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I use my DSLR camera to shoot videos of moving subjects (such as a car), and sometimes I pan the camera to track the subjects as they move.

The problem I have is that to track the subject, I have to watch the video screen and coordinate my hand movements. But the video image has a non-trivial lag. Furthermore I usually use image stabilized lenses (and mode 2) which reduce shake and improve the watchability of the recorded video, but adds more lag and non-linearity to my panning movements.

So the proposed solution I came up with is to have a separate optical viewfinder, so that I can track the subject without any lag or stabilization. Ideally such a viewfinder should be mounted on the hotshoe. But searching around on the Web, it seems there aren't many reasonable products for this application (e.g. Olympus-specific wide angle viewfinder, >100 USD), and it seems not many people have considered using an optical viewfinder for video recording.

My question is, how would you approach this problem?

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2  
Maybe better suited for avp.stackexchange.com? –  Flimzy Aug 18 '11 at 5:01
    
There are two competing schools of thought regarding DSLR video questions. Some people want them to stay here, while some want them to be migrated. Given the split, I think it best to leave such questions be for now. Photography is a broad subject, and most of the fundamentals cover motion as well as still photography. Specifically in regards to DSLR videography, I think were just as well suited, if not better suited, to answer them than AVP. I'm opting to leave this question open until there is a clear decision on whether such topics are on-topic here or not. –  jrista Aug 19 '11 at 2:40

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I have a similar problem with my astrophotography setup in that sometimes it's difficult to see where I have my piggyback camera pointed in the sky. In stargazing circles, there are "unity" finders which are basically a piece of glass on which a dot is projected, allowing the user to orient the view at the sky with no magnification. These are called reflex sights or red dot finders.

I was looking for something that could attach to my camera to allow me to use my existing red dot finder. I found this product for sale and it met my needs:

http://www.photosolve.com/main/product/xtendasight/index.html

The product was actually marketed for the sports shooter that needed to get quick orientation. It may work for you. It's worked very well for my use.

edit: the advantage of the red dot finder is that there are no paralax issues because the dot still shows where you are pointed, even if your eye is off center. This should help with video work when your head has to move around as needed.

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Cool, photography and guns unite! –  Nayuki Minase Aug 18 '11 at 13:54

Depending on how critical your framing needs are, you could get by with something as simple as a wireframe viewfinder. Essentially, it's just a small hole to look through and a sensor- (or film-) shaped rectangle on an adjustable boom. There's usually some sort of composition guide (either a rule-of-thirds grid or a simple crosshairs indicating the center) strung across the rectangle to aid in framing. You simply adjust the length of the boom extension so that the field of view through the wireframe is the same as it is for the lens.

You may be able to adapt an existing viewfinder (they were made for Speed Graphics and similar "press cameras", as well as for pre-viewfinder Leicas*, etc.) -- the used market is full of them -- but it's not too terribly difficult for people of moderate handiness to make one for themselves. If you are zooming during shooting, then a glass or plexi panel with a series of concentric rectangles instead of a wireframe would give you a good-enough framng approximation, provided that you have a decent feel for the zoom.


*The first couple of generations of Leicas had no proper viewfinder. The original was a "point-and-hope"; the second iteration had a rangefinder but no real framing viewfinder.

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I second the 'wireframe viewfinder' approach but also I would say, "Practise, practise and more practise." I find panning to be about 'feel'. Once I've lined up it happens so fast that I'm not adjusting my aim from feedback on the screen..

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As DSLR get more used as video platforms there are a number of vendors creating solutions for them. If you look around in the DSLR video vendors and blogs, you will see lots options, limited only by your budget.

First, you may be in the market for rigs that make it easier to hold your camera as well as mount accessories, such as Red Rock Micro. Then, you can go with vendors that create videography monitors that attach, such as Marshall, or with a device that allows you to view your LCD screen easier, like the Z Finder Pro. Also, you may be in the market for an external Electronic VeiwFinder, such as this one.

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1  
Sorry, the point of the question is to not use an electronic viewfinder. –  Nayuki Minase Aug 18 '11 at 20:54
    
Fair enough @Nayuki Minase. The Z Finder Pro is NOT a EVF, though it does utilize the camera's LCD. My point in presenting these options is that i have never heard of video lag being an issue with these professional options, so perhaps you have the wrong monitor solution (such as using it with EOS Utility). Hope you find your solution. –  cmason Aug 19 '11 at 17:29

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