Canon XH-A1 with Letus 35mm Extreme Adapter
I'll get right to the point.
I have a Canon XH-A1 and am using a Letus 35mm Extreme Adapter to get a different look and increase depth of field.
I have practiced a lot with different shots, but my shots are just not up to par with what I've seen other people do with my exact camera and same Letus adapter. My shots have a stronger depth of field, but are grainy and crappy to say the least and it's very difficult to get just the right settings to have a "okay" shot. I wonder what I'm missing?
I know things like shutter speed need to be low when using a 35mm adapter. I believe I am also setting gain and filter properly to fit the lighting/scenery. Can someone give me a little list of settings and things to check before shooting. Have you seen the youtube videos of people using these adapters? They're amazing. Maybe I'm using a crummy lens? Could that be it?
Here is exactly what I am using:
Canon XH-A1 ---attached to--- Letus 35mm Extreme ---attached to--- Nikon DX AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6G (Iris Fully Open)
I greatly appreciate your help! Thank you!
Can't say for sure what your problem is, but could make some observations... I haven't shot with your particular camera/converter/lens combo, but until moving to a big-sensor camera about three years ago I shot tons of 35mm DoF-converted footage and when done right the results could be pretty amazing.
But first of all...
[collin leslie] "I know things like shutter speed need to be low when using a 35mm adapter."
No, not at all. Your shutter speed shouldn't be any different than when shooting without your adapter. Unless you are trying for a particular effect (such as the choppy "narrow shutter" look) you should try to shoot in the "normal" shutter speed range... "normal" being the equivalent of a 180° shutter in a film camera, which is "one over twice the frame rate." Therefore if you are shooting 24fps, a normal shutter speed would be 1/48th. If you are shooting 30fps, it's 1/60th, etc. That's going to give you the proper motion blur your brain needs to interpret motion as smooth, no matter whether you are using a DoF converter or not.
Now that that's out of the way...
You said your footage looks "grainy and crappy." Grainy footage can pretty much be one of only two possible things, the converter's groundglass, or the camera gain.
I've never used the Letus, I'm assuming it has a moving groundglass (either spinning or oscilating?). If the glass isn't moving (either the thing isn't turned on, isn't getting power, or due to a malfunction) that's big trouble. I used the P+S Technik Mini35 converter (with the Canon XLH1), and although it automatically starts the glass oscillation when you trigger the camera, there was a time or two that didn't work properly and that definitely creates grain issue.
More likely though is you are shooting with your camera gain set too high... what are your settings? It should be set at zero if at all possible... and if not, still as low as you can get. And certainly never on "auto."
I think one of your issues could be your lens... it's really slow at 1:3.5-5.6 so combined with a light-eating DoF converter unless you are shoot sunny exteriors or very brightly-lit interiors no doubt you are having to jack up gain for proper exposures. I only shot with superspeed primes which are really fast (f.1.3) and even then I needed quite a high lighting level for interiors, which makes me really think you have a gain issue. When I was DoF converting I never even tried to use a zoom, the one I have is just too slow... sadly really fast real cine zooms are roughly the price of a new BMW... literally.
You didn't mention it, but are you getting depths of field that are shallow enough for your taste? If not, that's due to that lens as well. Firstly, it's quite wide... the longer the lens the shallower the DoF will potentially be, and 18-55mm is pretty darn wide. You'll really only see really shallow DoFs at, oh, around 50mm+ and you don't have much in that range. Plus with the lens being pretty slow, with it at f3.5 at 18mm and jumping all the way up to f/5.6 at 55mm, your depths of field are going to be quite deep.
So... my two pieces of advice would be to 1) check the gain to make sure it is not jacked up, and 2) try a better/faster/longer lens.
I'm kinda glad to hear someone still using lens converters... they were super cool technology in their day. Unfortunately both DSLRs and today's big-sensor cameras have pretty much killed them off. My Mini35 converter cost me $13,000 when it was new, if I were to try to sell it now I'd probably just cry, I doubt I could get $500 for it... on a good day.
Let us know how it comes out....
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Thank you so much for the detailed response, I really appreciate it.
I had one person tell me on another site that I should ditch my 2 Canon XH-A1's and try a DSLR.
I think OVERALL (when I bought the adapter) I was trying to achieve Shallow DoF without having to zoom in like crazy and also to get a richer "film look" in what I was filming. I am not a pro, but I know what I like and I've tried to do the research to figure out how to get there.
I might end up just selling everything and going for a whole new set of camera and lenses but there are so many mixed reviews.. I'm lost on what to do!
OR should I just stick with the cameras and adapters that I have and get a nicer lenses? Really not sure.
Do you have any lenses in mind that you think would do the trick?
What are your thoughts on DSLR's for video?
Well, a few thoughts...
[collin leslie] "I had one person tell me on another site that I should ditch my 2 Canon XH-A1's and try a DSLR."
That's not surprising advice. The DoF converters were absolutely amazing in their day, but that day has pretty much long-since passed now... the technology kinda falls into the "quaint" territory now. Your camera/converter setup isn't quite ideal... since you are using a converter that attaches to the front of your camera's existing lens... the result is a little cumbersome and requires a lot of tweaking to get just right, and then you still have a bit of a Frankenstein-esque rig. When I was doing it with the XLH1, that setup didn't use the camera lens at all... the Mini35 converter attaches directly to the camera body, so it was really a very self-contained rig that always stayed together and was pretty much just like using any other camera... if it had been more complicated than that, I might not have been such a fan of DoF conversion.
[collin leslie] "What are your thoughts on DSLR's for video?"
