Considering a DSLR? Read first

HD Video Cameras, microphones, greenscreens etc.

Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby Awakurimi on 01/7/2011, 6:52 am

Recently, I've noticed a lot of people are considering to buy a DSLR and are asking a lot of questions over and over. I thought I'd create one topic to explain most of the benifits, drawback and things to consider, for any others considering a DSLR.

What is a DSLR?
DSLR is short for "Digital Single-Lens Reflex Camera" and has a mirror system which is mechanical, allowing the person to see through the viewfinder to see exactly how the image is taken. Wikipedia explains how it works pretty well:
The basic operation of a DSLR is as follows: for viewing purposes, the mirror reflects the light coming through the attached lens upwards at a 90 degree angle. It is then reflected three times by the roof pentaprism, rectifying it for the photographer's eye. (Note that the diagram below incorrectly shows a non-roof pentaprism.) During exposure, the mirror assembly swings upward, the aperture narrows (if stopped down, or set smaller than wide open), and a shutter opens, allowing the lens to project light onto the image sensor. A second shutter then covers the sensor, ending the exposure, and the mirror lowers while the shutter resets. The period that the mirror is flipped up is referred to as "viewfinder blackout". A fast-acting mirror and shutter is preferred so as to not delay an action photo.

DSLR's was first built for photography purposes, but new models now also include a movie function.

Why get a DSLR?
Compared to camcorders, DSLR's have a much larger sensor, allowing better low light preformance and a shallow depth of field. DSLR's also can shoot video in full manual mode, which is essential for getting the shot exactly right. The interchangable lenses allow much more flexibility, each lens is different. DSLR's are also much smaller than professional camcorders, making it easy to carry and ideal in tight spaces. One of the main selling points is that it is cheaper than most professional camcorders and at times offer better quality.

Skip to around 1:05 and you can see how the plant is in focus and the background isnt. That is what I mean by shallow depth of field. You can also see how well it preforms in low light, without any lighting other than the city lights. (Not the best example, but you get the idea)

What are the drawbacks of a DSLR?
Although DSLR's are good for video, they still have drawbacks. One of the main issues is the rolling shutter. Most DSLR's have a CMOS sensor, rather than a CCD sensor which is more commonly used in camcorders. CMOS sensors are used for DSLR's for being cheaper and faster. However, CMOS sensors scan images from top to bottom. The problem is when the camera is moving while the CMOS sensor is scanning, the image produced at the top is from a different position to the bottom, as the camera moved while the sensor was scanning. This makes lines appear bent and when panning quickly back and forth, you can really see a "jelly" like effect. This is called rolling shutter, and is one of the main problems with DSLR's. Although it is not noticable with slow shots, with fast action you really notice it. This is not a huge drawback, but is worth taking into consideration. This video may help understand what the rolling shutter issue is.

This is a comparison of a CMOS and a CCD, but do note that the amount of rolling shutter depends on the camera, so the rolling shutter will not be as noticable as that example. Also look at this (Skip to 1:53) :

To conclude, rolling shutter is an issue, but can be avoided and has workarounds. Even the RED one has rolling shutter issues.

Another issue is the video format. Most DSLR's (Canon and Nikon) use a Quicktime h264 compression. This is great for having small file without any drop in quality. However, it is more of a delivery format and has a problem: colour space. Having a limited colour range to reduce the file size, makes it difficult to key with and slows down render time. A solution for editing the clips is to convert them to uncompressed AVI, there will be difference in quality and will be faster to work with.

Another issue is aliasing and morie. It caused by having to downscale the images from the sensor to bring it down to 1080p. Unlike scaling in AE, the camera skips some lines in order to process the image quick enough. This however makes creates some strange artifacts. This article explains it in greater detail and includes an example. Unoftuantely, it cannot be fixed, but there are workarounds and you just have to be careful when shooting.

One last thing. Most DSLR's do not film continuously to the card's capacity, allowing only up to 4gb. (Roughly 12min of 1080p 24fps) This is not really a problem unless you are filming long interviews or debates, but just to keep in mind. Also, the make of the body does create a sharp jitter (camera shake) but it shouldnt be too much of a problem. You can always get a tripod or a shoulder rig. Here you can find some DIY rigs for DSLR's including shoulder rigs.

To conclude, DSLR's do have drawbacks but by understanding the drawbacks, you can avoid them and still take great videos.

Which DSLR should I get?
This is probably the most frequently asked question here. I wont talk about all of the DSLR's with video capabilities but I will only talk about a few. For each one, I will list the capabilities, disadvantages, the cost and any other details.

The Canon EOS 550D
Probably the most discussed camera out of the 7. This canon 550D is also known as the rebel t2i in america and the kiss x4 in japan. Its called the 550D just about anywhere else. It costs 670 pounds from amazon UK making it quite a cheap DSLR.

The camera can shoot in 1080p 24,25 and 30 fps. It can also shoot in 720p and vga (640*480) 50 and 60fps, with also a "movie crop" function which which recods the center of the sensor in vga, having a 7X magnification. ISO ranges from 100 to 12800, but during movie recording the maximum is 6400. It has 3.7fps burst and 18mpx stills, with 9 AF points. It has an aps-c sized sensor, so it will mount canon ef and ef-s lenses, although with a 1.6X crop.

