During my week I had the chance to look and test the Nikon D90’s Video capability. The camera is just newly release here in Canada and has the capability to shoot video at 720p at 24 fps. You might think this is impressive for a DSLR; especially in order to get that kind of quality you would have to go to a higher end prosumer camera like the P2. Well let’s put it to the test, and see how it work
First and foremost this is not a review on the still frame capabilities, but on the abilities of the video aspects. I want to make it very clear this is not a true video camera, so for those of you thinking you can save a little money and have the best of both worlds are out of luck.
The reason being there are limitations to what this camera can do. For instance the camera limits you to only record 5min of footage at a time. Compared to a P2, there is a lot more compression, a lack of stereo sound, and no zoom function. The camera also limits you to Auto Mode, and no manual controls. However what is really nice is the fact that you can use a variety of prime lenses. This is nice addition that is particularly non-existences in the broadcast field.
The D90 has great auto focus in stills; this is not the case in video mode. It does not have the ability for continuos auto focus, which can be a problem shooting anything that is moving in your frame. Unless you are a Hollywood focus puller, this can be a problem. You also may want to consider using the little button marked AE-L. This can be a life- saver, as the D90 constantly recomposes exposure while in Auto Mode. Another issue is that the camera does not mount on the desktop as a drive. Thus you will need an application for getting the footage off the camera. I personally work on a Mac and like to use Image Capture, File transfer protocol in FCP, or even iPhoto will bring it in along with any stills.
The D90 shoots a .AVI format, which is great because almost any application can open it. However this is not the greatest codec for editing in post. I personally like to convert the file to something more manageable like a .MOV file, or whichever codec you find is easier to work with in your timeline. Just remember that this is a 24p shoot, so you have to change your sequence settings to match. I also find I am able to reduce the amount of footage degradation by using Apple’s 422 codec.
The quality of the image is rather soft, but for a film like look this is actually desired, combined with some prime lenses you can have some great looking footage. For my test here though I used the stock lenses, as these are what people will be getting with their camera initially, unless you have a ready supply of previous lenses.
The D90 has proved to be a phenomenal still camera, but as a video camera... I think I will be sticking to more professional video cameras. That in mind I did end up keeping my tester, as I love it for stills. Nikon has done a great job as introducing a new capability without having to initiate a new hybrid body style. I believe over next few years you will begin to see more DSLR with these functions with better resolutions and features. Can some one say Canon 5D Mark II?
Below is a video I shot using the stock lens of a waterfall.