DSLR Full-Manual (avoiding flicker) extremely confused.

I've been reading a lot of threads in a lot of forums, and I'm still flabbergasted about how complicated this topic is to fully understand. I'm hoping someone with experience can help clarify the "digital lense flicker" epidemic for me. I'm looking to buy a camera, but I'm frozen with too much panic and confusion to make that move just yet.

#1. Is it really true that all DSLR cameras simply don't allow full manual control over focus, aperture, ISO, and shutter speed? There are absolutely no settings that could be changed to allow full manual control over these things?

#2. OR - is it the digital lenses that cause "flicker"? Same as above: is there absolutely no way to just flick a switch that would tell the lens to stop messing about and just surrender control to the photographer? This seems crazy to me.

#3. Shouldn't the settings of the camera (body) be able to force the lens to stop auto adjusting, and just keep the manual settings that the photographer chooses?

#4. I'm looking to get a Cannon Rebel T3i or a Cannon 60D soon. (I need the full HD resolution, otherwise I'd be looking at a T1 or T2, etc...). I'm nervous to buy anything, because I'm unsure exactly what else I need to even be able to use it. lol... Apparently the lens socket is EF-S, which I've read is backward-compatible with SLR lenses, and still compatible with EF lenses. I read here that SLR lenses don't have the flicker problem, so does anyone know for sure if I could use an SLR lense on this camera, and if it's also true that SLR lenses don't create flicker?

In general, I'm simply overwhelmed with confusion about why the only solution to avoid flicker caused by digital lenses seems to be to get a Cannon body, a fotodiox lens adapter, and a Nikkor lens... Why is this the case? Are the big studios that film animations like Box Trolls and Coraline and Corpse Bride needing to do this as well, or is this just a problem with consumer-grade DSLR cameras? It just seems so silly to me that this is even something to worry about. In my mind, I'm finding it hard to accept that there isn't a way to turn all these auto-features off, and - bing - problem solved. 

I'm just having trouble understanding how to get around the issue in the least complicated and least expensive way, despite reading an overwhelming amount of information on this "DSLR Flicker" topic for weeks. Any clarification would be greatly appreciated.

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I use a Canon 60D from several years ago. It has full manual control. My first couple animation attempts had flicker, until Nick Hilligoss gave me some advice. I adjusted my exposure time to be a bit longer.

Flicker can be causde by any number of factors. The undetectable-to-human-eye flicker caused by AC power, digital lens weirdness, washing machine running while shooting your animation, etc. The longer exposure seems to have worked perfectly for me. You obviously need to adjust f-stop and exposure together until the image is what you're looking for, but it's easy enough. 

Pretty sure there are other solutions, but I'll leave that to the experts!

Pretty sure Nikon lenses are not compatible w/ Canon.

I'm kinda in the same boat. 2 of the simplest ways to avoid flicker I've found is to wear black and stay iin the same spot behind the camera when I snap the pic.



Jack Liddon said:

I use a Canon 60D from several years ago. It has full manual control. My first couple animation attempts had flicker, until Nick Hilligoss gave me some advice. I adjusted my exposure time to be a bit longer.

Flicker can be causde by any number of factors. The undetectable-to-human-eye flicker caused by AC power, digital lens weirdness, washing machine running while shooting your animation, etc. The longer exposure seems to have worked perfectly for me. You obviously need to adjust f-stop and exposure together until the image is what you're looking for, but it's easy enough. 

Pretty sure there are other solutions, but I'll leave that to the experts!

Yes, I'm specifically concerned about digital lense flicker (weirdness). To me, that seems to be the bigger hassle, next to AC power fluctuation. I would hate to have flicker happen due to the lens. That's not acceptable. There's already other factors to watch out for.

But, a longer exposure worked for you? Were you using the stock lens, too? Or did you do the hybrid frankenstein Cannon with a Nikkor lens thing?

Thank you for that tip btw... that gives me some hope that I might not have to do the frankenstein thing after all. :)

Nikon lenses are compatible with Canon cameras, do a quick search on here, you need a suitable adapter, mine cost £4 from ebay and is great.

Ed Riccardi said:

Pretty sure Nikon lenses are not compatible w/ Canon.

I'm kinda in the same boat. 2 of the simplest ways to avoid flicker I've found is to wear black and stay iin the same spot behind the camera when I snap the pic.

You're quite welcome. Just passing on info I acquired here.

