If there’s one thing that I know, it’s that DSLR video production is here to stay. As a DSLR-owner, I’ve finally succumbed to the new wave of production, and I can’t complain too much (though I can complain).
With that being said, I’d like to give you just a quick overview as to what I personally think about DSLRs. I have both my pros and cons about them, and although my view of them is generally favorable, there are some minor petty issues to consider. Granted, DSLR video production is a fairly standard thing these days anyway, and there’s simply no escaping it.
A Quick Overview
Basically, what is DSLR video? Well, I’m sure plenty of you know what a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera is. As a matter of fact, we gave away a Nikon D3000 not too long ago. Pretty fresh, right? Anyway, the fact is that these cameras provide superior quality and beautiful images.
Somewhere along the line, filmmakers decided that the video quality of these still-shot cameras was much better than anything else out there, and on top of that, it was cheaper than buying expensive movie cameras (like a RED). In fact, these cameras are even available for much less than the price of a professional handheld video camera (like a Panasonic AC130).
Generally speaking, all I can say is that they are cool. However, like I said, I have my pros and cons about them, and I’d like to just give a quick overview of that.
What I Like About It
As a I mentioned earlier, DSLR cameras are relatively cheap. I picked up my Canon 60D with accessories for around $1,500, and I’m still kicking butt with it. The images are better than anything else I’ve ever shot with, and that seems to be the general consensus for quite a few folks like myself. However, I’d like to just look at part of the technical side.
With a professional handheld video camera, you are typically limited by a fixed zoom lens. This only allows for the same type of shooting each time you go out. You can only go as wide as your camera will let you, and you can only zoom in as far as your camera will let you. However, one of the great things about DSLR cameras is that they offer the ability to give you interchangeable lenses. What does this mean?
Basically, with DSLR cameras, I can change my lenses just like the olden days of film production. Do I want a super wide angle? I just pop on a wide angle lens. Super close angle from afar? Pop on a telephoto lens. You get to shoot with prime lenses for a fraction of the price.
With that in mind, DSLRs provide beautiful cinematic pictures, and in the case of the Canon 5D, offer a full-frame 35mm sensor like any movie camera. It gets even more cinematic if you shoot everything in 24 frames per second. Furthermore, you have a lot of control with these cameras, and this allows you to get precisely the type of image that you would want without compromise.
Another thing I like about DSLRs is how it’s become a game-changer. With cost and quality in mind, you can cut a budget in half and still come out with a professional level of production. Also, with cameras like the $16,000 Canon C300 coming out, the truth is that DSLR is here to stay even on the professional level.
What I Don’t Like About It
Despite my highly-rated approval of DSLR video, there are a lot of things I don’t like about it. Granted, there are always two sides to every coin, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. Is it the faddy shallow depths of field that every user shoots with that bothers me? No, no. That does bother me, but it’s not the main thing.
First off, I want to talk a little bit about practicality, and with that in mind, allow me to make this analogy – DSLR cameras are like toddlers, always needing someone to hold their hand wherever they go. What does that mean? Well, despite the cost of a DSLR, there are a lot of accessories that you typically need to actually go shooting with them. The first and most obvious one is a tripod, but I believe that this goes without saying, and you can also find one for a pretty cheap price. Since these cameras are so light-weight, you don’t even need the best tripod around.
However, what if you want to go handheld? Or you want to change your focus while on the go? Or you want a dolly shot? Or you want a jib shot? This is where things become a little more costly. Now, granted with any camera, if you want to make moves, rigs are going to cost a lot, but take something like a professional video camera (not a TV camera) – you can cheat a little.
Since a video camera has some weight to it, you can move it around a little more with it being handheld. But with a DSLR, it’s a little tougher to do anything handheld with it being jittery, and you need to purchase some accessories for it to fully function. Basically, it would be harder to cheat at making a “jib” shot by holding the camera above your head and then moving it downward with a DSLR than a video camera…
Granted, I am merely speaking in terms of low budget production which seems to draw the DSLR crowd, but I am aware that in order to make any camera move on a professional level would require proper equipment. That alone can somewhat nullify my argument, and besides, you would probably look fairly silly doing a jib shot as I just mentioned. However, I would also consider documentary work that sometimes requires a run-and-gun type of shooting with a shotgun mic on the camera and no options for a rig. When it comes to that, I believe a video camera is always your best bet and not a DSLR.
Furthermore, a standard DSLR shoots 12 minutes at a time – which I believe is just around the same amount of time as a very old canister of celluloid – and this can be slightly problematic for certain types of shooting. Interviews and events are what comes to mind, but once again, there are ways to work around that.
Overall, I like DSLRs as a whole. There are a few things that I don’t particularly care about, but generally speaking, they are pretty great. Personally speaking, I think it’s best to have both a DSLR system and a video camera for different types of production, but that’s just me.
What do you like about DSLRs? What do you not like about them?
Image Credit: B&H Photo Video