Camera Tech

Recently, RED Digital Cinema’s mercurial CEO Jim Jannard took to the RED forums to respond to a post asking if the company would ever go “head to head” with the DSLR market. In standard Jannard fashion, the magnate all but dismisses the convergence of technologies in DSLRs with the following quote:

“I fully expect the DSLR mfgs to get it right at some point. Make a non-line-skipping 4K camera. At that point, the difference will be RAW 5K and 6K vs. whatever they make. Until then, a line-skipping 1080P camera is just not in the running for a pro camera. Can you make OK images with a line-skipping 1080P camera? Sure. Should you be embarrassed? Yes. We are not in that business.”

Myth: You Only Need One Camera

Jannard is known for being inflammatory, and in true fashion, he continues by saying that Canon should be “ashamed” about a commercial he had seen on shooting “motion stills.” Mud-slinging is nothing new in business, and as RED’s own EPIC and Scarlet cameras have suffered numerous setbacks, it’s not too shocking that Jannard would be on the defensive. This isn’t to say he doesn’t have a technical point.

As we ourselves noted in the article “Behind The Scenes” in the July/August issue, for HD-capable DSLRs to output video in 1080p and 720p when the sensors themselves are measuring in at resolutions much bigger than that, there’s theoretical downsampling that needs to happen. Camera companies haven’t officially admitted that this is what’s happening because, essentially, that translates to a loss in resolution. Regardless, the quality of video being produced by HD DSLRs has inspired countless photographers, videographers and cinematographers to look at video-capable still cameras as a viable solution for a variety of projects.

Should they be embarrassed? Absolutely not. The advantages of video-capable DSLRs include interchangeable lenses, a feature not often found on camcorders below the $10,000 mark, as well as better depth of field thanks to the large sensors, not to mention the incredible affordability of a DSLR system and lenses. Are there limitations? Absolutely. Down-sampling causes the so-called “jello effect,” and there are severe ergonomic and audio limitations when using a DSLR for extended video takes. But there’s nothing wrong with a little competition, and with the new competition from the DSLR market, the video companies have had to step up their games.

Jannard has since rescinded (a bit) with “clarifications” to his earlier statements, noting that “Canon should be embarrassed about pretending that line-skipping is good enough when they have the capability to do much more. I’m sure they will in the near future. Until then, they are delivering much less than they are capable of… which is one of the reasons I started this company. No one in this industry seems to move unless they are forced to.” He also says that “no shooting professional has to justify what equipment they use… only their results,” and goes on to admit cheekily that his own company has flaws and that they “have no idea what they are doing.”

Photographer Vincent Laforet, the first photographer to produce a video with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, rebutted Jannard on his blog, and we at DPP would have a hard time saying it better.

“I’m an end user,” he writes, “and I use RED and HD DSLR products all the time—and will continue to (and the Alexa too) as I go. Why? I think the most important thing to take away from the RED vs. HD DSLR vs. film vs. all other camera debate is: THERE IS NO ONE SINGLE PERFECT CAMERA OUT THERE THAT IS RIGHT FOR EVERYONE period. Every camera has its place. Every camera excels in some things—and fails in others. Every end user has specific needs, quality standards, and budgets… In the end—learn all of the tools (if you can)—and use the best tool for any given job. Or do what I do—use a number of them on the same job and be well ahead of the curve. And never, ever forget—it’s not about the TOOLS—it’s about the IDEAS/CONCEPTS that you have when all is said and done!”

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