Posts tagged review
I find it amazing that in this day and age, we can buy an on-camera LED light that is well built, has temperature mixing and runs forever on a Sony camcorder battery for under $45.
After hearing about the Yongnuo YN140 lights and their price point, I just had to buy a couple even though I’ve been happily using my F&V Z96 lights for the past two years or so. The only problem with my Z96 lights is that I’ve misplaced my snap on magnetic filters. One fell in a lake from on top of a bridge. The others have fallen behind draws or have mysteriously vanished without a trace. All I have is one tungsten filter between the two of them.
What appealed me to the YN140 is that there is no need for filters since it has both tungsten and daylight LEDs that can be swapped or mixed together. That’s another big advantage over the Z96, with lighting I find that light is neither white or orange but always a mix between the two. Even outdoors, the temperature of the light depends on the time of day and whether it’s overcast or not. With the Z96 you either had to go all white or all tungsten. Now with the YN140, I can get a more accurate light on my subject.
The build quality of the YN140 is firstclass. Everything besides the clunky hotshoe mount points towards something that should be at least twice the price. The plastic feels solid with a nice satin texture, the battery snaps in solidly with no wiggle room and the buttons on the back have an affirmative click. Everything about the light tells me that it should last for years. Regarding the “solid” plastic feel, I can squeeze the light and it will not bend, it feels like every square inch is taken up inside unlike say my Ikan v5600 monitor which feels like it would shatter inwards if I squeezed it too hard.
In regards to lighting performance, I testing it against the Z96 which is highly regarded amongst many videographers and even photographers out there. This is by no means a scientific test. The camera used is a 7d with shutter at 1/50, aperture at 3.5 and iso at 320, white balance = auto. The subject is also not very interesting, it’s my messy highly unorganised shelf.
What I see in the tests is the YN140 provides more of a spotlight effect whilst the z96 has a more even distribution of light across the frame. The YN140 with all LEDS firing is brighter than the Z96 which is not surprising as it has more LEDs. What’s interesting though is the YN140 with only the Tungsten LEDs is brighter than the Z96 with just a tungsten filter applied.
Something to note is that the YN140 has two modes which can be switched over. Batt mode uses more power and is used when you are using a Sony compatible battery whilst the standard mode assumes you are using AA batteries and so uses less power. The tests above were done in Batt. mode.
So in conclusion, which one do I prefer? Well the more compact design of the YN140 along with ability to mix temps makes that one the winner for me. At under $45 delivered, it really is the bargain of the century in regards to on-camera lighting.
Update 21/12/12: Ok after having used the YN140 on a couple of jobs, I have found one pretty big problem with it. The lighting tends to dim over a period of time. I didn’t notice this until I scrubbed through about an hour of interview footage and noticed the brightness from the start to the end was quite different. With the Z96, I didn’t notice this dimming problem. It’s either on or off if the battery goes out. With the YN140, it seems to dip in brightness as the battery drains which is a big disappointment.
Just received my Zacuto EVF Pro kit today. It’s in pretty much brand new condition and I saved quite a bit from buying new thanks to eBay. This is the first product I own from Zacuto considering most of their products are not cost efficient enough for me but I guess that’s what you get when you are paying for a lifetime warranty. Although the EVF I bought only comes with a 1 year warranty which is a bit short but is a standard length for most electronics out there.
I’ll start out by listing some things I don’t like about the EVF. I’ll get to the good stuff later on:
- It only comes with one mounting point at the bottom. This limits the number of options of mounting the EVF to my rig. It would have been nice to at least get another mount at the top and side. You can flip the image though so it can be mounted upside down.
- 1080p output on my FS100 doesn’t work. Even though I updated to the latest firmware which says it now supports 1080p, the image on the EVF becomes stretched and unusable. Edit: (1/11/11): I don’t know why Zacuto can’t get this to work, it’s been an issue for a while now and despite saying it will be fixed in the next firmware update, we’re still here and it still doesn’t work. 720p output works and looks beautifully smooth. It also appears sharper than the 1080i output but 720p output doesn’t work when I’m shooting 50p for Slow-mo. 1080i also has noticeable jaggies when I use the 1 to 1 zoom in function. Update 13/11/11: Another issue I’ve found with 1080i is that when Zebras are turned on, you’ll get little distracting flashing dots that show up on the interlaced lines. The OSD output (audio levels, shutter/gain display settings) from the FS100 also slightly jitters up and down on 1080i mode.
