The early generations of digital cameras focused mainly on matching the quality, speed and performance that photographers had come to expect from their film cameras. With that milestone reached and surpassed, camera makers are now taking on bigger challenges and building cameras that add features never before possible with film. Some of these features are even taking on tasks that, until now, required a fair amount of work in the computer.
1. HD Video
It has been just over a year since Nikon introduced the D90, the first DSLR with HD video, which can shoot 720p HD at 24 fps. That was followed shortly by Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II, which can shoot 1080p full HD video at 30 fps. Since then, several more HD-capable DSLRs have been introduced, including Canon’s EOS T1i and EOS 7D, Nikon’s D5000 and D300S, and the Pentax K-7 and K-x. Panasonic has put HD video in two Micro Four Thirds models (which take interchangeable lenses, but aren’t DSLRs), and Olympus has put it in the E-P1 (also a compact interchangeable-lens Micro Four Thirds model). And, while compact digital cameras have offered standard-definition video capture for years, today more than 40 models from the likes of Canon, Casio, Fujifilm, Kodak, Leica, Panasonic, Pentax, Samsung and Sony offer HD video.
Having video on board is a useful option, allowing you to capture action without carrying a camcorder in addition to a still camera. HD means better image quality, especially nice if you plan to view your videos on an HDTV. There are limitations, however. Video clips are typically limited in length. Also bear in mind that HD video files take up lots of room on memory cards and require a fair amount of computing horsepower to edit.
Because DSLRs have much larger image sensors than most compact digital cameras (and HD camcorders), the DSLRs produce better image quality (especially at higher ISOs). They also produce a more limited “cinematic” depth of field and take a wide range of interchangeable lenses. However, an HD camcorder still is probably a better choice if shooting video is your primary objective.