I’ve been in the market for a new HD video camera for some time now. That’s why I played around with my schedule and bailed on a couple of days of billable work to go to Las Vegas for the National Association of Broadcasters convention (NAB). For those who have never gone to this annual toy-fest there’s really no way to describe it. It’s the entire LV Convention Center (and the surrounding parking lots) filled with the latest TV and radio technical toys. It’s a porn show for geeks. It’s the last place you’d expect a conversion to take place (unless of course we’re talking about converting a H.264 video file to an editable MOV file… but I digress). Nevertheless, I was converted in Vegas, and when something of that magnitude happens, it can’t just stay in Vegas.
Remember the context of this post. I was in Vegas deep into my quest for a killer HD camera. The Sony EX3 was probably at the top of my list, while Canon and Panasonic also had tempting options. (They were like the guys with the naughty business cards at the intersections on The Strip – you know the ones who are trying to lure you to their product and distract you from your intended goal.)
During my one day on the NAB floor, I was fortunate (thanks to Twitter) to finally meet up with Philip Bloom, a DP from the UK whose work I have long admired. He has a couple of EX3 cameras and has shot on everything else, so I asked him for his current suggestion for the very best HD video camera for a guy like me (a REAL shooter, tons of experience, wants a real lens, and it needs to hold up in the worst environments on Earth.) He looked about a bit covertly, and (tension mounting) spoke two letters… 7d. I was stunned. Up till now, I thought the whole DSLR HD video thing was just a wacko hacker thing. A hobby for wannabes who couldn’t afford a real camera. But here’s a great shooter with Ex3s on the shelf whilst he shoots with a Canon DSLR. Shocking. I was further stunned when he told me he hadn’t used his Letus Ultimate lens converter for months, maybe longer. “Too many problems with dust, and just too clunky,” he said.
I then met the DPs for the popular network shows “House” and “24”. I discovered that the seson finale of “House” was completely shot on Canon DSLRs and that all camera car footage, mattes and some second unit stuff for “24” was also shot on these digital still cameras with stock lenses. No hotrodding, nothing hacked – just pristine 1080p, full HD video out of these little stinkin still cameras. It was like finding out your neighbor’s Toyota can smoke your Ferrari (even without the accelerator pedal stuck).
The clincher was this line: “I wouldn’t use any of those little video cameras (referring to the list of HD cams that I was considering) for ten seconds of my show, but I’m using the Canon DSLR more and more with every episode I shoot.
I was converted. I pulled the Sony, Panasonic and Canon video camera literature out of my already overloaded shoulder bag, and spent the rest of the day (until they kicked me out at 6:15) looking at cages, focus rigs, hand held devices… stuff to accessorize the Canon 7d that I knew was in my future.
Post convention note: I have purchased a 7d with three great lenses, a converter to allow use of my fast Nikon primes, a Cinevate follow focus and mattebox rails system, a H4n audio recorder… and much more! I just shot my first piece with it, and I’m hooked. The video is amazing. The image quality is very filmic. And I can pack the entire kit in a carry on bag.
Yep. I was converted in Vegas. Imagine that.