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  • s 9:50 PM on 130215 Permalink | Reply
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    Camera : Canon vs Nikon 

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    from http://kenrockwell.com

    I’m going to to on and on below about personal experience, so feel free to skip ahead to the real differences between Nikon and Canon.Nikon and Canon are as good as each other. Each are multi-billion dollar optical companies who have been making some of the world’s best optics for numerous consumer, military and industrial applications for decades and decades and decades.
    Each makes lenses as parts of multi-million-dollar steppers used in making electronic chips with more precision anything needed for photography, and each make other optics that sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars in other applications. They each make our cameras and lenses out of the same stuff from which they create these other products.
    I don’t extend this same awe towards discount lensmakers, but I do have this respect for Nikon and Canon and Pentax and LEICAand Fuji and Zeiss who’ve been making much more than cameras for longer than I’ve been alive. I do have a hat off toTokina, who are related to Hoya, who are as far as I know the biggest maker of optical glass on the planet, and whose glass is found in parts of everyone’s lenses.
    Did you know that Nikon is one of the world’s leading makers of professional laboratory microscopes, often beating out Zeiss and Leitz? Nikon also makes the million-dollar lenses and mechanical steppers used in semiconductor manufacture. They have a 37% market share. These lenses and mechanics resolve at 45 nanometers, or less than one-tenth of a wavelength of visible light? That’s over 10,000 lines per millimeter! See Nikon Precision.
    Canon may make their own ICs and image sensors, but for all we know, Canon may use Nikon lenses and steppers to do it! Probably not: Canon also makes steppers and semiconductor photolithography equipment, with a 20% market share. (Thanks to Bates Marshall for those figures.)
    Canon also makes gigantic lenses with 100x zoom ratios for television and lenses for Hollywood motion picture cameras! These sell for six figures.
    Making $20,000, $2,000 or $200 lenses for either Canon or Nikon is child’s play. Their big stuff sells in the $200,000 to $2,000,000 range. We photographers get to benefit from all of it.
    Nikon and Canon are optical companies, not camera, electronic or software companies. It’s sad to see people buy good Nikon or Canon cameras and then put off-brand lenses on them.
    Nikon and Canon are different, but just as good. Anyone who tries to tell you that one or the other is garbage isn’t paying attention, and most likely doesn’t have the other to sell you. Nikon and Canon compete so heavily against each other that if one really were better or worse they would have gone out of business long ago.
    I prefer Nikon DSLRs, and Canon Compacts. Many other people prefer Canon DSLRs and Nikon Coolpix compacts; we’re all different.
    Year to year one usually has an edge on the other. They tend to leapfrog each other back and forth, slowly. LEICA was king from the 1930s through 1950s, Nikon took over from the 1960s through 1980s, Canon was the top pro SLR in the 1990s and 2000s, and as of the Nikon D3 of 2007, Canon and Nikon now run neck-and-neck in the pro market, with Nikon pulling ahead again.
    I shot Minolta from 1973-1983, and have been shooting Nikon since 1983. Shooting for a living, I also got Canon and LEICA systems back in the 2000s, and today in 2012, I shoot all three systems depending on which is best for what I need to shoot. I also got a Fuji X100 in 2011 which I use for my family photosbecause it’s better than any SLR or LEICA.
    Contrary to some beliefs, I get paid nothing by and have no allegiance to Nikon or Canon or Nikon or any other camera maker, other than having used their great products for many decades depending on the brand.
    Shooting all these systems for a living every day makes one very familiar with what each does well — or not, so let me share how they really compare from actual long-term experience
    I spend a lot of time covering the background and details before I summarize the real differences. Feel free to skip ahead if you’re in a rush to spend a few thousand dollars quickly.

    Most Nikon SLR camera and lenses made since 1959 are compatible with each other.
    Any two items from about the same 10-20 year technology window will work well with each other.
    The Nikon system is so renowned for its multi-decade interoperability that I have aNikon System Compatibility page discussing it.

    On the other hand, Canon flushed compatibility down the toilet in 1987 when it created a new and completely incompatible system of AF cameras and lenses called EOS. Nothing works together before or after the great autofocus divide of 1987.
    To Canon’s credit, the new EOS system is a better design than the old Nikon mount, but old Canon FD manual focus lenses, once promoted as “timeless” by Canon, areuseless on any modern Canon camera.
    Contrast this to Nikon, where just about every lens ever made works swell, with few limitations, on every brand new camera.
    While I shoot both of the Canon systems (FD and today’s EOS systems), most people are only concerned with Canon cameras today, and that’s where the good news starts.
    Because Canon wiped the slate clean and created a completely new camera system for autofocus in 1987, every camera and lens Canon has made from 1987 through today is completely 100% compatible with everything else made since 1987. Every Canon EF lens works perfectly with every Canon EOS 35mm or digital camera ever made. Their oldest EF lenses work perfectly on the newest EOS digital cameras, and the newest EF lenses work perfectly on very first EOS650 camera of 1987. (Flash is a different story, and the smaller EF-s lenses wont’ work on full frame cameras.)
    Nikon can’t come close to this; many Nikon autofocus lenses still sold new today use old technology that won’t autofocus on some of Nikon’s newest cameras!
    Canon cameras can use Nikon lenses, but Nikon cameras can’t use Canon lenses.

    One big difference between Nikon and Canon is delivery of new products.
    A good thing about Nikon is that they announce products a couple of months before they become available. You never feel like an idiot having bought a camera that goes obsolete the next day. Canon, on the other hand, usually has cameras available when they announce them, so you can get caught off guard.
    Unfortunately Nikon does this to a fault. It’s good to announce something a couple of months before it comes out, but bad to take orders and not be able to deliver.
    Nikon has been doing this at least since 2000. They announced the 80-400mm VRin January, 2000. It was a year and a half later before you could buy them easily!
    Nikon Announced the D100 in February of 2002 and it was a year until you could get them easily. I had bought a D1H the week before, but didn’t worry even though I would have preferred the D100, because I didn’t have 9 months to wait for one.
    Nikon announced the 12-24mm in February 2003 and took a year until they were easy to find.
    Nikon announced the D70 in February of 2004. That only took a couple of months to get.
    The 18-200mm VR was announced on November 1st, 2005, and Nikon had them on back-order until 2007!
    Canon usually ships its hot new products, while Nikon often strings us out for long periods of time.
    LEICA is a different story. LEICA never makes anything; their new products are never available. You always have to order them and be patient.

    You have to know the history behind this Nikon versus Canon race to understand it. Here’s my personal experience, which spans most of five or six decades.

