Shooting video with the Fujifilm XT-2, Zhiyun Crane and Blackmagic Video Assist.

Shooting video on DSLR’s and mirrorless cameras has become more and more popular in the resent years. The video quality has been improved immensely, and is not just an extra feature that the camera had in the spec sheet anymore. The video quality and auto focus capabilities has come a long way.

I recently updated my trusty Fujifilm XT-1 with the new XT-2, and my reason was mainly for the purpose of the new excellent video features. The XT-1 was really not a great video performer, even though the photo aspects of the camera was awesome (Read about my initial thoughts on the XT-1 here). Fujifilm has really upped their game in the video aspect, and  you can really tell they have put in a lot off effort into the video features. After filming with my Phantom 4 quadcopter for some time now, and playing arround editing videos, I ‘m really intrigued. I love the creative possibilities video can give you in a whole other way than shooting stills.

The XT-2 features excellent 4K UHD video (3840 x 2160) at a great 100 Mbps. The XT-1 continues autofocus (AF-C) was really rubbish, but on the XT-2 it’s vastly improved. From other tests I have seen, it’s on par (?) with the highly regarded Sony A6500 autofocus. Since I already had a lot of Fujinon glass, the choice for me was obvious on what camera to choose.

Looking at shaky video really makes me nauseous. Even though the style these days is to have some movement in the shots giving you more of a third person view, I like it smooth. And Shooting video handheld won’t give smooth movements, at least when you are used to “perfectly” stabilized shots from a drone. The need for a stabilizer was obvious, and I knew already before buying the XT-2. After a lot of research, the Zheyun Crane seemed like a highly praised piece of machinery. And I assure you, it does a great job. But i doesn’t come for free! There is a pretty steep learning curve, and just slapping the camera on it and run down the street won’t give you anything to showcase to Quentin Tarantino.

Here is the XT-2 mounted on the Zhiyun Crane, supported by a small Manfrotto 209 tabletop tripod.

First off, you need to perfectly balance the camera in all axis (Not like in the picture above). If not, the gimball motors have to work much harder, decreasing their lifetime, and also increasing the chance of bumpy and jittery shots. Then there is the walking technique. It’s time to bring out the ninja in you, as the ninja walk really helps even out that z-axis up/down wobbling. Also side to side movement will show up in your shots if you are looking closely, so it takes some practice. Turning the crane to inverted mode can help the sideways motion. But you can be sure the gimbal does a great job at keeping the camera level.

Following is my latest film, from the small and charming streets of Trevi in Italy. It’s shot with the 23mm f1.4, 18-55 f2.8-4 and the 56mm f1.2. Edit is done in Final Cut Pro X. (Remember to select HD – 1080, and turn on the sound).

The XT-2 has kept the dedicated iso, shutter and exposure compensation dials on top. And they fixed the previous “lock issues”. Now the dials are turning freely with distinctive clicks when the center locking pin is up, and you lock the dials completely by pushing them down. Works like a charm.

One of my “cons”on the XT-1 was the problem with quickly changing focus points. The 4-way button on the XT-1 wasn’t protruding enough making them easy to find without moving you eye from the viewfinder. Now there is a dedicated small joystick that has a great feel and feedback. The joystick as placed between the 4-way buttons and the Q-meny.

The rear screen is a 3″ screen, featuring 1,040,000 dots. The screen is ok, but not racer sharp and in my opinion would do with an update from the previous model. But they have updated it with a dual hinge screen making it possible to tilt up/down, and to the side (Or both simultaneously). The digital viewfinder is still as awesome as its predecessor, its HUGE and virtually no delay in the image display, especially in boost mode (100fps).

Here is my first test of the Zheyun Crane, down at the docks in Oslo. It’s recorded in 1080 at 60fps , and the final output is in 30fps (Hence the slow motion). I made the rookie mistake of choosing a shutter speed that didn’t match the artificial lights frequency, so excuse the random flickering. Shot with XT-2 and the 23mm f1.4.  (Remember to select HD – 1080, and turn on the sound).

For video, I find the rear screen to be a bit small and hard to see when moving the crane around. That’s why I invested in the Blackmagic Design Video Assist. It’s a 5″ full HD screen with a built-in recorder. That means I can record directly from the uncompressed HDMI 8-bit 4:2:2 HDMI output signal to a high quality 4:2:2 ProRes or DNxHD file, up to 1080i 60 fps (In camera recording is 4:2:0, MPEG-4, H.264). When you shoot 4K and record in camera, the Video Assist can still monitor the 4K signal (downsampled to 1080). This is a question many have had online, and even my dealer couldn’t tell me if it could. So, it’s confirmed, it can!

The monitor has all the features you cold ask for in a monitor (At least for my needs), like zebras, focus peaking, preview of LUT’s, histogram and false colors just to mention some.

The Video Assist features bot HDMI in and out, and the same with SDI. You can record or monitor the HDMI signal in at the same time as the signal is transmitted to another device if you need it. The Video assist has a touch screen to operate the menus, and the sharpness from the 1920 x 1080 display is astonishing .

The Blackmagic Video Assist records directly to SD cards, and I prefer that in comparison to expensive SSD’s. The only downside I have found so far with the XT-2/Video Assist combo is that the XT-2 only outputs F-log files externally, and in 4K. I was really hoping for F-log in 1080 resolution externally (Fuji, are you listening 🙂 But in stead I use the PRO Neg.Std picture profile, and set the highlight and shadows at -2. This gives you the flattest picture possible, for a bit more leeway in post production. It’s important not to clip the whites or crush those black levels, as they’re not possible to recover. If you’re familiar with shooting still Jpeg’s, you know what I’m talking about.

