Looking At Cameras That Shoot Video...

Recently I've been collecting video and video 
frame-grabs (and some stills) from various still 
cameras that also shoot video to try to narrow the 
choice for my next camera. I also included a few that 
were not "serious" possibilities (for price or for 
practicality/versatility reasons). I learned a few 
things, some of which were surprising... Included in 
the informal comparison were my Panasonic TM700 video 
camera; a friend's iPhone 4s; the Canon 5D Mk. II and 
III; the Nikon D3200, D600, and D800; the Panasonic 
GH2, GH3, and LX7; the Sony A77, and the GoPro Hero3 

Not in any particular order, I was looking for the 
best balance of VF quality (with an image that makes 
video quality easy to judge for focus, color-balance, 
and exposure); weight/size/price; video quality; 
still-photo quality; ease of control; suitability for 
video in terms of camera noise and lens availability 
and quality; adaptability to Nikkor F-mount lenses; 
presence of microphone and headphone ports (I do 
miss having Lanc ports...); video quality; ability 
to shoot 1920x1080-60p video (preferably at a higher 
than usual data rate); stabilizer effectiveness; 
portability; video quality; etc. Oh, and did I 
mention that I'm more interested in video quality 
than still-photo quality? Many of the cameras were 
very different from each other, and some favorites 
turned up for particular uses (but often those were 
very limited, and sometimes those uses required work 
in editing to realize the best outcome...). 

After much video downloading, video frame-grabbing, 
stills image-grabbing, and the "primping" of some 
things to see if I could get what I wanted, here is 
what I found: 

The Canon 5Ds and high-resolution Nikons produced 
excellent to superb still photos and very good video 
images, but the video from all was a bit soft, all 
were limited to 30p video fps, and most had a touch 
of over-sharpening inherent in their video images 
that limited the amount of additional sharpening 
that could be applied (I am a sharpness nut...). I 
didn't like the 60p video I saw from the Sony A77 
(white "haloing" of trees against the sky was 
excessive, and image sharpness was often not ideal). 

Surprising were the stills and video from the iPhone 
4s (BUT, only if one doesn't care much about making 
settings decisions about anything, and only if the 
camera is not moved much during video shooting). 

Also surprising was the video from the GoPro Hero3 
Black, since many frame-grabs indicated that the 
video would look very good, if somewhat obviously 
over-sharpened in advance. When viewed on a good TV, 
though, while the video did look very good, the 
video from a couple of other cameras looked better. 
It does have some interesting frame-rate and 
resolution choices available, so "feast" for a bit 
on these Hero3 Black video choices...: 
 - 4K (16:9 and 17:9) at 15, 12.5, 12fps 
 - 2.7K (16:9 and 17:9) at 30, 25, 24fps 
 - 1440p (4:3) at 48, 30, 25, 24fps 
 - 1080p (16:9) at 60, 50, 48, 25, 24fps 
 - 960p (16:9) at 100, 48fps 
 - 720p (16:9) at 120, 100, 60, 50fps 
 - WVGA (16:9) at 240fps 
Unfortunately, the video  can look VERY weird with 
motion-artifacts at 4K. I would like to play some 
with 1080-60p and 2.7K-30p, but much as I like 
fisheyes, I would like to have other lens options - 
and, good as the preset control choices appear to 
be, I would also like to have other control options 
available. The tiny little GoPro is what it is: a 
VERY good photo and video "snap-shooter". 

The small Panasonic LX7 is convenient to use and it 
is good for stills, but it is the worst of the bunch 
for video, even with having video specs identical to 
the excellent Panasonic TM700 video camera (28Mbps 
1920x1080 at 60p - but that doesn't tell the full 
story since the TM700 video appears sharper to me 
than that from any other similar camcorder with the 
same specs that I've seen). 

A hacked Panasonic GH2 was very good for stills, but 
I very much dislike the look of 24-30p video with 
motion that most still cameras are limited to in 
progressive video shooting mode. 

