Reuters reporter Jon Gordon is a long way from home. The Canadian correspondent has been covering tech and financial news for the financial data firms’ television unit out of Hong Kong for the last four years. Equally at ease behind the camera as in front, we asked him what was in his gear bag, and why.
Phoblographer: Tell us about your life shooting?
Jon: My very first SLR was a beat-up Pentax K1000, while my first DSLR was the venerable Canon 20D, which I used till the shutter button collapsed. With my current schedule, I have little free time to take photos for myself – so now most of my time spent using DSLRs is focused on videography for work. At Thomson Reuters, we primarily use older Panasonic P2-based cameras in the field, and Sony studio cameras for green screen work. However when aren’t on a tight deadline or we want the video to look especially compelling, we turn to a couple 5D Mk III cameras along with Canon’s newest 24-70mm f2.8 and 70-200mm F2.8 zooms.
Phoblographer: Are DSLRs good for news video?
Jon: The answer is – it depends. For run and gun, it’s no fun fumbling with lens changes, battling with audio issues, or coming back from an interview to find sparkling moiré hair . It’s also still a slow process for editing, at least on our Avid systems. But the DSLRs are definitely improving. The 5D Mk III is a big step forward. And the compact, unassuming size of the DSLR also allows you to capture footage from places can’t normally shoot, like on the Casino floors of Macau, among illegal money-traders on the Hong Kong border, or in camera-shy department stores in Tokyo.
Phoblographer: What’s your favorite lens?
Jon: These days my go-to personal lens is the new Tamron 24-70mm f2.8, simply because the stabilizer means I can get away with shooting video sans tripod. But I wouldn’t call it a love affair. I really enjoy alternative lenses – think analog heritage, vintage quality, and radioactive elements. I’ve gone through about 10 anamorphic lenses before I settling on the hard-to-find ISCORAMA 54. It’s probably my favorite, if least useable. I also collect older Zeiss lenses from days gone by. For example, the Zeiss 180mm Pentacon-Six. It’s a heavy beast, but on a tilt-to-EOS adapter its allows for some great time-lapse footage.
Phoblographer: Show us what’s in your bag.
Jon: The contents of my bag are defined by what I’m shooting at the moment, and how far I’m going. Whenever possible, I prefer to pack light.
· Bag: Small Chinese-produced sling-bag with a quick-access side zipper for the camera.
· Camera: Canon 5DIII. I am spoiled by it, and haven’t found the time to go through half the menu system yet.
Zeiss 45mm F2.8 Pancake. Tiny, lovely picture, and fits nicely behind the ISCORAMA as a wide taking lens.
Tamrom 24-70mm F2.8 VC. The workhorse. Jack of all traders, master of… some. Love the VC stabilizer for video.
Samyang 14mm F2.8 . Ultra-wide, manual-focus lens. It’s like the Eye of Sauron – it sees damn near everything.
ISCORAMA 54 1.5x Non-MC. Unwieldy. Heavy. Requires annoying close-up adapters. And can turn regular video into anamorphic Hollywood magic.
· Microphones: Sennheiser G3 system. Feeds directly into the 5DIII. With some McGyver adapter action you can get two into the camera for 1-on-1 interviews.
· Memory cards: Give me SD or give me death. CF cards may be faster, stronger, and better scented. But the convenience of SD can’t be beat for those on the run.
· Bonus round: Not pictured, but I often bring out an older Yongnuo manual flash for when I do take stills. A little light can go a long way.
Phoblographer: What’s on your camera wish list?
Jon: Smaller, lighter, faster. I love full-frame, but the 5DIII it is way too big for casual, spontaneous use. So my smartphone usually wins by default, and nobody goes home happy.
The Samsung Galaxy camera is an interesting development. I’d like to see Android on a proper DSLR, but I’m not holding my breath. At Thomson Reuters, we’ve played around with shooting an entire video using only the iPhone 5. The results look pretty good, but it was a serious nightmare to shoot and edit.
Give me a pocket-sized full frame DSLR with smartphone-caliber connectivity–yesterday.
Phoblographer: What advice would you give would-be DSLR videographers?
Jon: In no particular order: A beautiful shot is good. A beautiful sequence is great. Whether the camera is in motion or still, keep it steady. Hold your shot 5 seconds longer than you think necessary. Film great footage specifically for the top and bottom of the video; it’s the first and last thing viewers will see. Shallow depth of field is a lovely tool, but don’t beat the viewer upside the head with it. When shooting video, give every shot the same TLC you would if shooting a still.
Change up you style now and again, or you will become a walking cliché.
Think of editing plans before you shoot, not after.
Add another light. Seriously.
And for goodness sake, make video you actually want to watch!
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