I need a good camera.
September 12, 2008 7:12 PM   Subscribe

I want a camera. I'm not quite satisfied with just an SLR or just a video camera, but one that can do both.

If I had the money I'd buy one of each, but it's more economical and practical to just get one. I'd like to get a Nikon digital SLR, if for no other reason than the ability to change lenses. For video, I'd like a 3CCD video camera, but this doesn't seem to be part of any digital SLR that I can find (is the hardware for 3CCD too bulky?).

Which brings me to a corollary video question: is there a big difference between "HD" video cameras and 3CCD video cameras?

In short, can anyone suggest an SLR that has good-to-outstanding video quality? I seem to remember reading on a tech blog very recently that Nikon or Olympus is releasing a video SLR but I can't find anything. One that is under US$1000 would be ideal.
posted by zardoz to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Nikon's brand new D90 has the ability to record (720p, jpeg) HD video. $995.
posted by shothotbot at 7:22 PM on September 12, 2008

shothotbot beat me to it, Nikon's new D90 DSLR produces very nice video from the samples I've seen.
posted by jjb at 7:33 PM on September 12, 2008

(Potentially) significant drawback: dpreview.com's preview suggests that it has mono sound.
posted by ZakDaddy at 7:37 PM on September 12, 2008

Max video is 5 minutes at a time, then let the ccd cool down. Might work for a few very clever Indie film projects but not at all practical for general video. It will be a long time before a single camera is as good as two that are highly optimized for different purposes. Get a good still camera and an older Canon with a decent lens.
posted by sammyo at 7:48 PM on September 12, 2008

Best answer: "HD" and 3CCD are orthogonal. You can have a 3CCD HD camera. HD is resolution, 3CCD is the number of independent image sensors. The point of 3CCD is that it samples red, green, and blue at every pixel position. In a single-chip camera, fully two thirds of the information is interpolated (a fancy word for "made up").

However, 3CCD is really only necessary when your sensors are exactly the resolution you need for your video. The Nikon D90's sensor, for instance, has far more resolution than is needed for 720p, so when the camera downsamples to 720p you get essentially the same result: real sampled color information for every pixel.

A more serious drawback on the D90 than mono sound is the lack of autofocus while shooting. For pro videographers shooting e.g. dramas, this is not an issue, you prefocus to where your talent will be, then rely on them to hit their mark, but for more casual or candid shooting, e.g. weddings, it would be a pain. Also, a DSLR is not exactly a convenient form factor for shooting video handheld.

What you really want is RED's DSMC, but that's more than a year out, and will probably be far more expensive than the D90, and who knows if it'll deliver what's promised.
posted by kindall at 7:53 PM on September 12, 2008

Um, buyer beware, I've heard you're limited to SIX MINUTES of video recording time on said new Nikon. So, yeah.
posted by disillusioned at 10:05 PM on September 12, 2008

This article predates the D90 but is good for background.
posted by caek at 2:43 AM on September 13, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the info, all. Six minutes of video isn't great...but it's not horrible, either. I can't imagine needing any long ten-minute takes of anything. Still, it's pretty pricey, and mono sound is kind of a dealbreaker. It seems the technology of what I have in mind just doesn't exist. Today. I'll check back in a couple of years.
posted by zardoz at 4:14 AM on September 13, 2008

A new SLR you might want to keep your eyes on is the Lumix DMC-G1, movie mode isn't even mentioned in the link, but since it's an SLR type that's aimed more at consumers than prosumers you might just get lucky.

Another camera you might look at (or line to watch) is the Canon S series. The Canon PowerShot S5 IS (dcresource review) is an Ultra-zoom camera (not an SLR) that has all the manual features and a very excellent movie mode. You're allowed to use the 12x zoom during filming - a somewhat unusual feature, and it records in full stereo sound.
posted by Craig at 8:07 AM on September 13, 2008

I think you can get both an HD digital video camera and a low-end DSLR (Nikon D40) for around $1200. If you are ok with an SD DV camera, you can probably do it for around $1000.
posted by kenliu at 10:16 PM on September 15, 2008

Canon SX1 IS
posted by Craig at 3:42 PM on September 17, 2008

Canon's just-announced 5d Mark II will do HD video at 1080p. It is also a 21-megapixel still camera with sensitivity up to ISO 25600. Of course, it's like three grand.
posted by kindall at 1:58 PM on September 18, 2008

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