuto EVF and the Zacuto 'Z' Finder which I used for a long time prior to having the EVF

With the Litepanels inside the Bee tank.

We shot the sequence at 60p and slowed it down to 25p in Cinema Tools then in FCP X we slowed it down to 50 percent of that, so around 125FPS.

Here is the before and after

FCP X has some great features and for the money it is a bargain, no plug in needed for this.

Music was by the talented Douglas Black Heaton, a man whom is never far away from any of my projects....including the forthcoming documentary.

Thursday 8 December 2011

Closing thoughts and comments on the RED v C300

I received a comment on my previous posting from Simon which was spot on and I wanted to make sure it was not missed so I have posted it here...

'I've read a bunch of the to-ing and fro-ing between Red and Canon users and it's getting just a little irritating now. They are clearly different cameras. PR wise they've both made a mistake in pitching to each others audience and people should be spoken to about that.

Will feature Hollywood movies be made on the C300? Probably, but not that many. Will they on the RED? At the lower end of multimillion dollar budgets, I'd say yes they will.

Will the RED be used on TV shows? Not many I'd bet, you don't need to shoot at 4K when the max transmittable res is 1080p.

Will the C300? Yes, a lot.

You can compare and contrast as much as you like and say one's better than the other for this that and the other. But if I was shooting a TV doc you better believe I'd go for the Canon, if it was a movie, it would be RED.

In my opinion, RED has never really been about mass market whereas Canon has. Therein lies the problem.'

And here is my response

Hi Simon,

Thanks for your comment which are absoloulty spot on.

A very good overview of how I think it will actually pan out.

The rationale behind my C300/RED Scarlet blogs was the hysterical comments by the RED fanboys about the Canon at launch.

Such as 'its dead in the water'  'obsolete at launch'  The C300 is a ******** disaster'

All comments which Believe are totally unfair.

I was seeking to write something that would provoke but importantly make people THINK and consider the options in a much more balanced manner.

RED is a different animal and will be used more by the movie boys and yes, the Canon will be used by the TV guys, with exceptions in both camps.

To consider the Scarlet and the C300 as true competitors IS a mistake.

I actually like RED as a company and believe that without them movie camera development would be several years behind.

Good on them! Whats more I sincerely hope they will be around for many years to come.

But RED have a certain degree of responsibility for this situation by shifting their product launch for the same day as the C300 to steal some of Canon's thunder, which indeed they did.

In the very short term they did indeed grab the headlines with a 4k for $9k.

Long term I'm not really quite so sure that they did the right thing.

Grabbing the headlines on 4th November is one thing but slowly, surely and quietly the tide is turning in the C300's favour as people become aware of just how significant it is with its stellar low light performance and sheer day to day practicality.

When you go head to head with a large multi national like Canon, you as sure as anything should make sure the product is spot on and not released prematurely as when people have looked beyond the sexy spec sheet, they start to see the shortcomings and the disappointment grows.

I know of 2 people who were going to buy the RED Scarlet on the strength of the spec sheet but when they looked at the small print they realised it was not the camera for them.

Those people have now placed orders for C300's

I wonder how times this has happened?

I wonder how much better it would have been for the long term best interests of the company NOT to go head to head with Canon, by enjoying the fantastic but perhaps short lived launch hype but waiting until they had the new sensor and having a real world battery solution.

Short term gain, long term pain I think



Enough, lets wait to see what its like.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Can you afford to shoot a day of 4K Footage on a RED Scarlet?

Now this is something I had not even considered until I read an insightful article by Phillip Bloom 'To buy a Scarlet or not to buy, that is the question' 

Firstly is is a bargain compared to the Canon C300, right?

Well not exactly.

As Phil points out for $9k you just get a box, you have to spend $14k to get a package that you can just about shoot with.

Then the batteries...oh my word, why more people are not talking about this is beyond me.

They last a pitifully short period of time, 35mins in standby according to Phil.

Yes, thats right folks 35 wonderful minutes

At least you get 2 of them I suppose in the $14k kit.

But if you want to shoot for more than an hour you will need more.

Phil needs 12 to get him through a days shooting

That is $2350.

A BP975 battery lasts 305 mins in a Canon C300.


Oh my word this is where it gets really eye watering.

