What’s New in DSLR Video?

  By Jordan Drake


It’s been a while since I’ve written about the exciting things happening with DSLR video, but that’s something I’m going to rectify right now.  The last twelve months have seen some very cool developments in video quality, audio control and autofocus performance, so let’s take a look at a few new cameras.

I shoot our YouTube series, The Camera Store TV, primarily on a Sony cinema camera, the FS700.  Recently however, a small camera has been finding its way into my gear bag. The Panasonic GH3.  While not technically a DSLR, this mirrorless camera has a form factor very close to traditional SLRs. In good light, the image from this little wonder is very comparable to that from my big video camera, and the Micro 4/3 lens lineup is top notch.  What really sold me on the GH3 though, is the great handling, and amount of customization the camera offers over camera control and image quality.  If you can think of a video format, the GH3 probably shoots it, and shoots it well.  Where the GH3 has served me particularly well is in inclement weather, where few camcorders are usable.  Pairing the GH3 with the outstanding Panasonic X 12-35 F2.8 lens, I was able to shoot our entire Underwater Camera Shootout episode without a rain bag or umbrella.  I also love the ability to use the viewfinder when shooting video, something no traditional SLR offers when shooting video.

One thing that drives me crazy about DSLR video is the lack of attention camera manufacturers are putting into audio capabilities. We’re starting to see some improvements, like the occasional headphone jack, but for the most part you need to record your audio externally for quality results. Sony is looking to change this situation with their XLR-K1M adaptor for the Sony A99. With this adaptor, you get proper balanced XLR inputs directly connected to your camera. Usually, when shooting DSLR video with external audio, I need a sound guy to monitor audio and adjust levels. With this adaptor, I can operate the camera and control my sound as well. It’s also a huge time saver not to have to sync the audio in post. With any luck, the other camera companies will learn from Sony’s lead and start offering more options for those of us requiring more advanced audio solutions.

Saving the most exciting for last, Chris and I recently had a chance to test the revolutionary Canon EOS 70D. This is the first traditional, mirrored SLR which is capable of fast, smooth continuous autofocus. I was skeptical when this feature was first announced, as Canon made similar claims with their Rebel T4i, which featured barely usable autofocus, but after a few seconds with the 70D I was very impressed. I generally avoid using AF when shooting video, as the slight focus adjustments can be jarring and distracting. However, I found the 70D’s AF during video recording to be very natural, and it avoided the ‘jitteriness’ that was easily seen with Sony’s SLT cameras. For someone shooting events or documentary, this new AF system could be a game changer, and I can’t wait to get a production camera to properly test this feature.

All things considered, it’s a very exciting time to be a videographer. With the capabilities of these cameras making huge strides, and prices steadily dropping, there’s no better time than now to grab a camera and go make some beautiful movies!

If you would like to learn more about how to make great movies with a DSLR, Jordan will be teaching a Video for DSLR Seminar on October 1st, 2013.