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Two eminent videographers share their best tips on how to make the most of mirrorless cameras

Mirrorless cameras, such as the Nikon Z 6 and Z6 II, are quickly establishing themselves as the go-to video cameras for professionals, and it’s easy to see why: they marry unprecedented flexibility with extraordinary image quality.

Videographer, Nigel Danson, mainly uses the Nikon Z 6II for his work. He is not only a well-known British landscape photographer, videographer and author but has also established one of the most popular landscape photography YouTube channels through regular vlogging.

“Mirrorless cameras are smaller and lighter, which opens up more options,” he says. “I tend to use a gimbal, but even if you work handheld, the image stabilisation is fantastic for shooting smoother video. Being able to handhold the camera while shooting slow motion is great. I often also put a strap around the camera and my neck and pan, which gives you smooth, cinematic videos.”

Nigel works with prime Nikkors. He explains, “Mirrorless cameras are perfect for large-aperture lenses, which allow me to keep the depth of field very narrow for that cinematic look. I shoot with my 1.8mm primes, usually wide open. I never use a shutter speed faster than twice the frame rate and no faster than 1/60s. If I need to, I add a neutral density filter to keep the depth of field shallow.”

It’s always worth keeping in mind that good sound is crucial for any video. Nigel uses either a wireless mic that clips on, and that he can walk around with, or one on top of the camera that can pick up ambient sounds, such as birds singing in a forest.

Mirrorless video

tips and tricks

Nigel has a few other suggestions for the best way to set up before using mirrorless video. “I set the white balance to ‘cloudy’, rather than auto, as a stable white balance makes it easier to edit,” he says. “I choose the ‘flat’ picture profile as it gives me more latitude in post-production to maintain the highlights. You can also use the ‘landscape’ or the ‘standard’ setting for good results out of camera. I always shoot in the highest resolution possible, at 30fps, with prime lenses, wide open for a shallow depth of field.” “The Z 6II auto-area AF and the full-frame AF always do a really good job of keeping my face in focus when I talk to the camera while moving around,” he adds.

Another videographer who uses Nikon mirrorless cameras is Christopher Dormoy, a multiple award-winning and highly acclaimed art director and director. He shoots with the Nikon Z 6 and Z 7 because the versatility of both cameras allows him to follow his intuition when filming and create new and different imagery.

“My main advice is to experiment,” he says. “For example, I had the idea for one of my recent short films – Black Ice, which won the Nikon Z 6 Talent Award – at the start of the pandemic when we were confined to the house. I wondered what I could do with what we have at home. I was inspired by the ice and had some flowers and wanted to test how the ice is melting on different objects. It’s a cliché, but I try and see the extraordinary in the ordinary.”

But mirrorless cameras also allow you to get creative further afield. “Nikon mirrorless cameras are robust and weather-resistant, so you want to take them everywhere,” says Christopher. “It can be cold, hot or sandy. And because you can see how the adjustments affect the image through the viewfinder, you can be more spontaneous than when filming with a DSLR.”

Christopher often uses extreme close up to immerse the viewer, as well as camera functions, such as slow-motion and time-lapse to play with the perception of time and space. “You have to really get to know what your camera can do. There are lots of great tutorials online. It’s also important to keep up with what other people are creating on Vimeo or YouTube.”

When shooting, Christopher always uses an external monitor, which allows him to shoot in 12-bit RAW. This high-resolution set-up gives him flexibility in post-production and allows him to mould the footage to his vision. He usually chooses the flat picture profile, which retains the maximal amount of detail, again leaving his options open for when he is editing his films.

Mirrorless cameras are re-defining videography and allow you to take your creativity to the next level. Or, as Christopher puts it, “Step out of your comfort zone and let yourself be surprised.”

The Faroe Islands captured in all of their mystical glory by Nigel, on his Z 7

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Nigel’s favourites lenses for video include the Z 24mm F1.8 and the Z 85mm F1.8

Stokksnes in southeast Iceland

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Nigel’s favourites lenses for video include the Z 24mm F1.8 and the Z 85mm F1.8

Christopher sets up his Z 6 with a camera rig

Christopher used a Z 6 and the NIKKOR Macro 105mm and Loawa 24mm when making Black Ice

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Christopher used a Z 6 and the NIKKOR Macro 105mm and Loawa 24mm when making Black Ice

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