Unfortunately, the body is made of plastic, (special lightweight polycarbonate resin with glass fiber to be exact) so it will break if you drop it a few times. Also, although the camera does does have an external microphone jack, it has AGC (audio gain control) which automatically chooses the settings for sound recording. This creates grain and at time a sharp drop in volume is noticable if there is a loud noise. Also, there is no 1/3 iso increments or white balence in kelvins.

However, this was fixed with a firmware hack called Magic Lantern. Originally developed for the 5D mark II, the 550D also has the hack where you get AGC fix, 1/3 iso increments and white balence in kelvins, along with zebra markings, hdr timelapse and bit rate control. However, it is stil a pre-release and the developers warn you that it may damage the camera.
THIS IS DANGEROUS PRE-ALPHA SOFTWARE. USE AT YOUR OWN RISK. IT WILL MODIFY YOUR CAMERA. NO WARRANTY. NO SUPPORT.

However, it is much more usable than before and you can read a thread from cinema5d.com here. Here is the link for the magic lantern hack if you are interested. Unfortunately, I cannot personally say if it is reliable or not, as I do not own the 550D but it has many positive replies on the cinema5d topic I posted.

To conclude, the 550D is a great choice with a lot of features for the price, espesially with the magic lantern hack fixing the AGC issue. Just make sure you dont drop it. An in-depth review here and another here.

The Canon EOS 7D
Most of you may have heard of this camera, as AK disscussed it on his blog show a while ago. It costs around 1,400 pounds on amazon UK, so it is much more expensive than the 550D, but it has more features, espesially for photography.

The 7D can shoot in 1080p at 24,25 and 30fps and 720 and vga in 50 and 60fps. However, it does not have the movie crop feature included with the 550D. Still, it has a magnesium alloy body with weatherproofing, so you can drop it a couple of times without breaking it. You can also shoot in the rain, though you still want to be careful. Maximum ISO in video mode is 12800, which may be useful at times.

Although in terms of video, the 7D seems simmilar to the 550D, the 2 cameras really differ when you look at the photography features. The 7D has 8fps, 19 AF points, (compared to 9) 1/3 iso increments (also in video) and kelvin white balence (also in video) and many other features.

One of the downsides of the 7D is AGC. (Audio Control Gain) Currently there is no firmware hack, as it is said that the 7D is "impossible to hack." Still, you can use a splitter to partially solve it, or record audio seperately and sync later. (Even with other cameras like the 5D mark II and 60D, many people still record audio seperately, for better quality)

Overall, although AGC is an issue, there are solutions. This camera is an amazing camera, which would be also be a great choice if you can afford it. An in-depth review here and here.

The Nikon D3100
The Nikon D3100 was developed as an "entry level DSLR." It is currently one of the cheapest DSLR's with movie capabilities, costing around 480 pounds on amazon UK.

This camera has a 14mpx sensor, with 1080p at 24 fps. It also offers 24,25 and 30fps in 720p and vga. It also has 11 AF points and also has a full time autofocus in live view. Canon cameras can autofocus during video by half pressing the shutter but it is is contrast based, being too slow and inaccurate for practical use. It also offers a "guide mode" for beginners.

Although this camera sounds great, it does have drawbacks. For starters, it only has 24p in 1080 and no high speed with 720p. 24p is fine, but at times you may need to have 25 or 30 fps, espesially for broadcast work. The full time AF is handy, but is also contrast based, making it inaccurate. Also, it is said that the camera will not have manual controls during video mode, other than apature which can be changed before entering live view. Lastly, this camera also only has automatic audio settings, but also does not even has an external microphone jack.

Overall, this camera is really only built for any new users, who are not using it for anything serious. I mentioned this camera, as many people where asking how it compares to 550D. If you want manual control and audio, another DSLR like the 550D or the 60D is definately the way to go. For practice purposes and if you want to "experiment" with DSLR's perhaps the D3100 is better. It has some nice features, but you really need manual control for serious work. An in-depth review here and here.

The Nikon D7000
Nikon finally came up with a DSLR which had movie capabilities comparable with canon, with the new D7000. It costs around 1,200 pounds on amazon UK and was released around october 2010.

The D7000 has full manual HD video capabilities, with 1080p at 24 fps and 24,24 and 30fps at 720p. It has an external microphone input and continuous AF during video, although it is only contrast based. It also has a magnesium alloy body, with manual audio control. (Not as precise as canon's manual audio control, which is in the 60D and 5D Mark II)

Nikon added a lot of features to this camera, photography wise with 39AF points, 6fps burst, dual card slot, (2 memory cards, not one) 16mpx sensor, etc.

