Vincent Laforet’s Blog

The Cat is Out of The Bag: SLRS Now Shoot HD Video
August 27, 2008, 6:29 am
Filed under: New Technology
Nikon's D90

Nikon D90


So – IT happened – Digital SLRs can now shoot HD Quality video – and the repercussions this will have on our industry are going to be pretty fascinating to watch in the upcoming years. While most newspaper photogaphers will be thrilled not to have to carry both SLR and video camera systems to perform their new duties, sports photographers may find that these cameras create serious headaches for them going into venues with broadcasters who own exclusive rights to the video content being broadcast from that very venue.  These will be very interesting times that will lead to some very precedent setting debate.

I had a very strong feeling that this was coming down the pipeline and mentioned it in several previous articles over the past few years, including  the “Cloud is Falling” article that I wrote a few months ago.  I should mention that never had I heard anything coming out of either a Canon or Nikon rep about video – it was kept TIGHTLY under wraps – until Nikon revealed the Nikon D90 yesterday.   The buzz about this upcoming announcement was circulating amongst a few people “in the know” at the Olympics – I hadn’t heard any solid information on the details of this camera but did know something was coming out  – and I was expecting it to be announced at Photokina in about a month from now.  The rumour going around was that one or more manufacturers might be releasing a camera that could shoot both video and still images – but not simultaneously.  This first amateur camera can neither autofocus, nor simultaneously shoot stills and video.   That – my guess is  – will be what the professional cameras will do – and soon.

Here are a few more details from Gizmodo:

“It shoots 1280x720p video at 24fps with a 16:9 aspect ratio for up to five minutes, producing around a 600MB file. It’s essentially recording the Live View feed (which gets its own button) so focus is locked because the mirror has moved out of the way, and you get mono sound. The major appeal is that it’ll work with any of your lenses, so you can do wacky HD clips with a fisheye lens on the (relatively) cheap or be artsy and use a shallow depth of field.”   And the price is only: $999 which is kind of a bombshell in it’s own right.  That price is an industry changer in my opinion – very much in the same way that the RED camera sells for 5 to 10 times less than it’s competitors.

And a little more of the same from Nikon: “For the first time in digital SLR photography, Nikon introduces the addition of the D-Movie mode, allowing consumers to create their own HD movie clips (1280 x 720) with sound from their D-SLR camera. Photographers will appreciate the cinematic qualities that come from the 24fps frame rate, which matches theatrical film, whether producing vacation clips or creatively melding stills with video. Additionally, the large size of the D90’s DX-format sensor, combined with the optical superiority and broad selection of NIKKOR lenses, provides shooters with the ability to capture amazing perspectives not possible with typical camcorders. D-Movie clips also benefit from Nikon VR image stabilization, which is automatically activated during recording to aid the low-light capability that trumps many other hybrid devices. Users can record movie clips onto an inserted SD / SDHC card, created as Motion JPEG AVI files that are easily edited with widely available video editing software. The D90 also features an HDMI terminal, allowing viewing of both pictures and movies on High Definition television”

So – here we are at a crossroads.  I see this as all positive – I’ve always wanted to shoot more video/film – but didn’t want to make a new investment in lenses and gear… now I no longer have to… think about it.  Although I have no insider knowledge on what Canon is working on at this time – common sense would lead me to believe they’ll have an answer to this soon enough.   I say this, because the rumors being traded back and forth at the Olympics, from non-Nikon or Canon people – was that Canon was going to be the one making this type of announcement first… we all in fact knew that some big announcement was coming from Nikon on Monday (this past Monday – it came out Tuesday as it turned out)  so who knows…   The reason we are at a crossroads is the following:  TELEVISION and their fear of the traditional print media tresspassing on their turf.  A turf they have paid for – and are unlikely to share for free.

Given that all of these rumours were going around quite a bit in Beijing – I sat down with two very influential people who will each be involved at the next two Olympic Games.  Given that NBC paid more than $900 million to acquire the U.S. Broadcasting rights to this past summer games, how would they feel about a still photographer showing up with a camera that can shoot HD video?

