August 1, 2015 at 4:52AM

3

Filming Hunts a spec hunters worst nightmare

As an avid hunter and passionate newcomer to the world of filming, I'm stuck at a crossroad and it seems there's no light at the tunnel for the gear I'm searching for.

I filmed an elk hunt last year for my good friend of mine, his dad and uncle. The only camera I had was my old canon hf200, our go pro's and my nikon d600. What I ended up with was decent albeit to most standards sub par footage besides maybe the go pros and a few clips from my d600. I carried the canon around for the most part due to its size an ease of use, but as most of you will comment on that it is a consumer grade camera, it simple didn't handle most of the key situations well. A few of our encounters with elk in the early mornings and thick timber, the footage was un usable do to the cameras terrible low light capabilities and its auto focus that decided branches in front of us were more important than the giant elk walking past us.

With the recent article on here saying don't upgrade, focus more on your craft etc. etc. I thought to myself could I really have done a better job with a better camera, and the truth is yes. Looking back on the days in the field recording the hunts I know I relied too much on the cameras auto features and my final edit worked out ok not great but but ok.

In searching for that better camera I'm still not sure where to turn, I've looked into newer consumer cameras, higher end 4k setups like the panasonic HC-X1000, the A7s with some lens like the 28-135mm FE PZ F4 or even the new yet unreleased AG-DVX200 or some of the comparable sony cameras in that same price point. All of which are far superior to what I currently have.

It's been through my research though, that I feel that spec hunting has made any decision I make on purchasing new gear a terrible task. Mostly because it seems that there is always a newer camera just around the corner that "will" better than what is currently available. At this point I'm hoping someone on here could at least ease my mind and help me focus on a general direction I should head in. If any of you have any experience in filming wildlife that would easily be comparable to filming any hunts I will be doing in the future.

If my ramble doesn't make any sense please feel free to ask for clarification as I hope any discussions I have on here, will at least help me learn more about filming and what I should expect to get out of whatever gear I end up with.

Thanks!

20 Comments

Filming wildlife is great but shooting wildlife I do not support.

August 2, 2015 at 5:10PM

0
Reply
avatar
Cary Knoop
Member
2303

I don't want to turn this into a internet debate on hunting, but do you have any insight or advice on my post? If so I welcome any help, if not no problem.

August 3, 2015 at 3:21PM, Edited August 3, 3:21PM

0
Reply

I'm not super familiar with Nikon stuff, but shouldn't that D600 be pretty decent for video (at least better than the the little handycam? At the very least you'd have a bigger sensor and control over focus/aperture. A used 70-200 2.8 without IS would give you some reach, and you'd have the gopros for closeup stuff. And a rode videomic (any version, really) would give you better audio than the onboard mic.

It's not an insignificant investment, but a heck of a lot less than shelling out for a new a7s+lenses.

August 3, 2015 at 6:05PM

0
Reply

The d600 is actually not terrible, I do have an 80-200 which gives me some reach, as well as a rode mic. The trouble I had on the only day I went out with it was keeping the elk in focus, from a distance grazing elk were easily filmed but I had a few cow elk come in walking almost straight towards us to about 70yards. At 70yards the elk looked like medium size dogs on the go pro footage even set to narrow and cropped. The footage from the d600 looked in focus on the screen, but unfortunate it wasn't, some might say a follow focus could've helped or practice but at the end of the day that setup quickly becomes so heavy and cumbersome that even the a7s and that huge lens is half the weight. The only real reason I'd even consider the a7s besides its better video features, is its amazing astrophotography capabilities. I've been able to capture some cool astro timelapses with my d600 but it simply will never compare to that of the a7s.

August 4, 2015 at 2:24AM

0
Reply

Turn off auto focus. :-p

August 4, 2015 at 12:32PM

0
Reply
avatar
WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
8874

Turning it of would be an option but its about 3 steps to get into the menu to adjust the focus as there is no ring for focus or zoom.

August 4, 2015 at 4:10PM

19
Reply

And yes, there will always be a new camera coming 'soon', but the best camera is the one you can hold in your hands now. 'Cameras from the future' don't record footage NOW. :-)

August 4, 2015 at 12:34PM

4
Reply
avatar
WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
8874

I guess I should've worded the question more along the lines of, what cameras are out there now, that if one was to purchase it tomorrow and in 6 months from now something else shows up, you wouldn't be kicking yourself for having spent so much on your first setup.

