It’s the constantly improving video features that are drawing professionals to mirrorless systems – and keeping them there. The early pioneers of DSLR video had to deal with a system designed for the ground up for stills, but their value for money, and the look of the footage, made it worthwhile.
“The affordability of DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, as well as the shallow depth-of field, ‘filmic’ video they produce, means they are perceived as giving significant bang for their buck,” says Gill.
Today’s mirrorless systems, though, match or even exceed camcorders when it comes to video features. These features go far beyond a randomly-placed red button.
“The introduction of pro video features into mirrorless cameras has encouraged their use by professionals. For instance, the inclusion of Log picture profiles, higher bitrate signal outputs over HDMI, and focus peaking overlays on a number of cameras have enabled operators to use mirrorless cameras in a similar way to traditional camcorders,” explains Gill.
Some features, such as Nikon’s full-frame RAW output, are options that, until now, were only be found on far more expensive cine-type camcorders.
“Mirrorless cameras can be a cheaper way to get up and running with what can be a very capable video set-up,” says Kriss Hampton, in-house video pro at camera and video equipment reseller WEX.
“They are more portable that dedicated video cameras and as they are smaller and lightweight, support gear such as tripods and sliders, generally costs less too. Sometimes they can even be more powerful and more cost-effective than entry level dedicated video cameras: look at say the Panasonic GH5S against the Sony FS5.”
Hampton also notes that some professional videographers are opting to own a compact system camera, but to rent a “full-sized” camcorder for jobs that need it. Others are buying a mirrorless system as a B camera, or for dedicated gimbal or drone use.
Take up of hybrid or mirrorless systems is also being driven by newer developments, such as effective autofocus. Although Canon has successfully integrated AF into its Cinema EOS line, autofocus on most pro camcorders and cinematic cameras is rudimentary. Good autofocus is a must for stills photographers, but the mirrorless manufacturers have integrated it with video modes too.
“Autofocus is something they’ve not really had before,” says Hampton. “We’re also seeing mirrorless cameras with professional audio options, in the form of XLR inputs, and the removal of recording limits.”
These improvements are making the cameras more useful on productions. A gimbal-based camera with effective autofocus only needs one operator. And lightweight gimbal systems can replace complex tracking or dolly shots on set.
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