Unfortunately, this camera still has some drawbacks. To shoot video with any DSLR, you have to enter "live view" mode where you can see everything through the LCD, not the viewfinder. Unfortunately, you cannot change the aperture in live view with the D7000, which is quite annoying, as changing exposure with DSLR video usually depends on apeture and ND filters. Also, although there is manual audio control, there is only 3 increments, which is difficult for fine tuning. Only 24p for 1080p is also a drawback for some people, not to mention slow motion

Having said that, the D7000 is a great choice, if you don't mind changing the aperture by leaving live view each time, also if you don't mind the imprecise manual audio control and limited fps choice. (btw, in video, fps means "frames per second") An in-depth review here and here.

The Canon 60D
This camera has mixed opinions. It was released around the same time as the D7000, although it is said to be more of an upgrade from the 550D than the 50D. It costs around 880 pounds on amazon UK.

This camera fixes most of the 550D's issues. It records 1080p at 24, 25 and 30fps, 720p and vga at 50 and 60fps and also has the movie crop feature, with vga at 7X zoom. ISO ranges from 100 to 6400 in video and 12800 with stills. Having an aps-c sensor like the 550D and 7D, this camera can mount ef and ef-s lenses. The body is much tougher than the 550D, with Aluminium and polycarbonate resin with glass fibre. It's not as strong as the magnesium alloy body on the 7D and 5D Mark II, it's definately an improvement. The two main selling points are the manual audio control and swivel LCD though. Audio work is much better with the 60D and the swivel LCD can be useful at times, espesially with tripod work. 1/3 ISO increments is also possible, kelvin white balence is too. The 60D has also a 2nd LCD at the top, which is also useful at times.

It seems like Canon really focus on the video aspect of DSLR's with the 60D. However, there has been a dillema with Magic Lantern's improved firmware hack for the 550D. This solved the AGC issue, not to mention 1/3 ISO increments and kelvin white balence issue. Still, the tougher body and LCD's are a plus, not to mention that fact that you dont run into the risk of damaging your camera with Magic Lantern.

To conclude, this camera is great, it fixes most of the 550D's issues with video. However, with the magic lantern hack and the noticable price difference of over 200 pounds, you have to consider:
Do I need a tougher body, a swivel LCD, another LCD and the fact that I don't need to risk installing magic lantern? If not, the 550D is cheaper. However, the 60D is still a great camera nevertheless. AN in-depth review here and here.

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Currently the best DSLR with video capabilities. The 5D Mark II costs around 2,000 pounds on amazon UK.

The 5D Mark II has a full frame sensor, which is significantly larger compared to the aps-c sensors on the 550D, 60D and 7D. The camera can take 21.1 megapixel stills and 1080p video at 24, 25 and 30fps. Iso ranges from 100 to 6400, although it can be expanded to L (50) and H1 and 2. (12800 and 25600) Unfortunatly, it does not have 720p slow-motion or movie crop.

When the 5D Mark II was first released, video was only possible with automatic exposure control and exactly 30fps video only. The command dial was used to change the exposure compensation, but there was no manual control. The was no manual audio control either.

However, canon fixed that with firmware updates. With update 1.1, canon added manual video controls, including M, Tv and Av. (Manual, shutter priority and aperture priority, also possible with 550D, 60D and 7D) the frame rate was also fixed to 29.97. (other canon dslr's also have that) with firmware update 2.0, canon introduced manual audio control. Currently, only the 60D and 5D Mark II have this feature.

Canon was not the only people updating the 5D mark II's firmware. Magic lantern originally created a firmware hack for to fix AGC. Today they also have zebra clipping, bit rate control, spotmeter and many other features. Here is the link and here is a video showing some of the features. It is much safer and usable than the 550D's magic lantern hack.

To conclude, this camera is excellent. Many broadcast companies even use the 5D Mark II. It is expensive, but it is much better than the other current canon DSLR's. (550D, 60D and 7D) the full frame sensor has no 1.6X which aps-c sized cameras have. Although it cannot mount ef-s lenses and has no slow motion, it still definitely is worth the money if you can afford it. An in-depth review here and here.

Panasonic GH1
The Panasonic GH has a micro four thirds sensor, so the camera is much smaller compared to other DSLR's. It uses a full time live view system, meaning there is no optical viewfinder. Although APS-C cameras have a 1.6X crop, micro four thirds cameras have 2X crop. It costs around 900 pounds on amazon UK.

The camera can shoot at 1080p 24fps and 50/60 fps interlaced. It can also shoot at 720p 60fps and Motion JPEG at 720p 30fps. The motion jpeg has less compression, having more colour space compared to the H264 compression with 1080p 24fps. It offers full manual exposure control, an external mic input and continuous auto focus during video. It also takes 12mpx still, 3fps continous shooting, ISO 3200 and kelvin white balence.

Although this camera is great, it does have a few drawbacks. The sensor is significantly smaller to other DSLR's so the depth of field is not as shallow and it does not preform as well as other DSLR's in low light. It shouldn't really be a problem at all though, the sensor is still bigger than most camcorders. Also, the camera has no manual audio control, which causes simmilar problem's to the 550D and 7D's AGC issue.

One thing that makes this camera different though, is the hack. It adds 24p and 50mbps video. Although this hack is far from safe , it gives better quality than canon DSLR's.

