Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Truth About HD DSLRS

By Michael J. McNamara Published in Cameras
The Truth About HD DSLRS
We're also confident that, given the growing interest in HD DSLRs, many of the current shortcomings found in them will be addressed and fixed in future models. Top on our list is even faster AF capability and motion tracking during video recording—without using a translucent mirror that lowers the camera's light sensitivity or forces you to use an electronic viewfinder.

We also expect designers to figure out ways to quiet down the internal lens aperture and focus movements, as well as image stabilization and other camera noises. Until then, on-camera microphones will continue to pick up every camera noise, forcing you to use some kind of dual-source audio system to get the microphone closer to the subject. At minimum, that requires a stereo input jack (now fairly standard), an accessory mic attached by long cords or a wireless RF microphone system. A more elegant solution would be a DSLR featuring built-in Bluetooth compatibility (or optional Bluetooth integrated into a battery grip.) This would allow for the use of securely paired, remote Bluetooth microphones and headphones—a much cleaner solution.

Other missing features that are found in most camcorders include a blinking video recording light and built-in video light. Both serve a purpose, but given the design constraints around a DSLR, adding a video light may not be possible. Perhaps LED lights could be integrated into the camera's external flash?

Time will tell if any of these features will become reality. However, if you aren't willing to wait for these improvements to arrive in a DSLR body, perhaps you should consider an interchangeable-lens HD camcorder with an APS-C sensor for your video projects, such as the Sony NEX-VG10. It offers all of the creative advantages of a large-sensor DSLR, but looks more like a camcorder and lacks RAW file capture and other DSLR still photo advantages.

Michael J. McNamara has been reporting on imaging products and trends since 1989. His blog and a portfolio of movies and still photos can be found at

Video-Optimized Lenses On The Horizon?

What are the best lenses for recording HD video from a DSLR? If extreme depth-of-field control is your priority, a prime wide-angle 24mm ƒ/1.4 may do the trick—and it will provide better low-light performance for still and video shooting. For the majority of situations, however, an ultrawide zoom lens such as the Pentax DA* 16-50mm ƒ/2.8 ED AL SDM or the Canon EF 16-35mm ƒ/2.8L II USM will deliver the best combination of wide-angle views, depth-of-focus control and price.

Still-camera lens manufacturers have yet to release video-optimized (VO?) lenses with a smooth, electronic zoom similar to those found on HD camcorders, unfortunately. This type of lens would allow for automatic rack zoom and rack focus initiated by touching two points on the LCD preview monitor. Currently, rack focus is found on the Sony A55, but rack zoom is only found on pro-level HD camcorders.

In addition to electronic zoom lenses, we'd like to see more affordable hybrid lenses with longer zoom ring and focus "throws" for creating more stable, professional video. The problem now is that most modern lenses are optimized for still shooting using the camera's AF system, requiring a relatively small twist of the zoom ring to go from wide to tele quickly, and a relatively small turning radius on the focus control to move from near to far focus. But when shooting video, slow zooms and moderate, precise focus changes produce better videos, so having a longer throw for zoom and focus rings is a plus. The ironic twist is that many older manual-focus lenses had longer zoom and focus throws than the current offerings.

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