I got the following answer from the person who will be involved with Vancouver which I’ll paraphrase:   Still photographers will be allowed in the venues with whatever camera they chose, and shoot whatever they want – shooting video in it of itself, is not a problem.  HOWEVER – if the video is EVER published – the lawsuits will inevitably be filed, and credentials revoked etc.

This to me seems like the reasonable thing to do – and the correct approach.  But the person I spoke with who will be involved in the London 2012 Olympic Games had a different view, again I paraphrase: “Those cameras will have to be banned.  Period.  They will never be allowed into any Olympic venue” because the broadcasters would have a COW if they did.   And while I think this is not the best approach – I think it might unfortunately be the most realistic.  Do you really think that the TV producers and rigths-owners will “trust” photographers not to broadcast anything they’ve paid so much for.  Unlikely.  Remember that every two years – photographers are allowed to go and see the dress-rehearsal for the Opening Ceremonies at each Olympics and every time we have to sign releases promising NEVER to publish those.  We are granted access so that we can better prepare to shoot the actual thing.   Nonetheless, someone did publish these pictures in Athens for example… and once those promises are broken, it gives TV the excuse to shut us down (although they haven’t – and did let us shoot dress rehearsals this year.)  But do we really trust all of our breatheren to ahere to these “restrictions” – forever?   Well – I don’t.  And that’s why I think we’ll have problems – big problems – coming down the pipe with these cameras for the photographers who shoot in “closed” events where someone has bought rights to said event.

So tell me what you think in the comments below – I’m quite interested in starting a bit of a back and forth on this topic – and it will very likely change the face of our industry more quickly than anyone expected, and continue to blur the distinction between a still photographer and videographers/filmakers.


41 Comments so far
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As far as rights are concerned I don’t think it changes much. Photographers could record video right now, but wouldn’t be allowed to publish it (in the case of the Olympics I guess).

Still, most events don’t have these kind of restrictions, so it’s just a big bonus to be able to shoot video too.

On the technological side I think it will change things for the better. A PJ won’t have to carry an extra video camera, but when he encounters that special situation that needs to be conveyed in video he can shoot it anyway, and in great quality too!

Comment by Jan

Vince, I still get the feeling that your not happy with your work from China. Listen to me bud, point a) Your images were gold, insane good and b)my boy and I have met you, we had that pleasure, you are without a doubt not only one of the finest ‘togs I know but the second hardest working photographer in the business. (Sorry, but Joe McNally always stays up there as number one with us)
Most of all, your one of the good guys that shares his talents and his professionalism with others. Now, get off that thing you have about not being happy with the job, because it’s bogus, and back to your amazing work. ‘ya hear?
Best to you
Tom and Jared

Comment by Tom Aellis

I have mixed feelings about this development: Not that I would dislike having the ability to record video as well with my DSLR, in fact it sounds pretty fascinating. But as you mentioned, there is that thing with TV rights on sport events. I wouldn’t expect this to become a problem for the professionals like you are, even if those cameras would be banned. “Screening” the press officials for those type of SLR bodys wouldn’t be that much of a problem to realize, but for the amateur sports shooter who enters with the crowd this could mean something entirely else: checking every visitor’s DSLR for their ability to shoot video would be too much (once canon enters the game the number of different makes and models will increase…), instead I’d fear that bringing a DSLR per se could become a no go for the amateur.

Anyhow, I’d still prefer a full frame body like the D700 over the additional video feature of the D90.

Comment by Florian

The review by Chase Jarvis appeared in my Google reader this morning and now I’m really excited. I’m a student so what ever money I get I usually spend on glass, this is the first SLR to have really captured my attention since I brought my D50.
Your ‘Cloud is Falling’ article got me thinking about the future of photography a while back and since then I’ve been thinking of ways to diversify and this camera may well be the key.

