Hi guys!

First of all thank you all, I learned a lot reading this forum.

I used to draw 2d game animations (flash) so I'm not a newbie to that, but I never tried stop motion with Lego or anything else, and I have several technical questions before I start doing something bigger then tests.

What I have now:  Nikon D40, nikkor-micro 55mm 3.5 (and several more non-vintage Nikon lenses for common use), Logitech 910, trials of Dragonframe and Eclipse, Windows 7. 

Dragonframe and Eclipse cannot work with my D40, even if they see it (cannot take a shot, give me error message).  Webcam works ok, I just don't like the result.  I followed setup manuals carefully, so probably D40 problem is 'cause of Windows7 and I just need newer camera? (ok, Christmas is not that far away :) It's going to be Nikon D5300 or D5500, I will use it not just for stop-mo)  So... before I order a new camera...

q1: what would I see on the screen in Dragonframe or Eclipse if I half-unscrew my lens?  Can I take shots looking at PC screen?  Adjust focus?  Does the camera screen work (on D5300 / D5500)?  Or viewfinder and remote is all I have for such case?

q2: If it's down to viewfinder... how would you set up 2 cameras, like DSLR to take a picture + webcam to actually see what you're doing?  Can't find a good description/tutorial on that.

q3: Dragonframe or Eclipse for Nikon? :)  I know Dragonframe has worse live view for N compared to Canon, and that exposure adjustment sim is not working.  Any known issues about Nikon + Eclipse?  I really like their rig removal tool (yes, I'm familiar with Gimp and can do it there, yet built-in option is nice to save time).  Not sure if I need all Dragon tools.  But the choice is actually more about better camera support (live view).

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

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Is this the old Nikon D40 from 2006?

I used the D40 when I first switched from animating on film.  Because there was no live view in DSLRs back then, you can't preview your frame in Dragonframe from that camera.  What I had to do was  fit a little video camera onto the back so it looked through the viewfinder, and use that with my frame grabber (StopMotion Pro) to grab the video images and see what I was doing.  I also had a program that came from Nikon at the time, Nikon Capture, that I used to capture the high res image from the Nikon.  I just went back and forth between the two capture programs so I captured each frame twice.  I used  little spy cam with a lens that got the viewfinder image with very little lost on the edges.  I'm pretty sure Nikon discontinued Nikon Capture and replaced it with something more expensive.  I switched to a Canon 40d for the live view.

Q2:  I couldn't use 2 cameras with one capture program, or open up 2 windows of the same capture program.  But I could run 2 different capture programs.

Q1:  Half unscrewing the lens - yes, I did that, to make the aperture stay put and not open and close, to avoid flicker.  With the lens staying stopped down, the view in the monitor is darker, so you need to compensate for the live view in DF.  The actual image will be fine because it can take a longer exposure.  But the D40 doesn't have live view, so you still won't see a video preview in DF.  You can only see the full res still image after it is captured.

Q3:  Nikons have a lower resolution live view than Canons.  DF website gives the res for each camera.  My Canon 7d has a bigger image than my 40d, and both have a bigger live view than current Nikons.  The old D40, of course, has no live view at all. 

Another option was to set up a video camera beside the Nikon, as I used to do with the Bolex.  Use a second tripod, or rig up a bar that can hold 2 cameras side by side. The frames would not quite match that way, but it did let me see how much I was moving the puppet.

Dragonframe is really meant for use with DSLR cameras with live view, so I'm not sure what other cameras it is compatible with.  Stopmo Pro was meant for a range of uses from schools and beginners up to pro animation so it did work with some others.

I thought DF could capture from non-liveview models, but not be able to show you the image until it was captured - need to check their website.

Yet another option is to use a smart phone or tablet with Stop Motion Studio on it for your previews, to see what you are doing.  I've tested it with an older iPad, and Peter Ellis did a comparison test posted here  (  http://www.stopmotionanimation.com/video/dslr-vs-iphones-camera-201...  ) in the last couple of days with 3 different iPhones running Stop Motion Studio, and a laptop with DF and a Canon 600d, all shooting the same animation.   You could capture from the Nikon if DF or Eclipse still can do that, or just take the shot with a remote cable release (so you don't touch the camera) and save it to the camera's own memory card.  Again, the perspective of the shot will be a little different, but you can track your moves which sure beats animating blind.  