To quote Phil again

'To be honest on all my Epic shoots I have come close to filling up all 4 of my 128gb SSD cards, never running out, but close. If I shot a feature doc on them for sure I would run out, unless I compressed the redcode to the max. Each one of those cards costs $1800. Yes, you don’t need that many for some shoots, but unless you have someone on hand to offload for you during the shoot, you are playing with fire not having enough cards. It will grind your production to a halt and cost you time!'

4 of those cards is almost $8000!!! That has bumped the price up rather!!

You have to be pretty set to shoot at 4K to follow this through.

I don't doubt that some people DO need 4k and this could be the camera for you, but I think it would be wise to not fall in love with a spec sheet and go into the purchase with your eyes wide open.

Sunday 4 December 2011

Hands on with the Canon C300

I was invited to attend a hands on session with the Canon C300 at Top-Teks on Friday.

It was a real eye opener.

I have been looking forward to getting my hands on this camera since its launch last month.

And I was excepting it to be good.

But nothing quite prepared me for how good it is.

It does bear a resemblance to a medium format camera (it even has a 'Start/Stop' where the shutter release was on Hasselblad 500 series)Speaking of the buttons and switches they are very high quality, notable is the precise Camera/Off/Media button so no accidental switching to the 'Media' setting.

Another very useful feature is the ability to lock all of your chosen settings into place.

The build quality on the per production models I saw was impressive and the buttons on the left hand side of the camera are inset a subtle black 'crackle' finish which shouts quality.

In your hands the first thing that strikes you is just how light it is and how easy it to hold steady, without any form of support.

Lan Bui is getting to grips with it here.

I'm not quite sure why this is, but I was not the only person to comment on this.

Add an image stabilised lens and it becomes something I had not really imagined, a great set up for free hand 'run and gun' shooting.

I tried my favourite 'L' series work a day lens the 24-105mm lens which was very nice, but the EF-S 17-55 F2.8 gave a more useful zoom range,even if it did not feel quite as nice as the 24-105, but in common with all EF lenses it is capable of resolving 1000 lines of resolution.

With the crop factor of the super 35mm sensor, those used to a Canon 5D MkII might have to reassess their lens choice.

My beloved 85mm 'L' series F1.2 becoming the equivalent of 136mm

So a replacement might be the 50mm EF cinema Prime CTZ-30 from the forthcoming range of lens from Canon.

One curious quirk of the C300 is the front 'toe' on the base.

Initially it did get in the way, as you can see.

But after a sustained period of handling, it did not bother me.

The toe can cause problems with some follow focus set ups apparently with certain lenses, but Canon had the foresight to let makers of after market accessories loose on the camera before launch. (Please note other manufacturers they did this and the world did not come to end...)

Zacuto are notable amongst these coming up with some useful mods including a follow focus extension to overcome this.

The top mounted LCD module did concern me when I saw the first images at launch.

In my eyes at least it had the look of almost an after thought.

But on handling it is nothing of the sort, and it is in line with the superb build quality of the rest of the camera.

Being able to reposition this module, with its articulated and mirroring LCD (which is EXCELLENT by the way) means you can locate exactly as you need to for whatever job you are doing.

The viewfinder is from the Canon XF305, and to be honest I was not sure how it would fare.

But again it is excellent, super high quality and manual focusing is in no way a chore.

Sony would do well when to take note when they refresh the F3.

That is something else I LOVE about the C300, if you want to use one of these you had better get practicing as it is manual everything (Focus, exposure and colour balance)

Skill counts for everything with the C300.

So on to image quality.

Sadly the camera's were in preproduction form so no footage is available for posting.

Once again I was struck by just how good it is.

The high ISO performance is simply staggering.

The noise up to 5000 ISO is smooth as, with the noise at 20,000 ISO being present but acceptable.

Jonathan Yi has down this brilliant, funny and very informative piece on the C300, which will give you a very good idea of what the camera is capable of.

Canon EOS C300 = Awesome from Jonathan Yi on Vimeo.

This camera will be a game changer in the way scenes are lit, with less light needed.

Relatively small low powered LED's are going to be a massively useful tool with this camera.

What is missing?

The only feature it does not have which I would really like is a 60p frame rate at a full 1080p not the 720p currently on offer, having said that, the footage I have seen shot at 720p did look better than everyday 720p footage.

