Are DSLRs Rendering Video Cameras Obsolete?

Written by Tony Ibrahim     30/01/2012 | 02:10 | Category: STILL CAMERAS

Nowadays run of the mill compact and DSLR cams are capable of shooting Full HD videos, which raises the question: Is there any point in buying a dedicated video recorder?

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Canon's 550D DSLR

DSLR cams in particular are emerging in the pro-cameraman world as a worthy substitute to high-end video cameras. In fact, TechRadar claims the 2010 season finale of House was shot with a Canon 5D Mark II.

If a DSLR cam is good enough for Hollywood, surely it could satisfy the everyday needs of the layman.

Freelance video journalist Adam Westbrook uses DSLR cams because of their versatility.

"I use DLSR for my video work for a few reasons. Firstly it gives you manual control over the image that no other cameras in its price range really offer)."

Westbook uses a Canon 550D which retails at JB HiFi for $893.

"You can control the aperture, the shutter speed, focus, ISO and frame size. 'Traditional' cameras that do this cost upwards of £2500. Cheaper camcorders don't offer this control."

Despite being competent on the video front, other pro gurus claim DSLRs are let down by their sound recording.

On-Par productions director Toby Cameron uses his DSLR to shoot commercials for companies like Fujitsu, The Guardian and Carlsberg. Although DSLRs serve him with quality HD video, Cameron explains they let him down on the sound front.

"Recording decent sound straight on to the camera is very difficult. If I had a pound for every time I saw a really well shot DSLR film, but the sound was terrible I'd be a lot better off," Cameron told TechRadar.

"We use a separate recorder and then sync up the footage afterwards. We use software called PluralEyes that syncs it up by using sound waves. It doesn't always work though."

Although DSLR video capabilities seem to have caught up with its videorecording counterparts, Cameron believes video cameras are due for a wave of innovation thanks to driving demand of HD TV content.

"TV is moving towards more HD content that has to be shot with a camera that captures at 50mb/s and Canon SLRs capture at about 35mb/s. Some super geeks have hacked the Panasonic GH2 camera and have got it capturing at 70mb/s, but you wouldn't see a broadcaster using a hacked camera.

"The next wave of cameras that has just come out mix the best features of DSLR's and video camera like the Panasonic AF101, Sony F3 and now the Canon c300 (which captures at 50mb/s)."

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Canon's EOS 5D Mk II
When Canon's EOS 5D MK II DSLR came out (a camera with a $3,894 JB HiFi price tag), a study was undertaken by BBC technicians to evaluate "its performance as an HDTV camera." The study was stopped after early tests as "the results were not encouraging."

Adam Westbrook explains the shortcomings: "Some cameras have issues with something called 'rolling shutter' which can distort the picture in certain situations. Almost every DSLR camera I know has a shooting limit of 12 minutes, which means you have to stop and start your footage regularly."

Even with the few drawbacks, more and more journalists are using everyday DSLR cams in place of expensive and cumbersome video cams. As technology inevitably makes quality features cheaper, the vicious cycle of cheaper cams cannibalising the category above it continues. Starting from smartphones adopting compact cam prowess, right up to DSLRs biting into the pro-cam segment.