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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Dennis, when you are looking for lenses for your T2i, it might be good to take the camera's crop factor into consideration. Because I've been borrowing a T2i, I know it has a 1.6x crop factor (you can find this spec in the manual, and on most camera websites). That means any lens you use will look as if you're using a lens that's 1.6 times larger.

That would make a 28mm look like a 45mm. A 50mm would be more like a 80mm. etc

On a T2i, to get an image that's closer to the true look of a 28mm lens, you'd need a lens between 17mm and 18mm. (28mm / 1.6 crop factor = 17.5)

Sensor sizes and how they affect the final image is a hefty topic, Wikipedia has a decent overview, but full-frame means having a sensor that's the same size as 35mm film. 35mm has been a standard in feature films for quite a while, so it was basically settled to use it as a base to illustrate sensor sizes of digital cameras. Anything that isn't full-frame has a smaller sensor, and will capture less of the view than the lens can actually see.

It's not detrimental to only use a full-frame camera, or to calculate the crop factor to get "perfect" lenses for a certain look. In fact, anything below 24mm starts getting very expensive! I have a 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, and they all work fine. My only disappointment is that the 24mm (on the T2i) is not as wide as I want it to be, but it would be perfect on a full-frame camera. 

Just a little more info to add to the topic. I've just begun learning and reading up on this camera stuff, but others may be able to confirm or clarify what I've shared above.

Thanks, Mike. I learn something new every time! I was not aware of this difference, assuming that the full-frame cameras just had a lot of extra pixels that I wouldn't need.

I have a 20mm Vivitar manual lens as my widest one, picked up on eBay, but haven't used it yet. I can imagine that using a full-frame camera for a big landscape shot would be handy, but otherwise I find I am mostly using my 50mm and 28mm on the T3i/600D, sometimes with a close-up lens.

Of course the crop factor does give some advantages - not having to build a great big set and being able to place the camera a bit further back than you would with a full-frame.

The Canon 5D MkII would be nice, but it's out of my price league. I expect Tristan Oliver got a bit of a deal on 60 of them!

Met someone recently who has shot an entire live-action movie on a Canon 5D MkIII!

Thanks for that, Mike. Yeah, the old crop factor thing crops up again.  I think what we need to do is, like you, experiment a little with different focal lengths.  The width of our set is less than a metre and the depth a bit less than that.  I've only ever taken stills of it with a little Samsung camera, without any idea of the focal length I was using.  I can't see any need to get too close to the subject nor any need to try and get a wide angle shot of the entire set. Just going to have to fool around a bit with it.  A 28mm lens would probably be useful, however.


A note about sensor sizes -
Full frame refers to a sensor the size of a 35mm still camera frame. The film goes through the camera horizontally, so the 35mm is the height, minus the space taken up by the sprocket holes on top and bottom. The width is able to be bigger than that.
The 35mm movie film standard is smaller, because the film goes through the camera vertically. The width of the frame has to fit between the sprocket holes, and the height of the image is less than that. In fact, it's a half frame, very close to the smaller "crop factor" sensors in size. That's the standard for filmmaking as opposed to still photography. (well, until you get to cinemascope with anamorphic lenses, and Vista Vision that runs horizontally through the cine camera.)
I came to DSLR shooting from a 35mm Mitchell cine camera, where I was using Nikon lenses with a modified mount, so the focal length of the lenses on the Nikon D70 (1.5 crop factor) had a similar field of view to the same lenses on the Mitchell.

The other thing is that, yes, a 28mm lens looks like a 45mm (compared to a full frame still image) in the field of view covered, but in other ways it still looks like a 28mm. The depth of field is greater with a wider angle lens, however much you crop the frame. And the apparent difference is size, where things closer to camera appear bigger, and further things look smaller, is still that of a 28mm.
I use the widest lens I have when I want to cheat perspective. For example, for my series Good Riddance (shot on 35mm Mitchell) I had some 10" tall rat puppets on a full size section of my kitchen bench set, and I wanted to put my 12" tall human character in the shot with them. My 2" mini rat puppets were ok for wide shots but I needed to see them up close for this. Using the 18mm lens, I could place him really close to the lens and he looked a lot bigger. The wide angle, plus stopping down to f-22, gave me enough depth of field that he was only slightly out of focus, instead of blurred out to nothing. It was enough to believe he was in scale with the rats. The movie frame cropped the shot so I didn't get a wide view of half the studio like I would using an 18mm lens on a 35mm still camera, but the optical qualities were still what you get with an 18mm lens on any camera. If I had been still shooting with my 16mm Bolex, I would have used a 10mm lens for a similar field of view, but got more depth of field and my human puppet would have looked bigger and in sharper focus. 16mm film, like small sensor video cameras (and 4/3rds cameras) had an even bigger "crop factor" so it used wider lenses for the equivalent shots. I miss the magic sense of vast scale I could get with small scale sets from that 10mm lens.