To conclude, this camera is exellent. It is much more compact than other DSLR's, has manual exposure control during video and has continuous AF. However, you may also want to consider the GH2. An in-depth review here and here.

Panasonic GH2
Released around the end of 2010, the GH2 is the sucessor to the GH1. The features from the GH1 is still there, but many have been enhanced. The It costs around the same price, costing 1,100 pounds on amazon UK.

This camera still records at 1080p 24p, 60i and 720p 30p with H264 compression and 720p 30fps motion jpeg. It can take 16mpx stills, 5fps continuous shooting, ISO ranges to 12800 at 1/3 increments and includes a touch screen. It now also has manual audio control and 40fps at 4mpx, although at 40fps it only shoots for 1 second maximum. Also, with a 3D lens from panasonic, it can take 3d images, but not video.

It also has less moire artifacts due to scaling methods, along with a touch screen than can be used to change AF, with an electronic viewfinder that works during video. It is said that it has better quality compared to canon DSLR's too.

Overall, this is a great camera and you should consider this if you are going for the GH1. A small, compact alternative to DSLR video, but do note that the sensor is significantly smaller compared to other DSLR's, allowing less light.

Canon EOS 600D
Called the Kiss x5 in Japan and Rebel T3i in America, the 600D has been recently announced in Feburary 7th. It is the "succesor" of the 550D. It will be released around April (and March 3rd in Japan).

This camera is very simmilar to the 550D. It takes 18megapixel stills, 3.7fps burst, 9 point AF, iso up to 12800 and 1080p video in 24, 25 and 30 fps, along with 720p in 50 and 60 fps.

The main change from the 550D (in terms of video), is manual audio control. (AGC disable) This allows you to manually adjust audio like with the 5D Mark II and 60D. It also has a swivel screen and a new crop function that can digitally zoom 3-10X magnification whilst maintaining 1080p quality. This will reduce moire artifacs, although it has not been tested yet.

To conclude, if you want the new features over the 550D, you may want to wait a bit more for the 600D. Pricings are still unclear and more information is yet to come.

Other DSLR's
There are other DSLR's with movie capabilities, so I will briefly go over a few.
Canon 500D (Rebel t1i)
1080p at 20fps and 720 at 30fps only. This camera does not have any manual settings for video, so it is not recommended, unless it is just for experimentation, etc. (Note; apparently Magic lantern is creating a hack for the 500D, but there is no further information yet)
Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon's current professional level camera. It can take 1080p video at 24,25 and 30fps and slow motion 50 and 60 fps at 720p and vga. It has a APS-H sensor, which smaller than the full frame, but larger than the APS-C sensor, having a 1.3X crop. This allows better low light performance with ISO up to 102400, although it will not mount ef-s lenses Although it does have manual control, the video features are identical to the 7D. Unless you are also using it for serious photography or for shooting in very low light, a camera like the 7D or 5D Mark II may be a better idea, as it is cheaper, while the featrues are almost the same videowise. This camera also suffers from AGC too.
Nikon D90
The first DSLR to ever have movie mode. It can record 720p at 24 frames per second. However, it does not have manual control other than apeture. At 720p max recording time is 5 minutes.
Nikon D5000
This camera can record 720p at 24 fps, but like the D90 it has not manual control other than apeture. It, however has a swivel screen, which may be useful for shooting at different angles.
Pentax K-x and K7
Both cameras can record at 720p 24fps and the k7 can record at 1024p (3:2) at 24fps, but they both do not have manual control.
Sony Alpha A33 and A55
Sony included a translucent mirror with these 2 DSLR's which most of the light goes to the sensor and the rest is bounced upwards for autofocus. This makes it possible to have full time precise AF during video, with 15 AF points. However, it shoots 1920*1080 interlaced only and can only shoot progressive at 1440*1080. Also, it has no manual control over shutter speed an iso. Apeture can be altered, but only when set to manual focus.
Nikon D300s
The Nikon D300s takes 12.3mpx still up to 7fps, has a 51 point AF system and 720p video. Unfortunately, it has no manual controls, only apeture can be changed.

Lenses
There currently are many different lenses today. Each lens has a different focal length, quality and price. I will mainly talk about canon lenses, as most DSLS's with video capabilities are canon. However, the principle I discuss can be adopted when choosing other lenses, such as nikon lenses.

First of all, there are some lenses which are specifically made for cameras aps-c sized sensors. This is because those cameras have a 1.6X crop, meaning the actually focal length is multiplied by 1.6. For example, a 50mm on a full frame is actually 80mm on an aps-c sensor. With canon, these lenses are called ef-s lenses. Ef-s lenses are designed specifically so they will only mount on cameras with aps-c sized sensors, but are wider. However, there lenses will not mount cameras with a full frame or APS-H sized sensors, like the 5D Mark II or 1D Mark IV. Although you can mount them on these cameras, you will find black edges on the corners, like with this photograph.
Image

