Headphones, especially ones for field production really aren’t glamor items the way high end mics are. In fact its one place I see people often going with whatever is cheapest rather than what is good. Good headphones are very basic and essential tool for monitoring your recording where it counts most – at the initial recording.
Perhaps the most common headphones I see out there are the Sony 7506’s folding headphones. They are certainly very common for good reason: decent sound, reasonable price, they fold up small and the other guys and gals all seem to be using them. They are something of a standard. However I think the “everybody uses them” think more than the rest is why they are so common. Personally having used them, I can’t say I’m thrilled with them. Why ? well for starters they are always falling off your head. That one thing alone drives me crazy because try booming on the run and all of a sudden your ‘phones are hanging over your shoulder in the middle of a shot. Then there is the fact they have pretty poor isolation which means cranking the volume up. This is very bad for your ears, and when working close to your subject there can be bleed or feedback.
Enter the Sennheiser HD 280’s for about the same price, give or take literally a couple dollars.
What I Like About Them
They Stay On Your Head. Go ahead, run with them on and they stay put until you take them off. Look up, down, around and they are still on. If you wear a hat with a brim, they’ll also still stay on. This is a huge advantage over many other sets of ‘phones in the market. I’ve even split worn them. That means putting just one side on your ear, the other on the side of your head. This way you can also slip on a set of intercoms too at the same time. This is very valuable when doing live TV shots in the field and you need to hear the truck, the director and your own sound all at once.
The other major advantage of these headphones is their isolation The HD 280’s are a closed style design. They offer 32db of isolation blocking out external sound. This lets you monitor with lower levels which is better for your ears. It also helps a lot in deciding if background noise is really intruding too much into your good sound or not. Lower monitoring levels is a very good thing that you should not underestimate, especially if you do sound as a part of your income.
The overall sound quality is very good with specs of 8hz-25khz, although no graph is supplied. However, thats still way more than good enough for normal dialog and music recording. They tend to be reasonably neutral sounding with minimal sound coloring. This is good because you want headphones that tell you the truth about what you are getting.
Real World Use
In everyday use, I find they are very honest about what I am getting. They are detailed and don’t color the sound in any significant way. This means I’ll usually hear even really small stuff in them that you’ll not normally notice in the edit room even with decent speakers. Its always better to hear everything and be able to decide if it matters rather than not. You eventually learn to know what matters and what doesn’t. The improved isolation is a part of this experience. By reducing external noise you get a much better sense about what you are getting without having to over crank the volume to hear that. Saving your ears is a big deal, especially if audio is a part of your normal income making.
I have one pair that lives in my audio bag full time. They store into my Petrol Pegz-1’s front compartment and then route to either my FP33 mixer or DR-680 recorder. I swap out the mixer or recorder depending on the job. I’ve been using one pair now for several years. They have worked literally in falling snow, rain and hot summer sun without a problem. Thats what you expect. Even with several years of use, they have very minimal signs of wear. UPDATE : many years later and they are still holding up despite harsh conditions and weather.
If you do managed to shred up the ear pads, they are replaceable.
The HD 280’s have a 1/8″ ( 3.5mm ) jack as its native connector. Included in the box is a screw on adapter to get you to 1/4″ if you need it. This is the same 1/4″ screw on adapter that is used on Sony’s. If I have any complaint, its going to be that the connector is a straight connection rather than a 90 degree one. I know most headphones come this way and its not great because it makes them much more easy to break. For these headphones and just about any I highly recommend putting a 90 deg adapter on them. There are even 1/8 to 1/4″ adapters if you look around a bit. Generally speaking if you find them online they are pretty cheap so getting 2 or 3 is often a good idea to have a spare or for your other headphones you may have around.
I’m doing audio for national networks ( live feeds and ENG ) and there are no excuses or second chances. You get it right or you don’t work again for them. In this kind of high stakes environment you tools have to work correctly every time. A quality set of headphones has to be a sound person’s most important tool after their mic and mixer. For once its nice not to go broke for quality gear that performs. Its certainly easy to spend a lot more for pro level headphones, but the HD 280’s are real performers that work day in day out and won’t break the bank. Its nice to have reliable quality gear at a very reasonable price.
Sometimes you need a little more reach with a lens. I’ve even used this with a 50mm prime to get 75mm. This adapter unlike Canon’s will work with pretty much any lens, not just long tele glass. It also doesn’t suffer from a rear element that protrudes past the rear of the lens mount. Optically its on par with any of the big name lens extenders.
