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Selecting a suitable 35mm stills camera for pre-production preparation


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#1 Philip D Horbury

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 01:37 PM

Hi there,

As an MSC Cinematography student working under the tuteledge of Chris Woollard in London the class and I have had many discussions recently concerning pre-production methodologies and their implementation.

One of these topics has covered how certain Cinematographers (the late James Wong Howe, for instance) like to test various times of the day / conditions of light (inc. bracketing exposures) with a stills camera, using their choice of film stock to be used on the moving picture itself in order to investigate results, etc.

As an aspiring DoP I very much like the idea of this - however have almost no stills experience at all. Can anyone recommend a particular stills camera for this type of preparatory work and why like they like the particular model?

Thanks,
Phil D Horbury
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#2 Stephen Williams

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 01:54 PM

Hi,

Any fully manuel SLR will do fine, should be very cheap to buy on Ebay.

Stephen

Hi there,

As an MSC Cinematography student working under the tuteledge of Chris Woollard in London the class and I have had many discussions recently concerning pre-production methodologies and their implementation.

One of these topics has covered how certain Cinematographers (the late James Wong Howe, for instance) like to test various times of the day / conditions of light (inc. bracketing exposures) with a stills camera, using their choice of film stock to be used on the moving picture itself in order to investigate results, etc.

As an aspiring DoP I very much like the idea of this - however have almost no stills experience at all. Can anyone recommend a particular stills camera for this type of preparatory work and why like they like the particular model?

Thanks,
Phil D Horbury


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#3 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 01:55 PM

Any 35mm SLR with a full manual setting would do the job. Have a look on ebay for a used one. Canon, Nikon and Minolta are 3 good brands. There are others as well. Kodak Portra Still film is a pretty good match for their motion picture stocks.

You could also use a digital SLR in the same way, although your results would be a less accurate indication of how film would look.
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#4 Chris Keth

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 04:44 PM

Any 35mm SLR with a full manual setting would do the job. Have a look on ebay for a used one. Canon, Nikon and Minolta are 3 good brands. There are others as well. Kodak Portra Still film is a pretty good match for their motion picture stocks.

You could also use a digital SLR in the same way, although your results would be a less accurate indication of how film would look.


I'm fond of minolta SLRs, in great part because they're much less sought after than nikon or canon equipment and I've never found any quality differential. The early SRT series minoltas are really nice. I use an SRT101 from the early 60s.
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#5 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 05:02 PM

I'm fond of minolta SLRs.


Me too. I still have a Minolta XD-7 that I bought in 1988. Works just fine. That's the beauty of older cameras - there's very little that can go wrong with them.

I've always felt that Minolta cameras were just as good as Nikon or Canon, it's just that people chose those brands over Minolta because of the lenses
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#6 John Sprung

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 05:23 PM

The other big name from those days was Pentax. If Nikon was the Cadillac of its day, then Pentax was the Chevy. They have a screw lens mount instead of bayonet, so lens changes were slower. But they made more of them than the high end brands, so you should be able to find one for cheap.





-- J.S.
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#7 Chris Keth

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 05:27 PM

Me too. I still have a Minolta XD-7 that I bought in 1988. Works just fine. That's the beauty of older cameras - there's very little that can go wrong with them.

I've always felt that Minolta cameras were just as good as Nikon or Canon, it's just that people chose those brands over Minolta because of the lenses


They are pretty impressive little machines. Mine was bought by my grandfather in the early 60s from a friend who had just traveled to Japan. I guess minolta didn't export to the US then. It's been cleaned out and relubricated once and the seals have been changed twice. Never had a problem with it.
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#8 Greg Gross

