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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What’s Hot In HD Video DSLRs

In a year there has been a five-fold increase in the number of cameras offering high-end video capability. There are incredible new opportunities opening up for professional photographers looking to add video to their repertoire. We break it down for you.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

DSLR Video Formats
There are two basic high-definition video formats: 1920x1080p “full HD” (aka 1080p) and 1280x720p “HD” (aka 720p). Video images are drawn in lines across the screen. A 1920x1080 video image consists of 1080 horizontal lines, each 1920 pixels wide. A 1280x720 video image consists of 720 horizontal lines, each 1280 pixels wide. A progressive (p) image is drawn as a single frame; an interlaced (i) frame is drawn as two fields, first the odd-numbered lines, then the even-numbered lines. Progressive provides a smother picture, especially with scenes that include moving subjects. All video-capable DSLRs use progressive scanning.

Canon’s video DSLRs can shoot both 1080p full HD and 720p HD video; Nikon’s and Pentax’s use the 720p format. One may think that 1920x1080, having more “pixels,” is better, but that isn’t necessarily so. Full HD takes up more space on memory cards, requires much more computer horsepower to edit (and even just to play back) and is overkill for some end uses, such as web display. However, with enough resources, full HD can produce better-looking results and a larger full-resolution image.

There’s also the frame rate to consider. All Nikon DSLRs shoot video at 24 fps, the same rate at which the movies you see in theaters are filmed. Some feel this produces a more “movie-like” look. All Canon video DSLRs shoot at the video-standard 30 fps, which produces smoother action. The newer Canon video DSLRs—the EOS-1D Mark IV and EOS 7D—can also shoot at 24 fps, for those who desire that “look.” The Pentax K-7 does video at 30 fps.

Canon EOS-1D Mark IV
Canon’s long-awaited EOS-1D Mark IV is a jack-of-all-trades, with a new 16.1-megapixel APS-H format (1.3x crop) CMOS sensor, the ability to shoot big files at a blazing 10 fps (for up to 26 14-bit RAW or 121 Large JPEGs, with a UDMA CF card), a normal ISO range of 100-12,800 (expandable to 102,400) and dual DIGIC 4 processors. Other features include pro-level ruggedness and weather-sealing (the Speedlite 580EX II and most current L-series lenses are also fully weather-resistant), an all-new AF system with new AF algorithms, and a 3.0-inch, 920,000-dot Live View LCD monitor.

The first all-out pro Canon DSLR to shoot video, the Mark IV can do 1080p full HD at 30, 24 or 25 fps (the last for PAL systems), and both 720p HD and 480p SD video at 60 or 50 fps. You can capture a high-res still image (RAW, JPEG or RAW + JPEG) during video shooting, at a preset resolution of your choosing, simply by pressing the shutter button (there will be a one-second pause in the video). Sound is mono via the built-in microphone, or you can record stereo sound via an optional external mic using the provided mic jack.

The DSLRs accept a wide range of excellent lenses, including very fast ones, tilt-shift ones, very long ones, macro lenses, fish-eyes and lots of zooms. And the DSLRs let you take a superb-quality still image at anytime, merely by pressing the shutter button (this, of course, briefly disrupts the video recording).

Canon EOS 7D
Featuring an 18-megapixel APS-C (1.6x crop) Canon CMOS sensor, the EOS 7D provides excellent still and video capability at about one-third the cost of the EOS-1D Mark IV. And unlike the Mark IV and the full-frame EOS 5D Mark II, the 7D can use all EOS lenses, EF and EF-S. Notable 7D features include 8 fps shooting, new AF and metering systems (the best ever in an APS-C Canon DSLR), easy-enter Live View and video modes, a 3.0-inch, 920,000-dot LCD monitor, a rugged yet lightweight body well-sealed against moisture and dust, dual DIGIC 4 processors, sensor-dust reduction and a dual-axis electronic level that works even when the horizon doesn’t appear in the frame.

The 7D offers the same video capabilities as the Mark IV, but the smaller sensor produces more depth of field (albeit still less than typical HD camcorders): 1920x1080 full HD at 30, 24 or 25 fps; 1280x720p HD at 60 or 50 fps and 640x480p SD at 60 or 50 fps. You can control exposure and focus manually when desired and record mono sound via the built-in microphone, or plug an optional stereo mic into the provided mic jack for stereo sound. As with the Mark IV, you can capture a high-res still image during video shooting simply by pressing the shutter button (with the same one-second pause in the video).


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