Flemming and I spent Saturday night making stills and video at Zouk Singapore, for a Fujifilm Nordic video in the works. It’s the first time I’ve been to the new Zouk in Clarke Quay. When we made the promotional movie for the XF 16-55mm lens, the club was still at its original venue in Jiak Kim street.
But that hasn’t been the only thing that has changed. Our video making has changed markedly in this time too, although its biggest leap is a very recent development.
Video with the X-E3
It may not have been entirely clear, but my X-E3 promo movie that was released on Sept 6? Most of it was filmed in 4K with the X-E3. Every scene without my face or X-E3, was shot on this tiny powerhouse.
Watch it here if you haven’t already.
As an enthusiast of small, discreet cameras, the X-E3 is a dream to bring on the streets. But its heaviest impact right now? Reinvigorating my enthusiasm for video in a BIG way, by eliminating two headaches in one hit.
Shooting video with the X-T1 in 2015
It’s best put in context of the last video Flemming and I made in Zouk: The XF 16-55mm F2.8 promotional movie in 2015. It was where I walked around with what looked like sticks of dynamite stuck to a Gorillapod, in the picture below. And they still let us in. We love Zouk.
When we made that movie, the X-T1’s firmware for manual video was in pre-production, shooting video in high ISO was sketchy, and my stabilizing rig was the above Gorillapod with 3 kilos of lead (the “dynamite sticks” were my father’s fishing sinkers) strapped to it. The “stabiliser” for standing still with the camera in hand, but not for much else. Read about the experience here.
At the time, having only filmed Beyond with far less equipment and clue, it was a massive improvement. But 2 factors continued to bother me about the footage I was getting:
- High ISO footage was painful to look at. All the in-club footage used in the movie was shot at 2000 or higher. I couldn’t do much with it in post production, so being able to shoot with the Velvia film simulation was very handy.
- Stabilization, or lack thereof. Never mind moving around with the camera, getting reasonbly unshaky footage while standing still in a crowded club was a challenge.
Both the above limitations meant that I had to get a lot of footage, because 60% or more would be unusable, whether because video quality was too poor if the lighting wasn’t optimal (or as optimal as it gets in the light-dark extremes of a club), or it was too shaky to rescue.
These 2 challenges were exacerbated in a club environment, but they did present most other times.
Of both though, stabilisation was the bigger, and more frustrating challenge. There are ways to compensate for video quality limitations, but in my limited experience, unintended shake = useless footage. Bound by the practical (size, weight, budget) limitations of a travelling life, big stabilized rigs were never going to be what I’d want to carry around, or use. I’ve long been looking for a small, simple stabilising solution that I can afford, whether to buy or make, without too much success.
Then, a few weeks ago, I got the X-E3, and solutions for lightweight kits were suddenly viable.
Video with the X-E3 in 2017
4K video has been available in the X-T2 and X-T20 cameras for a little while now. With the X Trans III sensor, it was a no brainer that these bodies were going produce miles better video than their predecessors, in whatever resolution. But I don’t own either of them, so I’ve never made 4K video (and precious little 1K video with my X-Pro2) until now.
X-E3 high ISO footage
There are screen grabs of ISO 3200 (X-E3 + 18mm f2 lens) footage in Zouk from Saturday night, scattered around this post. It is unbelievably, ecstatically CLEAN. I filmed all night at ISO 2500 and above. 100% of the footage is usable, with latitude to grade in post.
Filmed in 4K, with the Pro Neg standard simulation, the picture is sharp, and colours beautifully accurate, even with white balance set to auto.
I had the X-E3 mounted on the Zhiyun Crane-M stabilizer again (covered in my original review), using either the 23mm f2, or 18mm f2 lenses. It’s ridiculously easy to balance and use.
This one combination has made discarding video because of a shakiness, a thing of the past (now I discard them because I miss focus… ah well, nobody’s perfect). The stabiliser’s maximum load is 650g, so it suits the X-E3 + small prime lens combination really well, though filming with any of the heavier primes, like the 16mm f1.4, or the 56mm f1.2 is out.
The way the camera is mounted on the stabiliser also means that the lack of a flip screen isn’t a show stopper, as the entire rig is light enough to hold so I could always see the screen.
The X-E3 promo video was shot with focus tracking enabled, and it handles the xf 23mm f2 lens so efficiently that you only notice it focus hold on the subject once in that 5 minutes. The older lenses perform markedly better on it too, though not like the 23 f2. In general, I can’t get over how fast and accurate the autofocus is on this tiny body.
I turn the touchscreen off when shooting stills, but enabled it in AF mode for this particular night, as that tap-to-focus ability was pretty handy. Having to film Flemming at f/2, it meant I could set focus on the fly with a light tap, rather than disturb the set up by pressing buttons. It’s not a big thing, but certainly one that adds to the ease of getting quality footage.
Yep, I love it
All in all, filming with the X-E3 on the little stabiliser is a real pleasure. The stabiliser takes the hard work out of achieving smooth, balanced movement, and the camera takes care of the picture. I become a decision-maker and one-who-points-camera-at-stuff. And it really is so small that no one looks twice when I’m filming, because the whole shebang doesn’t look like much more than a serious selfie contraption.
Keep in mind, that I don’t say all this as someone who is a professional filmmaker. I’m not. But I am a photographer who shoots video, and this camera (like so many others) allows me to transfer my photo skills to making video without a grinding learning curve. Vive la technology!
I’m planning to make a lot more video in the coming weeks. Stay tuned, next time there might be actual video samples posted.