This is part two of the prosumer video DSLR roundup. In part one, I described the background and reasoning behind why these features were the things that most interested me.
This table is best viewed with at least 1450px width resolution. If you have problems viewing it, you can download the OpenDocument format spreadsheet.
|Sony NEX 7||Sony a55||Panasonic GH1||Panasonic GH2||Canon T2i (550D)||Canon 60D||Nikon D7000||Current value|
|Sigma/Tamron 70-200 2.8||n/a (though might AF HSM through adapter)||650||nothing similar||nothing similar||600||600||600|
|18-whatever (cheap/fast/reach)||1200||450||1000||1500||600||600||600 (18-200VR)|
|small/fast||200||150||350||350||80||80||80 (50 1.8G)|
|flash (4AA)||150 (should use alpha?)||150||400||400||200||200||170 (SB600)|
|TOTAL cost||$2550||$2150||$1750||$2250||$2230||$2580||$1200 (total system value of $2650)||$1800|
|Articulating LCD||Probably Bottom||Bottom||Side||Side||No||Side||No||No|
|LCD||3” 920k||3” 460k||3” 460k (touch sensitive)||3” 1.04M||3” 1.04M||3” 920k||2.5” 230k|
|Wireless Flash||Probably?||Yes||No||Doubtful||No||Yes (ONE flash only)||Yes||Yes|
|Wireless Remote||Almost Definitely||Yes||Only with wired adapter||Doubtful without wired adapter||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|In body IS||No||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||No|
|GPS||Yes||No||No||No||No||No (external addon)||No|
|60 fps video||1080p (720p 120fps)||No||720p||720p (but 1080i stores from 60fps to reduce rolling shutter||720p||720p||No||No|
|continuous fps (RAW)||10 for 20, 6 for 20 (4 in RJ), 3 for 21||3.3 fps for 4 frames||5 fps||3.4 for 5 or 6||5.3 fps for 16 frames||6 fps||3 fps for 6 frames|
|video time||29 min expected||29min / 9min w/ IS||Limited only by SDHC card (30 min in EU)||30 min?||30 min or 4 GB file||30 min (maybe 11)||20 min||n/a|
|AF in video||Yes (perfect but forced f/3.5)||Yes (decent)||Yes (better than every other contrast AF)||Basically unusable||Basically unusable||Yes (contrast)||n/a|
|Dynamic range||Excellent||Not good (constant highlight clipping)||Unknown – possibly improved||Good||Good||Excellent||Very Good|
|Noise||Good (but bad NR for JPEG (auto better than weak); shoot RAW)||Not good (two stops lower than APS-C)||Decent? (supposed to be 1 stop better than GH1)||Good||Good||Probably Best||Good|
|Tiny body in mount||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No||No||No||No|
|SDXC||Yes||Yes (plus MemoryStick)||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes (2 slots)||No|
|Mic input||Almost Definitely||Yes||Yes||Yes (includes 80/100/120% gain control)||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Adjust aperture in vid||Yes||Yes (MF only!)
(& AF maybe w/ shim or aperture
|Adjust shutter in vid||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Probably||n/a|
|HDMI output||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes (output during framing and recording
But skips frames during recording?)
|Viewfinder||EVF||EVF (highest quality to this point)||EVF (wasn’t that great)||EVF (60 fps – might be better than A55)||OVF (pentamirror)||OVF (pentaprism)||OVF (100%)||OVF (pentaprism)|
|Battery Grip||Doubtful||No||No||No||Yes ($35 on ebay)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Because it will be
Competitor to the
Panasonic GH2Not expected until
(UPDATE: Now expected OCT 2011)
Love a 2nd tiny APSC body
Because 18-200 NEX
|Tamron 17-50 2.8 lens $400Sigma HSM OS 17-70 2.8-4 $450
Leaning toward HSM for silent video
IS on every lens!!
440g body (500g w/ batt)
small/fast = 35mm 1.8
or 24mm 2.8
60 fps mode = poor rolling shutter
Biggest limitation is that AF in
It’s possible but unlikely that the lens can be
AF is wicked fast and metering is
A33 shipping in Sept 2010
|Like a 2nd tiny body (GF1)720p 60 fps
Firmware hacks improve videos further
Smaller sensor = worst noise performance
small/fast lens is 20mm f 1.7 pancake
385g body (460 w/ batt)
Flash is overpriced. No wireless
GH1 + 14-140 lens for $1k right now
Few wide/fast zoom options with IS (any?)
|Body only is $900Like a 2nd tiny body (GF1)
720p 60 fps & 1080p 60fps (in 1080i container)
2.6x digital zoom in 1080 and 2.6x/3.9x in other res
(Allows digital zoom to 1:1 of sensor data
TOUCH FOCUS (game changer)
Mic gain control
Zebra blown out highlights in video
Firmware hacks will be attempted heavily
Noise performance and dynamic range are supposed to be improved; unknown how much at this point
small/fast lens is 20mm f 1.7 pancake
Flash is overpriced for what you get. No wireless
394g body (470 w/ batt)
Side Articulating touch sensitive LCD (but can ignore touch)
Few wide/fast zoom options with IS (any?)
