Continuing blogging about my experiments with the new Canon EOS 550D: my first tests with the video audio point out that there is actually no sense in attaching an external mic to the camera right now. The AGC (automatic gain control) issue is much worse than what I thought. Here are two tests, the first with the internal mic, the second shot using the Röde Stereo Videomic, and in this latter one the “hiss” is almost intolerably loud:
Apparently the sensitivity of Röde is different from the internal mic, and the automatic gain control keeps on boosting the sensitivity up, until the audio becomes saturated with the background hiss.
There are a couple of potential work-arounds to this, but neither makes me very happy. The first one is to wait for a patched firmware to Canon EOS 550D; it is unlikely that Canon will provide a way to turn off AGC through the official firmware, but there are unofficial projects working on this kind of things. The most famous of these is the Magic Lantern project, but it is highly uncertain whether they will ever produce a hacked firmware for EOS 550D (the main focus is on 5D). More:
The second way that I know about is the “bypass trick”, where you fool the AGC to keep down by pushing synthetic tone to the other audio channel, and record your movie to the other channel. In the post-production you can then remove the extra channel. There is this video that explains the technique:
Neither way is that kind of quick fix that I would be hoping for (and I am not interested in plugging in extra sound sources every time I will be recording a short video clip), so any further ideas or advice on how to work around the AGC issue in EOS 550D are highly appreciated.
Ok, my new SLR arrived today (sans VideoMic & Eye-Fi card, those will arrive a day or two later), and it is time for the first impressions. Firstly, it is a real pleasure to shoot using this thing. It is much faster than my 350D used to be, and the large, sharp LCD display makes a real difference. The photos immediately jump to life, and it is possible to get right kind of feedback while trying to get the right tones, field of depth, or exposure. Also, since the camera is so light, it is easy to handle and I can picture myself carrying it around in our regular family travels. I have not got time to test the Full HD video properly, but it seems to be sharp, and camera easy to control while recording. There are some settings I still need to check out from the manual, though. AF point control, for example, was still evading me. It is good to notice that all the controls automatically feel like they are on the right places. Probably that is because they are mostly on their old, EOS-style places, on the other hand, the few changes feel natural and motivated. A good camera. Here are some test shots uploaded into Flickr.
It was five years ago (time really flies!) when I got my previous Canon SLR, EOS 350D. The photos from the very first session should still be here. The body is still working fine, there are only a couple of dust particles inside, but the feature standard and user experience of today’s top cameras is completely different from 350D. I have now placed an order for Canon EOS 550D (with the kit IS zoom lens), and the key features are worlds away from the 2005 situation:
18 million pixels
Full HD video (1080p)
DIGIC 4 processor
sensitivity range ISO100-12800 (extended, 6400 native)
3 inch LCD display, 1040k pixels (live view — the quality of in-camera image display has grown more and more important during the years)
There have been several recent (and not so recent) improvements in Picasa web service that Google owns, making it serious challenger to Flickr, which I have long used. (See a list from here.) There is also a cost issue: the Pro account of Flickr is $25 per year (unlimited uploads, unlimited storage), but you can get 20 GB of disk space from Google/Picasa with $5 per year. Rather than cost, it is really the privacy controls that start to concern me more and more as the kids grow up. Picasa web albums makes it a bit easier to share private photo albums (you just enter email addresses and send the invitation link). This, and other reasons have led me to consider migrating my photo galleries from Flickr to Picasa. As I have several deep integrations set up (particularly all photos in this blog actually reside in Flickr), it is questionable whether this transition really makes sense. On the other hand, I hate being tied to any single service, without ability to change service provider when needed. Flickr has not been particularly dynamic in coming up with new functionalities recently. Yet, integration with my mobile camera phones and mail systems is something that works well with Flickr, and I am not sure how such things would appear under Picasa/Google. But we will see. I am using the holiday period to do some tests, experimenting first with the free Migratr tool to backup and transfer all my Flickr photos into the Picasa account. It appears a bit buggy/easy to crash, but lets hope for the best. It is interesting to see how the transfer works out, and having backups in several places is a good idea in any case.
For the development of this latest release, we’ve focused on what we believe are the fundamental priorities of our customers: performance and image quality. Lightroom has been rebuilt from its core to provide a performance architecture that meets the needs of photographers today and into the future. The raw processing engine has also received an overhaul in order to ensure that you’re maximizing the potential in your images in terms of sharpening and noise reduction. And, a number of other new areas have also had new features added and enhanced. Like any beta, Lightroom 3 beta is unfinished, which means some of the features we have planned are not in this release, and some of the features in the beta are not yet complete.
I am not sure which parts of the new Lightroom are still not complete, and which are related to the supposed performance and image quality improvements, but according to my experience this Beta version is really slow! Every time you navigate from image to image, it takes several seconds to get a sharp preview. I think at this point the lack of performance really makes this tool pretty useless. The built in previews of Windows 7, and the Windows Live Photo Gallery are fast, and then you can open the shot into Photoshop if you need to get into serious editing. Maybe I am missing something, but what is the real benefit of paying for software like Lightroom?
My old Sigma tele-zoom lens is pretty useless nowadays, particularly in cold (the mechanism gets stuck, and you cannot zoom even by using force). I went shopping, and got a Canon EF 70-200 mm L — my very first L class lens. This is the cheapest of line, and does not have an image stabilizer, for example. But it should produce much better images than my old one, the aperture should be enough for daylight at least, and the usability is a huge upgrade to my old Sigma. A review is here: http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/Canon-EF-70-200mm-f-4.0-L-USM-Lens-Review.aspx.
These days you can find pretty nice bird tables, like this little house we have now in our front yard. It was originally designed to be hung from a string, but it was pretty easy to hack into a suitable stick. So, now we have a regular show going on, with five pheasant, a flock of small birds and a squirrel fighting over the nuts and seeds.
Quiet at the night time, though. The photo was taken at the point when the snowfall had turned into light rain (of water), using my trusty old Canon EOS 350D (exposure time 3,2 seconds, I was using a Manfrotto stand), and I admit a serious graving of 7D with its environmental sealing and advanced autofocus point selection system… (More here: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canoneos7d/ )