Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I stop posting for now.

Photo/Movie cameras with photo-like movie frames will come eventually. Not just now. Will it be in 5 years or will it be in ten years? I don't know. I'm quite sure 2011 and the years short after will bring no surprises in this regard. Unfortunately.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fujifilm X100

This looks like a very fine camera.

Back in the analog days you bought a roll of film with a certain ISO/ASA and you controled the exposure using the arperture ring on the lens and a shutter speed dial on the body.

The Fuji X100 will allow such simple and straightforward photography again. You can switch between an optical and an electronic viewfinder mode. The shutter release is threaded for use with good old manual shutter release cables. A ND filter is integrated.

Not much has been revealed about it's movie mode. It will be 720p @ 24 fps. I hope it will have a high bitrate 4:2:2 MJPEG codec but most likely we will see h264.

At $1000 I will take a close look when it is available in March 2011.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Annother halfhearted model

Again no full manual control.
Just arperture priority in movie mode.
No mirror, APS-C sensor, 720p, 30 fps, h.264, just 8 Mbps data rate. Boring.

Wouldn't Samsung be the perfect company to bring out a true photo/video hybrid model?

Monday, December 28, 2009

There's hope

From an one year old interview with Les Kohn, CTO of Ambarella:

Smooth motion video requires the sensor to read out at 60 FPS. This means a sensor that can support 8MP stills should support a readout rate of 480M pixels per second. Most high resolution sensors and image processors are incapable of processing at this rate, so binning (summing pixels together into a single output value before demosaicing) is employed. An 8M sensor might combine 4 pixels together to read out 2M pixels at 60 FPS rather than 8 Mpixels. Although this may sound like "full HD" resolution, binning introduces jaggy-edge artifacts and a significant loss of resolution compared with reading out the full 8M pixels at 60 FPS and downsampling after demosaicing with a high quality filter. Fortunately, high-resolution CMOS sensors have recently been introduced that are capable of reading the full sensor resolution at the 60 FPS rate, and Ambarella's recently introduced A390 can process pixels at this rate. The combination provides video quality that exceeds conventional camcorders, while providing still picture resolution in excess of 6M pixels The fast frame rate can also be applied to still captures, including seamless capture of a high resolution while shooting a video sequence.

Will I see products using this technology in 2010?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Still no photo/video hybrid camera in sight

As of the end of 2009 there's still no high quality photo/video hybrid camera available. The camera that currently comes close to the ideal is the Panasonic GH1. It offers a large sensor, has no mirror, live histogram, swiveling LCD, full manual video mode, silent autofocus while filming (with kit lens) and exchangable lenses. Unfortunately it also has some drawbacks:

It's a consumer model
That means no live HDMI out, no time lapse, poor audio preamp and only automatic gain audio control.

No IR remote control
You can remote control photo and video shooting with a remote cable but there's no IR remote sensor.

Only available as a kit with a slow lens.
You have to buy the bundle with the kit lens which opens up to just f4

AVCHD means 25p in a 50i wrapper
There's no 25p in the AVCHD specifications. 25p chopped up into 50i is unneccessarily complicated. NTSC models require pull down removal.

Bad codec implementation
The 17 Mbps of the GH1 are not as good as the 17 Mbps of lets say a Canon HF100 camcorder because there are no B frames.

Lack of processing power doesn't allow to scale the full sensor properly down. The actual resolution is that of a SD camera. It's not full raster HD. All DSLRs that shoot video have this drawback.

The Ballad of the GH1 tells the sad story.

Let's look forward to the GH2.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ricoh GXR

Interesting concept:

Ricoh GXR Special Site

Large 23.6mm x 15.7 mm CMOS sensor
Fixed 50 mm equivalent lens
1280 x 720 MJPEG @ 24 fps

There's no info yet on the movie quality and if it allows full manual control when filming.
A clue comes from the specs where about 16 min video per 4 GB are mentioned. This translates to just about 4 MB/s or 32 Mbits/s. It seems movie quality will be similar to the Olympus E-P1.

According to movie capture is available in the SCENE setting and "offers only very limited control over settings such as exposure - you can't, for example, select aperture or ISO sensitivity." That's sad but you could buy it now and wait for a dedicated stills/video module ;-)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Canon EOS 7D

Just wow!

- Good price
- 5.5 MB/s H.264 codec
- Full HD @ 23.976 / 25 / 29.97 fps
- 720p @ 50 / 59.94 fps
- Manual Exposure control

Not so good: Automatic audio gain control will pump up noise in silent moments

First review at

A Nikon D300s killer for sure!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Large sensor cameras with video August 2009

Half of 2009 is over and there's still no professional photo video hybrid in sight. Every single model has it's flaws and the majority is aimed at consumers. I have no clue how long I will have to wait for the first manufacturer that gets it right.

UPDATE: The Nikon D300s records audio with just 11 kHz sampling rate. Booo!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Nikon D300s

Nikon introduced the D300s today. It doesn't seem to be a killer cam in terms of video but it offers some good things while filming.