For example, when I got into photography I had a d80, I knew some day I would want to get into a full frame camera so all the lenses I bought would be ready for the switch over, but I had a run of bad luck and some idiot stole my d80 and left most of the lenses. The 5Dmkii was all the craze at the time but with all my nikon glass (50mm prime, 14-24f2.8 and a 80-200) I didn't really want to re invest in glass. So Nikon hadn't really gotten into the filming market yet, but they did have the d300s that had recently been released with a video feature so I thought perfect I've got my insurance money lets get that... Only I didn't research it well enough and the d300s was terrible for video. Then while researching how to use and edit the footage from the d300s I started seeing the rumors for the d600 and d800 cameras. I was more than pissed but I was making enough money to pick up a d600, and now I have 2 camera bodies and even though I use the d300s from time to time, I spent a lot of money on it only to have it collect dust for the most part.

So I guess thats what Im trying to avoid this go around and really do my research and probably even rent a few cameras before I buy one.

August 5, 2015 at 2:04AM

3
Reply

Wow not many ppl are giving helpful responses...
Anyway, I would say don't feel bad about getting a new camera, as much as people say its not about the gear shooting something like wildlife where story/ controlled lighting play little to no role for most amateurs, getting new gear is a great way to get a better image. Depending on your budget the sony a7ii might be a great alternative (5-axis stab) if the a7s is too expensive, I've seen some low light footage online and it does remarkably well. And yes there will always be a better camera in the future but eventually you will have to take the plunge so why not now?

what is your budget btw? sorry if you already said it

August 5, 2015 at 5:01PM

0
Reply

Absolute max would probably be near the 5k mark, especially if its for something like the new AG-DVX200. Maybe something in the sub 3k range as long as its something I know will hold its weight against new any new tech for at least a few years.

Or I could go with something smaller in the prosumer maybe even higher end consumer category. Simply because anything I look at in those categories will be far better than what I have now. If I do go that route though I could apply the left over funds to some type of gimbal stabilizer or drone to assist with the production. While putting up more for the high end pro camera, won't allow me to invest immediately in the extra gear, I am confident that it won't take long to get there.

August 6, 2015 at 3:10AM, Edited August 6, 3:11AM

0
Reply

If you're shooting through trees/brush, you're going to need better focus control than you've got now, but I don't know of any prosumer or consumer cameras that are going to give you that.
Don't know how well it fits your budget, but something like a C100 lets you punch in to focus while recording (unlike on DSLRs where you have to stop recording to punch in, and risk missing the shot). Then again, if the D800 is bigger than you want to use, and you already have Nikon glass, it might not be the best choice for you.

One other option, since you had trouble nailing focus on the D800, those little LCD magnifier hood things can help make it easier to get focus manually.

August 6, 2015 at 11:23AM, Edited August 6, 11:23AM

0
Reply

The C100 is something I'd consider and while its bigger than the d600 or even d800, what you're getting with that extra size is worth it. Yet I'd have to get a new lens to cover wide to a decent zoom, mainly because I don't want to have to be changing lenses while I'm out chasing elk. So at that point I'm pushing the edge of my budget, its an option though.

August 7, 2015 at 2:19PM

0
Reply

One thing to keep in mind, I've got a cheap adapter to use Nikon lenses on an EF mount, so that 80-200 could work. Still not wide, but there's not a lot of affordable long zoom range lenses with decent apertures (most are 5.6 or worse at the long end, 28-135 and 18-200 come to mind). I mean, Canon has that giant, fast 17-120, but it's something like 20 grand.
If you're liking the wide angle from the gopro, you could always mount that to a C100 for the closeup stuff.

August 7, 2015 at 5:27PM

0
Reply

Yea canons 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 is like $2500 new, and while most time at the long end would be spent filming from a ways off most likely during the day I don't think I'd need anything more than that. But even if I went used on the glass and maybe even a used 300 I'd be pushing my budget.

August 8, 2015 at 1:26AM, Edited August 8, 1:27AM

9
Reply

If you're filming wildlife/nature then a 4K rig will benefit you because of the extra detail you'll be able to get. Initially you need to decide if an all-in-one solution or a DSLR with lenses will fit into your style better. I would recommend the latter if you intend to concentrate on cinematography since all-in-ones are built to capture fast and often have less cinematic sensors. Have you considered a GH4 with something like a 12-35mm lens? This would give you amazing sharpness and a very wide angle for nature filming. You could easily get a converter to use your nikon lenses as well. Hope this helps :)

August 6, 2015 at 7:46AM

2
Reply
avatar
Matt Robinson
Film Educator & Cinematographer
228

4K will surely help if the codec is good. Not all 4K is created with equal image quality. And for hunting video's it might be better to have zoom lenses?

