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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

Also Consider: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Canon’s first HD video DSLR, the EOS 5D Mark II can shoot 1080p full HD, 720p HD and 640x480p SD video, all at 30 fps. The camera originally provided no manual control during video recording, but a recent firmware upgrade adds the ability to set ISOs, apertures and shutter speeds manually. The major benefit the 5D Mark II offers over Canon’s newer video DSLRs is its 21.1-megapixel, full-frame image sensor, which produces a cinema-like limited depth of field due to its relatively large size and excellent low-light image quality due to its large pixels. Of course, the 21.1-megapixel sensor also delivers superb still images.

Nikon D3S
The original full-frame D3 set new standards for high-ISO image quality, and its successor raises the bar again. The D3S has a normal ISO range of 200-25,800, expandable to 102,400. Featuring the same “modest” 12.1-megapixel count as the D3, the D3S maintains the very large 8.45-micron pixel size, which—along with a completely redesigned sensor and new EXPEED processing—accounts for the amazing high-ISO performance. Like the D3, the D3S can fire off full-resolution RAW images at 9 fps, but a larger buffer lets you shoot up to 36 14-bit RAW or 82 JPEGs at that rate. The camera can use all AF-Nikkor lenses, automatically switching to cropped DX format when a DX lens is attached (and upping the shooting rate to 11 fps, but dropping the pixel count to 5.1). Other features include a superquick, 0.12-second startup, serious pro ruggedness and a built-in sensor-cleaning system.

The D3S is the first pro-level Nikon DSLR to offer HD video capability. It can shoot 720p HD and 424p and 216p SD video at a cinema-like 24 fps in Motion JPEG format. A built-in microphone records mono sound, or you can plug an external mic into the provided jack to gain hi-fi stereo sound. You can choose the ƒ-stop, focus manually or automatically (via contrast-based single-shot AF) and use ISOs up to 102,400 when shooting videos. Video clips are limited to 2 GB (by the AVI Motion JPEG format), which is about 5 minutes of HD or 20 minutes of SD video.

Some pro moviemakers are using DSLRs for some shots, especially for low-light work, action and scenes more easily done with a “compact” device; but the video-capable DSLR isn’t ready to replace an all-out pro HD camcorder for video work.

Nikon D300S
Like the D3S, the D300S retains its predecessor’s pixel count, but improves image quality and adds HD video capability, thanks to a new sensor design and new EXPEED processing. Nikon’s top DX-format (APS-C) DSLR, the D300S offers the same AF features as the top pro Nikons, including 51-point Dynamic AF with 3D Focus Tracking and 1005-pixel 3D Matrix Metering II. A second memory-card slot lets you record to SD, as well as CompactFlash memory cards. Top shooting rate is 7 fps. Other features include a rugged body with advanced dust- and moisture-sealing, improved Active D-Lighting, sensor-dust reduction and an electronic virtual horizon.

The D300S can shoot 1280x720p HD video and 640x424 or 320x216 video, all at a cinema-like 24 fps. A built-in microphone records mono sound, or you can attach an optional stereo mic to the provided jack for stereo sound. You can use contrast-based AF or focus manually when shooting videos. Like all Nikon DSLRs, you can shoot up to 2 GB of video at a clip, which is about 5 minutes of HD or 20 minutes of SD video. Video is recorded in AVI format, with Motion JPEG compression.


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