- This may rattle a few people but I feel the optics on my LCDVF is better than the optics on the included Z-finder. The image through the Z-finder appears to be pin-cushion distorted and the magnification is a touch too much (Edit: adding one extender frame makes the magnification much better for my eye). I really can’t wait until the makers of the LCDVF release their own EVF. The rubber eyepiece is also too big and floppy for my liking and is a dust and hair magnet.
- Only comes with one peaking option with 3 levels of strength – I really hope they add a peaking option that highlights the edges in Red or yellow in future firmware updates. The current peaking option seems to sharpen everything, including the high gain grain which can become distracting in low light settings.
- The image seems to strobe when panning. I don’t know about other EVFs out there but my Ikan v5600 didn’t strobe like this. There also appears to be slightly more noticeable lag than my Ikan v5600 monitor.
- Doesn’t work with the HDMI out from the GoPro Hero 2. My Ikan v5600 on the other hand works just fine with both recording and playback. A shame because the small form factor of the EVF LCD screen would have went really well with the GoPro.
Now the things I do like about the Zacuto EVF are:
- Well built – It’s made out of some tough plastic kind of material that seems to be built pretty tough.
- Long battery life – One battery is said to last around 6 hours.
- Its lightweight which is good for the rig and my back. Also allows it to be mounted securely to a cheap articulated arm.
- The picture quality is excellent. The IPS panel shows true colors with a wide viewing angle.
- Easy firmware updates – Just plug in a usb stick with the latest firmware and go. It’s also nice that they are constantly adding new features.
So far, being able to make my shoulder rig more ergonomical has been a big plus. Hopefully with future firmware updates, they can improve some of the negatives I had and maybe release more options for the eyecups but that’s really just down to personal preference.
The lights arrived quickly from China via DHL which was nice not having to wait a month. Upon opening the package I was met with a solid, compact, well constructed LED panel with the words 500 LED on the back. Thinking that I had been scammed and after a lot of cursing, I decided to count the number of LEDs before sending off an angry email and opening up a paypal dispute. Thankfully I had done that because, sure enough, even on this compact panel they have managed to squeeze in 700 LEDS, half tungsten and half daylight balanced in the same chassis as the 500 LED light.
I know that the 600 LED Panels labeled CN-600HS have been all the rage. There are lots of reviews from many satisfied people who have purchased these lights and have praised the build quality and light output. American led panel manufacturer Litepanel were so threatened by these cheap panels that they have attempted to block their imports in to the US.
The panels I bought are so new, I haven’t been able to find any reviews on them yet but from the first quick impressions here are my thoughts:
- Excellent build – Passes the shake test where I shake the light for any loose or rattly bits. Not a sound and feels very solid. The materials don’t feel flimsy at all.
- V-mount battery option – With a sony style V-mount battery this light can be run for hours and hours making it an excellent portable light solution.
- Compact – They have managed to squeeze in 700 LEDs into a 500 LED enclosure. This makes it more compact than the 600 LED light and makes it that much easier to travel around with. It also outputs more light I’m guessing.
- Light output is excellent – far more than I need for my FS100 and 7D set-up for most scenarios I usually shoot in.
- Color adjustable – I can dial in my perfect color temperature to suit the scene. One dial for the tungsten LEDs and one for the daylight. No more carrying around slap/slide on gels. Also mixing color temps for stylistic purposes is now a breeze.
- Yoke mount – Just like the 600 LED light, this light has a yoke to control the angle of the light. 100x better and more solid than the flimsy tilt mounts.
- Value – I bought two of these lights, couriered to my door for only $586US. Thats cheaper than any 600 LED that I could find and the benefits over the 600 far outweigh them.
I’ll add more details later when I actually use these lights in the field but so far, I’m quite impressed.
