What makes video so hard on a DSLR?

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by waloshin, Oct 6, 2015.

  1. waloshin macrumors 68040

    Oct 9, 2008
    What makes video so hard on a DSLR? What makes making good video difficult with a DSLR or mirrorless? Also what is your thoughts on the Panasonic GH3 even though, it is a little old now.
  2. Gwendolini macrumors 6502


    Feb 5, 2015
    What do you mean with "hard"? Difficult perhaps?
  3. ColdCase macrumors 68030

    Feb 10, 2008
    The only think difficult seems to be that most DSLRs do not have a power zoom button, so you typically need a tripod or stabilized platform and a good touch. There are some DSRLs that are oriented toward good video with optimized video capture and some not. It is much harder to get good results from non video type DSLRs, if thats what you mean.
  4. coldsweat macrumors 6502


    Aug 18, 2009
    Grimsby, UK
    Because the DSLR form factor has been designed for stills photography. Try a Sony FS7 or EA50 for example, they're video cameras with a video form factor that have APS sensors & interchangeable lenses - As a result video is far easier to shoot with them - 'tools for the job' as they say!
  5. 321estrellas macrumors 6502


    Sep 28, 2007
    You have to be more specific on what is hard...there are a lot of aspects to video!

    Is it because there's no power zoom (as mentioned above) so it's hard to do a slow, consistent zoom shot?
    Is it because AF is slow and unrealiable, and MF needs to be so precise?
    Is it because the sensors are so large that you get thin depth of field, making it harder to maintain focus?
    Is it because DSLR's usually only record 15-30 minutes straight before automatically stopping?

    Lots of pros and cons shooting video with a DSLR vs dedicated camcorder.

    As for the GH3, it's a great camera if you don't need to shoot 4k. You can often find them used for pretty cheap. M43 lenses are overall much less than Canon L lenses. Lots of features that Canon doesn't include like focus peaking and zebras.
  6. Unami, Oct 7, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2015

    Unami macrumors 6502a

    Jul 27, 2010
    -small form factor, designed for still photography (e.g., you can't change the battery on some of them while mounted to a tripod plate)
    -no proper xlr-inputs, so sound has to be recorded externally
    -no built-in nd-filters
    -they are primarily still cameras, so you're usually severly limited when it comes to optimising your picture (e.g. no options to adjust the likes of black gamma, knee, ...) and assisting you with video shoots (no zebra patterns, safe markers, etc...)
    -usually low bitrate codecs
    -limited to 30 minutes of continuous recording in europe for tax reason
    -some just can't record long clips because they are not designed for it (overheating)
    - most of them just produce a very "dslr-style" image (lots of aliasing, ugly skin colors,...)

    some of those limits can be overcome with additional gear (external recorders, monitors, rigs, vari-nd filter), or software hacks (magic lantern) but it's often still harder to use all of this instead of a "real" camera.

    on the gh3 - while technically not a dslr, it delivers good image quality. the internal codec is nice, and the videos don't look very dslr-ish. but still, it lacks a lot of stuff you get from a proper video cam. it's very limited, when it comes to image adjustments (iirc only sharpness, color, noise reduction and contrast adjustable), you can't change the audio levels while recording, no zebra, nd-filters,...

    still, a good camera in it's price range, if you like the m43 format (which i do). and it does make nice videos.
  7. kohlson macrumors 68000

    Apr 23, 2010
    Do you mean hard as in...
    - Early models couldn't record longer than certain lengths or file sizes (file systems and sensor overheating)?
    - Audio is typically a half-hearted afterthought?
    - Compared to camcorders you have to be more careful in making shots (amplified by lens quality, form factor, etc)?
    - it's a surprise that teams of people have been working at different design centers (motion+audio vs. still) for decades, and there's a difference?

    A big appeal of video-from-dslr/mirrorless is the option for a great variety glass. But while most of these take pretty great stills they are struggling to integrate ever-advancing video technology and use-cases into what is now a multipurpose device.
  8. 321estrellas macrumors 6502


    Sep 28, 2007
    In addition, there's a lot of technicality and work put into a good quality video. I certainly hope someone doesn't see some awesome short film shot with a Canon T2i and the viewer would think, I'll buy this camera and create videos like this!