+ Hopefully full manual exposure control (or is it just possible to set Arperture?)
+ External mic input
+ Four selectable mic sensitivity levels
+ Contrast detect AF in tripod mode
+ M-JPEG codec
+ Probably 4:2:2 color compression

- Same low data rate as the D90
- Probably the same aliasing problems and stairsteps. We'll see.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The problem is not MJPEG

You hear it over and over again: Why o why doesn't this particular camera compress to h.264? It would look so much better. Or you hear that MJPEG is a very inefficient, ancient codec. H.264 gives so much better quality.

Well thats true if you compare MJPEG and h.264 video with the same bit rate. H.264 will look better. But thats the only advantage of h.264. The codec keeps file sizes small and video looks very good at low bitrates. This is what makes h.264 the web delivery codec of choice.

Both codecs MJPEG and h.264 apply a Discrete Cosine Transformation/Quantization/Varable Length Encoding which is better known as JPEG compression as the first step. MJPEG stops here, each frame remains a JPEG compressed image but h.264 goes a whole lot further. It stores very few I frames i.e. full JPEG compressed images. What gets stored in the remaining frames is just changes from frame to frame plus there is a lot of prediction and interpolation over a wide frame span going on. While you may not notice interpolating artefacts when you watch a h.264 compressed movie you can't use every frame of it a as a still photo.

With MJPEG you can. The only blur visible will come from motion blur. MJPEG "wastes" storage space but it is closer to the original than any other lossy codec. Given a very high bit rate and good source material MJPEG will be visually lossless.

H.264 will also look visually lossless and it needs a lower data rate to achieve this than MJPEG, but my point is that both codecs MJPEG and h.264 can achieve the same goal: a visually lossless movie as close to the original as possible. If- and that's crucical - if the source is flawless.

Unfortunately the source material is the problem with the current large sensor cameras that shoot video. All are too slow to downsize a 12 Megapixel image properly. Developers choose to skip entire pixel rows from the sensor output and all this shivering and flickering in fine detail regions appears. This is annoying and it degrades the otherwise high quality impression.

No matter if it's the Nikon D90/D5000, the Panasonic GH1, the Pentax K-7 or the Olympus E-P1 the source is bad and that's the reason why the MJPEG compressed clips look so bad as soon as you film a street scene with buildings and edges. Even the Canon 5D mark2 with it's very high bit rate h.264 codec suffers from row skipping and can't deliver the best possible quality because of this.

To sum this up: MJPEG is not bad. It can look just as good as h.264. In order to achieve this it produces larger files. On the other hand editing native h.264 needs lots of processing power. Because of the way individual frames have to be generated it isn't recommended to edit native h.264 anyway. You should bring it into more edit friendly format. If you transfer h.264 to an intermediate codec like e.g. ProRes you'll get huge files plus you have the h.264 original plus this conversion needs time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Olympus E-P1

It doesn't have a fold-out display but otherwise doesn't it look like my dream described in post one? It also will not have a 12 MB/s data rate but I'm still looking forward to see sample movies. The sample images posted at look really great.

-Large 4/3 sensor
-Micro 4/3 lens mount
-Stainless steel case
-720p MJPEG AVI @ 4 MB/s
-Stereo PCM/16bit, 44,1kHz, WAV
-4:2:2 color compression!

Definitely interesting because of its size and quality.

First video samples at dpreview
I can't help but those look really good. There is aliasing in the second last sample but I bet the 5D mark II would also have problems.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pentax I love you

First Takes: K-7 Video from Ned Bunnell on Vimeo.

Take a look at these very first video samples from a pre-production Pentax K-7 (Download the 720p version and apply some contrast). That's M-JPEG at medium quality. It looks so analog and organic. Almost like film. Thanks a lot Pentax, you're on the right track.

By the way Ned Bunnel is the President of Pentax Imaging USA.

The very first downloadable original .AVI file from this camera:

And here's what the application VideoSpec says about the video track:

I wished the chroma subsampling format where the better YUV422 like on the Nikon D90.

Some other facts about the camera:
- Arperture is selectable but no full manual control.
- HDMI out is live during recording so you can use an external monitor
- An external stereo microphone is possible

Update: Please say this is not true: This example is really, really bad. There are speculations that the internal resolution of the K-7 video mode is as weak as that of the K20 burst mode. Oh no ...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Nikon D300s Rumor

Frame size (pixels) 1,280 x 720/24 fps, 640 x 424/24 fps, 320 x 216/24 fps
File format AVI
Compression format Motion-JPEG
Autofocus Contrast-detect AF on a desired point within a frame is possible (Tripod mode)
Audio Sound can be recorded via built-in or optional external microphone; sensitivity can be adjusted
Maximum length 5 min (1,280 x 720 pixels), 20 min (640 x 424, 320 x 216 pixels)

Usually it's pointless to comment such a rumor but one can dream (again):

I fell in love with the colors of the Nikon D90 movie mode but sold the camera because the compression and stair stepping was too bad for me. Now there's a rumor at about a successor of the really good D300. Basically its the same camera but with the addition of a movie mode that looks like that of the D90.

Here's my dream:
The D300(s) is a pro camera and I would assume Nikon has to deliver a video quality that tops that of the Canon 5D Mark II. Video on a professional camera better should be way better than on the consumer D90.

