Video and Still Photos with the Canon 600D

Hello and welcome to Spondicious Photography website. What I plan to do with this website is to talk about my camera experiences and how I will use the new camera that I have just bought, which is a Canon 600D which is also known as the T3i. Mainly I planned to buy this camera because of wanting to have more control over the video that I can shoot. Until now for the video I have been using a Canon Vixia to shoot video. It is a good video camera and gives me good results, but is not quite so easy to set up and control. Especially things like the white balance, which I have to change when I am working with my green screen. I will still be using the Canon Vixia, so it will be handy to have two cameras to use on a video shoot.

The decision process for buying this latest camera

My son has the Canon 550D and it is a very good camera that produces excellent results. I would have bought the same camera, but I do need to have the swivel video display on the rear. This is because often I am filming myself without any help and I need to be able to see what is I’m shooting. There are not many other differences between this camera and the 600D that I purchased. Just like with using the 550D I’m also able to add the Magic Lantern software to the 600D to add extra functionality to the camera.

The camera that I looked at that I would perhaps preferred to have bought, was the Panasonic GH2 which has a very good reputation for shooting video. It has less of a problem with the rolling shutter effect, which is to do with lines that are introduced into the pictures when you do a fast pan from left to right or right to left. The Panasonic also has the ability to follow focus which is very useful when you have the subject coming towards you or going away from you while shooting video. With the Canon you would probably have to follow the focus manually and depending on the lens that could be a little bit fiddly.

There were a number of reasons which brought me to buying the Canon 600D instead of the Panasonic and the first of those reasons was the cost. The Panasonic was quite a bit more than the Canon and although the advantages of having the Panasonic were worth paying for, the funds in my wallet didn’t stretch that far. I still wonder if I should have just waited and saved up some more money. Another good thing with the Canon, is that it is possible to buy a battery handgrip which adds two more batteries so that I could have longer video shooting time. I didn’t seem to find a similar item for the Panasonic. Another influence on the purchase was the availability of lenses for the cameras, the Canon having a greater variety of lenses available. The thing with the lenses was not really a deal breaker, because the lenses that I would require for the Panasonic were actually available. The size of the sensor in the Panasonic is quite a bit smaller than the sensor in the Canon 600D and that did influence my decision to a certain extent. In some ways it was no big deal because the images from the Panasonic to a large extent were just as good, certainly as far as the video shooting was concerned. The larger the sensor is, the better the capability of the camera for capturing light, although there may be also some difference concerning the quality of the sensor and the software that runs the sensor.

Adding extra functionality with Magic Lantern

The Magic Lantern software is a free third-party software that adds quite a lot of extra capabilities and functionality to the Canon cameras. It was initially developed for use with the Canon 5D Mk 2, but was also ported to work with other cameras including the 550D and the 600D. Magic Lantern gives extra features in terms of still photography such as allowing longer exposures and easier setup of HDR photos, but where the software really excels is with the assistance it gives with shooting video. Originally the Magic Lantern software was developed in order to deal with audio problems, such as turning off the automatic gain control within the camera, so that better sound could be captured by using something like the Juiced Link preamplifier.

Once the developer of Magic Lantern had found that he could easily add these extra functions, with this software that sits on top of the Canon software within the camera, he also developed extra functionality and Magic Lantern just keeps getting better. Within this software you also get zebra stripes to help you get the exposure correct and there are also tools in there to help you set up the correct focus. It is also useful that Magic Lantern gives you an intervalometer so that you can do time lapse photography. Look out for a complete article about how I use the Magic Lantern software and what it can do.

Other photography kit

I already have a studio setup with a green screen and with lights to properly light the green screen. I have a set of LED type lights for this purpose. I also have a small LED light, the type that you can fit to the top of your camera if you wish. Generally I use that to light my subject with the light at the top of a light stand. I also have a small grey card / white balance card that I can use to set the exposure and white balance to suit the lighting. This is a very handy tool, especially because I can use it to set things right even when I’m working on my own in the studio. I also have a couple of light umbrellas that I can use with those lights or with the Nikon SB25 battery-operated strobe lights. I have one soft box which I don’t really have set up properly yet. I should really try and make it so that one of the LED lights are used for the main lighting of the subject, works with that soft box.

Sure and steady with a tripod

I have a good tripod to use for the video work in the studio, I don’t tend to take it out with me, because it is too heavy for carrying around. I prefer to travel light when I am going to shoot stills or video outdoors and to use the Gorillapod or another small tripod. I do plan later on, to buy another tripod and to use a fluid head for the tripod that is specifically designed for video work. Another particularly useful tool I use, is a monopod, which is very handy for portability and steadying the camera when it is necessary to work quickly and take still take good shots. It is not a very good quality monopod but it does the job.

Home-made video tools

I have already made a tabletop dolly and this tabletop dolly can also be used on a track. I have to make this track still. I want one that will be around a metre or a metre and a half long that I can put on top of either a tripod or a pair of tripods. This adds to the type of shots that I can take with video and can often work better than a standard panning shot. Look out for an article on the website in which I show you the tabletop dolly that I made, how it works and some example video using it.

Due to the DSLR camera ergonomics, it will also be necessary for me to build a rig for using the camera handheld for video and for getting a more stable shot. There are some that I’ve seen that are made from plastic piping which have the advantage of being cheap and there are others which are kind of like a cage. That cage type is usually made from metal and provides handles on either side of the camera. These rigs are quite good, as they also give you places that you can add extras such as lighting, shotgun microphones and even HDMI monitors. Then, on the other hand I could buy a type of rig which I seen available on eBay. This one gives you a rig which you can use the same as the cage type of rig and also can be used as a shoulder rig. This particular rig is not very expensive either and it could be just as well to buy it rather than make one. It could be useful to have one of these shoulder type of rigs that also has a follow focus unit I can fit extra, so that I could have more accurate control of the focus.

Getting set up for sound

At the moment I have a couple of ways of recording sound. I have a shure SM58 microphone which I can connect directly to the camera via the XLR cable with an adapter on the end. This works fairly well and is suitable for the interview style of video shooting with me holding the microphone in my hand. I also have the Zoom H2 portable microphone which can be used to record sound separately. This also works because within Final Cut Pro X there are fairly good facilities for matching sound to the audio track on the video. I also have a microphone which works well with the iPad or even an iPhone that I can use to record a separate audio track and matchup in the same way as I would with the Zoom H2 microphone.

At some point in time I would like to buy a video shotgun microphone. There is a Rode Video Pro microphone which could be suitable for my purposes. Then again what I would really like to get, is an XLR shotgun microphone that I can connect using the Juiced Link CX 231 preamplifier with Phantom Power, to the camera. It would also be nice to have a clip on microphone to use also.

Video photography with the DSLR

As you can tell by most of the text in this article, I am more interested in video photography with this camera, the Canon 600D. I do also expect to continue making still photographs and in particular the HDR style of photo. I will add more to this blog as I add extra equipment and take more photos and video. I could see that in maybe one or two years time, perhaps even sooner than that, if I have the cash available, I might sell this Canon 600D and go the route of the mirror-less or EVIL (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lenses) camera. I could be tempted by an update to the Panasonic GH2 or perhaps even the Sony NEX-6 which has the advantage of also having the same size sensor as the Canon 600D.