Should you use image stabilization when shooting DSLR video?

This may seem like a somewhat stupid question, but I’ve heard people give a definitive ‘Yes’ and a definitive ‘No’ to this question, so I realized I had to figure it out myself.

Image Stabilizer
What is image stabilization?
Most of today’s DSLR and mirrorless lenses comes with image stabilizing (referred to IS from here on). The different brands labels their IS technology differently (Nikon VR, Tamron VC, Canon IS, Sigma OS, Fuji & Panasonic OIS), but it’s mostly the same. What it does is stabilize the lens elements, and it eliminates the vibrations from your hand, breathing etc. When you shoot photos hand-held this gives you a sharper image and allows you to shoot on slower shutter speeds.

Now, most agree that IS is generally a good thing. The debate is should you use the IS when shooting video with your DSLR or not. Some say it’s not a problem while others claim the IS in DSLR lenses are not designed to handle video, and therefore shouldn’t be used.
On a traditional video camera it’s simple. You should always turn the IS on when shooting hand-held. The same general rule goes for stills photography. Unless your camera is sitting on a tripod always use the IS. It’s almost always better and gives you sharper images, eliminates motion blur and let’s you shoot at slower shutter speeds.

When it comes to video a lot of people claim the same rule to be true, however others claim that the problem with DSLR lenses are that the IS is not designed for video. Typically the IS in a DSLR lens will hold the image stable for a short period of time and then reset the IS. This cause a little “jump” or “jerk” in the image often followed by a click sound as the IS resets. If you’ve shot with a long lens with IS you have probably seen this. On a traditional video camera this isn’t a problem because the IS is designed to be working constantly.

Let’s see!

I grabbed my D800 and a Sigma 70-200mm 1:2.8 OS lens. This isn’t as high-class as Canon’s L series or Nikon’s 70-200mm, so this is a good test to see how a cheaper IS handles video. Check out the video below to see how the IS performs on video!

As you see from the video the IS is making a big difference! It makes the image much more smooth, but it’s not without problems. It’s not as smooth as the IS on a video camera and it still acts a little nervous and produced some “ticks”. However, we don’t see any of the big jumps in the picture as I expected.

There’s a pretty good reason you don’t get the jumps when shooting video. When the camera is shooting stills it actually turns the IS off and on. As you press the button to focus the camera turns the IS on. After you let go of the button it turns the IS off after a while and locks it in the neutral position. You get the “jump” in the image as the IS is turned on and off. So, why don’t you get it when shooting video? Well, because the camera leaves the IS on as long as you’re recording. At least that’s the case on my camera.

Conclusion

So, does this mean you should use IS or not? Well as you can see from the video the IS can be a big advantage. It give you a smoother image, however it’s not 100% smooth, and in my case the IS is giving some unflattering “ticks”. Another problem is panning and moving. The test video was shot while trying to hold the image still. This is what still image IS is made for. Once you start moving the IS will act differently and may have a less flattering effect.

The effect of the IS, and how it performs and looks, will vary from lens to lens as well. My lens was a cheaper and older lens. A newer and/or a more high-end lens will have better IS which may act differently. Newer lenses are also made with video in mind, and their IS will be designed to handle video better.

In general I would say “Yes”. You should use IS when shooting video on your DSLR. However, in my case it will depend on the situation, the project and the equipment. My best tip is to get to know your equipment. Test this yourself and see how the IS on your lenses performs and decide if the advantages of using IS outweighs the issues it raises.

Further reading:

This article explains how IS works

 

Panasonic GH4 first impressions

I had the pleasure of playing around with the new Panasonic GH4 earlier today. However, very briefly. I only got about 10 minutes or so. This is not enough to do a full review, however enough to make up a couple of thoughts, and first impressions.

I didn’t have time to stroll through all the menus, and check out every little function. I just grabbed the camera, ran out, and did a couple of video test shots. After all, the 4K capabilities of this camera is all the rage!PANASONIC GH4

First of, just by holding the camera I really like how it sits in my hands. Light, but heavy enough. The weight and balance also depends on the lens of course. I used a heavy prime, the 45mm 1.2, and it balanced nicely. The build quality seems good and, to be honest, what I expected. I did not look closely at the buttons and dials. However, they seemed logically placed, and I didn’t spend any time looking for any of the buttons. As I’m used to handle DSLRs, I found that the different buttons were exactly where I expected them to be. The GH4 have a bunch of buttons for easy access to different settings, and at first glance, it seemed to have the buttons you’d expect. It also had a lot of programmable Fn-buttons. This is really nice, though I did not look into the programming options.

Then for the video testing. What I first realized was how great the display is! It’s very sharp, and detailed. It’s very easy to work with, and it’s easy to tell focus when focusing manually. Though, focus peaking, and other tools help as well. I, of course, set it to 4K 25p right away for this test. I wasn’t sure my 45MB/s off the shelf SD-card would handle it, but it did actually! As my testing was quite brief, and I didn’t want to spend it in menus I don’t know what codec, bitrate etc, I landed on. However, I it surprised me to find more than just a couple of options. Compared to most DSLRs or system cameras, you have a vast number of options when it comes to choosing formats, codecs and bitrates.

As I mentioned earlier, the 4K capabilities of this camera is all the rage and for good reason!  The image quality is very good and the images looks clean, sharp and detailed. Very detailed. The details and sharpness is in fact really amazing and not only in 4K! Down-sampled to HD and the images still looks smashing!

