When the Canon 5D MK II shipped with ability to shoot video and stills (what I am calling a VSLR or Combocam or Hybrid camera) I have to admit. I was non-plussed. At first I thought it was just a marketing gimmick. And it very well may have been. But as often happens, the user base decided to make something of it and an entire back-room industry evolved around that one single camera. It took the indie film maker market by storm despite several serious limitations. People simply invented whatever they needed to make the thing work and there’s been a great deal of production done on the movie wide with the 5DMKII.
Now we have the Nikon D90, D300s, D5000, the Panasonic GH1 and the Canon 7D. These are all very good combo cams. I have used all of these cameras and as of yesterday, own or have owned all of them.
Each new camera comes closer and closer to making these VSLRs viable as both serious still and motion picture cameras.
In polls I conducted a year ago, more than half my audience expressed interest in VSLR cameras. I’ve seen other, more recent polls indicating a slight uptick in that number among serious photographers.
But that means that somewhat less than half of you have no interest. I think you should reconsider, and here’s why.
Any time you learn something new about creating visuals, including movies, you improve your still photography. I talk a great deal about storytelling here on Photofocus.com for a reason. It’s the thing that often separates good from great photography. If anything will get you thinking like a storyteller, it’s shooting video.
Cross-disciplinary training is vital for artists who want to grow. When I was a wedding photographer, I often took workshops that had nothing to do with wedding photos. It’s what eventually got me into wildlife photography. But everything I learned as a wedding photographer isn’t wasted when I shoot wildlife. I apply many of the techniques and tricks I used as a wedding shooter in my wildlife work. It helps set me apart. I am spending much of my time studying video now. It is absolutely going to make me a better still shooter.
I could also talk about the more practical and business side of VSLRs. I believe that this space is really going to heat up. I also believe that the slow demise of newspapers and magazines will push more media online. Once that happens, video will play a much bigger role in the media than it does now. Still shooters are already being asked to grab video. If you want to do this stuff for a living, video will eventually be a must.
But even if you don’t care about going pro, you should care about expanding your vision and your knowledge base. I realize I won’t convince everyone I’m right. But I thought it was worth a try to mention these points so those of you who have summarily dismissed hybrid combo cameras would give them another look.
And for those who are curious – my first impressions of the Canon 7D as a video camera are quite positive. More on that later.