It is a disappointment all the same though.

Much has been made of its inability to shoot Raw, but this for me is not a deal breaker having worked extensively with the excellent MXF file format on the XF305 and it is made for the grade. Lots and lots of data to play with in there.

But what of 4k? If I have a job where they ask for 4k I will have to hire something in, but as of yet any client or TV channel is asking for no more than 1080p, and there still in no worldwide standard for 4k.

And what of the RED Scarlet? To be honest I don't really want to immerse myself in the hysterical imbalanced name calling which has raged on the net ever since the launch of the C300 and the RED Scarlet.

Canon users who have all the lenses will probably gravitate toward the C300 while owners of the RED will probably gravitate toward the Scarlet.

Having said that, I know of one very well known Hollywood DP who owns a RED and he has said he will be buying the Canon C300 and not the Scarlet.

Why? Its low light ability, ease of use to existing workflow, and that it is a brilliantly resolved package that works straight out of the box.

I tweeted a day or so ago that when the true enormity of the capabilities of the C300 sink in that not many RED Scarlet's will be sold, I stand by that statement.

I would go further, I think that the Scarlet in its current form will bomb.

Should you buy one? Well if you need what it does and you KNOW that it will generate revenue for you then yes.

If you are happy with your DSLR then great!

Will I be buying one?

Yes, I will.

I have order number one at the Flash Centre (I spoke to Alex Ray) in London, it is worth bearing in mind that the small dealers may be the place to buy a C300 as waiting lists are growing at the big dealers.

And that brings me on to the big problem. Supply

I have no idea how many camera's will make it into the UK this year but I confidently predict that it will be nowhere near enough to meet the demand that I have seen with my own eyes.

Sunday 27 November 2011

The Building the Ultimate Portfolio

At my Turning Pro workshops that I held earlier this year the subject of portfolio's came up quite a bit.

Now before I start let me make one thing very clear, there is no such thing as the ultimate portfolio.

Truthfully it is never exactly right.

Here are my 10 top portfolio tips

1. How many pictures should be in there? 

I'm a great believer in 'Less is more' unless it's a potential client who has been stalking you for an eternity I would aim for 25 to 30 images.
Every art buyer or picture editor I have met is super busy, and it is a matter of making brilliant and representative impression of you and your work without boring the pants off them.
You might just get 10 or 15 mins.

2.What should I put in there?

Well like everything, play to your audience. Include photos that will be of interest to them and their publication. No point in showing photos that will be of little or no interest to them.
Try not to have too many images of the same assignment which 'say' more or less the same thing, it just means you come across as indecisive an lacking confidence in your own work. 
There is no need to make the same point twice.

Oh and if you don't entirely believe in a photo which is in your portfolio..THROW IT OUT!

3. Analogue or digital?

There are no rights or wrongs here but it is about catching their eye and holding their attention, if they have seen 9 photographers portfolios that day on iPads and you turn up with yours on an iPad then you will merge into the herd. 

Likewise if the prospective client has seen acres of physical portfolios and you turn up with an iPad you will be a breath of fresh air.

Content is king at the end of the day so focus on how you are going to talk about your work.

If you are are going into a meeting with an iPad though, make sure your screen sparkles and is not all grubby with a fog of fingerprints.

4. Colour of portfolio.

Does this really matter I hear you ask?

Well, yes it does actually if a retired art buyer whom I once met.

She said nearly every photographers portfolio is black and leather.

Think about it, we are all trying to stand out and what do we do? 

Follow the herd and choose black leather.

Black leather like EVERYONE else.

Yes, you will surely be entirely forgettable, along with all the other shooters who have submitted their black leather portfolio's.

You are seeking an edge over your competitor, no matter how small. 

Here are my portfolios, Key Lime Green the other in Burnt Orange both with Sky Blue embossed lettering built by Bookworks, not cheap but the BEST

With a nice grey interior so as not to distract your eye from the goods...

5. Size

Size really does matter, no what anyone tells you.

Too big and it can't be couriered by bike and it will not fit in a Fed Ex box.

Too small and you don't come across as a 'player'

A3 seems to be about the right size 

But having said that, in pre iPhone days I made a small 'flick' book which would comfortably fit in my shirt pocket to take to Visa Pour La Image, on double sided paper (it took me quite a while, I made 10 of them in fact) bound together with double sided tape and it was possibly the most popular portfolio I ever had.


