The mantra in the photography industry for 2010 is undoubtedly convergence. What it represents is the realized ability to make short films using the movie feature of dslr cameras. While this might not seem to be a big deal for your average bear who bought a camera that did the same thing five years ago, there is a major difference between the quality of your family camera and the newest dslr models: lens interchangeability and sensor size. Basically, not only can I use the lens that came with the camera, but all of the other glass I own via adapters. It gives me options for shallow depth of field that was not possible for anyone but Hollywood or Cannes. Case in point, my Hasselblad CFE 80mm f.2.8 lens on the latest Canon Rebel T2i camera.
What is all of that junk attached to the camera, and why are you talking about film when you take photos? First of all, the junk and the camera are the latest purchases made for my school: a RedRock Micro Captain Stubling support and a Canon 2Ti camera. Part of my mandate as a head of department is to explore how technology can be incorporated into the curriculum, and then there are all of those yearbook photos that need to be taken. Since convergence is where technology is heading rapidly, I decided to purchase the lowest price camera with HD film recording and learn how to use it for our classrooms. The support frame is so that I can hold the camera without making you feel like The Blair Witch Project came to town. It was not cheap, compared to the cool FLIP cameras I played with this week, but it has some features that make it essential to be able to produce the look I want to develop.
I cannot describe just how beautiful the look achievable is with this system – I am not going to post video clips for a while yet, either. For the last ten years I have done some minor video projects, but I never imagined being able to record like this by myself. It has a dreamy quality due to the shallow depth of field, and the colours look so real. Real movie professionals will complain about the insanity of trying to do a film with something like this because its files cannot be properly colour graded and the record times are snail-like. I am not a real professional, so I do not care, nor would any clients who might hired me to record short clips for their website or event.
What am I going to do with this? I am certainly not leaving photography to pursue film. I prefer still images to moving pictures, but the technology is fascinating in the same way that ProTools enraptured my attention six years ago, and when I listened to the odd songs I recorded then I still smile that I was able to capture that part of my life. Not for sale; art does not always have to be for sale to have artistic value. What this technology does is make the professional style accessible to the artist who just wants to capture ideas and explore moments.
The real reason to buy the Redrock rigging is for the big white knob. It is a follow focus, and it allows me to attach a gear to my lens so that I control the focus smoothly from there. Unfortunately, Vistek thought there was one gear in the box as part of the kit, so I won’t be able to really work with that until they send me one in the mail. I did use it pressed tightly against the lens ring, and I still liked what I saw in the camera, but it is not truly useable without the lens gear.
From my first ten minutes with the rig after its assembly, I find it alien to my hands. The Rebel is nowhere near as solid as my other cameras – Hasselblad 501CM, Canon EOS 1DmkIII or Canon EOS 3 – nor should it be for $1000. I could have spent far more money on the camera body, but instead bought a cheaper model to learn the technology before deciding what really works for me. This will produce astounding film in my classroom, and when I know what I need the technology will get there just like it did for my other cameras.
There are countless quirks that I am not fond of so far with the camera’s shooting process, but the footage I took of India barking is priceless, so I am engaged already. At the end of the day, this will only be a brush in the palette for me. I think that over the next few years this technology will explode (especially when Oakley founder, Jim Jannard’s RED Scarlet camera arrives). Until then I will tinker avidly with this rig, practice my Final Cut Pro skills and get ready for the next convergence.