Friday, August 1, 2014

Canon EOS 6D: Findings and Experiences

When your abilities as an artist evolve, your tools of the trade tend to evolve with it. For two solid years, I operated a prosumer Canon EOS Rebel T2i. It had its perks. It was cheap and well-rounded. But, it also had its downfalls. The crop sensor and limited depth and quality were beginning to cripple my work as a professional. At that point, in early 2013, I knew it was time for an upgrade.

One of the first films shot with my T2i, teaching me the capabilities
of DSLR cameras.
Nearly a year ago, I purchased the Canon EOS 6D as a replacement for the faithful but lacking Canon EOS Rebel T2i. The T2i helped to shape my skills as a photographer and videographer, but I knew I needed something with better quality and more features, if I wanted to prove that I was serious about my career. Thus began the search for a DSLR that provided a quality experience at the right price.

At that time, the big seller was the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, a greatly overhauled version of the Mark II. It was everything I needed to get the job done. However, the price tag said
otherwise. It just wasn't in my budget, so I went back to the drawing board and began researching alternate solutions. The Mark II proved to be a lot cheaper, but it was a dated piece of technology. It has been on the market for over five years, and from the comparisons to newer models, it was definitely showing its age. The tech market changes and grows at a rapid rate, thanks to scientific advances. Just recently, 4K cameras have become all the rage, meaning that I'm already behind on the times. But, that's the risk you take when you purchase tech, and that's why I knew the Mark II was likely near its deathbed.

I didn't want to drop money on technology that was almost obsolete, so I dug a bit further. That's when I discovered the Canon EOS 6D. It was not quite up to par with the Mark III, but this camera still held its own and fit into my budget perfectly. Since it was brand new to the market, I knew that it would last for many years to come. Or at least until I decide to cave and get something with 4K resolution. After doing a lot of research, I discovered that specifications and features of the 6D trumped the 5D Mark II in every way. It took some top-notch detective work to track down some of the specifications and how they held up against other cameras on the market.

The Canon EOS 6D was released in late November, 2012. This DSLR sported many of the features of other full-frame models, but at a more affordable price. You have the choice to purchase either just the body for about $2100 or a package that also includes the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM zoom lens for about $2900. If you do a little price researching, you have a chance of finding the camera for even less. In my case, I was able to purchase a "like-new" (opened, but never used) body for about $500 less.

The 6D includes all the essentials of a prosumer DSLR camera: versatile still options for every type of photographer and movie recording for newbie film buffs. The 6D is capable of producing a resolution of 20.2 megapixels, containing a standard CMOS optical sensor and covering a full (1.0) field of view crop factor. Although, in comparison to other models on the market, the resolution was a bit lacking, but the image and video quality doesn't seem to suffer.

Image recording formats for the Canon EOS 6D include the standard JPEG, RAW, and the option to record both simultaneously. Videos can be recorded in H.264 and MOV formats with a max video resolution of 1920 X 1080. Unfortunately, image/video storage is limited to a single SD card slot on the 6D. If you're a Compact Flash purist, this might not be the camera for you. It's also unfortunate that video files cannot be recorded in a RAW format. There are always Magic Lantern modifications to make this a reality, but the 6D's lack of Compact Flash compatibility makes it impossible to record full HD RAW footage with the slower read/write speeds of an SD card.

In terms of physical appearance, the Canon EOS 6D is very small compared to other DSLR cameras in its price range. It measures 5.7 inches in width, 4.4 inches in height, and 2.8 inches in depth. The back contains a 3 inch LCD display, which is only slightly smaller than the display on the Mark III. Despite the small size, the 6D is very comfortable in my grip. It can feel a bit awkward at first, but you tend to get used to the grip with time. The body is very light, however heavier lenses make the weight distribution noticeably uneven. Along with standard DSLR features and camera modes, it also includes HDMI (mini), composite video/audio, mini USB, microphone (auxiliary), and remote control connectors. It also supports the LP-E6 Li-ion battery, which is a standard battery for most moderately priced Canon cameras.