What if the rumored 5 minute recording limit is no longer only because of overheating the sensor but because of the 4 GB limit a single file can have on a FAT formated card? This would give a bitrate of roughly 4000 MB / 5 min = 800 MB / min or 800 / 60s = 13 MB/s. This is more than "my" data rate of 12 MB/s. It's the result of storing a 1280 x 720 movie in Photo JPEG format at more than 90% quality and a data rate of 104 Mbits/s!

Add to this a fast processor that can interpolate the sensor output to 720p without aliasing or stairsteps and you should have unbelievable good video quality.

You should also get 4:4:4 color compression at that JPEG quality, i.e. no color compression at all, all red, green and blue pixels are used. The D90 already has 4:2:2 which is much better than the 4:2:0 of AVCHD or h.264 stuff.

The DX sensor size is just ideal, the full frame sensor of the Canon is too large for me (larger than a movie camera frame).

I like that Nikon sticks with 24 fps, M-JPEG and 720p.

I love the Nikon colors.

I had no problem with the D90 "jello effect" (just put the camera on a tripod or move slow and controlled).

I already own a Nikon DSLR and lenses.

I would buy such a D300s despite the lack of an articulating screen, even if it still had no manual control in video mode (not nice). I want a stills camera that shoots video frames that look like high quality stills.

I would write a new blog about the D300s if my dreams come true.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pentax K7

Something that looks quite promising:

720p MJPEG video
30 fps
57 Mbits/s data rate (from hearsay)
External mic input

Individual frames from the video were crisp and sharp, with the effects of JPEG compression only noticeable in areas of subtly contrasting detail. (The effect there was similar to digicam still images recorded at a medium quality JPEG setting.) When panning, the only loss of detail we observed was that resulting from motion blur, when the video demanded a slower effective shutter speed; image quality during panning was far better than we've seen from cameras using the AVCHD recording format.

Quote from a first look at

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Casio compacts shoot 30fps JPEGs continuously

I almost missed this, the Casio FS10 and the FC100 can continuously shoot 30 JPEG photos per second at an image size of 2816 x 2112 pixels. Sure these are tiny sensor compact cameras with auto mode only but its nevertheless interesting to see such speeds in a consumer device.

UPDATE: It seems these models have a 30 frames buffer. You can shoot 30 frames for one second or 15 frames for 2 seconds or 10 frames for 3 seconds but no more than 30 frames.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Panasonic DMC-GH1: WOW!

This looks good so far. Some specs of the "PAL"-model:

- Large sensor
- 1080p @ 25 fps recorded as 50i AVCHD stream with 17 Mbps (just like my Canon HF100)
- 720p @ 50 fps with 17 Mbps AVCHD compression
- 720p @30 fps with M-JPEG compression
- Manual shutter speed and arperture
- External stereomic input
- Fast contrast autofocus in movie mode
- Silent auto focus with G Vario HD 14-140mm lens

Panasonic GH1 page

I can't wait to see full size sample movies. I wished it had 720p @ 25 fps with 17 Mbps.

The GH1 together with the G Vario HD 14-140mm lens will be available in May 2009 for about 1500 EUR.

This sure looks cool:

This not:

Photo from

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dreaming about a Nikon D5000

There's a rumour about a Nikon D5000 that could be introduced at PMA 2009 next week. It has a swivel display and video and could replace the three year old D40 which I think already has an electronic plus a mechanical shutter.

So let's dream a little bit.

What if the Nikon D5000 has

- no mirror but a high resolution electronic viewfinder like the Panasonic G1
- an electronic shutter
- a 3" swivel display
- good quality video (better than D90)
- a Nikon lens mount!
- a large DX sensor with 12 MP

... well that would be the camera I dreamed of in the very first entry of this blog. And even more since I could use my Nikon lenses.

It would be a real step forward but I'm afraid it will not happen. Anyway I can't help I just had to dream a little bit.

UPDATE: In reality the D5000 has the same video mode as the D90.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What's wrong with electronic shutters?

The Micro Four Thirds Standard just eliminated one moving part the mirror so what's about the other one, the shutter? The Panasonic G1 still has a mechanical shutter. What's wrong with electronic shutters?

I found two competent sounding answers at

Joseph Wisniewski says:
Nicholas, Nikon made six DSLRs with electronic shutter that you describe. D1, D1X, D1H, D70, D50, and D40. The reason these cameras still have a mechanical shutter is that the electronic shutter designs have a few quirks that make a mechanical shutter necessary:

"Read out", the transfer of data from the sensor to the camera's processor, has to happen in darkness. The sensor transfers data by "shifting" it from one pixel to another, like a "bucket brigade". If there's light on it at this time, that light will add to the moving image, resulting in a "smear".
If there were no mechanical shutter, the sensor would be exposed to lots of light for an extended interval before the exposure. This would overload cells, and as the overload spreads across the sensor, you get a phenomenon called "blooming". So, the sensor is kept in the dark, and the light that does fall on it in the time the mechanical curtains open is "cleared" by added circuitry that drains charge from the sensor. This draining process is not good enough to cope with the massive overload you'd get without a physical shutter.
Right now, no camera on the market has this system. The reason it is not more popular is that it requires extra circuitry (protected charge shifting, clearing, etc) that takes silicon area away from the "light sensing" parts of the sensor, and from other useful circuitry such as blooming protection. So, sensors without electronic shutter circuitry simply have better image quality: better dynamic range, better low light sensitivity, and less blooming.

and Eike Welk says
Video cameras have no mechanical shutter for each image. The technology used is fully electronic.

