Best Cameras for Fusion: Still Photography and Video

by Enche Tjin on May 25, 2010

Still photography is a great storytelling medium, but sometimes photographs alone are not enough. Sometimes, the best way to tell a story is through sound or movement. Therefore, fusion (the mixing of media such as video and photography) can be a better way to tell a story.

Reverie, a short video by Vincent Laforet using Canon 5D mark II and various lenses shock the world in 2008

Reverie, a short video by Vincent Laforet using Canon 5D mark II and various lenses shock the world in 2008

Fusion between audio, still photography, and video has been around for a while. In the past, fusion was more challenging for still photographers. It required photographers to invest in and learn how to use conventional video equipment. Conventional video cameras had less depth of field and different color balance. Results were inconsistent.

It is now a lot simpler to work in mixed media, because many DSLR cameras can also record video.

Some important advantages of DSLR cameras, when compared to camcorders, are larger sensors, consistent quality and the luxury of interchangeable lenses.

When choosing a DSLR camera with video capabilities, you should first consider the camera system. There are several options: Canon EOS, Nikon, the Micro Four Thirds system (Panasonic & Olympus), Sony, and Pentax.

Based on my observations, Canon has far better tools for mixed media than any other system. Most Canon cameras are able to record up to 12 minutes of full HD 1080 video in various fps and offer full automatic control over exposure, furthermore, Canon has more efficient because oftheir superior h.264-based codec. Canon also has the most complete selection of interchangeable lenses.

The following are some of the strengths and weakness of Canon cameras in recording video:

Canon 5D Mark II

canon-5d-mark-ii-best-for-video

Canon 5D mark II with Zacuto support system

The 5D Mark II was one of the first cameras able to record video (the other being the Nikon D90), and it is currently the best camera for video recording, because of its full-frame sensor. It is awesome in low light conditions and capable of producing very shallow depth of field. Plus, it offers great image quality.

The weakness of this camera will be no option to shoot 50/60 fps, therefore, you can’t shoot slow motion video.

Canon 1D Mark IV

The newer Canon 1D Mark IV is famous for its high ISO capability, which surpasses that of the 5D in low light conditions. The 1D Mark IV is also weather-sealed, so you can safely shoot stills or record video in bad environmental conditions. However, the 1D Mark IV is more than twice as expensive as the 5D Mark II, and it does not have the full-frame sensor. Instead, the 1D Mark IV has a 1.3 crop factor that will make your effective focal length longer than that of the lens.

The problem with this camera  is it will be hard to find compatible super wide angle lenses.

Canon 7D

The Canon 7D is a great all-around camera for still photography, but it is not as good for recording video as the 5D or 1D. Its biggest drawback is the smaller sensor, which makes for poorer video quality, especially in low light conditions.

It has a crop factor of 1.6, which means that your lens will be effectively longer than its focal length. This could be an advantage when you need to shoot subjects that are far away, but it could be a disadvantage when you want to shoot wide.

The less obvious advantage of the 7D and other 1.6 crop frame cameras is their compatibility with the line up of Canon EF-S lenses. These lenses are cheaper, and many of them offer image stabilization (such as 17-55mm f/2.8 IS), which will reduce shaking when you record video without a tripod.

Other advantages of 7D are that it is weather sealed and cheaper than the Canon 5D Mark II or 1D Mark IV.

Canon 60D

New Canon 60D is the Canon DSLR camera that has swivel LCD screen. This addition will make video making a lot better. You can shoot low angle or high angle without having to squad down or jump. It inherits most of 7D features such as 18 mp image recording and controls. However it lacks AF adjustment which is not important in video because we will likely to use manual focus instead.

Canon T2i / 550D

The Canon T2i is an affordable DSLR camera that is able to record full HD video with a quality similar to that of the 7D. The Canon 550D is smaller, lighter, and significantly cheaper than the cameras listed above, which make it attractive for beginners and budget-conscious shooters. As an entry-level camera, it is not as robust and sophisticated as the 7D

canon-t2i-video

Today, entry level camera like Canon T2i / 550D can do serious video recording

Canon T1i / 500D

Similar to the T2i, the T1i is an affordable DSLR camera that is able to record full HD video, but the T1i is limited to only 20fps in full HD mode. This may make the video a little bit jagged.

Although we enjoy this selection of tools and look forward to options that will be available in the future, current cameras are not perfect. For example, auto focus is not as effective as manual focus, and camcorders are not very ergonomic.

However, Sony and Panasonic recently announced plans to redesign their camera bodies to be more suited to video recording while maintaining the sensor and lens mount.

sony-video-interchangeable-camera-concept

sony-video-interchangeable-camera-concept

Video recording features in DSLR cameras are becoming ubiquitous. It is surely an exciting time to learn how to incorporate audio and motion in your work or play.

Related: Recommended lenses for video

DSLR-camera-for-video-rig

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