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By Jim Heid | Wednesday, March 17, 2010

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

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 lynda.com, 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.

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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