CMOS sensors have something called a 'rolling shutter'. Which means one row of pixels is digitized at a time, and one (other) row of pixels is cleared at the same instant.

This readout of one row, while other rows still collect light, leads to artifacts when the camera or objects in the image move. Those artifacts are frequently called 'jello' effect in discussions about the Canon 5D Mark II and Nikon D90.

CCD sensors in video cameras have light insensitive regions to store the image information ('interline' or 'frame transfer' architectures). The transfer of charge from the light sensitive regions to the storage regions is fast. Therefore CCD cameras can have real electronic shutters.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7 mit 720p @ 60fps

1/2.33" CCD
HD-Video: 1280 x 720, 60P!!! AVCHD Lite, with 17Mbps.
Since there are twice as much frames per second the 17Mps data rate is comparable to 8.5Mbs @ 30 fps.
Could be interesting if the video quality is ok.

5fps DSLR movie

Daydream from Martin Koch on Vimeo.

The scenes at the beginning and at the end are shot with a Nikon DSLR with about 5 frames per second. The JPEG quality was set to S (2128 x 1416 pixels) and FINE. The playback speed is 24 fps and in order to get the 5fps look almost "real time" I asked my son to move extra slow.

The frames look just great since the image processors in todays DSLRs are able to proper downscale and compress 5 to 8 images per second. Of course life of the physical shutter is limited and I don't want to do this regularly. It was an interesting experiment though and it proves that Photo-JPEG compressed video can look excellent.

Each frame weighs 1.3 MB so that would be about 30 MB/s @ 24fps (if a camera with 24 fps electronic shutter would exist). A 32 GB CF card could hold about 17 minutes of very high quality "video".

Using the frames in After Effects is easy. First put each scene into an individual folder (This is something a future camera should do automatically). Then import each scene by clicking on the first image in a folder. After Effects automatically checks Image sequence and imports it as such. Right-click on the imported footage and use "Interprete Footage Main" to set a frame rate you want. Thats all you need to use the footage in a comp where you can downscale and crop to your liking.

PMA 09

The PMA 09 International Convention and Trade Show will take place from March 3-5, 2009 in Las Vegas. Here are some expected cameras I'll keep an eye on:

1) Panasonic G1 HD. It will probably record in some kind of AVCHD format but in what quality? Auto focus during video recording seems to be sure. This could come very close to my dream camera if they do it right.

2) Nikon D400. Only rumours so far but it should have movie recording. If the recorded Live View image is still produced by skipping pixels I'm afraid we'll get stairsteps and aliasing just like from the D90 or Canon 5D markII.

3) Pentax K30D. 24 fps JPEGs for a longer recording time would be great. Proper downscaled images also, but I'm afraid that's wishful thinking.

We'll see soon if there's some positive surprise.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

REDs new program is modular and out of reach for consumers.

RED got surprised by DSLRs that shoot video and foreseeing the near future they had to rethink their whole Scarlet concept. The outcome announced today looks great. Scarlet has become a modular system so advances in technology doesn't require to buy a new camera, just a new module (Buying a new "brain" will let you feel like buying three cameras though). You can now configure a DSLR like model, a cinema-style camera or a shoulder mount one and more.

What's not so great are the prices. A "brain" module with a sensor the size of the Nikon D90 is $7000!!! and one with a sensor the size of the Canon 5D markII is $12.000!!! This is absolute "Pro" territorium. Mind you that's only the sensor in a box with electronics and a Nikon or Canon mount. After adding a handle, batteries, a LCD, a storage module and a lens you end up in RED ONE regions.

The much less interesting, tiny sensor "original" Scarlet with fixed lens and 2/3" sensor can still be configured although it's price has still to be announced.

My pain threshold is $3000. With these prices my future large sensor photo/movie cam will most likely be a Panasonic Micro Four Thirds model.

Nikon and Canon don't have to be afraid of RED. There's no "DSLR killer" from RED. The mass market is still safe and they can continue to give us tiny progress steps at a time.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Nikon D90 D Movie Quality

Nikon omitted the "H" in "HD" and called its movie mode "D-Movie". And thats correct, there's nothing "high-def" in it. I'm quite dissapointed by the actual (technical) quality of the D-Movies. I didn't expect this heavy compression artefacts and jaggies in a DSLR. Resizing to 640x360 (the default Vimeo size) is the only way to hide them. This camera loves organic shapes, faces, blur, fuzzy things but hates anything detailed and edgy. It deliveres a heartiness and quite pleasing analog feel though. If you expect HD quality or a camcorder replacement better wait for another model.

Colors look great though and what you see above is straight from the camera. By the way don't forget to lock the exposure to prevent flickering. I forget it most of the time.

I strongly suggest you try filming with the D90 yourself. Don't rely on remote diagnosis.

