DSLR Heaven – shooting with the Canon 60D

I’ve been shooting and editing films for UNICEF written and produced by my friend and colleague Natasha de Sousa for some time now. My favorite one so far has been this one. Until now I’d been shooting these on the Sony EX-1, which is pretty good. But the two new ones which we have been shooting in Thatta, Sujawal and Jamshoro over the last couple of days have been on the Canon 60D. The results from this camera have been nothing short of stunning. The details on the already extremely interesting faces of people from interior Sindh are to die for; and although they always wear colorful clothes, the colors have never looked so brilliant for me as they have in this shoot.

On the first day, I just couldn’t stop shooting, everything was looking so beautiful. We were also lucky because the village we went to was full of such wonderful people, they even sang and danced for us. I had shot a bit on Canon DSLRs before, but what really helped this time was that the 18 – 135 kit lens (yes, kit lens!) I was using has an image stabilizer on it, and because I prefer to shoot handheld, this really helped. The 50mm prime was just languishing in the bag the whole time, I think I’ll use it tomorrow morning because I’ll only be shooting an interview and thus will be exclusively on tripod. The flip-out LCD screen also really helps, I was able to get great shots by holding up the camera as high as my arms could take it at a session where teachers near Jamshoro were instructing a roomful of children on hygiene. This would have been very difficult with the other DSLRs because I would have very little idea what I was shooting. Same goes for low-angle shots, I didn’t have to lie down or be in a trench to see the action. And in the crazily bright Pakistani sunlight, having the flexibility to swivel the screen to a more desirable angle is a blessing. The on-camera mic is just fine for recording general audio, and for interviews we were using a Senheisser wireless collar mic set. In fact, when the subjects were close enough I simply attached the mic from the set directly into the camera. Manual audio controls are built-in on the 60D, I believe you have to upgrade firmware on the other models to have that feature. Focus wasn’t much of a problem, I didn’t use auto at all, and because the screen has a great resolution, it was pretty easy. Doing focus shifts and Zooms will definitely take some practice, because as these lenses are basically made for stills, they’re not smooth at all for fiddling around in-shot. But I think I actually pulled a few off, I’ll only know how successful I was when I start editing tomorrow.

Considering the total cost of the kit I was using, it’s practically nothing for the quality of the footage we got. To achieve this kind of quality 10 years ago would have been just unbelievably expensive. So being able to shoot HD video on DSLRs is giving me the same feeling that I got when I was able to listen to MP3s or watch ripped DIVX movies for the first time. This is truly a technological breakthrough.

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