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The Darkroom (Photography and Cinematography Discussion Mega-thread)

Hello L1T Denizens,
A search of the extant material on the forum was disappointingly scant in the area of digital photography, filmmaking, and the legacy medium from which the two emerged.

Let’s Fix that.

Post your gear, your use cases, your workflow, your problems, your advice, and anything else of interest to you (and potentially to others) here. Discuss advances and developments in the field, share your knowledge, and shoot the shit with the other glassheads in the community.

I’ll start with an inquiry: I sold off all of my equipment in a move some time ago, and I’m gearing up for my first production in a while. I still have lights, a fluid head and tripod, and probably a shoulder rig/gimbal laying around somewhere too. I’ve not followed the tech for some years now, so I’m not too familiar with the hot takes and spicy deals that I might benefit from.

I almost exclusively work in video, mostly short-form news spots, documentaries, interviews, and the occasional multimedia art piece or indie music video. I’m used to a 2 camera workflow for most things, but my setup budget is initially tighter than my old equipment set cost new.

Luckily, things seem to have improved since then.

My criteria for my inital rig are:

  • bare essentials, with room to grow in future
  • Video above all else, 4k not a must
  • high value for money
  • Shoots Raw or Fat, durable codecs (not squeamish about hacking)
  • portable enough to run and gun or fit on a midrange gimbal/stabilizer
  • minimal company lock-in (not a must, but preferred in a close race)

After a bit of research, the Blackmagic Pocket (BMPCC) seems to be a good benchmark. Massive dynamic range, uniquely un-crippled firmware, shoots Raw, and designed to be pretty open. They’re going used for 500-600 US as well.

Thing is, the BMPCC came out in 2014, and a ton of Mirrorless and DSLR systems have come out since. Too many to comprehensively research on my own. I’m also looking at the BMMCC (micro) because it has the same sensor and firmware, but more robust build quality and a few other key features. Biggest problem is that you pretty much have to rig it because it lacks any on-device screen and uses breakouts heavily.

So the question is: what other portable camera systems, if any, will let me shoot raw 1080p+ footage with 13 stops of dynamic range for $600-1000 (body only?) All suggestions welcome.


Since no one wants to bite on the first topic, let's do some workflow discussion. Mine is as follows:


  • Secondhand 15" Macbook (very new acquisition)
  • Desktop/Deep Learning rig, 6700k w/GTX 1070 & 2x 980 Ti's, running archlinux, Centos, and FreeBSD on a convoluted hypervisor system
  • New Camera rig TBD, with ebay special fluid head, tripod, and DIY LED softboxes DC light rigs
  • Zoom condenser mic with optional dead cat attachment


  • Blender with Filmic and GreasePencil for complex compositing and VFX
  • Natron for less complex scenes, roto, and keying.
  • Da Vinci Resolve Studio for ingestion, grading, polish and final export
  • Ardour/Harrison Mixbus for mastering (that is, until DRS 14 hits release)

I know what you're thinking, and no, I'm not currently wearing an RMS graphic tee, and I don't really care about which OS I use all that much.

That said, windows 8 and 10 tend to get in the way when I'm working. I don't like that. some of the VFX I do require machine learning and programming/training of the neural nets used therein. You can't do that on windows, and I'm not paying for cloud instances when I have a GPU power plant sitting on my desk, so I have to use software that works on mac and linux. Adobe is nice, Adobe is convenient, but Adobe ain't cross platform to the extent I need it to be.

So I ingest on the Macbook with every swap of the storage while filming, and start grading if the shoot takes a while. By the time I get home, I have raws that I can drop straight into the workflow on the desktop. I have an RHEL based distro for the actual editing, and Archlinux for ML visual processing. hardware passthrough lets me do both simultaneously. The same setup would be much more expensive were I to use Windows for the adobe workflow, and practising outside of their suite makes me miss it less every day. The user-friendliness attributed to their offerings seems like it's really only down to familiarity.

