Shooting video with an iPhone
The joys of travelling light with just iOS devices even when you want to shoot video. Last week I went on a trip to Ireland for four days and I took my Sony NEX 6 with me and you know what, I didn’t use it. I shot quite a few video clips on my travels and I also did some editing of those video clips and was able to publish them. The reason I able to do this was because I had my iPad with me and also my iPhone 6. I have the latest versions of these two devices and they really did cover all my needs for the trip.
Wide range of possibilities
With my Sony mirrorless camera I do have a large number of options. I can put on different lenses and there are one or two applications that I can use in camera including a timelapse application. I love the little camera and when I was packing my bags I really didn’t want to leave it at home. I thought that it would be a perfect opportunity to get some use out of it. It has been slightly less used of late due to a very busy period at work and I was looking forward to being a photographer again. So despite being short on space in my packing of the suitcase, I put the camera in there. I did feel it was going to be necessary to leave behind my larger zoom lens unfortunately. So what did I get doing with photography and video during my trip?
Slow Motion Video
It is so easy to always have a camera with me because I always have my iPhone with me. If I don’t have my iPhone with me then is quite likely that I will have my iPad with me instead. It just kind of works that way when I am doing the charging up dance with my iOS devices. Yes I am one of those people who is not afraid of ridicule when using an iPad to shoot a video or photos. Since getting the iPhone 6 I have been keen to try out all of the facilities with the new camera app. One of those new features has been the slow motion video. It shoots at 240 frames per second and is also gives you the ability to do a basic edit so you can choose where it goes from normal speed to slow motion. You can also choose to shoot at 120 frames per second to get a different slow motion effect. The slow motion that you can get with the Apple iPhone 6 is pretty good indeed. Choose the right subject matter for your video and you are going to get a good quality slow motion video to do what you want with.
Timelapse Video Shooting
Another area of endeavour with my new iPhone 6 is the timelapse photography. Just set the device in a place where it’s not going to be moved and you have some sort of action happening in front of you. While I was away on my trip I did a timelapse video of a tractor that was spreading muck in a field behind the house where I was staying. I also did a timelapse video in Dublin airport as I was getting ready to leave the country. I used the Apple camera app and it was very easy to set up. All I had to do was to choose timelapse from the camera choices and press the button to set recording. I left it for about 20 minutes or so and came back to find that the job was done. It’s very easy to then share the video out from the iPhone. I sent it directly off to YouTube making use of the really fast Internet that my son has at his house.
Hyperlapse is an application which came out just before the iPhone 6 and the new camera app that came with iOS 8. It worked pretty well and as you would expect, it is nice and easy to set up. In fact it is so easy to setup there are only two buttons on the screen. This would make it much faster to get using. Faster than using the Apple camera app where you would have two first choose whether you are going to take an ordinary photograph, do a slow motion video or do some time lapse photography. With Hyperlapse there is just one button for starting it and another button for switching from the front camera to the back camera.
When you have shot your video you then get a choice of the speed. You can leave it as ordinary speed video or you have then the choice to go to 2 times, 4 times, 6 times, 8 times, 10 times or 12 times video speed. When you have the video speed that you require, you just choose the checkmark icon in the top right-hand corner. When using this application it becomes evident that you are shooting ordinary video which is then converted into timelapse video. This could be handy if you do want to use the standard video alongside the timelapse. Other applications do the timelapse by shooting still frames with a time gap in between. That way you don’t have the choice to go back to standard video.
It is pretty quick on my iPhone 6 to save the video once my choice was made. It can be shared to the usual suspects, such as Facebook, Instagram or Vine. I can also send it to other applications I have on my device such as the handy little video editing application called Replay.
Apple Camera App
So to get started you choose the timelapse operation for the camera at the bottom of the screen. It takes time to do this so that if you wanted to go directly into doing a timelapse and do it quickly, then you might decide to use Hyperlapse instead. When you press the button there is a little animation of a timer going around the red button which shows you that you are recording. That only other option on the screen is for choosing the front or back camera. When the recording is complete you press the icon on the bottom left-hand corner which takes you to your photos. Once again you have the various sharing options including YouTube and Facebook. There is also a small button with three dots in the middle of a circle which allows you to send your video to iMovie.
High Quality Ordinary Video
If you want to get the highest quality video, as in very smooth, then you can shoot at 60 frames per second on the iPhone. To get this setting to work you have to go to your settings on the iPhone. In the main settings you can scroll down to where it says camera. Just underneath where you can switch on the grid for the camera, you can also choose to record video at 60 frames per second. The only thing to remember with this is that it will use up much more memory space on your device. You can’t change the setting from within the camera app itself. It is now possible to send video that has been shot at this higher frame rate directly to YouTube.
Is it necessary to carry around a proper camera?
