Latest StoriesPhotography
    Tested In-Depth: Panasonic Lumix LX100

    This week, we test Panasonic's Lumix LX100, a fixed-lens camera that equipped with a micro four-thirds image sensor. It's smaller than other mirrorless cameras, but doesn't exactly fit in the compact camera category like the Sony RX100 or Canon G7X. Still, the photos we were able to take with this camera were pretty great.

    Testing: Zoom Q8 HD Camera for Podcasting

    I've been looking for the right camera for our mobile podcasting setup ever since we started recording video podcasts away from our studio in 2012. When we first started Still Untitled, we used a GoPro HeroHD 2 to record the show. Over the years, we've upgraded those GoPros to newer models, but have remained pretty dissatisfied with the cameras--they just aren't meant to be used for long videos with lots of talking.

    The action cameras I've tested have a hard time maintaining a consistent clock over long videos, which isn't a problem when you're recording a ride down a mountainside or your first time skydiving, but when you need to sync separate audio and video tracks, it's a huge pain in the ass that involves stretching the duration on either the audio or the video. Most action cams also lack viewfinders, so it's difficult to reliably frame your shot, and all this is compounded by the fact that action cameras simply aren't designed for long shoots. The camera have overheated over 40 minutes of runtime, which causes lost or corrupted video. It isn't a great experience.

    We've tested pro cameras for podcast use before too, including the Panasonic cameras we use in the studio and the Sony PXW-X70 that Joey had on loan from B&H in January. Our aging Panasonics are tied to the proprietary P2 storage cards, which require a special (and very expensive) P2 deck to grab footage from. The Sony camera produced great video and integrated easily into my Premiere Pro-based workflow, but it is much more expensive than I was looking for and is frankly overkill for long, static shots.

    On paper, inexpensive point and shoot cameras seem like the perfect middle ground between inexpensive action cameras and fixed lens prosumer models. We've used Norm's Sony RX100 Mk III for the last half dozen or so episodes of Still Untitled with reasonably good results. However, it's not an ideal solution either. While it's capable of maintaining a constant clock (making A/V sync easy), most point and shoots lack line-level audio inputs and they are universally limited to 30 minute maximum record times, either due to sensor overheating issues (rare) or strange European tariffs (common).

    Enter the Zoom Q8. The Zoom Q8 was designed for exactly the situation we shoot Still Untitled in every week, longer fixed shots where audio is really important. Zoom specifically calls out podcasters, YouTubers and folks who want to record live music from the audience as potential users of this camera. While I can't speak to the latter, the two former use cases are spot on. I've used the Q8 to record three episodes of Still Untitled, and the results are exactly what I was looking for in this type of camera.

    Projection-Mapped Fight Choreography Performance

    We're only scratching the surface of the potential of 3D projection-mapping for live performances, but the demos we've seen--whether it's with motion-controlled robots or human faces--are spellbinding. Large scale projection mapping performances, like this choreographed martial arts dance at the Hamdan International Photography Awards, would be lovely to see full theatrical shows or even at theme parks. This one was designed by Pixel 'n Pepper, and it reminds me a little bit of those Flash video animations I used to watch on Newgrounds. (h/t Laughingsquid)

    A Glimpse Inside Aviation Artistry

    I am of the opinion that airplanes are themselves a form of functional art (even the ugly ones). Perhaps that is why I also think that airplanes are great subjects for more conventional art mediums. I recently had an opportunity to speak with three noteworthy and successful aviation artists. They create drawings, paintings, and photographs covering all genres of aviation. As you will see, my interviewees are all lifelong-airplane fanatics and multi-talented artists. Between them, they can claim two long-term Smithsonian exhibits and an Emmy award. I learned a lot about how each found success, the challenges of their chosen mediums, and the other forms of art that they create.

    Lloyd S Jones - 3-View Drawings

    I first became familiar with Mr. Jones' work when I was still in elementary school. I was given a copy of his book 'US Fighters', and it immediately became my favorite source of bedtime reading material. Whereas my peers may have preferred searching for Waldo or reading the adventures of the Berenstain Bears, I indulged in topics such as the development process of the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. As much as I enjoyed learning the history, my favorite part of 'US Fighters' was the collection of 3-view drawings within: at least one full-page drawing for every subject airplane (well over 100).

