Help me spend some money! (new camera time, with a few tech questions)

Hi guys, after relocating from New Zealand to Europe, I had to sell my 550d (t2i) and lenses, moco gear etc. Now I've been commissioned to do a stopmotion spot for a production company in London and asked them to buy me a camera.

My budget limit is about 360 quid, or $600 usd.

Lenses are separate, so this is purely for the camera body, I already know what glass I want (a few of my AIS favorites).

Honestly, I'd considered just buying a used 550d again, and putting the rest toward this months rent, but this is a good opportunity for me to get some nice kit provided.

In this price range I've been looking at (all used, apart from newer models):

  • 550D - 650D
  • D5100 - D5300
  • 60D
  • D7000

But there are a few wild cards too. I'm an avid photographer too, so the more birds I can kill with one stone the better. 

How bad is the live view from Nikon compared to Canon? I know the resolution is worse, the exposure preview etc leaves a lot to be desired - but in day to day use, does anyone have experience with both?

Nikon certainly has the overall edge in image quality, I can mount my AIS lenses natively, and they are a much nicer camera for shooting stills with (if we're talking about a D7000 at least).

Additionally, I really like some of the mirrorless offerings out there, particularly by sony and panasonic (G6, GH2 etc). But from my understanding, mirrorless cameras only work in "folder watching mode" correct? That would be a deal breaker for me.

My priority is a camera for stopmotion use, but photography and high quality video (d5300 currently best dslr video quality) come in a close second and third.

Any advice Hugely appreciated!

For reference sake, here is what I did with a 550D and two AIS lenses, with a 4K output:

Harrie

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Yeah, totally agree, I find myself stopping down something crazy just to get the deep DOF I tend to like. The closer you place the camera, the shallower the DOF, even on wider lenses.

To be honest though, I'd be happy with ANY mirrorless camera that worked with DF. To me, the idea of only being able to use SLR type cameras is kind of counter-intuitive, given that you never actually use the mirror box. Especially with all of these amazing mirrorless cameras out there (sony A7s and Panasonic GH4 are two of the best all-rounder cameras being produced today).

Perhaps this will change in the future. I understand that DF has expressed in the past that this is largely due to the camera manufacturers not allowing them to use the firmware, and thus not being able to integrate them (this happened with the EOS M, or it might have been another problem, but that would have been a PERFECT camera for use stopmo corssover types, along with the nikon V1 etc, etc).

Time will tell I guess...

I reached the same conclusion with sensor size, I get better depth of field with the smaller sensor. I went from a Mitchell 35mm with remounted Nikon lenses, and I could just carry on choosing the same focal lengths. But I miss the huge depth of field and sense of scale I could get with a 10mm lens on a 16mm Bolex, so I can see how a 4/3s camera could be great for shooting miniature sets. I think the camera makers need to make them able to be controlled from a computer for tethered shooting, if they have that then the framegrabbers can exploit it.
I had decided against the high end D1 Mk II or Mark III models because they become obselete just as fast as the cheaper ones, with new entry-level cameras soon offering better features at a fraction of the cost. I got the mid range 7d as a secondhand camera for a good price ( A$950, with them selling in shops for $1300), it was a replacement for a stolen camera bought by the insurance company, and the owner decided to go with a full-frame camera instead. It had taken 3 photos, and I took 2 more to test it. The solid build is nice but doesn't really matter when it is only used on a tripod in the studio.
Probably they will have DSLRs with 4k video or built in timelapse, or mirrorless cameras will be set up for animation long before the 7d is worn out, and it will feel really dated.
Of the two films by other directors I worked on in 2012, one shot with a 7d, the other with a 600d, and there was no difference in the quality of the images or how well they worked with Dragonframe or Stopmotion Pro.

I love my little 60D, but then I've never done much more than a few test shots. Judging by the film you posted, you know what you're doing. Beautifully done, btw. Can't get over how perfect the clothing on that puppet was.

I've heard that the Panasonic GH4 has tethered operation with its latest firmware. Hopefully this means it will be compatible with Dragon Frame soon.

Thanks for the offer of help on the moco rig. At the moment I have got 4 motors working, and just waiting on some more BEDs to fit. Then wrestle with the software!