With a lens, there are 2 main properties to consider when choosing a lens, focal length and minimum aperture. The focal length is the amount of "zoom" on a camera. It is measured in millimetres and around 30mm is a wide angle lens, 100mm is as telephoto. There is no real way of measuring how "far" it zooms. Although it is zoom, with extremely wide angle lenses, which are known as a fisheye, it has an 180 degree view, while a telephoto has a tiny field of view, but it magnified. Wikipedia also explains in depth here. Generally, 50mm is known as a "mid range," although on a aps-c camera (550D, 60D, 7D) it has a 1.6X magnification, making it 80mm. A 30mm will be a 48mm though. Generally, a crop sensor shouldn't be a problem at all though, you just need a slightly wider angle lens. Fortunately, the ef-s lenses from canon which only fit cameras with aps-c sized sensors all have a wider angle compared to the ef lenses. The kit lens of the 550D, 60D and 7D are ef-s lenses, usually 18-55mm or 18-135mm, depending on the kit. (when you buy "body only" no lens comes with it) Here is a list comparing different focal lengths and where they fall into.

  • Wide angle - Genrally less than 50mm. Under 20mm is considred as "ultra wide angle."
  • Telephoto - Anything over 50mm. Over 300mm is considred as a "super telephoto"
  • Fisheye - A very wide lens. Gives 180 degree field of view although some give 225 degrees. Distortion is obviously visible. Generally under 15mm.
  • Macro - Has a very close focusing distance and gives 1:1 magnification. Focal length does not really matter, although they tend to fall in the telephoto range.

Here is a comparison of different focal lenghts. However, it is important to note that different focal lenghts don't just magnify the shot, but give a different look to it. Wide angle lenses tend to have a deeper depth of field compared to telephoto lenses, as wide angle lenses have to focus closer to infinity compared to telephoto lenses, which deepens the depth of field. It is also important to note that telephoto lenses also a more prone to camera shake, as due to the magnification, a slight movement move the image greatly. The image below shows how different focal lengths can give the illusion of a different distance between to objects.
Image

The second is the aperture. It is actually the minimum aperture of the lens. Usually the maximum aperture is high enough for it to not be a problem, but minimum aperture varies from lens to lens. A larger aperture allows more light, but usually is more expensive. With a low aperture, you get better low light performance and shallower depth of field. With apertures, the lower the f-stop is, (eg: 2.8) the larger the lens opening, meaning the better depth of field and low light performance. Minimum apertures usually range from f1.2 to f5.6, with some exceptions of some telephoto lenses that have a higher minimum f-stop. (And some lenses with f0.95, like the leica 50mm f0.95 and zeiss 25mm f0.95) Apetures are measured in f-stops, which indicate the proportion of the sensor used. For exampe, an f3.5 apeture uses 1/3.5 of the sensor. A smaller apeture like f32 only uses 1/32 of the sensor.

When you search for lenses, you may see the names as the following (examples)
1. canon ef 50mm f1.8 II
2. canon ef-s 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS
3. canon ef 24-70mm f2.8L USM
Here are 3 canon lenses, which have different properties. The first is the name of the lens brand. All 3 are canon, being made by canon. The second is the type of lens. Both the first and third are ef lenses, meaning they will fit on both aps-c cameras and full frame cameras. However, the second is ef-s, meaning it only fits on a camera with an aps-c sized sensor. (not on the 5D Mark II) the third is the focal length. The first is 50mm, meaning it has no zoom. This means it cannot zoom. These fixed focal length lenses are called "primes." The focal length varies on the second and third, allowing you to zoom in and out. These lenses are called "zooms." The fourth is the aperture. (f-stop) On the first and third, the minimum aperture cannot change. However, with the second, the aperture ranges from 3.5-5.6. This means that at 18mm, the minimum aperture is 3.5. As you zoom, the minimum aperture changes linearly until 55mm, where minimum aperture is 5.6. This is called a "varying aperture lens." Also, this is only with canon lenses, but if there is an "L" added to the end of the f-stop like the third example, (i.e: F2.8L) that canon is one of canon's professional "L" lenses. L lenses generally offer better quality, better build, weatherproofing, a lens hood and a case. L lenses are nice, but they do cost a lot more than the standard lenses. The 24-70mm f2.8L USM actually costs around 1,000 pounds on amazon UK! Lastly, any "add-ons" are listed after that. With canon lenses, there are generally three. The first, shown on the first lens is the Mark number. If a lens is improved, the focal length and aperture stays the same, it is called the "Mark 2" and is indicated with roman numerals. With the first, it is the 50mm f1.8 II, and the "II" means Mark 2. On the second, there is "IS," which stands for "image stabilisation." This dynamically stabilises the lens, which is used in photography to eliminate hand shake. This also works quite well with video too, eliminating most of the sharp jitter that occurred with handheld shooting. (Nikon lenses have "vr" instead) Lastly, the third has something called "USM." It is known as "ultrasonic motor," which allows fast, quiet auto focus. Although this isn't too useful with video where the majority of the time you use manual focus, it is nice when taking images in quiet places.

One main thing to consider when choosing a lens, is a prime, or a zoom. A prime lens does not allow zoom, but offers better quality and lower f-stop compared to zooms, especially for the same price range. For example, the 50mm f1.8 II costs around 100 pounds on amazon UK. The 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS also costs around 100 pounds on amazon UK. However, the 50mm offers an f-stop of 1.8, which is great for shallow depth of field and low light shooting. Also, the 50mm offers better quality than the 18-55mm. Generally, primes are much better to have when you first start filming with DSLR's. It helps you learn to frame shots properly and provides better quality. A zoom is always nice for dynamic camera movement and crash zooms, or when you don't have the time to change lenses constantly. At most occasions though, if you have time to change lenses, a prime is much better, but for more of the "run and gun" style of shooting, zooms are much more useful.

However, with a lens, the focal length and aperture is not the only important thing to consider. The build of a lens is also important, for example the 50mm f1.8 II has a plastic body and mount. This may not be ideal if you are working in an environment where the camera may get damaged easily. Also, the aperture of a lens is changed by "aperture blades" inside the camera which open an close the lens opening. The problem is, if there is not enough aperture blades, like with the 50mm f1.8 II which has 5, out of focus lights may look more like a distorted pentagon, espesially with smaller apeture's such as f8 or f11. Also, lenses have different types of glass in a lens, to prevent different things, including flaring, colour fringing, etc. In a lens, there are different types of glass elements inside, which prevent these issues. Some lenses have less elements inside, which makes them cheaper, but generally have inferior quality compared to lenses with more elements.

It is also recommended to avoid varying aperture lenses, as when you zoom, the exposure will change. With dynamic zooms, you may notice it darken slightly.

Also, when searching for lenses, it is important to note that there are also 3rd part lens manufacturers such as sigma and tamron. These lenses are generally cheaper than ef lenses. Also, some lenses do not mount on canon DSLR's but you can get adaptors too. Recent lenses from companies like Sigma, Tamron and Tokina can directly mount on your DSLR, although it depends on each lens. These companies create lenses that are made specifically for each mount, so there are lenses that mount canon DSLR's some that mount Nikon DSLR's and some that mount micro 4/3 cameras, along with other mounts like Sony. These lens tend to have the ability to auto focus and apeture can be changed.

However, there are also some older lenses like zeiss, which are full manual. These lenses can be mounted with an adaptor. There are different adaptors which are used for different lenses. Older lenses have an apeture ring, so that can be altered directly from the lens. Manual focus is required, but manual focus is required when shooting with DSLR's most of the time anyways. These lenses tend to be either cheaper, better quality, or both. Adaptors are also used to mount cameras from different brands, such as with the GH1 and GH2, which have a limited selection of micro 4/3 lenses. It becomes MF and apeture cannot be altered, but some adaptors like this EF to micro 4/3 adaptor adds an apeture ring if required,.

To conclude, it is always good to start off with a prime lens. Having a zoom is at times useful, although varying aperture lenses are best to be avoided. Other manufactures such as sigma offer great lenses too, for a cheaper price. A 50mm is a great choice for anyone, this explains why.

Links
Here are some links that are related to DSLR video.
HDSLR 101 Series Part One - A twelve part video series about DSLR video. Video's will be uploaded every 2 weeks, but you can also buy the complete series here.
Next wave DV - Posts and tutorials about filmmaking in general. Some tutorials and posts about DSLR video, along with some filming an editing techniques.
Cinema 5D - A forum dedicated for DSLR video. Many interesting discussions and a great place to ask questions. There are great topics such as this and this.
The DSLR Cinematography Guide - A free, in-depth guide about DSLR video.
Videomaker - A site about filmmaking in general, useful for those who are new to film and video.
EOSHD - A blog and forum about DSLR video. A Q&A feature may be useful, for reading other people's posts of asking a question yourself. You can find that here.
Creative Cow is a general media production site, with tutorials, forums and articles about media, including After Effects. They have a DSLR Podcast and a forum.
Digital Rev - It's a online store to buy cameras, but they have a blog and a Youtube channel where they post reviews of cameras and lenses, occasionally with some useful techniques.

Conclusion
Although DSLR's do offer great quality, there are drawbacks and you need to understand and avoid them. Also, don't just throw on the kit lens, set to full auto and start shooting. Choose a decent lens, such as the Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM or the EF 50mm f1.8 if you can't afford the f1.4 (If you got a Canon DSLR). Explore different modes, shoot with different settings and read the manual. Don't expect the camera to automatically record great video.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask on the forum. Also, any improvements/corrections to this post will be greatly appreciated.

Good luck! ;)
Last edited by Awakurimi on 03/12/2011, 3:10 am, edited 9 times in total.
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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby Michael_Szalapski on 01/7/2011, 7:58 am

In the words of a recent spambot, "Great story. I think I am in love."
You put a lot of good work in this article. Excellent FAQ posting.
For the love of Gosh, somebody, sticky this!
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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby Kavster89 on 01/7/2011, 9:39 am

Bravo !
*worships this thread*
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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby Rob Neal on 01/7/2011, 10:04 am

I've been saying this for ages. We need some sticky posts with general information that we can point people at. ie formats, codecs, green screens, sound and where to buy cheap pharmaceuticals.
That last one appears very popular, I'm not sure why.

