It’s an interesting time to be caught in the crossfire of two markets that have similar interests. Whether a photographer making the move into video or a videographer looking for an affordable, all-in-one video and photo solution, the time has never been better to invest in an HD DSLR. The latest photo/video hybrid entries of the Canon EOS 60D, the Nikon D7000, the Olympus E-5 and the Sony Alpha a55V and a33 cameras have made HD in video-capable DSLRs all the more enticing. Continuous phase-detect autofocus, articulating LCD screens and manual audio level control, oh, my!
Myth: Photo Killed The Video Star
As camera companies and photographers learn video, slowly but surely, the often discussed disadvantages of DSLRs as a filmmaking choice are disappearing. And as these features and more are added to new cameras, the likelihood that they will show up in full-frame and pro-level cameras seems ensured. Come up with some continuous-light on-camera flashes, and we may just have something here.
Ironically, this is at the same time that dedicated video camcorders are absorbing the advantages of DSLR construction, like the APS-C-sized Sony NEX-VG10 and the Micro Four Thirds Panasonic AG-AF100 camcorders. Both include compatibility with interchangeable lenses and a DSLR-sized sensor, and compared to professional video camcorder systems, they’re both relatively affordable. After these announcements, esteemed optics manufacturer Carl Zeiss announced that, in addition to its Canon EF-, Nikon F- and PL-mount lenses, its CP.2 interchangeable-mount compact cine lenses for filmmakers will be available for the Micro Four Thirds and Sony Alpha systems, as well. These are still lenses that also feature cinema-style housings, oversized barrels and a nearly 360-degree rotation for better follow focus, which is so important in motion pictures, and which so few lenses developed for still photography have.
One of the clear advantages to HD DSLRs is the incredibly shallow depth of field that a large sensor and quality glass like these Zeiss lenses can provide. It’s also an easy thing to lose, and it can make or break your video, probably much more than photographers who are used to having numerous chances to nail that perfect still may think. Because for video, there’s a lot that can make or break your project, and you need more than just a good picture. Video requires a whole new skill set to learn, and though manufacturers may be gradually fixing the inherent problems of shooting videos with a DSLR, there’s still a long way to go. Monitoring of motion video is difficult, even on the largest 3.0-inch screens. The 8-bit H.264/MPEG-4 codecs used in HD DSLRs are paper-thin when compared with more robust offerings from professional camcorder systems, especially when some companies like RED include RAW video files that can be tweaked extensively in post, much like a RAW still can. Even with the manual abilities of the latest cameras, pro-level sound is severely lacking.
These products are indicative of the sea change that’s happening in both industries to provide singular solutions for two different markets, even if many of the companies have an interest in both video and still photography. It’s not clear which side will win the video market, if any, but it’s clear that either way, photographers and video makers will reap the benefits.