OK, so still photography is rapidly colliding with HD video. Yeah, we know, you already knew that, but wait, there’s more. While this collision appeared rather likely over the last few years, the impact the convergence is having on both the still and video spaces has been rather earth-shaking—and it’s ramifications are being felt in the consumer market as well.
"What this convergence did in the consumer space a few years ago was give people a way to easily shoot short clips they could post to the Web using their digital camera," began social media analyst George Wang. "Now HD video capability is available on all sorts off handheld devices. Allowing a still camera to capture video completely changed the way consumers thought about video and what to do with it, and now it’s changing the way pro shooters are looking at their craft."
Indeed it is, as photographers are beginning to realize that their clients are expecting more than just still photos for a marketing campaign, a family sitting or a feature story.
"Media outlets today are absolutely content hungry, as are consumers, and the idea of dealing with someone who only provides one form of capturing that content is getting less and less appealing," began Web marketing analyst Martha Refik. "Add to this the fact that for around $1,000 you can buy a really amazing HD DSLR, and you’re in this game with a piece of equipment a pro would have drooled over five years ago. That continues to wreak havoc in this space as well."
The game has been changing rapidly over the last few years due to myriad technological changes/advancements, but this aforementioned introduction of HD video capability in DSLRs by Nikon and Canon last year created quite a buzz around the industry—a buzz that has been increasing in decibel-levels ever since.
"The idea here was to inspire new levels of creativity and originality," explained Nikon’s Marketing GM Ed Fassano.
Chuck Westfall, Canon’s Technical Advisor in the Pro Products Division, recently added, "The full HD video capability in DSLRs gives photographers the opportunity to explore some new territory with a still camera with a full-frame 24x36mm image sensor to create really high-quality HD video. And we’ve done this with the 5D Mark II at less than the cost of the original 5D we released a few years ago."
Pentax also has just announced an HD DSLR, the K-x, a more entry-level effort priced at $599—so it appears this market is about to become a crowded one.
Easy as 1, 2…9
For those that may have thought you simply switch these new DSLRs to video mode and start shooting great video, guess again. Long Island-based photographer Roy Samuels warns shooting video with a DSLR has a much steeper learning curve than many might think.
"It’s an extremely difficult thing to master," Samuels said. "There’s a completely different mindset to shooting video, and I’ve found that it’s about way more than flicking a switch on the camera—it’s much more about flicking a switch in your head. There’s sound, there’s a new way to interpret movement, and there’s a new way to look at the essence of time. I also think the camera manufacturers that are getting into this are finding that out as well."
There are still others who think this new pressure for professional photographers to run out and learn to shoot video is merely hype.
"Nikon and Canon add HD video capability to DSLRs and now everyone who just shoots stills for a living is dead if they don’t run out and get one and learn to master shooting video with them. That notion is ridiculous," began Bruce Kanner, a Washington D.C. -based pro who freelances for several East Coast marketing firms. "Look at the camcorder market and how compact and capable the newest models are. If I felt I needed to shoot video, I would have gone out and gotten one of them long ago—many of us would have and I suppose some have. Staying on top of the tech today is key, yes, but blindly running toward that tech is not always the right move."
If you’ve spent any time perusing the subject online you’ll find opinions there also run all over the map.
From the recently completed Collision Conference in L.A., set up specifically to address and sort out the still/video convergence, photographer Lou Lesko spoke as part of a program on the subject and added this perspective into the mix.
"If you are at all hesitant about jumping into video, saunter on over to YouTube and select a random video to watch. If the little voices in your head are saying things like ‘that video is crap, I can do better than that’ then you have taken the first step to a greater plain. Clients are not expecting a production driven by a screenplay. They are expecting a stylized YouTube video that they can run on the Web. It’s technically very easy as long as you apply your existing knowledge of lighting, composition and storytelling. A moving version of what you already do," he explained.
And, from a recent posting on the site Photography-on-the.net, a DSLR Video Haters thread carried, what else, a little anti-video sentiment.
"The biggest mistake Canon made was integrating VIDEO into a STILL camera. As a 5D MkII owner, I bought the camera to TAKE PICTURES. If I want a top of the line CAMCORDER, I’ll buy one. Everyone needs to get a grip," read the post.
"Jennifer" Just Wants Solutions
Back in the consumer world, the effect of the still/video cocktail is less about perfecting a craft and more about offering solutions.
"One thing about all the video being uploaded to YouTube and Facebook is that they’re all really bad videos," added Refik. "Helping consumers learn to shoot better video with a digital camera would be a great start for retailers. That would certainly fill a need."
Avid video shooter Nancy Golden, a New York mother of three, thinks a service that helped her do something more than just upload clips to the Web would be a winning play for shutterbugs everywhere as well.
"I shoot short clips of the kids all the time—I must have hundreds by now and though I do upload one to the Internet occasionally, I don’t really know what to do with the all the others," she began. "And I don’t care that they’re not technically great videos—they’re of my kids so they’re precious to me. I want a solution that allows me to do something fun with them. Make them more actionable for me and my family." That certainly sounds like an opportunity for imaging retailers to sink their teeth into.
Whether or not you embrace this trend or turn away, one thing appears certain, the convergence is here to stay and the technology will only get better. For pros, the convergence will indeed open some new doors for those that perfect the tech and move toward the new opps and for consumer retail, figuring out ways to tap into and profit from video-crazed America should be a front burner priority moving forward.
DSLRs With the HD Factor
It’s still early in this game as we are only a little over a year into the HD DSLR era, but here’s a look at the growing line-up DSLRs that can capture HD Video.
The one that started it all, the D90 features a 12.3-megapixel DX-format CMOS imaging sensor: Coupled with Nikon’s EXPEED image processing technologies and NIKKOR optics. This one has the distinction of being the world’s first DSLR with an HD movie mode: 24fps movie clips with sound at up to 720p HD (1280 x 720 pixels) in Motion JPEG format.
The 12.3 megapixel D5000 has a DX-format CMOS sensor and can capture HD video at 720p and a 24 fps with mono sound. Add Live View with contrast-detect AF, face detection and subject tracking to the feature set as well.
Utilizing the aforementioned DX-format 12.3 megapixel CMOS sensor, the D300s offers full 720p HD video recording with a frame advance rate of 7fps and dual CF and SD memory card slots.
Canon 5D Mark II
Captures crystal-clear HD video at a 1920 x 1080 resolution and a 30p frame rate. A firmware upgrade offers manual control over aperture, shutter speed, and ISO in video mode. Add a 21.1MP full-frame CMOS sensor with DIGIC 4 Image Processor and an ISO Range of 100-6400.
The EOS 7D also captures Full HD video at 30p (29.97 fps), 24p (23.976 fps) and 25p with an array of manual controls, including manual exposure during movie shooting and ISO speed selection. The 7D also features an 18.0 Megapixel APS-C size CMOS sensor and Dual DIGIC 4 Image Processors.
Nikon Rebel T1i
The first Rebel to feature HD video capture, the 15.1 megapixel T1i can record high-definition video at full 1080p resolution (1920×1080) at 20 frames per second.
Pentax is the newest player in this arena – though certainly not the last – with the recent introduction of the K-x – a 12.4 megapixel CMOS sensor can capture HD at 720p resolution at 24fps.