January 11, 2011

What Your HDSLR is Missing: Dynamic Range

Well, I should say, "what your DSLR is missing -- among other things." But one of the less obvious shortcomings of our DSLRs (other than aliasing, lack of good sound options, etc.) is the lack of dynamic range that DSLRs exhibit in video mode. And what better way to demonstrate this lack than by putting a Canon 7D side-by-side with a high-end ARRI ALEXA, and do a comparison video?

Of course, it should come as no surprise that the ALEXA has more dynamic range -- the camera costs fifty times as much as the 7D, after all -- but it's nice to see in quantifiable terms what that extra cash gets you (in terms of latitude).

[via ProVideo Coalition]

Your Comment


I have to say that I love this test. It's totally amazing seeing how far the Alexa can go. I don't think it's a balanced test in any way and that's a good thing. I was all like "Oh wow that was pretty good for an SLR" and then my jaw dropped looking at the Alexa footage.

Now I can't wait to see how far the AF100 can go, just as an afordable midstep. I think we're in the middle of a great evolution in digital catpure technology.

January 11, 2011 at 5:58PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I did an online recently with Alexa footage and the source file is so flat it beggars belief. You can pull a ridiculous amount of detail out of it. Good fun.

January 12, 2011 at 2:36AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


very interesting - thanks for testing and posting

January 13, 2011 at 1:39AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Maribeth Ratajczyk

It's cool to see the difference an $80,000 camera gets you.

January 13, 2011 at 3:10PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


When I purchased Canon t2i, I was very disappointed with lack of dynamic range, with shadows being way too dark under the sun, when taking video of skydivers two miles above the ground.
Since then, I have been using "super flat" profile and color correcting in post with satisfying results.
Here's a sample of my latest video with shadow details shown, not being crushed like most other videos.


January 13, 2011 at 3:16PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Great side by side comparison by Nick Paton ASC. I especially thank him for taking the time to produce with the video so that the camera output is side by side. I also recommend that people watch this video from Luka explaining how to use picture styles to increase the dynamic range of your capture for people who will grade in post.

January 13, 2011 at 4:08PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Whoops. I forgot to include the link ;)

January 13, 2011 at 4:09PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I have an odd question. I just discovered you guys in the past week and have been reading through all that I can. I've looked at the example movies shot with DSLR but I'm still trying to wrap my head around comparing DSLR quality with movies shot with classic film cameras of past decades.

From what I can see, you could shoot Citizen Kane, War of the Worlds, The Matrix, or any of the major movies of the 20th Century, using the system you have right now.

Is that right, or am I reading all this wrong?

On one level I can "see" the answer, but it hasn't hit my gut yet.

January 13, 2011 at 6:38PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Horses for courses guys ...

Toyota Corolla vs Ferarri

January 15, 2011 at 5:23PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


You think dynamic range on a DSLR is something to cry about , go see what you get with prosumer HD cameras like HVX200, EX1, EX3, XLH1, etc...

March 24, 2011 at 5:03PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I am currently educating myself on the topic of dynamic range and this video was a good help. Here is a good article on film and video dynamic range. Actually, that whole site is very informative.

Currently, I tend to underexpose a bit to accommodate highlights, but this has its downsides (noise).

July 11, 2012 at 7:37AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM