HOME Technology Dec 2010
Still cameras challenge video
DLSR takes game to new level

“Using a fast lens and a wide open aperture the result is so punchy and clear. In the V48Hour: Furious Filmmaking competition this year 18 percent of the cameras used in the 650 short films were DSLRs,” Jeremy Andrews, Nikon distributor T.A McAlister.

The future of the consumer video camera is facing a serious challenge from digital single lens reflex (DSLR) still cameras that can shoot and store full high definition video footage.

That’s a complete turnaround from five years ago when it looked like the trend might move in the opposite direction with consumer level video camera’s able to capture 4-5Mpxel still images.

While initially cellphones and low end compact cameras were able to shoot short bursts of low quality footage, high definition video is becoming standard as is still image quality exceeding ten million pixels.

In the past 18 months some compact cameras have included 1080p HD movie capability, and as storage capacity expands the boundaries are also being pushed on DSLR still cameras, which are now favoured by some professional movie makers. 

As compact cameras reach 14Mpxl the capacity of their sensors to process that much information, particularly in low light situations is limited. That’s forcing serious hobbyists to step up to DSLRs that have larger sensors and can accommodate a wide range of lenses.

Broadcast quality

When looking at the options, buyers now find they’re also getting a professional video camera. Jeremy Andrews marketing manager with Nikon distributor T.A McAlister says video functionality on digital still cameras is growing exponentially and now delivering broadcast quality results.

He says professionals, aware of this transition over the past 18 months, have begun using consumer level still cameras for shooting major music videos, TV series and even feature films in 1080p HD. The lenses available give faster aperture speeds and greater depth of field and sharpness than most consumer digital video cameras. 

“Using a fast lens and a wide open aperture the result is so punchy and clear. In the V48Hour: Furious Filmmaking competition this year 18 percent of the cameras used in the 650 short films were DSLRs. It’s becoming a real game changer,” says Andrews.

Previously this level of quality would have required a professional Panavision camera with expensive lenses. With the dual capability professional still photographers can now offer high quality video services when they’re on the job; to enhance sound quality they simply add the right kind of microphone.

Until recently the huge capacity HD video takes up would have quickly maxed out any removable disk capacity but the market has already moved on standard 4-8Gb SD cards with 32-64Gb cards now available and terabyte storage on the way.

Hugely competitive

The Nikon 14Mpxl D3100 entry level DSLR with 18-55mm vibration reduction lens, 4Gb card and full internal guide mode and 1090p capability is selling for $1359. Canon dealers are offering an 18Mpxl DSLR with 1080p HD film capability, additional battery, bag and 18-55m and 55-250mm lenses for $2500.

And Fujifilm has gone 3D with its FinePix Real 3D W3. It has twin lenses and sensors so you can take two different photos at different settings concurrently, and sells for $800. 

Meanwhile quality hard drive video cameras which once started at around $1500 are now selling for between $300-$700 and the holiday market for compact still cameras is already looking hugely competitive.

At the low end generic 12Mpxl brands are already well below $100 and 14Mpxl entry level offerings from name brands including Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, Fijifilm and Olympus only marginally higher.

A range of features differentiate the models; Nikon is into its second generation of in projectors, Sony’s party tracker looks for the best face shots in a crowd and has ‘shutter smile’ capability, the stitch function in some cameras means you can sew multiple shots into a panoramic image and of course there’s a proliferation of touch screens.

The less you are prepared to pay the more compromises are made, perhaps you’ll get triple A batteries instead of rechargeable or miss out on the sensor shift or lens shift image stabilising technology on mid-range and more professional cameras.


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