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Pros and Cons of Using DSLR Cameras for Shooting Video

dslr video
Dslr Video Rig: Image Courtesy Wikipedia

The popularity of DSLR cameras for shooting HD quality video footage has been on the rise for some time now. Even big budget producers who work for mainstream production houses have now started using DSLRs for their video shooting instead of dedicated video cameras. So why are so many people moving away from dedicated video cameras and using DSLR?

There are many reasons that attract filmmakers to shoot with DSLR’s. To start with the quality of imagery these cameras are able to produce is nothing short of astounding. You have complete control over aperture, shutter speed, focus, ISO and frame size.  DSLR image sensors are much larger than those used in video camcorders; This when combined with the ability to use any interchangeable lens from the wide range of lenses available for DSLR’s; (from ultra fast prime lenses to ultra wide angle and super tele photo lenses, covering angle of view anywhere from 14mm to 800mm; Makes it possible to have unparalleled control over shooting angles, depth of field and low light shooting capabilities.

A dedicated video camera with comparable features will cost anywhere in excess of $15,000/- where as you could easily get a great video-capable DSLR with a kit lens for under $1,000; sounds too good to be true isn’t it. 

But before you take a leap into video shooting with DSLR cameras you should know that there are some serious draw backs of using DSLR’s for video. So you really need to know what you are getting into beforehand or you’ll be in for a big surprise or rather big disappointment. In this article we will analyze the pros and cons of using DSLR cameras to shoot video.

DSLR Video – Pros

1. Cost Factor

A video capable DSLR with great video shooting capabilities could be owned at a substantially less cost than a dedicated video camera with similar capabilities.

2. Large Sensor

Image sensor on a DSLR camera is much larger than the ones being used on dedicated video cameras. This helps DSLR’s to produce footage with very shallow depth of field and also makes it possible to shoot in low light situations.

3. Quality of the Footage

DSLR s produces astounding image quality, larger size sensors on DSLR cameras generate videos with cinematic quality, and such image quality is beyond the reach of video camera except the high end professional ones.

4. Interchangeable Lenses

Until the advent of Video capable DSLRs the possibility of a large format sensor along with capability of interchangeable lenses was beyond the wildest dreams of the average filmmaker. Most prosumer camcorders have a fairly limited range, usually in the region of 28-300mm equivalent.

But when shooting video with a DSLR you can mount lenses ranging from ultra wide 14mm to super tele photo 800mm and also specialist lenses like macro lenses, fish eye lenses and tilt shift lenses. The creative possibilities afforded by a combination of such a larger sensor and such wide range of lenses are endless;  achieving till a few years ago such results would be out of the reach of all but the biggest studios.

5. Compact and Lightweight

DSLR cameras are lightweight and portable when compared to video cameras and this is a huge advantage when shooting documentaries or video on streets, other public areas and crowded locations.

6. DSLRs are Modular

Using a DSLR camera allows you the flexibility to build your rig one at a time, you could get started with just a DSLR and a kit lens and gradually add other accessories as your experience and budget grows.

DSLR Video – Cons

DSLR cameras are primarily designed to shoot stills, and so they lose some of their advanced capabilities when they are set to shoot video; let’s take a look at some of the cons of using a DSLR to shoot video.

1. No Viewfinder

When in video mode you need to use your LCD screen instead of viewfinder, (viewfinder image will be blocked since the mirror is up). This could be tricky; bright light conditions often make it very difficult to see the LCD clearly.

2. Shaky Footage

The compact size of the DSLR could also work against it, also it does not feature a handle so unless you use some sort of stabilization solution, videos shot with DSLRs will end up as shaky footage. Use a tripod, shoulder stabilizer or even better a steady cam rig for better results.

3. No Auto Focus

In video mode there is no auto focus available, DSLRs require you to manually pull focus; for people who are accustomed to auto focus video cameras this could be a big turn off.

4. Poor Audio Quality

The audio recording qualities of DSLRs are pathetic and it is completely unusable for any professional use. If you need decent audio quality along with your high definition video you need to invest in some independent audio solutions to capture audio.

5. Very Short Clip Limits

DSLRs have very short clip limits you will only be able to shoot somewhere about 15 minutes or so before your camera heats up, shooting times vary depending on your camera make and model.

In conclusion, DSLRs give you excellent picture quality for the price but you have to be aware of the ergonomics and limitations of the camera and decide for yourself whether or not the shortcomings of the DSLR camera are acceptable and will suit your video requirements.
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