After completion of my research and comparisons, I purchased the 6D. When the camera arrived at my door, I immediately started looking at the differences between the 6D and my Canon EOS Rebel T2i. Of course, my T2i dwarfed in comparison to the 6D. I was very impressed by the results, but I needed to take the camera for a real test ride. And the only way to accomplish that was through scheduling and planning several work ventures.

A test of performance with the 6D
The first few projects involved simple nature and landscape stills. I took the camera out to Mammoth Park on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. There seemed to be the perfect amount of land, lighting, and scenery. Walking around on the trails, I got a lot of good shots, close and far. The sunset created a warm glow that allowed me to capture a very cinematic experience. The quality of the photos proved to be a lot richer, in comparison to those taken by the Canon EOS Rebel T2i. Unfortunately, I can't make any side-by-side comparisons, but you can see some of the differences in comparison to some of my older photography.

I had to take the Canon EOS 6D to some varying landscapes and discover another spectrum of this dynamic little machine. I found myself at The Point at the heart of Pittsburgh. The night cityscape has always felt like home to me, and the 6D created a level of surrealism that my eyes could never comprehend. The mix of the brightest and darkest areas shone through like nothing I've captured before. It was one of my most rewarding experiences in photography. I did have some trouble with capturing photos in the darker areas, but that was mostly due to Canon EOS EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM. With the aperture only opening as wide as f/4, it was not an ideal lens to be using in low light situations. Whenever I decide to invest in a better lens, I will revisit this particular flaw. Despite this, the 6D compensated by providing providing ISO options for even the most dimly lit areas. Of course, the amount of noise in the photos was very obvious, but it was a surprise to see Canon creating compensation options for low lighting.

After my extensive field tests, I couldn't just stop at landscapes. As I've previously mentioned, I had the pleasure to work again with the lovely Victoria Bittner on some updated headshots. The wider range of color and shading, inside and outside, was beyond what I expected to see on a particular subject. Auto focusing was quick and way more responsive than any previous cameras that I have used. Outdoor lighting was not the most ideal for that day. Don't get me wrong. It was a beautiful day, but almost too beautiful. Too much direct sunlight can ruin a shoot. Luckily, there was plenty of cover for the shoot. The indoor stills were especially crisp, capturing detail and contrasting effects on a larger scale.

But the real challenge came with testing the video capabilities of the Canon EOS 6D. The controls, as always, were easy to handle. With the experience shooting videos on my Rebel T2i, I felt at home with the 6D. I got my first real field test from shooting 5 Minutes. With the proper lighting and camera adjustments, footage came out looking fantastic.  At 24 FPS, the high definition footage, in comparison to the Rebel T2i, was noticeably superior in terms of creating a cinematic feel. Obviously, this is no RED camera or five-figure cinema camera, but in terms of independent films, it gets the job done. I was especially impressed by the depth and level of detail captured by the camera in close-ups. It was as if I was missing something from every one of my videos prior to this shoot, and the 6D filled this void.
The 6D, ready to film.

An impressive level of detail captured by the 6D's video capabilities.
However, I did run into an issue with the recording. At various times during the film shoot, the camera would automatically stop recording on its own. This was especially frustrating when we had takes that contained perishable props and special effects that could only be done once or twice.  From what I have discovered, the issue was caused by two main factors: a file-size limiter set on the camera, which automatically stops recording if the video file reaches a certain size (I believe it's 4GB) and issues with overheating, which was likely caused by the non-stop shooting on our hot, cramped set.

Since then, the camera has held its own and travels with me on most trips, big or small. In recent days, I've learned to not rely on the camera for extended video recording session. It works much better with photography or film shoots. A camcorder would be my recommendation for event videography, which is why I recently purchased the Canon XA20...but that's another story.

Overall, my short journey with the Canon EOS 6D proved to be quite the learning experience. I know that I've only skimmed the surface, in terms of technical advantages and disadvantages, but I'm sure I'll update you with any new findings in the near future. The 6D continues to be a great option for photo and video, if the Canon EOS 5D Mark III is a little too far out of your price range. With the appropriate lens, the 6D is sharp, quick in response and features all the goodies and necessities of a professional DSLR camera.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Some of That 'New Year, New You'...Stuff.

