Nearly two years ago, Canon changed the game (and, perhaps redefined the game) with the introduction of the 5D Mark II. (And, while the Nikon D90 was the first DSLR to hit the scene with HD video capture, few will argue that Canon’s 5D Mark II was the real game changer.) As the story goes, the addition of HD video to the 5D Mark II was almost an afterthought, which isn’t too far fetched of a story – given the rough implementation and numerous workarounds required to get a polished video out of the camera in those early firmware versions.
And then there was Reverie.
Reverie changed the way we looked at this new camera before we even knew what it was supposed to do. I’ve heard Vincent Laforet recount the almost accidental acquisition of a prototype 5D Mark II a couple of times now. He had the prototype camera in hand for roughly 72 hours and really made the most of that time. That accidental spark ignited a huge flame in demand for the 5D Mark II – as well as a demand for knowledge to learn what it takes to do the same thing with a $2700 (at the time) camera.
A new niche market was born almost overnight.
Indie and enthusiast filmmakers were stricken by the affordability of the 5D Mark II and other cameras that followed it. Zacuto, Red Rock Micro and others jumped on the new market to design gear that worked with the odd form factor of a DSLR, and made it look and feel more like a video camera.
Workshops, online learning sessions and books came out of nowhere to aid photographers wanting to “get into video” adjust to the massive learning curve. Some learned, some are learning, and some have already thrown in the towel.
The industry pros that have embraced HD-DSLRs began to develop their wish lists of things they want in the next generation – things you expect on a video camera . . . things you already get in a camcorder. But you don’t get a large sensor in a camcorder. Instead, you get a small sensor that destroys any notion of obtaining a shallow depth of field and produces that signature “video” look.
In spite of the cumbersome design and limited features, video-capable DSLRs continue to thrive. Video capture still feels like more of an afterthought on these cameras. But, man, it sure looks pretty when you slap a 50mm f/1.2 lens or other bright lens on the end of one.
While we’ve seen two or three mini-generations of video-capable DSLRs, as well as Micro Four Thirds cameras like the Panasonic GH1, we are about to see a true second generation of this technology flow into not only DSLRs, but also into large sensor camcorders.
The recently announced Panasonic AG-AF100 is just the tip of the ice berg. And, looking at the camera, it’s easy to see that the AG-AF100 is more of a camcorder than it is a still camera. The form and function of the AG-AF100 fits most appropriately in the designated AVCCAM lineup.
But Panasonic isn’t alone.
Sony recently teased a camcorder that features an APS-C format sensor, which is the same size as those found in its current crop of consumer DSLRs, and upcoming video-capable DSLRs. What’s more, Sony also promises that its new camcorder will allow the new Sony E-mount lenses to be used, as well as existing Alpha-mount lenses.
So, where are Canon and Nikon?
You can bet that Canon and Nikon are working hard on similar solutions right now. My money is on an announcement from one or both companies in time for Photokina 2010. Canon has all the tools and experience in both the DSLR and camcorder market to pounce on this opportunity. I don’t see Nikon sitting idle and watching demand from its large user base jump ship to other brands either. The “system” for Canon and Nikon glass is about to reach much deeper than before.
Right now is an exciting time for the photo and video industry. A new product is being born right before our eyes – a true hybrid. It’s something between a DSLR and a camcorder – the best of both to make the best camcorder we’ve seen to date.
You thought the 5D Mark II was something? Just wait. You ain’t seen nothing yet.