By Christin Russman A new trend in the video industry is shooting video with HDSLR (or sometimes just referred to as DSLR) cameras. HDSLRs (Hybrid Digital Single Lens Reflex) are cameras predominately used by photographers. The popularity of these cameras is that not only do they take amazing photographs, but they also shoot incredible video. We researched the pros and cons of using these tools and wanted to share what we found.
Depth of Field- Depth of field refers to the amount of the shot that is in focus, and HDSLRs can offer a narrow depth of field, which means the subject is in focus, but the background is out of focus. This cinematic look can be difficult to achieve on traditional prosumer video camera, making HDSLRs a popular choice for those desiring a narrow depth of field.
Low Light- Another selling point to a HDSLR is its low light capabilities. Video cameras work best with light, and the absence of light can produce many challenges. With a HDSLR, if the correct lens is used, you can achieve much lower levels of light than with a video camera.
Lenses- One of the main restrictions of a video camera is the inability to change lenses, while many only offer a fixed lens. With a fixed lens you can only do so much, and if you want to get that great shot of a butterfly landing on a leaf, you are limited on the type of shot you can get. One advantage of using a HDSLR is the option of using interchangeable lenses. With interchangeable lenses, you have more flexibility in shooting.
Dual Purpose- One great quality of an HDSLR is the ability to shoot still photos and great video, which is not an option on regular video cameras.
Price- Since HDSLRs offer both still photo and video capabilities, you would expect to pay a lot, but surprisingly DSLRs are quite reasonable and comparable in price to prosumer video cameras. Camera bodies can range from $500-$3500. Lenses cost anywhere from $50 to $5000
Audio- Many HDSLRs do not offer the option of recording video directly to the camera, so a
separate audio device is necessary (such as a Zoom® H4N). This requires syncing the audio and video together in the editing process which can be time consuming. It also requires more organization and planning before shooting. Before you begin the processs of shooting, pre-planning is important. So make sure you have the idea well planned out, storyboarding helps out in this area a lot!
Stability- HDSLRs were not designed for videographers, and are not made to handle movement. In order for shots to be smooth, camera support equipment (such as a tripod, monopod or a Glidecam) is required.
Focus- Keeping focus can also be hard to control, and may require the use of a follow focus to assist in focusing.
Viewfinder- The small LCD screen is hard to see (especially in bright sunlight), and may cause problems with focusing. It may be necessary to purchase an external viewfinder (ex. Kinotehnik® LCDVF 3/2 LCD ViewFinder) or a field monitor (ex. Small HD®).
Recording Time- HDSLRs are also limited on their continuous recording time. For most projects, this will not be a deal breaker, but for live events or interviews, you must pre-plan to stop and start recording at a certain time.
All in all, HDSLRs can be a great way to capture video, but you have to be aware of the positives and the challenges of using one. If you have the knowledge and the proper equipment, you can create stunningly beautiful images. However, the footage you capture with your camera will only be as good as the person behind it. Even with high end equipment, if you dont have the skills to shoot footage properly, youre going to end up with sub-par footage, regardless of the camera you are using. Its important to have the basic skills necessary to shoot proper video; then invest in the latest equipment. Are you shooting with a HDSLR, if so what pros and cons have you discovered?
Christin Russman has been working in the video production industry for 11 years. After studying and working in Hawaii for 6 years, she moved back to Michigan where she works full time as Supervisor of the Digital Media Arts program at Specs Howard. She also freelances as a videographer/editor and devotes her extra time to documentary work and cooking for her food blog. She's married to a professional photographer and has a cat named Chloe.