    Living with Photography: Motion Time-Lapse Test Rig

    Lately, I've been thinking a bunch about time-lapse videos. They're the opposite of slow motion, and a cousin of stop-motion. If high-speed camera videos are a microscope for time, then time-lapse videos are the time machines of cinematography. And my favorite thing about them is that they're just so versatile. Time-lapse apps and even Apple's built-in time-lapse camera feature has made shooting these videos easy and accessible, but that's just grazing the surface of what you can do with a camera shutter on an intervalometer. There's adjustments of camera and lens settings, post-processing, and of course, motion control rigs.

    My favorite field of time-lapse is the use of motion control--the ability to move and preposition your camera framing to simulate a smooth motion throughout the time-lapse period. Two years ago, I tested the Radian, a Kickstarted motion time-lapse device that put your camera on a stepper motor for smooth pans. The secret sauce of the radian wasn't just the hardware--you can hack together a similar device with a stepper motor, programmed control board, and time-lapse trigger like Alpine Labs' Micron. What made the Radian so easy and fun to use was the phone app that let me pre-program a motion time-lapse's essential variables, including interval ramping and HDR bracketing. And using the Radian with my DSLR allowed me to make pretty videos like this one below:

    But after shooting a bunch of videos with the Radian, I realized that this one axis of motion didn't really satisfy my needs. It was great for panning around landscapes and rooms, but this basic camera panning setup was built for showing time passing through a large swath of space. It wasn't useful for focusing on a single subject. If you take the time-lapse element out of it, it was just like the swivel motion of a camera on a tripod. A camera pan looks outward around the circumference of a circle; I wanted a time-lapse setup that looked inward.

    So I started thinking about the other kinds of time-lapse rigs you can buy, and the camera motions you can get from those setups. There are pricey tme-lapse devices that pull cameras along roped tracks or wheeled dollies, which again gives you linear motion perpendicular to a plane. The camera (and shot) moves across a scene, not directed at one. Eventually, I sketched up a system that I thought could work, using the Radian and some simple and lightweight camera brackets. Here's what I built, and results of testing it.

    Guide to Stanley Kubrick's Camera Lenses

    Lens maker and cinematography adviser Joe Dunton explains in detail the collection of Stanley Kubrick's camera lenses that are on display in the travelling Kubrick exhibition. Kubrick famously purchased and collected his own camera equipment, including experimental and rare lenses for technically challenging shots in his films. (h/t Petapixel) Edit: the original video was removed by its uploader, so I've replaced it with an equally fascinating look at Kubrick's use of the Mitchell BNC camera and Zeiss f/.07 lens for his film Barry Lyndon.

    Slow Mo Guys Film Shattering CD at 170,000FPS

    The Slow Mo Guys put a 170,000FPS camera on a CD shattering from the stresses of rotational motion. At that framerate, four seconds of real-time translated to over seven hours of footage--96GB of data. Gav and Dan run their test at multiple framerates and from different angles--the shot of the CD warping off-axis before it cracks is super cool. BBC's Earth Unplugged channel also put up its latest high speed video test yesterday, showing a panther chameleon tongue attack at 1500fps. It's all about finding the appropriate framerate to capture what you want to show off.

    In Brief: 2015 GPP Photography ShootOut Competition

    Every year at the GPP Dubai Photography Festival, three guest photographers are challenged to shoot a mystery subject in just 20 minutes, from start to publish. The event--the GPP ShootOut--has featured amazing photographers like Gregory Heisler, David Hobby, and Zack Arias, to name a few. This year's surprise subject was the idea of "intimacy between strangers." It's a great look into the thought process and execution of professional photographers, each with their own specialties and style. You can watch it on Vimeo(embedding wasn't allowed on this video).

