When I was asked to research video cameras for an upcoming office purchase, I was surprised to discover how far the DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera has come since the first fully digital SLR camera was introduced by Kodak in 1991. Their 1.3 megapixel DCS-100, was only available to professionals at a cost of $30,000. Over the next nine years, a number of companies began developing their own DSLR video cameras. In January of 2000, Fujifilm introduced the FinePix S1 Pro, the first DSLR camera marketed to the non-professional. It was the beginning of the end for the 35 mm market.
Shortly thereafter, Canon, Nikon, Kodak, Olympus, Panasonic and others began releasing DSLR cameras with higher resolution and lower prices. In 2003, Canon’s 6.3-megapixel EOS 300D SLR, commonly known as the Digital Rebel was introduced to the consumer market at $999. Other manufacturer’s encouraged by its popularity, stepped up production of affordable digital SLR cameras allowing greater numbers of amateur photographers to make DSLR purchases.
Introducing HD Video
By 2008, the stage was set for the next big advancement-HD video. Nikon delivered the first HDSLR with the D90, capturing video at 720p (1280 x 720 resolution at 24 frames/sec.). Not to be outdone, Canon quickly released the competing EOS 5D Mark II, capturing video at 1080p (1920 x 1080 resolution at 30 frames/sec.). By 2009, consumer versions of both cameras hit the market. Virtually every DSLR video camera produced after that would have HD video capability.
For the professional (and amateur) movie maker there are now a number of HDSLR cameras that can shoot in standard/broadcast compliant resolution and frame rates. This includes the Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon EOS 60D, Canon Rebel T3i and Nikon D5100 among others. For the beginner, Sony, Pentax and Olympus offer entry level HDSLR video cameras.
For those wanting something slightly different, Panasonic has developed a Micro 4/3 camera, the Lumix GH2. It looks and operates the same as a DSLR video camera with one difference. DSLR cameras use a moveable mirror as part of the image sensor whereas the Lumix GH2 uses a solid state chip. What does that mean? Well, DSLR cameras seem to have the advantage when it comes to still photos, but Micro 4/3 cameras may have better video quality. Also, the GH2 has an important feature DSLR cameras do not- it never overheats.
DSLR cameras can only shoot a video for about 10-12 minutes before they overheat and must be shut off to cool. The GH2 will stay cool and can shoot video until the battery goes dead or it runs out of memory.
Purchasing a DSLR Video Camera
If you are in the market to purchase an HDSLR or Micro 4/3 camera, determine your price range (prices vary widely) and carefully compare features and functionality. Read or watch reviews and join forum discussions to gain insights from the experience of other movie makers. Then buy your camera and go make videos!