I think I’ve just about put together my perfect shoulder-mount FS-100 rig. As it stands it currently composes of:
- The Shoot35 AF100 baseplate – I’ve also got the Lanparte baseplate that has an easy adjustable height but the bottom of that gets in the way of the shoulder pad underneath. The shoot35 baseplate has a flat base and is solidly made. The only downside is to adjust the height you have to place and screw-in plastic blocks underneath the quick release plate which doesn’t offer quick adjustability and is also a bit cheap and tacky.
- Lanparte handle grips – These handgrips offer alot of flexibility in how I want to position my handles and are easy to adjust quickly in the field. A major downside is that they are prone to slipping in certain configs because the ball joint only has friction grooves covering half of the ball. My remedy for this was to hit the other half with a Dremel tool with an engraving tip to add some grooves for the holding screws to grip onto. Now they lock a heck of a lot better.
- Lanparte C support with top Handle Grip – This provides an easy way for me to carry the rig around when it is not on my shoulder and also to get low angle shots. There’s a bit of flex when I pick up the rig but it’s minor and the handle grip is solid and easy to balance along the rods. It also has a couple of attachment holes that I will be attaching a cold shoe mount to for my z96 led light.
- Lanparte Shoulderpad – It’s attached to its own rods which is attached to the rig with a riser rod adapter that came with the rig. This set-up allows me to have the shoulder-pad underneath the camera where its most balanced. I could carry this rig all day without a sweat (Update: after using this rig for a 10 hour day, it did get quite tiring and uncomfortable). It’s a solid and well machined piece of kit but the rubber used isn’t too comfortable and doesn’t conform to the slant of people’s shoulders but most shoulder pads don’t take this into account. I’m getting one of these memory foam travel mask to use as extra padding and will be attaching it via velcro.
- Ikan v5600 monitor with a Hoodman Sunshade – I will be replacing this with a SmallHD evf soon. It is attached to the rig with one of these articulating arms with a rod mount adapter. The Ikan is adequate in getting a composition and in finding focus but it’s color accuracy is way off and its hard to judge exposure with its
low contrast milky screen(after using it for a full day for a wedding shoot, the contrast is actually fine with the sunhood and when the brightness and contrast settings are turned down). The plusses to this monitor is it is small and light. I’ll be running it off one of these these batteries that I will velcro onto the back. The lack of a peaking and any exposure tools such as zebras is also why I am going for the SmallHD evf(I’ve since bought a Zacuto EVF pro that I got for a decent price on eBay).
Despite the few negatives, I’m very happy with the Lanparte rig parts and it is very well machined and put together. Jerry from Lanparte showed me this picture of their new handles which uses a rosette locking mechanism and so should be alot more solid. Hopefully they will let me exchange my handles.
The only thing missing is my Fotga Follow Focus which is currently out of action because the screw for the quick release rod mount got cross threaded and stuck. When i went to try to unscrew it with a pair of pliers, the screw head snapped clean off. It’s as if it is made out of soft, cheap aluminum, which it is. Apart from that, the follow focus mechanism itself seems pretty solid with minor play. Waiting on my replacement rod mount to come through before I can use it again. It’s annoying but you do get what you pay for.
Update: Newer pics of the rig with a Zacuto EVF here.
I previously said that because of Canon and Red’s big November 3rd announcement, I wasn’t going to buy the Sony Nex-FS100 and was going to hold out to see what will come. Well things have come up and after getting the go ahead on a couple of big jobs, I needed to replace my ailing old Canon XH-A1. It was no longer cutting the mustard for a number of reasons.
- The HDV codec just plain sucks. Even comparing it to the video from my 7D, the HDV footage looks grainy and low res in comparison because it actually is low res (1440 x 1080)
- Tape sucks. After filming for an entire day, the last thing I want to do is relive the experience in real time again while capturing the footage. This literally eats up hours and hours of time that could be spent straight editing. Using a blazing fast Lexar Card Reader, I can copy and start editing in a matter of minutes instead of hours.
- Tape sucks part II – I don’t know what it is, whether my XH-A1 is giving up the ghost but I can rarely if ever now capture a full tape without dropping frames and the audio going out of sync. This again eats up a lot of my editing time having to find and resync the audio to the video. Because I always shoot two camera jobs, this hasn’t really been too big of an issue but its just a major pain in the cushion cheeks.
