The Canon Eos M has 4 important characteristics for KAP:
- it is relatively cheap
- has an APSC size sensor
- is fairly light at 380g (less than the 534g Powershot G1x)
- an intervalometer is availabe for it
This makes it the lightest of the first APSC format mirror-less cameras with a firmware intervalometer. So it looks like a good AutoKAP workhorse.
I’m not a fan of the AutoKAP technique but recent trials with the Powershot A2300 have reminded me of the benefits, it’s a light weight, low stress option allowing full concentration on the kite and can provide good cover for aerial panoramas. The resolution of the A2300 imagery was something of a disappointment so a step up to the Eos M, despite the weight penalty, seemed logical.
As CHDK is to Powershot, Magic Lantern (ML) is to Eos, it includes an intervalometer function and an Alpha version has been released for the Eos ‘M’ model.
I found getting ML working a bit awkward compared to its sister CHDK and because the Eos M is fairly new there is not too much help available. Here is how I got it working after reading though the ML forum thread. The Eos M camera has touch screen control which means a mixture of screen taps and button presses are needed.
Unlike CHDK, Magic Lantern firmware is installed in camera memory and remains there so there is a nasty feeling of irreversible change in all this. There is an uninstall procedure and removing the battery has the desired re-set action when the camera locks up.
The installation procedure is well explained on the ML web site, the only variation for the Eos M is that manual mode (M) is available from a screen tap menu (at ‘CA’ in the top left of the shooting screen below) rather than the more familiar ‘PASM’ dial setting (it doesn’t have one!). Once in manual mode the firmware update option is available from the menu button.
Clearly it is loaded OK so how on earth to you get it started then?
A 2 finger tap on the touch screen does the trick. This brings up either a useful menu or an info screen like this:
half-press the shutter release and the first menu screen looks like this:
however *sometimes it looks like this:
In tiny print at the bottom of the screen a message tells me the intervalometer is hiding! Pressing the menu button ( yep the actual button on the camera) reveals the hidden item:
The on/off option works with the ‘set’ buton and the next level menu opens with a single finger screen tap:
Once the interval is set you are returned to the previous menu and a half-press of the shutter button should get things started:
The intervalometer is stopped with the review button. Restarting it requires working through the menus again from the ‘double tap’ on.
A quick slap up AutoKAP rig from the parts bin, weighing in at 480g, and off we go into a building gale…after a short, thrilling, test flight with the PFK I discover the flaw in the idea.
When the camera was recovered from its roller-coaster ride on the kite line it was no longer shooting. Hmm. The rig was still panning manfully..zzt…1..2..3…..zzt…1…2…3… but there was no action from the camera. It was stuck on the preview screen and wouldn’t respond. Power off /power on and it was back. It had managed about 200 blurred shots and then stopped.
A single frame was sharp:
So what’s up?
The default shooting setting on the camera is ‘Creative Auto’, I liked the sound of that but it’s biased to low ISO and low shutter speed: a hopeless combo for KAP! That explains the blur but why did the intervalometer stop?
A repeat exercise revealed the red square of death condition showing a failure to achieve AF which stops the intervalometer advancing (in fact the firmware gives up altogether and locks).
The intervalometer is easily stalled if:
- the AF can’t achieve focus (indicated by a ‘red square of death’ in the preview screen: a ‘power cycle’ reboot is needed to recover control of the camera)
- excessive movement of the rig moves the focal point in and out of meter range
- random screen tapping (such as mounting the camera on the rig, attempting to change the focal weighting, or even motion of the rig itself causes ML to lockup after failing to resolve the conflicting commands from screen taps and script.
I have found the ‘AF operation= Servo AF’ to be the most robust using a ‘Flexi Zone = Single’ setting but even this is knocked over fairly easily by camera movement.
The 22m lens has no image stabilisation function unlike the heavier 18-55mm tele/wide option, setting a high ISO, high shutter speed and fixed focus will be required..
…focus fixed to infinity, ISO 400, shutter priority (TV Ae) at 1/125th s a 6-8mph evening breeze (and sunlight…. at last!):
420 shots acquired in 20min before sunset with only a handful of rejects. Most of the duds were as the sun set and the inevitable underexposures occurred.
My next attempt, in stronger light (but softer wind) produced a good block of sharp imagery although just oblique enough to make stitching into a panorama near impossible:
The AutoKAP rig comprises a Brooxes picavet and pan gear, GentLED ‘ClickPan’ and adjuster, a single cell LiPo 3.7 v550mA battery, gears by KAP shop: pan gear = 40 teeth, servo gear = 20 teeth. The pan step is 12 deg giving 30 steps to the circle. Step speed (variable) is 5s which means it takes 2and a half minutes to complete a circle.
A frame to frame comparison shows the Eos M photo-scale over the A2300 is much improved (no surprise there given the spec!) as is resolution (hard to judge without a parallel rig so these are approximately similar images) Eos M image on the right:
*red menus show hidden options. Options can be hidden from the menu lists by toggling the menu button with the item selected with the ‘arrow’ function of the main dial.