Camera comparisons and rational thoughts seem never to coincide. I have two cameras that both do video; are they really THAT different?

It's always strikes me as interesting to read the hyperbole that's written when new cameras are launched into the marketplace. If the camera replaces a previous model the makers and reviewers of the new camera try to "place" the performance of the two cameras in a  relative way to each other. If the new camera is less noisy than the one it replaces the writers/reviewers and advertisers stumble all over themselves to try and present the differences between the two as "enormous."

One would think that the difference in overall image quality between an Olympus EM-5 and an EM-1 was so obvious that every man off the street would be able to instantly tell the differences between the two. In fact, I would say that the two cameras are more or less equally matched at most settings and that the only time one would see any difference (and it is small) would be when using both cameras at ISO 3200 and above. But even at the extremes it's not as if one camera is noise free and smoothly sharp while the other one gives you a mess of discordant graffiti. In the real world where we work and play the difference is more like a few more speckles and a bit bigger noise profile. Seen on a typical laptop screen even an expert would be hard pressed to divine the "special magic" of one over the other.

And when we venture into the world of video work that's shot with DSLRs, or mirror-free cameras, the same relationship applies. While reviewers gush over tiny differences the reality is that most people viewing the final images flashing by on their screens won't notice, or even be able to tell, that there is a glistening drop of difference between the two.

I'm as gullible as anyone out there but on the other hand I do like to buy stuff and use it in the real world and actually test it under fire. But lately I've been wondering just how much better the "wonder cameras" are than the "detestable" slouchy cameras. For instance, if you ask a lot of people on the web about shooting 1080p video with non-dedicated video cameras (you know, the ones without balanced mic inputs, zebras, and flat profiles, etc. that were designed only to shoot video...) they'll tell you that only certain cameras have the magic joss to be able to make moving images that won't give people headaches or make them nauseated.

In the plus column are cameras like the Canon 5D mk3, the Panasonic GH4 and the Sony A7s. In the blah/crap/soft column is pretty much everything else. Not only do those first three cameras have the magic but in most cases they have bigger, beefier codecs and they are pushing more megabytes per second into the mix which logically should create images of higher quality.

I own a GH4 and I've used it for a number of video projects and I'll tell you this: It's easy to shoot, easy to set up and the files that come from it are very sharp and detailed. More so at 4K but still very sharp and detailed at 2k resolution as well.  I also recently acquired a Nikon D610 which is generally described (in regards to its video capabilities) as a "hobbled" camera. The general consensus is that the GH 4 is a "much" better video camera. The Nikon D610 is supposed to have softer files. You must exit video mode to change apertures. There is no focus peaking and certainly no zebras. The maximum information density provided by the camera to the SD card is a compressed 24 megabytes per second. Nothing compared to the 100 or even 200 megabytes per second that the GH4 is capable of providing.

So you would have to be a moron in order to prefer the Nikon D610 video over that of the GH4, right? Well, not so fast. If you only read about the cameras you can be comfortable taking the reviewer's word about the performance but if you pay the bills by doing work with your equipment then sooner or later you'll want to fire up all the cameras you have in stock and start doing some comparison tests. The wet and cold weather, and the general post holiday dormancy of clients, during the first week of the year provided the perfect opportunity for me to take a deeper look at the actual level of differences, in video performance, between four different cameras I've had sitting around. And, as in the book, "Lying with Statistics," it seems that many mountains of varying heights can be made from the substance of molehills.

I'll start with the classic comparison. It's between the GH3 and the GH4. The salivation machine that is the world wide web would have you believe (by consensus) that the GH4 is the new prince of the mirror-free camera video performance world and, amongst the Fuji's and the Olympus cameras on the marketing it's a pretty good thesis. The 1080P files from the GH4 can be very, very sharp and detailed. Much more so than the files from Fuji and Olympus. But is the new camera a "slam dunk" improvement in image quality over the previous model? Not really. Oh yes, it's got more features and more intense codecs to play with but for everyday work, shooting at the 100 mbs (all intra) versus the 72 mbs (all intra) of the GH3 there's very little discernible difference on a new 27 inch iMac screen when comparing moving images directly. Yes, you can go up to 200 mbs (all intra) on the GH4 but the chances of seeing much of a difference is minimal given that in both instances the footage is being shoehorned into basically 2000 x 1000 pixels, and all at 8 bits (maximum) of color. If you need the additional "handling" features of the GH4 or the 4K video image size the GH4 is an easy choice but when you base the differences on comparing 1080p apples to 1080p apples you're just as well off with the older model. At least when it comes to on card performance.