    ...only to shoot with just the kit lens...

    Even if you have excellent L lenses or whatever, there's still a hundred things that go into the quality of video...exposure, angles, movement, audio, colour grading/correction, storytelling, editing, etc etc etc
  9. waloshin thread starter macrumors 68040

    Oct 9, 2008
    Thanks everyone for the comments. With difficulty I was referring to zoom, focusing, camera shake and steadiness.
  10. b0fh666 macrumors 6502a


    Oct 12, 2012
    there are rigs to allow pro grade video on SLRs... not cheap tough. you also need to pick your lenses carefully for focus breathing but thats it. power zoom is a non-issue for pro video.
  11. JDDavis macrumors 65816


    Jan 16, 2009
    What makes it hard is knowing nothing about what makes a quality video or how to shoot it!

    I aim that comment squarely at myself. I shot video (for me...not professionally) for years with a dedicated "prosumer" HD video camera. It's relatively easy. The camera does most of the guesswork for you. When I made the decision to start using my D750 for video so I only have to deal with one camera it became glaringly apparent how little I knew about the technical aspects of shooting good video. Why does it always look so crappy on my $2k DSLR? I start reading and learning about shutter angle, the differences in 24p, 30p, 60p (and all that)...how that effects aperture and shutter speed selection on a DSLR. I start using a heavy tripod, buy a fluid video head for it, buy a quality MF lens with a big ol' smooth focus ring (practice with it) and start thinking out the shots before just filming. And...my video with a DSLR is starting to get better! Maybe one day I might be interested in all the other gadgetry and gizmos that pros are using to get commercial quality stuff.

    I don't mean to insult your intelligence because you probably already know all this but if you haven't read up on shutter angle and how that relates to DSLR videography (it does even though DSLRs don't have rolling shutters) then I highly suggest it. It really helped me understand how choosing the right settings for the intended outcome effect things like focusing, shake, and steadiness (and view-ability). Unless you are Chuck Norris there's probably nothing you can really do for camera shake except use a tripod, stead-cam, or some other device. For the zoom...AF and DSLR video just do not go together (at least on my D750). I bought an older MF lens with a big push/pull/rotate zoom-focus ring just to shoot video and I try to plan my shots so I zoom and refocus as little as possible.
  12. waloshin thread starter macrumors 68040

    Oct 9, 2008
    How is a Gh3 without a device like a Steadicam?
  13. Unami macrumors 6502a

    Jul 27, 2010
    just like any camera that size - it's fine, if you got steady hands and lenses with image stabilization, or use wide lenses. it won't replace a tripod, steadicam, gimbal, dolly, etc.
  14. linuxcooldude, Oct 8, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2015

    linuxcooldude macrumors 68020

    Mar 1, 2010
    Shooting from a DSLR takes time to setup along with all the other limitations. I recently got a Canon C100 which is setup much better for video. While there is still some setup required its much quicker with the joystick and have instant access to the basic settings without needing to go to menus. But at a much higher price.

    I also use a Canon XF100. While it has fully automatic controls, but its not good for all situations. For lowlight I switch to manual and adjust the gain as needed and readjust in post if I need more exposure. Or even go to 24p which will also give me better exposure. To get full use out of that type of camera you need to go to manual when appropriate.
  15. Unami macrumors 6502a

    Jul 27, 2010
    not true, power zoom is used frequently in the ENG-World, and it's very useful when filming something like a performance with only 1-2 cameras (so you can make zoom transitions between different shot sizes, thus needing fewer cameras).

    as always it depends on what you're planning to film. you won't need power zoom for a contemporary filmic look, or advertising or music videos.
  16. AppleHater macrumors 6502a

    Jun 9, 2010
    Auto focusing is terribly slow and unstable compared to smart phones or compact cameras. If they want to keep DSLRs as a viable camera platform for more than handful of pros, properly working auto focus is a start.
  17. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    The DSLR is very good for serious video where you are working to higher standards. But it is not good at all for casual shooting, like like your kids birthday party

    If you are doing a short film you are likely working on a tripod, have microphones going to an external audio recorder and certainly you'd not use a zoom or auto focus. Many people use manual focus lenses on their DSLR for video and focus with a tape measured have marks on the floor for the talent to stand on.

