Tag: Equipment Reviews

Rode VideoMic Review

I purchased a Rode VideoMic about 2 months ago. I’ve used it multiple times, filming our youth choir recital, downhill skateboarding with high winds, and a few chunks of random dialogue. The audio from the Rode is significantly better than what comes straight out of my D3100, especially in windy situations.

Since My Nikon D3100 doesn’t have an Audio-In port, I have to use an external audio recorder to record the audio coming out of the Rode. This review won’t concentrate on how well the Rode works connected to DSLR’s, since I haven’t tested it with any cameras that have Audio-In ports. Other than that, using an external recorder or a DSLR makes no difference.

The clarity of the Rode compared to that of my on-camera mic is amazing. The signal-to-noise ratio is significantly higher, and the dynamic range is much better as well. When I was recording a choir recital, which had lots of loud sounds with lapses of quiet in between, my on-camera mic struggled to keep up. It would raise its sensitivity during quiet parts, and when loud noises came, they would clip. Even when it had adjusted, it still didn’t capture the full range that the Rode did. The Rode Videomic captures a much more natural, realistic sounding sound, especially when dealing with dialogue.

Even though the Rode easily outperforms my on-camera mic under average circumstances, the difference only gets more pronounced as audio-recording situations get worse. Bombing hills on a longboard with my on-camera mic produces nothing but a bunch of wind noise, while with the Rode with a DeadCat, there is still some wind noise, but it actually sounds like wind, rather than 10 787′s flying overhead. Without the Deadcat it works better than my on-board mic, but not that much better. If you’re filming in high winds, definitely get the Deadcat.

As far as disadvantages go, the Rode Videomic doesn’t have many. Its almost 10 inches long so it can get in the way, but as far as actually shooting goes, the mic stays out of my viewfinder even when I have my lens zoomed out to 18m. If you got any wider it would show up, but since I don’t have a lens wider than 18mm, that hasn’t been a problem yet.

Overall, the Rode is amazing. Its not cheap, but the difference it makes when recording audio is significant. If you’re interested in getting high-quality audio without a bunch of hassle with cables and mic poles, I’d highly recommend the Rode.

D3100 Battery Grip Review

I recently ordered a Neewer Professional Vertical Battery Grip so I could double the battery life of my D3100. It was so cheap ($25) that I didn’t expect too much, but I was pleasantly surprised by it.

The grip is definitely not quite Nikon quality, but if it was by Nikon they would be charging a ton more than $25 for it. The official Nikon EN-EL14 battery I bought to go with this grip cost $40- almost twice as much as this grip! (You can get after-market batteries for much, much less, but they don’t have a Nikon chip in them. Nikon only lets you use these batteries if you first put in the EN-EL14 that came with your camera, turn your camera on, and then put in the after-market battery. To me it was worth the extra money to get a real Nikon product rather than a no-name cheapy battery.) This grip was very, very good for its price.

I love how this grip makes my camera feel! My pinky finger would always hang off the bottom of the D3100′s grip, but with the battery grip attached, my camera feels much more comfortable to hold. Even if the grip didn’t double my battery life I think it would be worth buying for ergonomics alone. Just like holding a D3100 is much more comfortable than holding a point-and-shoot camera, attaching this grip to your camera greatly increases comfort as well.

I was expecting the grip to add to the camera’s weight, but it really didn’t. The grip was almost too light actually, compared to the D3100 body!  The grip with an extra EN-El14 battery in it weighs 202 grams, which isn’t really that much, since my D3100 with a battery and a 18-55mm VR lens weigh 829 grams. The fact that the grip is so light might turn some people away, since it doesn’t quite have the same “feel” as the D3100 body, but to me it wasn’t that big of a deal. When you go on a hike you appreciate every little bit of weight that you don’t have to carry!

The only thing that I don’t like about this grip is the cable that runs from the grip to the GPS port. Since Nikon didn’t create a grip connection port in the D3100, there’s no way that the grip can communicate with the camera. It’s not that big of a deal. I keep the cable plugged in when I take pictures around the house, and unplug the cable to keep dust out of my camera when I go on a hike. When you want to tip your camera on it’s side the grip’s shutter release button really comes in handy, so you don’t have to reach one of your hands up at a weird angle to release the shutter. If they had figured out some way to replace the cable with a wireless release, I would have definitely rated this grip as a 5 star product. As is, I would still give it 4 stars.

Well that’s my thoughts on it! This battery grip won’t help you take better pictures, but it will let you take more of them, and will make taking them more pleasant ergonomically.
This grip is an excellent buy!

Camera Review: GoPro Hero HD

Our family recently took a vacation to Florida, and our dad bought us a GoPro before we left, so we could record what we did on the beach without fear of ruining any of our cameras. The GoPro worked like a charm, capturing shots underwater, above water, and on the beach, and I decided to review it.

The GoPro has only two buttons, and a 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch screen, which makes complicated shots and settings impossible, but on the beach that was almost a good thing. With the 170 degree wide-angle lens (which shrinks down to 127 degrees when you record 1080p video), you capture everything you point the camera at, and since the camera has so few settings, it becomes much less intrusive into what you are doing. You don’t have to be actively worrying about keeping your subject in frame or of getting your camera ruined by having it dropped, dunked, or splashed, so you can relax and have more fun with the people you’re around.