So now that I have the FS100 what are my thoughts?
- A lot of people have complained about the cheap plasticky feel to the FS100 and its buttons. I’m going to have to agree. Straight out of the box and into my hands, the camera does feel alot less finessed than say a Z1 or a Xha1 where those cameras feel “thick” the FS100 feels “thin and flimsy”. The scrolling menu and iris wheel feel second rate.
- But putting the camera on a simple rig does make the cheap feeling go away. Mostly because you aren’t touching it so much. I’ve got mine on the Shoot 35 AF100 rod set-up. It’s simple and straight forward and does the job. Once my lens adapters get here, I’ll mount my Nikon and Canon lenses and a follow focus.
- The 18-200 Sony lens that came with the camera is just sublime. This is going to be my go-to lens for a lot of corporate recording gigs as the auto focus works better than most video cameras I’ve ever used. The picture quality is also amazingly good.
- The low light capabilities of this camera beats any DSLR out there hands down. It kills my 7D even if I was using the kit lens on the FS100 and a 1.4 stop lens on the 7D, This camera is basically close to noise free and when I crank it all the way up to 30db of gain, the noise doesn’t look offensive at all. It just looks like fine grain instead of the muddy, blocky mess you’d get from a DSLR at 6400iso. 30db on this camera equals about 16000iso!
- Phantom power dual XLR inputs are a godsend. Being able to record one mic to both channels and being able to set each level separately is a huge welcome coming from the limited XH-A1 (not the XH-A1s model).
- The camera only has one SD slot which is a real downside. The only way to record to two storage devices at once (for backup) is to either get something like an Atomos Ninja or the expensive Sony FMU 120 SSD drive. I’ve gone with the FMU option as it is just a heck of a lot less hassle and makes my set-up more compact. The Atomos does record to pro-res though which is a big plus but it adds bulk.
- The sony Mic that comes with the camera is a cheap electret condenser mic. Not a true condenser and it sounds so with a thin sound. I’ve attached a Sontronics STC-1 with a hypercardioid capsule which fits perfect in the mic holder. I’ll talk more about this mic some other time but it really is a great bang for your buck mic.
- The camera shoots in AVCHD codec which is really quite a robust and high quality codec compared to say HDV. At 24mbs, I can fit close to three hours of the highest quality 1080p footage on to one 32GB Transcend 400x SD card. Forget about tape changes in the middle of an important speech! I bought 4 of these cards off Amazon and they should last me a full day. The footage will also be simultaneously backed up onto the FMU-128 SSD drive I mentioned earlier. Always a good idea when you are getting paid for your work!
- Lens options galore! I can mount pretty much any type of old or new lens out there from my m42 collection, Canon FDs to Nikons and EOS although the Canon Eos still hasn’t got a good aperture changing adapter on the market yet. Birger was going to release one but no updated word from them yet. Adapters are plentiful and cheap on ebay.
- 1080p at 50 frames per second. So full HD slowmo that the camera records at 28mbs so there should be some quality loss if its recording twice as many frames at only an extra 4mbs but it still looks great!
The camera arrived this morning, just in time for a job for tomorrow and the rest of the week. I’ll let you know how it will hold up for 4 full days of shooting. Hopefully well considering the FMU-128 hasn’t arrived yet so no back-ups until it gets here from new york!
Update: After logging over 30 hours on this camera, I’d have to say this is just about the perfect camera for me. Controls are where I need them to be and with a Fader ND, keeping good exposure outdoors is childsplay.
Being able to record to the FMU-128 and the SD card simultaneously gives peace of mind that is worth the high price for the FMU.
The lowlight capabilities of this camera still astounds me. I don’t have to worry about not having enough light, ever again. It’s freedom. If I’m in a pitch black area, a small z96 LED light, provides plenty of light for a noise free image, even if I’m at 15db gain! And talking about gain, I no longer dread having to use it. I know even at 24db of gain, I’m still going to have a very clean image. Above that and the grain looks organic and non-offensive.
