Monthly Archives: June 2011

Fishing Mission


It’s been quiet around here, largely because I’ve been running around on a couple of things, including taking (not teaching) a workshop in video making. Sometimes, real life gets in the damn way of blogging…like the old days, when we all had lives that didn’t involve screens. I remember those days….

Anyway, I’ve been working hard to produce this mini documentary, about one of the villages in Southwest England where my mother’s branch of the family hails from, and the problems the local fishermen are facing.

It was supposed to be a vacation, but when I ran into Bill Cowan, a retired fisherman whom I first photographed back in 1992 (when he was 70!) on the streets of the village for an Islands Magazine assignment. We got to talking, and of course,  I broke out the gear and started filming. Here’s Bill in ’92:


The video is edited by my buddy John Campbell from Echo Media. John has the great ability to take my blather and my video and make it into a story. When I grow up, I want to be able to do what he does. Who knows, maybe Final Cut X will help me there. 

It’s shot mainly with the Nikon D7000, but I also used the Sony NEX VG 10 and the little Sony NEX 5. The slider shots are all with the little Sony….with my lightweight tripod and head, and small slider, the NEX 5 is about as heavy a camera as you’d want to put on that setup. 

It’s all APS-C chip sized video, and it’s all good (well, the Sony’s are super susceptible to moire, and they record in the dreaded AVCHD format, but basically, it’s all good.).

You know my feelings about the NEX VG10 from the previous post, but I can’t say enough good things about the NEX 5—so compact, so full-featured, a full sized chip…it’s the compact camera Nikon and Canon should have made, um, ages ago. 

In the words of the great philosopher DeAndre Cole (as embodied by Kenan Thompson of SNL), “What’s up with that?


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And The Winner Is….



I’ve been working with the footage from my grand experiment, pitting the Sony NEX VG 10, an APS-sized chip camcorder against HDSLRs, in this case, the Nikon D7000.

And before I tell you what my take on the whole thing is, I’d like to preface it by saying:

I really wanted to like the Sony—-what the hell, it should have been the best of both worlds. A camcorder design with an APS sized chip, better audio, great image stabilization, and interchangeable lenses, an articulated LCD, and an electronic viewfinder.

What’s not to like? In a word—the User Interface, and the goddamn file format.  Wait, that’s more than a word, it’s a sentence. And in this case, for me, a death sentence.

Oh man, whoever invented the AVCHD format should be taken out behind the barn and given a good whuppin’.  It’s a horrible, computer-averse, super highly compressed format that is just horrific to work with, especially a Mac. When you uncompress this format, and transcode it into something you can work with in iMovie or Final Cut, it bloats to 10x the size!

At the highest quality settings, that works out to about a gigabyte a minute…yes, 1GB for every minute of video. At least. It will gag the most robust of computers.

And in anticipation of emails and comments, yes I know that iMovie and FCP will import the AVCHD as is, but here’s the deal…I rarely import more than about 25% of what I shoot. I first like to “scrub” the clips (using Photo Mechanic and Quicktime) and only import what has a chance of being used. Try that with a direct import.

It’s clunky, unwieldable, and unnecessary. And don’t get me started on the moire issues with this camera….the D7000 and the D5100 kick ass in this department, and also in lens and sharpness categories as well.

So despite the fact that I have to stick on an auxiliary LCD loupe, an auxiliary mic and a sound recorder, and a wacky shoulder stabilizer to get the same ergonomic ease that the Sony gives you with no after-market chatchkas hanging off it, the nod goes to the DSLR…in this case, the D7000, but I have a feeling it will eventually be the D5100 (because of the articulating screen).

So, I’m selling the Sony NEX VG 10….but I’m keeping (and loving) the little Sony NEX 5 that I picked up as a backup camera with this setup. This is a compact, APS-sized (or near enough) sensor compact camera with articulating LCD, a great auxiliary mic, tiny size, lovely pancake 16mm f/2.8 lens (That takes auxiliary ultrawide and fisheye adapter lenses).

And, probably most important of all, the NEX 5 gives you the option of going AVCHD or MPEG4. True the latter produces a slightly smaller file size than the AVCHD, but it is a lifesaver in terms of ease of use.

The super compact size of the NEX 5 allows me to use it on  a very lightweight stabilizer (Ebay’s famous Indie Systems $60 stabilizer) and also on a small slider on a very lightweight tripod (the Slik HD Travel Pro). Because it’s a large chip, it gives pretty decent results in low light . Plus, it looks so innocuous that nobody ever stops you from shooting/filming. You look like a total tyro using this cam, and I love that.

So, my dream of an APS sized chip camcorder is still unfulfilled, but I’ve got a nice little system using the Nikon D7000 for the serious stuff and the NEX 5 for the grab stuff.

Next up…can the D5100 replace the D7000 as your main vid-cam? (Oy, will this stuff never end?????). Stay tuned.


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