D90: Why the movie mode is so very special.

Started Aug 27, 2008 | Discussions thread
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Doctor_No Junior Member • Posts: 36
D90: Why the movie mode is so very special.

While I'm sure many purist will scoff at movie capabilities in a dSLR, there are some very interesting and unique benefits that is "game changing", as USA Today calls it.

:Main Benefit: APS-C bayesian-CMOS sensor

APS-C sized sensor will give depth-of-field like nothing else on the market. Clearly, with a large sensor you get "bokeh" like effects where you can isolated the subject via a shallow DOF. There is no camcorder in the market even close in price with a sensor size as close to the D90.

Most consumer level camcorders use 1/3" CCD sensors, the prosumer level camcorders (like he Canon XL-1) still use 1/3" sensors but have 3CCDs. One step up from 1/3" sensors are the 2/3" sensor, which currently is incredibly expensive. They range from the soon to be released Red Scarlet ($4k) to the Sony CineAlta F23($145k+) but are dramatically minuscule compared to an APS-C sized sensor. 2/3" sensor is roughly the size of 16mm film (58mm2) while an APS-C sized senor has an area of around 370mm2.

There are currently 35mm digital video cameras on the market. The most famous being the Red One ($17k). What is revolutionary in the Red One is that it uses a full-frame 12MP bayesian-CMOS sensor unlike other cameras that use small 2/3" 3CCDs (sound familiar). In fact, the Red One can is an open mount (even accepting dSLR lenses from Nikon). The Red One was designed as a 'relatively' affordable way for people to take digital movies that can simulate film. The others in the market are Dalsa Origin and Panavision Genesis/Sony CineAlta F35 (Sony-Panavision are partners) which range in price from the hundreds of thousands to millions (used in movies like Superman Returns, etc).

:Interchangeable Glass.

dSLR glass is surprisingly good. In a recent comparison someone did comparing dSLR lens (Zeiss ZF) to $20,000 PL-mount cinema lens (Zeiss Super Speed) the 'cheap' dSLR glass performed as well (if not slightly better) then the cinema glass in terms of quality.


It may not be that surprising being that Nikon produces lenses for Panavision. While there is more to cinema lenses then IQ, the main point is that your collection of Nikkor glass should be a decent enough match and get superb image quality relative to the price (many Red users are mounting F and EF mounts on their camera).

Beyond that, you can imagine the possibility of what kind of video you can take using long telephoto zooms, macro lenses, fish-eye, lens-babies, tilt-shift lenses etc.


Clearly, the D90 which can only do 720p and 24fps is a not competitor to any of these above mentioned incredibly expensive cameras, but its the closest any device has gotten to it to reproducing film-like movies with control of DOF. Add to that, the range of Nikon lenses and you have a device that can produce very unique results that no other camcorder anywhere near that price-range can produce.

Hopefully, in the future, we may see the capability to do a full 1080p( 2MP) and 30/60fps to make it truly useful. At first, it may just be a novelty, but there certainly is a future in this, and dSLRs may find a burgeoning market from new customers that are looking for this capability.

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