My next camera will be a Red Scarlet but until then, this camera will do me just fine and even after then, this camera will pick up the slack where the Red can’t shine such as an easy post workflow, run and gun and long recording times.
Just found this neat review of a mattebox from TrusMT. This has about all the features you would need from a matte box such as:
- Swing away – for easy access to lens changes
- Height adjustable so you can use it for all different kinds of camera rig set-ups
- Dual full rotational filter holders – So you can dial in a polarizer filter setting or something similar.
- Top and side flags – Some other matte box makers offer these at additional cost
Both products from TrusMT look pretty good in quality and functionality. This is a sign of the times and we’re gladly seeing more high quality products at competitive prices coming out of China.
I’ve always been a fan of Dell monitors since I got my Dell 2407 about 4 years ago. Dell have always used high quality LCD panels in their “pro” range of monitors and the difference to a cheaper monitor is like night and day. Not only in color accuracy, dynamic range and contrast but also in viewing angles. I should know because I also own two cheaper LCD displays, one to use as a second monitor to the 2407 and another to use on my other computer. The cheaper monitors, LG L226 and the Asus Vh242, were also a pain in the arse to accurately calibrate using my X-rite Display 2.
The u2410 is quite comparable to the pro monitors from other manufacturers like HP but the Dell is often a lot cheaper. That is a reason why they are so popular with many graphic designers and editors out there.
I recently had the chance to buy two of these monitors for less than the price of a new one so I snapped at the chance. My old 2407 will go to my second computer and the two u2410 will be my main editing monitors. Finally, two matching monitors!
Before calibrating, I did the “test and report” feature of the Lacie BlueEye Pro software to see how the Dells faired being uncalibrated. This was after resetting them both to their factory settings.
As you can see, even though they are identical monitors at the same settings, they both faired quite differently in the tests. By the way, the ideal reading of the graph is to have the bars as low as possible and to aim for a Delta E Average of under 1 for the best accuracy.
Now after calibrating them using the standard preset which gave the best results for TFT central.
As you can see, even though the settings were the same (Brightness = 40, Contrast = 50) there was no way to get the two monitors to behave identically. They both did fair a Delta E Average of under 1 though so they were both very good results and the difference between them to the eye is indistinguishable.
These were TFT Centrals results which also shows differences.
So what I’ve learnt here is that all monitors, even the exact same model coming from the same factory, aren’t all made equal. This has probably got to do with the consistancy of the backlight from panel to panel. Maybe the more expensive monitors like those from Eizo are more consistant but I doubt it. The important lesson here is that calibrating your monitors is important, especially if you are a graphic designer or video editor. The difference from the uncalibrated to the calibrated monitor is quite staggering to the eye. The monitor almost looks too dull after being calibrated but that’s because monitor manufacturers are usually targetting their monitors to the consumer who see a bright, saturated image as the better looking image.
The same metaphor can be said for audio engineers who use monitor speakers. These may sound flat to Joe Blow who is used to the tinny highs and booming bass of his headphones but theres a reason why they’re called “monitor” speakers. They are the reference to what a flat signal should be so when they do their mix they won’t sound terrible on an audiophiles $20k speakers or a kids ipod headphones. With a monitor instead of hearing sound, we’re seeing colors so those colors need to reflect what they should be in real life.
I’ve finally got the lens I’ve always wanted, the Tokina 11-16mm. This lens is legendary as one of the sharpest and fastest ultrawides ever made. I don’t even know of any other lens that can compare with it’s 11-16mm focal range and constant f2.8 aperture.
The Tokina is a rectilinear lens, meaning lines should stay straight compared to the barrel distortion you get with a fisheye lens. This fills the focal length gap I had under 17mm and I couldn’t be happier. This lens is so good, Duclos are selling PL mount converted Tokinas with a manual aperture to use on film and digital cinema cameras.
These days when it comes to any video project, people are expected to do a bit of color tweaking to their final output. This can be as simple as a simple curves adjustment to get a nice looking contrasty image to advanced dedicated color grading tools such as Magic Bullet Looks or Blackmagic’s Davinci.
