DSLR Full-Manual (avoiding flicker) extremely confused.

I've been reading a lot of threads in a lot of forums, and I'm still flabbergasted about how complicated this topic is to fully understand. I'm hoping someone with experience can help clarify the "digital lense flicker" epidemic for me. I'm looking to buy a camera, but I'm frozen with too much panic and confusion to make that move just yet.

#1. Is it really true that all DSLR cameras simply don't allow full manual control over focus, aperture, ISO, and shutter speed? There are absolutely no settings that could be changed to allow full manual control over these things?

#2. OR - is it the digital lenses that cause "flicker"? Same as above: is there absolutely no way to just flick a switch that would tell the lens to stop messing about and just surrender control to the photographer? This seems crazy to me.

#3. Shouldn't the settings of the camera (body) be able to force the lens to stop auto adjusting, and just keep the manual settings that the photographer chooses?

#4. I'm looking to get a Cannon Rebel T3i or a Cannon 60D soon. (I need the full HD resolution, otherwise I'd be looking at a T1 or T2, etc...). I'm nervous to buy anything, because I'm unsure exactly what else I need to even be able to use it. lol... Apparently the lens socket is EF-S, which I've read is backward-compatible with SLR lenses, and still compatible with EF lenses. I read here that SLR lenses don't have the flicker problem, so does anyone know for sure if I could use an SLR lense on this camera, and if it's also true that SLR lenses don't create flicker?

In general, I'm simply overwhelmed with confusion about why the only solution to avoid flicker caused by digital lenses seems to be to get a Cannon body, a fotodiox lens adapter, and a Nikkor lens... Why is this the case? Are the big studios that film animations like Box Trolls and Coraline and Corpse Bride needing to do this as well, or is this just a problem with consumer-grade DSLR cameras? It just seems so silly to me that this is even something to worry about. In my mind, I'm finding it hard to accept that there isn't a way to turn all these auto-features off, and - bing - problem solved. 

I'm just having trouble understanding how to get around the issue in the least complicated and least expensive way, despite reading an overwhelming amount of information on this "DSLR Flicker" topic for weeks. Any clarification would be greatly appreciated.

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A used 7d could be a viable option.

For any used Canon camera, there is a website where you can pay around $2 to use software to find out how many shots a camera has taken.  Apparently the info is in there, but isn't normally visible to the user - that would be a good thing for Canon to add to the menu.  Here:   http://www.eoscount.com/

If the seller doesn't tell you, you could ask for that before you could consider buying it.  

There are other things that can go wrong, long before the shutter is wearing out - my 40 got some dirt on the sensor (or the low pass filter in front of it) and a professional clean could not get all of it.  Also it has developed 3 hot pixels.   I still use it for my own projects but not for professional jobs, I've switched to the 7d for that.  Before buying, I took a couple of test shots with the 7d and zoomed in and looked over the whole image to make sure I couldn't find any hot pixels, because even a new camera can have a couple.  I think Canon considers that "acceptable" - it's easily fixed on still photos, but is a more of a pain for animation.

not necessarily on the macro- depends on how much shooting you want to do with the lens really close to the subject. the truth is, you'll start building an arsenal of lenses, develop your own vocabulary for which to use when, then you'll realize you don't have enough, then you're scouring ebay again. i have one nikon zoom lens with a "macro range" that's actually more useful than the zoom, but that has everything to do with the minimum focus distance- its really hard to focus that lens in "zoom mode" without moving the camera further from the set. anyhow- you can cover a lot of ground with a couple of lens options, and the ability to move the camera where it needs to be. pay attention to the focus distance of the lenses you are looking at. then at some point, bite the bullet, start experimenting, and you'll figure out what you can get with each lens, which will guide you in shopping for another. good luck. 

@Nick: The 7D would be great! The 60D seems like it's almost identical though, other than the plastic vs magnesium case. Also, that site is really handy, thanks. I'm going to be shooting in RAW, so hopefully if there are any hot pixels they would get tossed when I size-down the images and render. I hope... 

@Ri: so it's not really a matter of scale then? I just figured since everything in stop-mo is so small, that a macro would make everything look bigger. I know I need to cover wide, medium, and close-up shots, but I don't know enough about lenses yet to figure out what's actually going to be most useful.

All I know is that I want it to feel like there's a tiny little camera operator filming inside the set, and I don't want it to feel like there's a giant camera operator filming his kitchen table. haha. Does that even make sense? 

indeed- that's  the challenge for all of us. there is no one answer, and there are thousands of little tricks you'll pick up with experience, most of which have nothing to do with the lens. 

but consider this- a 20 mm lens one foot from your set will get you the same (or similar) composition as an 85mm lens 12 feet away (or whatever- i didn't actually do any math, and there are of course numerous reasons why the 2 lenses aren't interchangeable) but for illustrative purposes its good to keep in mind to guide your experimentation. 

