Harley-Davidson doc: Why I’ve decided against DSLR

Anyone who visits my blog regularly will know that I’m shooting a documentary for Harley-Davidson in a couple of weeks which involves riding with a bunch of Harley riders from the UK to St-Tropez.

Over the past few weeks I’ve played with the idea of shooting the whole documentary and the H-D event in St Tropez on DSLR. Today I’ve finally made my decision and have chosen not to shoot on DSLR after all.

Anyone who shoots regularly on DSLR knows by now that they have certain technical limitations that regular video cameras do not suffer from as badly. Things like aliasing artefacts, moire and excessive rolling shutter all effect these cameras more than regular video cameras but none of those is the reason why I’ve decided against them.

As much as I like the images from my 5D and 7D I’ve started realising that somethings missing from my walk around shooting lately, something that is more important than any tech spec, shooting mode or even shallow depth of field. What I’ve come to realise is that when I’m walking around with a DSLR I’m not getting inspired as much! Let me explain…

When I go out and about with my EX1 I usually experiment with various angles, I often position the camera low to the ground and I’m always looking at the LCD watching for shots that inspire me and adjusting to perfect those shots. When I’m mobile with a DSLR though that doesn’t seem to be happening as much. Outside in the sunlight I use either a Z-Finder or an LCDVF and the only way they work is fixed to the front of my head!

I find that only being able to monitor my DSLR shots by having the camera at head height is limiting my creativity and causing me to become less inspired when shooting.

I’m hoping that the new mini-monitors form SmallHD and Marshall will change this, it really depends how portable and easy to view in daylight they are. Having one of these atop the camera with the ability to adjust them to various angles should bring back the visual feedback I miss but until I get chance to try those out I’m turning back to the EX1 for my main camera on this job.

I’m still taking the 5D and my Glidetrack shooter as well as I know there will be times when they will give me more creative options, but for this job the EX1 will remain my main walk around camera.

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7 Responses

  1. Bernard says:

    Ah yes, the fixed LCD screen is a limitation of the SLRs, not able to see what you’re shooting down low or high above… unless you have an external monitor attached.

    So choosing the EX1 definitely over comes that.
    But still Paul, that’s no excuse for not being creative ;-p
    I’ve gotten down on the floor many times to do low shots with the 5D/7D and Glidetrack. And with high shots? Well, I just have to hope that what I wanted to shoot was in frame… But usually, I’ll have the focus set to infinity and shoot wide.

    Different cameras for different purpose in the end.

  2. Ashley Scott says:

    I hear what you are saying about being locked into the 5D/7D. Actually, we love the rotating screen on the GH1 and find that using it as a b-cam on shoots with our 7Ds has been invaluable. Especially shooting at 720p60 the GH1 holds up really well- I can’t put my finger on it but there is just something amazing about the image it produces. Keep up the great work!


  3. Ollie says:

    Sounds sensible.

  4. Darren Higginson says:

    Interesting limitation that wouldn,t be apparent to the none DSLR users, having both eye piece and movable monitor does make low, high and anything inbetween shots viewable, I’m sure Canon will address this with the Mk3.
    Quick question do you convert your GoPro HD footage, if so what and how?

    • Paul Joy says:

      Hi Darren, yes I converted my GoPro footage to ProRes 422 (LT) using MPEG Streamclip

      • Darren Higginson says:

        Paul, Could you explain why you do this, I only use the footage straight out of the camera, what am I missing? All the best Darren

        • Paul Joy says:

          The main reason is because I shot at 720/60 for slow-mo and cinema tools will only conform to 25 fps once the footage has been transcoded.

          The other main reason for transcoding is because the editing app will run much faster and make editing more efficient when using a codec like ProRes over the compressed files straight out of the camera.

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