In Camera Tips – Part 1 and 2 we discussed the move from analogue to digital photography, basics of camera functions and different formats aka sensor sizes, advantages and disadvantages of modern camera systems and cameras with mirrors versus mirrorless cameras. In Part 3 we will concentrate on video and the importance of image stabilization.
Video with Modern Digital Camera Systems
It was around 2008 when the first serious video capabilities were introduced in modern digital cameras. The first to offer full high definition (Full HD) video was the Canon 5Dmark2 introduced in late 2008. This camera should change video and cinematography completely as it allowed not only to shoot high quality video footage but also offered the usage of the complete lens arsenal of Canon EF lenses without any restrictions. That offered many benefits as instant availability of focal length for extreme wide angle to extreme telephoto and allowed to record either camera internal or to an external recorder. You could view the image on the rear LCD and if you wanted to have better than that either use the LCD of the external recorder or even connect an external EVF.
This started a new trend and today there is no modern digital camera lacking the function of video. But there is one big caveat and this is in a DSLR like the 5D2 you have to lock the mirror up in order to allow the light rays coming through the lens to reach the sensor permanently that is required for video shooting. Soon camera vendors came to a solution with mirrorless cameras, we discussed the differences been mirror based and mirrorless cameras in Part 2 of this series.
In a mirrorless system light rays coming through the lens can always reach the sensor and on top of that there is the built in EVF that can be used for exact viewing of the scene without the need to connect an external EVF. Everyone who already has worked with external components for a camera like recorders and EVFs that are either directly connected to the camera or all the components are maybe mounted to a rig knows how big and relatively cumbersome this whole setup can easily become. For professional filmmakers that is usually not a problem, but for us who want to take some great footage during safaris or in our leisure time it can definitely be much simpler and convenient to work with a mirrorless system.
Almost all of the modern digital cameras today support not only full HD video, but also 4K video with different frame rates that delivers 4 times the resolution of full HD but in most cases only uses a part of the image sensor for recording that results in some crop factor of the final footage. That means the focal length of a lens needs to be multiplied with that crop factor that can usually range from 1.1 to 1.7. This leads on one side to more telephoto reach with a certain lens that is in general something welcome for wildlife and telephoto work, but on the downside also each wide-angle lens becomes longer limiting the range on the wide side for what it was designed for.
If you are really looking to work with 4K you should also consider that you end up with much more data even if there are compression mechanisms and also computing all of these data takes a lot of processing power during recording in camera and during editing. The first is the reason why there are often limitations for the duration of video footage in order to limit overheating and the second means you probably need a faster computer for editing 4K footage.
We so far did not discuss that a video usually looks only good if it is not shaky. There are systems out on the market that are called gimbals and help significantly minimize camera shake resulting in stable footage. Of course you also can use a tripod, but that is rather complicated to handle and not the easiest solution for Safari, especially if you consider taking your videos out of a small and shaky safari vehicle.
Another solution is to rely on the optical image stabilisation (OIS) that is available today in many lenses, especially telephoto lenses. But be careful because OIS only helps to a certain degree to compensate for camera shake and if camera movement becomes too much you again will finally see camera shake.
In the recent years there was also the development of in body image stabilisation (IBIS) that in some cases even works together with OIS. IBIS moves the sensor in the camera usually in a magnetic field in order to compensate for any camera movement. There are some DSLRs as well as CSCs available offering this systems and I myself have only the best experiences with IBIS. Another advantage of IBIS is the fact that also un-stabilized lenses can be stabilized, opening this enhancement for many old lenses.
The conclusion is that with most of the available modern camera systems shooting video became a pretty simple thing and one can nicely improve the experience of recording memories by adding video footage to still images.
Learn more about cameras and wildlife photography with our Specialist Safaris.
Peter Tomsu for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa