*DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. It’s a type of camera used exclusively for photography in the past. In 2008 Canon starting adding a video mode to their DSLR cameras. They had no idea the phenomenon that it would bring.
DSLRs have huge sensors (the mechanism that converts light to video) and way more, cheaper, high quality lenses (also referred to as “glass”). These factors give DSLR cameras very sharp imagery as well as a very shallow depth of field. Depth of field or DOF, refers to the focus of the image or video. A deep DOF is when the foreground and the background of an image are both in focus. You see this commonly in landscape shots.
Example Video Filmed Primarily with Canon 5D Mark II’s and Canon Rebel T2i’s:
Shallow Dof is when one part of the image is in focus while the rest is not. For example, imagine a romance movie. About 3/4 of the way through the film, the man and woman run to one another and kiss in the rain. On a close-up of them kissing, you’d see them in focus, with the background out of focus. You see it all the time in the movies, almost always used during back and forth dialogue when 2 actors are talking. This is a very sought after look by video professionals and before DSLR video was extremely expensive to achieve. DSLR cameras achieve this look for a fifth of the price.
I started my videography career with a Sony VX-2000. It’s an older little Sony prosumer standard-def camcorder. After I mastered that I was ready to upgrade to a Hi-def camera, but I didn’t have much money and good cameras are very expensive. I saw the quality that DSLRs are capable of and I became very interested. The Canon 60D was in my price range and I bought it. It came with a 18-135mm EF-S lens. It shot 1080i and 720p at 24, 30 and 60fps (frames per second). It was a good camera and I really liked it. However I got the opportunity to upgrade to the Mercedes Benz of DSLRs…. The Canon 5D Mark II. I also got it with a 24-105mm canon L-series lens. It shoots beautiful, crystal clear, filmlike video and I love it. Now here are the pros and cons
What’s great about DSLRs for video, and the reason they are so popular, is the filmlike quality with the shallow depth of field you can obtain for a much, much lower price. For example, experts often compare the canon 5d mark II to the Red One camera, which costs $25k. Now of course the Red One is a nicer camera, it shoots at 2k resolution, but it’s $25,000, the canon 5d mark II is $2,500 and the quality is comparable. For Internet and DVD purposes, the quality is negligible. In theatre it would be obvious, but what your video looks like in movie theatres is not relevant to most. Anyway the point is the quality for the price is incredible.
Now here’s the cons. No matter how awesome the video quality is, it doesn’t change the fact that DSLRs are built for still photography and only recently started offering video. This means that they have crude audio capabilities. No manual audio gain controls without hacks or patches, no xlr (high quality audio input), the built in mic is too low quality to use, also it’s small and without a handle so it’s difficult to operate smoothly and it doesn’t have a controlled zoom.
All these cons have workarounds but it’s a more difficult process than with a regular video camera and it costs money. Even with these costly extras DSLR cameras are still worth the money but the ease of use and time it takes to balance out the shortcomings depend entirely on you. You absolutely have to get a stabilizing rig for smooth shooting off the shoulder, otherwise your footage will be too shaky. These rigs average around $500 with the higher quality ones around $2,000. You can do what some people do and build your own rig or order the components separately and assemble it yourself. I’m going to do an entire post dedicated to choosing or building a rig and once it’s complete I’ll insert a link to it here.
Because the DSLR has poor audio capabilities, what most people do is buy a portable audio recorder to capture audio separately from the camera. You plug your mic in use that to digitally record your audio. Thats a great way to get high quality audio, the problem is, since the video and audio are not being recorded by the same device, you’ll need to sync these in post. You can do this manually using the a clapper or snap etc. but there is a much simpler solution which is a program called plural eyes. Plural eyes will automatically sync your video to your audio in your timeline. It does this by lining up the separately recorded audio waveforms to the audio waveforms recorded by your low quality built in camera mic. It’s not always perfect but if you’re getting decent audio from your camera then it works quickly and effectively. There’s also a sister program called dual eyes that will automatically sync all the video files to all the audio files outside of your editing application.
In conclusion, DSLRs give you excellent quality for the price. However, you’ll need to decide for yourself whether or not the shortcomings of shooting with a photography camera are acceptable to you as a video creator.
I hope this article outlining the pros and cons of shooting video with a DSLR has been helpful to you…
About the Author:
For more information regarding videography or editing, please visit The Video Genius. Lowell Brillante, Videographer and Digital Editor based in Charlotte NC.
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