I’m taking a guess here but I estimate over half of the videos made these days end up on the Internet. One problem – What if your LCD display is showing wildly inaccurate colors? If you are grading from a wrong starting point, the chance are, your video isn’t going to look like how you wanted it to on the majority of people’s monitors out there. It could even look totally wrong with people looking like they come from Jersey Shore. All those hours spent finessing a custom look can be wasted if your monitor is not calibrated. This is where a hardware monitor calibrater comes in to the picture.
Getting one of these has always been on my to do list. What they basically do is change the way your monitor looks so that the colors you see on screen are as close to how they should look like in the real world. So white will be 6500k (or whatever you set it at) which is what daylight is and reds will be proper red without the crazy saturation or greenish hue and so on with the other colors.
In this instance, I’ve decided to go with an X-Rite i1 Eyeone Display 2 as from reading many reviews out there, it is a very capable, pro standard colorimeter device which isn’t going to cost an arm and a leg. I got one new from eBay for $150US plus $18 delivery which is a very good deal considering if I were to buy this locally in Australia, it would have cost twice as much.
Another thing I learnt about the X-rite is that it uses the same hardware device that the Lacie BlueEye pro uses.
The only difference between the two packages is the software that it uses to create a color profile for your monitor. The X-rite comes with Eye-One Match 3 whilst the LAcie uses it’s own BlueEye Pro program. The other difference is the price with the Lacie retailing for around $100 more than the X-Rite. You can use either software with either device as was mentioned before, the hardware is identical.
What’s strange is the BlueEye Pro program can be freely found on Lacie’s own website to download. The same can be said with the X-Rite Match 3 software which can be found on X-Rite’s website. So begs the question, why would anyone bother with buying the more expensive Lacie version? In my opinion, after having used both, the Lacie software gives much better results. The interface may not be as bling as the Match 3 but it does come with a test and report utility which is so so so handy. But still, it’s available free so who know’s what Lacie is thinking?
Now I’m not here to tell you how to use these things, that can be found here at TFTCentral. All I am saying is that, if you are serious about your color grades or color correction or color in general, do youself a favour and get yourself one of these. Professional photographers should be using these things and so should videographers. I re-calibrate my monitors twice a month as they are getting old and always seem to go out of calibration. This can be easily tested using the BlueEye Pro, Test and Report feature as was previously mentioned which gives you a graph to show how close your monitor is to the ideal settings.
After waiting for nearly three weeks, my z96 has finally arrived. I already have a Swit s-2010s on camera LED light and it does the job well. It’s quite bright but the downside is the sony battery adapter is separate from the light itself. It needs to be clamped onto something like the top handle on my XH-A1 but on the 7D, my options are pretty low. This is why I bought the z96 which has the battery adapter attached to the back of the light itself. With a slim NP-F570 sony battery, the light becomes a compact and very light-weight, on-camera light.
It also has a diffuser and tungsten filter which attaches via magnets ala LCDVF style. This is cool as it’s quick and painless to add and remove the filters.
In comparison to the Swit, the z96 has a way more broader light. The Swit is slightly brighter at the center but it’s beam is very narrow unless I use the diffuser but even still, it’s not as wide as the z96. The z96 has quite an even light coverage and has less of a spotlight effect but it has less throw than the Swit.
Like the Swit, the z96 has a dimmer which is also the on and off switch which is essential to control the level of light. I’m going to use this as an indoor fill light or interview light and so will be using it with my light clamp which will allow me to set it up in seconds.
My plan is to ditch the lighting kit and replace it with a few of these set-ups for my 7D shoots. Having to drag around a lighting kit with the light stands and the power cables and setting up and packing down is becoming a real drag. I much prefer to just drag a chair/table/shelf over and clamp a light to it, especially for simple interview type situations.
Build quality wise I don’t have much to complain about. Even though it’s lightweight (which is a plus) it’s built quite well. Everything lines up and there are no rough edges that I see in a lot of Chinese products. Even the box it came in was well designed, it was encased in molded plastic in a professionally designed box. Chinese products have really come a long way in the past year and I’m so glad the prices are still really affordable. A few years ago, a light that performed and was built this good would have costed more than $1000. Now it can be had for under $80. I love progress.
Update: I just found this indepth video review on Youtube. This really shows just how good this light is.