With the Nikon D90, Canon 5D Mark II and the Panasonic GH1 we are now in the phase where nearly all serious cameras will be able to shoot videos (called Combo Cams). Now we photographers can use these cameras to create videos. But the camera alone does not make a still photographer (e.g. ourselves) a good videographer. Believe it or not still photography and movie making are very different disciplines.
We are very pleased that Mike Kobal (study Mike's blog and you understand that Mike understands video making) is providing us with his short personal take on some of the new Combo Cams.
The top Combo Cams are right now the Canon 5D Mark I, Nikon D90 _ D5000 and the new Panasonic GH1. Here is Mike's take with sample videos.
35mm full size sensor, great shallow depth of field, 1080/30p
Manual control over aperture, shutter speed and ISO.
Unprecedented low light sensitivity.
Acceptable codec, very gradeable in post. (but conversion is a must for a fluid work flow, I usually convert it to XDCAM EX for native editing in FCP )
very good LCD resolution and exposure can be judged to a certain degree by looking at the screen
huge lens selection from Canon and the possibility to use Nikon and other lenses via adapter.
No AF in video mode, but I can live with that.
Jello effect when panning, does not effect me since panning is not my thing.
No swivel LCD. Would like to see that taken care of in the 5Dmk3.
Only 1080/30p. Would like to see 24p and 60p and 120p, a 720p option, over and under cranking and a time lapse option.
Sound is terrible. I would like to see a firmware upgrade to allow for manual level control, a hack is floating around but I have not tried it yet. For now my work around is to record sound with the camera and an external device, then synchronize it in post and get rid of the camera recorded sound. It works but it is a PITA.
12min recording limit. I could not decide on this one, is it just bad or ugly. Ugly it is. In most situation 12min are totally sufficient, but there are instances when the need arises to record a time specific event, 12min just wont do. I keep getting emails, mostly from professional videographers, asking about the recording limit and if there is a seamless transition to card #2 and #3. There is only one card!
The Canon is best video camera, even when compared to the best professional video cameras in terms of low light sensitivity. No other camera on the market can match the 5Dmk2 in that department. Kudos to Canon. The short comings are listed above, no need to repeat them, if you know the limitations and capacities of your tool of choice, you can achieve great results.
Panasonic GH1 Video
As of to date the GH1 has the most professional video implementation of all combo cams available.
Total manual control in video mode, aperture, shutter speed and ISO.
Silent and very fast AF during recording with the kit lens, which is very well made and very sharp.
Multiple recording options, the reason for me to get the camera was 720/60p.
When slowed or conformed to 30p one gets very nice slow motion.
One can also record 720/30 and 1080/30.
3rd party adapters to use lenses from Nikon, Canon, Olympus etc....
Swivel LCD, high resolution, very good visibility and viewing angles.
Best sound implementation of all Combo cams so far.
Recording time until the card is full (USA only, I believe)
The slow aperture on the kit lens. (4.5-5.8)
but then again, lets keep in mind it is a kit lens. Image stabilization works really well.
no controls for sound. The swivel hinge is too fragile especially when used with the hoodloup
AVCHD at 17mbps. The compression is just too high, the footage is baked right out of the camera. One could make the analogy to jpegs at a medium setting, would you be happy with that as your highest recording option? I am still looking for the most efficient way to transcode it.
AVCHD at 25mbps is a must. Panasonic, we need a firmware update asap. Thank you.
The camera is a pleasure use, menu access is straight forward and the LCD is well enough calibrated and can be used to judge the exposure to a certain degree. It feels small and needs to be mounted on a brace for hand held shooting. or my preferred way for shooting video is a good tripod.
Since the D90 and D5000 are identical in video output, I will just list it in one take and point out the few differences.
DX size sensor, good shallow depth of field, 720/24p
Manual control over aperture, AE lock
Very good low light sensitivity.
Acceptable (barely) codec. (but conversion is a must for a fluid work flow, I usually convert it to PRORES422 for native editing in FCP )
D90: very good LCD resolution and exposure can be judged to a certain degree by looking at the screen
Huge lens selection from Nikon
D5000: swivel LCD, difference in resolution not too bothersome.
no AF in video mode, but I can live with that.
Jello effect when panning, the worst of all DSLR based video cameras but does not effect me since panning is not my thing.
Only 720/24p. Would like to see more options.
Nikon was the first out of the block with video implementation. Not sure what is holding them back, I think it is time for a firmware upgrade to allow full manual control in video mode. If Canon can do it, Nikon should be too.
Sound is terrible. My work around is to record sound with the camera and an external device, then synchronize it in post and get rid of the camera recorded sound. It works but it is a PITA.
5min recording limit. In most situation 5min are sufficient, but there are instances when the need arises to record a time specific event, 5min just wont do.
The Nikon D90 and D5000 are very capable video cameras. Many professionals are using it for commercials, music videos etc. Especially if photo quality is your primary concern but you would like to try video and are on a budget, the Nikon is the one to get.
The Olympus P E-1 records 720/30 Hd video and offers a few creative video modes. The effect in ART6 mode is quite appealing, no idea what frame rate the camera records at, my guess is as good as yours.