But the more interesting argument that is constantly made is just how bad Nikon's camera are for shooting good video. I'll agree whole heartedly about some depressing handling issues. You should be able to change apertures while shooting video. You should also be able to change sound levels during the production of the video. The Nikon D610 is hobbled in those regards. But I'm going to circle back and talk about the simplest thing: Image-to-image comparisons.

Common belief is that good video can only be produced by the Panasonic GH4 and the Canon 5D mk3. No one has really looked at the Sony DSLRs but if my experience with the a99 is representative then the codecs in those Sony consumer cameras give you a very, very soft file right out of the camera and so I have rejected them for video use ( I have not tested an a6000). Which is kinda crazy given Sony's extremely long experience in making first class, professional video gear. But soft is soft. The most recommended "hybrid" video cameras are the 5D3 ands the GH4. The assumption is that all the other players in the market suffer from some insurmountable stumbling blocks. That list of stumbling blocks includes: soft files (meaning: defocused, poorly down sampled  and lacking detail), aliasing, moire, and shadow blocking. The inference is that Pentax, Samsung, the other m4:3 cameras and, of course, Nikons all suffer from some combination of these issues. Whatever the malady in each camera line it is portrayed as being serious enough to prevent the use of these cameras in any truly professional creative video endeavor.

So, of course I dragged out the Nikon D610, the D7100 and the GH family and started rolling video. And that's when the theology of the crossover camera universe started to crumble just a bit for me.

I set the Nikon cameras at their highest quality settings: 25 mbs, 1080p @30 fps. I set the Panasonic cameras at 50 mbs (which I tend to use for most video production aimed for the web or for the desktop) 1080p @30 fps and I started playing around. Here's what I saw. At the defaults the Nikon footage looked very smooth and noise free (all cameras set to ISO 200). At the defaults the GH cameras were both too sharp and too gritty. No real issues here. I can change the presets to make the Nikon's a bit coarser and sharper and I can change the default presets on the GH cameras to be a little softer, a bit more like real life.

But when I put the work up from all the cameras on a screen after ingesting the files into ProRes 4.2.2 files in Final Cut Pro X I found one area of the Panasonic v. Nikon performance in which Nikon (either camera) was the clear winner: Noise handling. Specifically shadow noise. With the GH4, on my middle green sweatshirt, especially in the shadow areas, there was continuous noise that was clearly visible. It won't bother some people who (like me) see the noise as film grain (no big color sparkles) but there are a couple of video pros I know who cringe when they see the footage. You can kill the noise somewhat by "crushing the blacks" but the overall look of the footage changes and it may not be what you had in mind for your production. The Nikons, on the other hand, were nearly noise free, and it was a very, very obvious difference.

While my tests didn't go on for hours and hours I was quickly convinced that the Nikon footage from these two recent models didn't have any of the foibles that the common knowledge community believes are inherent parts of their designs. The Panasonics were sharper (almost too sharp) but the Nikon files were not unsharp or even on the border line. In fact, there was ample detail in the files. Much more than I ever found in footage from the Canon 5D2 I owned and filmed with for a year and a half. In fact, if I had to choose from all of these cameras, in order to do interviews of people where the skin tones were important, I would easily choose the Nikons over the other cameras.

But it appears that we video newbies have been relying on the output directly from our camera's SD and CF slots too slavishly. If you really want to see how close the camera performances actually are (and how much better most consumer video footage can look) you need to start by spending around $400 for an Atomos Ninja Star and a C-Fast memory card. This will allow you to bypass all the compression your in-camera codec is applying to your video files. And most cameras are crunching data down into small, digestible packages that don't show off their real capabilities of their modern sensors very well.

Plug any recent Nikon or Panasonic GH series camera into the Atomos and you can get clean, uncompressed, 10 bit 4.2.2 video recorded directly into a professional editing codec like ProRes HQ. At that point you'll have files that can be banged around, edited, sharpened, saturated and twisted by colorists to make really great looking final footage. And that's because there's no compression and reams and reams of data to play with and change.

