Home Cameras SLRs D-SLRs: State Of The Art, Part I
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

Labels: CamerasStill CamerasGear

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Canon EOS 5D Mark II
The DIGIC III processor in Canon’s previous Live View D-SLRs was powerful enough to provide Live View capability with 230,000-dot LCD monitors. But the new DIGIC 4 processor (which made its D-SLR debut in the EOS 50D) has made Live View with the 4X-higher-resolution, 920,000-dot monitors and the EOS 5D Mark II’s 1920x1080-pixel, HD movie capability possible.

The EOS 5D Mark II can shoot 1920x1080-pixel HD video or standard SD video at 640x480 pixels, both at 30 fps. A fully charged battery will provide around 90 minutes of shooting, but the camera is limited to clips of 29 minutes 59 seconds or 4 GB, whichever comes first. A 4 GB memory card can hold about 12 minutes of HD video, or 24 minutes of SD video. Video is recorded in .MOV format using MPEG-4 movie compression, and sound is recorded using linear PCM without compression. You can record mono sound via the camera’s built-in microphone or CD-quality stereo sound with an optional external stereo microphone. The camera incorporates an HDMI interface to output still and movie images to high-definition television sets.

Shooting movies with the EOS 5D is easy. In Live View mode, press the SET button to start shooting, then press it again to stop. To prepare, go to the Live View function settings menu screen, and for Live View Mode select Still Images + Movies. For Screen Display, select Movie. For Movie Resolution and Aspect Ratio, choose 1920x1080/16:9 or 640x480/4:3. For Live View AF, select Quick, Live or Face Detection (more on those in a moment). For Audio Recording, choose On or Off. For grid display, choose Off, Fine or Coarse (the grid helps you keep the camera level when handholding shots).

You also can adjust the Picture Style, white balance, AE lock, exposure compensation, peripheral illumination (vignetting) correction, Auto Lighting Optimizer and Highlight Tone Priority, if desired. For focusing before shooting, there are Quick Mode AF (phase-detection), Live Mode AF (contrast-based, no LCD blackout during focusing) or Live View Face Detection mode (recognizes and focuses on a human face in the scene), as well as manual focusing. Exposure mode is programmed AE; metering (via the image sensor) is center-weighted averaging.

Note that HD movies have a 16:9 aspect ratio, SD movies 4:3 and still images 3:2. The EOS 5D Mark II’s 3:2-ratio LCD monitor is letterboxed by a semi-transparent border in the appropriate aspect ratio during movie shooting.

Nikon D90
A new version of Nikon’s 12.3-megapixel, DX-format CMOS image sensor capable of high-speed, multi-channel readout directly into the high-speed EXPEED image-processing pipeline makes the smooth Live View on the D90’s high-res, 920,000-dot LCD monitor possible. D-movie mode essentially records this live data stream and saves it on the SD card in the camera. The D90 can shoot HD video at 1280x720 resolution or standard video at 640x424 or 320x216 pixels, all at natural “cinematic” 24 fps. Videos are in .AVI format with Motion-JPEG compression and mono sound (or without sound, if you prefer). HD movies have a wide-screen 16:9 aspect ratio, standard movies a 3:2 aspect ratio.

Shooting movies with the D90 is simple. Choose your resolution and sound option (on or off) from the Movie Settings submenu in the Shooting menu, then press the Lv button next to the LCD screen to activate Live mode, press the shutter button halfway to focus and press the OK button in the middle of the Multi Selector to start recording. Note that autofocusing doesn’t occur during Live View shooting; either set up the shot so the initial focusing point works for the entire clip or focus manually like the pro moviemakers do. You can shoot movies in P, S, A or M mode; metering is Matrix. When you’re done, press the OK button again to stop recording.

You can shoot up to 2 GB of video at a clip, five minutes max in HD and 20 minutes max in lesser resolutions. Picture Control settings can be used to adjust saturation and contrast, create an old-time sepia look or even produce black-and-white movies. High-ISO performance is excellent.

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