CamRanger

Today I decided to try the CamRanger. It is small, relatively inexpensive unit which controls your DSLR from an iPad Android Tablet or phone.  It works both for video and stills and turns your ipad/tablet into a control surface.  Since you have all camera controls as well as a live picture this essentially turns your iPad into a touch sensitive monitor. You can choose a focus point and there is even a setting which turns on a focus assist feature painting red little dots around areas in focus.  Live histogram helps you judge exposure.

camranger4
Live histogram to help with exposure.

The Camranger hooks up via USB to your camera and creates its own WiFi network to which you connect your phone/iPad/tablet. Connection is really easy.

There is a delay of 9 frames since the signal is processed and sent via WiFi.  9 frames is a lot if you’re trying to operate fast moving stuff video, but not really a problem for table tops or locked off pack shots for example.

This would also make a great option for controlling a DSLR camera mounted to a car rig or a crane.  Do all your settings from a comfortable position, like focus, white balance and exposure. Double tap the screen for a close up of focus area.  Being able to change exposure for a camera mounted to the front of the car has never been this easy with a DSLR before…

For still shooters you can use this device as a wireless tether while on location or a studio.  Hand the iPad to a client and turn on “client mode” which removes control of the camera but streams pictures to the tablet as there being shot.  Lightroom can be used to auto import from a folder making this an affordable wireless tether.

There is also features such as focus stacking, intervalometer and HDR built in to the app.   Switching between stills and video is as easy as touching the screen.  Being locked off on a really long lens, sensitive to movement, how nice is it to start/stop or snap pictures by touching a button on your ipad.

The Camranger has a built in (removable) rechargeable battery and can also be powered by an external battery pack with USB connection. According to the manufacturer the battery time is roughly 5-6hrs for normal usage.  The unit is plastic and only time will tell how well it stands up to professional use but it seems pretty solid.

camranger5
Plastic but feels solid

You also have full access to your CF or SD card in the camera. You can browse and import photos right to your iPad library. Leave your computer at home and still be able to send pictures via phone/tablet.

Conslusion: This little device to really impressed me. $300 to get access to all of your camera controls, wirelessly and with a built in battery is pretty sweet.  I remember laying on the ground in the snow trying to see/change camera setting for a DSLR mounted on the outside of a car or a camera placed in a tight hard to reach place.  Being able to control all that from an iPad is worth the price alone.  Only downside I see is the USB connection but that is more of a camera issue…

 

 

camranger3
Focus assist turned ON
camranger2
CamRanger connected to my 1Dc

camranger1

DISCLAIMER:  No one asked me to write anything in this post and I bought the unit at at market price.

 

 

Wireless Bluetooth follow focus

At the trade show in Gothenburg the other day I saw a really nice follow focus rig/follow iris from Hedén Engineering. Hedén motors are known for the quality and reliability and now they are extending their line up with a complete package including a single channel control unit and receiver.

The control unit has back lit scale rings, smooth turns with adjustable drag and no external antenna.

Control unit
Control unit

This is a bluetooth device but with the newest Bluetooth 4 standard. It has a 100m (300ft) range. The receiver unit is about the size of a pack of cigarettes. The setup was a snap and it took all of a few seconds for the units to pair up. There is one-touch scaling button to easily set up to any lens. One of the nice things with this for example, is being able to scale the very short throw of a stills/DSLR lens over the whole turn of the controller dial. This will allow you a much greater control of the lens, despite the short throw of the lens.
You can also very quickly setup 2 points, a start point and and end point, for an easy rack focus.

What really got me was the enormous precision of motor in relation to the follow focus dial. It was really really accurate and the tiniest move transferred over the bluetooth into the motor and onto the lens. According to Heden there are 204800 “points” on each turn of the motor. Therefor the precision is a few hundreds of a millimeter per “step”. So in short, very accurate.
I can see this unit as a great solution for folks using stills lenses on their cameras. Scale the controller to the stills lens and get a much greater throw on the lens.

Bluetooth reciever
Bluetooth reciever
Bluetooth reciever mounted on a Sony F3
Bluetooth reciever mounted on a Sony F3

You can also skip the receiver and connect the controller via cable directly to the motor. The handcontrol runs on a Canon 5d battery and last 3-4 hrs. It is, as all things worth having, a bit pricy at roughly $6 200 but quality costs… Would love to get ahold of a unit and do some real world testing.

 

Nikon D4 on location

I’ve had the D4 for about 10 days now and here are some quick thoughts.  (I will write a more thorough review as soon as time allows)

Since I got my hand on this camera I’ve shot mostly video – for a commercial where the camera acted as B-cam mounted inside/outside a car as well as a few specialty shots. We chose to record in 1080/25P to internal CF cards.  Main camera on the spot was a Sony F3 with S-log.

Inverted D4 mounted inside car for Driver shot
Mounted on car
Mounted to cheese plate outside car

 

There was one shot we wanted to get from above an ice climber wanting to believe he was hundreds of meter up in the air.  This was a perfect shot for a DSRL looking straight down with very shallow depth of field.  I put a 70-200 VRII on the D4 and got some amazing shots.

Shooting straight down leaning into a harness

 

There were also a few other short shots we captures with the D4.  I was sitting on a snow mobile with a gyro attached to the camera (14-24 and 70-200).  We got both wide angle speed shots as well as steady closeup with this setup.