The Panasonic GH3 results are also very good for 
stills, but excellent for video (it was the best for 
video of all the cameras compared). The Panasonic 
GH3 can shoot 1920x1080-60p video at 50Mbps, which 
does appear to pay off in terms of image quality 
(although other things may also contribute to this). 
The GH3 body-only is now $1300 in the US, making it 
far cheaper than high-end Canon and Nikon DSLRs, but 
more expensive than many alternatives, not bad for 
what one gets - but the one weakness of this and 
similar DSLR solutions is the lack of good control 
over zooming speed, making successful zooming while 
shooting video very difficult. Panasonic has begun 
to address this with the offering of two power-zoom 
lens models and with having three zoom speed ranges 
selectable with the GH3 body. The tiny zoom levers 
on those lenses, though, are rather "fussy" and very 
limited in zoom speed control (I prefer having a set 
slow-creep zoom rate). Also, the two "PZ" lenses 
offered (the 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 and the 45-175mm) are 
rather slow, but more important, the shorter one 
appears to have a very high defect rate (I hope 
Panasonic solves this soon!). It appears with the 
GH3 that I may need to give up a favorite shooting 
style which incorporates a slow zoom combined with 
a pan/tilt motion while shooting. But, all else that 
the GH3 offers may convince me that it is worth it... 

[Since writing this, Panasonic has introduced several 
models that can also shoot excellent video, the G5, 
G6, and GX7 - and the G5 and G6 have on-body zoom 
levers. These are mentioned in my article on lenses 
I have tried on the G5 and other Panasonic bodies, 
at: www.David-Ruether-Photography.com/MFT-Lenses.htm

Since I do not like peering at dark rear screens in 
sunlight (which is mostly where I prefer to shoot), 
or through optical finders (with no hints given 
about the resulting images relating to white-balance 
or exposure) for shooting video and stills, I prefer 
using a high-quality EVF, which the Panasonic GH3 
has. It also produces the best-looking video that 
I've yet seen that is available at reasonable cost 
in size/weight/money. And, some of the Panasonic 
lenses appear to be quite good - and other brands of 
four-thirds and micro four-thirds lenses also fit 
it, as do most lenses made for larger formats (using 
cheap adapters, although most features of the lenses 
are then lost). So, I guess I now know what I want 
to replace my current video camera with, assuming I 
am willing to give up easy and smooth lens zooming, 
a feature unfortunately not yet perfected in these 
still cameras that can also shoot video... 

I just bought three lenses for my GH3-to-be camera: 
a Rokinon 7.5mm f3.5; a Panasonic 14-45mm f3.5-5.6; 
and a Panasonic 45-200mm f4-f5.6 (the last two appear 
to be better than their "PZ" replacements, and they 
may soon be no longer available new), plus a couple 
of adapters: one for a Voightlander 12mm f5.6 and 
one for Nikon lenses so I can use these on the GH3's 
micro four-thirds body. I have many selected Nikkor 
lenses now for sale that I no longer use (both manual 
and AF) that can also be used on micro four-thirds 
cameras with an inexpensive adapter. For a list and 
descriptions, see: www.David-Ruether-Photography.com/fs.htm 

There is a VERY interesting article by Philip Bloom 
discussing the various available still cameras with 
video capability plus some not horribly expensive 
video cameras, with high-quality comparison video 
footage included, PLUS some nice finished videos! 
It is long, but well worth reading the article and 
looking at all of the included samples and videos. 
Philip Bloom knows what he is talking about, and how 
to illustrate it. See "The Philip Bloom Conundrum", 
with many camera comparisons in 1080p-HD, including 
the Canon 5D Mk. III, 1DX; the Nikon D4, D800; the 
Panasonic GH3; the Black Magic; the Red; plus others. 
It is well done, and most of the included edited 
videos are quite interesting. I HIGHLY recommend 
this, at: http://philipbloom.net/2012/12/01/conundrum 


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