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IndyClimber

Photographer, a budget, and video assignments.... where do I start?

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I'll try to keep this as concise as possible, and there will be several questions.  Thanks so much in advance for your help!

Intro:  I used the input from this forum to convert to mirrorless last year.  I have an A7 ii, zeiss 35mm, and zeiss batis 85mm.  My skill has improved greatly and I'm loving the Sony Alpha system in general.  I do not like the autofocus system of the A7ii but I know how to work around it and know the A7r ii would fix my photo problems.  Lastly, I understand post processing well and have never shot in anything but RAW - so haven't explored the opportunities with internal mode settings (JPEG-softskin etc).  That being said, when I start shooting video, I'm comfortable with color grading from scratch and using LUTS for quick editing and fine tuning them.  

 

The Ask:  My employer has asked me to build content for our company.  We are an aerial imagery and analytics company based out of SF serving all of North America but are still in the mid-start/growth stage.  I have a budget of $5K for gear.  In that, I must shoot drone video.  I need 2 cameras in total for video interviews. 

Specs and Workflow:  I can crank out photos all day with my current A7ii, but I'm worried about video which I have little experience with.  So if I'm getting a new camera, I immediately thought A7rii (used).  Then I got to thinking about the A7Sii (used).  The problem is SloMo.  No one is producing anything interesting or cinematic in the Agriculture space so its time someone took this old industry's content seriously.  I'll have access to airplanes as well, so shoots could be epic!  That being said, I'd like to keep things as simple as I can.  I'm thinking 2 cameras and a drone.  First thought, A7rii and Phantom 4 Pro.  Phantom 4 Pro (P4P) has a 1 inch Exmor Sony Sensor and can shoot buttery smooth 4K.  P4P I am sure will be my choice there.  Because I'll be shooting lots of agriculture scenes (think mostly row cropping - corn, soy, wheat fields), I need to be careful with moire.  I am bummed the A7rii doesn't shoot 4K at 60fps (correct me if I'm wrong please).  I have a GoPro Hero6 for personal use and that thing is insanely good at slomo. 

I need to be shooting in 4K, it needs to be cinematic, it needs to be as simple as possible.  

 

Am I totally missing something here?  I can always sell my A7ii, upgrade to A7rii, then go for something that shoots buttery 4K (black magic? ugh).  Feeling overwhelmed with choices here.  Someone please make it easy on me ha.  Again, Thanks so much for all of your help.

 

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Guest Jaf-Photo

It's been a while since I shot arial views of crop fields (it was never ago).

 

My tip is to look for arial footage that has the look you want, then figure out which equipment and process they used. That will give you a better idea of the difference between different choices.

 

Drones are being used on a lot of TV shows these days so that's maybe a good place to start.

 

Of course, It's a good idea to ask around but, invariably peop,e recommend the gear they are familiar with but not necessarily the gear you would be happy with.

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Thanks Jaf!  I need to clarify that I won't be taking pictures of our clients field from the air.  Our company is basically an Uber for Agricultural Arial Imagery.  We shoot with NDVI, RGB, NIR, and Red Edge sensors to get high level insights that are crop specific.  My role is to build marketing material and social media content.  I'll be shooting interview with farmers, ag retail clients, shooting our hanger, building our library of stock ag photos, etc.  

I have narrowed it down to a few needs: 

GEAR:  2 cameras, 1 drone, a mic, and an automated slider (interview and timelapses).  

Drone:  P4P = pretty damn certain I'll get this 
Slider:  Edelkrone Slider One with Motion Module (portability for backpack too!)
Cameras:  I have the A7ii but willing to sell it and upgrade to others.  

Need:  I need to shoot cinematic footage.  Buttery smooth 4K

 

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Guest Jaf-Photo

Alright, I got the impression you were doing arial footage of fields... the promo work sounds more fun.

 

I think it depends on your definition of cinematic. To me it means 16:9 or wider, 24 fps, close-ups with creamy bokeh, smooth slides, slo-mo, time lapse and filmic colour grading.

 

The A7sII should be fine for most of that, especially if you have good FE lenses. The problem would be slo-mo as the 4K frame rate is too low. I guess there's the option of shooting fast 1080p and upscaling it, although that leaves a question mark on quality.

