Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor

Film Look

The Film Look…

We seem to be stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea…the one major advantage SLR photography has always had is the shallow depth of field (SDoF), this has been cleverly adapted by camera makers like Canon, Nikon and Panasonic with the ability to now film HD footage with certain SLRs.

The other option for the film look (SDoF) is to insert a film adapter like the Letus adapter between your camera lens and attach a 35mm prime lens on the front, now as you can see from the example above the major advantage with the digital SLR is it’s size. (Canon 5D Mk11 is not to scale)

When you use a 35mm adapter on your video camera it has limitations with apertures and  shutter speeds because of the ground glass used in the process, there are no such limitations with digital HD SLRs with apertures.

So where are we today with the budget film look…Philip Bloom a pioneer of this look seems to favour the digital SLR over the EX-3/letus combination, this in my opinion may be down to it’s size and weight, Philip like myself and 98% of cameramen suffer sore backs and anything that makes our backs easier after a days shoot is more than welcome. The main drawbacks and in my opinion MAJOR drawbacks with these digital HD film look cameras are as follows…


1. As yet there is no ability to adjust the sound on any of the HD SLRs which is poor.

2. No sound metering on the LCD

3. One 3.5 jack input for sound (No XLRs)

4. No headphone jack for monitoring sound.

Sound in all these cameras is a poor second best and is a major setback to taking these cameras seriously (Most people use external sound units like the Tascam DR-100)

5. Canon have just brought out a second HD camera in the form of the 7D with no swivel viewfinder ! (Panasonics GH1 has a swivel LCD)

A Swivel viewfinder is a must for filming.

6. No live LCD/HDMI output. (This feature would allow you to at least monitor your HD footage externally)

7. Limitations on filming times on HD 12 minutes at a time.

8. Ergonomics are all wrong for filming.

9. H.264 needs to be converted before you can edit the footage.

As you can see with 9 major drawbacks there is an opening for a company to bring out a film look camera that meets all 9 specifications mentioned above. The ergonomics to me are all wrong these are firstly and foremost photographic cameras with the ability to capture HD footage as an afterthought.

Let’s be honest we are biding our time till one of the giants like Sony or Canon (Pro-Video) waken up to the film look, it will only take one camera with the specs of the EX-3, large sensor and the ability to take 35mm prime lenses (SDoF)…My bet is on Canon Pro-Video, 16 months since the H1s means something is on the cards.

If the number one giant in this field RED could produce such a camera at the £4-5K price range then we could all switch over and let video be a thing of the past.

Update…Thanks to Deke Kincaid for pointing out that Live HDMI does indeed work what I meant was live HDMI/LCD at the same time. Deke also mentions Magic Lantern a group of indi film makers who have reverse engineered the Canon 5D Mk11 firmware to open up some new features see them here…

Photographs courtesy of


Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

4 thoughts on “Striving for the Film Look

  1. Great post, I think about this stuff all of the time. I don’t think DSLR’s are a clear winner yet either, just another option.

  2. It’s a phase until the video world wakens up and produces a £4K Film Look camera that takes Canon & Nikon lenses, then you will see the death of adapters and HD DSLRs.

  3. Live HDMI works just fine on the 5dmk2 and 7D. The issue is it is only 480p.

    Magic Lantern is fixing that by adding full 1080i output and also has on screen audio metering.

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