    Early 1900s
    Canon was founded in 1934 to sell cheap knock-offs of the new LEICA camera. It was sold with a lens made by Nikon, since Nikon has been making lenses for military applications forever, and Canon had just started in a garage.
    Canon started by making consumer products, and branched out into industrial equipment much later.
    Nikon had been making military instruments for mass destruction long before World War II. Nikon made bomb sights used to murder Americans in the Japanese terrorist attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941, as well as huge rangefinders for battleship and field artillery in WW II.
    Nikon made no cameras before WW II. After Nikon’s warmongering activities were closed-down after WWII, Nikon had to figure out what to do for peaceful purposes. Their idea was to make rangefinder cameras for consumers in the late 1940s, and then SLRs in 1959.
    Nikon started out making military products and was forced into making consumer products after Japan lost WW II.
    Canon and Nikon have been competing with each other since WWII.

    1960s and 1970s
    My first 35mm SLR camera, bought when I was 11 years old in 1973, was a Minolta. You can see it and its photo quality on my Night Photography page. I upgraded to my dream camera, the Minolta SR-T-102, around 1974.
    Nikon was exclusively an expensive camera for professionals, and Canon made cameras popular with consumers. They didn’t compete much, although as the decade wore on, Nikon started making cheaper cameras and Canon made some more expensive pro cameras that pros wouldn’t buy.

    In 1980 I wanted all my lenses to use filters the same size so I could change them easily while photographing from my mom’s small plane. Minolta drove me nuts by using a different filter size every time they restyled their lenses. I bought a Nikon F2AS manual camera and a slew of manual focus lenses. I sold the Minolta gear because I thought Nikon was better.
    In 1980 Nikon was the undisputed king of pro 35mm cameras. For the same price as Canon I got what I thought was much better mechanical quality and better access to rental gear. I also thought it was cool to have the same camera used by every other journalist.
    I was still too stupid to realize that 1.) people shooting landscapes used 4 x 5 cameras, not 35mm, and that 2.) All cameras in the same format perform the same.

    LEICA invented autofocus, and knowing that its customers know how to focus, sold the patent to Minolta, who introduced the world’s first SLR in 1985. A few years later Canon and Nikon had them, too. Professionals laughed at the idea — they knew how to focus, and autofocus was still to slow for sports. Even if AF was fast, sports shooters know where the ball is going before it gets there, which cameras don’t.
    Nikon AF cameras and lenses were completely compatible with older lenses and cameras. This was good because pros all had many thousands of dollars invested in their manual lenses. It was a no-brainer to buy a new Nikon AF camera since it was compatible with everything. New AF lenses were compatible with manual focus cameras. They still are! Nikon solidified the reason to shoot Nikon as a pro: no one had to start out from scratch again. Going to AF in Nikon was easy.
    Nikon AF cameras had motors in the body to focus the lenses mechanically through a small screw in the lens mount. They still do.
    Canon designed their AF system from scratch, and used a completely new and incompatible lens mount. The lenses each had their own motors inside them. If you shot Canon you had to throw away all your lenses and bodies and start from scratch. Not good! To go to Canon AF you had to rebuy your entire system with new AF gear.

    Pros eventually started using the AF cameras around 1990 and liked them. One teensy-weensy problem around was that Nikon AF cameras couldn’t focus fast enough for sports. The Canon cameras worked great. Pros who shot sports dumped their Nikon gear and moved to Canon in droves. Sports shooters still predominantly use Canon for this reason. I was kidding about slow AF being a teeny problem: it’s why Nikon lost it’s twenty-year lock on the pro journalism market and has never won it back!
    Unlike 1980, in the 1990s Canon cameras evolved to be as professional as Nikon. They have competed neck and neck for the same customers ever since.
    Nikon’s AF speed is as good as Canon today, but no pro is going to sell all his lenses and cameras and start from scratch without a very good reason.
    As a pro you own a lot of gear, all bought at different times. It all needs to work together as a system. Amateurs buy bodies and lenses together, while pros add and delete each body and lens from their systems as it makes sense. Except in the case of total fire or theft, you never get the chance to start over from scratch.
    Better AF performance was why sports pros left Nikon in the 1990s. There’s never been anything compelling enough since then to get them all to switch back, so it’s been a slow road back for Nikon. That’s why you see so many white lenses at sports events, in addition to the fact that Canon Pro Services loans them all out. Remember, sporting is only part of the photo picture. Landscape photographers have been using 4×5″ film for over 100 years and don’t show any signs of changing soon. The best ones rarely use Canon or Nikon.

    Nikon invents the professional D1, the world’s first practical digital SLR. It was $5,000 and had 2.7MP. Nikon became the leader in professional digital.
    I bought my first AF Nikon, an F100, and liked it so much I eventually wound up buying all new AF equipment anyway.

    Canon introduced their own first DSLR, the consumer D30. It had the same image quality as Nikon’s metal D1, but for only $3,000 in plastic. It also had 3MP.

    Canon announces their first professional DSLR, the EOS-1D on 25 September 2001. Canon moves ahead of Nikon in the digital arena.

    2002 – 2004
    Nikon doesn’t introduce much, while Canon is very busy. Every time Nikon announces a new DSLR, Canon outdoes them the next week. This goes on through 2012!

    2005 – 2006
    Nikon’s D70 was my favorite over the better-built Canon 20D. I preferred the D70’s faster operation, specifically, the D70’s immediate access to white balance trims, needed for every shot, over having to go into menus on the 20D.
    In 2006 Canon tweaked the firmware in the 20D and called it a 30D, which I find uncompetitive with the D200. What were they thinking? Nikon leapfrogged them with the D200. The D200 eclipsed anything Canon had done, including the Canon5D which cost three times as much.
    I had always admired the Canon 28 – 135 IS lens. Nikon had nothing similar until Nikon introduced the spectacular 18-200 VR for digital, which eclipses the earlier Canon 28 – 135.
    In 2005, Canon introduced the Canon 5D, the world’s first full-frame consumer DSLR. The 5D has technical performance better than any consumer full-frame camera from Nikon until 2012’s Nikon D800.

    For the first time ever, Nikon introduces the Nikon D800 which has more resolution than any Canon DSLR. Nikon finally regains it’s leadership status, lost since Canon trumped Nikon’s 1999 D1 with Canon’s 2000 EOS-1D.

    My Personal Preferences
    Nikon and Canon all give the same quality images within the same price class. See my Noise and Resolution comparison. These differences are so small I have to strain to see them with test charts. In the dynamics of the real world they are invisible. I ran those tests, and discovered that whatever differences entertain chat-room participants don’t exist.
    As you ought to know, I’m just a guy who loves to take pictures and today just happens to have literally millions of people reading this site, which are my personal opinions, each month. I don’t get any free gear, money, sponsorships, hats or anything from any camera companies, in spite of what people may think.

    I prefer Canon point-and-shoots. I love their color rendition, and I can’t for the life of me figure out the menus of the Nikon Coolpix cameras.