"What makes an excellent screenplay? Is it the size of the bridges that are blown up or the number of cars that crash in the first ten minutes of the film? Or is it the characters and what they say and feel?"

Take a moment and let that sink in.

"We all know the answer to that one."

Well, hopefully.

The answer should always be 'it's the characters.'"

These quotes come from Myrl A. Schreibman, an experienced Producer and author of The Indie Producer's Handbook: Creative Producing from A to Z. This was a book that was recommended to me by a friend back in college. It was then a required text for a video production. Obviously, it holds great importance to my colleagues and mentors. However, I'm ashamed to say that I am just now getting around to reading it, as I prepare several film and video projects for production, later this year. This guide has proved invaluable to me. Of course, I'm not here to plug some random book you may or may not care about. This is leading somewhere. This is how I ended up starting my new year: nose in a book and feet to the pavement. Overlooking my poor attempt at idioms, let's move onto some recaps from 2013. Then, we'll get to what's brewing for 2014.

Still from 5 Minutes... Credit goes to Steven E. Croner and Suture Films.

It's been a while since I've made some major updates. The last time I wrote an entry, it came with the online premiere of the gory horror short, 5 Minutes... : The Director's Cut. It's over at YouTube, if you want to take a gander at it. Since that time, I've been extremely busy with different projects and jobs. In meantime, I had a chance to upload some photography stills over at Flickr. You can check those out to see what I've been up to with my (limited) free time. Most of that time has been (happily) taken up by film productions, and 2013 was not lacking in the film department.

Continuing into 2014, Shepard, the web series from Grimm Sleeper Productions and the talented Mr. Joshua D. Maley (here's the Facebook page) will wrap its pilot in the very near future. I'll provide some tidbits on my experience with this amazing production sometime next week. In the meantime, check out the website and like the Facebook page!

Jason Shepard, as portrayed by Dustin “Roz” Tichenor. Image credit goes to Grimm Sleeper Productions.
Back in November, I had the pleasure to work with an awesome cast and crew on a short called Judgement. Check out the Facebook page and give it a Like. I can't release too many details about the project, but I have some awesome material to share, once the time is right. Stay tuned for more!

Official Self Obscurities DVD box art. Credit goes to Nickel 17 Productions.
Speaking of short films, I got the chance to see the finalized film anthology, Self Obscurities. This short film series from Nickel 17 Productions and Mr. Nick LaMantia (Facebook page) was produced in the span of less than two years and includes three short films: Soliloquy, Assertions, and Confessional. I was fortunate enough to be apart of all three productions. In fact, Soliloquy was my first official film production in the Greater Pittsburgh Area! So, you can imagine how happy I was to finally receive a hard copy of the finished product. This is the part that makes it all worthwhile. Thanks again to Nickel 17 for providing me the opportunity to connect and work with such an amazing and talented cast and crew! So, what's next for 2014?

Andrew Wolf. Image by Steven E. Croner.

2013 was a great year, and this year will prove to be even better! I already have man projects in the works. At this time, I can only provide a few details, since many of the projects are in the extremely early stages of development and preproduction. One particular project will be a collaboration with the talented Mr. Andrew Wolf on a film adaptation. The project is a short film based on the play Lights Up, which is also written by Mr. Wolf. More details will surface, once we go into production in a few months.

Other projects are also on the rise. Like I said, it's too soon to release any firm details. However, I would like to take this opportunity to expand my blog beyond the boundaries of projects that include my involvement. I plan to feature projects and production companies that are local and/or small budget and deserve the spotlight. I hope to have these features complete with interviews and exclusive materials to showcase right here on this blog. I want to reach out to artists and filmmakers in the community. Help me to help you!

While we're at it, help me to spread the word about the previously mentioned people, companies, and productions. Check out the below pages, follow them, and share with your friends! They're all in place to help promote this blog and local filmmakers. Things are about to get BIG in 2014.


These are the official social media pages to my blog and related work. Also, check out my personal website, which acts as the central hub:

Next week, I'll go over my experiences with the Canon EOS 6D, as I close in on one year with this solid piece of hardware. After that, I plan to dive into a little more detail with an ongoing production. Cheers!