Nikon D800 test video

•March 25, 2012 • Leave a Comment

short and sweet, 100 ISO, see it here


Nikon D800 – my first impression

•March 25, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Well, I am fortunate enough to have received one of the first Nikon D800’s – its serial number is 6000292.  Wow!

It arrived on Friday morning, and I have shot quite a few tests with it already.  My impression is that this really is everything its hyped up to be.  Now I have owned many stills cameras, amongst them Hasselblads and Leicas, and the D800 is way up there.  And it shoots video too.

I know a lot of people are excited about the video prospect that this camera offers, and I’ll share a few thoughts with you here.  Beware though, I do love my gadgets but I’m not a geek.  I want this stuff to do what it says on the tin.  I want it to be relaible, efficient, and reasonably easy to use.  And being an owner of a D300, this camera is fundamentally no different in terms of operation and handling, although its a bit taller.

The live view has two very simple settings LV stills or LV video.  In video mode you can superimpose a histogram onto the pictures, which is very useful, but in operation its quite difficult to see those highlights burning out, and as you know if they’re burned out you won’t get them back.  On big video cameras I set the zebra patterning to 100%, and make sure my highlights are there.  The only way around this on the D800 would seem to be using an external viewfinder which can do this for you.  But I guess that if you’re shooting serious video with this camera, then you will need to be using an external viewfinder.

Another advantage is that you can change the iris setting as you’re shooting, as well as the shutter speed.  I would normally shoot everything at 1/50 second anyway, and it is  a slight irritation that you can accidentally knock the shutter speed while shooting.  If you are using a G type Nikon lens (ie no iris ring), then you will have to satisfy yourself with the fact that controlling the iris through the camera body has to be done in 1/3 stop increments, which makes the stop pull visible.  I wouldn’t use this as anything other than a cutaway (or B roll) camera, so I don’t consider that to be a problem.

The data rate at full 1080/50 is 24mbs, so its not up to broadcast spec (in the UK), where 50mbs is viewed as being the minimum broadcast standard.  But the HDMI out of the camera is clean, so you can always go to one of the many external frecorders on the market.  The picture output is 4:2:2 at 8 bit.  But come on, this is a stills camera that can shoot movies, not the other way round.

The video tests I have shot so far do look very good, even acceptable at 5000 ISO, albeit a bit noisy in the low light areas.  This is much more noticeable at night.  I’ll post a clip when I get a chance.

I have attached a still (shot camera RAW, then tweaked a tiny bit in CS5, but only colour and levels).  This image was shot on a brand new 70-200 f2.8 Nikkor at 200mm, f5.6, at 50 ISO.  One thing I have read about is glass… everything I have read is true, you need to use the best lenses available.  I have tested a number of my Nikkors, some of which date back 40 years, and I am going to have replace the lot.  They are not sharp enough for this camera!  This may sound a bit drastic, but I produce a lot of exhibition quality prints, and this camera is quite capable of producing A1 size prints (the uncompressed files in CS5 are 200mb), but for that quality, you will need the best glass.  And there is no point in buying this camera unless you want to exploit the high resolution it offers.

ISO 50 test image, Nikkor 70-200 f2.8 click to view full size

Braving Iraq – winner of Gold World Award

•April 13, 2011 • 4 Comments

A Young Marsh arab laying fishing nets

Braving Iraq, the American version of the film that I shot in Iraq last year has received a Gold World award in the category of Ecology and Environment at the 2011 New York International Film Festival.  The winners were announced at NAB last night.  Lets hope this is the first of many awards for this film.

More information and a link to see the film here:,1&wp=info&id=405994

“Miracle in the Marshes of Iraq” – reviews

•January 19, 2011 • 1 Comment

On location in Southern Iraq, 2010 courtesy of Bruce Chadwick

From the Guardian:

Filmmakers David Johnson and Stephen Foote prepared for a trip to Iraq with first aid courses and kidnapping awareness training, not to record the conflict, but to film birds for a Natural World special, Miracle in the Marshes of Iraq (BBC2). Their destination was the marshlands of southern Iraq – said to be the site of the Garden of Eden – which once covered an area the size of Wales. That was up until the late 1980s, when Saddam decided he wanted to get rid of the indigenous Marsh Arabs and drained the whole thing.

