Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Photography - Filming & Equipment

Leading into this particular blog post I want to discuss the equipment I generally use for my filming and photography which includes items that I use for self take photographs whilst fishing and wish to shed some light on why I use them and of what help they can be to another angler, in doing so hopefully impart some  useful information.

Camera: Lumix Gh4

I have been shooting photography and film with the Panasonic Lumix G series for a fair few years now and favour them greatly. I started originally with the G3 and moved to the GH series after the GH3 had been out a while, purchasing mine second hand and eventually moving on to its newer sibling the GH4, (also purchased second hand). The sensor on these are of the micro four thirds variety, smaller than that of an Aspc sensor, however the end results with decent glass (lens) are spot on.

Like many cameras they have a fully articulated screen (flippable,rotatable) which is simply superb for framing self take photography or taking above head height or low down images and also very useful when filming. The frame is constructed from magnesium alloy (same as the GH3) and is dust and splash proof, meaning you need not worry if filming or trying to capture a self take in light rain (lens dependent), many times I have used mine in some heavier downpours and providing it is wiped dry and well cared for afterwards it keeps in perfect condition. Granted if you want the most weatherproof of cameras then I would suggest looking at Pentax, something like the Pentax K-S2, however the video modes on most pentax cameras are not so good, but if video is not needed then pentax make some of the best weatherproof cameras and usually tend to put a lot of bang per £ into their designs, the K-s2 also comes with a fully articulated screen, but I have digressed a little, the GH4 is set apart from most other cameras due to its plethora of video modes and bit rates available to shoot at, from 1080p at 60fps, to 4k at 30fps MOV, MP4, AVCHD Progressive and AVCHD formats, with 4K recording in MOV/MP4 at multiple bit rates and with some of the fastest (at the time of its release) contrast detection autofocus with 49 focus points and a touch screen, you find yourself only scratching the tip of the iceberg.

This coupled with a good battery life and very intuitive menu system and you have a very capable mirror-less camera system, that has a plethora of filming modes as well as being a very good stills camera. I suppose you could say it sounds a bit like a sales pitch, or fanboy spiel, but I'm yet to be let down with this range of camera and I have used many other brands in the past, in fact if I was not shooting film footage then I would definitely head in the direction of Pentax, you can probably tell that I really think they offer some great value and well built cameras, as far as menu and sub menus go I would say both Pentax and Panasonic have got that about spot on, without the user having to thumb their way through a myriad of different menus to get to the item they want to use.

If you was looking for the current cream of the crop then the current full frames from Sony are worth a look providing your wallet can stomach the prices, with the likes of the Sony A7 RII, this camera gives some impressive iso performance on the stills and indeed the film front (up to 4k) but body alone retails for over £2000, which is a bit on the steep side and doesn't come with a fully articulate screen, which whilst not a deal breaker I think it would have been nice to see Sony go the fully articulate route as well as have better battery life, frankly the battery life is not exactly stellar on the Sony's, as they opted for a very small battery pack and yes of course you can take more spares with you, but quite frankly I'd rather take a couple of larger batteries instead of multiple packs of small ones, however this doesn't overly detract from what is a very good camera system, but myself like anyone always plays the price to performance percentage game and that is where the likes of the Lumix GH4 come in, body only for the GH3 can be picked up second hand for around £300 and the GH4 for around £600 (sometimes a lot less if you take your time on Ebay) and compared to the Sony A7 that is a lot more palatable, granted it isn't a full frame camera, but what it does it does very well.

One thing I always tell people is that the Panasonic GH4 isn't an iso beast, with the GH4 and a fast lens you can film quite comfortably up to iso 3200 with little to no noise, although personally and when filming in lowlight or in darkness with a camera light I try to keep to around iso 1600 if possible, however many times I have filmed at 3200 and the noise levels have been more than acceptable.

Now for the price to performance option in the Panasonic G series, personally I would heartily recommend the Lumix G2 which can be purchased second hand sometimes as low as £60, usually averaging £80 to £100 depending on the package offered by a second hand seller.
The reason why I suggest this older model is that for its price it is still a brilliant performer coming with some good options such as microphone input and remote input, flip round screen, decent iso performance and HD video, the one caveat being that it only records 720p video,but frankly the output quality of said video is rather good given this cameras an older model, on top of this it is also possible to use hacked firmware to increase said bit rate of the videos recorded, if you should so wish.

For quite a few years now when night time filming fish captures and when filming playing fish I use an extra led light, this I have always found to be a real advantage when it comes to self take photography, allowing you to use a very low iso and gaining much better results than you would without said item. I currently own two of these which do much the same, however if I was going to suggest one then it would be the Godox Led 64 dimmable panel light.

As the above image shows this light is dimmable, as well if need be of being powered from a regular ac adaptor for say home studio usage and takes 4AA batteries which I find last rather well. The unit itself has a brass thread on the hot shoe base so you could use a bankstick adaptor if you should so wish, it also comes with three modular slots on the outside of the case, which allow you to add more lights clipped together, this allows me to slide on my shotgun microphone to the top. One of the key things with this light is the size and weight ratio vs lighting performance, it is a good balance and takes up very little room in your fishing bag or rucksack.

Moving on to the cabled remote, I use a JJC TM-D Multi-Function Timer Remote .