Can I ask about wide lenses? What do you consider wide? My widest is 24mm, which is nowhere near something like a 16mm cine lens. Do you use one of those ultra-wide lenses like the 10-20mm Sigma? (Sorry, hope I'm not hijacking the thread...sort of related to camera choice discussion.)
The software is pretty simple, the main thing is just setting your maximum steps per minute etc correctly so you don't overload the drivers. This is actually pretty simple. I had a stepper motor that would make weird beeping noises when it did too many steps per minute, and then it would shut down. Also, the steps per minute make doing pan and tilt adjustments easier when you set them to a speed that suits your workflow.

In terms of lens choices, my favorite focal length is 28mm. I could shoot a whole film with just that lens (and in the future probably will).

My favorite lenses are: 20mm, 24mm, 28mm, 32mm, 40mm, 50mm.

Generally not a fan of anything longer than a 50mm, or shorter than a 20mm. But that's just personal preference.

I used to own a Tokina 11-16mm 2.8. And although it was a beautiful lens, I feel like I've grown out of super wides. I'm starting to condense my lens choices a lot more now.

If I could only choose one lens on which to shoot an entire film, it would probably be a 25mm or a 28mm. If I could choose two, it would be a 20mm and a 32mm.

But a lot of this has to do with personal style, taste, and overall types of stories you're looking to tell.

For reference, the short I linked, DISAPPEAR, was shot on a 28mm and a 55mm. (I would have had a 20mm too, but they are so damn expensive for a nice one).

Hope that helps...
Harrie, can you explain a bit more about setting maximum steps per minute correctly, and not overloading the motors? (Sorry. I know we're off-topic here...)
I have adjusted the little screw-in thing on the BEDs so the motors don't fibrillate and work properly.
Then, when I was entering details in the software panel, it offered 10,000 steps as a maximum. But with the (26:1) geared steppers, they hardly moved at all. So I increased this to 100,000 steps and got some useful movement. Am I doing the wrong thing here?
Also, it offered a choice of 1 step per mm/cm/inch/rotation etc. I put it to rotation, but this didn't seem to make a difference whatever it is set at. Any suggestions?
Thanks also for the stuff on lenses. Always interesting to hear what others prefer, especially as this is where I have least experience. I've watched Disappear several times, and really enjoyed what you have done.

The steps thing is just a bit of trial and error. My steppers on the pan/tilt were not geared, but they drove other gears (I got some help from EMotimo to canabalize some parts they had laying around), so YMMV. I can't tell you what steps to enter in your software, you will have to see what works for you.

Don't expect to get any sort of realtime movement though, especially not the other axis. (pan and tilt were actually super fast for me, had to slow them down in software).

I think those geared steppers might be overkill though. I'd go for lower ratios myself. Do they get super hot when using them at 100,000?

Thanks for the kind words! It's doing pretty well. Still got my fingers crossed for a big festival, but so far the film has gotten me to festivals. I even met Danny Boyle, Darren Aronofsky, Jason Isaacs, Wes Bently. Was in a room with Laura Dern. Went to Pixar for a private tour etc, met the head of story there, the director of Brave, the Director of Monsters University.

It was a lot of hard work, but it payed off.

You can read more about it all at: www.facebook.com/HendrikusDeVaan

Well, I've bought the steppers now. They are very strong. Don't seem to get very hot, but I've only hooked them up once so far. I got them on someone's recommendation, who had evidently gone for them himself.
Yep, know about not expecting realtime movement. It's just for stopmo.

You have done fantastically with your film. It is clearly opening doors. Good luck! (Has anyone said that Danny Boyle looks like he's your dad?! Maybe it's just the glasses.)

Haha, no, you're first. We seem to be color coordinated too. That with the glasses, I can see it.

Goodluck with the rig!

Add me on facebook if you like: Hendrikus Arnoldus De Vaan, that way you can IM me any questions you have. I'll generally reply quicker via facebook messenger.

Just saw you are in the UK. I'm moving to London next year. My landlord for the apartment I have here in Budapest lives in Exeter actually.

Hey, wow, this has been a super helpful thread! I've just received a grant to buy a new camera and making the choice is so tough! I was thinking about getting a 6D but i'm glad you've addressed the full frame vs crop sensor here! perhaps just a 550D or a 60D, but if i've got the extra cash would it be worth maybe going for a 70D? does anyone use one? and its really not that much more second hand....basically I've got £1000 to spend and would like to get a body and a few lenses maybe!

And lovely film Haas, good luck!! 

TEASER - The Counsel of Owls // Mikey Kenney's Ottersgear from Laura Spark on Vimeo.

Hi!

Just get a 550D and spend the rest on lenses and rigging. The camera body is only a small portion of what you need.

H.

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