All in all, my first impressions of the GH4 are very good! It’ll be interesting to try it some more, and see what other people think of it, as new reviews surface. I most definitely think the GH3 have a worthy successor in the GH4, and I think the GH4 will be a very successful, and popular camera. I suspect Panasonic have done a lot of things right with this camera. I don’t think this is the camera that will make me cross over from a DSLR, though. Still images are still the most important work I do, and the work I do most of, so the still image capabilities comes before the video capabilities. While the smaller mirror-less cameras are getting better and better, I still prefer the superior still image quality, and capabilities of the DSLRs at the moment. That being said new cameras like Fuji XT-1, and now the GH4, come pretty close in convincing me otherwise!

Below you can see the test shots I did, nicely edited by Andreas Kalvig Anderson. I shot everything hand-held, so it needed a bit of stabilization here and there. These shots were down-sampled to HD, and of course compressed for YouTube, in the editing process.

Nikon + Super-Takumar=?

So, I got my hands on some old manual focus Super-Takumar lenses. I had been on the look out for some manual focus lenses for a while, because I wanted to try them when shooting video with the D800. I’ve shot some video on regular modern Nikon auto focus lenses and it’s really difficult to pull focus accurate, so when these old Super-Takumar lenses fell into my lap for free I just had to try them!

Super-Takumar 35mm f/3.5

Now, these old Takumar lenses had the M42 screw-mount so in order to fit them on my D800 I would have to get an adapter from M42 to the Nikon F-mount. To complicate the issue even further the flange depth on the Nikon F-mount is different than on the M42 so in order to be able to focus to infinity, and not just get the effect of an extension tube, the adapter would have to have a corrective lens. Canon, Sony and Pentax for instance has the same flange depth as the M42 or less and only requires a mechanical adapter with no corrective lens. This corrective lens part had me worried. How would the extra glass affect the lens? Would it work and would the lens keep it’s sharpness and optical quality? In order to find out I devised a little test where I compared some original Nikkor lenses to the Super-Takumars with the adapter. Keep in mind this is nothing fancy or scientific. It’s a simple empirical kitchen-table test.

Equipment & set-up

Lenses:

  • Super-Takumar 35mm f/3.5
  • Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8
  • Super-Takumar 85mm f/1.9
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.8 D
  • Super-Takumar 200mm f/4

The adapter I used was from a producer called Hama. It’s a fairly cheap third party accessory brand but not the cheapest.

Hama M42-Nikon F adapter with corrective lens

For the 35mm test I rigged the camera on a tripod at a distance of 50 cm and for the 85mm test I rigged the camera on a tripod at a distance of 100 cm. For the 200mm I rigged the camera at a distance of 2,5 meters. This way I could  measure and check if the focus ring on the lens showed the correct distance. To make sure I had the most accurate focus I used live-view to zoom in digitally and set focus. All tests were done at aperture 5.6 and a shutter of 1/40. Focus is on the 2,50 mark on the bottle. Images are as is straight out of the camera only converted to JPEG from RAW and scaled down to 72dpi to save some bandwidth, but no editing is done. Check out the pictures below and judge for yourselves. You can choose to see the full size picture if you like.

Results

What I noticed while doing this test was that the Super-Takumar lenses were a little bit closer than the original Nikkors. They also seemed to be a little bit darker. This may be a result of the corrective lens in the adapter. Also, I noticed that the cameras light meter did not always respond too well to the Super-Takumar lenses. It may be something I did wrong, because sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. I didn’t put too much effort into investigating or figuring it out at this point.

As for my the focal distance check; the focal distance it said on the lenses matched reality. It was a little bit off, but that was also the case for the original Nikkors and so I called it withing the margin of error.

I’m very pleased with the results. The 85mm lenses are really close. The Nikkor one is better, but the Super-Takumar is not that far behind. It’s still sharp and has minimal CA even with the adapter. Maybe even a little bit better than the original on the CA in some areas?

As for the 35mm test it is a bit unfair as I compared a fixed focal lens to a zoom lens. However, I am pleasantly surprised to see that the Super-Takumar is really sharp (sharper than the Nikkor zoom) and has very little CA even with the adapter.

Unfortunately I didn’t have an original Nikkor lens to compare the 200mm to. However, I’d say the 200mm holds up. It not as sharp as the others and it has more CA, but that’s to be expected. It’s still very good.

Conclusion

Can I use the old M42 Super-Takumar lenses? Absolutley! Are there any ill effects of the M42 to F-mount adapter and the corrective lens? Maybe. A little loss of light, and lack of metering. While this may be an issue for some, to me this is no big deal. What pleases me very much is that there seem to be hardly any loss of optical quality and that focusing work. Now that I know the image quality is good enough, I can’t wait to get to work with these lenses to see how they perform in real life and how they are to work with!

Disclaimer

I realize there are several things about this test that are just not right. For one you can’t compare a zoom-lens to a fixed focal lens the way I did. Second the light is not controlled in any way, hence it may have shifted from shot to shot. And so on… This was just a simple empirical test I decided to do on a Sunday morning to see if these lenses were usable at all with the adapter or if the adapter would mess up the optical quality.

EBU test of Nikon D800 and D4

Just accidentally stumbled upon this. It’s an assessment by the European Broadcasting Union, the EBU, of the video capabilities of Nikon’s D800 and D4 cameras.

Check the links below for links for the PDF-files:

EBU test of Nikon D800
EBU test of Nikon D4

To sum up the tests; The D4 comes out a little better than the D800. The D4 is said to give 13 stops exposure range as to 12 on the D800. Both test best at 1080p recording and are deamed “not good” at 720p. They conclude that both can be used on a ISO value up to 6400 with reasonable results. Rolling shutter is at a minimum on both cameras and both cameras have good color performance.

However, the D4 performs better than the D800 as the conclusion for the D800 reads:”This camera cannot be recommended for serious programme-making.”

The EBU also tried to do a test on a Canon 5D. Link below for PDF:

EBU test of Canon 5D
However, this was a pre-production model which obviously lacked a low-pass filter. It failed the first test horribly and was not tested further.