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Jaf, Thanks very much!  This is the exact feedback/dialogue I'm looking for.  You're dead on with what I'm going for as "cinematic". and yes that will be much more fun than shooting data layers out of an airplane lol!  I agree the A7sii and the A7r ii would be good options.  I'm beginning to think that my A7ii isn't that useful and having an A7rii and a6500 might be a more useful combo.  The problem is that I don't know much about whats out there for video.  Something simple that shoots 4K at higher frame rates would be great.  What is that product that I'm looking for?  I think you're on to something about 1080p and upscaling.  Most of my content will be viewed on YoutTube not on huge 4K displays/theaters so upscaled 1080p will work.  Just trying to shoot as much 4K as I can to future proof the B-roll... 

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Guest Jaf-Photo

The alternative, like Proplus mentioned would be Panasonic GH5, which shoots 4K at 60 fps. But then you get a whole new ecosystem and a smaller sensor.

 

I've seen footage upscaled from 1080p that looks really good. On youtube, I think nobody will notice anyway.

 

I think you're on it with A7sII and A6500.

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Guest Jaf-Photo

Sensible if you're only going to 1080p on YT. Some make a point of providing UHD and 4K streams, though.

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Sensible if you're only going to 1080p on YT. Some make a point of providing UHD and 4K streams, though.

Agreed.

I just did a comparison of a night-time brokeh shot in 4K and exported as 1) downscaled 1080p and 2) native resolution of 4k.

Big difference in the colour. The  HD is drab. 

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Agreed.

I just did a comparison of a night-time brokeh shot in 4K and exported as 1) downscaled 1080p and 2) native resolution of 4k.

Big difference in the colour. The  HD is drab. 

A downscale shouldn't alter colour in any way, unless you've changed the colour gamut and gamma somehow. Colour should be identical in both versions.

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A downscale shouldn't alter colour in any way, unless you've changed the colour gamut and gamma somehow. Colour should be identical in both versions.

.

Actually I think a tweak on the 1080p might be in order. 

check it out.

post-15143-0-78941300-1509130994_thumb.jpg

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I have owned and used most of the newer Sony cameras for television use (news, documentary, reality) every day for years now. Here is a quick guide to video on each of them.

 

a7ii 

-this is the worst of them all for video. There are moiré absolutely everywhere when you shoot 1080p in 50/60fps. You will see severe moire even when shooting the sea, grass, roofs, and even in beards on peoples faces. In my opinion this is so bad that it is unusable for anything else than family-video. Sold mine after one week of use after I found out that hundreds of exterior shots were unusable . Moiré might be slightly better when shooting 25/30fps but not much. 

-5 axis stabilisation

 

a7s

-horrible AF

-great for shooting in dark environments

-great 1080p both in full frame and aps-c

-no internal 4k. 

 

a7sii

-no real improvement in AF. Still very bad. 

-great for shooting in dark environments

-great 1080p both in full frame and aps-c

-great 4k in full frame

-no 4k in aps-c

-5 axis stabilisation

 

a7rii

-good AF

-great 4k in crop mode and good 4k in full frame

-OK 1080p in full frame

-Tolerable 1080p in crop mode when in good light. 

-5 axis stabilisation

 

a6000

-great AF

-slightly better 1080p video than a6300/a6500

-no 4k

-no audio input, so not usable for interviews.

 

a6300

-fantastic AF

-sonys sharpest 4k video. 

-one of sonys worst 1080p video modes. But the moiré of the a7ii makes that one even worse. But even if the 1080p video is not the best it is still usable. But if you dont need 50/60p then shooting in 4k and downconverting to 1080p will also give you great 1080p video.

-no 5 axis stabilisation

-no headphone output

 

a6500

-fantastic AF

-sonys sharpest 4k video. 

-one of sonys worst 1080p video modes. But the moiré of the a7ii makes that one even worse. But even if the 1080p video is not the best it is still usable. But if you dont need 50/60p then shooting in 4k and downconverting to 1080p will also give you great 1080p video.

