Filming with DSLR and DSLM

Crash course for a quick start

Filming with DSLR and DSLM. A basic course for anyone new to this topic.

Whether just for private pleasure, as a new job, or for the marketing of your company: With this crash course – filming with the DSLR and DSLM – I give you the most important facts on the way, so you can quickly and easily get your first results.

Learn the most important facts about filming with DSLR and DSLM in my 9-minute video!


Why DSLR and DSLM?

I myself have been shooting with DSLR and DSLM for many years. Currently specifically with the
Panasonic Lumix GH5

The possibility to change lenses and to expand the camera modularly made me take this step and I haven’t regretted it until today.

This Panasonic GH5 is a DSLM, i.e. a system camera without a mirror. However, there is very little difference between DSLR and DSLM in terms of handling and operation.

In any case, the topics covered in this crash course are identical for these two types of cameras.

DSLR Panasonic GH-5

Filming with DSLR and DSLM is not rocket science.

However, it is necessary to deal with this topic a bit, because unlike a classic video camera, not all necessary components are already installed in a DSLR or DSLM.
Rather, it is necessary to put together the right components in a sensible way.
This requires a certain basic knowledge which I would like to convey here.

The main components

Body and lens The most important components of a DSLR and DSLM are the lens and the body. This is basically the same for all cameras. Be it a classic video camera, a DSLR, a DSLM, a GoPro, a cell phone camera or a drone.

Only the interaction of these two components enables video recording. This is especially important if you decide to shoot with a DSLR or DSLM, as you will be assembling these components independently.

The lens

Filming with DSLR and DSLM – The lens: The way in which the light is captured and transferred to the chip is determined by the differently arranged lenses in the lens. Near or far. Front or rear sharp.

In addition, the so-called aperture determines how much light comes through the lens into the camera.

The orifice plate is a mechanical device. This can open and close. Depending on how large or small the resulting hole is, much or little light passes through accordingly.

The image in the camera appears light or dark, as the case may be. The higher the number of the aperture (the f-number), the more closed it is. The lower the f-stop number, the wider open it is.

The focal length

With a DSLR and DSLM, it is common to set the focal length manually on the lens itself. The focal length determines whether the object you are filming appears close or far away.

You could also colloquially say the zoom. A low focal length in millimeters means a low zoom factor. The object you are filming appears to be far away. This is also called a „total“ recording setting.

The higher the focal length in millimeters, the closer the object appears.
There are zoom lenses where you can adjust the focal length, but this is not possible with fixed focal lengths. On the other hand, these lenses usually have other advantages, such as high speed. This means that beautiful pictures can be taken even in low light conditions.

The sharpness

The focus is also adjusted on the lens itself. Depending on the direction in which you move the wheel, the point of focus is further forward or further back in the image.
Especially with newer cameras, it is also possible to have the focus controlled automatically in a sensible way.

The quality features

So what are the quality features of a lens and which ones should you buy?
Each lens has its advantages and disadvantages. Either it has a wide range of focal length, which means you can film very totally as well as very close, or it is very fast. Both together are very difficult to implement and if at all very expensive.
Of course, it is an advantage of DSLRs and DSLMs that you can change lenses. This allows you to use the appropriate lens depending on the situation.

For example, this lens from Tamron, the
14-150mm F/3.5-5.8 Di III
has a very wide focal range.

On the other hand, the light intensity is different depending on whether you are filming totally or close up.

The further you zoom in, the higher the aperture and less light comes through.

This can lead to difficulties when filming an evening event, for example.

Then, in order to get the correct exposure, you have to increase the sensitivity of the sensor to such an extent that unsightly image noise is produced. I use this lens only when I have very little time (because you are very flexible with it) and there is enough light.

Tamron 14 - 150 mm

Lumix 12 - 35 mm

This lens from Panasonic, which H-HSA12035 LUMIX G X VARIO 12-35 mm / F2.8 II ASPH. / O.I.S., on the other hand, has a somewhat shorter focal length. This means you can’t zoom in that far.