A good review of the D-Movie mode can be found at

UPDATE: Thanks to clever guys you can get rid of the stair-steps by using a Displacement Map in After Effects or Vegas but you can't do anything about the poor compression quality.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Thats all?

Looks like the Photokina doesn't bring any further news. The D90 and the Canon 5DII seems to be all we get this year. No Pentax with 24 fps ... Again I'll have to wait and wait and wait ... Note to myself: don't buy a photo/movie cam hat doesn't offer full manual control over shutter, arperture and ISO in movie mode!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Camera without movie mode

After seeing the stunning quality delivered by the Pentax K20 D (see previous post) how's about a camera that allows to build your own movies:

The camera has a large sensor (e.g. Micro Four Thirds, APS-C or DX).

There's no seperate movie mode but a burst mode that is able to capture 24 JPEG images per second for 1 to 3 minutes.

The JPEG compression quality is user selectable (e.g. LOW, MEDIUM, FINE, BEST).

If the camera is set to burst mode an electronic shutter is used. The camera starts recording pictures when the shutter is pressed. It stops when the shutter is pressed a second time or if the buffer is full.

The image size in burst mode is 1280 x 720. The 720p are proportionaly downscaled from the entire sensor width. An image at that size saved with a JPEG quality setting of "90" is around 0.5 MB. So this camera would produce around 12 MB/s ( 0.5 MB x 24 images/s). If the camera had an internal RAM buffer of 2 GB it could store almost three minutes of continuous recording.

When the burst recording has finished you have three options: 1) Press the "Playback" button to play back the recording from the RAM at 24 fps. 2) Hit the "OK" or "SET" button to save the movie to the card. 3) Press the "Trash Can" button to delete the recording. If you select "Save to Card" (or if you don't select anything within 30 seconds) the buffer content is written to the memory card. A 16 GB card would hold about 24 minutes. Since the JPEG quality is selectable one could decrease the quality for longer recording times.

Every burst recording is stored in a seperate folder on the card. To make a movie you need either QuickTime Pro ($30) or Photoshop CS3 Extended or After Effects. Choose image sequence, select the first image in the folder and click OK. Next enter the frame rate (24 fps) and you're done. Now you have a high quality 24 fps movie that can be exported to any QuickTime codec including lossless ones for further editing in a video editor program.

Sound can be recorded in high quality with an external device (a hand clap can be used for visual synchronisation in the editor) or the camera has a built in microphone or a mic input and stores a seperate 16 bit 48kHz audio file into the burst folder. Since the sound and pictures are recorded simultanously you just have to import the audio file into the video editing program

I will keep an eye on the camera releases at Photokina 2008. If there's a model that allows 24 images per second high quality JPEG recording at a size around 720p I think I'll look no further.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Canon EOS 5D Mark II with 30fps Full HD movie recording

Professional DSLR with 1920 x 1080 (16:9) up to 12 mins movie recording (Quicktime 30.000 fps, 1080p H.264; 38.6 Mbits/sec)
Seems like Canon did a lot right in their first attempt. External mic connector, (slow) contrast auto focus while filming ...

Specifications and sample movie files at

The sample movie with the bird looks promising but I'm cautious. Shutter speed seems to be determined automatically in movie mode so this camera also has no full manual mode when shooting video. Nevertheless it's a huge advance compared to the Nikon D90 (at a three times higher price though).

Not clear yet:
- How good is the downssampling from the full sensor area?
Update: Not perfect just look at the guitar strings at the right edge.
- Can movie recording be triggered via an infrared remote?
Update: According to the manual yes but I have no clue how it's done with just a single button on the remote.
- Does 40 Mbits/s 1280p equal 20 Mbits/s 1280i?
Update: Most likely.

Update: The video quality of the Canon is much better than that of the D90 but there are also problems with 50Hz flicker With manual shutter speed control you wouldn't have this problem.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

21fps DSLR movie

Pentax K20D(21f/s) + DA55-300mm from ligar on Vimeo.

Awesome quality. Download and watch the original QuickTime file at Vimeo. It's a conversion to h.264. The "Motion JPEG" original looks even better!!!

The Pentax K20D can only "film" for a few seconds at about 20 fps (in Burst mode). If you shoot 21 fps all the time its shutter will die within hours. UPDATE: WRONG I just learned that an electronic shutter is used in burst mode. The mechanical shutter stays open. Find the burst mode on page 119 of the K20 D user manual

Burst Shooting: You can take pictures continuousy at approximately 21 frames per second. In this mode, images are saved with JPEG size set to 1536x1024 pixels. The Jpeg Quality set in the Rec. Mode menu is used (e.g the best one!)

This will be the movie quality of future consumer cameras. They'll deliver 24 high quality JPEGs per second and have an electronic shutter that can handle this. Quality sound can be recorded externally i.e with an Edirol R-09HR. Storage space gets cheaper and cheaper.

Direct link to K20D test footage by Matthew Bennet (right-click and save).

I'm a bit disapointed after finding this K20D clip at a Pentax forum (stairsteps and flickering) and reading this explanation.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Panasonic G1 is sooo close ...

... to my dream camera. I'd buy the RED ONE if ... if it only had a movie mode!

The design is very conservative but I love it.