@OP:
it's always a good idea to rent the camera you are considering. Reading specs, reviews and comments are usefull, but the proof is still in the eating of the pudding. :-)

August 6, 2015 at 9:20AM

0
Reply
avatar
WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
8874

4k is probably the biggest part of the new tech conundrum that I have, and where I feel that the tech is changing rapidly. Should I go with a 4k now or something that simply shoots a solid hd? I don't see ever delivering a 4k product but like with my go pros 4 black 4k cropped, it looks better than the 1080 narrow mode. Either way I know geeking out over the codecs, Bit rates, 4:2:2 vs 4:2:0, etc that a camera shoots any footage in, can be redundant and actually getting out and shooting with the camera and actually editing it is where I'll make my final decision.

August 7, 2015 at 2:46PM

21
Reply

You're totally right of course. Delivering in 4K is still miles off for the vast vast majority of people but you can't argue with the downscale to 1080, the reduction in noise and 4x resolution has a huge impact on picture quality even on the lowest level of 4K systems. Ultimately, at this point in time it boils down to a decision between colour grading options (10bit, like the BMPCC and similar) or resolution (the 4K rigs). Finding a 4K camera with good grading options is tricky under $3K and even then it's hard. Keep watching youtube videos until you find something that really jumps out at you, then you'll know which way to go.

August 7, 2015 at 3:45PM

7
Reply
avatar
Matt Robinson
Film Educator & Cinematographer
228

I dunno exactly what kind of footage you're going for, but traditionally in wildlife cinematography, it's been all about very long lenses and exceptionally sturdy tripods or mounts (maybe a high-hat if you're laying on your stomach?) to minimize vibration jitter.

Though I subscribe to the "upgrade your technique, not your camera/lens" philosophy you mentioned, there are a few attributes that are an exception… usable ISO and stabilization being two of them.

For long lens wildlife shooting, high ISO will allow you to shoot at a deep focus stop (for more forgiving depth of field).

Lens or sensor stabilization will help minimize shake (usually the biggest problem). I would imagine the Sony or Olympus 5-axis stabilization would be helpful, but I haven't tried them in combination with long non-stabilized lenses.

High ISO will also allow for high shutter speeds so that the shake can be stabilized in post without distracting irrational motion blur artifacts. This works best if shooting in 4k for a 1080 finish, giving yourself some buffer space around the desired frame edge. You can also use something like the Re:Vision ReelSmart Motion Blur plugin to then put back in motion blur for a standard 1/48 shutter speed (that plugin gives fairly naturalistic results).

And for long lens cinematography you pretty much always want to be using manual focus -- again, with as deep an aperture as possible when following "non actors".

An affordable long lens that might work is the Tokina 150-500mm f5.6 (a real bargain with great optics) or even a fixed f8 500mm mirror lens (if you're cool with donut bokeh).

August 19, 2015 at 3:37AM, Edited August 19, 3:41AM

6
Reply
Jaan Shenberger
designer/animator & live-action director/DP
1241

Just wanted to post an update and ask a few more questions on where I'm at.

First off I've spent some time behind the new a7sii, dvx200 and they're both pretty solid for what I'd need them to do and grading them has been a task as my current setup has a tough time with the 4k files, its doable but takes some major patience.

Unfortunately though I have a hunt I will be filming in May and the budget just isn't there quite yet for new gear, so I've been testing out my d600 a bit more and I feel I have a good handle on my past focus issues. Mainly because I've determined that as much as I enjoy helping out the hunters during the hunt, I need to simply just focus on filming.

But what I was wondering if anyone here could shed some light on a few things:

1. Does anyone have any experience using any of the flat picture profiles for nikon? ie Cineflat, Tissinflat etc.? I've got divinci pretty well figured out for what I would need it to do, so if theres any good tutorials etc to help that would be awesome!

2. Ninja Blade vs Ninja 2? ProRes 4:2:2 on both and I definitely can't spend $1000+ on the assassin or shogun. But is the screen size / resolution really a big difference between the two? Any one of them better at handling high low temps?

April 12, 2016 at 11:44PM

7
Reply

Your Comment