No wonder I'm nearing 4000 posts when I've said probably the same thing in half of them on these same old chestnuts. Can a moderator possibly take this up and we can submit them to them for their consideration?
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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby Awakurimi on 01/7/2011, 2:01 pm

Thanks for the replies! Took a while to write it up, although it may be a bit too long...

A sticky may be useful, but cameras get outdated after a couple of years, so it'll become pointless after a few years. Still, it'll probably be helpful for the next couple of years.
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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby Thootje on 01/7/2011, 2:08 pm

I agree, make it sticky. Saves a lot of time explaining.
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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby CWX73 on 01/7/2011, 3:13 pm

Awakurimi wrote:A sticky may be useful, but cameras get outdated after a couple of years, so it'll become pointless after a few years. Still, it'll probably be helpful for the next couple of years.


It is easier to maintain/edit/delete a "sticky" than it is to always search for that post burried down on page 10. It is an awesome posting and almost a MUST READ. You have some links in there that are of great value that some people might never read when they are shopping for their next camera.

+1 credits for you :)
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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby Rob Neal on 01/7/2011, 3:17 pm

Awakurimi wrote:A sticky may be useful, but cameras get outdated after a couple of years.

Sorry, but crap. The basic photographic principles of a camera haven't changed since Fox Talbot in 1839.
So film changes to CCD, and we have a few more bells and whistles, but not much else is different.
You can still read a pre-war book on photographic principles, and most will still apply to the latest Nikon D3x. As for film stuff, just don't go looking for the clockwork winder on a RED. ;)
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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby Michael_Szalapski on 01/7/2011, 4:26 pm

CWX73 wrote:Make me a moderator! I'll stick that [expletive deleted] so it never gets lost
(but seriously...make me a moderator)

Not with language like that they won't. You kiss your mother with that mouth? :D
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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby Rob Neal on 01/7/2011, 4:34 pm

I think I should be a $8£^"ing moderator.
And if anyone says otherwise, I'll come round and break their legs.
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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby Calixto on 01/7/2011, 10:54 pm

Hi Awakurimi, very nice work! You put a lot of time into helping others and that's always admirable. I especially like the fact that you didn't try to sell one manufacturer over the others. I believe all manufacturers make good cameras and also make poor quality ones as well, so "brand-selection" is a very personal choice based on personal needs/requirements (at least in MHO).

Below is a nice side-by-side comparison with 2 videos for anyone that is looking at the Canon EOS D7 and the Nikon D7000. These comparison may answer some questions that may not be so clear from just a description alone.

http://www.cameratown.com/reviews/nikon ... fm?id=5082

I agree that for an entry level camera, the Nikon D3100 is a rather good possibility - probably the best on the market today at that level (again IMHO). I looked at the D3100 for a while and almost chose it based on price alone, but later opted for the growth potential in the D7000.

That said, I still think all DSLRs are rooted in "still image" photography, which is what they do really well. Video mode is just an added option. I would strongly urge anyone looking to buy a DSLR for strictly video to do more research and weigh out the pros and cons of making such a decision...remember, the cheaper option is not always the best option, so you may want to save your pennies and get a good camcorder that may serve you better in the end.

I'm certainly am not a video camera expert, however I do have a very good background in photography and understand that these cameras are -primarily- designed for photography...not video.

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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby ngambles on 01/8/2011, 1:19 am

Rob Neal wrote:
Awakurimi wrote:A sticky may be useful, but cameras get outdated after a couple of years.

Sorry, but crap. The basic photographic principles of a camera haven't changed since Fox Talbot in 1839.
So film changes to CCD, and we have a few more bells and whistles, but not much else is different.

I agree and also disagree.

I agree that the basic principles of image capture stay the same, like lenses, but this post focuses heavily on current digital camera models, and the current technological limitations of the consumer / prosumer cameras. These current limitations will change in a very short amount of time, and will not be applicable. And it will be out of date as soon as a new camera comes out. I got my fingers crossed for the 5D III some time in 2011.

There will always be limitations to the current cameras, but the current limitations like rolling shutter, aliasing, morie will not always be issues in CMOS cameras.

It is possible to make CMOS sensors with a global shutter instead of a rolling shutter. The circuitry is more complex to build and control; more transistors means more off-state current leakage, ie less battery life; more transistors means more metal traces that will block light from being absorbed by each pixel, ie light sensitivity will be less; more circuitry means more possibility for parts to be bad during manufacturing, which raises costs.

Using a more powerful processor(s) and changing the method of reducing the size of the captured image to HD format would reduce/eliminate the aliasing and morie issues. It would also allow for more bandwidth, which would allow the whole image (global shutter) to be saved in the time allotted. But using a more powerful processor will do exactly that, use more power and the battery life will be reduced. Also more power consumption means the internal electronics will get hotter, and heat on the sensor will cause more noise.

Currently, the trade-offs are battery life, low light sensitivity, and low cost vs. global shutter, high bandwidth, and high cost.