I'm generally not a fan. At all. Tons of people have shot incredible footage with DSLRs and they have plenty of fanboys... but sorry, that's just not what they were made for. DSLRs are incredible tools... but if you are primarily shooting video, they are a wrench when you need a screwdriver. If you primarily shoot stills and occassionaly need to shoot video, then a DSLR is the way to go. If not, then get a proper video camera.
[collin leslie] "
I might end up just selling everything and going for a whole new set of camera and lenses"
If you are going to ditch the gear you have, I'd go with a big-sensor video camera... there are plenty in the lower-price range now.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Thanks again T2
Your advice is so helpful.
You're right, it feels kind of barbaric to have the camera, adapter and then lens. I am hesitant to slightly move my camera in fear of it all coming apart. It's just not practical.
I'm gonna stick with my gut and your advice and skip on the DSLR.
If you wouldn't mind, could you give me some specific examples of big-sensor video cameras that you find worthy of purchasing?
Again I really appreciate your insight
Well Collin, as for which big-sensor cameras to consider...
Just some guesses, but we don't know a lot of things about you. Firstly, we don't know what kind of projects you might be using a camera for... we don't know your skill level or proficiency (although you say "I am not a pro" in an earlier post), we don't know what kind of gear (especially lenses, and other support equipment) that you already have that might help choose your next camera, and among the most important things, we don't know what your budget is.
That being said, I'll just throw some things out there...
This being the Canon forum, and me personally being a Canon fanboy, everything I'm going to mention is by Canon, and specifically cameras in the "C" line.
If the sky is the limit, you can't beat the still-to-come C300 MarkII. That might be out of your price range (the body will be $16,000), but I think it's going to be a fantastic camera (it will be our next one, it's not available for a few months).
Going one click down the food chain is the C300 (the current version). This is the camera that I shoot every day, and it's fantastic... I've been doing this 30 years and it's my favorite camera ever. When we started research for our next camera three years ago we considered everything from all the way up to to the Arri Alexa all the way down to the RED Scarlett, and on paper nothing could beat the C300... and we have been MORE than happy with it. Right now it's a bargain too... when we bought ours the MSRP for the body was $20,000, but now it sells for $7,000. Worth every penny.
Those may be overkill for you though (again, only basing this on you saying "I am not a pro"), as they are very high-end cameras. I do this every day for a living creating broadcast television commercials, so for me these cameras make sense... for someone not doing that, for hobbyists or "weekend warriors" or such, they might not make financial sense or be worth such an investment. So here's the one I will really recommend...
It's the baby brother to the C300... it's a pretty amazing camera, and the body is only $3000 (when they first came out it was more than twice that). And you can get it in an EF lens mount, so a gigantic assortment of Canon EF lenses (some of which are very affordable) are available.
Of course, there are zillions of other cameras out there now, and quite a few big-sensor ones, some of them we'd consider "low end" but still generate incredible images, and some very inexpensively these days. Unfortunately I don't really know much about those, as I usually shoot higher-end gear (that sounds snobby... but that's just the way it is... doing fairly high-end pro work for a living we tend to buy higher-end gear, only natural... and I don't really have the opportunity to get to play with some of the more budget-minded gear, sadly, because some of it is incredibly good). You might ask over in the cinematography forum, give a range of what you are interested in spending, and no doubt will get a lot of good advice from the good people in there.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Colin, I had that grainy issue from having the gain up, but using the Mini 35.
Todd, I have 3 Mini 35's all bought in last two years (I'm hoarding them) as couldn't stretch to paying what would have been $20k here in UK when they were first around. Always space for another, a most pampered live they lead.
Interesting, Alan... never known a Mini35 hoarder..ha.
Mine has been packed away in the studio for more than two years... it's the XL version with the coupling unit for Canon XL cameras.
It's heartbreaking how much and how fast stuff depreciates. When we bought the Mini35 and the XLH1, that was about a $24,000 investment. Just a few years later, they are practically worthless. I thought about selling them when we moved to the C300, but used H1's were only getting about $1500 or so, and the Mini35 even less than that. I couldn't bear to let them part for so little, so there they sit.
At least lenses (good ones, anyway) don't depreciate. We used to rent a superspeeds primes set when needed but at $350 a day it got expensive (and you had to plan ahead to book with the cine rental house) so we eventually bought our own. That was painful (a lot more expensive than the cameras themselves), but like most good cine lenses they haven't lost value, they've actually appreciated.
I mostly shoot primes but now and then a zoom is called for... I just wish those were more reasonable. They two zooms that I'd really like are $47,000 and $43,000... ouch. When I need a zoom I use my vintage Russian Foton 37-140mm. It's slow but very beautiful... and significantly more affordable.
Oops... I'm late for a location shoot... Collin I'll try to answer your camera question when I get back in.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Alan, yes, I noticed a big difference when lowering gain.
Todd, if you're not busy that would be great! Thanks
my two cents...
The XH-A1 has seen it's day... I agree with whoever said about using a larger sensor camera for this to get that nice shallow DOF.... and I also agree that using a DSLR for video if that is the primary thing you are shooting, is just silly... ever try to shoot a long form video with a DSLR? lol - I can see maybe something like a 30 sec spot or a few "talking heads" to be cut into the main production, but... anyways, I digress....
Sony has had a couple of cheap cameras now that use 1 inch sensors, and they make it both in the HD and the 4K versions... the HD version can be had for under 900 bucks... and depending on what you need to shoot, you may be ok with it right out of the box.
The camera I'm talking about is the Sony: HDR-C900 - I haven't personally used it, but a buddy of mine has one, and had been using the xhA1s cameras, and said there is no comparison...
but, there are trade offs - you'd loose XLR audio, and some other nice things, which you can buy adapters for, but again, depends on what you are trying to do...