Thinking a lot about photography and video lately

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 19, 2005, 11:35 AM | comments: 0

I'm a photo and video geek. I have been since high school. I've been thinking about it a lot lately. I always loved the act of creating an image and the gadgets used to capture them.

In the photography realm, I've wanted a good zoom lens for years. The one I particularly want is Canon's 70-200mm f/2.8L, which is crazy sharp and works great in dark high school gyms where there isn't a lot of light. It costs about $1,100. I thought a lot about the image stabilization version, which costs about $500 more, but I can't see needing that extra feature.

The other thing that caught my eye recently is the forthcoming Canon 5D, which is a significant upgrade from my 10D. Aside from the fact that it's a 12.8 megapixel sensor, the big selling point on this one is that it's a full 35mm frame that captures the image. The 10D (and 20D) have a "field of view crop," which is common in digital SLR's. Basically it means that only a portion of the image that the lens sees is actually captured because the sensor is smaller than the 35mm surface normally projected on film. The 10D has a x1.6 FOV crop, which means it's like taking your 200mm zoom and making it 320mm. In reality, it's just eliminating a portion of the image. This isn't so bad when you're zoomed in, but it sucks for wide angles, where 28mm essentially becomes 45mm. So with nice lenses, you're kind of wasting what they see. The downside of the 5D is its cost though... the body is going to sell for around $3,200.

On the video side of things, it's an exciting time. HD is getting closer and closer to being the real thing in the hands of consumers. The trick is the acquisition format, which right now for the pro-sumer market is HDV. It captures certain HD formats on standard DV tape. The bad part about that is that it's compressed like crazy. Editing it doesn't yield terrible results (at least not on Final Cut, but we're still waiting for the HDV codec from Avid), but it does concern me. There are also attainable cameras, but none of them do the holy grail of HD... progressive scan 1080. That's what I'm holding out for.

Panasonic has a camera called the HVX200, due out by the end of the year. This little guy does variable framerate and 1080p, more or less capturing the kind of video used in HD movies like Star Wars using $100k cameras. That's amazing. The trick is that this camera uses P2 cards for acquisition. You can literally pop them out of the camera and slide them into your laptop and start editing. Or you can connect to a laptop and record there. This camera is going to cost probably around $5,500, not counting the P2 cards. That's insane, yes, but if you know what you're doing, you can record a video of quality very near to that of a feature film. That's awesome.

Of course, my hobbies require me to be rich, and I'm not, so unfortunately I don't think I'll be getting any of this gear anytime soon. Maybe the camera lens. Maybe not.


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