Most art buyers in ad agencies are women, most of whom are not muscle bound

When they call in portfolio's for shoots may have a whole big heap of portfolios to wade through

If they are big and heavy leather you can imagine how popular this task is, no matter how good the photography is in them.

Say they have 20 to go through, imagine their aching limbs and the temptation of stopping this weight lifting exercise half way through the pile and settling for an early selection......they are only human.

Do I know for certain that this has happened? No, but I can imagine it happening.

7. Loose leaf or bound?

Once again both have their good points and bad points.

If it is a handmade bound book, or a book made by Blurb, Asuka, Bob books or one of the many other similar offerings your portfolio does have a fantastic resolved appearance and does to my mind lend credibility.

Then why don't I use one as my main portfolio?

Well for two reasons, firstly I'm a photographer who is always adding to their body of of work and once you have made your book your portfolio is 'frozen' 

There are some quite good loose leaf books made by Hahnehmuhle(I do use their excellent photo rag paper), Permajet and many others too but they will never have the finish of a custom made or bound portfolio and we then have the other problem that they tend to be black or navy blue, an without branding.

Why do I use loose leaf? 

Well, it means I can add and subtract photos at a whim.

But what is more important is I can tailor my portfolio to a meeting at a moments notice, ensuring it will be something that it is of interest to the prospective client.

One of the downsides is that sometimes a print or two goes missing, but I take that as flattery.

I have had entire portfolios books stolen which is rather more disappointing.

The rather excellent photographers quoting and invoicing software Blinkbid has a portfolio tracker in it so hopefully this won't happen again.

8. It should be able to speak for itself without you being there

What I mean by that is frequently you are asked to drop your folio off at an agency and you have no chance to wax lyrical about your work.

Your book should be able to speak volumes without you being in the room.

9. Don't wait until...

You have the perfect portfolio before you start hitting the mean streets with it.

It will never happen

What's more you stand no chance of winning friends and influencing people if you don't show it.

To hesitate is to lose.

10. The best portfolio is...

To borrow a phrase from Chase Jarvis 'the one you have with you'

If you have a smart phone make sure you have a mini slide show on there.

You never know when the golden oppoutinty will arise to show your portfolio to someone who can hire you.

You would be surprised how many clients I have managed to win with my iPhone.

In summary I have a physical loose leaf portfolio, an iPad version with all the the benefits that brings and my iPhone, I choose the right one for the right meeting.

Sometimes I get it wrong, sometimes I get it right.

But the important thing is to get your work out there.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Interview with Giles Babbidge

I bumped into the likeable Giles Babbidge of the Active Photographer at the Manfrotto Imagine More Lab in Convent Garden on Friday.

He collared me for an interview on life the universe and everything.

I haven't listened to it in full (I do hope I have not said anything too controversial!) but it was wide ranging and definitely of the moment.

Much more very soon.

Thursday 10 November 2011

My view on the Canon C300 and RED scarlet

Well 'it' is here.

Depending on your viewpoint 'it' could be the Canon C300 or the RED Scarlet

On the face of it the announcement of the long promised almost fabled Scarlet and has stolen Canon's thunder, not to mention some colourful and interesting views from the web.

Regarding the Canon XF codec and it's ability to shoot to CF cards ' what good is that to someone who wants to shoot something decent?'

'Canon C300 announced and already made obsolete'

'Scarlet X totally blows Canon out of the water'

'The Canon C300 is dead in the water'

I did not have to look very far for Strong and emotive quotes.

But let's have a closer look.

Now let me make one thing plain straight away, though I am a Canon user in the shape of the 5D Mk II and the XF305, I have massive respect for the crew at RED, who have been making game changing equipment for the movie industry for some years now, in fact one of the first relatively well priced alternatives to film. 

To me at least, RED was always a 'big boys' option, niche and rather out of my reach.

RED has snatched the limelight with an impressive feature set which at first glance Canon seemingly is outgunned by.

On further investigation though I believe what we are looking at is two different approaches.

RED uses its sensor, in many ways to do many things, using only a small portion, by the time you get to higher resolutions

Canon uses its 4k sensor in a completely different manner by effectively using the sensor as traditional sensor block.