Comment by Kyle Stubbs

[…] and shoots 24-fps HD Quality video. The blogosphere is buzzing about this camera. I especially like Vincent Laforet’s perspective on this because he looks to the future when it comes to new technologies and the issues new […]

Pingback by D90 buzz… | Jono Fisher - Photographer

Coming from 16 years spent in the NLE field of broadcast, I can assure you that 600MB of data @ 720p is not going to really upset the equilibrium. Although it is the beginning of what we have experienced with camera phones in recent years.

My take is that this is another step in the direction of citizen’s reportage. Although, the COW will certainly drop when such a camera grabs the scoop, while the cam-operator was focusing according to the producer/director’s directions.

Comment by Matt from SA

Vincent – ever since i read ‘the clowd is falling’ this has been on my mind. For me, this is a nice addition and I agree that we as a group need to become fluent in video, however, these video clips will always just support the still images we take. The tangible quality of a still photo – even on the web – can not be reproduced by video clips. You can look at a photograph for as much or as little time you want, you can discuss it, you can put it on your wall, publish it in print, compare it side by side with other images, among a zillion other things. This is fascinating but the more I think about it the less I am concerned with it having groundbreaking affects on the industry or our day-to-day jobs.

Comment by Dustin Bradford

[…] Vincent Laforet who is hot off the Olympics trail has a really good analysis on how the D90 will affect the Sports Photography industry. The man is full of wisdom, definitely a good read. LINK […]

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A D90 in the Olympics 2012? If you ask me noop!
I don´t think a pro will go for a D90 if you ask me? I will agree to Mr Vincent!!
But as a sidekick to a D3/D300 maybe,,,


Martin Doshé

Comment by Martin Doshé

[…] Vincent Laforet published an article on his blog today about possible repercussions from Nikon’s newest DSLR Camera, the D90. This Little Camera Is capable ot recording HD Video, Utilizing VR Lens Technology, High ISO technology. He’s concerned about what this will do to photographer access to events where the video rights have been sold to a large broadcasting company, Like the Olympics, or other Pro sporting events, NFL, NHL, etc. It definitely raises a good point and will be something that I for one will be following rather closely.     Read More    Post a Comment […]

Pingback by Bennett Phototography » Blog Archive » Nikon’s New Camera to Raise Additional Restrictions on Photographers?

Closing ceremonies were 2 days before this camera was announced. By the time Vancouver rolls around we will be 3 generations down the road equipment-wise. Rights owners will be concerned, but it probably will not be about this camera.

Comment by Kurt Weber

Hi Vincent

I agree that these camera’s should not be aloud where broadcasters have the rights, I have no doubt that someone will abuse their privelage and publish video footage.

Also where do you draw the line between photographer or videographer, photographer’s should stick to photography, thats what most pro photographers do, take superb photographic images that captures a moment! Leave the video stuff to film crew and cameramen and dont dilute the art.

Kind regards

Comment by Nigel

I actually found this revelation so intriguing it sparked a blog post. If you’d like to read (it’s a little lengthy for this comment box) click my name.


Comment by Michael George

Martin – yes – obviously – there will be newer cameras by then – that’s not the point – the point is that this is the first of many – and that therefore the debate is now open.

Kurt – you got it – yes.

Hey Nigel – same Nigel from the Newsweek blog btw?

Michael – read the blog. I would be shocked if Canon doesn’t enter this area market with something at some point soon….

Comment by Vincent Laforet

Tom – hey great to hear from you. The piece Joe did on you in his blog was fantastic. You’re an inspiration to us all!

I was being hard on myself because when you’re literally surrounded by some of the best in the business – you have to push yourself very hard. And you go through a lot of ups and downs in that setting – I just wanted to show people what I truly was going through – as you can see the first week was tough – and I think it’s fair to say things went up from there and ended on a good note!

I’ll take being second to Joe any day – he works like a madman and it shows in his work. v

Comment by Vincent Laforet

I’d be pretty surprised if none of the professionals shooting the Olympics in China had a point-n-shoot in his/her bag that could shoot video. Not most, and not much used for “real” shooting, but it points out the idea that banning cameras that shoot video seems unrealistic to me.

With the increases in speed, they may have to redefine “video” anyway: by 2012, there may be cameras that can simply shoot normal stills at 18fps (i.e., not *quite* video) with buffers holding many hundreds of jpegs.

