Digital photography has widened the creative possibilities for photographers, you don’t have to worry about how many exposures are left on a roll of film, just shoot away until the shot is “in the can”. In recent years digital cameras have become more and more sophisticated, it’s now easy to produce technically near perfect exposures time after time. With compact consumer cameras the pixel count has steadily increased from 3 megapixels, to 10 or 12 megapixels. Professional DSLR cameras are producing 12 to 24 megapixel files. This, together with very advanced built in computer technology, means photographs are now technically superior to anything seen in the past.
So where are digital cameras going from here?
The next step was to produce digital cameras that could also capture the moving image. Although for some time compact digital cameras have been able to shoot short video clips usually 320 x 240 or 640 x 480 pixel dimension generally using a slow frame rate, of 15 fps (frames per second), some of the more advanced cameras offer larger resolutions and 30 fps capture.
In 2008 Nikon introduced the D90, the world’s first HDSLR camera capable of capturing High Definition video (HD). Before the D90, it was not possible to capture video on a DSLR camera, due to the mirror which has to flip up in order to make an exposure. Although some professional DSLR cameras can achieve a frame rate of up to 10 fps, this rate is too slow and produces jerky video. Smooth action video needs to be shot at 25 or 30 frames per second and DSLR mirrors can’t flip up and down this fast. To get round this problem today’s Video-HDSLR cameras use Live View (as used on compact cameras) for monitoring and viewing. When in Live View mode the mirror locks up and a continuous live feed is given to the rear LCD screen.
The concept of just one camera that does it all sounds interesting, just imagine going out on a shoot and being able to switch between capturing stills and a High Definition movie at the flick of a switch. Well this is now possible with most manufacturers offering a choice of cameras, Nikon D3s, D90, D7000, Canon 5Ds MkII, D7, Panasonic GH1 etc. So let’s take a closer look at some of the features that will help you to decide which camera is the right one for you.
At one time there were two video formats VHS and Betamax, those days have gone forever. Now we have a plethora of format choices led by High Definition and they all have their uses.
Full – HD. – This is the largest frame size that most current HDSLR cameras offer, The frame size is 1920 x 1080 pixels, this produces stunning quality on large plasma and LCD screens. The downside is that this large size frame can make a lot of processing demands on your computer.
- HD – Still high definition but at a smaller frame size of 1280 x 720. Nikon digital cameras use this format and although smaller than Full-HD it still offers outstanding picture quality. If you intend to produce DVDs or want to upload to the web then the 1280 x 720 HD format is a good choice.
- HDV – High Definition Video, this format is mainly used on tape based camcorders. The format is 1440 x 1080 anamorphic. Once downloaded the frame expands to Full-HD (1920 x 1080), but because the frame is squeezed during capture it may lose some definition.
- SD – Standard Definition. This format conforms to the 720 x 480 (NTSC – North America) or 720 x 576 (PAL – Europe) formats. Almost all commercial DVDs are produced in Standard Definition. The image format can be either 4:3 (720×576) or 16:9,(1024×576) again the larger size is an anamorphic squeeze.
- VGA – Video Graphics Array, this is now a dated format of 640 x 480, which has its uses for web video and other presentation clips etc. Many digital cameras still have this as an option
- AVCHD – Advanced Video Codec High Definition, this is a system that supports tapeless recording media and has many options including 1080i, 1080p and 720p. AVCHD was originally conceived for the production of Blu-Ray discs.