It's always a game of trade-offs and waiting until the technology matures to a point where it is economically feasible to create a production line that's capable of mass producing a product at the appropriate price point. Once this occurs (in a short time) then at least half of this post will definitely be out of date and will definately not be relevant for the next 172 years, as the very basics of photography have for the last 172.

All that being said regarding CMOS, it is not the only way to go. New, exciting developments are made all the time, and who knows what the next commercially accepted technology is going to be, or what it's limitations are.

I definitely agree that super informative posts like this should be given a sticky status, or perhaps moved to a new location for "Expert Information", or "Frequently Asked Questions" or something. The time and effort Awakurimi put into this post definitely deserves some props. Thank you very much for such a through post. It's great info that we can all reference now.

Cheers
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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby tedsomeone on 01/8/2011, 5:09 pm

wow, that was a hefty post. Great job!
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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby Mufti on 01/9/2011, 5:16 pm

Really awesome post, newbies should read that post through and through several times before asking a question, but I just want to correct something:

Awakurimi wrote: Also, the aperture of a lens is changed by "aperture blades" inside the camera which open an close the lens opening. The problem is, if there is not enough aperture blades, like with the 50mm f1.8 II which has 5, out of focus lights may look more like a distorted pentagon when it is wide open at f1.8.


It's actually the other way around. A fully opened lens [whether it's at 1.4,1.8 or 3.5 or whatever] will give you a round out of focus light point. Because the aperture blades are totally out of the way when fully open. And when you start to close the aperture, the blades are closing in and give that polygon look to out of focus light sources.
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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby Awakurimi on 01/9/2011, 11:32 pm

Thanks, although I'm pretty sure it is more apparent wide open. I just checked here and it also says the polygons are more apparent wide open.
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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby Rob Neal on 01/10/2011, 3:20 am

Awakurimi wrote:Thanks, although I'm pretty sure it is more apparent wide open. I just checked here and it also says the polygons are more apparent wide open.

I think you are confusing Bokeh with "Circles of confusion" - Bokeh is simply the background being punched out of focus due to a wide aperture (and usually long lens) creating a shallow depth of field.

Circles of confusion happen when you have a shallow DoF and the lens stopped down, so some light (usually bright points), reaches the lens is out of focus, but only at certain points, so they appear as blobs.

image002.jpg


Image

As Mufti points out, this can only happen if you have the aperture at least partially closed as the hexagonal / octagonal shape is produced by the blades of the len's iris.
Last edited by Rob Neal on 01/10/2011, 11:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby Awakurimi on 01/10/2011, 8:07 am

Sorry about that. Thanks for letting me know, I just fixed it. :)
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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby Westbam on 01/18/2011, 7:12 am

I have read this post a few times now, absorbing all the information, thank you so much for your generous explanation on the various topics regarding shooting video on a DSLR. :geek:

Perhaps a bit more info about the memory cards/lack of hdd.

I fall in the category that is considering a Canon550D, read nothing but good reviews on that one.

Thanks again, make it sticky.
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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby Westbam on 01/18/2011, 7:14 am

I have read this post a few times now, absorbing all the information, thank you so much for your generous explanation on the various topics regarding shooting video on a DSLR. :geek:

Perhaps a bit more info about the memory cards/lack of hdd.

I fall in the category that is considering a Canon550D, read nothing but good reviews on that one.

Thanks again, make it sticky.
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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby Awakurimi on 01/20/2011, 9:56 am

Thanks! Glad it helped! I forgot to mention memory cards, I may add it in later. Here talks about memory cards if you are interested.
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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby Peter Berthet on 01/20/2011, 9:49 pm

something about DSLRs still scares me off.. i cant help but feel my next camera is gonna be a sony EX3
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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby mystiq on 01/21/2011, 8:32 am

If you have that kind of money, then hell ye, but other than that, dslr probably would be to fill into a smaller budget.
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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby Peter Berthet on 01/21/2011, 3:52 pm

yeah i was talking to a mate of mine yesterday about them, we kinda came to the conclusion that DSLRs even on a huge budget can fill a certain role
there are absolutely some things id shoot on a DSLR, but then there are also things id never use it for

really bugs me that you cant get 1080i @ 60fps though :( ... maybe the next model
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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby wajusay on 01/22/2011, 11:08 pm

Awakurimi wrote:A solution for editing the clips is to convert them to uncompressed AVI, there will be difference in quality and will be faster to work with.


Unfortunately my knowledge in converting video formats only goes as far as converting videos to watch on my iPod =/
What would be a good (free) way to convert the videos to uncompressed AVI? I've heard VirtualDub mentioned many times, would that be the way to go? And if that's the case what would be the recommended settings to convert it to?

Sorry for the noob questions, I just want to make sure I get this right.
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Re: Considering a DSLR? Read first

Postby Awakurimi on 01/23/2011, 1:35 am

You probably can do the converting in AE, using an uncompressed codec like QuickTime animation, or an uncompressed AVI format. If you have premiere pro, it cones with a program called adobe media encoder which makes converting easier. If you have and extra £100, Cineform Neocine is said to be a good converter. Not too sure about virtualDub though.
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