I am starting to think that it is not absolutely necessary to carry a DSLR or a mirrorless proper camera in order to be able to shoot good video. Obviously, there are always trade-offs using one way of doing something compared to another. Shooting with your iOS device is great because it is small, light and easy to carry and at the same time gives you good quality video. It’s all going to depend upon the type of videos you want to shoot. In situations where you have good light then the iPhone 6 is going to be a good choice.
Another App I will get using some time soon on the iPhone and iPad
On the other hand, there are benefits to using something with a larger sensor. It is going to be easier to get the bokeh effects that you would like to have in something more cinematic with a good camera and a good lens.
Easier to get the video onto the computer
On my Sony NEX 6 the video is stored in the AVCHD format which to a large extent is a pain in the arse. It is much easier to use the video formats directly available on the iPhone 6 and the iPad Air 2. You don’t have to worry about converting video to do the editing. It is possible to use an easier to export video format on the Sony (.mp4), but it is at a lower resolution.
Easier to upload the video to social networks
This is the big plus point for using an iOS device for shooting your video. It is so easy to take your video and to edit it and then to share it. While I was on my trip to Ireland I tested out the Replay video editing software. I wanted to do this mainly because I saw it being demonstrated at the recent Apple event. The software looks pretty good, it was impressive how fast it worked and it was kind of fun. I found that there was too small of a selection of audio that can be used with the video. There was a large watermark on the bottom right-hand corner of the videos which I would have to pay to get rid of. It was also possible for me to pay you one single fee to get all of the extra themes as well as getting rid of the watermark at the same time. In the end after using this application I felt I preferred to use software such as Pinnacle Studio or even to use iMovie to have more control over the video editing process. In any case, whichever editing software I decided upon, it was still going to be very easy to upload directly to YouTube, Facebook or in fact anywhere I wanted online. It’s not going to be the same high quality editing that you can get with an application like Final Cut Pro>, but very good for video editing on the go.
Easier for selfies
When I’m using the wide-angle lens on my Sony camera I can shoot a pretty decent handheld self video. Even though it is a very small camera I do notice the larger size and weight compared to the iPhone 6. I am even tempted to get one of those poles with a tripod mount at the end for shooting videos of myself. For video blogging, vlogging a setup like this could be just what I need.
iPhone versus NEX6
Optical zoom versus digital zoom
It is all about the glass! The lens on the iPhone 6 is tiny and honestly not going to be anywhere near as good as the lenses that you can use on a proper camera. It is possible to get extra lenses that can be used on the iPhone, but the quality is still not going to be even halfway close. There are a huge number of lenses that can be used on the Sony mirrorless cameras. When I’m using the vintage Canon 50mm lens I can get superb depth of field effects, such as being able to pull a good focus.
Variety of applications
Apart from the Apple camera application there are a huge number of camera apps for shooting video as well as for photos. Some of these applications will add effects as you are shooting and some allow you to edit the video after the fact. A lot depends on what you are trying to say with your video. Do you need to use some special effect to try and convey some specific message and do you need to do it quickly? If this is the case then the iPhone and the huge variety of applications you can choose from, is likely to give you just what you need.
There are applications which can buy from Sony and I did buy one or two even though it is not that easy to do. The applications for the NEX cameras are more for the photographer side of things than for video. I have used the timelapse application and I can recommend it because of the configurability you have for setting up your timelapse. The Apple camera timelapse is much more simple in terms of what you can do with it. So if you need to have some specific type of control for your timelapse video, then you are best to go with the application that come with the camera.
Tripod mount built-in
It is pretty handy to have a camera that has a tripod mount already built-in. On the other hand with the iPhone 6 because it is quite light and small you can use other means to put it into a secure position. You could use elastic bands to secure it to the car rearview mirror to shoot your video in the car. Even just propping the phone up in a place can be a little easier ,especially when it is in a case. The timelapse video that I shot of the tractor whizzing around the field spreading muck, I was able to set that up by leaning the phone against the window. It is also possible to buy holders for the iPhone that have a standard tripod screw mount.
Horses for Courses
All in all, it was a huge success using my iPhone 6 on my trip to Ireland and I certainly could have saved myself some carrying of my Sony camera. It is much quicker and easier to whip out the iPhone and shoot video compared to using the camera. I do find though, that when I have the camera and I am planning to use it, that it is pretty quick as it is in my hand already. I have a wrist strap that keeps the camera in a good position and ready to use. For myself I think it is quite likely that I will continue to use both systems for my video shooting. It is the case that once you know the limitations and trade-offs for each of these ways of shooting video, you can plan or make a better decisions regarding which camera to carry with you. There are going to be times when I will take one camera and that will be the iPhone 6 and then other occasions when I will have both available to use. In any case, if I want to do a multi-camera shoot it is going to be very good indeed to have the iPhone in the camera kit bag alongside the Sony NEX 6.