Please Panasonic announce a Micro Four Thirds model with video mode at Photokina 2008. Update: 2009 seem to be more likely and it looks like the next model will record in AVCHD format.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Micro Four Thirds standard for Live View only "SLRs"

"Wouldn't it be something if a single camera the size of highly portable compact camera could record both still images and movies with the high picture quality befitting an SLR?
This dream can become reality with the Micro Four Thirds System standard.
Soon users will be able to switch easily between shooting still images and movies using natural, intuitive operations while keeping the useful Live View on the monitor screen."

The industrie is moving in the right direction. The quote above is from

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Nikon D90 - World's first DSLR with movie mode

Now that's interesting: large sensor, exchangable lenses, 12 MP still images ... and ... 720p @ 24fps video with sound:
The Nikon D90 is here

It doesn't have a rotating display but an external monitor should show the LiveView stream.

  • 1280 x 720 pixels (16:9, 720p) @ 24fps

  • MJPEG @ 14 - 22 Mbits/s

  • Mono sound recording @ only 11 kHz

  • Max. 5 min single clip duration

  • Recording is started and stopped by pressing the "OK" button in LiveView mode

  • Only manual focus and zoom during movie recording

  • Exposure, white balance and ISO can be locked before recording.

The 1280 x 720 pixels are obviously downsized from the full sensor area which gives a very interesting advantage to the RED Scarlet:

Although the Red Scarlet sensor has a lot less pixels it's the size that allows the narrow depth of field (DOF) somuch wanted by movie makers. The D90 DX sensor has the same size as a 35mm movie camera frame or the RED One. Note that "Photo 35mm" are larger than "Film 35 mm". A 35mm film strip is 35 mm wide but is used horizontally in photo cameras while its used vertically in a film camera.

The video is recorded from the LiveView stream and stored as Motion JPEG in an AVI container format.

First samples show a data rate of 14 - 22 Mbits/s or 1.75 - 2,75 MB/s. This is less than medium to less than high quality. Below is an overview of the data rates produced by different JPEG compression quality settings. Unfortunately Nikon did skimp on the video recording bitrate. I hoped for at least 5 MB/s. I suppose the reason for staying around 2 MB/s is to be able to use any SD card. I wouldn't mind if movie recording would require a Class 6 SDHC card but Nikon obviously thinks otherwise.

Photo - JPEG data rates for 24 fps movies1
Quality slider Mbits/s MB/s 5 minutes clip size
Low-Medium 11 1,375 412 MB
Medium 16 2 600 MB
Medium-High 22 2.75 825 MB
High 30 3.75 1.1 GB
High-Best 40 5 1.5 GB
Best 130 16.25 4.9 GB

124fps, 1280 x 720 movie exported to Apple Photo - JPEG with QuickTime Pro. Data rates will vary depending on the complexity of the scene just like different photos result in different JPEG file sizes. The movies where without sound. Mono CD sound quality adds about 1 mbit/s to the data rate.

More info at

After downloading and watching first AVI samples at it's still unclear if this camera really records better movies than a point and shoot. I mean compression wise, the DOF and dynamic range of course are clearly superior. Some good looking samples unfortunately are converted to H264 or WMV. Not only the compression but also the scaling method from the sensor area to 720p seems to be sub optimal. Also there seems to be no easy control over shutter speed and ISO. All in all D-movie seems to be nothing really serious.
The D90 receives a lot of attention by film makers as this forum thread proves. If you've the time to read through this looooong thread you'll see how enthusiasm quickly turns into disillusion after using the D90.
Anyway this camera will start a trend and we'll see professional high quality hybrid cams in the future. Imagine a replacement of the Nikon D300 or D700 with Full HD movie mode and full manual control ability.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fuji FinePix S2000HD

Fuji FinePix S2000HD
Sensor size: 1/2.3"
Video: 1280x720 @ ? Mbits/s, 30 fps, MPEG4
Audio: WAV, 11kHz, Mono
Duration: max. 4GB (15min) continuous movie recording.
Quality: With 10 min per GB and poor audio the focus seems to be on saving storage space rather than on quality.

Sunday, May 11, 2008 raises desire for 720p video

Benkei Ramen Noodle Shop, Vancouver from Emmy Cmz on Vimeo.

Some cameras already have a YouTube mode but I'm confident that video sharing sites like will eventually force camera manufacturers to include quite good 720p video into their models. When you upload a 1280 x 720 sized movie to vimeo it automatically gets a better quality HD treatment. Such less compressed "HD" video looks quite good in the default 640 x 360 view. You can also watch it at full size but better not too close to the monitor. The embedded video above has "HD Off". To watch it in full vimeo quality click on the video title link. Vimeo has a very nice interface and uploading is as easy as pie. It's free with a 500 MB per week limit but there are signs that they are going to also offer Pro accounts with more features just like does. Additionally movies can be marked at private and also password protected. And one important and good thing is that they only allow material that is created by you.

It's common to mention the device that was used to shoot the video so thats great and free promotion for good cameras. Manufacturers simply can't ignore this any longer I think. In vimeos "HD channel" you can also clearly see the quality difference between clips from professional $3000 camcorders and movies from current compact cameras. So there's a lot of desire and a lot to improve.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

How's about the other way around?

