All posts by Roger Neal Photography

Australia photographer and videographer specialising in landscapes, seascapes, nautical themes, waterways, rivers, lakes, oceans, coasts - images that reflect the unique qualities of life in Australia and New Zealand. Also an imaging enthusiast, producing quality Fine Art prints and digital photo files of locations across Australia and New Zealand.

The Circus comes to town

A real, totally unexpected photo opportunity recently
occurred when the circus came to our town.

Hudsons Circus is one of Australia’s older circuses
re-invented as a family fun circus. Their acts have been
tailored to entertain families, minus some of the animal
acts that have become divisive in recent years.

Whilst in town, the owner approached our local camera club to see if any of our members would be happy to shoot
photos of the acts, which could be used in circus
promotions and on their website. Members would be
credited every time one of their photos was used.

A small group of members jumped at the opportunity to
improve their camera skills and attended performances
over three nights. The owner was delighted with the
quality of images recorded and has already started
using some of them on the circus website.

We were also asked if we could provide video clips for
future compiling and editing into different trailers
featuring various acts. I volunteered to do this as it was
an exciting new challenge for me. With my wife assisting,
we attended two performances and shot as big a range
of video clips as we could manage.

The equipment we used was my new Lumix FZ2500, the club president’s Canon video cam, a borrowed JVC video cam, and a Zoom H1 digital audio recorder. Yes we are only amateurs but we did achieve several hours of useable video footage and
audio clips – all of which the owner now has for his
professional editors to create final presentations from.

I have also been able to compile and edit three Trailers and a full length movie which the owner now has.

CanonLumix_compare
Side by side comparison of frame grabs of “Globe Riders” video clips ex cameras. The Canon was shooting at HD1080. The Lumix was shooting at 4k.

What were the most useful things we learned doing this
challenge?

First, set each of the cameras as close as possible to record with identical white balance. In the example above, the Canon was set to Daylight WB and the Lumix was set to 5300K WB
Second, set each of the cameras to achieve exposures that are as similar as possible and as bright as possible (even in the low light situation) without recording excessive noise.
In the example above, the Canon was set to auto exposure on ISO 6400 whilst the Lumix was set to ISO 3200, 1/60sec, f5.6.
Third, position audio recorder(s) where the clearest sound recording can be achieved. Unfortunately we did not allow
sufficient time to test this before the performance started.

The need to get these basic settings right became very
apparent during the time I spent editing the Trailers and movie. The old adage – Get it right in camera first and save hours later in editing – is certainly correct.
If I ever get this sort of opportunity again I’ll make a big
effort to have these settings right before we start
recording.

Continuous focus /continuous shooting FZ2500

Each summer members of our local camera club are invited to record the annual Surf To Surf Fun Run in Warrnambool, here in south west Victoria, Australia.

This year we had 15 members located strategically around the 10km and 6km courses. The result was more than 10,000
images uploaded to the WCCI website where
participants can download free images of themselves
in action.

This was an ideal opportunity to test the FZ2500 in a
continuous focus/continuous shooting situation.

Setting up the camera was quite easy. For Continuous Focus just set the focus switch on back of camera to AFC. Turn the shooting mode dial on top left of camera to Continuous
Shooting position and you’re ready to go!

The FZ2500 is super fast when set to continuous
shooting. Fortunately you get a choice of three Burst Speeds in the set up menu – H, M or L. H is very fast. Just touching the shutter release gives about 15 frames before you can blink!
L was a bit slow for running athletes so I stuck with the
M setting, but even this speed records about 8 frames with one touch of the shutter!

Anyway, in only 1.5 hours shooting I recorded 5,800 images. However, heavy editing reduced these files to 2,900
selections, most of which were uploaded to the club’s
website.
Using Quick Time Pro I was able to generate a very interesting time-lapse style movie sequence from the 5,800, images which runs for 13 minutes.

In our part of the world, camera clubs can enter audio video sequences created from still images, into State-wide
competitions. The 3-21 section of these competitions
requires that a sequence be exactly 3 minutes and 21
seconds duration between the first and last frames.
Here is a sample A/V made from a selection of the fun run
images.

surf-to-surf-3-21-screen

First video tests with FZ2500

Capturing the quality of 4k shooting was one of my main
reasons for investing in this camera, so naturally I had to find a relatively difficult subject to test it on.
A local vantage point offering views of the southern ocean across various rocky reefs was the chosen location.

