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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Milestone In Time

Full HD video comes to digital SLRs

This Article Features Photo Zoom


Both the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Nikon D90 are admirable first-generation efforts, but they’re version-one cameras. We should look at them with as much of an eye toward the future as we have toward their current capabilities. Both companies are guarded about their future product plans, but acknowledge that the proverbial gears are in motion. Canon and Nikon believe that in the not-so-distant future virtually all D-SLRs will have video capabilities in some form or another. Perhaps today’s video D-SLR entries aren’t quite up to professional standards, but nearly everyone to whom we spoke agreed this is the start of a new exciting era for photographers and an emerging breed of multimedia creatives.

Another imposing force that looms on the horizon is RED ONE, which in the last few years has stirred up the digital-cinema market with the RED ONE 4K camera. RED has already announced that it intends to release a RED version of a D-SLR, which it’s attempting to reclassify as the Digital Still & Motion Camera (DSMC). Learn more about RED’s intentions in the related article “RED’y For Takeoff?” on page 54 of this issue.

On Set With The Nikon D90
John Collins and James Hurd put the Nikon D90 to the test on a music video production for artist Doug Burr, whose music is known on TV programs like Grey’s Anatomy.
What They Liked: Amazing color quality, wide dynamic range and latitude, solid-state recording and the use of relatively inexpensive lenses that still looked great (they used the stock 18-105mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 lens). It easily was fitted with cinema accessories such as a mattebox, follow focus, rail system and jib arm; it gave them the ability to instantly review a take. What They Didn’t Like: The D90 had a tendency to overheat. After about 10 minutes in Live mode, the camera shut itself down to prevent damage from overheating. Shutdown was graceful and saved the data, but there was a wait of two to three minutes until the camera was cool enough to use again. (Note: The Canon EOS 5D Mark II reported to function for hours on end without any heat issues reported.) A second issue was battery life, which lasted only about 10 to 20 minutes before it had to be recharged. The ability to set exposure and shutter was limited to “auto” modes.
The Final Word: It’s very exciting. There’s no doubt with the right accessories the workflow can approximate traditional video production. The overheating and battery life issues of the D90 need to be addressed to make it a serious contender for digital cinema.

Vincent Laforet
“Overwhelming is the word,” says Vincent Laforet, a Pulitzer Prize-winning commercial photographer who also delivers editorial, fine-art and a host of other assignments. “The whole thing has been stunning and life-changing.”
Laforet was one of the lucky few who had been working with a prerelease version of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II over the past few months. “When I first saw what this camera was capable of, the light bulb didn’t go on, it burst,” he says. “A few months ago, I didn’t have a positive outlook of the [photography] industry. Now I’ve never been more excited. I’ve never had so much fun as I’m having now.”
Laforet’s thoughts about the Canon EOS 5D Mark II’s video capabilities: “First, it’s incredibly light and small. I could put it on a car hood with just suction cups. You can’t do that with 35mm motion-picture film cameras. Second, what I consider to be ground-breaking performance in low light. Basically, if you can see it, you can record it.”
Laforet sees an immediate role for these cameras: “I’m switching to [the Canon EOS 5D Mark II]—it’s a phenomenal camera for both still and video work.” See more of Vincent Laforet’s photography at www.vincentlaforet.com.

The Video-Related Specs At A Glance

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Nikon D90

Frame Rate 30 fps fixed 24p fixed
Recording Media CF memory card SD memory cards
HD Format 1080p 720p
Frame Size 1920 x 1080 (HD) 640 x 480 (SD) 720 x 1280 (HD) 640 x 424 (VGA)
320 x 216 pixels (QVGA)
Sensor Size Full frame (24x36mm) CMOS DX (24x16mm) CMOS
Codec H.264 (MP4) Motion JPEG format
Recording Format .MOV .AVI
Output HDMI (mini and standard) HDMI (mini)
Max. Length
Per Clip
29 minutes 59 seconds 5 minutes in HD, less than
20 minutes for VGA/QVGA
Max. File Siz 4 GB per clip No limit on file size, only time
Mic Internal monaural mic,external stereo mic input
Internal monaural mic
Sound Recording Stereo 16-bit, 44.1 KHz Mono
Sound Processing Auto levels set (no manual override) Auto levels set (no manual override)
Shutter Speed Set automatically (ranges between 1⁄30 and 1⁄125 sec.)
Set automatically (roughly between 1⁄60
and 1/250 sec.)
Aperture and ISO Set automatically (AE lock and exposure compensation remain
available during movie capture)
Set automatically; exposure can be locked during recording
Autofocus Available in Movie mode, but operates slower than phase detection AF (same performance as Live Mode or Live Mode with Face Detection in Live View)
AF can be set prior to video recording; once in recording,only manual focus is available
White Balance All available white-balance settings can be used, including auto, manual, custom and presets
Set prior to recording; no auto white balance available during video recording
Estimated Street Price $2,699 (body only) $999 (body only)


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