-5 axis stabilisation

-no headphone output

 

 

I would guess that for your needs the a7rii, a7sii, a6300/a6500 are the best choices. The original a7s will also do if you dont need 4k video. Also remember that for many video purposes aps-c cameras can have advantages. They are cheaper, and the lenses are cheaper. Many of the lenses are also smaller and lighter. Which can be a huge advantage if you plan on using them on a gimble for more "cinematic shots". Good gimbals for these kinds of cameras are now very cheap and they are easy to get good results with. They dont require years of practice like my steadicams did. But when you carry a gimble around for hours like I do you will be thankfull for its lower weight. The 10-18mm wide angle lenses is incredible for gimbal work. And the 18-105mm is great and very affordable for most other situations.  

 

For gimbal work and also in many other situations many people prefer autofocus. Manual focus is easy on an expensive cinema lens with a real focus ring and a smaller sensor that is more forgiving in depth of field. Focus by wire lenses however can be a nightmare to work with. They are OK as long as you are doing a static interview or a sequence where you know exactly what will happen (like a movie scene), but in documentary style stuff where people constantly move and you never know what will happen manual focus by wire combined with the shallow depth of field of a large sensor can become a nightmare. The great AF system of the a6300/a6500 will do a better job at focusing correctly than most people can. They will get the focus right 95% of the time. And the last 5% you will soon know what triggers and as soon as one of those situations are about to happen you can easily work around it by toggling between AF and MF with the simple press of a button to lock the AF. The a6300/a6500 are better at autofocus than the a7 cameras. The a7rii is good as well but the a6300/a6500 has better coverage and more intelligent tracking for AF. 

 

If shooting in dark situations are very important then go for the a7s models. But if you need AF then dont. The a6300/a6500 are also good in low light in 4k mode. And so are the a7r ii in crop mode. 

   

When making the kind of video it seems like you are about to make also remember that you will need to buy good audio equipment. Sound quality is just as important as video quality. If not more. I would guess more people will notice bad sound than would ever notice banding, lack of sharpness or aliasing in video. I would recomend getting a wireless set. This is much more flexible than cables and will save you a lot of tme. Get a set with one or two lavalier transmitters and one plug in transmitter (for handheld microphones). What you need is depending on what kind of video you make. If you are even thinking about getting the a6300/a6500 then get Sonys (not Sennheiser) wireless sets. They have headphone outputs which you absolutely NEED to monitor audio on these cameras since Sony felt they were too good, so they needed to be crippled compared to the a7-series (they still have a loudspeaker in them so dont say there was no room for a headphone output...this was done very intentional from Sony). Get Sonys DUAL wireless receiver. This is the most perfect thing Sony has ever made. It is almost like the engineers that made it actually have tried at some point working with camera/sound since they figured out exactly what people needed. You can recieve two transmitters at the same time with only this one little receiver. And it even includes a little audio mixer which gives you the ability to pan each channel to the left/right/both as desired. And they even included an extra input for a wired microphone where you can plug in a shotgun mic/cameramic. And it comes with a cable that goes from the two outputs and into one stereo 3.5mm plug that you can plug into the camera and get two channel audio (left/right). Incredible. After all these years someone did at last get it totally right. It is expensive but worth every dollar. 

 

The cheapest camera setup that will give anyone great results both in video and audio:

 

a6500   1400$

18-105mm f4 lens    450$

Sony wireless system with two transmitters and one dual receiver    1400$

Rode videomic pro   200$

----------------------------

3500 $

 

The last 1500$ would be enough to get you a good DJI 4k drone. 

 

I would have prioritised using money for good sound. Particularly since the genre that you work in are very depending on good sound quality for interviews. If you are going to mainly do interviews one camera should be enough. If you absolutely need two then you could probably use your a7ii as a second cam. But this would limit you to 1080p video, and the video quality from the a7ii is not very nice. So I would have looked into selling it and get the a6300 as the second cam.  

 

The other option is a used a7rii as your main camera and then an a6300 as a second cam. But this is more expensive.

 

If you would like to do gimbal work then get one of the good gimbals for around 5-700$ and a wide angle lens. The 10-18mm aps-c lens is great but kind of expensive. To save money you could also use the Sony 16mm f/2.8, with the ultra wide adapter (you could get this combination really cheap) for really wide cinematic shots. 

 

Good luck. 

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