Shooting HD Video on DSLR Cameras

Published on Tuesday, 11 May 2010

A growing number of DSLRs now have video capability, sparking a trend among professional and prosumer
users of DSLR cameras to use them for more varied types of filmmaking.

Important early models among DSLR HD video cameras have been the Nikon D90 and the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, but in the last year or so, more of this kind of camera has been released. Canon EOS 550D launched in February 2010 has full manual control while shooting video, allowing users to shoot a variety of subjects in different lighting situations and experiment with different effects. The inclusion of a ‘Movie Crop’ function let you crop into a scene up to about 7x magnification when recording in SD 640x480, and get closer to your subject when shooting from a distance. The EOS 550D offers HDMI output in full HD so that images can be viewed in full HD when transferred to an HD monitor.

The Nikon D3S was released in October last year. Its D-Movie mode records HD 1,280 x 720 pixels Motion-JPEG movies at 24 fps. By controlling the aperture, the sensor renders low-noise images with bokeh effects, using the NIKKOR lenses. High-Sensitivity Movie mode allows shooting at up to ISO equivalent of 102,400 in places too dark to see clearly. D-Movie footage can be trimmed in-camera by selecting starting and ending points. Movie frames may also be saved as JPEGs for printing and web publishing. The D3S has an internal mono-aural microphone and an external stereo microphone input.

Canon Australia has very recently announced that the upgrade to the movie-related firmware for the EOS 5D Mark II digital SLR camera will be available to users from March 2010.

Among the new firmware updates, frame rate has been added and changed to include 24fps for cinema recording, and 25fps for PAL broadcast. It will shoot a variety of frame rates, overcoming the need for compression and movie shooting in shutter-priority AE (Tv) and aperture-priority AE (Av) modes is available. Users now have greater control over the exposure and depth-of-field. Manual adjustment of the sound recording level includes 64 levels for more creative control with the camera’s sound recording. Sampling frequency has changed from 44.1 KHz to 48 KHz to make video and audio synchronisation easier. A histogram display for shooting movies in manual exposure has been added. Also, a problem with interrupted communication between the camera and the attached lens after manual sensor cleaning has been fixed.

EOS Rebel T2i Digital SLR

The Canon Rebel T2i Digital SLR arrives in the US this month. Canon’s new model in the Rebel DSLR line is the EOS Rebel T2i Digital SLR camera, which records full HD 1080p video. The T2i has manual exposure control, selectable frame rates, interchangeable lenses and a new external microphone input. It captures 18-megapixel still images, with 3.7 fps shooting, an ISO range of 100-6400, a 63-zone dual layer metering system and the DIGIC 4 Imaging Processor.

With a camera like the T2i, still photographers can use familiar lenses and accessories for video footage. In the way that professional photographers use creative lighting, adjustable depth-of-field and different lenses to create stills and video footage, and these tools are appearing on HDSLRs for prosumers. The Rebel T2i, for example, includes an Auto ISO function that works in all exposure modes including manual where users can set a limit to the highest ISO the camera will use, enabling them to retain the lighting and look they want for a scene. By setting an Auto ISO range, you can keep dark shadow areas and avoid blowing out highlight areas in a scene, and still have automatic ISO adjustments. The camera captures video in NTSC and PAL standards at selectable frame rates including Full HD 1920 x 1080 at 30 (29.97), 25 or 24 (23.976) fps, and HD 1280 x 720 or Standard Definition 640 x 480 quality video, at 60 (59.94) or 50 fps.
For more familiar functionality for enthusiasts, the autofocus can be operated before or during recording by pressing the shutter button half-way down in video mode. The Rebel T2i also has the Movie Crop mode, where the user can achieve 7x magnification when shooting SD video for an increased telephoto effect. Unlike the digital zoom feature in compact digital cameras, Movie Crop crops the image directly from the CMOS sensor at full SD resolution, which preserves image quality and provides more zoom power.

The HDMI video-out capability is Consumer Electronics Control compatible, which allows users to play back still or video file playback on a CEC-compliant HDTV, using the TV remote to control the camera when connected via HDMI interface.
An 18-million-pixel Canon CMOS imaging sensor giving very high resolution and light sensitivity can be used for poster-sized prints showing fine detail and colour. The camera’s low-noise performance incorporates components similar to those used to reduce noise in professional cameras such as the EOS 7D. The Rebel T2i camera's basic ISO range is 100~6400, and may be extended to ISO 12,800. This ISO range combined with noise reduction allows the Rebel T2i to capture pictures in low-light venues where flash photography may be prohibited.

The camera provides 3.7 fps continuous shooting for still photos, and has Canon’s proprietary iFCL 63-zone dual-layer metering system with intelligent Evaluative metering with much finer segmentation than previous EOS Rebel models. An expanded ± 5 EV exposure compensation range extends your options in extremely bright or dark environments or when shooting HDR images.

The Rebel T2i DSLR includes several selectable Canon image processing features that enhance the image quality of in-camera JPEG files, and tag RAW images for processing later through Canon’s Digital Photo Professional software, included with the camera. Auto Lighting Optimizer increases shadow detail and adds contrast to flat scenes. Highlight Tone Priority adds up to one stop of detail in bright highlight areas. Others are Peripheral Illumination Correction for vignetting, High ISO Noise Reduction, and Long Exposure Noise Reduction applied to exposures one second or longer.

The new 3-inch LCD monitor has 1.04 million dots with a wide 3:2 aspect ratio, wider than previous EOS models. The Rebel T2i camera's LCD monitor can display a full-screen video image using the entire screen during playback. This camera is the first EOS model to support SDXC memory cards, and is compatible with Canon EX-series Speedlites and Canon EF and EF-S lenses. .
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