I've seen the files Panasonic files from the Atomos Ninja Star right in front of my face on my own monitor and they are packed with information and color that doesn't look like it will fall apart in post processing. The noise though is even stronger than what I was seeing in the compressed footage directly from the camera ( a result of the camera taking a "hands off" approach to the uncompressed files). I have not seen the D7100 or D610 footage from my own camera but I've looked all over the web for uncompressed Nikon footage and have seen some breathtaking stuff.

But getting all the way back to my original premise. If camera "A" is operating at 96.5 percent and camera "B" is operating at 96.8 percent what is the real difference between the two? Yes, it might be a measurable difference but is it a perceptual difference? And more importantly, is it an important difference?

If the efficacy in heart attack prevention with baby aspirin is +2% and the efficacy of another drug is +3% then the difference between the two drugs could be stated as being 33% difference in efficacy. But what of the other side effects?

If the Panasonic is sharper but noisier is that better than a file with less noise but not the same level of bite? If they can both be run through a digital video recorder and both can be profiled to imitate the other what will be the compelling reason to buy or not buy between the two models? What new differentiators will come to the fore?

At a certain point the choices start to narrow down to fixed parameters that can't be changed or modified. Do you need more depth of field in order to keep more of the image in focus at the same angle of view?  Then the Panasonics with their smaller sensor geometry and very, very good lenses will be a smarter choice compared with a D610. Conversely, if you need to drop some annoying stuff out of a background and still need your frame just a bit wide you might have more luck with the Nikon.

There are other parameters that seem to be hardwired into the cameras by dint of their sensor designs. The Panasonic is more prone to shadow noise while the bigger Nikon chip (which is a hair away from the absolute state of the art for 35mm sized sensors) is almost noise proof at normal settings (up to 3200, at least).  But that doesn't make the choice any bit of a slam-dunk. The handling characteristics of the GH4 are much better for video....and the overall look and color of a file is still subjective.

But how does a cheap camera like the D7100 compare? You can pick up a new one for about $1,000 and what you get is a different array of compromises. A bit more depth of field than the D610 but a bit more noise as well. Clumsier video handling than a GH4 or a GH3 and a fixed screen on the back to boot. But if you look at it in a vacuum you'd be hard pressed to find anything that's an ultimate production killer, beyond the inability to change audio levels and apertures during recording.

Again, put the clean D7100  HDMI signal into an outboard digital audio recorder and you're at par with a Canon 5D mk3, and with a nicer dynamic range into the bargain. And that seems to be the baseline everywhere. Most current DSLR and mirror-free cameras that do video these days seem to have their differences somewhat erased or leveled out when you remove the effects of the in-body compression and the tie to a particular codec. I'm presuming that the Olympus EM-1 can be configured (or will be updated to supply) uncompressed video via its HDMI port as well and we may find that the sensor is perfectly capable of matching the GH4 and coming close to the noise performance of the Nikon D7100 as well.

In fact, just about every camera capable of outputting clean, uncompressed video via an HDMI might all be closer to each other in terms of performance at 1080p video than most would admit. And that would certainly be an eye-opener and a game changer for people who presumed that what they were getting on their in-camera cards represented the best performance capabilities of their cameras.

All of this conjecture brings me right back to my seminal point: That the differences between the cameras is much smaller, generation by generation, than we are led to believe or than we are leading ourselves to believe. When we are in the heat of work we tend to put our heads down and just get our jobs done. Sometimes it is only later when we realize what great tools we had in those past moments. For example (and to answer the question of a VSL reader) let me talk for just a minute about the differences between the full frame D610 and the D7100 APS-C camera.

I am no different from everyone else and I read too much on the web. While I was vaguely happy and somewhat satisfied with the performance of the D7100 for two different jobs I used it for exclusively, I felt compelled, because of the desire construct created by advertising and the echo chamber effect of the web, to grab a full frame, Nikon D610 when the price dropped before Christmas. I was certain that clients would see the difference in quality between the two cameras and that I would certainly see the difference. But the reality is much different. For my commercial work it is very unusual to shoot anything so wide open that DOF is measured in single digit inches. We need some "focus safety" just in case people move around after I've focused on them. That quickly ameliorates one of the key differences.

I shot with both cameras but when I reviewed jobs from the quarter before I got the D610 (reviewed at my leisure during the holidays) I found the images from the 7100 to be exquisite. Some that I shot for a local school may be the best hand held work I have ever done. And that job was done mostly with two inexpensive lenses, the 18-140mm zoom and the 85mm f1.8 (not the more expensive 85mm f1.4!). The skin tones were perfect, the sharpness high and the colors perfect. Would the images have been better from the D610? No. They would have been different-- but not better. The trade off, used the way I would have used both cameras, would have been small, incremental changes in depth of field and nothing else. And there was no fixed metric of better or worse for what is almost entirely an aesthetic choice.

