Well, I did it. I made the jump to DSLR's. It's about time. The first I even heard of DSLR's was probably just six months ago, which is way too late considering my good friend Sebastian Burke and I consider ourselves pretty up to date with current camera technology. Somehow we overlooked the whole DSLR wave; and boy were we missing out.
For those who read my blog and aren't involved in the filmmaking industry... A DSLR is essentially a camera. However, recently Canon, Nikon and Panasonic have added into some of their cameras the ability to shoot HD video through their still cameras. Now, the still images the camera produces are still vastly superior to a still from the HD video; but, with a DSLR I can now use beautiful 35mm film lenses. There were adapters for video cameras that existed before these particular DSLR's but they were expensive and when combined with lenses and a video camera, quite cumbersome.
I've been using video cameras/camcorders to shoot every moving image I have ever shot. I'm used to having motorized zoom, real time auto-focusing, and decent quality built in sound. Needless to say this is quite a switch. Here is the first test video I have shot with the 7d. My kit list is at the bottom.
Here are my first impressions.
35mm Lenses - I can now use lenses that give me beautiful bokeh without having to back up 10 miles away from my subject and zoom in. Plus, with the added bonus of my Macro lens, I am able to achieve close ups of incredible detail.
Low Light Shooting - By adding ISO to the function of my camera, I have one more variable that changes how my camera takes in light. ISO in reference to film is how sensitive the film stock is to light. A higher ISO means it's more sensitive to light. As far as how good the 7D is in low light, consider this. I would normally shoot an outdoor daylight scene at around 200 ISO. With the 7D I can go all the way up to 6400 ISO. Now this isn't night vision of course and there is plenty of film grain when dealing with 2000+ ISO. However, being able to shoot with very little light on my subject is going to be a major plus.
Weight - Being a DSLR, it is incredibly light, even with my heaviest lens mounted.
Image Stabilization - coming from years and years of experience with built in optical stabilization, making this switch is hard. I only have one lens with stabilization and a problem with it is that I can hear the motor running in the lens. Not only that, the stabilizing isn't up to par with what I have seen on the Sony Z7U or HVX200. For the most part, hand held without any kind of support system is almost not usable. I will be looking into a Zacuto gunstock and a very good monopod when I can free up the funds.
Focus - Not having a follow focus is a problem. That is also on my list of upcoming investments. I was having trouble because I'm not usually an auto focus guy, especially with these DSLRs. But when I switch into manual, I had problems judging where the focus ring was on my lenses. Of course, with time this problem will go away as I will become more familiar with my equipment. The Zacuto Z-Finder that is on it's way should also help with my snap focusing because I will be able to tell what I have in focus and what isn't with a little more ease.
I love it. I am so excited. I've recommended to both my friend Sebastian Burke and Ben Tuller to sell their HVX/HPX kits and invest in a DSLR. On the other hand, I think that the HVX teamed with a 7D or 5DmkII would be a great team. Feeding audio into the HVX using the XLR inputs while shooting a wide shot teamed with a 7d CU or medium really could be perfect.
My upcoming investments to my kit are going to be an intervalometer for the 7d, a monopod, a Glidecam 4000HD, and a 77mm polarizing filter. After that I'll be adding to my glass kit.
Here is what my new camera kit consists of:
Camera: Canon 7d
Lenses: Canon 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
Sigma 105mm f/ Macro
Canon 52mm f/1.8
Support: Bogen Tripod, 501 Fluid Head
1 meter Glidetrack SD (to be reviewed)
Misc: Zacuto Z-Finder (to be reviewed)
I also added in a few 32gb Compact Flash cards, extra batteries, and the AC adaptor (over priced).