People who use cameras like the Canon EOS 1DX are usually shooting fast-action sequences, such as sports and nature subjects. The hallmark feature at play is the ability to fire off stills ridiculously fast — 12fps RAW or 14fps JPEG.
Then we started thinking — 14 frames per second. That’s so fast it’s damn near movie-like. In fact, many of the Super 8 film cameras of yore shot only a bit faster at 18fps. So why not use 1DX bursts as a movie camera? It’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
The 1D Mark IV shoots 10fps, and the 7D shoots 8fps. On the Nikon side, its flagship D4 shoots 11fps.
You’re probably thinking why bother stitching stills together when the 1DX has a movie mode that shoots at 24fps, 30fps, even 60fps. Why not just use that? Yes, the 1DX, as well as most DSLRs these days, can shoot amazing video at standard frame rates. But if you cobble together a video from stills, you are getting the a full 18 megapixels in each frame (in video resolution parlance, that’s 5K video!) rather than the scaled-down 1080p footage (about two megapixels).
Our resulting videos were super-detailed and crisp. Actually, viewing them on a regular HDTV or monitor won’t do them justice, and until a 4K monitor hits our doorstep, we won’t even get to see them play at full size.
Of course, there are vast limitations to using the 1DX’s still mode to make movies. Aside from settling for a choppy 14fps, you can only shoot in bursts of between 5-10 seconds (this might increase with faster CF cards), there is no sound recorded, and you can’t even see through the viewfinder while shooting.
But for all the downsides, it was surprisingly fun shooting in this manner. It felt like shooting with an old 16mm Bolex camera. That loud shutter, the short bursts, composing your shot through a viewfinder rather than an LCD — it was quite a joy. All in all, we had to shoot 2000 separate JPG images to form the video.
Ultimately, this experiment begs the question: how long before DSLRs can reach a full 24fps or 30fps with the same quality and resolution of still images? We hope not too long.