Ah ha... That really helps alot! 

Currently, I confined to a small 11x10 kitchen (also needing to shift a fridge to get full use of that space), and my set is 7x5... This is early days, my friends! haha...

Lower mm lenses certainly make a lot of sense for me now. Macro sounds ideal, too.

So I'm probably looking at a 24mm wide, 35mm normal or a zoom with limited range, and a 55mm macro... Does that sound like a practical starter set that covers a good range of different shots?

I saw a video at Youtube comparing the 550d (slightly earlier that the T3i, maybe a T3?), the 60d, and the 7d.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ET0idevzGRE

He didn't like the buttons on the 60d which he found unresponsive compared to the other two. I didn't notice that with my friend's 60d.  But, using it for animation, hooked up to Dragonframe, we didn't use the buttons except for the on-off switch.  Case felt more solid than the 550d, less solid than the 7d.  But in the studio, on a tripod, that isn't a big issue either.

Aha, here's one comparing the 7d, 60d, and T3i:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ei6vh9BE6w

A 7 ft x 5 ft set - quite a bit bigger than my set for Poe's study,  or most of my interiors.  It's about 4 ft x 3 ft.

A few thoughts on lenses.  Others will have their own preferences and way of shooting, and you will work out your own.

Yes, you can get the same framing with a longer lens, like an 85mm, further away, or a wider lens, like a 28mm, up closer.  But there is a difference in the perspective.  The wide angle lens up close makes whatever is closest to the camera look a lot bigger than what is a bit further back.  The longer lens flattens that out so things are the same size, and can only hold focus on a couple of inches in front or behind of what you actually focussed on.  Wide angles are good for making a set feel huge, you are looking out at everything like you would be if you were standing in a big room.  And depth of field is greater, more of it is in focus, which would happen in a big space in real size.  Of course 24mm does this better than 28mm, but can also shoot off the edges of my sky backdrop (which is a metre away from the back of the set, so I can light it separately), so I use the 28mm for exterior shots more often.  With interior sets, I might have to put the 24mm so close it is getting in the way of animating, that could be why I am using the 28mm for that.  But I did use the 24mm on the 35mm Mitchell, which had a film size very close to the 40d/60d/7d crop sensor.  

The 55mm macro is better for filling the frame with just the puppet's head, and letting the background go a bit out of focus. Because video and compact cameras with very small sensors don't do this, a lot of people really want that shallow depth of field so it looks more cinematic.  With a small sensor, you use a wider angle lens to get the same framing, so you tend to have greater depth of field whether you want it or not.  I use both deep and shallow focus, depending on what I want the audience to focus on.  

I can get by with just 2 lenses, the 28mm and 55mm.  The 28mm focuses close enough without an extension ring behind the lens, for the wide to medium shots I use it for.  If you picked up a nice 24mm, probably don't bother with a 28mm for now, they are too similar.  I'm sure if the 28mm broke I could manage with the 24mm instead.   Leave the 35mm until later unless you happen on a really good bargain and need to jump on it.

With many zooms, especially on video cameras, the macro focussing only comes in at the wide angle end of the zoom range.  Since I use macro most with the 55mm, that wouldn't be as useful to me.  But you could make it work.

Portrait lenses are usually longer, like 105mm, because shoving a wide lens in close makes whatever is in the centre of the image look bigger, usually the nose, and can't see as far around the sides of the face - just like we can't see around the sides of the earth because we are too close.  A longer lens further back is more flattering.   But shooting miniatures, that shallow depth of field gets too exaggerated, and if you get your puppet's eyes in focus, the nose is too close and goes blurry, and so do the ears because they are too far away - a half inch either way, at the small scale and closer distance of a puppet, is too much.  So I use the 55mm as a "puppet portrait lens".

Excellent thread, thanks all. Taking notes.



I love my macro lens, its a 55m nikor prime from the 1970s, (AI) I think. It was about £70.

I love the detail it picks up and the control you have over the depth of field, I can focus on a puppets nose and make its face blurry.

I also use it for normal photography for portraits and the like, its pretty versatile.

Im not in the studio for a few days, Ill try to remember to post some up, can anyone else help?

Mike said:

Jahooli said:


The sensor is fantastic in low light, I dont have a problem with it, I havent tried the higher end cameras tho so cant compare the sensor. As you are shooting stopmo you will be able to shoot at long exposures.


Awesome, That's great to hear. Would you have any photos taken with the T3i in low light that I could take a look at to see?

I'm hoping to get a 60D, or I'm even seeing quite a few affordable 7Ds on Ebay, but condition and click mileage is the biggest deciding factor. If I can't find one of those in time for my shoot, then I'm definitely going for a new T3i.