On the other hand, the light sensitivity is constantly at a good 2.8, no matter at which focal length you film.

This lens is optimal for documentary image videos in changing light conditions, for example.

Fixed focal lengths cannot zoom, but they are very fast.

To be prepared for any situation, I have three fixed focal lengths that cover most of the focal lengths I usually need.

12 mm from Olympus
a 25 mm from Panasonic and a
45 mm from Olympus

These lenses are used for scenic videos and interviews.

Fixed focal length

Another desired effect is the so-called depth of field. This becomes smaller the wider you open the aperture.

By small, we mean that the area that is in focus is very short.

Thus it is possible to separate objects from the background nicely, as the background appears blurred. This gives the image more depth.

Since the aperture can be opened very wide with fixed focal lengths, this effect is particularly high with these. I like to use this for interviews and cinematic shots with a „film look“.

The body

Filming with the DSLR and DSLM – The Body: I would describe the body as the heart of a DSLR and DSLM. Everything is controlled here and, above all, the most important component is located in it, the sensor.

The sensor

DSLR MFT Sensor The light captured by the lens is projected onto the sensor. This is exactly where the film used to be.

The sensor is a light-sensitive chip with many individual sensors.

In simple terms, each of these sensors forms an image point, called a pixel. All pixels together make the image.

Sensors are available in many different designs. Different resolutions and different sizes.

I myself use the so-called Micro Four Thirds sensor for my video production with the Panasonic GH5. This has an image diagonal of 21.633 mm.

The image sensors of the Sony alpha cameras, for example, have a chip that is twice as large, namely the full format with 43.267 mm.

While for many of my colleagues it is a very important basic requirement for a camera, I get along great with the Micro Four Thirds sensor and find the image quality wonderful.

The basic settings

Filming with the DSLR and DSLM – The basic settings: In this chapter, I cover the most important basic settings that should be made on a DSLR and DSLM. I explain these using my Panasonic GH5, but these settings are basically the same for all cameras.

Set video function

To access the video function on the GH5, the large selection wheel at the top must be set to this icon.

Selection wheel is on video

Set exposure mode

Set exposure mode

In the menu you can set the exposure mode. With the GH5 you have the choice between P A S & M

Exposure mode M

In M exposure mode, all exposure settings are set manually. This affects the aperture and the shutter.

Another factor affecting the exposure of an image is the sensitivity of the sensor ISO. This can be set automatically or manually, regardless of the exposure mode.

So in this mode all the settings of the exposure are set manually. In professional video production, this is probably the most common way to expose images. Simply for the reason that you have full control.

Exposure mode A

In this mode, the A stands for Aputure. It means that the aperture is set manually while the shutter is controlled automatically.

Also in this mode it is decided separately whether the sensitivity of the sensor ISO is set automatically or manually.

This mode has the advantage, for example, that you can open the aperture wide to create the beautiful look of a shallow depth of field and still have the convenience of an automatically set exposure.

The disadvantage is that under certain circumstances the exposure time of the shutter becomes very short. This affects the motion blur and can lead to unsightly jerky images.

Exposure mode S

In this mode, the S stands for Shutter. It means that the shutter is set manually while the aperture is controlled automatically.

Also in this mode, when filming with DSLR and DSLM, it is decided separately whether the sensitivity of the sensor ISO is set automatically or manually.

This mode has the advantage that you can fix the shutter to 180° and thus a correct representation of the motion blur is guaranteed.

The disadvantage: For correct exposure of the image, it is now quite possible that the aperture is automatically closed further. This increases the depth of field and the beautiful „film look“ is lost as a result.

Exposure mode P

In this mode, both shutter and iris are controlled automatically.

Also in this mode it is decided separately whether the sensitivity of the sensor ISO is set automatically or manually.

