|Canon T3i with 18mm-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS II Lens, Rode Videomic Pro, Manfrotto 516 Video Head|
When the Canon 7D became available I had high hopes that it would enable me to take both high quality stills and video and thus alleviate or eliminate the need for two separate systems, but while it did improve things it still did not allow serious wildlife film makers to move away from cameras such as the Canon XL-H1. The Canon XL series uses (or should I say used--as they are now discontinued?) an EF adapter to enable one to attach Canon mount still lenses. Since the video cameras have 1/3' sensors, this makes a given focal length effectively 7.2X more powerful than it is on a 35mm camera. In practical purposes this means that a 500mm lens becomes a 3,600mm 35 equivalent on an XL-H1. One can often crop a photo quite a bit during post processing in still photography, but even high definition video is currently only about 2MP and one must be very restrained at cropping in post production so one either gets acceptable image size by getting close or by using a very powerful lens and these adapters enable one to use the powerful lenses. The downside is that the cameras are/were very expensive with the XL-H1 coming on the market at nearly $10,000 in 2005 and dropping to the $8,000 range until it was replaced by the XL-H1s which sold for about the same price range.
At his point Canon has not yet offered a replacement for the XL cameras and while it is assumed that one is coming it will almost certainly be a different lens mount and the price will likely be very steep. With that in mind, I am always hoping that a more economical way develops to take long rang video footage.
I got the 7D in October of 2009 and have been shooting it and a 40D since then, while still pressing a 30D into service at times, but this spring I was thinking that with my strong video interest that I needed to have both DSLRS to have video capability and this really came to a head one morning in late spring when I was taking stills with the 7D and 300mm 2.8 and the 40D with 70-200mm f2.8. I was checking images on the LCDs to evaluate what I had taken and even though I had been aware of this all along at this point it really came home to me how good it was to have an LCD that was sharp enough to evaluate the sharpness of a photo. At this point I decided that the 40D had to be retired. I had almost decided to order a Canon 60D, which has HD video, an articulating LCD, and manual audio control. The last two features make the 60D superior to the 7D for video. In my research I noted that the 60D also had a "crop mode" which gave an added telephoto effect, but that this feature was in standard definition only. A bit more reading and I found that the new Rebel, the T3i, actually had a 3X crop factor that was HD quality. It is beyond the scope of this post to explain this completely, but bearing in mind that HD video is only 2MP, camera manufacturers reduce the resolution of an 18mp sensor to 2MP when recording video. In short they are able to take a 3x crop from the T3i sensor and get the 2MP needed for HD without actually cropping pixels and destroying fine detail as is the case with using what is usually known as "digital zoom". While Canon says the camera has a 3x-10X digital zoom--the 3X does not degrade quality (in fact some claim it is superior as it does not show some of the artifacts caused by scaling an 18mp image to a 2mp), while the 5X and 10X does as it does begin enlarging pixels beyond 3X.
Now with most of the technical talk behind us, what does this mean in terms of practical application to wildlife filming? Today we will deal with this camera and the 500mm F4 Canon lens with 1.4 extender attached. First the T3i along with the 7D and 60D has an aps-c sensor which has a 1.6 crop factor in Canon cameras compared to 35mm. This alone makes the 500mm the 35mm equivalent of of an 800mm lens. When one adds the 1.4 extender, it becomes the 35mm equivalent of 1,120mm.
|Canon T3i with 500mm F4 IS Lens and 1.4x Extender|
|Canon T3i with 500mm F4 IS Lens and 1.4x Extender 1,120mm 35mm equivalent|
|Canon T3i with 500mm F4 IS Lens, 1.4x Extender with 3x crop engaged: 3,360mm 35mm equivalent|
|Camera In Position: Red Cross Marks Where Deer Are Feeding|
I hope to continue this discussion at some point and give more tips about long range filming, but for now I will close with two clips taken at slightly over 300 yards distance. The first is of a whitetail buck taken in early morning with the 500mm F4 and 3X crop for an effective focal length of 2,400mm at ISO 400.
The second is of this buck interacting with a smaller yet impressive buck and is taken at about the same distance and at ISO 400 with the 500mm F4 with the 1.4 extender and 3X crop mode for an effective focal length of 3,360mm.
Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill