Will VdSLRs Drive Prosumer Camcorders to Next Level?

Traditionally, shooting a movie or a music video that had to exhibit the magical “Hollywood look” meant that the filmmakers had to rent expensive, professional cameras. Buying such a camera is still today prohibiting because of the high price tag.

Interestingly, the prosumer market of $2,000-$10,000 camcorders never fulfilled the particular job adequately since they have very small sensors and not interchangeable lenses. When adding third party accessories to make them behave more like their professional siblings (e.g. 35mm adapters, lenses), the prices end up getting higher, and there’s usually a quality hit too.

Suddenly, when no one was really expecting the development, dSLRs started carrying video capabilities, with the Canon 5D and Panasonic GH1 becoming the first “serious” such cameras. For a package that costs less than $3000 we could now enjoy full manual control, shallow depth of fied, and a high-bitrate codec at full 1080p.

Shooting something more than basic video with these cameras results in very beautiful footage that easily attracts the attention of indie filmmakers and enthusiasts with their relatively low prices. For example, the enthusiasts who fell in love with the very popular Canon HV20/30/40 series (the first consumer HD cameras to shoot in 24p), and the indie pros who were battling with inadequate prosumer camcorders for years, now they have new toys that could produce pleasing images at a low cost.

This undoubtedly puts a lot of market pressure to both high-end consumer camcorders and most prosumer models. Personally, I already know a lot of filmmakers, and filmmaker-wannabes, who are getting ready to sell their current camcorder so they can get a Canon 7D, for example. This is something that will have to naturally push the engineering and camcorder product teams at Canon, Sony and Panasonic to offer decent products in the future, decent-enough to compete with the new wave of VdSLRs: bigger sensors, lenses, maybe even 4:4:4 RAW codecs.

Of course, traditionally-built camcorders will continue to sell for corporate and wedding usage, but it’s clear right now that when it comes to filmmakers and artists, they require something more advanced than yet another 1/3″ camcorder.

I do expect that the next big batch of new models by Canon will feature the cameras that filmmakers always wanted, and we probably have to thank — in part — the video dSLR market for it.

Hurrah for competition!


Kelly wrote on October 15th, 2009 at 2:23 PM PST:

Yeah, that’s the big question, isn’t it? Will the VdSLR’s get to a lower price-point, or will flash-based HD camcorders take on more professional controls? Personally, I’m banking that prices will continue to fall on VdSLR’s, while HD camcorders add features, until we meet in the middle somewhere. The big issue is the price-point, because most people looking for these types of cameras aren’t wanting to pay more than the sweet-spot of $1,000. So it will be interesting to see what technology can produce at that price-point over the next year or two.

What I’m currently working on is how to set up a multi-cam HD shot. Since these consumer/prosumer camcorders don’t have HD-SDI, or even firewire, that limits it to HDMI. Well…there’s no real way to capture HDMI in real-time with multiple cameras, not officially. A Black Magic Intensity Pro will do it, but only for one camera (or possibly two on a Mac). What a few (and I mean…like 2-3 people online that I’ve found) people have done is take an HDMI switcher, run the cameras into there, run that into the Black Magic Intensity Pro, and then record/stream from there. So I’m going down that route, but I’m trying out a $40 switcher first (they’ve used a $1200 switcher, which is a break from the $3000 switchers normally required). The big thing will be if there is any lag in switching from devices…I guess we’ll see. Wish me luck! 🙂

Andreas wrote on October 15th, 2009 at 9:55 PM PST:

Eugenia, does your rss feed work? It is not updated after the “Birds at the San Gregorio beach” post.

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on October 15th, 2009 at 11:19 PM PST:

The RSS does work.

Andreas wrote on October 16th, 2009 at 1:59 AM PST:

Yes, you are right. It seems that it was a google reader problem.

To the point now: I thing that the camcorder market will eventually fade out. You can see this already. P&S cameras have excellent video capabilities already. Video taken from a camera like Canon SX200 or Panasonic TZ7 is good enough for the average consumer who does not care (or does not know) about frame rates, DOF etc. Even the camcorders look more like cameras now and are actually quite good hybrids (for example the Sanyo Xacti camcorders). In one/two years from now camera and camcorder will be synonyms.