    Look at a few Hollywood feature films and you will very early see a slow zoom. Yes a few seconds in hours of footage, maybe but it is not common. Same with the use of autofocus. You NEVER see that used. the DSLR works well for projects where you have good control, can set up lights and have a script.

    But if you want to shoot news gathering style in an uncontrolled environment, then yes using a DSLR is hard. Buy a $270 Canon VIXIA HF R600 for less than the price of a good lens for the SLR. The R600 actually does work well in good light on a tripod.
  18. joema2 macrumors 65816


    Sep 3, 2013
    There are many reasons, some already listed. First you must define what you mean by "video...on a DSLR". Casual video on a low-end true DSLR in full programmed auto? ENG video on a DSLR-like camera like a GH4? Feature film 2nd unit video or serious documentary work on a fully-rigged high end DSLR?

    Casual video to non-exacting standards on a modern DSLR with video AF or similar mirrorless camera is easy -- you just hit record. The results often won't be great but the results from a cell phone or low-end camcorder are also frequently poor, given a totally novice operator. Look how many cell phone videos are shot vertically. You could argue this type of DSLR video isn't hard, but the results aren't good either.

    Moving up a notch to ENG but non-cinematic work, it's somewhat harder but increasingly TV news departments are using lower-end DSLRs instead of camcorders. The reporters are not highly trained but manage to get decent results. Here is a three-camera DSLR shoot by ABC News in front of the White House: https://joema.smugmug.com/Photography/ABC-News-Using-DSLRs/n-BsScJC

    Moving up further to serious documentary or dramatic work, DSLR video is quite difficult. We generally must shoot in full manual mode, which means manual zoom, manual focus, and manual exposure (which typically means manual ND filter and often manual ISO) . The 180 degree shutter rule mandates the shutter speed is locked at 2x the frame rate, e.g, 1/60th sec for 30 frames/sec. The aperture is fairly wide, else why use a DSLR. This leaves only ISO to balance the exposure, which can only go so low. That in turn requires a manual ND filter, either fixed or variable.

    Of course using a similarly sophisticated large-sensor camcorder like a Canon C100 is also not easy, but at least it has variable ND built in, plus some other aids. But you can't just stick a DSLR or a C100 in the hands of a novice and expect good results.

    True DSLRs (vs mirrorless EVF cameras) have another complexity of often requiring a viewfinder loupe or an external EVF. That often requires brackets to accommodate both EVF and on-camera shotgun mic. HDMI-connected accessories like EVF or recorders are additional battery-powered devices and HDMI was never designed for field use.

    DSLR lenses are not designed for video use and often have non-linear zoom rates. It is often very difficult to get a smooth zoom, so this requires yet more strap-on aids like velcro sticks, gears or a follow focus system.

    We put up with DSLRs because if properly used, the quality is very lush and cinematic and the price is relatively inexpensive. When the 5D Mark II was introduced in 2008 it was revolutionary -- it previously took a $50,000 cinema camera to get that look. Things have changed and large-sensor camcorders now exist, but are still more expensive than a lower-end DSLR. Yet that lower-end DSLR if carefully employed can produce impressive footage.

    Newer mirrorless EVF cameras like the GH4 and Sony A7 series partially bridge the complexity gap but they are still harder to use than a prosumer camcorder.

    It's harder to optically stabilize a DSLR, since any compensation mechanism must be larger due to the larger diameter optical path. Lens-based stabilization can work very well in some cases, even though not designed for video. However it's not as good as late-generation smaller-sensor camcorders.

    Ergonomically DSLRs face another challenge since they are designed for brief, momentary use at eye level, not sustained use. They have no EVF so must be held away to view the LCD panel. You can add a big EVF like the Zacuto Z-Finder EVF Pro, and this really transforms the camera. Mounted on the camera hot shoe, the 3rd contact point against your eye makes the camera very stable and allows holding it at chest height while keeping the upper arms vertical. I can easily hand hold a 5 min. interview with a 70-200 lens that way. However it's a lot more complexity and expense, and is quite fragile in a rough field environment.
  19. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California

    First off a agree with all of the above post. well said.