As for lenses, I used the stock lens. Haven't had to do anything else all that difficult other than longer exposure. I wouldn't even know how to do the Frankenstein thing. Although, Dragonframe sells some kind of lens cap thing that is supposed to fix Live View problems on Canon lenses.

https://www.dragonframe.com/store/EOS-LIVE-VIEW-CORRECTION-CAP.html

Yes, the big studios are using Canon bodies with manual Nikon lenses.  I think it was Corpse Bride that started that.  Canon sensors gave better image quality at the time.

Canon mounts their lenses closer to the sensor than other makers, so it works out that using an adapter moves the other lens out just to where they are designed to go, and the focus is exactly where it should be.  So several other lenses are compatible, using an adapter.  I have 2 Nikon adapters and one Olympus adapter, all from eBay, at around $10 - $12.

why not Canon lenses?  Because they do not have an aperture ring on the lens itself.  This is also true of the kit lenses that come with Nikons, but not the older manual Nikon lenses.  The Canon lens relies on the camera to tell it how far to open the iris, which means it needs to be fully connected with the electronic contacts.  

Still cameras, like the 35mm film SLRs and today's DSLRs, open up the iris between shots to give you a nice bright view through the viewfinder, then stop the lens down at the instant you press the shutter.   This works fine for stills, but it may not fully stop down to exactly the same every time.   16mm and 35mm movie cameras do not do this, when you stop the lens down, it stays stopped down to whatever you set it to, like f-16 or f-11. This makes the view a bit darker, but it means the aperture remains exactly the same for every frame.   So we need to disconnect the lens enough to disable this function.  With a Nikon lens on a Nikon body, I just partly unscrew it, enough so the little lever on the camera can't reach the tab on the back of the lens to open the lens up.  With  Nikon or Olympus lens on a Canon body, and an adapter, using the adapter disables the electronic functions, so it does the same thing.  I believe you can also set the aperture on a Canon lens, then partly unscrew it, and make it stay the same.  But I don't use Canon lenses so I haven't tried it.  

You do need to put all settings to manual, which you can do.  The Canon's little pea brain wants to make each single image as good as it can, and Canon start from the premise that the operator doesn't know anything and needs to be guided.  But it doesn't care how each image matches with the ones before and after, because it is a still camera.   You have to take control.  But that's ok, you can.

You also need to avoid casting a shadow on the set, or having the monitor shine light on the set with you standing in front of it a little different each time, or light bouncing off your white T-shirt, so dark clothes and watching where you stand are worth doing.

Long exposure fixes the flicker caused by the rapid flickering of fluorescent lights.  They flicker many times during an exposure of half a second or more, which smoothes it out. 

The other cause of flicker, uneven AC power, makes the lights get gradually brighter or darker as the voltage goes up and down.  It's too slow for you to see, but when shooting a frame at a time, these slow changes happen between one frame and the next, so you get flicker.  It isn't the camera's fault, it is faithfully recording the changes in light.  If you have uneven power, you need to regulate the voltage to fix that.  I had to get a double conversion UPS to make my studio usable.  It converts AC to DC, charges a battery, then converts back to AC.  It drops the power by a couple of volts but stays absolutely steady.

Alternatively, most fluorescent lights don't respond to small changes in voltage.  If you stick them on a dimmer, they stay the same brightness until it drops way down, then go out.  So that is probably a good and cheap solution, provided you take longer exposures.  I had a lot of old halogen lights I wanted to keep using, so my solution cost more.

I've shot with Canon 40d, 60d, and 7d, and animated for someone else shooting with a 600d, all with lenses from another maker, and we got good flicker free results with all of those.  Also with older Nikon d40 and d50 cameras (with no live view)  with the manual Nikon lenses partly unscrewed, and that worked fine as well.


StopmoNick said:

Yes, the big studios are using Canon bodies with manual Nikon lenses.  I think it was Corpse Bride that started that.  Canon sensors gave better image quality at the time... [//snip//]

Thank you very much, Nick! That really helped me understand this a lot better.

Roughly a year or so ago I was watching all of your videos on build-up latex puppets, silicone mold making, etc. Those videos proved to be invaluable for starting to learn puppet fabrication. Thank you for taking the time to make those. I've referenced them quite often along my stop-mo quest. :)

I'd like to double check a few points, and maybe get some feedback about some of the things I'm looking to buy. I'm ready to make the jump, but I want to make sure I'm getting the right tools for the job, and not overlooking anything.