14-24 and gyro
70-200 VRII with gyro attached

All in all as a first shoot I am very happy with the results. The body is on the heavy side for mounting, the D800 will be a better choice for that. I found that adding one more point of attachment, using hot shoe, was a good way of keeping the rig solid. I am working on getting a release for some frame grabs and will post as soon as I know.  On the other hand the bigger body makes for much easier hand holding IMHO, especially with a 70-200 attached.

On the still photography side (I also shot some stills for the ad campaign) they’ve added some really cool new buttons and an extra grip-pad to the body. This really is nice and makes for easier handling, especially in vertical mode. AF is blazing fast and spot on.    More sooooon.

 

Canon 5D mark III – at last

At last, after a long long wait, lots of speculations, rumors and more speculations it is finally here; the new Canon 5D mark III.  The camera is updated with a vastly improved Autofocus (AF) system with 61 point AF compared to the old 9. It has an updated sensor and new DIGIC 5+ processor, 6 frames per second.

As for the video bit it has been updated with the new option of I-frame compression, which means each frame is individually compressed.  This will make for cleaner video images as well as easier editing without having to transcode.  This is great news.

Canon decided to add Timecode (TC) which is great news for video/film work where you want to incorporate this camera into a multi camera environment.  This is something Nikon failed to add this year.

On the other hand Canon has left out something Nikon added this year, CLEAN UNCOMPRESSED HD out of the HDMI port.  So you are still limited to the onboard codec which is a shame, should you want a higher quality/bitrate image.  This is, I am sure, a marketing strategy on Canons part. They now have the wonderful C300 which will give you uncompressed HDSDI out so why add the same feature to a camera costing $8-10 000 less…

Another thing not mentioned on the Canon 5D mark III, which is a big plus for Nikon, is the Crop mode in video, which will allow you to zoom into the sensor extending the focal length without changing the aperture on the lens. I would have like to see this on the Canon as well.

I am sure this camera will be a great sucess both in still and video photography. 22,3MP with improved AF and image processor and better on board video, headphone jack, audio level adjustment while recording and TC support.

On my part I think I made the correct choice going with Nikon considering I want the clean HD signal out of the camera and I think the crop mode will serve as a great feature.

As always: To each his own… 🙂

Cineroid LED light- First Look

At NAB as IBC last year these lights were announced and now its time to have a look.  I am looking for a nice small fill light for a car interior and thought the Cineroid LED a try.

I went over to our dealer and borrowed one of their lights. It is a small battery powered LED light made up of 96 small flat LED lights. The kit comes with 2 “fronts”, light grills, one tungsten (3000K) and one daylight (5000K) as well as charger, battery and battery plate. The “light fronts” snaps on and off with 1 release on each side of the light. There is no glass or protective cover over the LEDs but the construction seems solid enough, and only time will tell if they stand up to regular field use.

The light is made of a hard plastic and feels like a pretty solid build. The buttons on the back, both On/Off  as well as the for switch controlling the fan, are recessed and fairly protected against damage.  The fan has an option of running automatically or manually. In manual mode it has 5 different speeds. At the higher settings it could cause audio issues in a really quiet room. Since I’ve not spent any time shooting with this light yet I can’t say how much the fan is needed to cool the unit. The back of the detachable LED also work as a heat sink which hopefully reduces the need for the fan. You can set the manual setting to 0 and effectively turning the fan off. In case of overheating the display will warn.

One minus is the power connecter which sticks out on the side and is a regular consumer connector. I don’t understand why every manufacturer making these lights insist on NOT using a more robust power connector. I really doubt it would affect the price that much and I think people would gladly pay and extra $20 for a connector that will actually last during regular field use. It is not as flimsy as other lights I’ve seen but one improvement for the next version would be to incorporate the power connector in the battery plate, attaching between the plate and the light. This would eliminate the need for the external cable.

On top of the light there is a rotary wheel which controls the dimming in 30 different steps. This is also a possible weak point in case the light would take a hit. The level of dimming is shown on the little LCD display on the back of the light.

 

 

SO how does the light actually light?

Positive first: A powerful little light.  What I really like about the output is the spread. At a distance of 2m (6,5ft) the spread is 3m (10ft) and with a difference of only 2/3 of a stop between the sides and the middle. So no more of the flashlight look that is a dead give away of an onboard light. This is Great. Output is roughly 12fc at 2 m giving a f2,8/800iso/180degree shutter/25fps.

If you want to narrow the throw there is a detachable grill that snaps on with 4 magnets holding it in place. This of course also cuts the output of the light.

The negative. As with most LED lights there is a problem with multiple shadows especially when lighting something close up, so also here.

This shows up mostly on a flat bright surface and it almost not noticeable on a face as you can see below.

You can reduce this greatly by putting some diffusion (Lee 216 in picture below) over it which softens the shadows enough not to show.

Conclusion. Before I actually published this post I popped over to Scandinavian Photo and bought one of these lights. I think it is a nice little light to use as fill or for a car interior for example. The dimming feature is nice but one thing I miss is the ability to dial in different color temperatures.  I will post back what I think once I’ve actually used it in production a few times. Then I’ll really know what’s what especially when it comes to color and such… 🙂

Disclaimer: I Borrowed the light for the testing and bought one to keep. I have received no compensation in writing this article and all opinions are my own.