    The biggest reason pros shoot Nikon, or switch from Canon to Nikon, is that Nikon’s flash exposure control gets perfect flash exposure every time, while a core incompetency of Canon is that Canon DSLRs rarely get consistently good flash exposure.
    Sure, you can get a good shot on a Canon with flash, but it often will take a lot of fiddling, while even the cheapest Nikon DSLR usually gets it right on the first shot. As a pro, this is critical; Nikon’s flash technology has some secret sauce or patents that Canon just can’t match.
    My Nikons give me far more flash sync options. They are well labeled and easy to set without menus. Canon hides them inside other modes deep inside menus.
    For instance, the important Rear Curtain option is hidden in the 30D’s Custom Function 15, while even a cheap Nikon D50 has its own flash sync button.
    Slow sync isn’t selectable separately on these Canons. Program mode always uses a faster speed of about 1/60 as its lower limit. Tv, Av or M modes use slow sync by default. See p.92 of Canon’s 20D manual for details.
    This is too bad: I always shoot my Nikons in Program, and set the slowest flash shutter speed to whatever I want, usually 1/30 or 1/15 to let in enough ambient light. This is easy to change on Nikon, and almost fixed in stone on these Canons.
    I have no idea how to set manual flash mode on the Canons, while on the Nikons it’seasy to set up wireless remote flash control.
    My Nikon DSLRs let me know if the flash may have underexposed (the bolt in the finder blinks rapidly). I’ve never seen that on the Canons. The Nikon flash units even tell me, in stops, by how much they have underexposed.

    C1 C2 C3 Modes
    Most Canons have “C” modes on their control dials. Each of these is a complete memory for everything about the camera. Every time you select that position, everything about the camera is recalled from when you saved it!
    Nikons, except for the D7000, have no easily recalled total-camera-state recall functions. Every time you want to shoot anything different on a Nikon, you have to reset many different things in many different menus. Nikons often have “settings banks,” but there are many of them, and they still don’t save and recall everything, so they don’t help much. Even if they did, there is no way to lock them; as you change settings, there is no way to recall what had been set before, so they are useless.
    With most Canons, its fast and easy to get back to all the settings you want, and if you have more than one C on your dial, I set C1 for my landscape, and C2 for my people shots.
    Every time I wake up my Canon in a C mode, it resets to all my personal favorite settings, which is far better than Nikon’s one factory-default green-button reset that neither resets everything, and certainly doesn’t reset to my settings.

    Smart (green-button) Reset
    I always use the Smart Reset (two-green-button reset) of my Nikon DSLRs. They reset all the shot-to-shot stuff, like WB and ISO and selected AF sensor and exposure compensations and image and file sizes, and leave alone the rarely set items like file numbering, custom functions and beeps.
    If I don’t use Nikon’s green-reset of Canon’s “C” modes, I’ll often have left the camera at a deep tungsten white balance and ISO 1,600, which of course ruins all shots made that way until I notice and reset them all by hand.
    With my Nikons I hold the two green buttons and all is back at normal.

    Playback Held Hostage
    My biggest complaint about all my Canons, DSLR and compact, is that they lock ne out of any playback controls, like zooming, until after I’ve pressed the PLAY button. With Nikon’s, as soon as my photo shows on the back after I shot it, I have full access to zooming and selecting other images. (I usually have to enable this in Nikon’s menu.)
    Nikons play fast. Canon DSLRs take time when you try to display pages of 9 playback images and flip though them.

    Seven versus Eight-bladed diaphragms
    Nikon always uses superior 7- or 9-bladed lens diaphragms, while another core incompetency of Canon is often using 6-or 8-bladed diaphragms.
    Odd-numbers of diaphragm blades lead to superior sunstars (14- or 18-points from Nikon vs. 6- or 8- points from Canon) and less disruptive shapes of out-of-focus highlight blobs (bokeh), septagons or nonagons from Nikon versus obnoxious hexagons or octagons from Canon. When we see hexagons or octagons, we thing snowflakes or stop signs, while septagons or nonagons are so low-key that you probably don’t even recognize the names of the shapes!

    Control Sensibilities
    On my Nikons, one dial always sets aperture and the other always sets the shutter. On the Canons, what dial does what depends on your mode. That drives me crazy – I need to have the same dial change the same thing every time I spin it, regardless of the shooting mode.
    Nikon turns off the exposure compensation indication if you haven’t set it. Canon leaves it on, even in the finder, even if it’s set at zero.
    I prefer Nikon’s easy-to-find-in-the-dark LCD illuminator button. It’s concentric with the shutter; just twist. On the Canons you need to feel around for a dedicated button.
    When you hit the LCD illuminator, either on camera or on flash, everything lights up. On a Canon Rebel XT and EX-550, each button only lights one of them!

    Auto ISO
    Nikon has more flexibility in programming Auto ISO.

    I get more consistent results on my Nikons. It’s not unusual to get an unfocused image with my Canons, with the camera’s AF confirmation light lit on an unmoving subject.
    My Canons tend to be a little faster with cheap lenses, and about the same with the expensive ones. In other words, Nikon lets the AF of their cheap lenses ($80 – 500) get slower, both both brands of pro lenses (c. $1,500 range) are equally fast.

    Locking Flash Shoe
    Nikons for about 15 years have had a pin in the flash shoe which bolts the flash solidly into the hot shoe. It will never slide a little out and lose its electrical connection. It flicks with a lever.
    Canon is still back in the 1970s. The 550EX flash only has a plastic screw-down ring on its bottom, which doesn’t work, is a pain to loosen when needed, and loosens itself when you don’t want it to. This results in the flash misfiring, since only a small amount of slippage is enough to disconnect the small electrical pins.

    AF Assist Illuminators
    Canon got all the sports shooter business in the 1990s because of their superior AF system. Today Nikon is fine, but pros who moved have no need to return. Pros have a huge investment in gear; it’s not just one camera. Even I have Nikon gear bought over 25 years ago that I still use today.
    Something very annoying about the Canon AF system has been their attempt to use the on-camera flash for low-light AF assist. I kid you not: Canon cameras fire off multiple extended bursts of the flash to light the subject for focusing in the dark. Every time this happens we say “What the heck was that???” and try to turn it off. This only happens in dark areas where the AF system can’t see enough, and of course those are the conditions under which the flash going off in people’s faces is the most annoying. Egad.

    The Freedom Lens: Nikon’s 18-200mm VR/IS (what is Vibration Reduction?)
    Canon, and no one, makes anything that can do what the life-changing Nikon 18-200mm VR does. There are loads of off-brand 18-200mm lenses, but they have no VR (critical at 200mm) and only have primitive focus control with no instant manual override.
    Canon’s 18-200 IS is inferior: it demands you move a switch to get between auto and manual focus, while on the Nikon 18-200 VR, all you do is grab the focus ring.
    Sigma announced an 18-200mm OS (stabilized) lens, but it’s only f/6.3 (not rated to work well for AF, which needs at least f/5.6) and I suspect it has primitive focus, not HSM/AFS/USM. We’ll see, and I avoid off brand lenses anyway. As I explained, the whole point of a Canon or Nikon camera is to use the superior lenses made by either, both of which are very serious optical companies, unlike the off brands.