Yes ! I shot this with a [EDIT original post Vivitar 24mm F2.0 lens that I got for $25] Jupiter 9 I got for around $100. Looking on eBay I see its going for more like $250+ referring to the Vivitar 24. I got a bargain for once, and a really nice lens ! Its entirely possible you may come into this lens nearly as cheap. Before you plunge big dollars into something with a C name on it, consider what else is out there. Many a vintage lens will still make a wonderful image. This was shot in a little inlet on Lake Winnebago, WI.
The next image was shot with a Vivitar / Tokina 400mm 5.6. Maybe not quite as sharp as I’d like, but I was hand holding it at 125th shutter or so and high ISO. Even still it held nice contrast on severe back lighting. Ok, truth be told I did pay around $100 for the 400mm, but even still a bargain compared to alternatives.
The point is I got into dslr imaging because I was intrigued with making high quality video ( and some stills ) for cheap. I’m thrilled I DIDN’T spend thousands on gLamour gLass and found some great lenses that work just fine. Ok, Ok, yes, yes, that gLamour Luxury glass will do better, no doubt but I’m just not making images were clients will ever know, care or see the difference. Its nice not to be gear poor for a change ! Seriously, quit pixel peeping and make some great images.
Lets get to something from my vintage vs new lens shoot out I did a few weeks ago – A review on the Samyang / Rokinon 35 1.4 Lens.
I’ve been using the Rokinon version of this lens for several months ( years now ). Its become one of my favorite lenses. Lets take a look why and go into the details of the various versions of this lens that are out there. I’m also NOT pulling punches on where this lens comes up short because there are some places that it does. These areas may or may not matter to you.
Samyang is officially the company that makes this lens, but its sold under several other names and companies including Rokinon, Vivitar and Bower.There are probably a few others out there as well.
There A Difference Between Vendor Brands Besides Price ?
YES ! besides price, there is one main difference. Its which direction the lens focuses in. If you shoot Nikon with its backwards ( to everyone else ) focus turn, then you’ll be ok with the Samyang OEM branded version of this lens. If you shoot Canon, cine glass and most other brands, then you’ll want the Rokinon version because it focuses in the normal direction. Bower may focus either way depending on the lot it seems and Vivitar focuses backwards.
Lets get right to the point, freaking awesome optical performance ! I’m thrilled with it. Even wide open its a great performer for the price. Ok, so a Canon L lens _will_ be a bit better, but 2X-3X the price better ? Thats up to you. If you make your living competing with 20 other shooters for the same shot, or get top dollar for your day rate and $ doesn’t matter, go ahead and just get the Canon. For everyone else who might prefer more value for their money, this lens is a no brainer. Its sharp and contrasty wide open. Yes there is some CA / diffusion, but its very minimal compared to a lot of older glass. You’ll instantly see how nice it is in comparison. This is pretty close to the L glass in overall performance without the big price.
Its Manual Focus
Yup ! no AF here to talk about. A nice 180 deg turn of the lens barrel. Smooth and silky with hard stops, this is real. Internal focus means the lens barrel stays at a constant length and the front doesn’t rotate. This lens works great with a short extension tube for closer focusing.
Focusing on this lens is a pleasure for its range and smoothness. A very big plus here. Another more expensive lens has only a 90ish degree focus turn.
Ok this is weird but my lens focuses past infinity. Long lenses will do this because when they get cold, parts contract, you need the extra range to focus to actual infinity. However, I can’t think of any reason why this lens does so except poor factory calibration. Maybe its something due to the internal focus, but I doubt it. Seems like less than ideal QA. UPDATE I’ve done some poking around the web and it seems this is just how this lens is made. Its not a deal breaker, but if you spin the lens to the infinity hard stop expecting it to be sharp, it won’t be. Thats REALLY REALLY bad for people shooting stills in fast moving situations where you expect hitting the hard stop means you are at infinity. Instead you HAVE to look at the lens to set it there or use the LCD screen with magnify on to see critical focus.