Ultimately, the test will still be the word of the shooter and the legal documents and ramifications. In part, we just hope that no one unscrupulously causes problems for everyone else in the future. But there are bigger debates in here about what that future will look like.

Comment by Marshall

Hey Vincent,
happy that you’re still blogging after Beijing!
Video-SLR sounds extremely exciting, I understand the concerns for events like the Olympic but we’re going to have HD video coupled with a variety of lenses… I’d love to see what it will produce.. (video with a TS lens? sweet!)

Comment by Claudio

Apart from the super mainstream events stories such as big venue sports, where do we see the future of what we do? Imagine covering an entire election with this technology; stills for print, HD DV for daily TV/Internet coverage and a wider edit of both for picture stories and video for documentaries.

And this is just the beginning.

At the price point, we will “ALL” (big budget new houses, hobbyist and bloggers) be able to afford the means to gather and produce HD DV and high quality stills. Now, talent and relationships play a very large roll in what we do but will this not make the market for our products and services that much tighter?

I guess the same question has been asked since the dawn of the Internet but, like you are saying Vince, do you see this to be a moment in our industry’s history where we will look back in 5-10 years and say ‘that was as big or bigger than the introduction of roll film, or digital cameras’?

Do we think that we can now service TV news as well as web and print with our unique ability to tell stories?

I realize these questions are nearly premature, but we have been asking these since Dirk Halstead “penned” the Platypus Papers in the late 1990’s.

Vince, tell us this, if the D90 were out in 2000 and you had this tool solid in your work flow, and you were on your own, how would you have covered 9/11 and the two wars that followed? Would you have serviced TV or produced DV documentaries in addition to your still relationships? How would this be included in a contract with the NYT or Newsweek? Would you be able to negotiate images to one and video of the same situations to another?

How would your story on the Carrier been different? Video in the cockpit?

While it may sound like I am putting you on the stop, we have all seen and many of us admired your work on 9/11 in Afghanistan among other locales. I think your experiences with this story and your current independent status could give us all added insight into how this new watershed moment might play out.



Comment by Dan

Hi Vincent

Yes, same Nigel as the Newsweek blog 🙂

I have to be honest, Im not convinced that Video-DSLR will appeal to pro togs, I mean I’m guessing they would choose either to be a photographer or a videographer, not sure they they would want to be both.

Looking forward to more of your great blogs.

Kind regards

Comment by Nigel

Well, if i remeber correctly, when the 1D MkII was unveiled with its 11 frames per second, Canon said, they would not increase this rate to keep a distance to video cameras. And to ensure, photogs will get access to venues due to the clear distinction.

Personally i like to develop the moment, rather than making a video, where the moment disappears so fast.

Comment by Markus

So, Digital camera will shoot video. There is one out there that does it and many will follow. Deciding that those camera are not allowed to be used in 2012 in London sounds simply unrealistic to me. That would meant that photographers have to use a 1Ds MkIII and not the Mark $ or whatever it will be at the time that will most likely shoot video. I don’t recall many examples where an authority of any kind has been able to successfully block innovation. Those camera will be released, these features will become standard, that’s life, that’s a normal technical evolution and there is nothing a photographer, a TV producer or an official from the International Olympic Committee can do about it. Now you mention Bill Frakes and his 18 cameras the real question is – in 2012 how many of those cameras will be used to shoot video ? My guess is – very few because video will be left to video producers and still images will be left to photographers.

Comment by Laurent Cavalie

I guess it’s a nice novelty to be able to shoot video with a still camera. Just it’s a novelty to get frame grabs from a video camera. In my opinion, it’s still going to be a few years before they get very good at the other. I like the right tool for the right job. Still, now we will have options.

Comment by Brent Rust

I think such feature would be popular among amateurs and wedding photographers. Former will get to make quality movies for cheap. For latter ones it would be a good selling point.
I think PJ pros will keep to doing what they are doing. At least for now.
But this whole D-Movie got me thinking about where photography is heading in general. With the developments of digital picture frames and electronic papers there might be a time in the future where a single image photography would become a thing of the past. Imagine opening morning newspaper and watching video illustrations. Or a family album with video clips. So one day we might find photography as we know it to be just a movie frame in a video.