Photo cameras currently have good photo quality and bad video quality. And video cameras what still quality do they have? See yourself at this Flickr page. Not so bad isn't it? This is a quality you would also get from a tiny point and shoot. At closer examination you'll see the problem of small sensor cameras (and video cameras have ever smaller sensors): loss of detail. Look at this dog the fur is smoothed by heavy noise reduction that basically works like Photoshops surface blur filter. I don't want that and therefore video cameras would also benefit from larger pixels.

This particular camcorder - the Canon HF100 - records AVCHD video on SDHC cards and JPEG still photos. It's tiny 1/3.2" sensor has 3 Megapixels but effectively used (because of the way Bayer pattern sensors work) are just 2/3 or about 2 Megapixels. This is exactly the size of full HD but the 3 Megapixel still photo size is obviously interpolated.

What's about Foveon X3 sensors?

I suppose it's common knowledge that cameras with Foveon sensors record images similar to film. Because each pixels contains the red, blue and green information pixels can easily be grouped together to become one large pixel. Foveon calls this feature Variable Pixel Size (VPS) and says:

The grouping of pixel locations increases the signal-to-noise ratio, allowing the camera to take full-color pictures in low-light conditions with reduced noise. Using the VPS capability to increase pixel size and reduce the resolution also allows the image sensor to run at higher frame rates, accelerating the speed at which images can be captured.

This makes it possible to shoot high-quality digital video, enabling the development of the first cameras with true dual-mode functionality. Without Foveon X3 technology, cameras attempting to accommodate both still and video functions must sacrifice performance in one mode to do the other well. And since the sizing of pixels can be done in an instant, a Foveon X3 direct image sensor can capture a high—resolution still photo in the midst of recording video—yet another first in digital photography.

According to the data sheet of the current Foveon sensor only 640 x 480 @ 30 fps video is possible. I would accept that or a slightly larger frame size at 24 fps preferable at a much more pleasing 16:9 aspect ratio. Unfortunately after so many years no consumer camera with Foveon X3 sensor offers this VGA sized video mode. The Sigma DP1 is the first photo camera with Foveon sensor and movie recording but its tiny 320 x 212 pixel video (3:2) makes no one really happy. The movie quality is very good and film like though. Watch some movie clips direcly from the DP1 at

Friday, May 9, 2008

What I really want but didn't dare to ask for.

Lets forget all those video compression compromises for a moment. All this artificial seperation between still and movie mode. What I really want is full frame RAW recording at 24 or 30 fps. And with full frame I mean 6 Megapixels or so. Put all concerns about storage space and computer power aside and imagine a camera that stores the same quality regardless if its supposed to be a still or a movie. QuickTime Pro or Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended would be all you need to turn the individual shots into a movie. You can scale the recorded stills to any frame size and aspect ratio and compress it to any video format of your choice. If Cinema DNG comes to live you will have a movie in the first place and can then choose stills from it. Or even better Cinema DNG compatible editing software would allow nondestructive editing using lower resolution proxy images. That's what I really want.

Do I? Lets now speak of the amount of data such a camera would produce:
6,000,000 pixel x 2 bytes/pixel x 24 fps would be 288 MB/s or 17 GB/min or 1 TB/hour. This is calculated for a 16 bit resolution per pixel monochrome Bayer pattern. RGB values are later calculated from this.

If this seems to be too huge to store and archive at the moment hows about a camera that records 12 to 20 Mpixels RAW stills and 3 Mpixels RAW movies? Kind of a RED Scarlet but with SLR sized sensor. 500GB/hour RAW video doesn't sound that bad.

Read some interesting thoughts at Luminous Landscape.

One chip solutions for the next generation of still/video hybrid cameras

Ideally, a consumer product will integrate the best of both worlds and will have the still quality of a digital still camera and the video quality of a camcorder. It is an unrealistic expectation that the user will continue to carry two devices.
Ambarella Inc.

OK, if it's high quality I will also welcome h.264/AVC recording. Ambarella Inc. apparently delivers high quality one chip solutions for the next generation of still/video hybrid cameras. We should expect to see more in this direction.

Ambarella promise: unite HD video, still photos without compromise.

Ten year old video rate JPEG compression chip

Here's a link to a datasheet of a "video rate JPEG compression chip". The chip processes one VGA sized frame in about 20 ms. That are 50 frames per second (1 / 0.020) ! It can process a 1280 x 1024 pixel image in about 80 ms (=12 fps). I did the math for a 1280 x 720 pixel frame as explained on page 3 of the datasheet and calculated 17 fps. Mind you this data sheet is from ten years ago. When 17 fps, 720p video was possible ten years ago what's possible today? On the other hand many of the 2007 cameras have a 30 fps, 640 x 480 movie mode and a 15 fps, 1280 x 720 movie mode. Do manufacturers still use 10 year old solutions? It seems so.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cut the mess in half!

