Digital SLR trends and the convergence of photography, video, and audio

Published by | Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

I shot this with my new Nikon D3S using an ISO speed of 8000. Shooting with high ISO speeds puts photos at risk for a bit of digital noise, but they allowed me to capture this fast-moving performer without blur, without flash, and without a tripod. Dreamy.

I bought a new camera recently: a Nikon D3S. I’d been reading all about the D3S and similar cameras, and decided that I had to experience their capabilities for myself. It would be good for my job as a photography content manager here at, I reasoned, and it would be more fun than paying my mortgage.

It turns out I was right on both counts, though my mortgage holder has yet to weigh in.

There are two major trends in digital SLRs. Now that every camera provides enough resolution to make ginormous prints, manufacturers are no longer fighting the megapixel wars, out-doing each other with resolution numbers that look impressive in ads but contribute little to image quality. The Nikon D3S is a 12.1-megapixel cam—just like the D3 that it replaced.

No, today’s digital SLR trends go deeper and wider. One major trend is toward greater light sensitivity. Instead of developing new sensors that pack more pixels, manufacturers are creating sensors that are more sensitive to light. The D3S can shoot at ISO speeds of up to 12,800 with minimal digital noise—and if you’re willing to tolerate a grainy look—at up to ISO 102,400. To put these numbers in perspective, most digital SLRs start producing unacceptable noise at ISO speeds of 1000 or so, and at speeds of 2000 and more, their photos start looking like sand paintings.

Not so with the latest cameras. Shortly after getting my D3S, I tried it out at a local variety show. I’ve posted some photos that I shot at ISO speeds of 8000 and 10000. There’s a bit of digital noise, sure, but those high speeds allowed me to capture fast-moving performers without blur, without flash, and without a tripod. Dreamy.

So the “deep” trend in digital SLRs is toward cat-like night vision. What’s the “wide” trend? Video. The Nikon D3S can shoot high-definition video with stereo audio. The D3S’s major competitor, Canon’s EOS-1D Mark IV, goes even further, shooting higher-resolution HD video (1080p instead of the Nikon’s 720p).

Combine HD video with low-light capabilities and season with superb lenses, and you get an entirely new way for photographers to express themselves. Photographer Vincent Laforet created a short film using Canon’s Mark IV, shot entirely at night with no supplemental lighting. Photographer Peter Prevec has posted comparisons between Canon and Nikon low-light video.

With change comes the need to learn new things. Photographers wanting to expand their creative and business options need to learn about video and audio. Videographers wanting to diversify need to learn about photographic workflow concepts. What about you? What kinds of courses would you like to see that address this convergence?

Use the comment box below to let us know. And if you see my mortgage holder on the street, tell them the check’s in the mail.

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7 Responses to “Digital SLR trends and the convergence of photography, video, and audio”

  1. ian morton says:

    Slightly away from photography, but a Nuke course on producing stereo 3D content would be useful

  2. ed burns says:

    Video & audio workflow using Canon 7D. Specifically shooting situations, lenses, iso, frame rate, xlr attachments, lighting, matte boxes, etc. I think there are enough tutorials on about editing video so that would not be that necessary. Thanks!

  3. nalini adams says:

    Software software software…. what are fast easy video editing software programs – preferably in the cloud – that can be used for editing? Also, for audio, what are the fastest ways to prep audio… iMovie is way to hard to learn.

  4. Stu says:

    Another vote for a 7D workflow course – ideally using premiere/after effects

  5. Kevin S. says:

    Yet another vote for Canon 7D best practices for video. I’d also like to see an overview of accessories to get the best video/audio from DSLRs. Thanks!

  6. Jeff Weakley says:

    love your site and learning a lot here. I’m also taking a lot of cinematography courses at UCLA extension. It seems to me that sound/audio is the bastard step child of the film/video business and usually signals crappy quality even when the film/video looks good. This semester, I’m taking a Production Sound class (how to record the sound/dialog that’s on a movie set) from a long time Hollywood sound guy name Senator Mike Michaels. I’d higly recommend you talk to him about doing a sound class for (His real name is Senator, on a whim he changed his name to that 20 years ago after watching some congressional hearings).
    Just thought,

  7. penelope b says:

    Photographers are looking for good transition course, from video editing, Video Camera essentials, understanding different cabling connections, file formats, audio, setups, storyboards, videos from SD, DV, HD to AVCHD and video productions. Many photographers are not just using built in video they are expanding to stand alone videos as well.

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