Comment by Misha Korablin

At some point we will probably have “still” cameras that are really shooting video. Think 24 megapixels at 25fps – or more. At this point, the photographer can simply capture a long sequence and pick the best frame for print, while the entire clip can be used on the web or TV. This will change everything. It’s like going from an old Speed Graphic to a high speed Nikon F3 – and beyond. Photography has come a long was in the last 10-15 years. We can only imagine what the future will bring. But it will change, whether we like it or not.

Comment by Jarle Aasland

Convergence of this kind is inevitable, the D90 is just another step. The difference in the immediate future will be “speed to market” and “quality”. The broadcasters with rights have a considerable advantage in editing and distributing high quality content live. This is’nt something I would expect to see for another few years in the digital camera market. Although it is only a matter of time before someone is sitting in front of a laptop splicing live feeds from several photo/videographers via a high speed wireless connection. I would guess the broadcasters will “suck it up” in the medium term as the next generation of Pro bodies will be sporting the video option.

Was there any debate about broadcasting rights when Robert Hanashiro made a 30fps clip of Barry Bonds hitting his 756th home run?

Comment by Neil

Given that I’m not personally interested in shooting video, I’m worried by this development for two reasons.

The first is issues around TV rights, which have already been covered in some detail. An additional point is that there have already been disputes between still photographers and TV rights. The organizers of the 2007 Six Nations rugby tournament felt that high frame rates and saturation still photography constituted a de facto violation of the exclusive TV rights that they’d sold to broadcasters. Their draconian attempts to deal with this problem led to a media boycott of the first few games. This can only get worse with DSLRs that can actually do video and I do worry for the amateur photographer who wishes to bring a nice camera into a sporting venue. (Of course, all the cheap cameras and even phones can already do video but nobody seems to care about that.)

The second applies only to UK users. Cameras that can take videos are liable to import duty of between 5 and 15%; cameras that can only take still pictures do not attract import duty. So, this means an automatic price hike for UK users.

Comment by David Richerby

Have compact cameras been subject to that duty?

Comment by Neil

Any camera that can shoot video is subject to import duty, yes.

Comment by David Richerby

How about the fans in the stands? Are there any restrictions on them bringing video cameras into the stadium? Most compact digital cameras will take video, although it’s not HD.

I think the ONLY way to handle this is to ban broadcasting of video. After all, what’s to stop a still photographer from pulling off the D90 badge and replacing it with a D60 badge? (Or other devious methods of sneaking a HD video camera in to the venue.)

Comment by AJ

[…] Laforet has an interesting take on the problems that might arise when using the D90. Never really thought of […]

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I have been hoping for this for at least the past 3 years. For mainly the depth of focus reason. Video cameras can’t narrow the focus like a slr lens can. PS. your blog rules.

Comment by stephenmcgee

If the big networks do not embrace this new technology, they will meet the same fate that the record companies/print media have/will. The day won’t come soon enough. Why would I buy SI to see Vincent Laforet’s images when I can come to his website and see more then just one and get commentary from the man himself about the photo. I’m sure that’s not what the people you work for want to hear, but they no it’s coming and so do you, that’s why you have a blog (and it’s a good one at that).

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Comment by eastern turkey travel

People having rights on… seeing things, capturing it and showing it to others who can’t see it directly is bullsh%t.

Soon everybody will have great devices and will be sharing HD video’s [on vimeo?] like people share pictures on flickr.
People don’t watch as much TV anymore and we could just boicot the broadcast networks.

Then storm the olympics with our DSLR moviecameras and film it and post it on the web for the rest of the world to see.

Isn’t that a great idea?

Comment by Inofaith

we both have those traditional picture frames and digital picture frames at home. both are great for displaying family pictures .-.

Comment by Resistor Color Code

of the many video clips that i download, i always watch those that are very funny :~’

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