    Viewfinder Grids
    Most digital Nikons have magic, selectable viewfinder grids, free!
    The Canon DSLRs don’t. You can buy an optional screen for the 5D, and manually jam it in the camera’s viewfinder.
    Most point and shoots from Canon and Casio have these, too, just not the Canon DSLRs.
    I use these grids to help me get level photos. It’s one of the first things I turn on when I get a new camera.

    Data Embedding
    My Nikons let me embed my ©, name and phone number into the EXIF data of every one of the 75,000 shots I’ve made, no computer required.
    I haven’t seen that yet on the Canons, unless you dick with software in your computer. Pros don’t have time for computers, we have photos and money to make.

    Automatic Zone System Exposure and Development
    The Nikons have an AUTO CONTRAST mode by default (called Tone Compensation under Optimize Image) which uses the Zone System to optimize the camera’s contrast to the subject. It was awful in the D1H, and in the D70, D80 and D200 it works great to match conditions. The Canons have no such mode: you have to set them manually. That said, in harsh light sometimes my D200 goes a little too flat, and the Canons always look great anyway. The Canons also make it easy to set these, by using a custom function to have their SET buttons call up instant selection of preset image adjustments, called Parameters on some Canons and “Image Styles” on others.

    AF Assist Lights
    Nikon has annoying little lamps on the camera body. Canon doesn’t, and instead fires the flash with an ultra-annoying series of continuous bursts. Boy, if having the flash fire a zillion times doesn’t get you thrown out of a venue, nothing will.
    Canon’s self-timer lights don’t work as the AF assist lights as they do on Nikon.
    To Canon’s credit, their AF system works great so long as you have at least a little light; just forget about it in darkness.


    They are about the same size, clarity and brightness, depending on which you compare. They all have gesticulatic dioptometricization. The Rebels are about the same size as the D50/70, the 20D/30D are a bit bigger, the D80/D200 much bigger, and I presume the 5D the Mother of them all.

    I find the in-finder data a little bit sparser in Canon than in my Nikons. I also found the Canon’s digital thinner and harder to see than in my Nikon DSLRs.
    All of them do a great job of automatically varying the brightness of the display to match ambient conditions.

    Sensor Sizes
    Canon curses us with three incompatible sensor sizes. For two of the sizes, 1x as in the 5D and 1DS Mk II, we have to use the 16-35, 17-40 and 15mm fisheye lenses, and on the 1.6x consumer cameras (20D, 30D, Rebel) we have no fisheye, but do have the excellent 10-22mm. The pros using the 1.3x (1D) cameras are screwed: the pros who could make the best use of wide angle lenses in news reporting just don’t have them. There are no fisheyes and no ultrawide lenses for the 1.3x cameras.
    Why do I say cursed? Because as I dig through the Canon system to report on it, I have to make three sets of tables for each lens. Each lens performs differently on each format camera. Corner sharpness? The corners are in three different places!
    To use the Canon system, I have to buy different lenses for each camera. I bought a 10-22mm for the XTi and its brethren, and have a 16-35 and 17-40mm on loan to figure out which one I need to do the same thing on the 5D. Of course my pain is your gain: I’ll be doing a knock-down, drag-out donnybrook between them (apologies to Pop Photo cover copywriters)
    I love wides. Telephotos aren’t as weird, although the 18-55mm, 17-85mm, 17-55mm and I forget what else only work on the 1.6x cameras.

    Data Transfer
    Both are as fast. The newer ones are all fast enough to eliminate card readers.
    My Nikons show up as hard drives on my computers. I drag and drop files either way, no software required. I create folders in-camera, and download sorted photos directly from my Nikons! Data from the Canon cameras can only be read via software.


    Nikons have a “?” button for explaining most of the menu functions. Canons don’t.

    Nikon USA’s free live tech help line, (800) NIKON-UX, is open all the time, 24/7/365.

    Canon USA’s free help line, (800) OK-CANON, lets its very good people go home late and on Sundays.

    Both help lines are very good. I’ve always gotten someone who knows the answer on the first try.

    Shots Remaining
    This is even.
    The Canons are stupid and stop at 999, while Nikons are smart enough to show “2.7k” if they need to. They each only have three digits with which to display this.
    My Nikons are defective in design: they underestimate, which is pretty funny, since the Canons vary the size of the file to fit the image, and Nikons tend to make the same size files, making this easier. As an example, my D80 says “516” shots for Normal JPG LARGE images on a 2 GB card. I actually get about 800 shots on those.

    Trick Custom Image Settings and Tweaks
    Nikon makes you buy their buggy $100 Nikon Capture software to create and load crazy curves and settings into your camera. You need to buy this to tweak curves, colors and contrasts other than what you can do in the menus.
    Canon makes this available for free here, and includes all sorts of fun presets, too.

    JPG File Size and Quality Optimization
    Busy, detailed, contrasty subjects need more JPG bits to look good than do images with flat backgrounds, low contrasts and blank spaces.
    Canon does a better job here. Canon’s JPG file sizes vary to maintain constant quality. It’s not unusual to see a fat file three times the size of a small one, with the only difference being the subject. Nikons are stupider and tend to keep JPG files sizes very similar, wasting bits when not needed and lowering quality when they are.
    I prefer Canon. Even the Nikon D2Xs and D200, which allow a new choice to let the JPGs files vary size, don’t work as well as Canons have for years by default.

    Clock Setting
    I prefer my Nikons, which let me check the time to the second and change time zones without altering my to-the-second calibration. The Nikons let you set the clock to any random second, not just at the minute as with almost every other digital clock.
    The Canons only read to the nearest minute, and don’t even recognize time zones. I lose my exact setting, since I have to reset it from scratch when changing time zones.
    The latest Nikons really did a good job and have an easy-to-use world map and time zone calculator and display. The Nikons (my D80 in this case) sadly hide the clock setting under the menu item MENU > SETUP > World Time > Date.

    Depth-of-Field Preview Button
    Canon’s buttons work instantly and silently. I wish everything worked this well.
    Unfortunately, Canon only in 2012 is starting to out this button on the correct side of the camera. FOr decades, Canon has put this button is on the wrong side of the camera so it takes a second hand to use.
    Nikon’s buttons are bogus: they clatter all around as if the camera took a picture. This is annoying, but was handy back in film days when I could hit it to satisfy people pestering me to take their pictures. Today, at least Nikon always has these buttons on the correct side of the camera.

    Front Lens Caps
    Canon’s caps are pretty flimsy. They only have tabs for release from the side, not the front.
    Nikon has much, much better and beefier caps.

