Attention Canon, Nikon: Video DSLRs Are Not For Who You Think

There’s a lot of talk about how the video features popping up in our DLSRs mean that photographers all need to become videographers. Alex Lindsay went on about it in TWiP #72, “The Death of Still Photography,” stating that photographers need to learn to shoot video, because their cameras now have that feature.


Saying that photographers need to learn video because their cameras now feature video is like saying that you need to start a rock band because you bought an iMac that ships with Garage Band.

It is entirely possible that you are a still photographer who has no interest in video. That is OK. You know what’s pretty cool? Photography.

The only reason for a photographer to start doing video is an interest in shooting video.

And that has nothing to do with the convenience of a crippled video mode on the camera you were already going to buy.

Look at the photo below. On the left is a Canon video camera. Here are some of its features: 1920x1080 video at 60i, 30p and 24p, image stabilization, a crazy-long zoom range, mic input, lightning-fast autofocus. On the right is a lens that many Canon shooters are likely to have in their bag: the 85mm f/1.2L.

The lens is bigger, weighs more, and costs three times as much as the video camera, which is two years old.

Why do we expect stills shooters to suddenly take up video, when—if they had the slightest interest—they could have been carting around an HD camera for two years without taking up any more room in their bag than a prime lens?

Especially when you look at the specs of Canon DSLR video: Non-standard frame rates that don’t work for many countries and distribution methods, poor audio sync, overly compressed video that’s impossible to edit, zero manual control. Except focus, which is 100% manual with few tools to help you.

I said above that photographers should not feel any pressure to learn video if they don’t feel like it, but there is one class of shooter who might feel a legitimate pressure to add video to their toolkit: those photojournalists who are journalists first and photographers second. If you see your job not as bringing back photos but as bringing back a story, then by all means, you should probably be embracing video.

But not the crippled, crap video that your SLR just happens to have.

Get a video camera!

You’re a journalist. Capturing the event is all that matters. You don’t want to be fussing with manual focus and fiddly menus. You don’t want that mirror slamming down on you right in the middle of a once-in-a-lifetime-shot. You want perfect autofocus, fingertip manual control, instant-on video and a killer zoom range, in a form factor designed for what you’re doing. You’re also about to learn the hard way that whenever video is important, audio is twice as important, if not more.

You want a video camera. You could start with the one above that costs less than your cheapest lens and fits in the mesh bag you use for a water bottle. After that, if you like it, you might find out a secret: there are some really great professional video cameras out there that do even more.

The video mode on these DSLRs is exactly wrong for photojournalists.

But it’s exactly right for filmmakers.

Filmmakers have time to set up a shot. They control their environments. They can try a few different primes before settling on one. They expect to use manual focus. They plan on dual-system sound recording that involves a whole extra person who thinks only about sound. And they are gaga for shallow depth-of-field.

Filmmakers, at all levels from pros to wannabes, are thrilled about video DSLRs. They get it, they want it, and they know how to work around the limitations—if they even think of them as limitations.

Everyone else is scratching their heads wondering if they suddenly need to learn to pull focus, and if photography is dead. They’re so busy hating on the crippled video in the new 500D that they’ve overlooked that it’s a great stills rig at a great price.

Photographers: Don’t let gear define what you are. Do what you love. Cameras are cheap.

Filmmakers: Your camera will come, someday.

SLR manufacturers: You are making these things for filmmakers whether you think you are or not. Start listening to us. We want so badly to give you our money.


on 2014-05-04 05:57 by Stu

Thanks John.