Posted By:
Craig Newman
March 6, 2013
Filed Under:
Film & Video Equipment Reviews
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Canon 5D Mark II: Solution for Moiré & Aliasing

by Mosaic Opto-Electronics, Inc.

This unique, precision optical accessory for the Canon 5D Mark II produces a profound correction of the 5D2′s well-known 1080p video moiré and aliasing artifacts.

The revised design of the VAF-5D2b provides the same excellent anti-aliasing performance as our original VAF-5D2. However it incorporate our newest and most advanced optical design: for excellent performance with wide-angle lenses, and minimal focus disparity.

  • No reduction of 5D Mark II 1080p video resolution for most lenses.
  • True optical correction before video image capture – no postproduction software filters or processing.
  • Easily installed or removed in less than 20 seconds.
  • 5Dmk2 H.264 codec compresses with better quality with the VAF-5D2, because false, high-frequency, aliased image components are eliminated before compression.

Cropped Stills from Video With and Without the VAF-5D2 To give a quick, side-by-side glimpse of what the VAF-5D2 does for video, the following are small, cropped sections of 5D2 1080p video frames taken with and without the filter. Moiré and aliasing always look much worse in video than in still images, however, so to truly grasp the effect of this filter, you really need to view the videos – these cropped stills were extracted from cinematographer Glenn Przyborski’s “Four Examples of Aliasing” Video; see our Video Resources below for additional examples and information.

Video Resources

Director / Cinematographer Glenn Przyborski (Przyborski Productions, Inc.) has been closely involved in the development and testing of the VAF-5D2, and has been using the filter in the production of TV commercials and other professional works shot with the 5D Mark II. Mr. Przyborski has provided a number of excellent videos showcasing just what this filter can do. Please note that because of Vimeo’s incomplete support for 1080p at this time, the Vimeo videos below are configured for browser display at 720p. The full-resolution 1080p source videos, as well as the original unmodified 5D2 camera files, may be downloaded for closer inspection from http://www.przyborski.com/mosaic_downloads.html.

Note that all of the following videos may collectively be viewed at http://vimeopro.com/przyborski/optical-anti-aliasing-for-the-canon-5d-mk2.

  • Four Examples of Aliasing (http://www.vimeo.com/26299355) This video illustrates the effectiveness of the VAF-5D2 at mitigating the well-known, severe aliasing artifacts produced by the 5D Mark II when photographing fabrics, architectural patterns, and other subject matter with fine detail. Note that this video has been cropped to 720p, rather than resized from the original 1080p, so that the full 1080p resolution is retained within the cropped field of view. The full-frame 1080p video and the original unmodified 5D2 camera files are available at http://www.przyborski.com/mosaic_downloads.html.
  • Zoom Lenses (http://vimeo.com/28039311) This video specifically demonstrates the performance of the popular Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L and 70-200mm f/2.8L IS zooms with the VAF-5D2. Again, the full-frame 1080p video and the original unmodified 5D2 camera files are available at http://www.przyborski.com/mosaic_downloads.html.
  • Wide-Angle Lenses (http://www.vimeo.com/26764997) For certain lenses of about 24mm FL and wider, the VAF-5D2 can induce some softening at the outermost edges of the field of view, especially with wide apertures. Nevertheless, and depending of course on scene composition, these lenses often remain usable with the VAF-5D2 in many typical situations. This video was shot with the Canon 24mm f/1.4L and 35mm f/1.4L lenses as a demonstration. Once again the full-frame 1080p video is available at http://www.przyborski.com/mosaic_downloads.html.
  • On-Air Commercials (http://vimeo.com/27069461) These two on-air, regional TV commercials were shot using the VAF-5D2, and show what can be achieved with 5D Mark II. Again the full-frame 1080p video is available at http://www.przyborski.com/mosaic_downloads.html. Courtesy Eat’n Park Hospitality Group, Inc.
  • Demo; Installation and Removal (http://www.vimeo.com/27331732) This is a short informational video introducing the VAF-5D2, and illustrating its installation into and removal from the Canon 5D Mark II. (Note that this video was not itself shot with the 5D2.)

VAF-Series Optical Anti-Aliasing Filters: FAQ

Our VAF-series optical anti-aliasing filters are an easy-to-use and effective solution to most of the aliasing and moiré problems typically encountered in DSLR HD video. Nevertheless, their unconventional placement behind the camera’s lens produces some peculiarities and limitations, of which you should be aware before deciding to purchase or use them:

Remove VAF filters for still photography. VAF-series filters are specifically designed for HD video – and should be removed to shoot high-quality still photography at your DSLR’s full, native sensor resolution.

Doesn’t my DSLR already have an anti-aliasing filter? Yes… but your camera’s internal filter is designed for shooting full-resolution still images, and has little useful effect when shooting in reduced-resolution HD video modes.

Optical focus and indicated focus differ (but infinity focus is always insured). The VAF-series filters work well with most commonly-encountered DSLR lenses. However, their placement behind the lens alters the camera’s effective optical flange focus distance, and this has certain effects on the way lenses will focus with the camera.