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Edit: This is kind of a joint thing between me and @tkoham since it turns out we both made threads at around the same time, so we got them merged.

I'm going through my camera phase again. I've seen people talking about cameras sometimes on here, and the forum's predecessor had quite a lot of discussion on the subject of photography and cameras. But I've looked and searched and it doesn't look as though Level1Techs has had a dedicated camera discussion thread until now. In a way, they're some of the unsung heroes of Level1Techs, so let's have a thread about them.

You don't have to be super into photo/videography to come here, and you certainly don't need to shell out thousands or even hundreds of dollars to dabble in it. Whether you have a full-frame DSLR with a 20-inch lens that cost more than a car or you carry around just the tiny sensor in your phone, hell, you don't even need to own a camera! This is a place for learning, discussion and sharing ideas and information, and all are welcome here. I'm interested in cameras and am fascinated by their technical aspects, but I could never be called particularly knowledgeable or experienced in either videography or photography.

If you're just getting started out or you're curious about cameras like I am, here are some explanations as to the basics of cameras, just so you know what some of the jargon means. This assumes you know what the basic components of a camera are, like the body and the lens and what have you.

Warning: This is a deluge of information, so only click on the triangle if you are prepared to learn it all at once. Most of it is pretty important to understanding your own camera. For a slower, easier trickle of knowledge, hop in the discussions of this thread! :smiley:

Explanations if you want them
  • Focal length: The distance between the optical center of the lens and the focal point (i.e. the image sensor or the film), measured in millimeters. On a consumer grade camera, the change in this value is what the "zoom" factor would be.

  • Crop/Crop sensor: Back in the days when film photography was the norm, the standard film size was 35mm(diagonal). The film is what your "sensor" would have been. Nowadays, the 35mm standard has taken place as the "Full Frame" standard - usually used in high end cameras. A Crop Sensor is a standard size of image sensor that is physically smaller than Full Frame. Common examples for crop sensor sizes today are APS-C, Micro Four Thirds, 1", among several others. That leads smoothly into...

  • Crop Factor: The ratio of equivalent focal lengths between a crop sensor and a full-frame sensor or film. On most lenses (that I have seen), their focal length rating is the measurement given for full-frame cameras. If you are using a crop sensor, you must multiply the focal length rating of the lens by the crop factor of the lens to get the equivalent focal length of the lens for that sensor. An easy example: Micro Four Thirds sensors have a 2x crop factor compared to full-frame sensors. This means that on such a camera, a full-frame zoom lens with a focal length rating of 18-35mm would actually functionally be a 36-70mm lens for that camera. It's something to consider when dealing with interchangeable lens cameras, but generally once you get to smaller sensor sizes than Micro Four Thirds, you don't need to worry too much about the crop factor. Most cameras with sensors that small have fixed lenses designed around those sensors. (i.e. point-and-shoots and smartphones).

Here's a chart if you need a visual idea of the difference in size.

  • Aperture/f-stop:
    • What this physically is: the ratio between the diameter of the aperture pupil and the focal length of the system. Basically, the lower the ratio, the wider the iris gets.
    • What this means for the camera: how much light the lens lets in onto the sensor, measured in stops. One full stop is an effective doubling in the amount of light the camera lets in. This not only determines the light level gathered, but also the camera's depth-of-field. Many cameras nowadays let you go in half-stops and third-stops. Sometimes the aperture controls are even completely smooth. The maximum aperture width is printed on the front of the lens and looks like this: 1:5.6
      Also bear in mind that when someone talks about how "fast" a lens is, this is what they are talking about.
  • ISO level: this is a measure of the sensor or film's sensitivity to light as opposed to how much light is let in by the aperture. It is an electronically controllable setting on digital sensors and usually ranges from 100 to somewhere in the thousands, tens or perhaps even hundreds of thousands depending on the sensor. Generally the higher the ISO setting, the more light the sensor will respond to, which is good for low-light shooting, but beyond a certain point the image quality will degrade very quickly. How well a sensor performs at high ISOs is most dependent on the size of the sensor. In low light, a wider aperture will provide better image quality than a higher ISO, but either one will only take you so far.