DV info give a great explanation of how it works

'The 8.3 megapixel Super-35 sensor in the C300 is a new CMOS design by Canon. It is not borrowed or re-engineered from the still photography side of the company; instead it has been created “from the ground up” and dedicated specifically to digital cinema applications. The sensor has a resolution of 2,160 pixels tall by 3,840 pixels wide, which qualifies as native 4K. Canon claims that rolling shutter skew is greatly reduced in this sensor relative to current HD-DSLR camera models. Also, each frame can be scanned by the Digic DV III processor more quickly compared to an HD-DSLR, such as the 21 megapixel CMOS sensor in the Canon EOS 5D Mk. II, which has 2.5 times as many pixels as the C300.

Canon says that their Digic DV III processor reads this new sensor differently; it does not use the line-skipping method found in high-res HD-DSLR sensors. Instead, every four pixels (two green, one red, and one blue) are sampled for each final output pixel. In other words, color is assembled the same way as a traditional three-chip sensor block… two megapixels of red, two megapixels of blue and four megapixels of green (twice as much green as red or blue, since green carries the luminance info). Each primary color sampling off of the sensor is native 1920×1080, each color value alone is equal to the final output resolution. Canon claims that the processed signal has 1,000 lines of TV resolution, and the moire, diagonal line stair-stepping and other artifacts are greatly reduced in this chip compared to HD-DSLR cameras.
The benefits of using a large Super-35 sized sensor are high resolution output, high image sensitivity in low-light shooting situations and shallow depth of field for fine focus control.'

I use a Canon XF305 and that uses the same codec as the C300.

I have just produced a documentary on a pair of XF305's and this codec is truly made for the grade, lots of information in the files, really lovely.

In terms of files produced, this camera and its codec spelled the end of my love affair with HD DSLR's.

And then there is the pricing.

The RED costs half of the Canon C300.

Well not exactly.

The RED only costs $9900 if you buy the 'box' with not accessories included..if you buy the Canon Eos mount the price listed jumps to around $14,000.

Still a handy saving of $6000, right? Well perhaps, but I cannot help but think that the launch RED Scarlet will not have passed Canon by, and I would not be surprised if they responded accordingly in terms of pricing.

Speaking of which, one UK Canon stockist is already listing the C300 at £10,000 around $16,000

So not quite so half price anymore.....

Over at they make a similar point too, though they received a ton of Rabid comments.

RED also have done themselves very few favours by promising spectacular product and then not delivering.

The first Scarlet for instance was touted around 2 or more years ago and then never materialised.

These maybe one off occasions or perhaps the user was plain unlucky, either way I'm pleased it was not me, can you just imagine????? Guys I feel for you.

I always felt it was only a matter of time before one of the seemingly sleeping mainstream giants, in the shape of Canon, Panasonic or Sony, woke up to what RED had been doing, and came up with their very own alternatives.

I believe that is the scenario that is with us right now.

I do hope that RED continue to thrive though, as more choice for the end user, inevitably means more competition, and better product.

My disappointments with the C300? I would have to say the lack of 60fps at 1080p is the one glaring omission.

I too initially questioned why RED were able to offer EOS lens AF when Canon did not offer this function for their own lenses on their own camera. I'm willing to bet that they tried it and it may not have worked in an optimum fashion, so they left well alone.

I could well be wrong though.

But my views, nor the intemperate comments surrounding the C300 do not count.

All that counts is what use these Camera's are put to, and how happy those users are with them.

The proof in the pudding will be in the eating, not the ranting and raving on the net.

The last Canon I can recall which received such a rough ride on its debut was the Canon 5dMkII....and that did not work out so badly did it? 

Monday 31 October 2011

'Travelling Light' webinar with Manfrotto

Kick boxing on the Thai Cambodian border 1993 

This in some peoples eyes at least might seem to be an unusual subject for a webinar.

But many of us travel with our camera gear.

And in the last decade just how difficult has this become?

Often the 'problems' one encounters are not security driven but airline rules and regs.

Tighter rules on the number of pieces of luggage and a big focus on the weight of bags.

How many times have you had to put your expensive gear in an unlocked bag in the hold?

On 17 /11/11 at 19.00 GMT I will explain and share some of my coping techniques which have helped me navigate sometimes baffling rules.

