16Jan DSLR resolution rant
More then once i’ve been asked how I feel about the 1080p resolution of the Canon 5d mark III. This is often followed up with complaints from the questioner about DSLR video not being as crisp as “X brand” of camera and usually devolves into rambling about using DSLR cameras for video in general.
While I agree that there are downfalls to using DSLR’s for video, image resolution is usually pretty low on my list of complaints. Thinking back to how many people over the past 4 or so years have gushed about how great the footage from a 5d mark II looked, it’s ironic that these same people now complain about the 5d mark III’s better resolution and more flexible codec. The Canon 5d mark III and the rest of the DSLR lineup for that mater, all provide excellent video quality for the price and as long as you pay attention to the draw backs, you’ll end up with great results.
If you’ve been shooting for awhile, think back to the not to distant past (2007) when the Canon HV20 was released, people raved about how great the 1440×1080 footage was from its 1/2.7-inch CMOS sensor. The camera by itself was almost $1200, then you’d spend another $400 or more on a DOF adapter so you could attach old Nikon glass. After that you had to buy a special mount that allowed you to film with the camera upside down so that you didn’t have to flip all of your footage in post. If that wasn’t enough, you still had to pay a small fortune for mini DV tapes and the lenses themselves. By the time you were done with just video equipment you were looking at around $2500 minimum and because of the DOF adapter you also had to make significant invest in lighting.
Today, for as little as $400 you can buy a Canon t2i body, add magic lantern, toss in a few lenses, and you get 10 times better footage for under $1000. You’ll have better low light performance, more lenses to choose from, and better resolution then you could have ever hoped for out of the HV20. Then take a look at something like the Zacuto Camera shoot out from 2010 that compares the Canon 7d and 5d mark II to popular film stock. It’s easy to see that even the 7d, which shares the same sensor as the t2i, provides comparable performance at a fraction of the cost of developing just the film stock.
Are there good reasons to choose something besides a DSLR for your shooting needs? Sure, but a lot of them require more money as well as a larger investments in ancillary equipment, the Red one mx and Black Magic camera come to mind. If you are getting paid for your work and need to deliver in a 2k or 4k format it might be well worth the investment. On the other hand, if you’re on a tight budget, a DSLR will give you perfectly good footage for the internet, television (depending on the delivery standard), and even the big screen if things go well.
If you have a large budget, rent the best gear and enjoy the benefits of a full crew. If you are working with a limited budget and using your own equipment, a DSLR does a great job, provides plenty of resolution, and leaves you with some cash left over to focus on audio equipment and lighting.