One result of this is that when a VAF filter is being used, the lens’ actual optical focus distance will differ from the focus distance indicated on the lens barrel. This effect is most pronounced on wide angle lenses. Nevertheless, the ability to achieve focus at infinity is always assured with any lens. (Note that with the DSLR’s critical focus and very shallow depth-of-field, when shooting video, filmmakers typically do not rely on the lens barrel focus indications, instead focusing manually with the internal or an external video monitor.)

Zoom lenses can be used, but do not track focus well while zooming. Another result is that, while zoom lenses are easy to use with the VAF filters, they must be considered “variable prime lenses”, since accurate focus tracking while zooming is not possible when a VAF filter is installed.

When shooting high-quality HD video with a zoom lens, it is always the best practice to first zoom to compose a scene, and then lastly to adjust for critical focus by using the camera’s built-in live-view digital magnification function. Really this principle applies just as well without a VAF filter as with one, as even the most expensive zoom lenses do not track focus perfectly while zooming, even without a VAF filter.

Wide-angle lenses. All of our current VAF-series filters work very well with most typically-encountered wide-angle lenses, without significant softening or resolution loss. Full-frame cameras fitted with VAF filters are often used with lens focal lengths down to 13mm, and crop-sensor cameras with focal lengths down to 11mm; nor do these figures represent the limits of useful operation. Please contact us directly if you have specific questions about a particular lens or configuration.

Note that the original version of the VAF-5D2 had a limitation with wide-angle lenses, showing in some cases significant off-axis resolution loss with lenses wider than about 24mm. This limitation has been corrected by optical enhancements incorporated in the current VAF-5D2b, so that all current VAF-series filters now give very good wide-angle performance.

Aliasing in the LCD viewfinder does not indicate aliasing in the recorded HD video. When using a VAF filter, the live video image on the camera’s small, built-in LCD screen may appear to be the same as without the filter, and may show moiré and other aliasing artifacts. These artifacts (with or without the VAF filter) are caused by the camera’s internal downsampling algorithms that generate the viewfinder display, and as such are unrelated to aliasing artifacts (if any) in the full-resolution HD video being simultaneously recorded. The low-resolution electronic viewfinder display is really only intended and adequate for framing and focusing. (The exception to this principle, is of course the Nikon D800, which is capable of driving an external monitor at full 1080p resolution.)

Circular polarizers. As is the case with most digital cameras, if a polarizer or polarizing filter is used with the VAF-5D2, it needs to be a circular polarizer, or have a circularly polarized output.

What happens when the camera tries to lower its reflex mirror? What about when the camera leaves “live view” mode, or if I accidentally try to take a still photograph while a VAF filter is installed? Can the camera be damaged? No – in none of these cases, is there a danger of damage to your camera. The reflex mirror in a DSLR is lowered by the pressure of an internal spring – it isn’t forced or driven downard by a motor or other mechanism. The presence of the VAF filter within the camera merely retains the mirror gently in its raised position, so that it doesn’t fall downwards under spring pressure.

Further to this topic, since a VAF filter retains a DSLR’s reflex mirror in the raised position, it prevents the use of the optical viewfinder while it is installed. (Of course during video photography, the optical viewfinder is always disabled anyway, regardless of whether or not a VAF is being used.)

Will it hurt my camera to leave the VAF filter installed? We don’t believe that it will. Many users (ourselves included) leave the filter installed indefinitely, with no negative effects. (Of course as noted above, the VAF filters should be removed for high-resolution still photography.)

Why doesn’t Mosaic make an anti-aliasing / anti-moiré filter for mounting in front of the camera’s lens? To work well, this requires a different filter for each lens focal length – whereas a single VAF filter can work with any focal length lens.

Cosmetic Imperfections VAF-series filters are complex multi-layered optical devices, and may occasionally exhibit very small, pinpoint-like imperfections of internal AR coatings. Such small imperfections may be detected in any optical lens, but are more easily seen in the VAF filters due to their open construction; they are an unavoidable result of the manufacturing process, and do not affect either image quality or resolution.

Is there light loss through the filter? The light loss is minimal – less than 1/8 F-stop, and normally not perceptible.

Using the Canon 5D Mark II and VAF-5D2b with older Nikon lenses. (This applies only to the Canon 5D Mark II with the VAF-5D2b – It does not apply to any of our other VAF filters for other cameras.) Many Nikon lenses, particularly older mechanical lenses, have a “Maximum Aperture Indicating Post” – a metal post or stub that protrudes from the flange face of the lens in the direction of the focal plane. Some early users of the original VAF-5D2 had reported that this lever could impact the filter when installed in the 5D Mark II, resulting in possible damage to the filter, the lens, and/or the camera. Design changes in the current VAF-5D2b housing have significantly reduced the likelihood of this interference. Nevertheless, we recommend using extreme care and close awareness with this configuration – please contact us with any concerns if you intend to use such lenses with the VAF-5D2b.

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