All of my tips are legal and can save you delay or excess baggage charges.

I will also share incidents of where I have come unstuck and I will talk about carnet's too.

Please come and join me (it is free!) and see if you can save yourself some time, money and trouble next time you fly.

Thursday 27 October 2011

Canon Pro Solutions Day 2 - Looking for the end of the rainbow

After my second presentation on behalf of Apple, which I was blessed with an engaged audience who asked more than an intelligent question or two, I had a little more time to check out some of the new offerings.

I got some hands on time with the latest itineration of the Canon EOS 1D series, the Canon 1DX.

First impressions? A product of evolution not revolution, beautifully built, a very well resolved package which if you are a Canon user who shoots news or sport, I think you will be buying one of these...sooner or later. Lots of features you notice straight away like the speed....but there are stacks of features that are not obvious straight away, like the ethernet port (Cat 5) which answers all the camera connectivity questions you may have had and more besides, the Wi-Fi connectivity via the optional WFT-6 E6 transmitter which uses the 'N' protocol (not 'G'), and that the video output which is close to 50Mbs(the magic HD spec for the BBC), never mind the zillion ISO capability.

I must stress I have not used it in anger but it all looks very promising indeed.

As I left the show I walked past a display case of milestones for Canon and one camera which I had not previously heard of caught my eye.

The 1957 Canon VT Deluxe

A beautiful looking camera, with a juicy looking 50mm F1.2 lens.

And a thought came into my mind...I have a Fuji X100 which is so close to greatness it hurts, but needs some of the bells and whistles that Canon could easily bring to the party.

Picture this, a full frame digital version of the Canon VT with the hybrid finder like the X100 but with DIGIC 5 processor and autofocus which is a step up from the X100.

I would dare to suggest a camera like this would sell in comparatively large numbers, for a camera of  its type.

I'm guessing that it will not happen though, bit too retro for them.

I suppose the company which will do it will be Leica and it will end up costing the same amount as a small car.

As I left the Islington business centre there was a beautiful rainbow arcing over the sky which stopped many people in their tracks.

Canon had many fine products on show, but the particular model I really wanted to see was not there, nor does it actually definitely exist.

One end the rainbow was in Islington the other, at least for me lies in Hollywood where on 3rd November there will be (according to many sources on the net) an 'Historic announcement' by Canon.

I don't know what it is, but RED are making an announcement the same day, and Canon have opened a new technology centre in Hollywood.

All these factors could be unrelated and it might just be the launch of a printer, but I doubt it.

Only 8 days to go and we will all find out what 'It' is

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Day 1 at Canon pro Solutions and a dislike of Tomatoes

Thanks to all who came to my 'Crossing the Line' seminar at Canon Pro soloutions, I was speaking nominally about Canon XF305 and Final Cut Pro.

I do not claim to be an editor, let alone a trainer but I did speak a little about FCPX.

Now love it(and I do actually like it)or hate it(as quite a few people said they do) it is here and we might as well start to explore the possibilities of this new way of doing things.

What struck me was when I asked the audience how many people had used it and only one hand went up. Though there maybe a few points of contention, why on earth not at least give it a go?

My daughter Georgie does not like Tomatoes and I always joke with her that how does she know that she doesn't, as she has never actually tried one?

It seems to me that tomato syndrome could be taking hold......

More on the Canon Pro solutions show tomorrow 

Thursday 20 October 2011

What I have been doing....

I have been uncharacteristically quiet, posting very little.

Well I can tell you a little now

For the past 2 years I have been working on a documentary for TV

I produced the programme with a really outstanding team.

It took us to 8 countries and the long process of post production begins.

I can't say too much more here but I will be saying a little more at 'Canon Pro Solutions' next week where I will be presenting for Apple.

Why Canon Pro solutions? Well we shot the documentary on a pair of Canon XF305's one of which I rented from the Flash Centre, the other I own.

It is a cracking camera and if you are shooting something which could be broadcast it shoots in full 1080P HD at 50Mbs, the magic threshold for BBC HD broadcast.

Needless to say I will be blogging extensively about the project in the future

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Fuji X100 part 3

Readers of this blog may recall my initial musings about the Fuji X100

Upon first handling I was intrigued but I nominally gave the nod to the Sony NEX 5

And pointed out some of the X100's short comings.