    Color and Tone
    Nikon and Canon each use different “secret sauce” that defines the colors and tones captured by their cameras, especially when you start adjusting the color, contrast, saturation and the zillion other controls on cameras today.
    Images will look different from either brand of camera. Most Nikons and most Canons’ match other cameras of the same brand when set alike, but images shot on Nikons most certainly won’t match the colors, highlights, shadows and grays of the other.
    In this case, there is no right and wrong. Photography is an art, and in art, it’s about what looks best to you, the artist.
    Look carefully at the color rendition you get from either camera, and shoot what you prefer.
    Auto White Balance (AWB) works very differently in different cameras. If you shoot in AWB as I do, one brand or the other may work better under the unique conditions under which you shoot. Pay attention and you’ll probably prefer one over the other.

  • s 9:45 PM on 130215 Permalink | Reply
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    Timelapse RAW 

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    Why shoot timelapse using raw instead of jpgs?  The Red Owl, Tom Baurain explains it’s for two reasons:  quality and control.  Raw files have much more information that can result in greater quality to your timelapse.
    The larger files not only hold more color information, but the size of these images allows you the ability crop out what you don’t want or pan and scan without compromising quality.

    The very nature of the raw file allows you to tweak the image in such a way that allows you to achieve the look you want without baking that look into the file itself.
    Taking advantage of the Raw format isn’t without peril, but the Red Owl breaks it all down with this Raw workflow.
    Here’s just some of what you’ll learn in this video:

    What gear you need for timelapseAdjusting your cameras settings to prevent “flicker”Setting up a file system to ensure compatibility with After EffectsHow to tweak your image in the Camera Raw interfaceThe switches in the Camera Raw interface and what they doMonitor your results in Adobe BridgeImporting into AfterEffects and rendering your compositionOn top of all this, Baurain also reveals some other great resources. For further learning, please visit the links below.
    General LearningTimeScapes “I’m New To Timelapse“Tyler Ginter’s Timelapse ChecklistLenses“Behind The Glass” with Vincent Laforet and Blake Whitman

    Part 1 “Intro to Lenses“Part 2 “Focal Length“Part 3 “Depth of Field“Lens Cleaning with Jared Abrams

    Filtersfxguidetv #74OliviaTech – Polarizing FiltersOliviaTech – ND Filters for beginnersCheesyCam – ND filter color cast testingColor CorrectionIntro To Color GradingTao of ColorAaronWilliams.tvColor Correction Handbook by Alexis Van HurkmanSoftwareLRTimelapse and click “tutorial” for several great tutorials on LRTimelapseOther Useful ResourcesVimeo Video SchoolTimelapse with a DSLR starring Andrea Allen and Philip BloomVimeo Music StoreMastering ISODSLR MechanicsTilt ShiftIf you’re thinking about doing timelapse or if you’ve done one but want to improve, then it’s imperative you watch this video.  You can find out more about The Red Owl, on his website athttp://theredowl.com


    Before deflickering make all your transitions. Deflickering will only change the exposure values.

    Read this thread to learn how to edit your images to get the best of the deflickering algorithm.

    Now make sure your exposure curve hasn’t any former deflickering applied yet (straight yelow curve without bumps), if not right click on exposure in the table header and select “reset current column values without keyframes” (in this case reapply the auto transition).

    You already see two curves important for deflicker:
    The yellow curve is the original exposure curve (if you don’t see it make sure to select “exposure” on the curves selector below the preview)The blue curve is the average brightness of your image or reference area. To set a reference ares draw a rectangle with the mouse into your preview panel. Set the referece so that only local, unwanted flicker is captured not global effects like passing clouds etc. Find for example a place in the sky where no clouds pass or a part of the image that lies in the shadow all the time. The Goal is to separate flicker from wanted changes in lightning conditions. You can even set different reference areas on different images, LRTimelapse calculates an animation between them (like key frames). Single click in the preview erases the current reference-key-frame, double click resets all.

    Now you can turn on the deflicker checkbox. New curves appear:

    The Green curve is a smoothed out version of the blue one. I serves to indicate how the brightness of the selected area should behave. It should preserve any global (wanted) changes in lightning conditions and smooth out the unwanted flicker. With the “Avg. smooth” slider you can control how tight the curve matches the original blue brightness curve.
    My tip: avoid changing the Strength slider, in 99% its okay at the default value.The red curve shows a compensated yellow (exposure) curve. So when you hit save the red curve turns into the new yellow (deflickered) exposure curve. Basically the red curve is the blue curve mirrored on the green curve. You will see the changing effects when you play with the sliders.

  • s 9:36 PM on 130215 Permalink | Reply
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    Filming Greenscreen Tips 

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    As one who both shoots…and then has to pull greenscreen composites, there is a couple things that I’ve concluded.

    1. When pulling a screen from a color background, the fact that it’s lit over or under doesn’t seem to be the primary issue…the key factor is that it’s different…over or under. The FX Guide TV guys did a test some time ago with green screens on a Viper camera, lighting at various levels relative to the foreground, and the easiest extraction was pulled from a shot where the green background was lit so brightly that it appeared to be incredibly desaturated. It was simply the shade that was the most distinct from the foreground palette.

    2. Daylight lighting seems to help compositing, particularly with skin tones in my experience.

    Blue is very nearly across the vectorscope from human skintone and the color of a typical blue screen wall can be moved even more directly opposing if lit with daylight as opposed to tungsten (and this shift becomes even more important with green, as the angle to green is only about 90 degrees) allowing standard spill suppression in most keying applications to work most efficiently.

    The other factor to consider is that any video camera is noisier when balanced for tungsten than when balanced for daylight as blue needs far more gain applied to balance with most tungsten sources than red needs with most daylight sources.

  • s 9:24 PM on 130215 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: apple, mac, macpro, tech   

    Mac SMC Rest 

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    What the SMC ControlsDepending on your Mac model, the SMC performs the following functions:
    Responds to the press of the power button, including deciding whether the press is for a power off, sleep, or an accidental misstep by your cat.
    Detects and responds to the opening or closing of the lid of a portable Mac.
    Manages a portable’s battery performance, including charging, calibration, and displaying remaining battery time.
    Thermal management of your Mac’s interior. This is primarily accomplished by sensing temperature at various places inside your Mac, and then adjusting fan speed to create or reduce airflow.
    Uses the SMS (Sudden Motion Sensor) to respond to the sudden motion of a Mac portable and acts to prevent damage to various devices.
    Detects ambient lighting conditions and sets appropriate lighting levels for various devices.
    Controls keyboard backlighting.
    Controls built-in display backlighting
    Controls SILs (Status Indicator Lights) that are present on or in your Mac.
    Selects external or internal video sources (primarily for iMacs with video input capabilities).
    Starts hard drive spin downs, as well as power up sequences.
    Controls sleep mode functions (waking and entering sleep).
    Controls trackpad functions for some Mac models.Signs You Need to Reset the SMCResetting the SMC is not a cure-all, but there are many symptoms a Mac may suffer from that a simple SMC reset can fix. These include:
    Erratic sleep mode performance, including not waking from or not entering sleep.