Announced Sept 21 (will ship in Dec)
|Released Nov 2009||Announced Aug. 26LCD, OVF, and wireless flash are is biggest differences with T2i
755g w/ batt
Metal bodyShould have best noise performance
D7000 is basically a D300 with better video and sensor
No artic. LCD
Best Photo DSLR: Nikon D7000
If the best photos are your primary concern, then the D7000 is the way to go. Tons of great glass, especially the high quality/value 18-105VR lens that can be had for <$300 on ebay. Unfortunately, reviews are still forthcoming, so I have no idea how well the contrast AF works in video (Is it better than the Canon AF? GH1? GH2?) and still lack proof of how good the DR/ISO is. It has the best viewfinder in this class and the only camera to offer AF microadjust, a metal body, and two simultaneous memory cards. I was astounded when I found out that it was going to cost $200 more than the D90 2 years ago but not have 60fps or built-in GPS or an articulating LCD. It’s clearly a photographer’s camera.
Best Video DSLR: Panasonic GH2
It’s not remotely close. It has everything you want from a video DSLR. Ok, not everything, but you can’t buy a camera with global shutter, in body IS, power zoom, and >24 mbps yet. Touch focus looks to be a game changer. and the autofocus looks like it could be good enough to be perfectly usable and get sharp video… though that has yet to be proven. The digital zoom idea is fantastic and needs to be implemented by every manufacturer immediately. Biggest problem is that it doesn’t look like they did much to improve the photo side, and it still has to use adapters to use a flash wirelessly or trip a shutter remotely. Panasonic is clearly focusing on the video guys here and ignoring photographers.
Best all around DSLR: Sony A55
It’s $750, cheaper than nearly every other DSLR here. It has in body IS, wireless flash, wireless remote, lenses and accessories are on the cheaper side and it has third party support. And it has the game-changing full-time phase detect autofocus, which means your videos will have awesome sharpness and it brings in 10 fps mode…. which are much better than any other camera in this range. In order to get that, though, you have to give up aperture/shutter/ISO control in video/10fps, which is quite a sacrifice. The #1 problem with the camera is that it doesn’t support 60 fps so rolling shutter is definitely an issue. I’d definitely prefer a side articulating LCD as well, but it doesn’t look like Sony is going in that direction soon.
You might wonder why the commentary on Canon is so sparse. Part of it is that they weren’t on my radar until I found out the T2i had 720p 60fps. I then started following the 60D/T2i but discovered that the AF wasn’t great, and it was basically useless in video. The sensor is not as good as the D90’s, and the D7000 just came out with a better one. So they have a solid all-around product but no standout feature. Everything seems to be at least a notch below the competition. I was astounded at the price of the 60D because I figured it would be $200 more than the T2i.
The Panasonic GH1 w/ 14-140 at $1000 is an excellent value for the video shooter. At $500 less than the GH2 kit, it still has a lot to offer. It’s best in the hands of either someone who will only use the 14-140 lens as basically a very, very glorified camcorder or in the hands of a pro who can deal with manual focus, stabilization rigs, lens adapters, and firmware hacking. Note that current new models of the GH1 do not have hacked firmware.
I like the idea of mirrorless cameras because they open up a wider range of camera bodies to the same lenses. While these bodies don’t exist yet, you could have pro bodies and tiny compact bodies, and both can use the same pro or consumer glass. So you can buy a body in this range or even higher and a cheap tiny body and have a lot more versatility in what you carry and still be able to take much much higher quality pics/video than a point and shoot.
Sony’s biggest downside is that instead of cutting the price on their lenses because they don’t have in lens IS or even in lens motors, they actually charge the same or more than equivalent Nikon/Canon glass. So you have to go with 3rd party lens suppliers. I have no problem doing that, but you want a quiet focus motor when recording video with audio, and that rules out Tamron, and all Sony lenses except SSM (SAM is loud — Nikon only uses those motors on their 18-55 and 55-200 lenses, but Sony uses it on everything <$700). All that is left is Sigma, who has many HSM lenses, but they just announced that all their lenses have to be re-chipped to support the A33/A55 focusing. Ugh. That’s just a tough situation right now.
I included the NEX 7 because that will be Sony’s competitor to the Panasonic GHx series. The E-mount camcorder Sony brought out was a little underwhelming (still no 60fps) so only time will tell if the NEX 7 brings what is rumored. If Sony prepared well enough to replicate the features of the GH2 on an APSC sensor and bring some improvements as well (wireless flash/remote, for one), then the NEX 7 could be the new winner. At the same time, it still doesn’t have anything to touch the 14-140 lens on the GHx series, which has a stepless aperture ring and completely silent focusing.
This was a harder call than I expected. I didn’t expect the AF improvements or touch focus in the GH2, and that almost grabbed me. If it had in body stabilization, that might have been enough, especially once they confirm the sensor improvements they’ve been touting. And it brings the GF1 into play. As it is, the A55 is just more usable with better autofocus and better photo features/quality and better value lenses/accessories.
So I’m buying a Sony A55, likely a Sigma 17-70 HSM (and deal with the chipping) lens, Sony 24 2.8 lens, and probably a Sigma 70-200 2.8 HSM lens… and selling all my Nikon gear. My hope is that the A77 will have a similarly high value and introduce 60 fps mode. Otherwise, I’ll be keeping my eyes open for the day when we have phase detect autofocus on the sensor, which will be the dawn of the Mirrorless Era. That day is closer than you think.