  • Depth of Field: the depth or distance of an image plane that will be in focus when taking a photo. Directly affected by aperture setting. Wider apertures will yield shallower depths of field. Narrower apertures will produce wider depths of field. The focus ring on a camera will determine where in the plane the focus field is. Most cell phone cameras use tiny sensors and have fixed apertures that give them wide depths of field.

  • Shutter speed: Also referred to as "Exposure time", this is the amount of time for which a camera exposes its sensor or film to light, measured in fractions of a second, seconds and sometimes minutes. Can range from holding the shutter open as long as needed to several thousandths of a second. This is electronically controlled but used to be mechanically controlled. For fast-moving targets, a high shutter speed is needed to capture them without the subject being blurred. Shutter speed also affects how much light is collected and is the third factor affecting light levels in a camera, along with aperture and ISO. Knowing when and how to use what setting is how you will improve your photo/videography.

Some quicker ones

  • Prime Lens: A lens with a fixed focal length, i.e., cannot zoom in or out. Uses fewer glass elements so can result in better overall image quality than a zoom lens of similar quality. Tradeoffs for primes include arbitrary photo framing.

  • Zoom Lens: A lens with a variable focal length, i.e. can zoom in and out. These usually have quite a few more elements (pieces of glass) in them. Tradeoffs for zooms include smaller apertures that usually shrink the more you zoom in, and image quality.

  • SLR: Stands for Single Mirror Reflex. SLRs use a mirror that takes the view from the lens to a viewfinder so the operator can see exactly the picture he will be taking. DSLRs are the same thing but with a digital sensor rather than film.

  • Mirrorless camera: a camera with an interchangeable lens and (usually) a large sensor but which has no mirror, instead sending a constant video signal through to a screen, a monitor or an electronic viewfinder. Usually smaller than equivalent DSLRs.

Let's all have fun here, be sure to adhere to the rules of the forum - Do NOT judge anyone here for what kind of camera system they use. Canon and Nikon fanboys, leave each other alone! What matters is not what camera you have, what matters is that you are using it. If you have any input for improvements for someone, give it constructively and kindly, or don't give it at all.

I'm pretty new to the whole camera thing myself, so if there's anything I got wrong in my explanation section or something you think should be changed or added, don't hesitate to let me know!

With all that in mind, have at it! Go forth! Be free! Talk about cameras!



I ended up going with the Pocket Cinema Camera by BlackMagic Design. It's the cheapest production worthy video body on the market, sure, but it punches way above its weight if you put it up against mirrorless or DSLR bodies from larger brands.

I got the Panasonic 14mm F2.5 Aspheric Prime for wide shots, low light, and the indie narrow DOF meme, and the 12-35 Zoom For run-and-gun and the good OIS (the BMPCC lacks body optical stabilization unfortunately)

Honestly, the workflow I used before hasn't changed much, (I use CentOS for serious work, can't count on arch not to fuck up) but here's a screenie if anyone thinks I'd have the audacity to go on the internet and lie:

Shooting in raw for under 2 grand wasn't possible when I sold off my last rig, but this new one handles it like a champ. The super 16 crop factor makes some shots challenging with my limited glass, but the thing blows away Canon and Nikon bodies that come in at 2-3x the price.

I'll be posting lighting, supporting equipment, and guides later if there's any interest as well.

On the list for acquisition:

  • Follow Focus
  • Ultrafast Wide lens (SLR Magic or Voigtlander most likely)
  • Counterbalance gimbal or shoulder rig
  • Spare batteries
  • ND filters
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also, if you’re in to photography, you should participate:

What? A Darkroom?


