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How do you test out a new camera


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#1 Rab

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Posted 13 November 2005 - 09:38 AM

Hi all. I'm looking for advice please. I?ve just bought a Bauer S715XL, to do a bit more serious filming than with my current Canon 514XL. When I got the (buy me a pint) Canon I was really just keen to know whether it would film or not, so in went the first cartridge, I shot a variety of subjects inside and out, some shots static, some moving the camera, and with a range of lighting, focused it in and out and zoomed in and out, and sent the film off for processing. As my standards weren?t very high, the film I got back told me that all systems seemed to work reasonably well, I should avoid fast panning (18fps), and that was about it. All I needed then.

For the Bauer, I reckon I have to be a bit more disciplined. Mechanically, the camera is sound, I see all systems function, but I don?t know how accurately. So I?d like to use the first one or two films to establish a firmer picture of the camera?s performance, so that I can be sure that I?ve got it as well set up as I can, within reason. If there are things that need sorting or tuning I?d like to spot them early. So, do any of you folk have a standard test routine you run your new cameras through to check run-speed, focus, light-meter values, etc? For example, Santo, reading a recent post from you about a soon-to-arrive 814e, you talk about giving it a ?shake-down?. What does that involve?

Thanks in advance.
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#2 A.Oliver

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Posted 13 November 2005 - 09:59 AM

My usual routine is look thru the gate while running the camera, ( no film in the camera ) move camera to and from a lite source to confirm auto iris is ok. As with your 514 test the camera on various subjects, well lit to poorly lit. One thing i always do is load a film in the camera, lock the camera on a tripod and film a calender of test chart on the wall. Adjust the lite to suit so you can expose with the iris wide open, i then zoom back to see if the subject goes out of focus. If subject goes out of focus with your lens wide open, then the back focus of the camera is out. My late 715xl did go miles out of focus from f2.8 to wide open, i mean the footage was totally unusable.
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#3 santo

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Posted 13 November 2005 - 10:07 AM

For example, Santo, reading a recent post from you about a soon-to-arrive 814e, you talk about giving it a ?shake-down?. What does that involve?


Not sure yet. I do know it will involve the following, though:

- all comparison shots with a known standard camera that works properly and gives good results
- you can't beat a static tripod mounted shot of a person in an upper body/head and shoulder shot for a good subjective idea of how the image looks. the human face tells all, really.
- some sort of test chart at varying f-stops. frankly, even the layman's map on a wall works fine if you're only comparing camera to camera. tripod mounted camera and evenly lit of course.
- a varying f-stop test of a still life, again tripod mounted and evenly lit.

beyond that, just go out and shoot a few very similar scenes handheld and whatever to get a feel for the look you're getting between the two or more cameras you're testing.

Avoid the following:

One test that tells us virtually nothing with regards to lens sharpness is a wide-open shot at a blank wall or screen or whatever, looking for vignetting on either side. Sometimes the sharper of two lenses (when used under normal conditions) will show a little of that on the sides, and the less sharp will not. I think I read that in a Zeiss guide to lens testing that's available online.

Forget about trying to tell which is sharper by projector. You could do that with a professional 35mm projection set up back in the days before neg straight to telecine if you have a projectionist dedicated to running them back and forth. With super 8 you need to freeze frames and edit snippets perfectly together, advance frame by frame to really see what's going on if you're going to be able to make any kind of judgement. You simply can't come close to doing that unless you've had it professionally telecined. Especially if you're going to be looking at focus charts and resolution charts.

lock the camera on a tripod and film a calender of test chart on the wall.


Yes, I'm pretty sure that's a typo and you're saying calender or test chart. That's a variation on the layman's map test I was typing at the same time it seems. :) That would work. I like the map test because you can get a wide variety of letteringand words of sizes and lines the same. From clear to read in a test, all the way to far too small for any super 8 to ever pick up. Or even 35mm for that matter depending on the map.

edit: wow I love the way this board is set up to combine multiple responses into one post. terrific.
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#4 A.Oliver

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Posted 13 November 2005 - 10:08 AM

My noris projector with schneider 1.1 11-30 lens can tell if a camera lens is good or not. Certainly the angenieux 6-80 and leicina 10mm cinegon look very nice and grain free projected, while the canon lenses always have a fizz about them. Canon glass is your s-vhs quality, while the cinegon and 6-80 lens is your mini dv quality.
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#5 santo

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Posted 13 November 2005 - 10:11 AM

My noris projector with schneider 1.1 11-30 lens can tell if a camera lens is good or not. Certainly the angenieux 6-80 and leicina 10mm cinegon look very nice and grain free projected, while the canon lenses always have a fizz about them. Canon glass is your s-vhs quality, while the cinegon and 6-80 lens is your mini dv quality.


Maybe I need to get a better projector with a great lens like that. :D

A fizz? Interesting description. I'll have to look for that.
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#6 Rab

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Posted 14 November 2005 - 01:28 AM

Many thanks the info.
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#7 Chris Keth

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Posted 14 November 2005 - 05:46 PM

I would do:

-backfocus test with a focus chart (pumpkin), to make sure focus stays constand throughout the zoom range (if it's a zoom lens, that is)

-a test to check the steadyness of the image. Just a grid works well, or print. Locked down on a tripod obviously.

-I would check the lens footage markings against eye focus.

-a still life shot in iris brackets, making sure to include a black, white, and 18% grey reference in all shots. checking these with a densitometer will tell you if, and how far, your stops are off. Do this with a couple different light setups so you can make sure to include all lens stops in your test.

-do the same thing as above but with frame speeds, to check their accuracy.


That should be good enough with super 8 gear.
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#8 Rab

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Posted 19 November 2005 - 07:34 AM

Thanks again All
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