These retail at around between £18 to £20 and do come in a variety of models to suit different brands and models of camera. I have been using this particular wired remote for around 7 years now and have not been let down in regards to build quality, in fact I would have still been using my last one had I not managed to stand on it.. The remote takes two AAA batteries and the longevity of battery life is superb, you can set time as well as interval between each shot and amount of shots that are to be fired, hit the start button and you're all set, it will focus for every shot taken, so no need for fiddling about for perfect positioning with each self take whilst holding a fish as each shot will re-acquire a new focus lock, however if you want to lock focus then you simply slide the "hold" button into position and it will stay at one fixed focus. The remote like most comes with an audible warning to tell you when it will fire each shot.

For a Microphone I use the SE Electronics SE ProMic .

I spent quite a  while researching microphones and after having initially owned a cheap and cheerful shotgun mic which whilst doing an admirable job had obvious limitations I decided to purchase the above managing to purchase an ex demo model.

The Se Laser Pro mic is not powered from the camera from but instead takes a single AAA battery giving you around 200 hours use. Although this is probably not a known brand compared to the likes of Rode, it compares extremely well and at a cheaper price point compared to a few of Rodes higher end offerings. It produces a nice even sound with no distortion and a very concise crisp pick up, also coming with a -10 db switch and bass cut switch if you should wish to remove certain background noise or minimise it, for example road noise and such. The Panasonic GH4 has decent pre-amps and a decent built in mic, however in reality nothing can compare to using an external mic for sound quality, that said I still do film at times with the onboard microphones on the GH4, especially if I'm not wishing to carry an extra bit of hardware on a fishing trip.That sums up my main camera and equipment I use for filming, photography and lighting.

Moving on now to something for anglers who like to film but are on trips where they might be moving to new swims every twenty to thirty minutes when getting a larger camera out to film can be cumbersome, this is where I favour an action camera, thankfully the market is bursting with a plethora of options and price ranges, nowadays many of the lesser known budget brands provide very good results that compare reasonably favourably, one such would be the GITUP Git2.

This particular action camera comes with a Sony image sensor, a built in viewing screen and comes with the usual adhesive pads and brackets to strap it to say your landing net or similar as well as two batteries and charger, filming up to 2k resolution, that said when I used to use mine I would use 1440 resolution at 30 frames per second or 1080p at 60 frames per second mode. This particular camera features a decent image stabiliser too and was used to shoot quite a bit of my Tench fishing video.

This was used in tandem with the Gh4 for that particular video, specifically in the multi angle side on shots of myself watching the rod as well as baiting the swim up at the beginning and playing some of the fish. the camera itself retails at around £120 to £130.

However there are even cheaper options available that compare very well and shoot at 4k resolution at 25 frames per second, such as the models from SJCAM.

Their SJ5000X Elite for example shoots a rather decent quality 4k at 25 frames per second as well as the other expected resolutions such as 1080 at 60 frames per second and 720p. footage captured by this camera can be seen "here".

As you can see from the above picture design wise the SJCAM and the Gitup2 are both very similar as well as both sharing that typical go-pro style design. The SJ5000X Elite retails between £90 to £100 and is a very respectable action camera and out of the two cameras the SJ5000 comes with more diverse interchangeable brackets. If you do decide to purchase either then do yourself a favour and be sure to buy a couple of third party batteries as four is a bare minimum for a days fishing, remember you will get more mileage from the batteries with the screen turned on only when you need it.

For the best performance to cost ratio then the likes of the DBpower Ex5000 takes some beating.

Hands down this cam probably has the best bang to £ ratio of any action camera and can be at the time of writing bought for £39 (Amazon) that includes waterproof case, accessories and two batteries. You will be hard pressed to not be reasonably impressed by the footage this little budget box can put out given the price tag and it includes a large 2 inch rear screen, Panasonic image sensor and the fact that the two included batteries last for around three hours, admittedly it does 1080p at only 30 frames per second and 720p at 60 frames per second, but given the price point in question and quality of footage that is pretty good for a budget option.

Obviously there is your more high end action cameras, such as those from Sony and the most well known brand Go-Pro, whilst these are both very good and in my opinion the latter having some of the best video quality and options, it comes with a fairly heavy price tag if you compare it to the above three budget options. That said with all the competition now out there and the fact that newer Go-Pro models and indeed many different iterations are available from said manufacturer then the prices are coming down. I do now film with a Go-Pro 4 and as said above if you want what I feel is some of the best video quality from an action camera then it is the better option I certainly will not hesitate in saying that, however it does not provide the same price to performance ratio of the budget action cameras that I have listed above nowhere near it, however the fact stands that the Go-Pros (silver 4 and black) do provide some of the best image quality however none of the Go-Pro models, even their base line "Hero" can hold a torch to those I have listed above based purely on price to performance, I cannot stress this fact enough.

Moving on to the external microphone I use with my Go-Pro. I use a little stereo golf ball shaped microphone known as the Saramonic G-Mic.

This particular microphone is nice and compact and delivers a very crisp and clear audio on my Go-Pro and I can't for the life of me understand why there is a few negative reviews regarding this item, granted you could of course argue that you may as well use a microphone socket adaptor on the Go-Pro and plug in a normal shotgun microphone, but then you are just going to make your action camera blossom into a bit of a behemoth. I have found with the Go-Pro in particular that whilst this microphone draws its power direct from the action camera batteries I haven't lost much recording capacity per battery at all.

I hope this blog entry may have been of some help, it's just a little insight as to what I use, be that additional equipment for my main camera or as to what budget action cameras that I would personally recommend for anyone interested in purchasing something to record their trips with and especially if not wishing to take up too much fishing bag space, wanting a small action cam to take about during impromptu fishing trips or roving trips to record their outings. If anyone has any queries and I can perhaps help, then please feel free to leave a question in the comments box and I will try to advise as to the best of my knowledge.

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