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Camera for reference stills


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#1 Nathan Martin

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 01:45 AM

Hey all,

im looking into buying a dslr for reference stills and i was wondering if anyone could guide me in my choice.
i was thinking either a Nikon d200 or a canon 40d.
I played with the d200 a week ago and was very happy with the results however a few dp's i assist swear by theyre 40d's.

Edited by Nathan Martin, 24 June 2008 - 01:45 AM.

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#2 Mike Washlesky

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 10:20 AM

Hey all,

im looking into buying a dslr for reference stills and i was wondering if anyone could guide me in my choice.
i was thinking either a Nikon d200 or a canon 40d.
I played with the d200 a week ago and was very happy with the results however a few dp's i assist swear by theyre 40d's.



The D40 is great, and considerably cheaper.
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#3 Nate Downes

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 10:58 AM

The D40 is great, and considerably cheaper.

Until your price out the lenses. there are few lenses that will auto-focus on the D40, and the majority are in the $1000+ range.

I use a polaroid land camera for my testing, as it gives me instant results, and I have something to physically hold and compare to later.
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#4 John Holland

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 12:07 PM

You can still get the film/ paper ?
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#5 Paul Bruening

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 12:09 PM

You can still get the film/ paper ?


I'm curious about this, too. Isn't the land camera the type that has the peel-away sheets?
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#6 Nate Downes

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 12:11 PM

I'm curious about this, too. Isn't the land camera the type that has the peel-away sheets?

Yes, Fuji still makes the film/paper combo for this, the FP100B, FP-100C and FP-3000.
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#7 Paul Bruening

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 12:40 PM

Holy smokes, Nate. I haven't seen one of those since I sold a used one to Bob Elswit. He was in Oxford shooting Heart of Dixie (aka Fart of Dixie) back around '88 or '89. He came into my camera shop and asked to look through my junk pile. He snagged this huge Polaroid land with the pop-out lens and bellows. I thought he was nuts for wanting it and sold it to him for next to nothing. He'd get bored on his days off and sometimes hung around the store. I had no idea he'd get this big, of course. He just seemed like a regular Joe. I guess you're in good company if you're using a land camera. What's the per shot cost of it in film?
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#8 Nate Downes

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 01:48 PM

Holy smokes, Nate. I haven't seen one of those since I sold a used one to Bob Elswit. He was in Oxford shooting Heart of Dixie (aka Fart of Dixie) back around '88 or '89. He came into my camera shop and asked to look through my junk pile. He snagged this huge Polaroid land with the pop-out lens and bellows. I thought he was nuts for wanting it and sold it to him for next to nothing. He'd get bored on his days off and sometimes hung around the store. I had no idea he'd get this big, of course. He just seemed like a regular Joe. I guess you're in good company if you're using a land camera. What's the per shot cost of it in film?

Oh wow, cool!

And about $1.25, which isn't too bad if you think about it.
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#9 Cory Lonas

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 01:51 PM

Oh wow, cool!

And about $1.25, which isn't too bad if you think about it.

would a spectra camera yield the same type of results? I have a spectra and 2 one-step Polaroid's... I know they sell high quality film for about the same price as the normal stuff...
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#10 Nate Downes

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 01:57 PM

would a spectra camera yield the same type of results? I have a spectra and 2 one-step Polaroid's... I know they sell high quality film for about the same price as the normal stuff...

Technically yes, but nobody manufactures the film for these cameras anymore. Polaroid stopped last year, and the supply out there is the last few batches, so when it's gone, it's gone.
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#11 K Borowski

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 03:46 PM

You can also get Polaroid err "Fujiroid" backs for medium-format and 35mm cameras that are still supported by current films. You can get a 100-speed color daylight emulsion, a 100-speed B&W emulsion, etc.

The colors aren't exactly going to match ECN-2 stock in your camera, but they'll do a hell of a lot better job than digital files. Also, you don't have to worry about monitor calibration issues on your end and on the lab's end. As long as you evaluate it under the same lighting (i.e. daylight, or a common household bulb, or 3400K film lights) you're going to be able to show them exactly the look you are going for.

Only downside is that they run at least $1/pop, so you can't fire off 100 of them for each setup.
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#12 K Borowski

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 03:54 PM

Sorry, this isn't an Aussie camera store, as I don't know any down there, but here's a link to the film we are talking about:

http://www.bhphotovi..._Pack_Film.html

It's the 3 1/4 x 4 1/4" pack film, available in 10-sheet packs. Note you can still get true Polaroid film, but it's going to run out eventually.

Fuji makes comparable, compatible products.

I use a Polaroid back on my Mamiya RB all the time for exposure & composition checks.

Now again, it won't render the exact same results that you'll get with neg film, as it is a direct reversal product based on the monobath processing principle, but you'll be in the ballpark and be able to evaluate the effects of filters, diffulsion, etc.

