The arrival of video on DSLRs seems to have got a lot of people very excited. We had some amazing videos shot by the likes of Vincent Laforet which showcased what the optical quality of DSLRs and interchangeable lenses could bring to the video world. Some of the footage, featuring the short depth of field which full frame DSLRs are capable of, was truly breathtaking.
And now everyone seems to be demanding video on their DSLRs. Sony, in particular, came in for a bit of flak for releasing some new mid-range cameras that lacked video capability.
So just who is asking for video on their DSLRs and what do they propose to do with it? The answer is that only professionals with an interest in video should remotely care. Video on a DSLR is not much use to amateurs. If they imagine they can dispense with a camcorder on their holidays, and use their DSLR for both video and stills, they are in for a nasty shock. Video on a DSLR is not a consumer feature and an attempt to use one as a regular camcorder will, most of the time, produce jerky, unwatchable results.
A DSLR with video works just fine for say a professional wedding photographer who is expected to produce high quality video along with stills. But to create video of the required quality they will need to invest considerable sums on a rig to stabilise the movement of the camera and allow them to pan it smoothly. They will also have to buy neutral density filters so that the technically correct shutter speed can be selected, and on audio recording gear because the camera’s on-board microphone is simply not going to be up to the job. The amount spent on accessories could well come to a lot more than the camera itself.
Conclusion: video on digital SLRs is a professional tool that is not readily usable by enthusiasts as a camcorder replacement. For professionals who want to add video to their range of services, the advent of video-capable DSLRs is a fantastic development because it gives them an affordable way in. Previously, the cost of professional video equipment of comparable quality might well have been out of their reach.
I am not in the professional video business and I have no intention of taking holiday videos while wearing stabilisation rigs. All I want from my DSLR is a tool that will allow me to take good stills. As a Sony Alpha user I may well be interested in the new gear they will be announcing on 24 August, possibly including the long-awaited replacement for the A700. But I won’t care a damn if Sony continue to leave video off the feature list.