Thank you for that info. It's very helpful to me.

You bring up some very interesting points, and it makes me wonder - how would I tell the focusing distance of a lens?

For my long and medium shots (at least a lot of them) I can only get about 24" from my subject. This is because the set itself will actually be animating between the character and the camera for a long chase scene. The closest I can push it would be 19", but it will take some clever invention to hold the camera in a tricky spot.

I did order the Nikkon to Canon Body adapter, and a Macro Tube set. I'm guessing if it came down to it, a Macro ring would get me a little closer and let me keep the camera back a bit. I think. 

Side Note: I'm able to borrow a 7D for my shoot now! yay! So I'm holding out on buying my own camera for the time, and spending what I've saved on lenses. I had no idea they were so expensive! But the whole Canon EOS line uses the same lens mount, so when I do get a body, I can still use the same adapter and lenses. That means... hopefully I can actually afford some lenses now. hehehe.

Alright, I've picked out some glass. :D

I'm really leaning toward this 55mm macro, but I'm concerned about the 3.5 aperture in low-lighting. From what I gathered from Nick's post though, I can set a longer exposure (lower shutter speed?) and I should be fine with a lower aperture then, right? In my mind, I've been under the impression that I'm searching for lenses at F1.8 or below, but they are really hard to find.

55mm Macro F3.5

For the 24mm (or 28mm perhaps) I have the same concerns about a high F stop for low-lighting, but again... really difficult to find any 1.8 or lower 24mm as well.

24mm (normal) F2.8 - I think I'm looking specifically for "wide" though.

28mm wide angle F2.8

I also want a zoom if I can squeeze it in the budget, so I was looking at this. A little dusty, but the person says optics are clean and fine. Worth the price either way.

28-105mm macro zoom

Other than that, it's been tough finding anything under $200 that doesn't look like it's been kicked down the street more than a few times. haha. Still searching though.

If that 55mm is as good as they say, I would grab it.

The 24mm looks good, and the condition is described much the same as mine was.  F-2.8 is the same as mine.   Mine also has clean clear glass.  Mine also said there was no mould or fungus.  Everything they did say was true. It didn't mention if there was any oil on the iris blades or not, and some lenses do state that there isn't.  Mine did have oil, and was sticky and slow to stop down, it's just lucky that was not an issue for me.  This one seems ok as far as you can tell without handling it.   

The 28mm is not a Nikon lens, and I am not familiar with Promaster lenses, so I don't know anything about the quality.  It's worth googling - some 3rd party lenses like Sigma can be excellent, some are shoddy.  I see there are several Nikon 28mm showing up under "people also viewed..." but they mostly cost more. ( One starts at $29 but has been at the mercy of students, and does look like it's been kicked around a fair bit.)

The Vivitar 28-105mm zoom has a pretty low bid at the moment so may be worth considering on that basis, but I'm not getting excited about it.  I would google to get some reviews of Vivitar lenses generally, and this one in particular if possible.  I can see the dust in the photo, if it's inside you can't really get it out. So I would want it to be cheap.  (I think they were maybe cheapish to begin with?)  The upper end of the zoom isn't of much use for animation, I probably wouldn't take it past 60mm.  But going to 28mm at the wide end is good, though not as good as the typical kit lens that goes to 18mm, pity they aren't so suitable for animation.  It could be handy for general photography as a mild telephoto where you can't get close to the subject, but the modern kit lenses are ok for that.  

When shooting miniatures, you hardly ever shoot with the lens wide open.  My 55mm also has a maximum aperture of f-3.5 and I never use it.  I mostly shoot at f-8, f-11, or f-16, and rarely at f-5.6.  Others might like a shallower depth of field, but in miniature scale you get that anyway, and more so with a slightly longer lens like 55mm. 

The standard 50mm lens on my old Olympus OM 1 has a max aperture of f-1.4, which was great for stills in low light where you are hand-holding the camera and need to keep the exposure time pretty short, but it just isn't something I need for animation.  The animation camera is on a tripod, the puppet isn't really moving, I have all the time in the world.  Oh, and I keep the ISO to 100 or 200, putting it up too high will introduce noise.  (Probably 400 ISO is still ok but I don't use it.)

Often my key light is only a 50 watt halogen, and I shoot with an aperture of f-11, and an exposure time  (shutter speed) of 1/2 sec to 1 sec.   You can go with much longer exposures and smaller f-stops, but then the video preview starts to get a bit too dark to see much.  The long exposure affects the final image, but doesn't benefit the video preview, and that's what you use in Dragonframe or StopmotionPro or whatever to gauge your animation.  So I use more light but don't extend the exposure time much further, and still keep stopped down.

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