Thursday, December 18, 2008
D-SLR State Of The Art, Part I
The line between still and video fades out as Live View evolves into HD motion video
CANON EOS 5D MARK II
|• 1080 HD video (1920x1080 pixels) |
• 30 frames per second
• .MOV format, MPEG-4 compression
• Estimated Street Price: $2,699
Compact digital cameras have provided Live View LCD monitors and movie capability for years, but only recently have these valuable features made their way into D-SLRs. Olympus introduced the first Live View D-SLR, the EVOLT E-330, early in 2006, and Canon and Nikon introduced the first models with movie capability, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Nikon D90, in fall 2008.
Why did it take so long? In part, because there was no tremendous demand. Serious still photographers—mostly longtime 35mm SLR users—had never had Live View or movie capability and were more concerned with features like image quality, operating speed and AF performance.
There also were a number of technological hurdles. The TTL metering and AF systems used in D-SLRs don’t work with the mirror in the up position, where it has to be if the image from the lens is to reach the sensor. The image sensor must be able to output image data quickly enough to produce a smooth live image. The sensor must be able to stay on for extended periods without overheating (which would increase image noise and possibly even damage the sensor). And the image processor has to have the power to drive Live View. HD movie recording requires even more processing power.
|• 720 HD video (1280x720 pixels) |
• 24 frames per second
• .AVI format, Motion-JPEG compression • Estimated Street Price: $999
As we write this, there are 20 D-SLRs with Live View modes, including the two with movie capability. While only two have tilting/rotating all-angle monitors (the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 and pro Olympus E-3; Sony’s DSLR-A300 and A350 have monitors that tilt up and down, but don’t swivel), all the D-SLRs with Live View have monitors with wide viewing angles (up to 176 degrees) that make it easier to shoot at odd angles.
Obviously, you’re not going to hold a big D-SLR out at arm’s length like a compact digital camera, but being able to compose images with your eye away from the viewfinder eyepiece is handy for odd-angle shooting—holding the camera above your head to shoot over a crowd and down low to get eye-level shots of kids and pets, for example.
The ability to preview the effects of exposure compensation, white balance and monochrome tonal mergers and filter effects are also useful. Live View is handy for manual focusing in dim light, especially when using a slow lens or a teleconverter. And Live View is terrific for tripod-mounted shooting like landscape and architectural photography, and studio photography. Many cameras let you activate gridlines in Live View mode to assist in keeping the horizon level and building lines vertical.
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