That led me to compare still images I'd done with the D7100 to another job I impulsively did entirely with two D7000 cameras. (This is the model that came out before the D7100, back in 2010. It has a three year older sensor and fewer pixels). In this comparison there was no real, discernible difference in image quality at any size in which I would use the the photographs. None. But on paper the D7100 should be a highly superior camera, technically. But if every job requires a "goodness threshold" of 85% and all your cameras are operating and creating images at over 90% you would logically never see a difference in the final use of the images. If you have a bucket that only holds a gallon does it really matter if you have million gallon tank from which to fill it?

Given how close these three cameras are to each other in making photographs that will be used at 13x19 inches and smaller I am now interested in hooking up the D7000 to an external video recorder and seeing how that sensor would do when freed from the constraints of the slower processing chips of the time and the need, back then, to write data out to slower cards on a slower bus. Of course they needed a higher level of compression then but how would the direct, uncompressed output of the same sensor look today? It would be interesting to find out but I'm not sure if the camera can output clean, uncompressed video via HDMI because that modality really wasn't on people's radar at the time the camera was launched.

That line of thought brings me around to something I've discussed here before and that is the role of raw software and its evolution. Many times I've taken a raw file from an older, six megapixel Kodak DCS 760 camera and reprocessed it in newer and newer raw converters and in every instance the file was improved. Sometimes a lot and sometimes a tiny bit, but in every test there was an improvement. Early on digital camera engineers were battling the speed of the pipeline. There was a need to get the files off the sensor and onto memory in something approaching a short amount of time. One of the things that made the Kodak DCS 760 notable in its time was the ability to shoot 20 or more raw images at a frame rate of 2 fps, continuously. Until then cameras had single digit raw buffers. Files were left uncompressed because compression would have added to the processing time which was more valuable and vulnerable than writing to the memory card. Since we have these totally uncompressed raw files at hand today we're able to see that progress of physical sensors was not nearly as rapid as the development of firmware, and related software functions for image processing, in cameras.

At the end of the test the real parameters that determine whether we pass or fail have to do with how well the video camera or still camera fills the required bucket. All the extras are window dressing without a results advantage. My belief is that all sensors in top flight cameras today can do wonderful things with still photography if the engineers leave the files in as uncompressed a form as possible. Especially important since the uncompressed files give us valuable content that can be reconstructed in better, future software with hardware the performance of which would seem miraculous to current or past camera makers. With the ability to address every pixel in the future raw converters, and associated predictive algorithms of the software, should be able to pull amazing things from our old work.

In the same logic the ability to give us uncompressed video files will give us the same ability to, in the future, bring these legacy files into ever more advanced software and will allow us to create motion pictures of increasingly amazing technical capability. But even more importantly the ability to capture uncompressed files give us a way to level the playing field between a large number of cameras with a wide range of prices and performance characteristics. That allows us to pick the right camera for the art not just the right camera for the best compromise of the day.

Finally, what if it's a given that a $1500 Nikon D610 sensor is able to record files that, when taken uncompressed, are delivering at a level of 95% of the quality of today's best video cameras in the world? And what if the king of the hill, the Arriflex Alexa, is operating at 99.9% of what is technically possible today. For the majority of projects done by the majority of people interested and engaged in video, is that difference of 4.9% worth an extra $50,000??? Will we see the difference when we watch the final product on our phones? On our laptops? On our desktops?  Or, in the end will both cameras be equally good enough to fill the bucket?

And when we understand that point, as the best film makers do, we'll be able to move past the silly arguments about how much better one camera is over another and get on with the much harder work of using our imaginations to tell stories we don't know the endings to yet, and in ways that are created by the same imaginations to do things differently than ever before.

Someone will always make a better steak knife. But the steak knife is never as important as the steak.

Dammit. I forgot the advertising again. Oh well.


Tarjei T. Jensen said...

My life is simpler. If I'm going to do video on a DSLR the testing consists of reading a review to find out if it does good AF when recording.

So that means either a 7D mark 2 or a 70D. The image quality will surpass my abilities by a wide margin.

I know my limitations and I'm happy.

Anonymous said...

