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Best of Both Worlds
June 23, 2014 - Dave Hecei
The digital cameras on the market today live in two worlds. They are both a digital still camera and a digital video camera. In the past, a digital still camera took great stills but only passable video. That is no longer true. While some point and shoot type cameras still only shoot passable videos, most current DSLRs and compact mirrorless models can shoot amazing HD video.
Canon has been making DSLRs for quite a while now. One of their latest mid-range DSLR models, the new 70D, can shoot amazing stills and HD video. Its design makes it ideal to be used for both stills and video. One feature that makes this easier is the articulating LCD screen. The other is a new type of focusing technology.
Just a few years ago, DSLRs could not record video. The main reason was because of the way an SLR works. An SLR, or Single Lens Reflex, takes the light coming through the lens and reflects it off of a mirror up into the roof of the camera and out through the eyepiece. Most point and shoot cameras don’t have viewfinders so the lens is always focusing their light right onto the sensor. Video was easy to do on these types of cameras. Soon DSLRs got this ‘live view’ technology that eventually allowed them to shoot video too.
The problem with the first DSLR cameras shooting video was focusing. The mirror in a DSLR is actually semi-transparent. Most of the image goes up into the viewfinder for you to see. Part of the image is passed to sensors usually in the bottom of the camera. This part is what is used for focusing.
The other problem is with the ‘live-view’ mode. When in this mode, the camera flips the SLR mirror up out of the way allowing the light to hit the sensor. Since there was no light going into the focusing sensors in the bottom of the camera, focusing was either not possible while shooting video or it was done by the image sensor itself. This usually proved slow and error prone.
In the Canon 70D, the sensor incorporates a new technology to allow faster and more accurate focusing while in live-view mode. Canon calls this “Dual Pixel Phase Detection Auto Focusing’. Basically, each pixel on the sensor has two photodiodes – one left facing and one right facing. By using this new sensor, focusing in live-view mode shooting either stills or video allows the camera to even follow focus a moving subject.
In general, the 70D is only a slight step up in quality from the 60D it replaces. It is not a cheap camera with a street price just under $1200, with the 18-55mm kit lens. Considering the great stills and now even better video it can shoot, it’s pretty close to the best of both worlds.
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