Currently - if you want great photo and great movie quality - you have to carry a camcorder and a digicam. But there's more. Don't forget that you need

- 2 battery packs ( plus maybe 2 extra battery packs )
- 2 chargers plus cables
- 2 power adapters plus cables
- 2 lithium batteries
- 2 manuals

Wouldn't it be great to cut this mess in half? Just have to study one manual? Have to master just one device? Have to install just one software CD? Set White Balance just once? How great would that be?

What's the difference?

I see no technical reason why digital photo cameras shouldn't be able to record high quality photos and movies. The storage requirements and data rates are easily met by buying faster SDHC cards (e.g. Sandisk Extreme III cards deliver 20 MB/s transfer speed).
As previously mentioned JPEG is the format of choice for high quality stock images and visually lossless at 90% compression quality. QuickTime PhotoJPEG compression is "intraframe" i.e. every frame is compressed individually and editing is therefore simple. Also the JPEG compression is already built into the camera while MPEG 4 would require additional circuits. The shooting speed of digital SLRs which currently can process 10 to 12 Megapixel at up to 15 frames per second is not required . Note that a movie size of 1280 x 720 are only 0.92 or roughly 1 Megapixels. Should be easy to handle.

Data rates of Photo - JPEG compressed movies1
Frames per second Mbits/s MB/s Minutes on 8 GB card
24 40 5 25
30 90 12 10

11280 x 720 movie exported to Apple Photo - JPEG with QuickTime Pro. Quality slider set halfway between High and Best (90%). Data rates will vary depending on the complexity of the scene just like different photos result in different JPEG file sizes.

If manufacturer would choose 24 frames per second any Class 6 SDHC card (Class 6 guarantees 6 MB/s transfer speed) would be sufficient.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

SLR with movie mode?

The reason why SLRs can't record movies used to be the mirror which is neccessary for fast autofocussing. On the other hand the Panasonic DMC-L10 can use a slower contrast detection autofocus with the mirror flipped up. Another reason used to be that the large sensors would get hot when constantly in use which would increase noise. But the L10 and some other SLRs now have low power Live MOS sensors. You press the Live View button, the mirror flips up and stays up during shooting as long as you do not use the faster autofocus method. I wonder what technical difficulties hinder Panasonic to include a movie mode. It's all there otherwise: a large sensor and an articulating LCD.

Will we see a SLR with movie mode in 2008?

UPDATE: Panasonic answered to my question. Of course they don't comment on future camera features but at least they confirmed that there is no technical reason for not including a movie mode in the L10. They said it's not a designated performance feature for this model.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The near future?

I hope in 2008 manufacturers will finally offer high quality movie recording in large sensor photo cameras. If not, there's hope. RED has promised a killer Still/Movie camera called Scarlet for early 2009. Yes, if the quality is as expected I will shell out $2900 for it. A still photo from this camera will print at a size of about 260 x 140 mm or 10 x 6 inches at a resolution of 300 dpi. The pixel count is also right for the relative small sensor.

Here are RED Scarlets preliminary specs:

  • 2/3" SENSOR

  • 5.3 MP (3072 x 1735) 16:9 MOVIE AND STILL RECORDING

  • 1-120 FPS (180FPS BURST)



  • 4.8" FOLDOUT LCD

  • 8X T2.8 ZOOM LENS


  • HDMI and HD-SDI

  • FIREWIRE 800 and USB2



I want this PhotoMovieCam!

Why a large DSLR sensor?
Because you get larger sensor pixels and that means less noise and therefore less detail killing noise reduction. Learn more at

Why a 28 - 70 mm zoom?
Wide angle is important. 35mm simply isn't enough. I also think it's easier to build a high quality lens with less zoom range. A macro mode is a must!

Why a foldout display?
No discussions. This is a must!

Why a metal case?
I would use such a camera a very long time. A solid built metal case brings more joy.

Why RAW?
I never use JPEG if a camera offers RAW. The RAW format records the full unaltered sensor data and allows for White Balance adjustment later on. Also Photoshop offers more power and quality to compress an image to the JPEG format. If the RAW format is DNG it will be supported by Photoshop and Mac OS X right out of the box.

Why 1280 x 720 movie recording?
720p is a huge size for a computer monitor.

Why 30 fps?
Please 30.00 fps not 29.97 fps. I watch my movies on a computer there's no need for legacy TV norm frame rates or, heaven forbid interlaced video. NTSC or PAL via A/V out only.

Why 12 MB/s JPEG video compression?
JPEG is the format of choice for high quality stock images. At JPEG quality settings above 80% the compression is "visually lossless". A 30 fps, 1280 x 720 movie compressed to JPEG using a compression quality settings of 90% equals approximately 90 Mbits/s or about 12 MB/s. If the source is of high quality (large sensor) the movie quality will be stunning!
The reason for all this highly compressed and hard to edit 2 MB/s AVCHD/MPEG4/h.264 stuff is to save storage space and to allow for slower SDHC cards. But SDHC cards and computer harddrives constantly get larger, faster and cheaper.
12 MB/s JPEG compression requires a fast SDHC card (e.g. Sandisk Extreme III cards deliver 20 MB/s transfer speed). You can record 5 minutes of video on a 4 GB card and 20 minutes on a 16 GB card. Soon 32 GB cards and 40 min recording time will be available. MPEG4 is a great delivery codec but I prefer less compressed original footage.