Having chosen my reef for the zoom test I used Manual photo settings to establish the ideal exposure to use. I then set video recording to be 4k quality in mp4 format. The FZ2500 function button Fn1 automatically zooms the lens out and button Fn2 zooms it back in again. There are three speeds that can be
applied to these settings.
I chose Medium speed then recorded about 30 seconds of footage.

Next, I wanted to try the slow motion feature. To do this the video format is set to mp4[LPCM] at 1920×1080 quality. Luckily for me a cray fishing boat happened to pass by about 1km out to sea, just when I was ready to start
recording. After manually zooming and focusing the lens to frame the boat properly I tapped the Video record button and filmed for close on 25 seconds.
Hooray, first time success!

It was really exciting reviewing my clips on the computer when home again. I can’t wait to get out again and shoot more clips.

Click this thumbnail to view results of these tests.
(Link will open in new window)
fz2500_zoom_slowmo

First impressions – FZ2500

Supplies of this new camera in Australia are very limited at present. Available only on pre-order basis, so I was really
excited that my copy turned up just one week prior to
Christmas – thank you Santa.

What an awesome amount of menu choices and buttons to
select from. At my age remembering what-does-what and where to go, to access some of the features, is really testing my memory.

Naturally, 4k video settings were my first choice. Well… tap the Menu button, select Video Menu, tap Rec Format – great, four choices (AVCHD, MP4, MP4 [LPCM] or MOV). For now I have chosen to go with MP4 [LPCM] as this gives me access to Variable Frame Rate (VFR) which is where I can set 120fps to shoot slow motion sequences. Trying many combinations of Rec Format and Rec Quality it took me three days to achieve this! By the way, the shooting mode dial also needs to be set on Creative Video mode (creativevidmode) to find the VFR setting.

Shooting still photos in either jpeg normal, jpeg fine or RAW is more straight forward.
Wow, this camera is lightning fast at focusing onto your
subject. Watch out if you shoot in Continuous Shooting mode – a slight touch of the shutter button results in +/- six frames
being recorded. My first heavy touch captured 15 frames
before I could blink!

If, like me, you prefer to shoot in RAW, processing files from the fz2500 is problematic. Panasonic’s SilkyPix Developer Suite can be downloaded for free (here) but I found it a bit ‘clunky’ to use with its best quality export option being a Tiff file (no .psd option).
Next, I downloaded the latest Adobe Negative Converter
version 9.8 to convert RAW files to .dng format (which
Lightroom will open), BUT, this does not recognise fz2500 files – yet!
Wanting the best option at the least cost I signed up and
subscribed to Adobe’s Photoshop/Lightroom Photography
Creative Cloud option (USD$9.99 per month). Photoshop recognises fz2500 RAW files, which allows me to process them the way I want to.
I also have another option which is to use On1’s Photo 10 which is installed on my MacBook Pro. This gives me
exceptional flexibility and amazing processing options but
results are often not as subtle as when using Photoshop.
I hope to upgrade to the RAW processing version of this
software sometime in 2017.

Equipment I use

Up until December 2016 my go-to equipment has been:
Canon 650d DSLR.
Kit lenses: 18-55mm and 55-250mm.
Metz 50-AS1 Flash gun.
King wireless ETTL Flash trigger.
Weifeng tripod.
Various lens filters, shutter release timer and Swivi S3
foldable viewfinder.

This gear has allowed me to indulge my passion for
shooting still photos with the added advantage of being able to learn new video recording skills.

Recently I find my photo interests turning more and more to shooting video clips and editing them into short movie
memories. Having recently sold some disused camping gear I have purchased a new camera which will enable me to improve my video and movie making skills in ways only
previously dreamed of.

The new camera is a Panasonic Lumix FZ2500, which comes with an amazing degree of video capability in a
relatively inexpensive package.

In future posts I will be sharing my learning experiences and samples of work produced using this camera.