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Where are we going from here? Musing about the future of VDSLR hardware

February 26, 2010 by Gear, Opinion

I was talking to Michael Britt on the phone last night and he encouraged me to share my delusional prognostications with you. The whole conversation got started with him suggesting that Canon is going to introduce the 1DS Mk IV with RAW video capabilities and I got off on a rant…

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I’m not saying that Canon isn’t going to release a RAW 1DS – they might – but I did say that I didn’t think that was going to be the future of hardware. After all, the VDSLR was largely a lucky accident when Canon released the HD-5D. They were completely surprised to see it turned into a tool for shooting theatrical release movies. Nobody was even trying to satisfy the needs of that market until after the camera was released into the wild. Let’s face it, the physical body of a DSLR was specifically optimized for still photography. It just isn’t the ideal form factor for shooting movies and, here’s the important information, cinematographers are not using these cameras because they can also shoot stills!

Let’s face it, there is only 1 reason that the DSLR camera shoot video that looks like film – sensor size. OK, there might be two reasons – there is also the issue of some good glass which exists that is either designed for the mounts and sensor size of the DSLR format or can be made to fit (see Shane Hurlbut’s comments about using Primo Primes with a 7D as superior to shooting with a 5D despite its smaller sensor).

If I was Canon (Panasonic, Sony, etc.) and I wanted to make a splash in the cinema world and I wanted to make a lot of money I would throw out the form factor of the still camera and just use the sensor, software, etc. to make a RED-killer. I could solve the heat issues, get rid of the need for non-standard rail systems, allow access to already existing accessories, etc. etc. etc. Adding a RAW workflow would not be that difficult (comparatively speaking) if you throw out the need to shoot stills. You could also get rid of the (let’s face it – outdated) compact flash card and go with something like a 48 GB SSD ExpressCard drive? Faster than a hard drive and just as standard (in terms of interface and specification) as a CF card. (Heck, if you ask me, they’re small enough to fit in a still camera with little extra added bulk).

So, here’s my prediction

Still cameras with motion capability will become the domain of still photographers who need to shoot both stills and motion while cinematographers are going to get served a delicious helping of the “guts” of these cameras in a form factor that is more familiar to them and optimized for their workflow. RAW shooting may never make it to the hybrids, but then again it might.

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