10 Sep 2010

Pros and Cons of HD video on a DSLR camera

Filming, Post Production 2 Comments

With the rise of many amazing VDSLR (Video Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras (such as the Canon 7D or the Nikon D3S) coming to the prosumer market, the use of HD DSLR video is increasing.  The ability for DSLR cameras to shoot HD video has been around for some time, but I’ve found there are advantages and disadvantages to using a DSLR for video production.  On our recent Hope Relay shoot, we employed the use of a Canon 7D camera in order to get some good depth of field on a few shots. So after my experience with it, I decided to make a list of some pros and cons when shooting professional video with a DSLR.

PROS:

  • You can get a quality DSLR camera for substantially less than a Professional video camera.
  • DSLR’s are smaller and weigh less than a professional video camera.
  • You can swap lenses on DSLR cameras (a feature only high-end professional video cameras have).
  • Since DSLR’s record video in a highly compressed format, file sizes are relatively small.
  • Since DSLR’s typically have good quality lenses and good sensors, chances are you’re going to get great footage in low light and good depth of field.
  • Many DSLR’s will shoot in frame rates of 24 and 60 for a cinematic feel.
  • These features can add intrigue and beauty to your video previously only achievable with cinema quality video cameras.

CONS:

  • Since DSLR’s weigh less, shaky footage is likely without a tripod or stabilizer.
  • Since DSLR’s record video in a highly compressed format that drops a significant amount of luminance data (usually H.264), so you cannot heavily color grade the footage without banding and pixelation.
  • Most fast lenses that ship with DSLR’s are not zoom lenses, so you must be flexible on your shooting distance, angle and feel.
  • Some DSLR’s change the resolution along with the frame rate, forcing unwanted resolution mismatches when editing.
  • Currently, most DSLR’s cannot record longer than 12 minutes at a time, so filming a speaker or live event could be challenging.
  • Footage shot at 60 frames per second will need to be converted with a program like Cinema Tools before it will appear as slow-motion.
  • Most (if any) DSLR cameras will not have a decent microphone, nor will they accept a standard XLR microphone, so recording audio can be challenging.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m not against using DSLR’s for video production; in fact, I think it added quite a bit and let us get a few great shots on our project.  But if you are going to be shooting the bulk of your videos with DSLR, keep in mind that you will need a good stabilizer, possibly a separate source for recording audio, and maybe some video conversion software.  Also, don’t count on being able to push that color grading too far!

2 Responses to “Pros and Cons of HD video on a DSLR camera”

  1. Jordan Lee Gons says:

    Try using the Atomos Ninja attached for saving directly to HQ Apple ProRes “uncompressed” data.

    http://www.atomos.com/Ninja/#techspecs
    http://vimeo.com/20173362

    What are your thoughts?

  2. Kelsie Smith says:

    I needed to research this camera and its pros and cons for a school project, and this article was so helpful!

    Thank you so much!

Leave a Reply