Another short clip from a series of tests I’m running with the mavic 2 pro. Trees, grass and foliage are a well known ‘stress test’ for consumer/ prosumer and even pro (whatever that means these days) drone cameras with their smallish sensors and modest bit rates. The location I’m filming these tests at is becoming a firm favourite with its layers of trees in the foreground and mid ground and distant hills and buildings about half a mile away in the distance.
Today’s test was specifically to look at autofocus vs manual focus set to infinity, and see which is basically the best. Nailing focus is rule 101 for stills or video as getting the best focus possible obviously results in the sharpest/ best clarity footage. It was however one of those odd sunny but hazy days so probably not the best weather for this kind of test, but you work with what you’ve got don’t you.
In the above video splitscreen the left side is autofocus mode with the focal point selected on the distant hill under the castle .
The right side is manual focus mode and simply selecting the infinity symbol.
Peaking was set to on for both clips and both showed exactly the same data/ focus range i.e. the tress in the foreground and trees/ hills in the background were all highlighted in red as ‘in focus’ for both clips.
All PP and colour correction done in Resolve 15 and is IDENTICAL for both clips, with 2% sharpen done in post.
Mavic 2 pro in camera picture settings were:
– 4k HQ
– 25 fps
– f4.0 (widely regarded as the best, sharpest aperture for this camera)
– ND 16 polarpro cinema filter – shutter was around 1/60th
I’ve read varying reports that the manual infinity focus feature was messed up in a recent update, but from my initial observations I would say it’s working well, and the footage actually looks ‘better’ with slightly more clarity on the right hand side clip when pixel peeping on a 32 inch 4k monitor. See this screen capture of the centre of the image at 300% magnification in Resolve:
What do you think? I would say there’s marginally more clarity on the buildings in the right hand side clip (MF infinity). Slightly more detail to be seen in the windows of the red building in the foreground for example. Pixel peeping at 300% isn’t something I often do though, so I would say the difference is very very minor. So, is MF set to infinity better than AF??? I’d say that very slightly it is, for this test anyway. I wouldn’t say it’s significant, but every bit helps.
A quick upload from a series of tests I’m doing at the moment with the Mavic 2 pro.
Watch in 4k full screen on Youtube ^
My PfCO course is now underway (doing a distance learning module for the theory part) so I’m trying to get some more flying time in. I’m also doing a lot of comparisons between the Mavic pro and the Mavic 2 pro in terms of video quality. Without going into detail here yet, in short the Mavic 2 pro knocks the original out of the sky. From my limited testing so far I’m blown away by what this relatively small camera can produce. I’ve yet to test its stills performance properly, but from what I’ve seen elsewhere it’s pretty solid.
The short clip above is a comparison of colour graded/ tweaked and un-graded footage straight out of the camera. For any nerds reading the tech specs for the clip are:
Picture settings 0,0,0 (no messing with in camera sharpening, contrast or colour)
ND16 polar pro cinema filter (which only allowed a shutter speed of 1/100 in these bright conditions. Need to bag an ND32 to achieve the 180 rule)
The post production, colour grading and edit was done in the newly released Davinci Resolve 16 beta4. I’ve used Premiere Pro for years but had to make the jump as my older non CC version can’t actually play .h265 files unfortunately. I was reluctant to have to switch to new software, old habits and all that, but I shouldn’t have worried. It feels like a great package and I genuinely can’t believe how good this free version of Resolve is. It seems very slick, user friendly and more powerful with faster rendering, especially as it makes better use of the CUDA cores in my Nvidia GPU.
Lots more testing to do and hopefully I’ll get more detailed comparison videos up on here….
Idleness and hiatus. One’s a sin and the other’s a great word for taking a break. Not many blog posts on here for a long while mainly due to these words.
It dawned on me recently that I’ve been professional for 10 years now, which is scary and good in equal measure. Like most people it’s been a journey of peaks and troughs, but for the first 8 years or so there was a definite upward trend to the graph. I’ve had some amazing assignments, been in locations that you just don’t get to go normally, and worked with some great clients and people.
The last 18 months or so….not so much. More trough than peak that’s for sure. If you stick around long enough you soon realise that big things like life, illness and death get in the way of plans, then little but equally nasty critters like complacency, doubt and idleness can creep up on you. This isn’t good for photographers, or any freelancer.
What can we do about this? We can either make maudlin posts on the internet (that hardly anyone will read) or you regroup and refresh and try something new. Not only for the good of your ‘business’ but for the sake of your motivation and sanity, taking a new path can be a big step in the right direction if you’re a photographer in a creative rut. And the direction I’m going is up.
This blog entry is a long winded way to say DanD Photography + Video is going aerial. Not exclusively, but I’m hoping it will shortly become a significant arm to my commercial and architectural photography. I’m paid up and enrolled on the journey to become a qualified drone pilot with PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operation) by the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) – which basically means once I’ve learnt everything and pass the necessary exams I get to legally fly places, shoot fantastic stills and video from the sky and then charge clients for it.
I should add drones aren’t new to me, nor is flying stuff generally. I’ve had the original DJI Mavic pro since it launched a few years ago and have just taken delivery of a Mavic 2 pro. I also flew radio controlled planes as a kid and have always been a gamer who was obsessed with PC flight sims back in the 90’s. I think gaming genuinely helps with drone flying. For a start the Mavic line of controllers look and feel like a bastardised xbox/ playstation controller and the muscle memory and spatial awareness just translates across easily for me.
