Before Ultimate Reloader existed, I had just upgraded from my very first reloading press (A Lee Pro-1000 setup for 44 Magnum) to a new reloading press. The hours and hours I spent online shoveling through forum posts was painful, and I finally decided what press I would buy (Hornady Lock-N-Load AP). The decision wasn’t easy, and that painful process was a big part of the motivation for me personally to start this blog.
Early Videos – Getting Started (2007)
But before I had the blog, I started shooting videos of my Lock-N-Load AP that were aimed at filling the “gap” in straight-forward product info for progressive reloading presses on YouTube at the time. The camera that I started off with was a Sharp MiniDV camcorder that would record at DVD resolution (480p).
While this camera was nothing fancy by today’s standards, it was sufficient to document what I wanted to communicate – how the press works, and what features are included. I did want to show everything on the press, and I recall one video where I strapped a head lamp on, and climbed up a step stool with the camera and pointed it into the case feed bowl to show the brass being picked up. Nothing fancy, but it got the job done!
Entering the “HD Era”
Shortly after I started uploading videos to YouTube, affordable HD cameras became available to consumers. I was starting to get tired of the “realtime” download of video data that was a reality with my Sharp camcorder, so I started looking at HD cameras with SD card storage. After another agonizing search online on photography sites and forums, I decided to pick up a Panasonic Lumix FZ-28. This camera was packed with features, including HD video recording (720p). The image quality was good, but the audio was actually not as good as the Sharp Camcorder.
This camera featured an optical image stabilizer, and an amazing 18x optical zoom with Leica brand optics. It would shoot some truly great photos even at max zoom as seen here:
I bet you didn’t think you’d ever see flower photography here on Ultimate Reloader did you? 🙂
Another thing that I added during this era of video shoots was a lighting system. For these videos, I used halogen lights with diffusers. Some of the videos turned out great, but I later learned that whitebalance would be critical for consistent good results for color representation.
Going HDSLR (2010)
After making videos with the FZ-28 for a while, I realized that I needed better audio quality, and also wanted to extend what I could do with still shots. Again, I agonized for quite a while, but ended up buying a Canon EOS 7D camera. This camera had an aux-input capability (can use external microphones), and is very capable when it comes to both still photography, and video.
About this time I also upgraded my lighting to daylight-balanced fluorescent softboxes. These lights put out a lot less heat, and are very even and diffuse. This helped greatly in the studio. I also experimented with various still photography techniques, yielding much better gun shots than I was able to produce previously, such as this S&W 629 shot:
What I did not have with the Canon 7D was good audio level control. This meant I had to use an off-camera digital sound recorder. This setup would capture great sound, but required a lot more work in post production to sync up the sound and video. I also had to build a powerful video editing PC to cope with the heavy-duty file format produced by the 7D (the video editing PC sporting 24GB ram, hyper-threaded quad-core, etc, etc).
True Hybrid DSLR (2012)
This year, I’ve added a new camera. This time I bought a Panasonic GH2 which sports many of the features for video that are lacking on the 7D such as audio level control, continuous autofocus, articulating LCD screen, and much more. I’ve already posted one video (in THIS post) where you can get a preview of what this camera is capable of. I will be building a complete rig around this camera, including a cage/rails, external monitor, digital recorder, and other features.
It’s great to be able to rely on autofocus, it’s been a while since I’ve been shooting with that feature! Another thing I like is the dynamic range of the sensor. You can see in this screen capture the level of detail without “crushing blacks” or “blowing highlights”:
I’ve got some exciting news to share here on Ultimate Reloader shortly, but in the mean-time, look forward to more videos on this site because it’s going to be a lot easier for me to bring you high quality content. More efficiency means more videos both for Utlimate Reloader, and for Northwest Gun Magazine.
Thanks everyone for your support over the years! It’s been fun bringing you all of this content, and we’re just getting started!
OK, perhaps that wasn’t a “short history” – the title here may be a bit misleading. Stay tuned!