Azzam Alwash used to visit the area as a boy. His family fled to America, but when Saddam was toppled Alwash, now an engineer, went back and found the marshes replaced with parched, flat desert. While on one level he admired the engineering – Saddam had erected a seven-metre-high embankment, 45 miles long, on both sides of the Euphrates – he was mostly appalled, and decided to do something about it.

This was a deeply satisfying film, largely about nature making its own recovery. Alwash poked a hole in the embankment, and the rushing water did the rest. Within nine months the reed beds were growing again. The birds returned – pelicans, flamingoes, the rare Basra Reed Warbler – and so did the fish. The Marsh Arabs started to come back and resume their way of life.

But Alwash’s dream of a national park is still some way off. “When people are being found headless in the street, this is not yet an eco-tourist destination,” he said. But what’s bad for almost everyone else is very good for the Basra Reed Warbler, and one has to start somewhere.

And from the Independent:

A lot of natural history documentaries these days tag on a little “making of” extra at the end, so that you can see just how difficult it was to get the shot that had you gasping 20 minutes before. Natural World Special: Miracle in the Marshes of Iraq had little choice but to incorporate the behind-the-scenes footage into the film itself, a report on attempts to repair Saddam Hussein’s deliberate destruction of the marshlands of southern Iraq. Little choice because the natural history footage they’d actually secured wouldn’t have made it much past the half-way mark in an hour-long film. But also because the circumstances in which they were filming were so unusual that they were inextricably part of the story.

“This isn’t about the bang-bang it’s about the tweet-tweet,” said Stephen Foote, who made the film along with the film-maker David Johnson. He meant that they weren’t heading for Basra to contribute yet more grim footage of violence and explosions and civil chaos. In practice, though, the “tweet-tweet” proved fugitive and the “bang-bang” inescapable. They got away without being hit by IEDs or ending up in the back of a kidnapper’s truck, but only because they were travelling with a security team armed to the teeth. After one filming attempt had foundered – over a tribal dispute that threatened to escalate into something much more dangerous – the two-man crew found themselves with a private army of 30 men watching them as they watched distant feathery blobs.

You sensed a certain apologetic note in Johnson’s voiceover. The Iraq babbler was “a bit bland”, he conceded, and the Basra reed warbler “unspectacular”. But the defensive tone was unnecessary, even for those viewers who don’t twitch reflexively at the mention of a marbled teal. This was a fascinating, often moving film, about an attempt to heal a once beautiful landscape… and how healing an untouched landscape can be.

Natural World Special: Miracle in the Marshes of Iraq

•January 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment


The film I made in Iraq last year is finally showing on BBC2 at 8.00pm on BBC2 and BBC HD!  I will also be appearing on BBC Breakfast at around 0840 to talk about my experience.

Fifas Dirty Secrets: Panorama tonight!

•November 29, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Andrew Jennings outside Fifa hQ in Zurich

Andrew Jennings outside Fifa hQ in Zurich

Andrew Jennings, a constant thorn in the side for Fifa bosses, investigates corruption prior to the 2018 World Cup bid.  But will the Fifa bosses be afraid?  Probably not, they are self-regulating and have no shame…  Should the England bid be afraid?  It shouldn’t be, if Fifa are as honest as they claim to be, then the recent bad press that Fifa has recived in nthe UK shouldn’t make any difference – should it?  You can draw your own conclusions.

Panoram, 29th November, BBC1 2030

PBS airs “Braving Iraq” on 7th November 2010, 7pm

•November 4, 2010 • 1 Comment

Boys fishing in the Iraqi marshes

I went on three trips to Southern Iraq earlier this year to shoot a film about the restoration of the Marshes, which were comprehensively destroyed by Saddam.  This is the American version of that film.  Shot using a Panasonic P2 varicam in HD, and using some extremely long lenses (notably the Canon HJ28 – what a piece of glass!).  The British version of the film will be appearing, probably in early 2011, on the Natural World, BBC1, under the title “Miracle in the Marshes of Iraq”.  I will write more about this after the British TX.  see the trailer here