This probably isn’t something you’ll see written up, but since this is a very much a manual lens I need to bring it up. The focus markings are really skimpy. I have no idea why because it makes no sense. Look at this close up shot. Why can’t 5, 7 and 20 ft be marked ? its not like it would cost any money. It makes the well done depth of field markings next to useless for even modest work. Its this sort of stupid short coming that can make or break a product. If the optical performance of this lens was any less, this would be part of my reason to to NOT buy this lens. Seriously, DoF markings on a fully manual lens matter and cheating here is, well, leaving me speechless.
Later lenses from Rokinon seem to of heard this comment, they have improved their lens markings a bit like adding DoF markings.
I’ll also note, no IR focus mark. Ok, thats SERIOUSLY old school to talk about IR film,but some folks do mod dslr’s and remove the IR filter. The mark should be there. I’ll GUESS its around 2.8 to 5.6 on the RIGHT side of the focus mark. Really, it would of cost NOTHING to included it !
Something Is Shaking Inside
I’ve confirmed this on 2 copies of this lens. Shake the lens, something is wobbling around inside. WTF moment for sure. It seems like the floating focus elements have some play. I’m not talking about shaking this lens like a paint mixer, but just some easy up and down motion. The sort of motion you might get when shooting from a car, boat or plane. Could this wobbling mess with your image ? I don’t know because I haven’t tried, yet !
There was something wrong with the lens. I sent it to Rokinon and they “repaired” it by simply replacing it with a new one. THANKS ! that’s what good service should be and without any hassle. Also note I now have the cine version of the lens and will be doing a review of it shortly.
The lens front is plastic. Bummer. Not a deal breaker but disappointing. Upside ? filters will tend to not get stuck as often and will be easier to get out when over done. The lens itself is constructed of plastic externally, aluminum internally. This reduces the weight of the lens.
To be sure its a big handful of glass so a I’ve got no complaints. We’ve have plastic made lenses for years and they seem to hold up just fine. Plastic is also nicer to handle in cold conditions. I had no problems putting a focus gear on this. Also consider how much the big name lens makers also are making theirs out of plastic too….
Its got click stops. For stills, this is ok. For Cine work, there is a DeClicked Cine version. All that really means is that a small single round steel ball isn’t installed into the iris ring control. Really thats it, no magic here to “declick” an iris ring. Why do they charge extra for leaving something out ? The Cine version is available as a Samyang branded lens.
Shallow enough depth of field ? wide open 60D @ ISO 160. With manual focus and DoF of about 2-3 inches, you better be on the money. Going to 2.8 might be your friend if you need a little margin for safety.
Its awesome for the price. Its Sharp where you want it, and fall off depth of field blur where you want it. At 1.4 focus carefully ! Your margin of error is about 1 inch. Ok, gory details now –
Wide Open 1.4 above. All sharp, some loss of contrast as to be expected. This is pretty minimal compared to a lot of other lenses out there and is great performance.
F5.6 What else is there to say ? Its SHARP and CONTRASTY !
Another odd point of this lens. Dead center Bokeh looks great as you’d expect. Going off center, the highlights gain this odd off shape expression I’d call cat eyes. This ONLY happens wide open or close to it. Stopping down a bit makes octogons. There is also the “wooly” effect at times in the highlights. Its some sort of interference pattern most likely cause because 2 lens elements are not aligned perfectly. Its nothing that has an adverse effect on normal image quality, but it does show up the way it does in my examples.
The wide open “cat eyes”. These are street lights far away. I’m focused to minimum distance making the effect most noticeable. Also note the ‘wooly’ effect.
Stop down and the cat eyes effect goes away making much more symmetrical highlights. This shot is full frame 1080 shrunk down.
Here is a larger section showing the wooly effect again in 1080. Double click for a larger full frame image.
Speaking of cat eyes, are you going to argue with this shot ? Yes this lens has that sort of personality that just grabs you. Its the look that defined the start of the dslr revolution with its ultra shallow DoF effects that got everyone excited. Its the lens that will change how you shoot if you have never worked wide open at 1.4 before.
This lens has some flaws to be sure. Would that stop me from buying it ? no. Its still a great deal compared to other 35 1.4’s. Some compromises are to be expected, but none here will stop you from making great images. Ok, maybe the focus past infinity thing could become a pain, but once you get used to it, its not the end of the world.
I’m shooting a lot with this lens these days including some quick portrait work. For video its a great lens that’s between being wide or long, yet if you go wide open has “the look” of longer glass. I’m thrilled with it despite its shortcomings which are not major, just annoying.