Canon Rumors reports about what could become a new trend in customizing your camera: hardware hacks. In past years, we saw a lot of third-party firmwares that promised to improve image quality and performance of your camera–most notably Magic Lantern, which greatly improved video performance in Canon DSLRs. But Canon compacts weren’t left out, either, and Nikon DSLRs had their own Magic Lantern counterpart. But let’s face it, every trend becomes a fad at some point, and in 2014, software hacks just don’t cut it anymore.
The next big thing coming to a camera near you could be hardware hacks, which, as the name suggests, involve swapping out hardware parts of the camera. It’s not uncommon that photographers tinker with their camera, for example when converting them to infrared or multi-spectrum sensitivity by adding and/or removing filters on top of the sensor. It’s another thing altogether, though to swap the camera’s entire logic bord. Which is exactly what Canon Rumors suggests will soon be offered for Canon DSLRs.
The site has received word that “a certain company” will soon come out with a hardware hack for the EOS 5D Mk III, which will replace the camera’s mainboard with a customized one. The benefit of the operation that will cost around US-$ 1000 will be increased dynamic range as well as better sharpness and performance when recording video. In that regard, the hardware hack promises roughly the same results as Magic Lantern’s custom firmware.
At this point, we have no idea who is doing this, when it’ll be available, how much of an improvement it will yield, and whether other camera models will also receive hardware hacks–though CR is positive the 5D3 won’t stay the only model that can be customized. Firmware hacking is already a risky thing to do, because it can potentially make your camera inoperative, or contain malignant code. But at least it’s free. Would you pay someone a whopping $1000 to tinker with the internals of your DSLR, though?
Pro Tip:We recommend that you communicate with the person that you’re photographing first to get insight as to what they want. Some headshots are more corporate oriented while others are for comp cards, actor profiles, and dating websites.
All the technical mavens that have nothing more to do than critique other folks’ photos and not go out creating great work themselves will tell you not to backlight an image. But we’re going to tell you something different–backlight as much as you want. But in the end, create a captivating photo. And though even we may tell you that it’s best to create your own light (and in many situations it really is) we don’t believe in limiting yourself just because you might not have a flash. So to create a better portrait in natural light, you can either wait for the golden/blue hour and give yourself maybe around 15 minutes or so of shooting time or you can go shooting at any time of the day–just as long as you can make the light do what you want it to.
And for that, backlighting is a very viable option.
Magic Lantern has done some incredible things with the 5D MK III. First off, they found a CineDNG RAW video codec in the camera. Then they figured out a way to capture it and record it. Then they added other improvements. But according to the latest from Planet 5D, the team recently figured out how to increase the dynamic range of the sensor. For the moment, we only know that the Mk III is going to get the sensor upgrade–and we’re still not sure about the Mk II or any other cameras. At the moment, preliminary tests are showing 15 stops of dynamic range. Previous reports stated 14 stops.
How is this possible? Well, believe it or not, sometimes the dynamic range of a sensor can be improved via firmware. For what it’s worth, years and years ago Nikon has a camera called the D200: the predecessor to the D300 and D300s. Fujifilm basically created the same camera, but called their version the S5 Pro.
From what my old co-workers at B&H Photo used to tell me, the cameras were the exact same. But the reason why the dynamic range and sensor output of the Fujifilm version was so much better is because of the firmware. EDIT: the S5 Pro also had a Super CCD SR sensor, on top of the firmware.
Now here’s the big reminder: while this is cool, it’s not always practical. You still need to learn to meter correctly in the first place. However, it’s nice that a videographer can nerf the highlights or boost the shadows a tad more. But at the same time, it takes a skilled videographer to figure out the right exposure to begin with.
Today, we continue our series of articles covering the basic terms of photography with the letter H for HDR. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and describes a photographic process during which multiple photographs of one and the same scene are taken with different exposure values, and are then merged into a single picture that shows much more highlight and shadow detail than would be possible with a single exposure.
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As you become a more advanced photographer, you’ll learn quite a bit. For example, composition can always be changed in the post-production phase–as can tilt, saturation or nearly anything else. But what you’ll really begin to see is just how well your camera’s meter works. On average, I feel that my aging Canon 5D Mk II underexposes by around one stop; in fact, lots of other owners feel the same way. And even though the camera’s meter will say that it is balanced, I find myself brightening the image by a full stop all the time. Over time, this led me to just overexpose in the camera; but it would also mean that my highlights eventually were destroyed in some cases.
Choosing Spot metering over evaluative helped at times, but not all the time.
So what is the solution?
All reviewers on the Phoblographer staff are required to be proficient in the tried and true Sunny 16. It’s how we test the metering of cameras. According to this rule: in a bright sunny scene with nary a shadow around, your f-stop will be f16 while your shutter speed will be the reciprocal of your ISO. So with that said, we mean that it will be 1/100th, ISO 100 and f16 in a bright sunny scene with barely any shadows. You’ll need to pay very careful attention to the scene and also figure out how dark and light the shadows are too.
By using this method, you can tell how much detail your camera can pull from the highlights and shadows in the post-production phase. This is known as the dynamic range. The dynamic range then can help you determine the individual color levels to give you the best image you can possibly get.
And once you know how to meter with your camera in order to get the right idea, your entire workflow will be much faster. How much faster? I’ve perfected it to the point where I can get exactly what I need in a single shot–which translates into a lot less work in post and a much less full hard drive.
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Ready for a tip that you probably never even thought about unless you’re in the video industry? In fact, they’ve had this down for years now. But first, a bit of hack history.
Earlier on in recent camera history, the Canon 5D Mk II never was hacked or had the ability to shoot RAW video. And so a company called Technicolor worked with Canon to develop what is known as a flat cinema profile. This profile allowed editors to have the greatest amount of color detail and dynamic range in the editing process. To do this, they nerfed the contrast and made the overall look of the image to be, well, flat. This is also one of the reasons why cinematographers use vintage lenses–because their contrast is much less than modern day lenses.
Modern day lenses employ a bunch of things to make their perceived sharpness even better. Besides having excellent elements, there is also typically more contrast and punchier colors. More contrast fools the eye into thinking that an image is sharper than it really is. But inherently, more contrast also makes us lose details in the highlights and the shadows. Despite the fact that modern sensors (we’re talking about five year old full frame sensors and younger) are incredibly capable, you’d be amazed at what else you can actually pull from a sky or a deep shadow.
If you’re an HDR or landscape shooter though, you might want to either adapt a very flat color profile to your camera or use glass that might be a tad vintage. For example, you can adapt old school medium format lenses to your cameras and those lenses can also usually be had for quite an affordable price. Also realize that this turns the image shooting process into one that will mostly become a post-production process.