Viewfinder: Depth of Field

2010 has brought many interesting changes to the possibilities for shooting video. One of the biggest changes has been the sudden popularity of digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras for shooting video. While video capable DSLRs were introduced a few years ago, it was only this year that their sales have increased dramatically. Although it has been just a few years since they were first introduced, today the majority of DSLRs being sold include the feature enabling them to shoot High Definition video.

Being so new, there is still some debate about the name of this category. Some call these DSLRs (for digital single-lens reflex cameras), while others refer to them as HDSLRs. Even this acronym is debatable. Some believe that it stands for High Definition Single Lens Reflex while others think it is an abbreviation for Hybrid Digital Single Lens Reflex. My contribution to this debate is to embrace SLRVC for Single Lens Reflex Video Camera.

Much more important than the name, these cameras offer tremendous versatility. Most of these SLR video cameras offer a wide array of interchangeable lenses, each with their own unique focal length and maximum aperture. Each type of interchangeable lens is optimized for a specific purpose (zoom, ultrawide-angles, telephoto or macro to name a few). Professional camcorders have been using interchangeable lenses for years and this feature has often separated the amateurs from the pros.

These SLR video cameras allow the shooter to adjust the depth of field. For most camcorders the entire image is in focus and sharp, technically this is called a large depth of field. SLR video cameras allow for much more control of the depth of field. Sometimes referred to as selective focus, the depth of field is the portion of a scene that appears acceptably sharp in the image.

Generally speaking SLR video cameras provide better image quality at a given resolution. Compared to camcorders, the image sensors are much larger (28mm X 17mm vs 9mm X 7mm). Not only are the image sensors larger, but the lenses are also. Generally speaking, interchangeable lenses have higher quality optics. Since the lenses are of higher quality, they provide more sharpness.

Shooters using these SLRs as video cameras have much more control over the quality of the images. Many people are ecstatic over these new cameras and what they are capable of.

Managing lenses and depth of field are new experiences for most of you. In order to benefit from the power of these additional capabilities, you will need to develop new skills. Initially, you can keep things very simple by using just one lens and setting the SLR on automatic. Over time you can experiment with the various features which SLRs have been offering to still photographers since the 1950s.

Matthew York is Videomaker‘s Publisher/Editor.

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