    Mac portables (MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air) not responding to lid opening or closing.
    Failure to respond to the power button being pressed.
    MagSafe power indicator not displaying or displaying incorrectly.
    Sluggish performance, even though Activity Monitor shows little CPU usage.
    Target Display Mode not working correctly.
    Battery not charging or taking excessive time to charge.
    USB ports not working.
    Bluetooth not working.
    Fans running fast.
    Display backlight not responding to ambient light level changes.How to Reset Your Mac’s SMCThe method for resetting your Mac’s SMC depends on the type of Mac you have. All SMC reset instructions require shutting down your Mac first. If your Mac fails to shut down, try pressing and holding the power button until the Mac shuts down, which usually takes 10 seconds or so.
    Mac portables with user-removable batteries (MacBook and most MacBook Pros):
    Shut down your Mac.
    Disconnect your Mac portable from its MagSafe connector.
    Remove the battery.
    Press and hold the power button for at least 5 seconds.
    Release the power button.
    Re-install the battery.
    Reconnect the MagSafe connector.
    Turn your Mac on.

    Mac portables with non-user-removable batteries (MacBook Air and some late 2009 MacBook Pro models):
    Shut down your Mac.
    Connect the MagSafe power adapter to your Mac and to a power outlet.
    On the built-in keyboard (this will not work from an external keyboard), simultaneously press and hold the left shift, control, and option keys while you press the power button. Release all keys at the same time.Press the power button to start your Mac.

    Mac desktops (Mac Pro, iMac, Mac mini):
    Shut down your Mac.
    Unplug your Mac’s power cord.
    Press and hold the Mac’s power button for 15 seconds.
    Release the power button.
    Reconnect your Mac’s power cord.
    Wait five seconds.
    Start your Mac by pressing the power button.Alternative SMC reset for Mac Pro:
    If you have a Mac Pro that isn’t responding to the normal SMC reset as described above, you can force a manual SMC reset by using the SMC reset button located on the Mac Pro’s motherboard.
    Shut down your Mac.
    Unplug the Mac’s power cord.
    Open the Mac Pro’s side access panel.
    Just below the Drive 4 sled and adjacent to the top PCI-e slot is a small button labeled SMC. Press and hold this button for 10 seconds.
    Close the Mac Pro’s side door.
    Reconnect your Mac’s power cord.
    Wait five seconds.
    Start your Mac by pressing the power button.Now that you have reset the SMC on your Mac, it should be back to operating as you expect. If the SMC reset didn’t fix your problems, you can try combining it with a PRAM reset. Although the PRAM works differently than the SMC, it can, depending on your Mac model, store a few bits of information that the SMC uses.

  • s 9:21 PM on 130215 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , tech   

    Picture Profile : Prolost Flat 

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    Start with the Neutral Picture Style

    Set Sharpness to zero—all the way to the left
    Set Contrast all the way to the left
    Set Saturation two notches to the left
    In the slideshow below, you can see one example of sharpening using the After Effects Unsharp Mask effect, with an Amount of 120 and a Radius of 1.1.
    A light pass of noise reduction from something like Magic bullet Denoiser II not only cleans up some compression artifacts, it also can promote your 8-bit footage to higher color fidelity by interpolating new, high-bit-depth pixels. So your HDSLR processing pipeline should look like this:

    In a 16 or 32bpc environment…
    Reduce noise
    Visual effects, if any
    Color correct
    Add back some noise/grain to taste
    Titles or graphics, if any

    Highlight Tone Priority is an optional method Canon uses to capture more highlight detail by “pushing” the ISO one stop. The result is one extra stop of highlight detail (roughly), coupled with one extra stop’s worth of noise (also roughly).
    When I first posted about Prolost Flat, I recommended using HTP for bright scenes with difficult highlights. But since then, I’ve completely stopped using it. The benefits don’t tend to outweigh the risks. And by “risks,” I mean that you might leave HTP on and shoot a bunch of raw stills, and wonder why they don’t look as nice as they should in Lightroom. Unlike other settings discussed here, HTP does affect raw stills. Oops.
    I leave my cameras in Prolost Flat all the time, even for stills. If find that the flat preview image gives me a better sense of the actual raw “negative” that I’m capturing. The only thing you have to get used to is that it’s easy to underexpose slightly if you judge exposure by the preview image, as the Prolost Flat preview looks a touch brighter than most default raw processing.





  • s 9:14 PM on 130215 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , tech   

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    5D Mark III Settings Vault | EOSHD.com.


    Here are my preferred settings and picture profile for the 5D Mark III. These are general purpose settings – the ones I use most often for optimal out of the box results straight off the card, no grading required.

    Standard EOSHD settings

    Picture profile

    • Faithful
      • Sharpness 0 (far left)
      • Contrast 0 (middle)
      • Saturation 0 (middle)
      • Color tone 0 (middle)

    Punchy EOSHD settings

    Picture profile

    • Neutral
      • Sharpness 0 (far left)
      • Contrast +3
      • Saturation +2
      • Color tone +2

    Sharpening in post recommendation

    Apply the ‘Sharpen’ filter under Video Effects in Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5 at between 30-50 to suit the shot

    Menu settings

    • SHOOT 4
      • Movie rec. size: 1920 24/25p, ALL I
    • SHOOT3
      • High ISO speed NR – OFF
      • Highlight tone priority (HTC, D+) – OFF
    • SHOOT2
      • Auto Lighting Optimiser – OFF
    • C.Fn2 Disp./Operation
      • In Custom Controls set the SET button to Mag/Reduce for your focus assist

    White Balance

    Use the Kelvin scale manual setting for best results.

    Why do I use these settings?

    The picture profile

    The picture profile Faithful is typical Canon – a nicely warm image which is cinematic. Neutral is similarly cinematic but without the warmer hue. Portrait brings too much noise into the image, Landscape is too electronic looking. Technicolor CineStyle I find usually gives a compressed tonal range which leads to some ugliness of not handled carefully at the grading stage. Use Faithful or Neutral for great results out of the box and for convenience.

    Sharpness, contrast, saturation and colour tone

    Sharpness is turned off in-camera. It is important not to sharpen the image too much in-camera as it leads to ugly electronic looking footage which isn’t cinematic and rather eye fatiguing. There’s quite a difference between having sharpening off altogether and having it on low. On low this gives you more satisfying footage out of the camera and yet doesn’t compromise your ability to further sharpen the footage in post if you need to.

    Contrast and saturation are baked into the codec because it isn’t a raw format, but H.264. If you turn these down it adds to your headache in post as the footage will always need grading. Colour data is reduced with saturation turned down. It is easier to desaturate something than to amplify something which isn’t really there in the first place. This goes for contrast as well.