It's just too bad they don't make a Polaroid movie film that was say, 5 feet, that you could run off to quickly evaluate in-camera the look you're after on set.
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#13 Mike Williamson

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 04:07 PM

For on-set/reference stills, I use a Canon Digital Rebel XT and it works very well, there have been several updates to that model including the XTi and the XSi. By buying a cheaper camera body (compared to a 30D or 40D), I could afford more lenses including fast primes which end up in heavy rotation on any night or interior scenes. My suggestion is to think about the whole system that you're buying into, especially what kind of lenses you plan on using.
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#14 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 05:38 PM

swear by the 40D myself
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#15 Nathan Martin

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 11:47 PM

thanks for the help all.

i have a bronica with some nice lenses i could use if i were to get a polaroid back, but i much prefer the use of a DSLR as i can load them onto a laptop and discuss grading options with the director on set.

I have played with the Kodak image look system a little which also seemed to be a great tool but it seems pointless on a fast moving set. On this note, a cinematographer i assist quite frequently tried to budget me into his last feature to just take reference stills, load them into Kodak image look manager and apply grades that he had created previously so that he could approve them before shooting and they could be sent with rushes and the grading data to the dailies colorist, however this was a little too much of a luxury for production to approve.

With lenses i saw the chip size of the Canon 40D is similar in width to Super 35 and i was going to look into the possibilities of making up a PL mount so that i can run through the scene with my shooting lense to get a better reference, however im not sure how well the chip will translate to the range, contrast, and color rendition of 35.
Also i have a couple of ok lenses from my old Canon slr.

Does anyone know much about the dynamic range, contrast, and color rendition of the 40D?



cheers
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#16 K Borowski

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 01:06 PM

Nathan, I understand the allure of digital, but I would be leery of sending digital files to a lab with no way of knowing that the lab sees the images the same way as you do on your laptop's monitor.

Do you send the laptop to the lab with your film? That'd be the only way I could see of ensuring that you and the lab are on the same page. Further, LCD monitors might be "cool" because they are flat and take up less space, but I swear I have not yet found an LCD that shows consistent colors regardless of the angle from which you are viewing the image. My iMac with it's swiveling monitor strut is particularly troublesome in this regard.I have never encountered an LCD that performs as well as a CRT.

It'd be OK if you could still get CRTs, but the fact is that they are almost entirely out of production now, and even the ones still in use are subject to fading over time.

I just see it as more harm than good with so many variables to deal with. Maybe you've found a way to work all of these issues out satisfactorially. I certainly agree that, with the same viewing monitor from the same angle, digital is very convenient. I've never used Kodak's look manager softwar myself, but I assume that it addresses some of these issues, yes?


Now to answer your question in a general sense, DSLRs are sort of somewhere in the middle ground between the latitude of negative and slide film if you're shooting RAW, and almost entirely like slide film if you're shooting JPEG. I'd highly recommend RAW for evaluative purposes if you are using digital. Colors are going to be different, and you're going to have a lot more detail in the shadows and a lot more in the highlights as opposed to film, which has a lot of detail in the highlights and a lot less detail in the shadows. I'd say digital is a lot like the video tap on your film camera for evaluative purposes, but with significantly better dynamic range, especially with RAW.

Edited by Karl Borowski, 25 June 2008 - 01:08 PM.

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#17 Evan Winter

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 01:19 PM

I use my Sony Alpha extensively for pre-vis. I shoot music videos so all the stuff I shoot ends up on DBeta. In transfer the footage exposes almost identically to the way it exposes on my DSLR. The only difference is that film has more latitude in the highlights and the shadows. Thus, if I have the look I want on my DSLR screen then I know, with absolute certainty, that the look I want will be on the film.

Evan W.
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#18 K Borowski

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 01:44 PM

I use my Sony Alpha extensively for pre-vis. I shoot music videos so all the stuff I shoot ends up on DBeta. In transfer the footage exposes almost identically to the way it exposes on my DSLR. The only difference is that film has more latitude in the highlights and the shadows. Thus, if I have the look I want on my DSLR screen then I know, with absolute certainty, that the look I want will be on the film.

Evan W.


Evan, so what approach have you come up with the ensure that you and the lab are on the same page in terms of color and density calibration?
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#19 Nathan Martin

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 05:05 PM

Hey Karl,

With my photoshop grading on set, that is not to be followed precisely by the colorist, it is just for ideas on set with the director so were both on the same page.
The Look manager does deal with these problems in that it delivers a recipe that the colorist can apply to achieve what you saw on set. However the Monitor calibration can still be a problem.

thanks for the rest of the details.
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#20 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 05:32 PM

Does anyone know much about the dynamic range, contrast, and color rendition of the 40D?



cheers


Well it isnt the same as the colour negs you'll be using but as a reference its not bad, and with a little photoshop manipulation its even better. great camera for this purpose, not too big or small, nice clear eyepiece with all settings clearly displayed in the eyepiece - unlike the 350D i used to have:( with a fast enough prime you can shoot at the same shutter speed, asa and stop as you are on the production camera.
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