Mark Vargo, ASC

Unleash Your Creative Potential!

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Works Well!

Here's the system for the sports video and I'm very pleased with the results. Keep in mind that
many of these are made with smart phones. If I could, I'd rent a phantom and make a huge
deal about the project and then before too long I'd be sleeping in the guest room. Guess I
need a real job. To repeat - the bracket holds a wide shot and a tight shot. Below - are two
examples of the shots I'm getting from these two cameras.

Routine test renders surprise result!

I almost didn’t do this test because I pre-assumed what the results would be!

High school sports “skills” videos are what every student athlete needs these days in their quest for a scholarship to University.
My daughter is a junior and a varsity volleyball player here in Montana. Volleyball is a fast game and very difficult to get close
enough for a dramatic hit and then wide enough to see the results all in one shot. You could probably fake the results through
editing, but I don't do that sort of thing.

So I designed a simple bracket that I can mount two cameras on. One would be for a wide shot of the whole court and the other -
a tight shot of the net area where my daughter, an “outside hitter”, plays.  The rig would be set up behind the baseline of the court.

Although a bit heavy, my 70D with the 70-210mm 2.8 lens would be my first choice for the long lens camera. After thinking about the
value of that system being taken out by an errant volleyball I decided to dust off my trusty Canon XA-10 and do a focus and size test
between the two. After taping a five dollar bill on the wall and lighting it for a wide open exposure, both cameras were zoomed in to
fill the frame. The XA-10 needed to be a foot closer to approximate the 70-210’s max size. That was my first surprise - I always
assumed the camcorder zoom lens would be longer. Both cameras were set to the highest picture quality and at 60 fps for potential
slow motion and optical flow treatment.

Next - import the footage into Final Cut X and then a quick side by side review.  Then for fun, blow the two tests up 25% to
see how badly the image quality deteriorated. I never got that far.The XA-10 shot looked much sharper and tonally better than
the 70D! I double checked my labeling – had I mixed up the cards? Nope. So I reshot the test and got the same results.
Had my wife dropped the 70-210? Was the chip misaligned in the 70D?


Was the lens flange tweaked?


Next stop – our superb camera store. BOZEMAN CAMERA is an amazing store given the size of our community.
It’s a well stocked facility complimented by factory trained Nikon and Canon techs in the repair department. They
also have a lens collimator to ascertain just this sort of problem. First thing the tech did was put the lens on a brand
new 70D and shot a still of a focus chart at 2.8. He looked at the playback and then enlarged the image, studied it
closely and proclaimed , “There is nothing wrong with this lens, want to sell it?” Indeed, the focus chart was tack sharp.

I should have brought my camera body along but didn’t. So now I have to check the camera body in basically the
same way, but in still mode first. And the results were good, the lens looked great in still mode. I had to change from
the $5 dollar bill to a real estate advertisement because Photoshop won’t let you import and manipulate US currency.

Here is the focus test still photo from the 70-210 lens and 70D camera body:

This is the test photograph of a very small ¼ page ad that’s in black and white for tonal consistency between
the still and video formats. As you can see, the tiny type is very sharp. Camera and lens check out in the still
photo mode and that’s very good news! Next, reshoot the video side-by-side test with the same real estate ad. 

Look at it closely.

To my eye, everything about the XA-10 clip looks better, type is sharper, grass – though never sharp to begin with, resolves better
than 70D clip. And what isn’t evident in this side by side is how much noisier the 70D is compared to the XA-10.

I never would have predicted the results of this test and in fact I almost didn’t even shoot it. The XA-10 has a great reputation
and cost $3K when I bought it, no slouch for sure. But compared to a fine camera in the 70D and one of the sharpest and priciest
professional lenses out there, you must admit – this routine test rendered a surprise result!

In the end I’m happy, because the XA-10 balances well on the bracket next to the Lumix.

I start shooting with this new rig very soon, (after another test or two!)


If you hear about a gallery opening, a workshop at school a guest speaker of interest somewhere in your town try to attend these events. It will be worth your time and I promise it will help you get ahead!