    Highlight Tone Priority / D+

    Highlight Tone Priority or D+, shifts the 5D Mark III’s 10 stops of dynamic range in video mode toward the highlights and applies a slight boost to the lows to compensate for the shift. The highlight roll off on the 5D Mark III can be sudden. Usually I recommend to keep this off, but there may be some cases where enabling it benefits the image – i.e. where highlights are blown. Enabling this can increase noise and flatten colour a little.

    Manual white balance

    Auto-white balance can change in the middle of a shot. I usually also find it too cool for my preferences especially in strong sunlight and prefer the warmer Canon look of old. With manual white balance you can make a decision at the time of shooting to get the white balance right. Fixing this in post is a nightmare unless you have a raw video codec, which the 5D Mark III does not.

    Auto Lighting Optimiser

    This can override manual control of exposure so always disable it.

    Custom Controls in the C.Fn2 menu

    The magnify assists is an important button for manual focus in movie mode, however it is in an awkward place on the left side of the camera. This moves focus assist to the more prominent SET key near your thumb on the shutter release side of the camera.

  • s 9:11 PM on 130215 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , tech   

    5Dmk3 Custom Modes 

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    huge advantage of Canon over Nikon, especially over the ergonomically primitiveNikon D800 and D800E, is having three complete and total camera-state preset positions on the mode dial. Once programmed, everything about the camera’s settings are instantly recalled as soon as you turn on the camera, or move the dial to that position.

    These are of incalculable value for recalling different setups for different situations. I use one for landscapes, and one for family. Maybe you’ll use one for indoor night shots, and another for soccer. Unlike Nikon’s bogus “settings banks,” Canon’s C1, C2 and C3 recall everything, recall with the flick of a knob, and are usually locked so they don’t get reset by accident.

    Think of these C1, C2 and C3 settings as Camera 1, Camera 2, and Camera 3. It’s like having three cameras around your neck, while only having to carry one.

    For instance, since everything is recalled instantly, complex setups are easy to use immediately. I disable my external flash from firing in the menus so I can leave it turned on to use its red AF assist light in the dark without using flash in one C mode, while I let it fire in the other setting. This way it’s easy to focus my nightcapes in total darkness without having the flash fire in C1, and in C2 for family, the flash works as usual.

    The 5D Mark III is the world’s best camera for when you’re shooting more than one kind of thing. If I’m shooting in Yosemite Valley, and suddenly my kids do something cute, I can keep my eye on the finder as I turn the camera, and in one click of the mode dial by feel, I’ve reset everything about the 5D Mark III to my own personal preset for kid’s action pictures, as opposed to the settings I was using a second before for grand landscapes.

    Sure, if all I shot were sports, news or action, the Nikon D4 is a much faster, tougher professional camera for twice the price, and if all I did was shoot in a studio all day the Nikons are better because they allow easy in-camera 4:5 cropping, and if just want family pictures, the Fuji X100 weighs far less and works better in weird light, but when I want take one camera to do the work of all these at the same time, the Canon 5D Mark III is unbeaten.

    The Nikon D800 is nice if you only shoot one thing, but a pain because you need to reset everything for every different shot.

    Each of the 5D Mark III’s C settings recalls everything about how you have your camera set: sharpening, color, saturation (and every setting for every one of the ten presets in the Picture Controls menu), self timers, LCD brightness, time-out settings, autofocus settings, P Tv Av M exposure modes, resolution, file format(s), advance, metering, exposure compensation(s), white balance, WB tweaks, how many files the playback jumps when you move the top dial, everything in every menu, everything. The 5D Mark III instantly changes all of its settings as you click from one C setting to the other.

    If you reset a few things to something screwy and want to return to your preset preset, simply turn the knob away and back to the C setting you desire, and it’s all as you preset it. You can select these by feel without taking your eye from the finder. If you set something screwy for one shot, don’t worry: after the camera times-out in about a minute (also selectable in a menu), when you wake it for the next shot, it’s back where you preset it. Never again will you make the first shot of the day at ISO 51,200 and 2,500K WB from the night before.

    Each of these settings remains unchanged until you save a different set of settings to that dial position.

    New on the 5D Mark III is that you can choose to have these settings automatically update as you change the settings, as Nikons do in their settings banks. Set this way, when you leave one setting, it will be as you left it when you return. This is handy for when you first get the camera as your preferences finalize, but I’d set it back to its default of fixed after you get comfortable.

    If you save the same thing to two locations and set “auto update,” they both update until you change something in just one of them.
  • s 9:10 PM on 130215 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , tech   

    5Dmk3 – CF and SD card 

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    Photographer Jeff Cable purchased a couple Canon 5D Mark IIIs recently and discovered that although the camera offers both SD and CF card slots, you should avoid the SD slot if you want maximum shooting speed. He writes,

    […] for some reason unbeknownst to me, Canon decided to build the 5D Mark III with one very fast CF slot which supports the newer UDMA7 protocol and a standard SD card slot which does NOT support the high speed standard […] Without UHS [Ultra High Speed] support, the top speed that can be achieved by the SD card is 133x. This is true even if you purchase a 600x SD card and insert it in the camera. The best you will get is 133x

    It turns out that the camera will default to the slowest card inserted. So, if you have a 1000x CF card in slot one and any SD card in the second slot, the very best buffer clear that will achieve is 133x.

    It might not be a big deal for most photographers, but if your line of work requires clearing the camera’s buffer as quickly as possible, it something you might want to be aware of.
  • s 5:22 PM on 130215 Permalink | Reply
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    Flaat Picture Styles for Canon DSLRs – http://www.similaar.com.

    Cleaner images 
    Flaat aims to deliver less noise in the final (graded) images than Cinestyle. 
    It tries to achieve this by using a bigger part of the codec’s color space. 

    Easy to grade 
    By giving a near-log light response, Flaat aims to be as easy to grade as possible. 
    Also, by being based on Portrait (instead of Neutral), it tries to make it easier for you to get nice skin tones in your final images. 

    Better control 

    Flaat includes 3 picture styles, all with the same colors and a near-log response to light, but spread over different latitude: 
    Flaat_10 gives a bit over 10 stops of DR (just as much as CineStyle) 
    Flaat_11 gives around 11 stops of DR (more than any other option I’ve tested) 
    Flaat_12 gives more than 11 stops of DR (use with lots of care: it can be very noisy) 
    The general advice for clean images would be: use the narrowest Flaat picture style that records enough DR for your shot. If Flaat_10 doesn’t give you clipped highlights or shadows, that route will lead to less noise and smoother gradients than using Flaat_11. 

