Nikon started a small revolution in camera design when they introduced the D90 DSLR in 2008. This was the first DSLR to shoot video and Nikon’s competitors were quick to catch up, but there was a fly in the ointment of the hybrid single lens reflex. What to do about focusing?
Once the mirror is locked up, as it must be for continuous video recording, the camera loses its auto-focus ability. Sony solved the problem by splitting the incoming light by using a semi-transparent mirror. The other makers simply advised manual focus for video.
DSLRs focus using a system called phase detect but for video the required system is contrast detect. Canon, with the EOS 650D, has created a hybrid system, the technical details of which need not concern us here. The only thing we need to know is does it work? Is it possible to have tracking auto focus in a DSLR similar to that which is taken for granted in compacts and mirrorless system cameras?
First, let’s make it clear that the 650D is an excellent camera for still photography. At the price it is remarkable value, producing consistently superb results. It is well worth the entry price even if you never intend to shoot a minute of video. The swivelling touch screen works well in live view video mode.
Video quality from the 650D is a mixed bag. We walked around town with the camera hand held videoing moving objects and the auto focus was sometimes slow to lock on and it didn’t work on wide angle shots where there was no obvious object to be the focal point. We had to fall back on manual focus in these situations.
We edited our footage in the new Adobe Premiere Elements 11. This latest version of Premiere Elements sports a new interface and a different layout and implementation of tools. It is now truly intuitive and a delight to use.
Using Premiere Elements 11 we turned our video into a DVD and also uploaded it to YouTube. We viewed the finished product on a high definition TV, a PC and an iPad. Results are good enough to give the camera the thumbs up.
The Canon has an inbuilt stereo microphone which is not up to the job, but it also has a microphone socket and the recording volume is adjustable, if somewhat clumsily, through the menu system. The inbuilt microphone picks up the noise of the lens focusing, a common problem with video in still cameras. However, with the external mic input option it is not an issue.
The Canon EOS 650D is a lot of camera for the money. Think of it as a first class single lens reflex that just happens to do a reasonable job of video. It is highly recommended.
And as for Adobe’s Premiere Elements 11 – sheer bliss to use. Video editing has never been so easy.