My budget is $600. I can probably go a little higher, but I'd rather not. Bare minimum, I need a Body, Adapter, Lens(es), and Ac Power adapter. If I can still afford it, I'd like to get a camera case, and a heavy tripod with smooth movement. I have a really crumby tripod though, so if the budget won't allow it, then I can still make do for now.


#1. Camera Body: I'm looking to buy a Canon T3i New, but a photographer friend would also sell me his old 60D used. The sensor on the 60D is better for low lighting, which I will probably be using a lot of, but my biggest concern is the wear on the sensor. He likes to do a lot of burst photography, and has been using the camera at least every other day for about 2-3 years. I plan to put a lot of mileage on whatever camera I get.

If I did go for the T3i, I want to get the best bang for my buck. Would any of these bundles be practical or useful for my purposes, or would it just be a lot of extra stuff I would never use? Specifically the lenses... They look prime to me. Could I use those without worrying about flicker? Or is the flicker an unavoidable side-effect of any Canon-Canon combination?

REBEL T3i Bundle #1
REBEL T3i Bundle #2
REBEL T3i Bundle #3
REBEL T3i Bundle #4

OR... would make more sense to just buy the T3i body by itself? If I can't use any of the lenses, then it seems silly to have them. Still, it seems like buying a bundle like that costs almost the same as buying the body new, so... I'm a little torn about that, unless I can find a body for a lot cheaper.

#2. Adapter: I'm looking at this adapter because it seems to be the most highly recommended. I'm a lot more comfortable buying metal than plastic for something like this as well, otherwise there are quite a few cheaper ones for much less. Then again, there might be a cheaper alternative that's also metal, but I don't know enough to find one yet. haha.

Fotodiox Lens Mount Adapter

Also, I can only find "Canon EOS to Nikkon Lens" adapter... I don't know what type of Nikkon Lenses will work with it though. Are Nikkons universal, in that I can use any Nikkon Lens with an adapter?

#3. Macro Tube: Something else I'm interested in that might save me money for the time being is a Macro Tube. Something like this could allow me to use a single zoom lens (18mm-55mm) and I could still get a nice shallow depth of field with it. I'm looking at this one...

Fotodiox Macro Extension Tube

The biggest question I have about this is: What order would I assemble this in if I use a Cannon to Nikkon Adapter?

Canon Body > Canon Tube > Adapter > Nikkon Lens

OR

Canon Body > Adapter > Nikkon Tube > Nikkon Lens

The second big question is: Would this serve the same purpose as an adapter, in that it would separate the lens from the body and "disconnect" it. If that is the case, could I get away with using a Macro Tube and stock Cannon Lens and not have to worry about flicker? I only ask because that would probably be the most affordable solution if this started getting too expensive.

#4. Lenses: To zoom or not zoom, that is the $200 dollar question. Would an 18mm-55mm zoom lens, combined with a Macro Tube, get me close to the same look as using a prime 24mm, 35mm, or 50-55mm macro lens? If so, that might be my best (less expensive) option. Whatever the case may be, I know I'd need a 24mm wide angle lens to get my whole set in view, 35mm because I like what Burton pulled off with those in his old films, and 50-55mm for closeups. I'm assuming these would all need to be macro as well. 

Trouble is, I don't understand what kind of Nikkon lenses I would be limited to. My research says SLR, AI, AIS are my best choices, is that correct? Or are there other lenses I could use as well? Also, same as what I was asking above about the adapter - Are Nikkon lenses universal, or would I need a different adapter depending on the lens?

I haven't picked out any lenses yet, because I'm still not 100% certain about what I'm looking for. They all look very expensive, too, and that worries me.

I could probably squeeze my budget up to $650 or $700 if I had to, but we'd be eating soup and cheese sandwiches for a couple weeks, and the wife already has a miniature forest growing in her kitchen at the moment. :D

First, the AC adapter - Canon charge very high prices for the genuine article, but you can get a cheap knockoff, with free shipping, at eBay.  just check which AC adapter suits the camera model you are getting.  I got this one for my 7d, after testing one that someone else got for their  60d:     http://www.ebay.com/itm/AC-Power-Adapter-for-Canon-ACK-E6-EOS-60D-7...  The genuine one for my camera was around $140.   

