Earlier this week the DSLR field got one of its first big shake ups of what will prove to be a revolutionary year for these HD video capable cameras: Nikon introduced its $3000 D800. The D800 employs a new generation Sony 36 megapixel sensor which is said to have almost no rolling shutter issues, which has been a real problem with CMOS for video use since the technology’s introduction. Other features include uncompressed 1080/24P/25P or 30P 8-bit 4:2:2 output via HDMI, an EI expandable to 25,600, and stereo recording. (Here’s some opinion and video on the D800 from Andrew Reid’s site.)
DSLR manufacturers were surprised a few years ago by how much video was being shot with their systems, but by this year every DSLR released will be touted for its HD video chops. Next up will be top of the line Nikon D4 ($6K) and the Canon 1Dx ($7K).
The size of sensors no longer are a matter of “bigger is better” but rather pick the sensor for the type of shooting you will be doing. With a 16MP CMOS sensor, the Nikon D4 will have good low light ability (just as Nikons have been known for over the years), while the Canon 1Dx’s 18MP offers a bit more resolution. Nikon’s 36MP D800 features the same sensor planned for a Sony DSLR coming out later this year. For many people the Nikon D800 my be the camera to choose since it may do video “good enough” and can double as a near medium format still camera for the lowest price of the bunch.
This may put Canon in a bind with its soon to deliver $16,000 C300. With these many capable DSLRs coming in at a much lower price point, my feeling is that Canon may have to lower the C300’s price to around $9K-10K to stay competitive. What got the DSLR revolution going was the lower cost of entry into large sensor production which allowed the use of large glass to deliver cinema-style shallow DOF (depth of field). Unless you expect to show exclusively on theatrical-size screens, for many in production “almost” is good enough when it comes to creating HD. It’s more important to have good gear that you can afford to invest in on your own.
But DSLRs capable of delivering 4K will be another matter. This capability is amazing available in some consumer systems already, although the surrounding parts of a truly useable 4K system (sensor size, lens, build quality) are missing. But when Canon and the other major players start delivering complete 4K systems–perhaps as early as this year–then expect the HD production scene to get shaken up one more time.
Mark Forman Productions