Co-blogger Jason recently queried why I had written off using a DSLR as both my still photo camera and video camcorder in fieldwork. My pat answer up to now has been while there are some strong pros, there are some definite cons:
- Beautiful video. The sensors are much larger, much better bokeh, brighter lenses.
- Interchangeable lenses.
- One less device to carry or forget to bring batteries or memory cards.
- Audio: Most DSLRs have really atrocious onboard mics, low digitization rates, and no option for external audio (such as XLR jacks or even plug-in-power). They rarely have adequate mic monitoring (onboard displays or live monitoring via headphones) and usually only offer automatic gain, no manual gain option .
- Form factor: The SLR form factor is really designed for one form of eye-level shooting and not for live action.
- Autofocus: Some DSLRs cannot autofocus while video recording.
- Auto-Aperture: Some DSLRs cannot adjust the aperture while video recording, this makes lighting changes in a single clip difficult. Others cannot adjust the aperture in a stepless fashion, causing visible artifacts during adjustments.
- Zooming: OK, power zooming is generally evil, but everyone does a slow zoom once in a while, and not having a power zoom is a (major) pain.
- Sensor: Because almost all SLRs are single-sensor, you get color mosaicing from the Bayer filter.
- Shutter: Most DSLRs use an electronic rolling shutter when shooting video, unlike the mechanical shutters on dedicated video cameras. This can cause strange "jellyroll" effects on tall objects that move quickly across the screen -- or during fast pans.
Audio was one of the killers for me, since I do my own camera and audio. I usually have an external mic or two in interviews, feeding back into my camera. I've done dual sound using a flash recorder, and it isn't ideal. I prefer having a strong onboard sound option.
Interestingly, some DSLRs are now getting external audio options. The Olympus Pen E-PL2 (micro 4/3) has external audio through the SEMA-1 option, it provides for a 3.5mm plug-in-power jack. The higher end of the Lumix series such as the GH2 have 2.5mm audio mic jacks. And the higher end of the Canon EOS series also have 3.5mm audio jacks. Still, no real-time headphone monitoring (I think).
After the jump, I look at some specific cameras from the Canon EOS and Panasonic Lumix (micro 4/3) series. I'm interested in those two as I own older models in those series and can swap lenses.
I have to say, I'm not 100% convinced -- but like many things he has asked about before, Jason has gotten me thinking seriously about this.