I'm not so sure about the Rebel range, they aren't called T3 here, more like 600d or 650d, but they do use a different AC adapter to the mid- and high-range models.  Here's the cheap adapter for this range:    http://www.ebay.com/itm/AC-power-adapter-f-Canon-EOS-550D-600D-650D...

One thing - when you switch the camera on with the adapter connected, it says something like, "can't communicate with this battery - do you want to use it anyway?"  Just say yes, and it works fine.  With the genuine Canon adapter you wouldn't get that.    Not quite as evil as my inkjet printer, which can detect a 3rd party ink cartridge and refuses to work with it, but I'm sure they are working on that.

Second - the lens adapter.  You want the simple ones, which are cheap.  There are fancy ones with electronic connections so the camera can control the lens, but this is exactly what you don't need, so don't go that way.  That's if you get a lens made by another camera or lens maker, with full manual controls on the lens itself, for focus, aperture, and zoom if it is a zoom lens. My adapters look something like this one:      http://www.ebay.com/itm/Nikon-Lens-to-Canon-EOS-EF-Mount-Adapter-60...

All the AI and AIS lenses have the same mount on the back.  In addition,  my 3 Nikon lenses have the same size thread on the front, if I want to put a filter on.  My old Olympus lenses are all different in front, so  filter or lens cap only fits one lens.  

Olympus changed their mount when they went digital, so I would imagine the old OM mount lenses would sell for less than Nikons, which are still usable on the new digital SLRs.  There are also 3rd party lenses with Nikon or OM mounts.  The adapter for $6.35 including shipping:   http://www.ebay.com/itm/Olympus-OM-Lens-to-Canon-EOS-1100D-650D-600...

I originally went with Nikon because they kept the same lens mount they had used for years on their film cameras, so when I switched to a Canon body it was a no-brainer to get a $15 adapter and use the lenses I had already bought.  When I later found that there was an Olympus OM adapter for the Canon EOS, I got one for my old Olympus lenses.  I only use one, a 35 - 70 zoom, to cover the  range in between my Nikon 28mm and Nikon 55mm Micro (macro) lenses.  So for you, getting a Canon at the start, it isn't such an easy choice.

Stick with AI and AIS Nikon lenses.  I've read that are a couple of older types that can cause problems.

Apparently you CAN set the aperture on a Canon lens electronically, then there is some other button you have to press (but I keep forgetting what it is) and then you partly unscrew the lens to isolate it.  But for animation, I would much rather use non-Canon lenses with the aperture ring on the lens barrel.  It does make some sense to have one Canon lens for general purpose photography - I often use the  18 - 70mm kit lens on my NikonD70 for that, but I never use it for animation.  I got one lens, an 18-55mm, for my Canon body, but after one test shot, I've never used it since I prefer the Nikon for general photography.

Macro extension tubes:

I got a set of 4 extension rings for my Nikon.  I used the smallest one once or twice, but normally I don't need it because my 55mm is a macro lens anyway. Also, by shooting large images I can crop for a closer view if I need to.  Plus, the sensor is smaller than a 35mm  film negative, so there is already a crop factor of 1.6.)  If I used it on the Canon, I would attach the extension tube to the Nikon lens, which it would fit, then the Lens side of the adapter to that, then the whole thing to the Canon body.  If I had a Canon tube, I would put the tube on the camera body, then the adapter, then the lens.

Good question, would the extension tube disconnect the electronics?  Need to go check.

Ok, this set for Canon is like my Nikon tubes, it does not have an electronic connection.   In practice, you will probably only want the thinnest 9mm one, but they always come in sets.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Macro-Extension-Tube-Set-for-Canon-600D-550...

 Here's what they say:  "NOTS:There are no electrical contacts in the extension tubes. Exposure has to be adjusted manually. Aperture control is not available if you use a lens which does not allow you to manually adjust the aperture (without an aperture ring)."  So you want a lens with an aperture ring, which canon lenses do not have, but it has a canon mount... ?  But maybe a similar work-around, where you set the aperture on the lens, then take it off, put the extension tube in, then the lens back on, maybe that would keep the aperture where you set it?  I don't know since I don't have to do this.

Those Rebel T3i kits:

Bundle No 1 or 2 - they are including filters and additional lenses that go on the front of the lens, which is not the preferred way  as the extra glass can reduce image quality a little.  Didn't bother looking at 3 and 4.

What you really need for animation:

Canon body

Tripod  (Cheap will do, just don't bump it!)

AC adapter

Lens and adapter to fit Canon - could be a zoom, if that saves you money, but should be manual.

