Nikon D90’s 720p feature

A few days ago Nikon did a splash in the camcorder circles with the announcement that its D90 DSLR can also grab 720/24p footage. Many videographers were quick to think that they can finally replace their bulky HD camcorder and digicam with a single device.

While there is definitely value in the “one device does it all” camp, the video feature in the D90 is under par for serious enthusiasts (serious enough that they paid over $1000 for a DSLR too). Some of the problems:
1. Can’t focus continuously.
2. Focus breathing.
3. Discrete exposure. This is extremely problematic and visible on any sample file. The camera does a lot of exposure decisions, and this creates these “flashes” of exposure compensation during recording.
4. It does not record in 23.976 but in 24.000384 fps. This is a huge problem in editing, as editors will try to resample when you try to export to “proper” IVTC 24p frame rate at 23.976, and resampling means “ghosting” artifacts. I have the same problem with my Kodak camera that records in 30.xx fps (xx is always a variable, to make things worse) instead of NTSC’s 29.97 exactly.
5. MJPEG eats away storage. It’s extremely inefficient. AVCHD at 12 mbps would have been a better choice.
6. No microphone input, for those who might want to go a bit further with filmmaking.

On the other hand, quality is not too bad (better than Kodak’s HD digicams for example). And eventually, maybe in 3-5 years, the problems above are fixed. But for now, the video element on a DSLR remains a toy, a “by the way” feature for semi-pro photographers who might want to snap some video clips occasionally for one reason or another. But it definitely can’t replace an HD camcorder, even if it is convenient for being a single multi-function device. For more serious amateur videographers (like many are on Vimeo for example), this device is a no-go.

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