I'm seeing major motion picture productions starting to use inexpensive (relatively speaking) DSLR cameras to shoot some scenes. Red Tails used a Canon, and a production currently under way is said to be using a prototype Nikon D800. Is this an anomaly or a harbinger of things to come?
It's becoming much more common. 80% of Act of Valor was shot with DSLR's. Mind you, some of the footage was a little soft and wouldn't look good on a screen over 50' wide, but for the most part it was pretty good. I couldn't tell which shots in Red Tails were done with a DSLR, so that's saying something. I think with the DSLR's, much more care has to be taken with the cinematography or the image won't look nearly as good as 35mm or a 2K pro camcorder.
Well, maybe it's going to be better with the new Nikons (D4 and D800) which output uncompressed signal for external recorders.
And I think the major problem with DSLRs is that they don't support 4K (yet) so are a little unsuitable for cinema movies (in 2 years probably 4K projectors are going to be at least common if not popular)
Most DSLRs have significant image artefacts in their video modes. It amazes me that they're being used on professional productions where they aren't limited by cash, but I guess the small form factor has its own benefits.
My favourite of the DSLRs has been the Panasonic GH2 with the firmware hack. There's still some aliasing in highly detailed scenes, though.
Reviewer & Tech Consultant, HDTVtest
Most DSLR cameras do not actually resolve the resolution they record, i.e. a Nikon D800 which records 1080x1920 h264 actually cannot resolve 720P when you point it at a resolution chart and see what it can resolve. Also external recorders do not significantly improve the quality of the video coming out of these cameras because the De-Bayer process and the way the sensor is line skipped before being heavily compressed is what causes most of the quality problems. I think that the DSLR video phenomena is a short lived trend because there are now so many better digital cameras from the BMD Cinema camera, the Scarlet and Sony F55/F5 etc. which do a much better job with video. Canon has the 1D-C (I was working with one the other day) which is a DSLR ($13K body) that can shoot 4K but it is still just 8-bit video and limited in terms of dynamic range and color quality.