A memory card, the camera may not want to work without one in it, but you won't be saving to it when animating so it doesn't need to be big or fast.

A frame grabbing program (Dragonframe for PC or Mac, Stopmotion Pro for PC) and a computer.

Lenses:  There is a risk buying lenses from eBay.  I got my first Nikon lenses second hand, but at a camera store where I could put them on my body and see how they looked.  Later I got a 24mm from eBay USA, it was far cheaper than they sell for here, but does have a sticky iris.  It takes 10 seconds to stop down after you press the shutter, which means it is useless for still photography used in the normal way, it just wouldn't get there in time.  But for animation, I stop it down at the beginning and it stays that way all the time, so it isn't a problem.  So I was the right buyer.  Here is a 24mm at twice the price that I would NOT buy, if you read the details about condition:    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Nikon-Nikkor-AI-S-24mm-f2-8-Lens-24-2-8-AIS...

Here's a 55mm micro at $79:    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Nikon-55mm-f-2-8-Micro-AIS-Manual-Focus-Len...

I checked out Olympus OM lenses as well:

28mm at $45:   http://www.ebay.com/itm/Olympus-Zuiko-OM-Auto-W-28-mm-F-3-5-MF-Lens...

There are plenty of 50mm lenses - they are the standard lens that came with every 35mm camera so there are lots about, they are good lenses but usually pretty cheap.

A 28mm OM at 45 pounds (in UK), US $75 approx:   http://www.ebay.com/itm/Olympus-28mm-3-5-G-Zuiko-Prime-Lens-OM-Moun...   This one points out they can be used with adapter on digital cameras, but that is true of all the OM mount lenses.

Another long wordy post, hope it was of some use.

StopmoNick said:

...[//snip//]...

Another long wordy post, hope it was of some use.


Very useful all around! Thank you very much. I couldn't have expected to get such a detailed response, and it's exactly the sort of information I needed.

I'm a much more visual learner, so if I can't see it in front of me to process it, I do need to be able to read enough info to grasp it slowly and thoroughly. So I'm very grateful that you've had the patience to explain this to me in detail. I truly appreciate it.

I think I'm finally ready to buy some equipment. :D

Super excited!

I bought a t3i and a couple of Nikor prime lenses with adaptors and the only flicker I get comes from my lighting set up and where I position myself for each shot.

The sensor is fantastic in low light, I dont have a problem with it, I havent tried the higher end cameras tho so cant compare the sensor. As you are shooting stopmo you will be able to shoot at long exposures.

I also use the kit lens that came with my older 1000d and disconnect the contacts by twisting it till I hear the electrics disengage, I only do that because I havent bought a wide angle lens yet. 

I would definately go for a 50mm or 55mm macro and a 28mm or 35mm wide prime as has already been said.

The T3i also shoots hd video, with the magic lantern hack you get about 60fps also which can come in handy.


Jahooli said:

...[//snip//]...

The sensor is fantastic in low light, I dont have a problem with it, I havent tried the higher end cameras tho so cant compare the sensor. As you are shooting stopmo you will be able to shoot at long exposures.

...[//snip//]...


Awesome, That's great to hear. Would you have any photos taken with the T3i in low light that I could take a look at to see?

I'm hoping to get a 60D, or I'm even seeing quite a few affordable 7Ds on Ebay, but condition and click mileage is the biggest deciding factor. If I can't find one of those in time for my shoot, then I'm definitely going for a new T3i.

Thank you for that info. It's very helpful to me.

Oh shucks... I guess I have another important question...

Lenses: Macro or not macro... Apparently I thought macro was just any lens below 50mm, but I'm starting to think maybe not.

So, as I said earlier, I want to get a 24mm or 28mm, a 50mm or 55mm, and a 35mm or a zoom that's around 24mm - 55mm more or less. Basically a zoom to cover the range between 24mm and 55mm with a little less and a little more range for experimental "artsy" kinda stuff if I'm feeling crazy. haha.

So, the question is: Do I want ALL macro lenses?

Ebay has some great prices on some good lenses, but I have an itchy trigger finger since I got my check in the mail today. :D I almost bid on $35 50mm lens until I saw it wasn't macro, then I googled and learned there really was a difference. So what's best for Stop Motion? Macro, right? All the way?

I promise, I will get this eventually, and hopefully someday I can be helpful to other slow people such as myself. haha.

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