The same will happen on the prosumer / professional level after the the mirror-less cameras with interchangeable lenses become mainstream. It started with microFourThirds, eventually all big players will join the club (actually it started with red on the pro level). m43 cameras and all upcoming similar systems can do everything a camcorder can, much better.

Luis wrote on October 16th, 2009 at 7:59 AM PST:

I guess that camcorders will stay for a while the way they are now. They still fit most users’ needs, and for those with more artistic interest they now offer the VDSLRs. So I’m not sure if it’s worth for them to offer camcorders with DSLR-like image capabilities.

One question regarding VDSLRs: Why 1080p?

I understand it as a feature for camcorders for those who shoot their wedding and trips and want to see it on their HDTV with their friends. But for video artists who depend on the web to distribute their work, isn’t 1080p just an unnecessary PITA?

Wouldn’t it be better to simply shoot 480p? More runtime in a memory card, easier and faster editing/exporting, faster upload (and download) and still great quality. What’s the thing about 1080p?

Danny wrote on October 16th, 2009 at 8:58 AM PST:

Luis, 1080p because that gives you the most resolution to play with later. We output to the web at 720p. Here in the UK blu-ray has really taken off so full 1080p HD is a must now.

James Benet wrote on October 16th, 2009 at 9:46 AM PST:

Panasonic is already working on a 4/3s camcorder with interchangeable lenses. Canon is rumored to be working on one also to replace the XL series.

I think we are in for an interesting future in camera development very soon! If dSLRs downsampled correctly we would be 1/2 way there already!

Tony Bourke wrote on October 18th, 2009 at 10:22 AM PST:

It’s amazing what’s coming out lately. The 7D (along with the 5DMkII) were used to create the intro footage for the new season of Saturday Night Live, and some of the digital shorts/commercials. A $2,000 camera used in place of cameras costing 100x as much.

And the footage is beyond beautiful. CMOS/progressive really makes it look like film, and they rolling shutter issues are going away with each progressive camera.

I can’t really justify a 7D, but oh how I lust. Instead, I’m going for an HF200 for underwater and aviation photography/videography.

Mike Dean wrote on October 18th, 2009 at 6:25 PM PST:

Actually, the Nikon D90 was the first DSLR to feature video. The Nikon D3S which just was announced features an ISO range which goes all the way up to 102,400, which can make for some incredible videos. At ISO 102,400 the camera can see better in the dark than the human eye can. You seem to be a Canon fan from the compact digital market. Nikon has always made better SLR’s than Canon. Who cares if it’s 720p? 720p is enough for most uses anyway.

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on October 18th, 2009 at 6:55 PM PST:

No, 720p is not enough for most uses, sorry. And especially not Nikon’s kind of 720p, which looks really bad with that archaic MJPEG compression, and terrible rolling shutter (much more than any other DSLR).

RP wrote on October 19th, 2009 at 6:33 PM PST:

I’ve been considering a Panasonic HMC150 for our small wedding videography business, but maybe I should hold off and see what is on the horizon. It’s been well over a year since that cam has been announced, so I would think Panasonic would be up to something. If anything, doesn’t Canon usually make their big announcements in January? Ah, it’s so hard to be patient sometimes!

3pointedit wrote on October 19th, 2009 at 9:28 PM PST:

I live in PAL land and h a t e 30fps on my P&S Cannon but I l o v e the pictures. The colour and shallow depth is great. They all, dslrs, still need better audio but with mic jacks coming along that will improve.

Variable compression rates would be a boon too.

I think that our news ENG crews should take these along for interview reverse angles of the journalist. Even shot wide they could be reframed in post to match the SD broadcast camera.

Ralf. wrote on October 20th, 2009 at 2:41 AM PST:


I know this is a little bit off topic here, but this blog is frequently visisted by Canon ownders that are filming hobbyists – so it might be of interrest.
I learned today from a german news site, that a firmware update for the 5D MK II is in the works that will enable 24, 25 and 30 FPS during HD recording! Expected release Date: first part of 2010.

Source (in german)

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