Daniel Haggett

London based Lighting Cameraman / DoP

Upgrading from dslr 7d and 5d, is it worth it?

I have been shooting with the Canon C300 since  it first came out, since then I must admit it is very rare that I use my Canon 7d at all.

I did a job last week where the director really wanted 7d so I went back to it.  There is a big difference between using the two cameras and I thought I'd write down my observations, as it might be a good guide for those thinking of upgrading their DSLR, to see if it is worth the extra cash.

The biggest difference is the form factor.  Using a C300 is way easier than a DSLR.  I use a TV logic 5.6 monitor with the 7d, this works well for focusing however, I found myself constantly having to re rig the monitor at different angles often detaching it from the camera all together.  The C300s lcd monitor moves around so much more quickly and easily, saving you time.  The other big issue is exposure.  The 7d has no zebras so can be really tricky to expose correctly, it can be done of course (for a more detailed info on exposing DSLRS correctly see here), but again it just takes time.  With the C300 it is really easy to quickly flick up the zebras and spot check skin exposure.

Once you have the footage back in the edit suite this is where you see the big difference.  The C300 has a massive dynamic range and the colours and contrast can really be pushed and pulled, do this to the 7d footage and you quickly end up in a mess - there just isn't the latitude for it.

The other issue with the 7d footage is moire.  The camera really struggles with fine detail, and this seems somewhat heightened when movement is involved.

In the footage below there are a couple of bits that really jumped out at me (although it is slightly less noticeable with vimeo s compression.)  This first section is at 0:26.  The metal protecting the wooden platform (towards the bottom of the frame).  This looks really dodgy to me is seems to strobe and even the colours look a bit weird.  Would this past a QT test before being aired on the BBC?  I very much doubt it, but in this case the footage is a US broadcaster, so we shall see.

{vimeo width="840" height="480"}52551860{/vimeo}

The next issue I noticed was in the close up shots: the eyebrows seemed to have this same issue, as the fine detail just couldn't be correctly rendered with the 7d, this can be seen at  0:41.  In this case the shot is pretty quick and might slip through quality control.

If you are using DSLR for the web, then fine, but for broadcast work I think these issues could easily trip you up at some point, and so for me a fully functioning video camera is the way to go.