Flying is only one part of it. It’s the creative opportunities for video and stills that gets me going, but I’ve only ever flown the original Mavic pro for fun. And not that much fun as frankly the video and stills it captures aren’t always great. Certainly not good enough for professional use a lot of the time. As is well documented a bit rate of 60mbps is woefully inadequate for 4k video capture and the small sensor’s not great for stills in anything but bright conditions. Also, “8th frame GOP flicker” in your videos? Look that up if you don’t know what it means. It’s horrific and the Mavic pro footage is riddled with it. Endlessly fighting with settings and making compromises isn’t what you need when you’re a photographer used to dealing with much higher end cameras, sensors and lenses. If I can’t get beautiful, clean sharp footage from any sort of camera system, I lose interest in it pretty quickly.
The photo above is a Mavic 2 pro which arrived at DanDHQ yesterday. I’m not going to go into details about specs or review it – there are literally thousands of videos and reviews out there and it launched about 8 months ago – the perfect amount of time for it to bed in and see what issues there might be. Safe to say it’s a very well regarded bit of kit and the level of quality from the new 1″ sensor, Hasselblad camera guts and (most importantly to me) the 10bit log video capture seems to be stellar from samples I’ve seen. I’ve yet to test it – batteries charging as I type – but I have very high hopes (ahem) for this drone, perhaps an Inspire 2/3 or Phantom 5 down the line and the future upward trajectory of DanD Aerial Photography + Video, or whatever I decide to call it….
After launching my shiny new dedicated architectural photography website a few months ago, my original main site started looking at me with doe eyes. Although I still like(d) it, it’s not had a refresh for at least 5 years, so it was overdue really.
A website re-design is always way more work than you think it’s going to be. Not a huge amount has changed in terms of main content and images, but the back end, front end and general design have all had an overhaul. A big move is that for the main body of the site I’ve finally ditched Flash. As someone who worked in web design (a looong time ago, when it was fun) I’ve always liked Flash from a ‘designy’ look and feel perspective. But, from an SEO and usability point of view it’s not the best, so it finally had to go and HTML5 is now in its place. Although still full screen image driven, to best show off my still photography, the main body of the site now has a more white and whitespacey design for text content and the navigation bar, which has also shifted to the bottom.
The biggest change is the completely re-worked and re-designed front end or main ‘landing page’ at https://www.dandphotography.co.uk. This is now a ‘responsive’ design that fits to any screen size on any device, and is content driven (hopefully) providing a good summary of what DanD Photography + Video is all about.
> Head on over to https://www.dandphotography.co.uk for a look.
I recently had the pleasure of photographing part of the Great Exhibition of the North up in Newcastle for an architectural client who designed the Which Way North interior ‘takeover’ of the Hancock Museum.
Amongst some prominent exhibits on loan was Damian Hirst’s ‘Heaven 2008-2009’, one of his infamous floating shark in formaldehyde pieces. It’s an impressive thing to see in the flesh, and from a technical point of view a nightmare to capture photographically (at least head on – being primarily an architectural photographer I wanted to get some symmetry going on).
The difficulty was mostly due to a myriad of reflections/ refraction that glass + water produce, so excluding myself, my equipment and everything going on behind me from showing in the photos was pretty much impossible. However, with a spot of delayed shutter release, side stepping out the way, and a judicious amount of post production I managed to grab a few frames and produce a final image I was pleased with.
> See this photo larger, and more from the exhibition here
> See other art, exhibition and gallery portfolios on my new architectural website here
Sound a trumpet, bang a small gong, break open a bottle of fizzy K cider if you must. My NEW DEDICATED ARCHITECTURAL WEBSITE is finally launched and live. Not many blog updates on here for a long while, but amongst other things (life, death, horror and a few good things) I’ve been mainly working on architectural and interior photography assignments for quite a while now.
My old website is still trucking along but my new dedicated architectural photography site has a host of new images, architectural portfolios, projects and content so head on over to:
Some final images from a recent large photography project for a commercial bakery, that supplies all the cakes and any sweet treat you can possibly imagine for Marks & Spencer across the UK. These are just a selection of some 40 or so shots that were reproduced as large format acrylic panel wall art that’s now up on display across the facility.
by Dan Dunkley
A quick still of some large format acrylic panel prints coming hot off the print production line. It’s for one of my latest projects I’m imaginatively titling Project Cake. 40 of these specially commissioned 6sq ft pieces will be up on display in a big northern industrial cake factory, some time soon. Look out for a future blog post for more details…
by Dan Dunkley
A short promotional video for a Manchester based housing client. This project, recently completed, involved the total strip out, renovation and extension of a suburban commercial property over the course of a year.
The video features a mix of traditional filming, short term timelapse photography and long term timelapse photography from 4 fixed cameras, 2 external and 2 internal.
A recent editorial photography assignment in Manchester tasked me with capturing Professor Lin Li, the newly elected President of the Laser Institute of America. He’s actually based at Manchester University, so not much glamorous travel was involved for this one.
It’s funny how clients often have a very different idea to a photographer of what might make the best picture. Prof Li works with lasers, so I immediately got a bit giddy at the prospect of what might be involved, and the scope for some potentially great photos with various off camera lights beckoned in my imagination (if you’re a photographer reading this you probably know what I mean). However, the final brief was to mainly capture the subject walking and waving to camera, against a plain-ish backdrop so he could be cut out in post and placed on a black background. So we ended up with the shot you can see in magazine above. Not the most exciting picture in the world granted.
You might not think it but it was actually very challenging to achieve this shot in the location we had to work with, and it’s exactly what the client asked for so they were very happy with it in the end. Happy client = happy photographer.
I wasn’t going to leave it at that though. This man works with lasers. And robots for god’s sake. So with the limited time we had I stuck Prof Li in front of the biggest bit of sciency equipment we could access on the day and went to my trusty bag of speedlights and coloured gels to pull off a few more hardcoresciencepics, and here’s one below. Personally I’d much rather have run with this one, but there you go…
by Dan Dunkley