    Vincent Laforet's AIR Photography Project

    We've previously talked about Vincent Laforet's AIR project on Still Untitled, in which the photographer captures cityscapes from thousands of feet in the air. His photos of New York and Las Vegas are breathtaking. And most recently, he visited San Francisco for two helicopter rides for the project, snapping shots of our fair peninsula as we've never seen it. The photos are beautiful, of course, but Laforet's commentary about the logistics and creative opportunities afforded from shooting from high altitudes is the juicy stuff. Every photographic opportunity is framed by its constraints, and there are plenty of considerations he has to juggle up in the air--flight plans, weather, and even which side of the helicopter to shoot out of. I'm definitely picking up his AIR project book when it comes out.

    Photo Gallery: Adam Savage's Overlook Hotel Maze Model

    A few photos from the build, as well as the pictures from our photo session before shipping Adam's Overlook Maze model off to the next stop of the <a href="http://www.stanleykubrick.de/en/ausstellungstour-exhibition-on-tour/">Stanley Kubrick travelling exhibition</a> in Mexico!

    In Brief: Shift Accessory Adds Motion-Tracking to Quadcopters

    Shift is an upcoming quadcopter accessory from Perceptive Labs that adds a video tracker on top of a DJI Phantom or 3D Robotics Iris drone and takes control of camera tilting and panning for automated tracking shots. The $800 accessory ($600 during the pre-order period) adds a small 200 camera system to a quad, processes that video and sends it to a tethered tablet, where you can mark any point in its field of view for tracking. Software subject tracking is all done with an onboard processor, and the Shift connects to your quad flight controller to automate camera and the quad's yaw. Tracking in the video samples look smooth enough, but I'm still skeptical about Shift's ability to compensate for unexpected quad movement, as anyone who's tried to film a smooth panning shot with a Phantom could relate. Also, some of this functionality could be done purely with software, utilizing telemetry information from the quad and your phone as a tracking beacon. That's exactly the kind of stuff that DJI wants developers to build when it opened up its Phantom SDK late last year. Watch the video promo for the Shift below. (h/t Techcrunch)

    Testing: Sony PXW-X70 Compact Camcorder

    As I was choosing my video gear to bring to this year's CES, I had several goals: I wanted to go lightweight, carry as few external devices as possible, and use a camera that produced a clean crisp picture requiring very little color correction. I was going to be shooting a lot of videos, and I didn't want to come back to the office with any flat or log footage that would require grading in post. I also didn't want to deal with an external audio recorder (like the one I use with my BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera rig) that would add extra points of failure, especially during an eight-hour convention day.

    Shooting for that long, weight was also a big consideration. I thought back to the previous years shooting video CES. It's not just about the convention floor: I'm carrrying my gear through hotels and casinos, waiting in cab lines, wading through thousands of people, and doing a lot of walking, all before making that trip back to my room at the end of an eight-hour shooting day to unload a 10 pound camera rig that's been weighing on my arm. In the past, I improperly rigged a heavy camera, and paid for it with blisters on my hand and a wrecked shoulder.

    This year I decided to put a little bit of thought into it. I shopped around for a new camera to test at the convention, and eventually decided on the Sony PXW-X70. It's a little tiny ENG (electronic news gathering) style camera that records 1080p video in the XAVC codec, with 4K potential.

    It checked off a number of requirements that I had: lightweight, onboard XLR audio, recorded to SD card (redundant slots, too!), built-in ND filters, and zoom lens. That sounded great, lets try it! We were getting it loaned to us from B&H for a month, which gave me plenty of time to get comfortable with it and take it on the road.

    Taking the camera out of the box for the first time, I noticed that the thing was much smaller than I anticipated. It is about the size of a Sony Handycam, with hot shoe mount on top that locked on the handle with the XLR inputs. Putting it together, the thing felt like it weighed nothing. I shot a couple pieces of test footage with it, rigged a simple shoulder rail with a single hand grip, and packed it up in a tiny bag for CES. It was the smallest gear bag I've taken to any convention, and I was okay with that.

    I had to do some playing around with the custom buttons to get controls where I needed them, but after that, I rarely needed to head back into the menu setting (which, really, isn't that bad especially with the nice thumb stick to cycle through the settings). The rest of the button placement is very similar to the Sony FS700--a camera I have lots of experience with--so finding specific settings quickly wasn't an issue.

