Closing thoughts

What does 'DSLR revolution' really mean? What makes it unique from other technological breakthroughs in cinematography? Smaller, cheaper cameras? Better image quality? Easier to learn?

One can also argue that a Sony EX1 camcorder from 2008 shoots sharper image, is easier to shoot with, and is often smaller and cheaper than a full Canon 5D Mark II rig. So what's the whole point of DSLR cinematography?

Sony EX1 HD Camcorder

The true significance of the DSLR revolution is that cinematic depth-of-field becomes accessible to the masses. For the first time, DSLR technology makes DOF control affordable, which gives rise to the defining aesthetic of this revolution that changes so much of our visual culture today.

More than a decade has passed since the surprise success of the Canon 5D launched the revolution. Camera makers responded by primarily focusing their efforts on improving image quality, but they have failed to make fundamental progress in the very thing that defines this revolution - DOF control. DOF control is more than having a shallow DOF. It is the control of where to place the DOF at what time. It is an area that is long overdue for some innovation.

The Panasonic GH cameras appealed to cinematographers by pushing the envelope and including video features not found on other cameras. Can Panasonic lead by example again with the full frame S series?

Today, image quality from different cameras is becoming more and more similar as sensors are getting better. The future battle for camera makers will be about the integration and streamlining of camera functionalities. Overall user experience will become a more important factor than absolute image quality and specs when professionals choose their cameras. A good focus control may not be as sexy as megapixels or 'AI tracking'. It may not even make the top ten list of most wanted camera features in surveys, but it is the one thing that will meaningfully improve user experience for pro video shooters more than anything else. Just as Steve Jobs once famously quoted Henry Ford, "People don’t know what they want until you show it to them." I still remember the smiles on my assistants' faces when I showed them my SBUS-capable Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera kit for the first time.

Camera makers responded by primarily focusing their efforts on improving image quality, but they have failed to make fundamental progress in the very thing that defines this revolution - DOF control.

While the LUMIX S1 and SR1 are getting ready for shipment, I hope a video-centric pro version is in the oven, and it will be the best candidate for a reinvented focus control system. I, for one, will gladly pay an extra thousand dollars just to have this feature in my camera plus another thousand to buy the hand controller, easily.

Panasonic, you are in the best position to tackle this problem. No third-party company can do it for you. A good focus control system can drive camera and lens sale. It will elevate LUMIX S to become much more than a just great camera, but a great SYSTEM that video professionals want to buy. And please, don’t let Sony do it first.


Jack is a graduate of Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, where he received two Excellence in Cinematography Awards. He then further pursued his craft at the prestigious FAMU conservatory in Czech Republic.

He also works with DJI as a design consultant for their cinema products.

See a showcase of Jack's works