MAY 2009 IN

Blurring the Line Between Still and Video Cameras

The distinction between still cameras and video cameras is slowly disappearing.

My last YouTube video, for example, was recorded on a still camera. And although I used the sound from a separate microphone, the sound recorded by the camera would have been good enough to use.

Among digital cameras, all movie cameras allow you to create at least web-quality still images, and most still cameras allow you to take short movies of at least 30 seconds. To serve better as movie cameras, still cameras could use better sound quality and better response to low-light situations. They could also use more storage capacity and battery life to make longer scenes possible. Video cameras need better resolution before they can replace still cameras for anything more demanding than a web page. And engineers are starting to chip away at these distinctions.

The latest still/video camera people are talking about is the Canon EOS 5G Mark II digital SLR camera. It’s meant as a still camera, but takes video of such quality it has reportedly been banned from the news camera stations at NFL games. And television producers who are seeing their production budgets get squeezed are starting to use cameras like these for small pieces of television programs. The still cameras have less light sensitivity and don’t always handle shadows quite right, but that can often be fixed in post production, that is, on the computer.

Still cameras are much lighter than traditional high-definition video cameras, and the lighter weight could allow production crews to get through small scenes faster.

Meanwhile, in my own photographic specialty of sports photography, the ability to gather short video sequences sometimes takes away the pressure to catch just the right moment. When you’re taking 30 frames per second, there is a good chance that one of them will be close enough.

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