    However, the lens handling was at times a bit challenging for me.

    Flying the DJI Inspire 1 Quadcopter with Adam Savage

    Adam has received his new DJI Inspire 1 quadcopter, so we take it to a remote location outside the city to test it out! This quad has the ability to split flight and camera controls between two operators, so Adam and Norm work together to capture a few aerial shots with the Inspire 1's 4K camera. Let us know if you'd like to see more videos like this!

    In Brief: Canon's Next 5D Camera May Have 50MP Sensor

    I haven't been briefed on any potential upcoming cameras from Canon, but rumors and leaks indicate that we're going to see three new cameras released this week. CanonRumors says we're going to see the next Rebel model, the T6i, along with a new M-series mirrorless interchangeable camera. But the product that may get the most attention is the Canon 5Ds, a 50MP follow-up to the popular 5D Mark III DSLR. This apparently isn't the Mark IV (which Canon fan sites say will come in August), but instead competes with Nikon on the megapixel front. Nikon's D810 has a 36MP sensor, which produces beautiful images that can be used for large prints. But at that size, a limiting factor may be the lens used with the camera--you're going to need a sharp lens to take advantage of it. We'll know more about the specs whenever this is actually announced, but it seems very much like Canon's standard operating procedure, down to the rumored 1080p video recording to protect the company's professional cinema products. I wish they would do something truly unexpected.

    Norman 1
    Inside a Camera at 10,000FPS

    "The Slow Mo Guys show you how insanely quick the inside of a DSLR camera moves when it takes a picture, by filming it at 10,000 fps." As a fan of photography AND high-speed, I love this video! So cool!

    Tested: Soloshot 2 Robot Cameraman Review

    It is often said that the number one rule of photography is “Get the shot.” Sure, I understand the point that being at the right place with a camera in hand is more important than any technical or artistic aspect of the resulting photo. But whoever came up with that mantra never watched a cellphone video of an RC plane in flight, which often ends up looking like a housefly buzzing around a baby blue wall. Getting the shot isn't just about being at the right place, at the right time. Sometimes you need certain equipment and techniques to make the effort worthwhile.

    I do not claim to be an expert RC photographer by any stretch. But I have shot enough photos and videos of tiny aircraft to know that capturing consistently good media of RC aircraft is a two man job:

    1. A pilot who understands the lighting and positioning needs of the photographer, and has the willingness/ability to fly the model accordingly (usually low, slow, and with precision)

    2. A photographer who understands the performance limitations of the subject model and is also comfortable tracking a small object moving in three dimensions while composing flattering shots.

    I’ve often had a difficult time finding people with the skills and disposition to fill either role. Factor in weather constraints and dynamic personal schedules and it’s a wonder that any of my RC photo shoots ever panned out. So when I saw an advertisement for the SOLOSHOT 2, I immediately recognized an opportunity to fill the photographer role with a robot. I’ve now been using SOLOSHOT 2 for about two months. Although it has not completely replaced my need for a warm-blooded cameraman, it has certainly lessened my dependence.

    What is a "Robot Cameraman?"

    SOLOSHOT 2 (SS2) is essentially a two-part system that starts at $400. On the camera end is a motorized two-axis gimbal called the “base” that pans and tilts the attached camera so that it is always pointed at the desired subject--wherever it moves. On the subject end is a device called the “tag”. The radio signals emitted by the tag are the key to keeping the subject under the camera’s unflinching eye.

    SS2 was created by surfers as a way to automatically film themselves. Like me, they often lacked someone who was able or willing to man the camera while they were out enjoying their hobby. Although the SS2 developers recognized the potential value of the system for other sports, filming RC aircraft was not on their radar. When I contacted SOLOSHOT, they told me that they were very surprised by the amount of interest they were receiving from RC flyers.


    Knowing full well that I intended to use the SS2 in ways that it was never intended, SOLOHOT provided a “Camera Bundle” for me to review and experiment with. The bundle includes the base and tag previously mentioned as well as a tripod, a Camera Controller, and a Sony CX240 video camera. The Camera Controller provides an interface between the camera itself and the SS2. This opens up additional features such as automatic zooming as the subject get further away and also the ability to start/stop recording remotely via the tag.

