Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor

Last year I predicted to the letter what would happen when the large sensor camcorders came along..

2010 “Sony have just brought out the new F3, due for January 2011 shipping, but not as popular as the AF101 if sales are anything to go by plus the need for expensive prime lenses, 35Mbs SxS, 4:2:0 and the £12K asking price. The Sony is a great camcorder and Philip Bloom is testing one as I blog but the lack of 3rd party adapters is a major turn off though MTF are in the process of producing a Nikon adapter for early 2011.

Lastly we cant predict the future without a mention of RED DIGITAL CINEMA, who are producing an Epic light and a Scarlet. I do think RED have an upward struggle to compete with Sony and Panasonic and the fact that Jim also mentioned a significant price increase to Scarlet, a camera thats not in major production yet and has a fixed 8x lens !

The clear winner of the SDoF large sensor camera during early 2011 is by far the Panasonic AF101, it ticks all the boxes, a mountain of 3rd party adapters and lenses and the price of £4K has set this camera into 2011 with it’s head held high and a fantastic sales curve that can only get bigger.

I hope with such quality now available to the professional FilmLike market we will no longer see DSLRs used because the technology is limited and lets be honest Canon have stood aside for over a year now knowing that moire patterning is a major problem and done nothing to remedy the fault. As professionals we owe it to the future of our industry to embrace the new professional shallow depth of field camcorders from Panasonic and Sony…after all we have shouted for long enough about having a camera fit for purpose and the video manufacturers have delivered…BIG TIME.”

So that was 2010 how are things shaping up today almost 4 months later and NAB 2011 biting at our heals, the DSLR is still a major contender amongst those who embraced the technology but there has been a large uptake of cameramen and women who sat on the DSLR sidelines now coming forward since the introduction of the Panasonic AF101 and the Sony F3.

Mike Tapa from MTF Services has been run off his feet over the last three months trying to keep up with orders for adapters, especially the PL and Nikon to mFT adapters.

The DSLR has made its mark in the last two years with some high profile programmes being made like “The Road to Coronation Street” filmed by DP Tim Palmer who has kitted himself out with a mean looking rig.

Tim “Ian Potts, head of technology at the BBC, has asked me to give a presentation to fellow directors of photography about the use of DSLRs on the BBC4 drama “The Road to Coronation Street”. This will take place at Pinewood on March 17th. It sounds like a fascinating day and there will be other DoPs and technicians discussing alternative camera and capture systems. See below for some framegrabs from the drama which aired in September 2010.”


“The camera was a Canon 5D Mk2 and Nikon prime lenses. The vast majority of the show was shot on two lenses – the 50mm f1.4 and 85mm f1.4. The 35mm f2 and 135mm f2 had the occasional outing. The reason for this spartan choice of lenses is that because the camera is so small, even in tight spaces, one is able to get the camera far enough back to enable the use of slightly longer lenses on wide shots. Whereas under normal circumstances, due to the bulk and length of conventional HD cameras, the use of wider angle lenses becomes more necessary. As a result the pictures benefited from the reduced depth of field characteristics shown by full frame DSLRs.”

I emailed Tim and asked him the following question “Are you still using your 5D or are you considering something like a Sony F3.”

Tims reply “Yes I’m definitely considering the F3 now. The 5D has too many limitations unless it is used either in perfectly controlled conditions, so dolly and track, proper grip gear and camera accessories and a full crew OR completely uncontrolled i.e. shooting with abandon – no accessories just the bare camera in the hand basically being thrown around. Anywhere in between does not work.”

Although I am not a fan of using any DSLR for television work Tim and the team that graded the “Corrie drama” done a fine job and I accidentally happened to catch it and was very pleasantly surprised by the end result.

To bring you up to date on the DSLR, Canon or Nikon have still not fixed the moire or aliasing I assume we are to be treated to a large sensor video camera sometime this year from Canon at least which is why there is no urgency to solve the problem. Canon have given us the D60 which at last has a swivel viewfinder.

My own thoughts are that the DSLR will become less popular during 2011 in favour of the large sensor (LS) camcorders, this is already happening with major DPs now buying F3s and AF101s. Sony has a second LS camcorder due late summer the NEX-FS100 at about 50% less in price than the F3 but with the same Super 35mm sensor.

So what about companies like RED and ARRI who both have a share in the digital film market, all I can say is they both have their followers but there is no doubt about it Sony and Panasonic have given them a fright and I would say the F3 has taken sales from RED but it’s a big marketplace and as long as producers are spending the money DPs will taylor their kit towards their needs.

The DSLR has left it’s mark in history but it comes at a price…apart from the many limitations it was never made to do anything more than website news for photojournalists, the large sensor cameras like the F3, AF101 and the new FS100 are tools that are fit for purpose and come with that coveted shallow depth of field, when used with the right lenses.

The main winners of all these cameras are the lens makers themselves, even today they just can’t keep up with demand.



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.

2 thoughts on “DSLR v Video “Where are we now”

  1. I cannot begin to believe the rigs that are being built around DSLR cameras these days. Looking at the rediculous rig on Tim Palmer’s shoulder, I wonder if he ever touches the camera or the aperture rings. How long does it take for an assistant to put that contraption together? And what if it rains? Wait…I can see a small area where an edit station could be assembled too. Seems to me that if video professionals would get serious, they would opt for the high-quality ENG-style cameras, not a skeleton of tubes and widgets built around a still camera. I would be embarrassed showing up with a rig like that.

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