Tuesday, November 11, 2008
A Milestone In Time
Full HD video comes to digital SLRs
It was a fairly innocuous start. A hastily assembled, last-minute project conceived and shot in 14 straight hours, edited together in three hours (no time for color correction) and a quick posting to a blog with the link to the completed five-minute short. This was as close as you could get to a straight line from the camera to the web. No hype machine, no PR company creating fake YouTube entries to generate buzz—just a simple blog entry and a video clip. And then it happened. A few people read the blog, watched the video and forwarded it to friends, who watched and forwarded. Within eight hours it had garnered more than 250,000 views, only through word of mouth. I received more than a dozen e-mails that day saying, “You gotta watch this!” The video now has received upward of two million views and growing.
Vincent Laforet’s “Reverie” video is the first video shot completely with the latest crop of video digital SLRs, specifically the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. Love it or hate it, we’re bearing witness to one of the major points on the history timeline of photography: the convergence of motion and still photography onto the D-SLR platform.
So why the intense interest in the latest crop of D-SLRs from Canon and Nikon? The merging of video and still photography isn’t exactly new. Point-and-shoot consumer cameras have had video capability for several years. Companies like Redrock Micro have been successful with lens adapters to fit 35mm lenses to professional and prosumer video cameras and create 35mm film-style digital cinema. What’s new here? Simply, HD, “high production value” and low cost. For the first time, we’re seeing true video in HD resolutions captured by still cameras. The specific resolutions vary (see the specs chart), but the quality represents a new standard for what’s possible with still cameras.
Production value is a term Stu Maschwitz champions in his blog (prolost.blogspot.com). Maschwitz makes a potent case that the illusion of production value is no different than actual production value (meaning big dollars spent). What counts is what you put on the screen. The depth of field of true 35mm combined with the fantastic resolution of HD can dramatically increase the perceived production value of a shot (see the “See For Yourself” sidebar with links to online sample footage)
And we’re not talking huge money. These cameras are a few thousand dollars or less for the capabilities of a true 35mm “film look” in HD, a revolution in price. What was possible with literally tens of thousands of dollars only a few years ago is now possible for under $1,000.
Let’s take a look at these new offerings and see how they may impact professional photography.
Of the latest slew of new product announcements at Photokina and other shows this year, the two that stand out are the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and the Nikon D90. These cameras deliver HD-quality video in a D-SLR body, but do it in very different ways. Let’s examine some of the details behind each camera.
Both cameras introduce the video capabilities as an outgrowth of their respective Live View technologies available in previous models. The specs are a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison. The cameras are at very different price points, so marked differences in the specs are to be expected. Perhaps it’s best summed up in how Canon and Nikon position their cameras.