Thursday, April 24, 2008

Welcome to the Darkside


Yes, it's happened. I went over to the Digital Darkside and got myself an HD-capable Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50. I learned from The Maz (Kelley Mazurowski) that this camera is great for shooting in HD. Also, it can be had for chicken feed! I found mine for $375 on Ebay, almost brand new. The seller said he had taken it out of the box and shot a few tests, then repackaged it and ebayed it right away - I suspect because of the well-known low-light problem the fz50 has. It doesn't perform well in low-light situations..... for this reason people do tend to buy them and then sell them off fairly cheap, which is a boon to us stopmotionistas. In our controlled-light environment we never need to worry about that particular problem. I ran across a few even cheaper, but from stores I don't trust, with names like Value Digital or Online Camera Store. Stay away from those deals that seem too good to be true... they usually are!

It's almost a DSLR... or rather it's what's known as a DSLR-like camera. Kel is in fact the one who posted about these vunderkams some time ago - LIO posted the info on his Digital Still-Cam Overview page. That monster lens.... no, it's not interchangeable like a real SLR lens, but it's a thing of absolute beauty... called a Leica lens - it's supposed to be excellent, and capable of everything from macro closeups to extended telephoto range. If that's not enough you can also buy add-on lenses to increase the range even tighter and farther. I had to also buy an AC adaptor, wired remote trigger, and an 8 gig SDHC card to store all those beautiful high-res images on {NOTE.... 8 Gigs is complete OVERKILL!!! You should never need more than a 2 gig card, maybe even less}. Just to archive the info while it's still fresh in my mind, I'll drop it in here. My research indicated you need a Panasonic card.... and that a Class 6 is the fastest for downloading to the hard drive, so that's what I bought. Also you want the more expensive Panasonic remote, rather then the cheap Chinese one that apparently tend to break easily. What I did was, after buying the camera through eBay (the tax rebate will cover this entire purchase... thanks GW!) I logged onto an online camera store and clicked up the Lumix camera, then opened the Accessories tab and found what I needed there, so it's all guaranteed to work with this particular cam.

One idiosyncrasy of this model is.... it has a live feed but it's analog.... meant to be run through a VCR or TV. That means it won't work with Dragon (which wants a USB feed) but I can run it through my Canopus Analog/Digital converter (that I've been using with my analog broadcast camera) to convert it to Firewire for Framethief. Then each time I snap off a shot on the framgrabber I also need to snap one onto the SDHC card using the wired remote trigger (so as not to bump the camera). This is a 10 MP camera (way too much for HD!!) but can also be used at 3 MP (perfect!). I'll be shooting Jpegs and then cropping to standard 1920 x 1040 widescreen size. The beauty of this is.... some time ago I realized the widescreen format would be perfect for this bar flick I'm getting ready to shoot. It's also just a format I love and want to use extensively.

Another camera that's good for stopmo is the Sony DSC-R1. I don't know much about this one, but it's also a great camera for shooting HD-ready stopmo, and can be bought nearly as cheap as the Lumix.


I finally decided to go back through all my old posts from before Blogger had the Tags, and add tags to the important ones. As a result, I've been able to post 2 new links under Resources.... Building the Radke Puppets part 1 & 2. Something I've been wanting to do for a long time now. I had to break it into 2 because the Tag Search function only shows 20 posts, and still I had to remove a few of the non-essential posts to make it all fit.


Sven Bonnichsen said...


Ryan McCulloch said...

Awesome! I just want them to have HD live feed in Frametheif and Dragon so you don't have to take 2 pictures for each frame, otherwise I'd be there!

jriggity said...

kick ass man!

welcome to hd.....its really pretty freakin cool haveing that much quality in your pictures.


Nick H said...

I tested Dragon, and it recognized my live analog feed (from spycam)via Canopus converter just fine.
It also recognized the Nikon D50 connected by USB, and took both pictures with one click.

Sounds like you have a good solution with your wired remote. As long as you have the video preview in Dragon or Framethief, you can always transfer the HD frames later. (Size is 1920 x 1080, not 1040, by the way. Probably a typo but just in case...)

So are the Radkins ready for their closeup Mr DeMille?

Darkstrider said...

Yeah, it was a typo... not used to writing that! Heh.... I was probably trying to type 640 (x 480)!

The Radkins need a little more work in Wardrobe, and I need to call the Setbuilders in to finish their job, but now there's a new excitement in the air.....

Darkstrider said...

Oh, and now I understand why the Lumix won't work with Dragon.... there's only one port on the camera that's shared... meaning I can EITHER run a cable from it to the Canopus for live feed OR use it to download pics to the computer, but not both at the same time. Oh well... small bother really.

Anonymous said...

*goes into shock*

That cccamera is bbbbeautiful.

Tennessee Reid said...

I shoot with this camera with Dragon and an analog to digital convertor. I shoot to the card then download the frames from a card reader when I am done.

Darkstrider said...

Hey Ten! I just downloaded the trial of Dragon (and I'm lovin' it!). I'm doing it the same way you are. It would just be so much sweeter if Dragon could actually download the images directly like it does with the REAL DSLRs! Ahhh well, it's still a thing of beauty.

24fps said...

Almost bought the canon 40D but decided to go for the Panasonic.

sunny kharbanda said...

Hey Mike,

This sounds like a really interesting camera setup. I have a couple of questions:

-How do you control (lock) the exposure so it stays consistent across frames?

-Is the FZ50 good at maintaining consistent manual focus across frames?

Thanks for sharing your setup. I'm seriously considering getting the FZ50 after reading your posts, but I just wanted to make sure how to get consistent exposure and focus.