    Also… The Flaat suite for Canon DSLRs is based on Portrait, for better skin tones, but this has some downsides (some color shifts, e.g. blue goes a bit towards cyan) that some people would rather avoid. There’s a second suite of Flaat picture styles, based on Neutral, that has the same near-log light response function but avoids this color shifts. I’d rather have nice skin tones than correct blue, but it’s your choice. 

    Contrast=-4, Saturation=-2, Sharpness=0, Tone=1
    All Flaat picture styles are designed for Contrast=-4; make sure that’s the value you use.
    As for the other parameters, choose the ones you like.
    I’m never happy with any sharpness parameter: 0 and sharpen in post can lead to increased artifacts due to sharpened codec macroblocking, but sharpening in camera (e.g. =2) leads to more aliasing/moire issues, so choose your poison… It’s much easier on the 5D3: it works better with “Sharpness=0 and add it back in post” (using a convolution filter, like Premiere Pro’s “sharpen”, instead of an unsharp mask).
    Also, I like Saturation=-2, Tone=1. But you should change all those if you prefer some other values, the only really-important one is Contrast=-4. Particularly, play with Tone to get skin tones that you like: 0 may be a bit too magenta, or may not, and don’t increase this value so much that people go greenish.
    Check all parameters after instalation: some users have complained that after installing the picture styles some options have gone crazy (e.g. Sharpness=7). No idea why that was.

  • s 4:44 PM on 130215 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: editing, tech,   

    About Drop Frame and Non-Drop Frame Timecode 

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    About Drop Frame and Non-Drop Frame Timecode

    NTSC video (black-and-white) originally had a frame rate of 30 fps, so the timecode counted at 30 fps. However, NTSC color video (the only kind of NTSC video in use today), has a frame rate of 29.97 fps. This subtle difference between 30 fps and 29.97 fps seems practically negligible and, in many cases, ignoring this discrepancy is fine. But not always. What editors needed, especially in expensive broadcast markets, was timecode that accurately reflected the exact duration of a program on tape.

    There are two types of 30 fps timecode for use with NTSC video: non-drop frame and drop frame. Non-drop frame timecode is simple: for every frame of video, there is a corresponding timecode number. The timecode increments without any compensation. In almost all cases, timecode is non-drop frame. In fact, drop frame timecode only matters in the case of NTSC video.

    Drop frame timecode compensates for the fact that the NTSC format has a frame rate of 29.97 fps, which is .03 fps slower than the nearest whole number frame rate of 30 fps. Timecode can only be represented by whole numbers, so timecode numbers are periodically skipped in drop frame timecode. This way, the timecode number always matches the seconds and minutes of video that have played. NTSC can use either drop frame or non-drop frame timecode.

    Important: No video frames are dropped when you use drop frame timecode. Only the associated timecode numbers are skipped.

    You can think of drop frame timecode as being like leap years on the calendar. In the case of leap years, an extra day is added every 4 years except when the year is divisible by 400. This compensates for the fact that the way days are measured and the way years are measured do not align exactly. Even though the difference is slight, an unacceptable error accumulates over time unless regular adjustments are made to the count.

    More About Drop Frame Timecode and the NTSC Frame Rate

    NTSC video has a frame rate of 29.97 fps, but the timecode counts at 30 fps. To better understand this subtle distinction, remember that the main purpose of timecode is to uniquely label and address each video frame, not to tell time (another name for timecode is address code).

    Consider what it would be like if frames were labeled a different way, without any reference to time. For example, if each frame had a unique address coded with five letters of the alphabet, starting at AAAAA, AAAAB, AAAAC, and so on until ZZZZZ, editors would refer to shots and scenes by their individual five-letter codes. A director requesting a particular shot could look in the log notes and tell the editor to find frame ABAAA on a particular tape.

    On tape or disk, each frame lasts 1/29.97 of a second. Since there is an address affixed to each frame, the timecode moves at the same rate as the video (29.97 fps).

    Now, instead of using a five-letter code to uniquely tag each frame, consider using an address code in the format 00:00:00:00. Remember that these numbers don’t reflect time; they are simply unique identifiers. The first frame of NTSC video is labeled 00:00:00:00. The 29th frame is labeled 00:00:00:29, and the 30th frame is labeled 00:00:01:00. Again, just because a frame is labeled 00:00:01:00 does not mean that 1 second has passed. The frame could just as easily have been named AAABD, in which case there would be no temptation to read the label as a time value. Only the frame rate of the video can determine how much time has passed by the 30th frame. In the case of NTSC video, 0.999 seconds have passed by frame 30. By frame 1800, 60.06 seconds have passed.

    Frame count
    Timecode labels (30 fps)
    Time passed (29.97 fps)
    Error between timecode number and real time
    1/30 of a second
    1/29.97 of a second
    = 30/30 of a second
    = 1 second
    = 30/29.97 of a second
    = 1.001 seconds
    0.001 seconds
    = 60/30 of a second
    = 2 seconds
    = 60/29.97 of a second
    = 2.002 seconds
    0.002 seconds
    1800/30 of a second
    = 60 seconds
    = 1 minute
    =1800/29.97 of a second
    = 60.06 seconds
    = 1.001 minutes
    0.001 minutes
    0.06 seconds
    1.8 frames
    = 18,000/30 of a second
    = 600 seconds
    = 10 minutes
    = 18,000/29.97 of second
    = 600.6 seconds
    = 10.01 minutes
    0.01 minutes
    0.6 seconds
    17.9 frames
    = 108,000/30 of a second
    = 3600 seconds
    = 1 hour
    =108,000/29.97 of a second
    = 3603.6 seconds
    = 1.001 hours
    0.001 hours
    3.6 seconds
    107.89 frames

    If you edit an hour-long program on NTSC video, the 30 fps timecode indicates that the last frame of the program is frame 108,000, labeled as timecode 01:00:00:00 (non-drop frame). However, the table above shows that because the video actually runs at 29.97 fps (each frame is slightly longer than if it were running at 30 fps), 1 hour has actually passed at frame 107,892 (3.6 seconds earlier than the 30 fps timecode shows). What editors wanted, particularly in television environments, was a method of frame addressing that accurately reflected how much time had passed.

    Drop frame timecode was invented to compensate for the discrepancy between 29.97 and 30 fps. Every minute except each tenth minute, two timecode numbers are dropped from the timecode count. This drop frame mode of 30 fps timecode remains accurate compared to the actual time passed, with a strange side effect that two numbers each minute vanish from the count.

    The Difference Between Frame Rate and Timecode

    The frame rate of your film or video describes how rapidly frames are photographed or played back. It refers to the physical speed of image capture and playback. Timecode is merely a method of labeling frames with unique identifiers to easily find them again later. It is a convenient way of giving each frame a name that can be referred to later without having to verbally describe and visually search for it. Even though frame rate and timecode are independent, people commonly confuse the two, which can lead to frustrating problems in post-production. Before you start a project, be certain that you understand the difference between these two terms.

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