Thanks a lot for taking time to explain it all, Nick!  

Yes, it's old outdated Nikon D40 with no live view.  I didn't expect it to show anything on Dragonframe screen, but it cannot even take shots for some reason.  Like it's trying but... nope.  Yes, Manual mode everywhere.  Tried with or without memory card on camera.  Cannot switch to MTP/PTP 'cause then Win7 don't see my D40, so Dragonframe doesn't either.

(couple more confusing pictures attached.  Yes, I tried to unplug webcam, still same error about D40)

Neat trick with spy cam! 

Nikon Capture - yeah, Capture NX-D is the latest version, afaik.  It's free!  Can you believe it, Nikon made something free? :)

Stop Motion Studio - yup, tried that one too.  On android phone :)  Would love that little soft, but with all buttons available.

About half unscrewing the lens - any idea if newer D5300/D5500 will have anything on it's own screen? (not Dragonframe, I mean the camera itself)

Thanks again!


I should be able to connect my D40 to DF and see what happens.  Here is what DF website says:  https://www.dragonframe.com/camera-setup/nikon_d40/  In theory can be used without live view, capturing "preview frames".  I suspect that means you take the shot, see it on screen, then delete it if you don't like it.

You want a model with Live View - that shows up on the screen on the back of the camera, and it is also what is output to the computer via USB cable which you see in Dragonframe.  My usual source for checking on camera models is DP Review https://www.dpreview.com/products/nikon/cameras?subcategoryId=camer... .  They don't know about the specific requirements for stop motion, but do cover things like live view.

Nikon D5300:  seems to be a 2014 model, and there is something at preview about it not being so good for those who want to shoot stills in live view...  don't know why, looking at the full review it does have live view.  Resolution, according to DF, is 640 x 426 pixels, which is not very big.  https://www.dragonframe.com/camera-setup/nikon_d5300/

D5500 - same small live view resolution:  https://www.dragonframe.com/camera-setup/nikon_d5500/

My Canon 40d has a live view resolution of 1024 x 680, and the 7d has a resolution of 1056 x 704.  For gauging very small moves, better resolution helps.  But I can understand your preference for Nikon - I like my old Nikon better as a camera and still use it for stills, the layout and controls just feel more like they are designed for a photographer. 

I no longer have to unscrew the lens, since I use my Nikon lenses with an adapter on a Canon body, which disables the auto control of the lens and makes it stay stopped down.  Canon body, adapter, and Nikon glass has become pretty much an industry standard for stop motion.  I was influenced by the Caliri Bros (Dragonframe) who used a Nikon and Canon side by side for a commercial.  The Nikon tended to turn itself off every so often to avoid overheating, the Canon kept going.  I don't know if that is still a factor.   

But with any Nikon used for animation I would still partly unscrew the lens.  There is a physical tab on the back of the old lenses which opens up the lens for a nice bright view, and the camera body has a lever that moves it when you press the shutter, so you unscrew enough so it doesn't reach it and the lens goes to the f-stop you set.  I suppose that would make the live view on the rear screen go darker, like checking the depth of field, but as I don't have a Nikon with live view I haven't ever seen it.  

And thanks again Nick!

That's what I thought DF would let me do with D40, but... nope.  

Yeah, I'm planning to stick with Nikon, will give a report here when I get a new camera (within 2 months I hope) and test it.  Thanks for the links!   I read about Canon body-Nikon glass standard, but it just doesn't make much sense for me to "upgrade" to Canon and not being able to use it conveniently on everyday "regular photos"... I mean, will need to use adapters for my other lenses etc.   Right now I have a couple of stop-mo projects in my head, will see how it goes from there :)  Hope overheating is something they fixed on later cameras.


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