BBC freelance cameraman Johnnie Behiri on DSLR video

The first day of autumn from Johnnie on Vimeo.

Evolution? No. Revolution? Yes indeed!

A bit more than a year ago, encouraged by Dan Chung’s “Nikon D90 in Tibet”, I picked up my first VDSLR. As a BBC freelance cameraman this camera obviously imposed lots of restrictions on pure “news work” but soon I discovered that there are a lot of uses for this little wonder camera and the Nikon D90 became a perfect working tool for some testimonial and marketing videos I did for other respected customers like bag manufacturer Kata.
For me, the main advantage when shooting with the D90 – other than its compact stealth form factor – was its limitations… Those limitations made me at the end of the day a better cameraman by learning, understanding and implementing workarounds to come out with nicely done footage.

Fast forward to the present time and I am a proud owner of the Canon 7D. This incredible camera for its price range is a game changer as far as I am concerned. Previous cameras like the Canon5dmkII and the extremely compact Panasonic GH-1, though producing beautiful looking images, did not answer my wish for a new VDSLR workhorse, the problems being the 30p frame rate restriction and lack of a clean low light capability respectively.

The new Canon 7D shares the same advantages of other VDSLRs in terms of portability and very clean low light performance but adds multi frame rates selection, SD recording (if needed) and other goodies.

Johnnie and his 7D run&gun simple rig

My work at the BBC is split between a few different departments. I would not use the Canon 7D for pure news work since the camera is currently not up to that task, but it might turn out to be ideal for short features. There are few important points to consider before adopting a camera as your main working tool for some assignments. I have already mentioned good picture quality, portability and low light performance. The other three most crucial factors for me are: good viewfinder, sound and camera handling. I am using the Zacuto Z-finder and though not so impressed (partly due to the Canon 7D LCD resolution when being magnified and partly because of an average Z-finder design) I don’t see another better alternative in the market. Sound wise, we are all aware of the solutions and work around but the “Magic Lantern” solution has been a great help. Handling wise, I am against those huge expensive camera handling solutions currently found in the market. Most are working against the idea of “small form factor” and I hope the next breed of those grips will be cost effective run and gun solutions.

My current VDSLR equipment is:
Canon 7d
Canon 17-55mm f2.8 IS USM
Samyang 85mm f1.4
Samyang 8mm fisheye 3.5
Vocas Mattebox
Formatt Filters
Sachtler DV8 SB
Manfrotto 756XB legs
Manfrotto HDV 701 head
Glidetrack 50cm
Kata bags PR-460
Kata bags T-214
Rode NTG2
Rode SVM
Sanken cos 11 Lav
Sennheiser ew 100 G2
Portable audio mixer CEVL IM2
Edirol F1 portable audio/video recorder mixer
LitePanels Micro
LitePanels 1×1

Never stop learning – no job is too small – never forget how you started – and help others as much as possible – are the rules I am trying to follow in my professional life.

Johnnie in the old good Nikon D90 days

Johnnie in the old good Nikon D90 days

Johnnie Behiri is a BBC freelance cameraman operating from Vienna, Austria.
When not BBCing, Johnnie is filming documentaries, commercials, music videos, and testimonial/marketing videos.


Posted on October 23rd, 2009 by Johnnie | Category: DSLR video news |

21 responses to "BBC freelance cameraman Johnnie Behiri on DSLR video"

  1. LT Says:
    October 24th, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    nice stuff …. i find your zacuto zfinder comments the most interesting …. i am shooting without one and wonder if there will be a more reasonable solution.
    thanks for the great information.
    here are a few of my 7d uploads if interested

  2. Fili An Says:
    October 24th, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Gorgeous. Really makes a good start for the day.

    Keep posting your videos ^_^

  3. Jeff N Says:
    October 24th, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    very nice, like the music, too.

    So Magic Lantern works with the 7D, I take it?

    This all looks like tripod stuff. Any samples with that handheld rig you’re showing? And what is that rig? Is that the multi rig?

  4. Bela Says:
    October 25th, 2009 at 11:15 am

    @Johnnie, “limitations” and “workarounds” are not usually considered “advantages” by most people out there. In fact, they are sort of the opposite.

    The form factor of a typical DSLR is indeed great, because it looks like the decades-old SLR 35mm still photo cameras looked. Great for taking STILL pictures. Very poorly designed form factors for taking what I like to call MOVING pictures or VIDEO clips.

    If you had looked at some VIDEO CAMERAS or VIDEO CAMCORDERS that are primarily designed for taking moving video images, you’d see that they look quite unlike these DSLRs do, which were, let’s face it, primarily designed for non-moving still photo taking of the silent kind.

    Looking at the lengthy equipment list you have listed, would hauling around all of this gear require at least one assistant cameraperson? Or can you do it all by yourself?

  5. Bela Says:
    October 25th, 2009 at 11:20 am

    BTW, I am definitely NOT a photojournalist, but wouldn’t in filmed or video captured photojournalism footage most of the action be captured and played back in REAL TIME? As opposed to comic undercranking or dream-like overcranking slo-mo speed rates?

  6. Johnnie Says:
    October 25th, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Fili, thanks for watching the video and posting a comment.

    Jeff, ML is not yet available for the Canon 7d. I hope to post handheld footage soon. The MultiRig together with the Canon 17-55+ the lens stabilizer are giving nice results.

    Bela, I am sure you are commenting after using a VDSLR for different projects and for a relative long time. My experience is different then yours. Knowing VDSLR limitations and solving most of them with known workarounds, me and many others are able to produce videos for the satisfaction of our customers. The equipment list is a general one. Not all is being used on a single assignment. And even so a reporter + a cameraman are able to carry a lot…
    The “comic undercranking dream-like overcranking slo-mo footage” is labeled under “abusing DOF and testing the Canon 7d 720/50p when slowed down”.
    Thanks, and I hope your experience with the new breed of cameras in the market will exceed your expectations.

  7. LT Says:
    October 25th, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    i posted a comment yesterday and i guess it was blocked. Are there rules to this forum that i missed?

    • Dan Chung Says:
      October 25th, 2009 at 5:09 pm

      LT, sorry about that. There’s no reason the post was held for approval as far as I can figure out. I’ve put it back up now.


  8. HiNEx Says:
    October 25th, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    Hey Dan

    I would have VDSLR

    Except 7d or 5d2

    What else do I need to buy for an entry level shooter?

    Can you give me a list or purchase link for that?


  9. Jenna Patrick Says:
    October 27th, 2009 at 7:53 am

    I love the melancholy guitar music, really fits the autumn scenes well. Do you compose it yourself or is it outsourced?

  10. Johnnie Says:
    October 27th, 2009 at 8:13 am

    Dear LT, I had no chance testing other viewfinder solutions for the 7d.
    Thanks for sharing your footage!


  11. Johnnie Says:
    October 27th, 2009 at 8:16 am

    Dear Lenna, thanks for watching the video!.

    Music is taken from AKM:
    Lots of good reasonably priced+instant download, copytight free music

  12. Johnnie Says:
    October 27th, 2009 at 8:21 am

    Sorry, Jenna it is!….

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