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 02:11 PM

Hello Phillip
I would suggest a Canon G10,or new version G11. You would have the ability to shoot raw.
Then you could correct white balance for the lighting that you are using. Assuming that you
expose image properly you would have very little editing to do in your color workspace with
your workflow. Of course the raw file is your digital image based on the capture of light by
all the "photosites" in your digital sensor based on CCD/CMOS platform. Of course in film we
we are dealing with layers of emulsions that are sensitive to light. Film negative versus the
raw digital negative. There are plug-ins today to mimic b&w film(silver efex pro) also plug-
ins for color film available. I am not sure for example how the color film plug-ins would re-
late to kodak Vision films for example. Of course I am sure that you do not want to become
a full time digital editing technician either. I have been a professional photographer for more
years than I care to be reminded of. I carry a G10 wrapped in chamois cloth in my coat pock-
et and it stands right up to its big brother canon proffessional cameras which I use. Sometimes
cannot tell or remember which camera was used. Well just another camera,idea for you to con-
sider. Good luck with your future in cinematography.

Greg Gross
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#9 Mark Dunn

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 02:32 PM

Hello Phillip
I would suggest a Canon G10,or new version G11. You would have the ability to shoot raw.
Then you could correct white balance for the lighting that you are using. Assuming that you
expose image properly you would have very little editing to do in your color workspace with
your workflow. Of course the raw file is your digital image based on the capture of light by
all the "photosites" in your digital sensor based on CCD/CMOS platform. Of course in film we
we are dealing with layers of emulsions that are sensitive to light. Film negative versus the
raw digital negative. There are plug-ins today to mimic b&w film(silver efex pro) also plug-
ins for color film available. I am not sure for example how the color film plug-ins would re-
late to kodak Vision films for example. Of course I am sure that you do not want to become
a full time digital editing technician either. I have been a professional photographer for more
years than I care to be reminded of. I carry a G10 wrapped in chamois cloth in my coat pock-
et and it stands right up to its big brother canon proffessional cameras which I use. Sometimes
cannot tell or remember which camera was used. Well just another camera,idea for you to con-
sider. Good luck with your future in cinematography.

Greg Gross

If you check the post, the OP wants to use film.
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#10 Rob Vogt

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 06:03 PM

The other big name from those days was Pentax. If Nikon was the Cadillac of its day, then Pentax was the Chevy. They have a screw lens mount instead of bayonet, so lens changes were slower. But they made more of them than the high end brands, so you should be able to find one for cheap.





-- J.S.


Also if I remember correctly the mounts were similar enough that you could use nikon lenses on a Pentax
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#11 Frank Barrera

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 07:57 PM

you could go with the a classic: the Pentax K1000. could get one right now on ebay (i just checked) with a zoom lens for under $200. i learned most of what i know with this camera uh um about 25 years ago.

for the purpose you stated there's no reason to get a digital slr. however it would be wise to get both a digital and a film camera. after all we do live in a time where both are widely used. i just used the canon 5D for the first time this weekend for a music video and it is a fine camera for both video and stills.

an incident light meter would be an excellent compliment to the Pentax as well.

good luck.

f
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#12 Greg Gross

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 09:11 PM

Mr. Barrera,
Yes sir that Canon 5D is a fine camera. I have not used one for a shoot but I played with one at
B&H Photo in your great city. I am roughly 175 to 200 miles away from from NYC. I suppose a big
part of going digital is the work and time involved editing in a color space. If one gets exposures
correct and takes care to use appropriate white balance it is possible to spend less time working in
the editing color space. So many people think that you can just throw any raw image into the pho-
toshop color space and fix it. This is quite far from the truth. Once the highlights are blown you can
hardly correct by using the recovery process. Correct exposure and white balance are so important
to the initial raw image(file,negative).

Greg Gross
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#13 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 26 October 2009 - 03:59 AM

Frankly I would try to get a Nikon F3 stills camera for film. The viewfinder shows you 100% of the image and it is/was a very reliable workhorse camera.
I think that with the cost of shooting photographic film it is important to really have a handle on the composition.
Should be able to find rather cheaply these days as the "digital revolution" is upon us and people are selling them off.
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