Here is one more video I made from Oslo. All shot with the XT-2, 23mm f1.4 and the 14mm f2.8. It’s recorded in 1080p at 60fps. (Remember to select HD- 1080, and turn on the sound).

I’ve connected the Video Assist to the Crane with a small clamp with a magic arm (Ebay). My clamping option is not optimal, and I’m still looking at other options. But hey, it does the job! There is a dual handle available to the crane, but I’m trying to stay as light and portable as possible. One important step to think about is that your HDMI cable needs to be light and flexible. If not you’re going to impact the gimbal movement and “pre-balancing” will be a pain. I use a Sanho Hyperthin Micro to HDMI cable, and it works great.

The Zheyun Crane also features a joystick allowing you to control the gimball movement. This is great both when moving around, and when stationary, giving you butter smooth movements. You can also control the gimbal from the Zhiyun app remotely.

The Crane comes in a great case for transportation and storage. There are 4 Li-ion batteries (3.7 V, 2000 mAh) included, and a USB charger. The battery life is rated to 6 hours per pair of batteries. I havent timed my usage vs battery level, but the batteries last for a very long time. The Crane weighs 0.95 kg (2 lb) without the batteries, and can handle a camera weight from 0.35 to 1.2 kg  (0.8 – 2.65 lb). With the new software installed you can have a camera up to 1,8 kg.

Ok, lets move back to the XT-2. The camera now has dual SD-card slots. That’s great when shooting video, as you quickly run thru a lot of gigabytes!

On the left side, you find a 3,5mm microphone jack for an external microphone, micro USB 3.0, a micro-HDMI and a 2.5mm for the remote. On the battery grip VPB-XT2 (accessory) you find a port for the 9 volt charger that charges both the 2 extra batteries in the grip simultaneously, and a jack for you headphones if you need to externally monitor the sound. The maximum video time without the grip is 10 minutes, and with the grip it’s 30 minutes. Apparently it has to do with battery temperatures, as shooting 4K demands a lot from the batteries and processors. Many other cameras, like the Sony RX100 are widely known for overheating quite fast when shooting 4K. I’ve had no signs of excessive heat/overheating with my XT-2.

The Fujifilm XT-2, Blackmagic Design Video Assist and a table dolly.

When using autofocus in video, you have to think about what the autofocus is going to do. No matter what camera you use, autofocus wont alway get the job done. If your focus is going from close and suddenly to something in the distant, especially if you have a small depth of field, the focus shift is going to be sudden and not very cinematic. I have found manual pre-focusing before the shot works best if I have situations like this. The only exception is if I’m using the 56mm f1,2. This lens is quite slow focusing, and when playing back in slow motion, the focus transitions can look quite cinematic. When using the autofocus on medium to distant subjects, as tracking people, I have found the autofocus to be very good.

There are basically 2 main modes in video mode, the selected focus point (Area), and closest subject (Multi) if shooting 4K. If shooting 1080, you can also use the face detection. There are also 5 preset AF-C custom settings, where the tracking sensitivity, speed tracking sensitivity and zone area switching is different. The 6’th choice is custom, so you can tweak the 3 mentioned parameters as you like. Check out this site for more info.

Fujifilm has announced 2 new software updates. As a matter of fact, Fujifilm is really good at listening to the users feedbacks, and adding new features and tweaks. The new software has made iso adjustments possible when filming, live histogram when filming, and tapping the focus button is going to make the camera re-focus. I missed those 3 features as of now. There will also be support for computer tethering via Wi-Fi in version 2.10. The Fujifilm phone app is very slow to connect, and requires a lot of buttons to be pushed. So I hope the new tethering solution will be better and compatible with phones, tablets and computers (?). The new software 2.00 was released March 30 2017, and version 2.10 in late May 2017. There is a whopping 33 new features coming in the new updates.

In video mode, there is a 1.04x crop when shooting at HD 1080, and a 1.17x crop in UHD 4K (Effectively 1.725x crop relative to full frame, as the native crop is 1,5 crop). I have no problem with these relatively small extra crop’s when entering video mode.

As a stills camera, the XT-2 is still up in the top of the APS-C mirrorless cameras. The Fuji colors are like no other camera I have used, and the fact that the Fujinon glass has such great image quality makes this a great camera both for video and stills. The sensor is now a 24 Megapixel APS-C X-Trans III CMOS , compared to the old 16 megapixel APS-C X-Trans II CMOS sensor. Still I think the Fujinon glass holds up nicely at this high resolution, even wide open. I can’t say the same for my Nikon glass on a D800 or D600.

hope you enjoyed my thoughts/mini review on this “threesome combo”, or the individual components. I know there are a lot of questions floating online about these products, and I hope I have spread some knowledge on a few of them.

If you’d like to keep up with my video stuff, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel!

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11 thoughts on “Shooting video with the Fujifilm XT-2, Zhiyun Crane and Blackmagic Video Assist.

  1. Hi Kjetil,

    Nice article and videos!

    Question, do you also have the 10-24? I can get it to balance wit the X-T2, but when turning etc the motors just hit each other. The upper right alxle is too much to the right.

    Cheers,
    Dennis

    Liked by 1 person

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