    But one thing. We have to define "hard" and "easy". In my mind doing the above is "easy" because the camera can do it with no need to use a serious work around. The camera has all the needed controls for ISO and shutter sped accessible.

    To me "hard" means you can't get the $%*# camera to do what you need it to do.

    I guess your use of the words are that"hard"means some skill and technical ability is required of the operator.

    Another use of hard and easy is if the camera is a good or poor match to the job at hand.
  20. jerwin macrumors 68020

    Jun 13, 2015
    Many of the optimizations that make DLSRs such great still cameras are either useless or counterproductive in video mode.
  21. joema2 macrumors 65816


    Sep 3, 2013
    A jet fighter plane has all the needed controls to fly a mission but doing so isn't easy. The OP's question about why is DSLR video "hard" is a common refrain from many people first exposed to it. Even we professionals with years of experience often comment about how hard it is. People see us brandishing cameras that to a naive eye look like a big camcorder.

    What they don't see is our hands constantly flickering over the controls like a musician playing a clarinet, and the constant decision-making that goes into that. Adjusting variable ND filter, zoom ring, focus ring, ISO, check exposure, wake up the metering, verify aperture didn't get bumped, check/adjust audio level, etc. If using an HDMI-connected EVF or field monitor you have issues with blackouts during mode switches caused by HDCP copy protection. It's way harder than a typical camcorder.
  22. Stephobs macrumors newbie


    Oct 7, 2014
    Oxealere, France
  23. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    Video on DSLR was essentially an accident waiting to happen. That accident was the transition from film photography to electronic photography. The capacity of a standard 35mm still camera was about 36-40 frames - less than 2 seconds at 24 frames per second, though due to the differences in shutter mechanics, there were no conventional SLRs capable of shooting 24 frames per second - 6 fps was about the fastest motor drive available. Yeah, you could get larger film magazines for some SLRs - they typically held up to 250 frames. Compare that to the capacity of today's memory cards! Since the output of a digital imaging sensor can be continuous (no need to hide it behind a shutter between shots), and the sensor's output was already being fed live to the LCD display... "Hey man, encode the output of the sensor in a standard video format, and we have a camcorder!"

    The design of the SLR was optimized for still photography via an eye level viewfinder. The controls are placed to be convenient for shooting from that position. Each time the shutter release is pressed, the mirror flips up and the shutter opens, so that light can reach the film. So to shoot video, the DSLR's mirror has to be locked up, blinding the eye level viewfinder, or the camera needs a fixed, half-silvered mirror (which only a few cameras have). Since the eye level viewfinder is usually out of service, the camera must usually be held at arm's length in order to view the LCD display (very unstable)... Altogether, it's a horrible design for shooting hand-held video.

    But DSLRs have great big imaging sensors, and great big imaging sensors are a good thing. Further, professional still photographers (and news editors) realized they could shoot video as well as stills with equipment they already owned - a great business opportunity. And the quality is good enough that you may get away with using a "cheap" DSLR instead of a RED digital cinema camera. So despite their various shortcomings, DSLRs are being used to shoot professional video.

    This is why medium-sensor mirrorless cameras like the GH-3 and GH-4 make more sense. They have no flipping mirrors. They have electronic eye-level viewfinders, just like camcorders do, so the camera can be held "normally." While those EVFs have their shortcomings, they're the same shortcomings videographers have been living with since the advent of video.

    But they still suffer from one shortcoming compared to dedicated camcorders. DSLRs and most other digital still cameras are designed, for purely marketing reasons, to emulate still cameras of the past. In terms of ergonomics, the design of hand-held 16mm/8mm motion picture cameras and camcorders tends to be superior to still cameras for hand-holding - I'll take the layout of a palm-cradled/palm-strapped camcorder any day. But once you fasten the thing to a tripod or steadicam, ergonomics takes a back seat anyway.
  24. jerwin macrumors 68020

    Jun 13, 2015
    Are you planning on shooting an Imaxesque film?

Share This Page