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What's the advantage to using DSLR's and mirrorless still cameras for video?


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Bare with me here as I am an old guy from the film era.

What is the advantage to using a digital still camera for shooting video? Is it the purchase price? Is there an advantage to the purchase price even after purchasing all the additional accessories to make it viable for semi-pro video? Is there an ergonomic advantage that isn't apparent?

Never mind pro level like the Alexa series, wouldn't a box camera configuration make more sense? I see 'em for $3-10 grand. I know you're talking a lot more by the time you add lenses and accessories but still we were spending $20-30K on a 16mm sound rig like an SR16 or Aaton back in the day. Don't know how much that would be in today's money but it would be substantial.

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Canon brought out new DSLRs years ago that had really good video capability. People started to buy one camera that could do everything -- stills and video. A generation grew up that associated high definition video with the stills camera body shape/design.

I don't like the DSLR design most of the time in filmmaking, but yes the bodies do seem to be generally less costly. That may already be changing. For filmmaking the stills camera design has to be kitted out with extra do-dads, cages and big batteries and the cameras themselves don't seem to produce images as good as the larger, dedicated video cameras. In my experience, stills-body type cameras can sometimes produce more of a chintzy video look to the footage compared to bigger, dedicated video cameras.

The small DSLR/mirrorless cameras have small batteries, can tend to overheat when worked hard, and are too light. The DSLR side-holding style worked well for a 35mm SLR that needed to be compact for travelling photojournalists but for filmmaking it doesn't seem to me to be the most stable way to hold a camera for shooting moving images. A heavier video camera gives more stable footage when hand held or shoulder mounted.

But the DSLR design is nevertheless a fully legititmate video camera. To each their own. I avoid them myself. I started with film cameras too and to me a movie camera has to look like one. Professionally, too, I think some clients can feel a little less satisfied if they want some kind of 'film' made of their event or project and the DP turns up with a consumer DSLR or mirrorless on a little gimbal.

 

Edited by Jon O'Brien
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The DSLR/mirrorless revolution led to the current style of video we see again and again everywhere. The cinematographers now love a top-mounted monitor and virtually no one, and I mean no one, now uses a viewfinder. Is it because their faces are clearly visible at all times and they love that? I don't understand how any DP could be happy staring at a monitor screen. That's something directors do. To me I have to have a very clear view of the image that you can only get with your eye stuck in the eyecup. How they focus is beyond me.

The DSLR video style that is now so common means a lot of super-slow hand held slow mo shots that the camera dude swings from side to side while filming. So the camera is always moving to the side or in and out, whether it adds any meaning to the shot or not (almost always not). So, slow mo and lot of drone shots too. Then little gimbal shots. Not too much of that because even that's now a bit old hat. No fluid head tripod anywhere. Too heavy and too old fashioned or something. Strictly monitor only, as I said.

Glitz and slickness. Superficiality in brilliant 4K. Smooth glides all round.

Then a machine gun editing style. Quick impressions. Fast shots. Brief attention span and that's understandable because substance isn't there.

Welcome to the contemporary glib videography style.

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1 hour ago, Jon O'Brien said:

Master this style in 6 months and you too can be a pro.

Selling the dream to the nimrods n'est ce pas? One wag I met at an equipment show told me that "It wasn't the guys panning for gold during the Gold Rush that were smart. It was the guys selling the shovels and pans."

 

1 hour ago, Jon O'Brien said:

The DSLR/mirrorless revolution led to the current style of video we see again and again everywhere. The cinematographers now love a top-mounted monitor and virtually no one, and I mean no one, now uses a viewfinder. Is it because their faces are clearly visible at all times and they love that? I don't understand how any DP could be happy staring at a monitor screen. That's something directors do. To me I have to have a very clear view of the image that you can only get with your eye stuck in the eyecup. How they focus is beyond me.

The DSLR video style that is now so common means a lot of super-slow hand held slow mo shots that the camera dude swings from side to side while filming. So the camera is always moving to the side or in and out, whether it adds any meaning to the shot or not (almost always not). So, slow mo and lot of drone shots too. Then little gimbal shots. Not too much of that because even that's now a bit old hat. No fluid head tripod anywhere. Too heavy and too old fashioned or something. Strictly monitor only, as I said.

Glitz and slickness. Superficiality in brilliant 4K. Smooth glides all round.

Then a machine gun editing style. Quick impressions. Fast shots. Brief attention span and that's understandable because substance isn't there.

Welcome to the contemporary glib videography style.

Yeah when my eye met the rubber cup (or hopefully chamois) I shut out all the world except the one on the groundglass. Scrutinizing the frame for composition and scanning for the errant stand leg or mic sneaking into the shot.

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Haha! Yeah, they used to say everyone can now be a filmmaker when the DSLR revolution hit. Once, only the rare few could make films. Well, that's fair enough I guess.

They forged for themselves a new film style ... and they are very welcome to it. May they long revel in it.

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The advantage is value. You still need to know what you are doing. You still need to understand what you need and don't need. Nothing changes except that your kit is smaller and easier to put into small spaces.

I have not shot too much video. But I could not shoot any video at all if I needed to use an old Alexa, which is reportedly heavier than the Japanese island of Hokkaido. It just would not be possible.

And if you are serious about video/cinema, but don't want to spend too much money, then you're in luck:

(8:09)

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Mirrorless cameras tend to have pretty good image quality for the price, they are often very light sensitive compared to similar priced video cameras. Lighter weight too, often smaller size, the camera body can hang from the lens mount if needed to ease using heavy tele lenses. Often very low power consumption compared to video cameras though if needing a external recorder with the mirrorless camera it will often consume lots more power and can then be on par with Blackmagic etc. video cameras which have less efficient power management than mirrorless cameras have.

Mirrorless cameras are often very good choice for run and gun type of stuff and documentary type of stuff as long as you don't need good in-camera audio features and don't need extensive "cine-style setup" rigging. If wanting to use tons and tons of accessories like transmitters, wireless audio, wireless timecode, remote focus, pl lenses, v-mount battery, etc all at once then they are much easier and faster to rig to a real video camera.

So the mirrorless stuff is best for lower budget level stuff where small and versatile camera is needed which cannot cost a fortune but needs to be light sensitive and easy to adapt to different shooting situations. And only using few basic accessories with it at a time, sometimes even shooting as-is with kit lens and no accessories. Stuff like IBIS and usable compressed internal codecs and low power consumption are a lifesaver in some shooting situations.

If shooting higher budget stuff with lots of crew and need to rig tons of accessories and have controlled lighting, then it may be better to choose a real video camera for the job. I would still keep the mirrorless as a backup in case some small pickup shots with different lens or gimbal or handheld need to be done really fast (typically I use mirrorless for macro stuff with pre-tested lens setup if I know there will be some macro shot of the eye etc. stuff) or if needing to shoot some stuff in stealth mode, for example some quick two shot scene on the street where there is lots of curious people to potentially ruin the shot if large camera with lots of crew is used but if having a mirrorless camera with minimal accessories they would think you are just an average street photographer and leave you alone.

Another good usage is risky rigging where there is high chance of losing the camera. A mirrorless can be sacrificed if something goes wrong so one can take more risks with the camera to get the perfect shot.

 

Edited by Aapo Lettinen
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