Now that 2012 is over and done with, it is time to name the best DSLR for video. First, I’ll tell you on what basis I’ve made my decision.
Before I do, I have a confession to make. I have a sweet spot for the Panasonic GH3, and my first thought was to declare it the winner outright and then justify my answer. But that’s just like every other pseudo-reviewer who’s getting paid, or an amateur fan boy who’s disillusioned by marketing and hype – except nobody’s paying me, and I’m only delusional on Sundays.
The first thing I did was (yes, you know what’s coming) I made a list of what is really important to me.
Criteria for best DSLR for video
The initial list of hopefuls is quite exhaustive:
- Canon 1DX/5D Mark III/7D/6D/60D/650D
- Nikon D4/D800/D600
- Sony A99/A77/A57
- Pentax K5-II
- Panasonic GH3/GH2
Whittling down the list
It’s important to keep our head about ourselves and judge objectively. On the basis of three criteria only – clean HDMI, weather protection and recording limit – I can whittle down the list to:
The next step is to look at audio and battery life:
|Camera||Audio specifications||Microphone jack||Headphone jack||Approximate Battery life|
|Canon 1DX||Linear PCM 16-bit 48Khz, 2ch||3.5mm||No||2 hrs|
|Canon 5D Mark III||Linear PCM 16-bit 48Khz, 2ch||3.5mm||Yes||1.5 hrs|
|Nikon D4||Linear PCM 16-bit 48Khz, 2ch||3.5mm||Yes||2 hrs|
|Nikon D800||Linear PCM 16-bit 48Khz, 2ch||3.5mm||Yes||1.25 hrs|
|Sony A99||Dolby Digital AC-3 16-bit 48 KHz, 2ch||3.5mm||Yes||2 hrs|
|Panasonic GH3||Dolby Digital AC-3 16-bit 48 KHz, 2ch||3.5mm||Yes||2.5 hrs|
Okay, the 1DX has no headphone jack. Even though I’m unhappy with DSLR audio in general, there are circumstances where someone is compelled to record audio in-camera. To not have a headphone jack is inexcusable.
Regarding battery life, there isn’t sufficient deviation to prefer one camera over another. There are different batteries available for each camera, so times will vary greatly depending on usage. DSLR batteries are cheap and light enough, so carrying spares are not a problem. I decide to discount battery life as a criterion.
The next thing I compared was codecs:
|Camera||Interframe Codec||Intraframe Codec||Maximum frame rate @1080p|
|Canon 5D Mark III||H.264 32 Mbps||H.264 91 Mbps||30|
|Nikon D4||H.264 24 Mbps||N/A||30|
|Nikon D800||H.264 24 Mbps||N/A||30|
|Sony A99||AVCHD 28Mbps||N/A||60|
|Panasonic GH3||H.264 50 Mbps||H.264 72 Mbps||60 (IPB), 30 (All-I)|
Data rates don’t tell the whole story most of the time. Therefore, I’m not inclined to take the differences between interframe codec specifications too seriously. However, having an intraframe option is brilliant.
What a tight race! The Panasonic GH3 has one serious advantage – 60p, while the Canon 5D Mark III has a full frame sensor which is great in low light. It is time to look at all my criteria once more for the final battle:
|Camera||Panasonic GH3||Canon 5D Mark III||Better|
|Widest angle f/2.8 (FF 35mm equiv)||24mm||14mm||5D|
|Max telephoto f/2.8 (FF 35mm equiv)||200mm||400mm||5D|
|Weather protected lens||Not completely||Full weather protection||5D|
|Viewfinder||100% EVF||100% OVF||5D|
|LCD Specs||3″ 610K LED Flip Screen||3.2″ 1,000K LCD Fixed||GH3|
|Super 35mm like DOF||17.3mm x 13mm||36mm x 24mm||5D|
|Still image specs||16.05 MP 4:3||22.3 MP 3:2||5D|
The larger sensor of the Canon 5D Mark III also helps it shoot with a higher ISO rating than the GH3. The writing’s on the wall. Consider pedigree and resale value of your gear, and there’s only one undisputed champion:
So, what is the best DSLR for video?
Drum roll…the best DSLR for video is the Canon 5D Mark III:
Want firecrackers? Here’s the biggest I’ve ever seen:
You might be wondering why I avoided image quality in my comparisons. I didn’t. The differences between image quality of DSLRs in 2013 is negligible for most practical intents and purposes. You’ll find lovers of every camera’s ‘look’ – but that’s not a fair or objective way to judge a camera’s merits for the title of ‘best DSLR for video’!
By the way, if you want to know who the kid in the photograph is, it’s my six-month old nephew.
Wish you all a happy and prosperous 2013!