If this mode is used and ISO is set to automatic, the image will be exposed completely automatically. Of course, this has the great advantage that you can concentrate completely on the protagonists in documentary films, for example.

Although, for example, my Panasonic GH5 does a good job in this mode. Is a subsequent color correction in post-production necessary in any case.

Since it cannot be guaranteed that the shutter is always at 180°, it is possible that the motion blur varies somewhat. But since I almost always shoot at fifty frames per second, I don’t think the discrepancies matter. Especially when it comes to documentaries, because the story is in the foreground.

Set Rec Format

Set Rec Format In the menu item „Rec Format“ in which format or container the videos are recorded.

For video production, I would recommend selecting „MOV“ here.

Set Rec Quality

After the format or container for the video files has been selected, the image resolution, color subsampling (chroma subsampling), color depth and Group of Pictures (GoP) to be used for filming are specified.

There is no basic rule that has to be adhered to, but rather a new decision has to be made before each shoot as to what is the right setting here.

However, for the usual social media image videos I use the following settings:

FHD, 10bit, 150M, 50p set rec quality

Full HD (1920×1080) is sufficient as master in most cases, 10bit (with 4:2:2) allows a wide range of color correction, LongGOP saves a lot of storage space (the detailed representation of moving small objects is minimal with All-Intra and for online purposes these are removed in the final encoding anyway), 150 Mbps is a well balanced data rate, 50p i.e. fifty frames per second makes a nice smooth video (not suitable for the „movie look“)

Set focus

Autofocus knob This small dial adjusts whether the focus is set manually (MF) on the lens itself, or automatically (AFS).

To ensure that the focus is continuously in focus, it is important to activate „Continous AF“ in the menu.

Set white balance

White balance is an important thing when filming with DSLR and DSLM. The color temperature of light is very different. Sunlight is bluish and artificial light is reddish.

We ourselves do not notice this because our brain automatically creates a white balance at lightning speed.

A video camera and DSLR or DSLM can also automatically adjust the white balance, but I strongly advise against this. In post-production it is very difficult to do color correction when the camera changes the white balance during a shot.

To set the white balance manually, select „Select White Set“, hold a white sheet of paper in the respective light situation and then trigger the white balance. Either by pressing the menu button or by pressing Set on the touch display.

Since I basically color correct my videos in post-production, and the Panasonic GH5’s codec gives me a good amount of leeway, I also often use the preset settings. Daylight in sunshine, cloudy and artificial light for indoor.

For advanced users: The DSLR and DSLM Rig

If you already enjoy shooting with DSLRs and DSLMs, then maybe you’re ready to take it to the next level and build a rig.

In this post about DSLR and DSLM rig building tutorial you can easily and step by step rebuild my rig.

Content beats beauty

Now you can already take beautiful pictures? Good!

But now, in my opinion, things are really getting interesting. Because much more important than filming beautifully is the content of videos.

In this article on how to create an image video, I’ll go into more detail on this topic.

The first recordings

Filming with the DSLR and DSLM – The first shots: In my opinion, these are the most basic things you should know. Now you’re ready to go out and do your first trials and shoots.

It’s also perfectly okay to use the automatic functions first and then slowly move on step by step to manual exposure and the other functions in the camera.

This article only breaks down a fraction of what a camera can do. The best thing to do is just try around and click through the menu.

As advice, which actually sounds very logical but in my experience few do, is simply take a look at the
to look. Just by browsing through it, you get ideas that you wouldn’t have thought of before.

If you have any questions or questions that are not clear, you can ask them in the comments. I will be happy to answer these questions in a timely manner.

Now have fun with your first steps into the world of film.


motionside pictures
Thomas Vettermann
Snowdrop St. 79
80995 Munich

Phone: 089 2097 5795
Whatsapp: 0179 830 2418

Catchment areas: Germany (e.g. Munich, Stuttgart, Nuremberg, Rosenheim, Augsburg,…), Austria, Switzerland

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