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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

HD D-SLRs For Nature Photographers

For outdoor photographers, the latest high-tech cameras offer the ability to capture images and tell a story in incredible new ways

Labels: How-ToCamerasD-SLRs

This Article Features Photo Zoom
In fall 2008, Nikon announced the D90, the first D-SLR with HD video capability. A few weeks later, Canon announced the EOS 5D Mark II, the first “pro” D-SLR with video capability. Those two announcements—along with the appearance online of some remarkable videos shot by skilled pros with these cameras and the delivery of the cameras into consumers’ hands a few months later—marked the dawn of a new era: the D-SLR movie era. While compact digital cameras have had built-in movie capability for years, it wasn’t until late last year that this feature came to the D-SLR.

Sometimes lost in the hype over the video capability (and HD video, no less!) is the fact that the D-SLRs that have it are, first and foremost, excellent still-photo devices. All five current video-capable D-SLRs (six, if you include the D-SLR-like Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1, which we will here) offer at least 12-megapixel resolution. All offer their manufacturers’ latest, most powerful image processors (needed to produce the HD video, among other features). All offer excellent metering and autofocusing systems, plus a host of still-photo features. Even if they couldn’t shoot video, these cameras would be good choices for the demanding outdoor photographer.

But they do shoot video, and that provides outdoor photographers with a chance to add new dimensions to their image-making: the motions and sounds of nature. Excellent outdoor subjects for video D-SLRs include action at a bird’s nest or watering hole, sunrises and sunsets, insects visiting a flower, steaming waterfalls, amber waves of grain blowing in the wind and anything else that has motion and doesn’t require a focus change during shooting. (Only one of these D-SLRs provides continuous autofocusing during video shooting.)

Video capability in D-SLRs brings additional benefits besides simply being able to shoot video with your D-SLR, among them:
• D-SLRs have much larger image sensors than compact digital cameras and camcorders, so the pixels are much larger, and that means much better high-ISO and low-light image quality.

• The much larger sensors also mean the D-SLRs can produce pro-cinema-like shallow depth of field, handy for selective-focus effects and a general “movie-like” look not possible with the small-sensor camcorders and their inherent great depth of field.

• D-SLRs accept a wide range of high-quality interchangeable lenses, which gives them a huge advantage over compact digital cameras in the framing department and an edge over HD camcorders, too.

• You can record an excellent still image at any time while shooting a video simply by pressing the shutter button (the video will contain a brief still image at that point). The recorded still image will be at whatever resolution and other settings you selected before starting the video and will be stored as a separate file. All of the video-capable D-SLRs provide much better still-image quality than compact digital cameras or camcorders.


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