I'm no videographer, but it seems that the same point keeps recurring when practical users of cameras compare the tools on the market - ease of handling and user experience.

Almost everything now can produce good results, so we now pay for the controls and the user experience we like best. With that in mind, I'm not sure the brand wars will ever recede. We tend to be evangelical about what works for us.

That said... I do hanker after a digital back for my Bronica (if someone wants to make one....).


Anonymous said...

Exquisite honesty here.

The "internet echo chamber" is aimed at selling new product. The regular cast of photo gear online "reviewers" are basically putting out infomercials basically urging readers to buy new cameras.

Not all, but most. Not a lot of attention to taking better photos, since that is basically a waste of copy when the goal is to provide click-through bait.

There is effectively no end product image difference anyone can see between the EM5 and EM1 and EM10. This is fine, but we on the interweb are made to believe that each new product offering features major improvements that make it a must-have. The reality is that more and more follow-on releases are rocking minor feature enhancements, which reviewers use to distract us from the fact that no one can discern any real difference in output from real-world shooting scenarios.

This is just a great emperor/new clothes piece; someday it should be referenced in a b-school paper discussing the real use and value of the internet in product marketing.

Given that, if I were a consumer product company selling cameras to hobbyists, I would be stupid not to hire a dozen students to haunt web sites and act as shills for my product, spreading information and disinformation. I got to think this is being done today.

Frank Langford said...

Thank you Kirk some common sense at last !! I am in the UK and have been a Photographer / Technician for a long time. Retired at 75 now. Still taking pictures. I use a Panasonic GX7, nice and light and compact. Still have my D2Xs though.You are saying what I have been trying to put over to people for years.Have a good new year.

Frank Grygier said...

Filmakers are compelled to tell stories. I believe they will do it with any tool available to them. When the DV revolution began the little camcorders of the day that shot HD were heralded as the tool that would free everyone to make films. Now any digital still camera that shoots video will far surpass what we statred with. Storytellers will find a way around the weaknesses in the tool they can afford.If you recall a GH2 won a shootout against the so called giants of the day. Technique,lighting and more importantly an good script are what should be measured.

JMSankey said...

Thanks for this post, and also your earlier response to my (and I'm sure other's) question about D7100 vs D610. Very interesting article, even though video is not on my radar.

Kirk Tuck said...

Sorry it took me a while to moderate the comments this morning. It was a cold and sleet-y workout. The clouds of steam rising off the swimming pool were beguiling and wild. We swam hard and froze our butts off trying to make it back to the locker room so it took extra coffee to get going today.

Anonymous said...

I'm constantly amazed that you don't try harder to monetize this site. Then I realize that you are actually doing the opposite and educating people about what really is a value and what is not. Thank you for not being just another equipment shill.

David Corney said...

And for all the reasons you gave I paid $1,800 for a lightly used Nikon D800, compared to $3,000 (plus Texas sales tax) for a new D810. No doubt the D810 is technically superior, but will I, or anyone else notice it in the pictures I take? I doubt it.

Dave said...

I've been putting my toe in the video waters off and on for a while. GH1, GH2 and shooting at times with my EP2 and the D90. As a last ditch effort, and after seeing what Bob Krist has been doing with one, I picked up an RX10.

To be honest I'm now wondering if I even need APSC let alone full frame. The video capabilities and flexibility have proven to be just what I needed to focus on learning. But I've also discovered that its no slouch for stills work either. Granted its not a D600, D800 or even D7000. But for casual and even limited production stills I think it would work. It raises the question of spending $2k on a body and double or triple that in the lenses that Internet conventional wisdom will sell you.

Right now my D7000, the 80-200mm howitzer lens are lined up for sale. No doubt they could do some cross over work, but I've lost patience with hauling the big gear around in pursuit of that last few percentage points of performance. From here in its the RX10 and a used A6000 (both bought used).

jlemile salvignol said...

Kirk, you can't know how this type of post is valuable for us. Bravo for your pragmatism, your liberty vis-à-vis brands, your daily experience on the field, and your amazing tonicity as well.

Your advice and comments don't necessarily make us better photographers or videographers, but they encourage us to modesty and restraint. We should pay you - each year - a percentage on all ,the foolish spending that we avoid thanks to you!

Cpt Kent said...