You have 5 different resolution options when you record video: 30 fps at 1080p, 30 fps at 940p,  60 or 30fps at 720p, and 60fps at VGA, and picture mode lets you record 5 Megapixel stills individually, in 3 shot bursts,  2 to 60 second intervals, or on a timed delay. Their is distortion from the wide-angle lens, but it’s not that noticeable unless the picture or video you shoot has lots of straight lines in it.

The only real con that I saw while using the GoPro didn’t have to do with anything the GoPro did or didn’t do, it just had to do with the fact that, except in certain cases, it isn’t that useful. If you went to the beach or on a river trip, or wanted to mount a camera on your bike, go-cart, or body, then the GoPro would be an amazing camera to buy. The original GoPro is currently selling at only $130 apiece, making them a very economical option for people that like to go to places that would be inhospitable to a normal camera, but if you wanted to record in “normal” conditions, you’re better off spending that $130 on a good point-and-shoot camera that records decent video, rather than buying a GoPro.

Comparing a GoPro to a normal camera isn’t really like comparing two models of normal cameras. The areas where a GoPro excels rarely overlaps to include the areas where a regular camera would work well. The GoPro works well in more extreme situations, while a normal camera does not. A normal camera works well taking pictures on dry land and on solid ground, while a GoPro doesn’t. It isn’t really fair to compare a GoPro to a normal camera- it’s almost like comparing a skateboard to a surfboard-They both work well in the situations they were designed to work well in.

My final verdict is this: If you’ve ever wanted to go to crazy places with your camera, then the GoPro is the camera for you. If not, it’ll probably end up being a cool toy that you use a few times and then forget about. If you can’t think of why you would need a GoPro, you probably don’t! (It’s still a pretty cool camera to have around though)

Camera Review: Nikon D3100

I mentioned in my last post that I had recently bought a Nikon D3100. It’s a very nice camera, with tons of features that point-and-shoot’s and regular camcorders don’t have, but, like all cameras, it’s not perfect, so I figured I’d do a review on it.

First, picture taking ability: I really like to take pictures, and although that’s not the reason that I bought the D3100, I’ve got to say that Nikon really did a very good job of making photography enjoyable. It has an extremely wide range of options for every aspect of shooting: The shutter speed can be adjusted from 1/4000 of a second up to 30 seconds at a time, and the ISO can be adjusted all the way from 100 to 3200. With that being said though, I haven’t really adjusted too many of the features as I take pictures- the automatic settings are that good!

Everything about using the D3100 feels good, from the way it fits in your hand, to the way that the shutter clicks when it goes off (I know that sounds weird, but you have to try it to know what I mean). While my last camera, a Sony Cybershot, had the same resolution (14 megapixels) as my D3100, the D3100 takes much clearer shots, since, with it’s larger image sensor, it filters our much more noise than any other camera I’ve ever had. This means that you can zoom into the shots that you’ve taken almost 1500% before you begin to notice any graininess in the image. Megapixels sound cool, but once you get above 7 or 8 megapixels you’re better off looking for a camera with a large image sensor or nicer lens options.

As far as the cons for the picture-taking mode go, I haven’t found that many yet, my only complaint being that occasionally the camera will freeze up, and it won’t take a picture, but instead will just keep shifting focus back and forth between the background and foreground. That’s not that big of a deal, as it’s only happened to me 3 times so far, and it can be fixed by switching to a different mode on the camera and switching back, but it has been annoying when it has happened, since you either miss your shot or have your subject get restless from standing still so long. It’s not that big of a deal, but, like I said earlier, no camera is perfect.

I’ve been using for about 3 weeks so far, and have been very impressed with it’s video so far. One of the main things that I like about shooting video is that it is basically the same as snapping a picture. Rather than having a dedicated video mode like many cameras, the D3100 just has a red record button on it’s back, which you can push to record video in whatever mode you happen to be in, which means that it’s much quicker and easier to get nice looking shots. The only annoying thing I’ve found with the video mode so far is that it doesn’t shoot clips longer than 10 minutes, but that’s rarely an issue, unless you were to record an event like a church service, concert, or wedding. For most of what I (and, I assume, most other filmmakers) do, I never need a camera to record for more than a few minutes at a time. If you really wanted to film clips longer than 10 minutes, you could install third-party software on your camera to extend recording time, but, that would void your warranty, so I wouldn’t recommend it, especially since Nikon put the 10 minutes limit on the camera so that it’s CCD wouldn’t overheat.

I’m sure that hardcore photographers and videographers would want something nicer than the D3100, but for it’s price (A kit, which includes a 18-55 mm lens, normally runs between $500 to $650, depending on where and when you buy it), it’s an amazingly capable video and still camera,  and once you buy it, you’ve gotten to the point where you would have to spend an extra thousand dollars or more to get any noticeable improvement in video or picture quality. You also have to think that, if today was 2004 or 2005, you probably couldn’t even buy a camera as nice as the D3100! Once you buy a camera of this quality, you’ll be good for quite a while!

Copyright © 1996-2010 SixSibs. All rights reserved.
Jarrah theme by Templates Next | Powered by WordPress