Thursday, January 10, 2008

Could a Digital SLR be your Future Video Camera?

Casio has pulled an impressive rabbit out of their hats at this years' Consumer Electronics Show. The EX-F1 is a digital SLR still camera that has some impressive features that a filmmaker would love, including true slow motion that can record at an astonishing 1200 frames per second! Sure, the resolution is dropped considerably, but slower frame rates are very usable albeit in Standard Definition. Casio seems to be onto something here, and future cameras from them (or others) could turn into a sub-$1000 super camera for a number of reasons other than the slow-mo hook.

It can shoot in full HD resolutions. We should all be shooting in HD, and any camera that does this is worth looking into. Even if you plan on producing content for YouTube, you can always scale down material to fit that format. That way, you'll always have an HD master that you can use in the future for HD projection or download or sharing or DVD (whichever format wins) or whatever. I'm not sure of the real quality of the EX-F1 (it records compressed MOVs), but even if it doesn't look good now, it soon will.

It records to SD memory cards. Tape is a quickly dying format, and the next wave is definately recording directly to a file that you can just drag into your editor. Granted, shooting any decent amount of time in HD is going to require larger memory cards, but as prices continue to drop, it will be a moot point, even for those on a very small budget. Even if you have a limited supply, offloading to a computer is a fast and painless process. Just take care, and backup valuable footage.

It uses a real (non-detachable) 35mm lens. There are several companies (like Cinevate) that are selling adapters that allow you use 35mm still lenses on your video camera. These devices create true depth of field, and make for more cinematic results. These are also very expensive, and at around $1200 (which doesn't include the price of the lens) often cost more than the camera you are using. The EX-F1 has a real 35mm lens built in, and as a result, should also have real depth of field, all at a price less than one of these adapters. If future models feature a camera body that can accept multiple lenses, watch out!

It sports a mic input. This is real evidence that Casio is going after the filmmaker--you can record audio via an external microphone. There are many products that will allow quality microphones to plug into this little jack, opening up a wealth of audio options. While there doesn't seem to be an headphone jack for monitoring, or any indication of manual audio control, it is a very good sign.

While the Casio EX-F1 doesn't seem to be the "everything box" I'm wishing for (and it won't even be available until April for inspection), it seems to be a very good sign that amazing things will soon be possible at a very affordable price. Give me a digital SLR that shoots HD to a card, records slow motion in HD, uses interchangeable glass and features real video camera manual controls and options for under 1k, and you'll have one very loyal customer.

1 comment:

Sheean Spoel said...

Except it isn't a 'real' SLR, I'm afraid: for three reasons:

-the chip is tiny
-the lens is non-detachable (although if the chip is tiny, this is pretty much useless)
-no optical viewfinder (but that is of course not possible with video)


The chip used is tiny (1/1.8") although that is a bit bigger than what is used on every other camcorder in that price range (and well above it.) You'll still end up with a crop factor of about 5 or so.

However what is cool (apart from the super slow-mo) is that it does seem to have the full manual control suite: focus, aperture, etc - in this range only the Panasonic NV-GS500 seems to have it, and it doesn't do HD. It is a bit sad though that it is 'cool' that it has manual control available.

It also doesn't do progressive shooting.

On dpreview they suspect it uses a sensor developed by Sony, so Sony could make something really cool with it. (but they could already do that with the sensors they have, but they couldn't be bothered.)

Of course if continuous shooting rate would increase only just a bit more on SLRs...

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