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Hasselblad H5D but just one cheap umbrella light? What a noob!


(joking of course)

@geisterfaust never shot on a Hasselblad, what’s your impression of the h5d?

You really don’t see it? That is in game.

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fuck me

I’m outside and the glare is enough to make that look photorealistic at this resolution

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I have the H3D-39. The H5D is still way out of range for me but I am in the system. The H3D, H3DII and H4D are basically all the same camera. Hasselblad added the True Focus system to the H4D line but other than that…

The H5D had a slight design update but is in general still the same thing, even the newest H6D isn’t far off, I think they improved the AF on that one. The main thing of the H5D was the new 50c sensor and the multishot versions.

The first thing to notice is of course size and weight. Hasselblads H system cameras are massive, put a bigger lens on it and you have a setup that will cause you problems when shooting handheld. It is doable but not fun.

Also you like action shots or anything moving? Forget about that. This camera has one AF point. And you can’t even move it.

Oh and you like shooting in dim light? Not with this one. The older models are all using a CCD sensor that produces acceptable stuff maybe up to ISO400, ISO200 on the bigger ones like my 39mp because those are two 35mm sensors side by side. There are only two medium format CMOS sensors in existence today: The pretty expensive 14bit 50mp ($7000,- and up, depending on camera) and the completely insanely priced 16bit 100mp (… don’t ask).

The experience: You need to be methodical with beasts like this. You will have to deal with shitty software (Hasselblad Phocus), horrible AF performance, you will need tons of light (studio flash, speedlights won’t cut it), you will need to nail exposure because the old CCD sensors don’t like to be pushed…

It is not a point and shoot thing. BUT: It is worth all of it.

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darkrooms are for dweebs they smell like cat piss /s

Sounds like a lot of fun. Time to go out and buy one of their sony rebrands

Totally! It’s gonna make your shit all artistic and stuff.

speaking of, here’s the total eclipse shot on film:


TFW you have to do a motion track on 12 minutes of uncompressed footage:


My workflow is pretty basic. Photography is only a hobby for me.
Historically home videos were my focus but ever since getting a MLR for video I’ve been learning to take and edit stills.


  • Sony a5100 (aps-c crop sensor)
  • (Kit lens) 16 - 50 (3.5 - 5.6)
    Quickly learned that this sucked at anything zoomed past 35mm. (grainy, distorted, etc) Totally adequate for video though.
  • Ricko 8mm fisheye 1.8
    Great for fun shots.
  • Sony 35mm 1.8 prime
    This has been a game changer for me… never gone back to the kit lens even for video.


(OS is debian stretch)


Typical edting process:

  • Choose base curve.
    It defaults to a “sony alpha” curve but it’s shit so I usually just revert to “neutral” and curve it myself.
  • Use either “exposure” or just set the black/white levels.
  • Tune contrast and balance with curves (“levels” ?)
  • Add bulk color correction if needed.
  • Check if b/w would make picture much better
  • Experiment with split-toning
  • Sharpen using the “equalizer” tool. It’s a fancy pants sharpening and de-noising graph. Occationally I’ll have some de-noising but usually avoid it.
  • Edit other pictures and come back after 20 minutes to see it again at first glance. A great way to make sure you didn’t get carried away.


  • Best pano stitching tool ever… nuff said.

New Lens >>> New Frens

I heartily recommend the rokinon cine line to anyone doing video on a budget

DOF demo video:

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Oh also side note, swiched to reaper/fairlight for sound, the linux version of reaper is really up to speed with the official releases now and reafir is the best free dynamics plugin ever.

For someone that is looking in getting a better camera (selling off my old 6P which worked well), does anyone have any advice? I have a small budget, read the cheaper the better, but would love to get into astrophotography, animals, landscapes, things of that nature. Mirror less cameras really appeal to me due to the form factor but I understand their limitations. Curious to see what suggestions or advice you all may have!