So the 24mm lens on the crop sensor really looks like the same lens on a full frame sensor, but with the image cropped in post production. For me, these other qualities of wide angle or longer lenses are as important as how much of the set you see at a given distance.

That's very interesting, Nick. This whole time I though "full-frame" referred to cinema cameras, not still cameras. So that means that an "old" 35mm cinema camera would have had a crop factor? Hence the wider aspect ratio we're all used to in feature films?

The Mitchell 35mm movie camera I used had a gate that produced 4:3 images, like old films from the thirties.  Widescreen could be achieved by cropping the top and bottom, or modifying the mechanism so it moved the film less distance (to save on film stock) or by using an anamorphic lens, which produced a narrow squeezed image that looked right when stretched out to wide screen.  

Since we are using still camera lenses, on cameras that are developments of the 35mm SLR still cameras, it makes sense to refer to that as full frame.  It's only us stopmo weirdos that want to make movies with them.

I don't wish to hijack the thread, but can I ask a question on this topic? It is all about focal lengths.

I am doing a shot of a cart with a poster on the wall behind, and pasties (of the Cornish variety) are being thrown at the poster. For ease I don't want to see the arms doing the throwing, so the pasties fly in on fishing line from the sides of the frame. We do not see the ground in the shot.

At the moment - I have just set the shot up - I am using a zoom on about 40mm focal length on my T3i/600D, with the camera positioned about 2ft away from the subject. What I need to achieve is the sense that the camera is positioned just in front of where the people doing the throwing would stand. Does this mean I need to place the camera less than 1ft from the subject and use a much wider lens, or will it look OK? The only issue I can see at the moment is the blurriness of the pasties as they fly in, which isn't a problem.

Nick, how would you go about getting the 'magic sense of vast scale' using a DSLR? Would one need to use a fisheye lens?

(Sorry, 2 questions...)

On your first question I think it's mostly a matter of trying things, moving stuff around, and keep adjusting until it looks right. That's how I'd approach it anyway. 

On the second, it is possible to use a fisheye lens and get rid of the weird bulging distortion by using a program to de-fish it. At least to some extent, but from my experiments you can't really get entirely rid of it. But you're probably a lot better off sticking with what's called rectilinear wide-angle lenses. Fisheye means it distorts, rectilinear means it will keep things squared up to avoid the distortion. When you're buying lenses in the extreme wide angle range pay attention to whether they're fisheye or rectilinear. 

But bear in mind, for tabletop animation, the wider you go lens-wise, the more set you need to build, and when you're getting into the extreme wide angle range it will see more than 180 degrees, meaning the camera would need to actually be on the set and you'd need to have a painted sky backdrop and set that wrap around pretty far behind the camera. It gets harder and harder to hide lights and your studio the wider you go. 

In fact for those epic wide angle shoots you'd probably be better off to use forced perspective.

What Strider said.

Nick, is there any reason you wouldn't get a Nikon specifically for stop motion?

The major factor making it hard for me to decide right now is that I've read Nikon's live view simply does not give you an estimated exposure, it just shows the set as it's lit. I'm assuming that's basically the image you will get minus the effect of shutter speed on the exposure?

I wonder if that's such a terrible thing, but I do intend to be shooting a lot of moody, low-light scenes with it. I'm afraid I might be condemned to a black screen.

From all the research I've done now, I'm sure I could get exactly what I'm looking for in terms of low-light performance, and overall image quality from a Nikon at nearly half the cost of a Canon that even comes close. That live view is probably one of the most important features though when it comes down to animating. 

  In Dragonframe, I can set the live view at +1  to +4 and it will use gain to brighten up the view, using a Canon 40d, 7d, or 60d.  I haven't ever had a live view Nikon to test.  Surprising if they don't have that.

I think the only way to see what you are doing at f-22 or f-16 is to have brighter lights and not such long exposures, maybe 1/4 sec instead of 1/2 or 1 sec, so the live view sees it more like the final image does.  Even if the final image is less dark than you want, you can grade it down, especially if you shoot raw.  In fact it's safer to get more info in the picture.  

The only reason I didn't get a live view Nikon 5 years ago was the overheating issue.  In every other respect I prefer Nikons.  But that was a major issue.  

If you or anyone picks up a new Nikon and finds it will run for hours without shutting off, even on a summer's day, that would be great news, and I hope you would report back here with that info.

Thanks, Strider and StopmoNick, for advice. Yet another fascinating thread! 

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