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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Video DSLRs For Nature Shooters

The excitement of having HD video in a DSLR has taken the photography world by storm. We help you wind your way through the technology and the range of camera models that have HD video built in.

Labels: CamerasD-SLRs
There are two ways video images can be scanned. In progressive scanning, the entire frame is scanned at once. In interlaced scanning, each frame is produced in two scans, first the odd-numbered horizontal lines, then the even-numbered lines. Progressive scanning is better for moving subjects, since such subjects will have moved a bit between the odd-line and even-line scans with interlaced scanning. All current DSLRs with video capability employ progressive scanning. Progressive and interlaced are indicated by a “p” or “i” after the resolution figure: HD video is 1280x720p, or just 720p, for short.

Some DSLRs shoot video at 24 fps, some at 30 fps. The motion pictures you watch at the local theater are filmed at 24 fps, and some video photographers feel video shot at that rate looks more “cinema-like.” The faster 30 fps rate is standard for video and better handles moving subjects. Some video DSLRs also can shoot at 60 fps, which is even better for clips that include moving subjects. A few video DSLRs let you choose 24 or 30 fps for full HD video. (Note: These frame rates are for the NTSC video system used in the U.S. European countries use the PAL system and video frame rates of 25 and 50 fps.)

DSLR Vs. HD Camcorder
Designed specifically for video recording, HD camcorders offer advantages over DSLRs, which were designed for shooting still images. Camcorders are more comfortable to hold in shooting position for long clips (although video recording is best done from a tripod, as any camera movement will show in the video). Camcorders have AF systems and power-zoom lenses that operate silently and smoothly, so you get smoother zooms and no camera noise when using a built-in microphone. (While DSLRs have excellent phase-detection AF systems for still photography, they use slower contrast-based AF for videos, and built-in microphones will pick up the sound of the AF motor, aperture mechanism, stabilizer, etc.) Camcorders have eye-level electronic viewfinders, which are more convenient for handheld work than the DSLR’s live-view LCD monitor, and they have better sound capabilities.

On the other hand, HD camcorders can’t shoot first-rate still images, and even the pro models have relatively tiny image sensors. The smaller the sensor, the smaller the pixels for a given pixel count, which adversely affects image quality, especially at higher ISO settings. And the tiny sensors mean the cameras have to use much shorter focal lengths to provide a given field of view than a DSLR with its larger sensor. Shorter focal lengths produce more depth of field, and one big problem with camcorders is limiting depth of field for a “cinematic” look and selective-focus shooting—no problem with a DSLR and its big sensor.

DSLRs also accept a wide range of interchangeable lenses, including fisheyes, superwides and tilt-shift optics.

Bottom line: If you want to shoot only videos, get a camcorder. If you’re a still photographer looking to expand your creative horizons, get a video-capable DSLR.


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