Then why do I find myself looking at one on my coffee table, having shelled out a premium for this fabulous, if at times flawed, camera.

I cannot recall quite so much so much been written about a camera.

Though this is not why I bought it.

It is one of those Camera's which has actually been following me around, you know bumping into people who have one and to a man and woman they all have been passionate about their  X100, all had a certain glint in their eye, and talked about joy in their picture taking.

I took a call last week form a friend who is going to be working as a stills photographer on a major Hollywood production over the next few months, they asked me what I thought a good unobtrusive and silent choice for a camera alongside their Canon 5d's and I found myself suggesting they try out an X100.....and in the process I somehow persuaded myself to buy one.

Well a couple of weeks into ownership, I have no cause to regret my decision, not yet at least.

I have been lucky enough not to be affected by some of the issues which reportedly affected the early camera's, such as lock ups and pretty compromised firmware.

That is not to say it has all been plain sailing as I will explain.

Fuji have designed a truly beautiful camera, one which really looks and feels a cut above the rest, with some ground breaking features too, including it's clever hybrid viewfinder.

When I bought the camera I thought I would not use the EVF but I must say I find it so good I don't use the optical finder as often as I thought I would

It is compromised by a super baffling menu system, which does seem to take an age to navigate ones way around, battery life can be suspect too if you don't watch it, it caught me out today in fact.....

Battery indicator goes from three bars, to two bars, to flat in moments

It also needs a lot more horsepower in terms of how fast it is, write speed can be slow, and it's not possible to make any adjustments while it is writing to card, a glaring fault. 

Having spent a lot of the budget on look feel and build perhaps Fuji ran out of money for a decent processor inside the camera.

And while we are on the subject of speed and cards, I was initially caught out by a 40 second start up time, my first thoughts were 'what have I just bought?' 

What I have found out is it is very card sensitive, and when I switched the card out for a super fast 16gb Hoodman Raw Steel (named thus because it is steel reinforced and is so much more robust than other offerings which can be rather fragile) I found it improved matters no end, and providing I ALWAYS reformat the card in camera, it starts up in an acceptable second or so.

Autofocus is passable, in good light all is well, but in low light, the natural habitat of the X100, it can really struggle, even when you actively seek out points of contrast and AF friendly areas it can take two or three attempts to get focus, in which time the picture has often been missed. This, in my opinion, is the single biggest single failing of the camera
and the Manual focus is an act of cruel comedy so you can't reliably fall back on that either and I feel is best avoided as is the video mode, which is average.

Fuji have made something of a rod for their own back when some bright spark in the marketing Dept came up with the catch line 'the professionals choice'

Ok here we go, is it a full on pro camera?


Expect it to be and be prepared for the mother of all disappointments.

Can it be used on a Pro shoot? Certainly and I have been doing so, but for a particular type of photo.

A particular type of photo?

Well yes, in action the X100 is THE most unobtrusive camera I have ever used, not just because it has a silent mode, but somehow people are simply not quite so aware that you are shooting. When you use the X100 in silent mode you seem to don a Harry Potter esq cloak of invisibility, you just disappear, on more occasions than I can recall while filming my new documentary I was simply unaware that I was being photographed.

Here is my good friend Vu Bui, unaware I was shooting him...really!

Perhaps it is why it is such a hit in the film world, with Academy award nominated DP's and the like using them.

The camera has it's faults but I still bought one, and I did not buy the very capable Sony NEX.

The reason is soul, something the Fuji X100 has in spades but I have found curiously lacking when I have used the NEX, as good as it is.

All of this comes from a man who has owned five Alfa Romeo's, four rapidly dissolving Alfasuds and a tempetuos GTV6, not the most reliable of cars but goodness SOUL!

If any member of staff of Fuji is reading this, revel in the success that this camera has been, but please wake up to it's shortcomings which led me to tweet 

'Fuji X100.... a dim witted fool of a camera trapped in the most beautifully engineered body. I still like it though'

Words I stand by, but I would still heartily recommend this quirky, deeply flawed but charming camera

It dares to be different in a world of sameness, and delivers photographs that no other camera can. 


I'm waiting until I'm in a silent distraction free environment before I do this, as it does look rather more involved than updating the firmware on a Canon or Nikon, though it does claim to improve the AF...fingers crossed.