Adventures in DSLR Video Recording

canon7dBefore you decide that buying a brand spanking new DSLR automatically makes you the new James Cameron, there are a couple of limitations (of recording video on a DSLR) that you should take into consideration.

Hard Limit of 29:59 Regardless of Recording Quality/Resolution

The first limitation is apparently related to taxes imposed on a traditional camera versus a “video camera”. According to the straight laced, black suited people who are after a cut of the hard earned money of every person on the planet, a “video camera” is defined as a camera that is able to capture motion (video) for durations above 29 minutes and 59 seconds. Once your camera is able to record 30 minutes of video at a go, it (and all the packaging that it comes with) miraculously relabels itself as a video camera and as such is subject to higher taxes (in many countries worldwide) than the camera sitting next to it that is able to record an amazing 1 second of video less. Continue reading


Image Sharpness/Quality on the Canon EOS 7D

As per an earlier post, I recently… uh… side-graded (???) to an EOS 7D from an EOS 5D (original). The 5D was aging, along with the lenses, and I must be an absolute slavedriver of a photographer because my lenses seem to frown and break down fairly frequently – resulting in $$$ flowing out (not that I have much to start with). So, anyway, moving along… the 7D was a recommendation of a friend based on my use of the 5D to (usually) shoot events and conferences. According to him, the AF being ultra fast and noise being excellent made it an excellent choice for events and conferences. Due to budget constraints, the 7D was pretty much the only camera within reach, and so I took the plunge.

After a trial by fire (I purchased the 7D days before a conference, giving little time to get used to anything) – my initial reactions are… meh? Sure, I may not be using the same quality of glass as I did with the original 5D, but I was expecting a good 5 years of technology to make the gap fairly small. In general, shots from the 7D (depending on which lens was used) appeared to be soft (many shots taken on a 20mm f/1.8 Sigma turned out this way, as well as a 15-85mm F/3.5-5.6 Canon), and just noisy overall. Even when shooting at extremely low ISO settings of 100/200, the noise was so much more noticeable than on the full frame 5D (at no point did I expect a cropped sensor to have better noise performance than a full frame, just to clarify).  As I said earlier, 5 years of technology, I was hoping for the difference to be minimal – the difference is jarring in favor of the 5D.

Sadly, the “soft” focus seems to be a known issue of the 7D based on a fair number of forums/blogs/etc. online; a portion of which appear to be by people who know what they’re talking about and also a number of reasonably well-known photographers. Brace yourself for further bad news… this isn’t the only known issue. From a number of previous experiences, as well as this one, I will now Google for “Thing That I’m Planning to Buy” in combination with “Known Issues” the next time I consider a purchase.

Here’s a comparison, both images have minimal post processing (only white balance).

Richard Thieme (EOS 7D)

Richard Thieme (EOS 7D)

Richard Thieme (EOS 5D)

Richard Thieme (EOS 5D)


Canon EOS 7D vs 5D

Keep in mind this is from the POV of a broke event photographer. My main focus is the HITB Security Conference series – essentially a bunch of geeks who are afraid of the sun and light in general (sample photos available here). As such, the subjects usually end up hiding outside the spotlight during their presentations – causing your average ISO required to be higher than usual, I end up using 1600 most of the time.

After an initial day or so messing around with the 7D, it’s pretty apparent that the 5D (not Mark II) will sorely be missed. It goes without saying that the 5D Mark II would be even further ahead. Even at fairly low ISO settings (200-400), digital noise is pretty obvious on shots taken with the 7D, possibly comparable to ISO 1600 or higher on the 5D. Of course, all this is from observation – the real test will be at the upcoming conference in a week.

I’ll post some comparison shots later, you can decide for yourselves if I’m lying.

EOS 5D (Mark I)

Lucas Adamski @ HITB2011AMS
Aaron Portnoy @ HITB2011AMS