    Tested: Canon G7 X vs. Sony RX100 III

    Between your smartphone and a high-end DSLR is a new camera category: a compact camera with a high quality image sensor. Cameras like the Sony RX100 III and Canon PowerShot G7 X are fantastic for carrying around in jackets and day packs, and make for good concert cameras too. We compare their similarities and differences to pick our favorite of the two.

    Show and Tell: Ricoh Theta 360 Degree Camera

    For this week's show and tell, Norm shares a new gadget he's been testing: Ricoh's Theta 360 degree camera. Using two fisheye lenses on each side of this camera stick, you can take photos or videos that are automatically stitched into interactive panoramas. The camera's image quality may not be great, but the effect is very novel and has potential for VR imagery.

    The Camera Gear I Use to Shoot Tested's Videos

    This is part of a three-part behind-the-scenes series on Lighting, Shooting, and Editing for Tested.

    The first camera I ever worked with professionally was the Panasonic HVX-170. It was handed to me, while working as a videographer on a tour bus with a band. I was given the camera, and the user manual, and had to start shooting almost immediately. The camera was easy to learn, in part because during the early 2000's this ENG (electronic news gathering), 3CCD style camcorder became very popular with young filmmakers and students. The cameras were relatively inexpensive, and produced good quality 720p HD footage. More importantly, they also gave the operator all the manual knobs, dials, and buttons they needed, right behind a versatile stock 2-3 ring zoom lens.

    During this period, accessibility of high quality cameras, and editing software coming down in price, meant it was much easier for almost anyone to get there hands on these tools to practice and learn. Many of professionals in video production learned on these kinds of cameras. I was one of these guys. I owned the Canon XHA1 -- a camera I purchased with a portion of my college student loans -- and I spent countless hours cutting my teeth on this thing. When I was given the Panasonic HVX-170, my familiarity of the camera translated over--ENG style cameras were good for that. They were all different in their own way, each had their own nuances, but the form factor and menu control became somewhat universal for that prosumer market. Once you've learned one of these cameras, you felt like you knew, technically, how to operate all of them.

    When I got the job at Whiskey Media (the former home of Tested), our studio was equipped with four of those same Panasonics. Every video you've seen from those days were all shot with these cameras. They gave us good 720p quality video and had SDI outputs to push a video feed for Tricaster live mixing. They recorded to reusable SSD flash media, and produced videos in the DVCProHD codec which was super friendly with Final Cut Pro 7. And, they were lightweight, making all day convention shooting a little more tolerable.

    This is, however, a digital camera that is now about seven years old. The codec is starting to show its age when compared to more recent cameras, and as people clammer for higher resolution video, native 720p might seem a little dated (and before you ask, no, I have no intention of introducing a 4k workflow into our studio. 1080p seems like a good resolution to work with on the web).

    As our video content pushed us out on the road a bit more, to unpredictable locations, with no chance of bringing much supplies or lights (or have the man power to lug that gear), I started looking into other cameras. A camera where I can change lenses to match the style. A camera that would allow me to dial in a higher ASA without introducing too much noise. Something that can handle both low light and have a big enough dynamic range that I don't lose information in light and dark spots, and something with a codec that ins't highly compressed--something that I can take into post and dial in correction setting with out pulling forward all those compression artifacts. It also needed to be ergonomically friendly--something I can hold all day long, with audio recording built in, and enough shoe mounts to hold my wireless kits.

    I have my eyes on a camera in particular, but the timing's not right on that big ticket purchase. Some day, I hope.

    Last year I searched for something that was more in our price range and what I found was the relatively inexpensive Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera. DSLR-like in its form factor, this is not something that I was initially comfortable with. I've used shoulder cams up until now, and putting a brick of a camera on some rods, hooked to all sorts of external devices, kind of intimidated me. However, the features (lean, but effective) on this camera kind of excited me, and it was something I felt I needed to try out, as the climate of prosumer cameras continue to change. Here's how I built out our current Blackmagic rig.