5D Mark III and D800: Thoughts on Camera Tests and Company Motivation
I've seen a lot of videos with footage from the 5D Mark III, but not as many with the D800. Most tests are either pretty outdoor scenes, or quick clips showing the improvements over the previous generation. These are certainly welcome, as they can help people decide on a pre-order or a purchase. For that reason, they are a necessary evil (or they can be a lot of fun for gear-heads). Part of writing in this community is having to wade through the dozens, if not hundreds of tests and videos, and it can obviously get a little tedious.
No Film School is going to have its own camera test, but instead of either shooting a short, or just a simple test, we're going to give you both. Not only that, but it's going to include both the Canon 5D Mark III and the Nikon D800. They are the two most interesting cameras at the moment because they are new, full frame, and reasonably affordable (that's debatable, I know).
I think one of the biggest things people are forgetting with these DSLRs, is that they are still cameras first, and video cameras second. Yes, it's the fault of Nikon and Canon for promising amazing video features and quality this time around. Neither company expected these cameras to take off for video people, because neither company saw the market for cinema-quality large-sensor cameras that were affordable and could use regular 35mm lenses (Japanese companies are historically slow to innovate, and clearly they weren't aware of the huge market for 35mm depth of field adapters). Nikon's offerings were rather pitiful until the D7000 this generation, and Canon didn't offer 24p on the 5D until a year and a half after the camera had been released.
But getting back to the point, Canon and Nikon have made tremendous still cameras. What so many in this community forget is that at this price range these are the best full-frame still cameras on the market - both of them huge improvements over their predecessors. The D800 is practically a medium format camera, and it's going up against cameras that cost $10,000 or more. The 5D Mark III can see in the dark, and it's got a professional autofocus system (unlike the poor autofocus ability on the 5D Mark II).
There's a whole group of people who will buy these cameras for the still imagery alone, because they make a living as photographers. Some people might be let down by what they've seen so far from the 5D Mark III and the D800, but they have to realize that those who will be strictly taking photographs with these cameras are a bigger market, and both companies attempted to listen to what those consumers wanted. This is a gross oversimplification, but Canon owners wanted the low-light ability of the D700, and Nikon users wanted the high-megapixel count of the 5D Mark II (you can't please everyone). Each company has a limited amount of resources that they can use for research and development, and up to this point, a lot of that R&D has been done by people who know a lot more about still images than moving images. That's why these cameras produce unbelievable still images, arguably better than any other brands out there. So from Nikon or Canon's perspective, getting someone to buy the camera just because of video features has been icing on the cake (that is starting to change though).
That doesn't mean we can't be critical of either Nikon or Canon. They are promoting the video features of these cameras as being complimentary to the photography features, rather than just an added bonus. We can't forget that these are still photography cameras. Many have compared these to the FS100, and in some cases just for video purposes, it might be a better deal. I'm not going to get into those comparisons right now, because I haven't used either camera yet - but that's going to change soon.
The other reason for this post is that I want to try to get a sense of what you guys in this community want to see in a camera test. The camera test portion is going to be as thorough as it can be - resolution, ISO, aliasing, rolling shutter - all the typical tests and more. A short film is rarely something you see right after a camera has been released, but that's the goal. I have some ideas about how I might try to use both cameras in the same short film, but what do you guys want to see? Do you have any ideas about how I can make it better?