Common sense, nicely put.
My E-15/E-M1 combo does quite nicely for me, and though I see benefits in other systems in not likely to move for a while - the differences arnt great enough.
What I do find makes a significant difference is in the final viewing. Most of my audience (family, friends) will only view my output through social media sites on small appliances, compressed. Not as I do on a 27" iMac, uncompressed. If I put video on YouTube/Facebook, or photos on Facebook, the quality loss is so significant, I'm finding it not worth doing. It wouldn't matter if I used small sensor or some sort of medium format, the data that gets lost down the pipe screws everything up. Yes, there are ways around this, but none that the audience will use.
Still, I'm getting some enjoyment at my end...

James Pilcher said...

What is happening to still imaging?

Your posts, Kirk, and those of other bloggers continue to become ever more tilted toward the video side of imaging. For you, understandably, it's all about continuing to have viable skills that will make you a comfortable living. For me, I see a similarity to the 2002-2004 time frame. Digital was catching on big time. I saw the writing on the wall that discussion and products surrounding film were declining rapidly. I switched to digital still photography in 2004. Now, in 2015, video seems to be the “everything.” Discussion is video. Everyone with a phone is shooting video clips. Video, video, video. Before too long, still frames extracted from video will serve for many pro applications. Maybe we are already there.

In my view, still imaging is retreating. The only important imaging features of new cameras seem to be high ISO and what video capabilities have been included. I have no interest in that discipline. I believe that my preference for still photography is increasingly irrelevant as each year passes. Increasingly, I must wade through forums and blog posts in order to filter out video discussions while seeking information on still imaging.

Who would have guessed that Louis Daguerre’s work in 1839 was merely a stepping stone to ubiquitous moving images? Are we moving into Harry Potter’s world of all images are moving, even those on printed media?

What would Henry White say?

Anonymous said...

"the writers/reviewers and advertisers stumble all over themselves to try and present the differences between the two as "enormous."

Well, all reviews are subjective, even those whose writers make a point of being totally objective. More often than not they're wearing a sanctimonious sash of objectivity. They're all opinions, just like your blog posts. It's the readers' job to filter out the 'enormous' bits and pick only the useful bits.

"Common belief is that good video can only be produced by the Panasonic GH4 and the Canon 5D mk3."

Common belief? Says who? The nerds in EOSHD, DPReview and other such gearhead forums? Ho hum. Some parts of the internet are best enjoyed with proper filters, aren't they. The world is black and white only if we render it so.

"Plug any recent Nikon or Panasonic GH series camera into the Atomos and you can get clean, uncompressed, 10 bit 4.2.2 video recorded directly into a professional editing codec like ProRes HQ."

Umm... not quite.
You won't get 10 bit 422 into the Atomos unless your camera actually pumps out 10 bit 422 via its HDMI port. Your Nikons don't. In fact only a handful of mainstream cameras do.
The Blackmagic cameras do, and so does the GH4 externally, and some much pricier pro cameras do as well. The majority of mainstream dSLR and mirrorless cameras only pump out 8 bit 4.2.0 and sometimes 4.2.2 (1080p) signal. The Atomos Ninja and Star recorders do record it into a 10 bit 422 ProRes container, but the footage itself is still 8 bit, if that's what the camera pumps out.

But that, when recorded at 200mb/s ProRes into the Atomos, is of course still clearly better than the highly compressed codec recorded into the SD card. Even though it's only 8 bit, there'll still be more latitude for later processing. A real 10 bit 422 obviously has even more, and won't be as prone to banding and other such woes.

What can you make of a 8 bit 4K footage when you convert it into 1080p HD footage, well, I haven't delved into 4k that deeply yet, and perhaps that's a topic for another blog post and comment.

Kirk Tuck said...

Hi James. I like still photography as much as the next guy. :-)

I think this entire article is more about what is good enough to get jobs done and not strictly about photography.

There are a core of photographers who are resolute in their appreciation but it's obvious that the onset of digital imaging (and the novelty of it) swelled the ranks of total photographers by hundreds of percent. It was "the" hobby of the last decade.

I think what we are seeing right now is a decline back to stasis. A decline of newcomers that didn't "stick." We'll get back to healthy level soon. But...in my business, which is what I write about from time to time here, the reality is that video is becoming part of the set of services that photographers will offer going forward.

Looking back over the last ten or twenty posts I count very few instances of video-mania and lots of posts about photography.

What made me sad was the fact that I posted two of my favorite images from my favorite job of all last year (certainly something that people who profess to love the art of photography could discuss without diving into gear of any kind) and it was the one post with the fewest page views and the fewest comments or feedback. Could it be that I still care but nobody else does?

Dave Vargo said...

The Pentax K-01 and the Nikon D7000 both have those wonderfully forgiving sensors that are particularly gracious when dealing with severe underexposure. It's great to have that type of exposure latitude, but Lightroom sliders can't really be used as a substitute for proper lighting.

Assuming similarly compelling subject matter, a well lit image taken with an advanced compact will probably be a better photo than a poorly lit image taken with a 25K setup.

Anonymous said...

"I think what we are seeing right now is a decline back to stasis. A decline of newcomers that didn't "stick." We'll get back to healthy level soon."

Exactly. that's what it appears to be. Photography and camera sales have been unusually inflated during the past decade or so, especially the sales of enthusiast level cameras. The recent decline is just an inevitable move back to a more realistic level. A swing back to normal, so to speak. Nothing to worry about.

@James Pilcher, I'd say don't worry. High quality photography is not going away any time soon. Even the latest fashion of extracting stills from 4K video won't replace the art and craft of making good photographs.
Keep in mind the notion of the internet being a big 'echo chamber' as Kirk put it, or a big social amplifier, as some other writer put it. Or maybe we could call it the global reality distortion field.

Although I for one haven't had much difficulties in finding online discussions and blog posts about pure photography, without even a sentence about video. Suppose it depends on where you're looking at.

Nevertheless, some of us have always been fascinated by motion pictures and therefore we embrace affordable video tools with open arms. Many of us still love good old photos, too, though. But video is an irresistibly sexy new mistress, even without the hype.

To some of us it doesn't really matter whether video is a new hip trend or not. Apart from the possible new earning opportunities the hype brings, for a while.

"Who would have guessed that Louis Daguerre’s work in 1839 was merely a stepping stone to ubiquitous moving images?

Well, until the mid-1890's, perhaps the Lumière brothers and a few other enthusiasts only. But they certainly did have dreams about moving images early on, and not only that, but images in full colour, too. The world has loved both ever since.

"Are we moving into Harry Potter’s world of all images are moving, even those on printed media?"

Nah. Selfies, belfies and even cinegraphs are trends that come and go, but good photos will have value beyond our lifetime. If only anything of our current digital files will even last for more than a few decades. Perhaps the few printed photos will.

I'd say if you're a keen photographer, amateur or pro, invest in a good printer, ink and paper, and carry on doing your thing.

Peter Wright said...

"What made me sad was the fact that I posted two of my favorite images from my favorite job of all last year (certainly something that people who profess to love the art of photography could discuss without diving into gear of any kind) and it was the one post with the fewest page views and the fewest comments or feedback. Could it be that I still care but nobody else does?"

Of course we care! Those were such good pictures that I even went to the School web site to see more. Let's have more posts like that one please. And the fact that you seem to use one of everything in the course of a year and your work remains oft the same (high) quality makes the point you are taking about here quite clearly.

Anonymous said...

point taken kirk, I've gone back and commented on that post you mention (but forgot to sign it, sorry)

Howard said...

Kirk, I'll guess your disappointment in comments pertains to the St. Gabriel school assignment. I viewed those photos at the time and thought they were well done as per usual, but were perceived as a commercial project without the usual one on one formal portrait. Perhaps there were other factors, ambience, personal interaction with the students, etc. that made the subject a more personal experience vs a detached web site viewing. I do find your portraiture work to be be your strong point and are what is enjoyed most. As with any form of art, subject matter is...well...subjective. This point of view offered by well aged viewer.)

Anonymous said...

Actually, that idea to link to your client's site, mentioned above o's a good one. I've often wondered how some of the projects you've described turn out

Paul said...

I think it is too easy to loose sight of what we're doing. Everyone wants to talk about camera specs as they are easily compared, but really content is king. A good story well told is much better than a load of stats from a review site. I learnt this first hand when I got short listed for a film festival with a clip that was shot entirely on an Olympus EP-2 using the 12-50, 17mm f2.8, 40-150 and 60mm lenses and the SEMA-1 mic.

I would suggest you look at the work of Kendy Ty. Shot just using a Canon EOS550d. Beautiful work.


The keyboard warriors on the forums aren't about the art of photography or video.

James Bullock said...

while your conclusions with respect to quality of output from the different cameras mentioned are probably correct, it should be noted that the GH cameras are still a better choice for longform videos without the additional cost of adding an external recorder.