Advice on purchase of 35mm DSLR with HD Video

I have a $l(Nikon D70) which I’ve taken +30K photos with and a few weeks ago I took a bunch of pictures of the kids hanging Christmas ornaments which for some reason were nearly all corrupt when I went to download them from the flash card. I’m not sure if the issue was the card or the camera but I’ve been wanting a new camera with support for HD video and have been since looking around.

My first thought was to stick with Nikon but since I don’t have a huge investment in lens it’s not a requirement so I’m opening it up to other options. The first two cameras I sought reviews on were the $l(Nikon D3100) and $l(Canon EOS D60). I’m also looking at the $l(Nikon D7000) and $l(Canon EOS 550D).

I know the price range here is pretty wide but I’m really interested in the addition of HD video so a good combination of still and movies is my preference. My shooting will be largely kids and various birthdays/sports/activities over the coming years. I’d also like something that can shoot video of the occasional holiday event in low fairly low light conditions.

Anyone with experience/thoughts on any of these or other cameras I should consider?

8 thoughts on “Advice on purchase of 35mm DSLR with HD Video

  1. I can’t speak for any of the cameras you list above but I purchased a Lumix GH1 last spring, and since then the GH2 has been released. At the time I was looking for a compact SLR and there were only a few models on the market. The GH1(2) is great at still and video photography… if you visit Vimeo you can see some great work done with the GH1.
    Also, you can get an adapter for pretty much and lens out there so your nikon investment wouldn’t be a total wash. I think one area is suffers form the models above is noise at the higher iso, above 1600 (I start to see some banding at 1600). (The GH2 supposedly has better quality at 3200). Another complaint I’ve seen is that it doesn’t feel "professional"… for me it was never an issue.
    At any rate I’ve been very pleased with my GH1 and will probably replace it with another Lumix when the time comes, so it might be a camera you could look at.

  2. Hi Steve,
    haven’t talked to you in ages, but I guess it is time that I give you a little advice now. Feel free to ask me for further clarifications, if you like.
    As for Nikon, please, only consider the two you have taken onto your list so far. Simple reason, all older models use Motion-JPG, only the D3100 and the D7000 use the newer, much more efficient H.264 codec for video compression. All Canon DSLR use the newer H.264 codec.
    Of the Canon taken into account, do NOT consider the EOS 550D, its sensor is of much older design and much surpassed by the 60D sensor. Also, while quite a bit more expensive, you should consider the 7D, which has the best auto focus in the EOS line up (except the professional line of cameras), but the 60D auto focus is good as well.
    For video, image noise is not an issue in either model line, as both use pixel binning and work very good up to ISO 3200 and sometimes above. More than enough for most uses. In noise they are worlds better then the Panasonic/Olympus micro-four/thirds offerings, like the GH1/2, E-PL1.
    On a long time investment, good Canon glass is much cheaper than Nikon glass, giving you about the same quality.
    So all in all, when deciding whether to go with Nikon or Canon, take the bodies into your hands and check out how they feel, how the arrangement of the controls feels to you. Check out the Nikon D3100, D700, and the Canon EOS 60D and 7D (if budget allows and it is not to heavy for you). Whatever camera feels better in your hands, take it. That’s really the best approach.
    Things like menu layout are things to get used to, nothing to really worry about. What I do like about the 7D is the many options to customize the body to your needs, but it comes at an increased cost, which not all feel worth it (I do). As for accessories, with both Nikon and Canon, there are many third parties creating good add-ons, usually for both. So do not worry about that either. Like written above, glass is about the same in quality too, and all cameras named here call for better glass, not the cheap ones, as they have all really high resolutions.
    Personally, I am heavily invested in Canon and probably would do so again if deciding today, as the bodies feel like natural extensions to me.
    So, this is my 2cts.
    Hope you and your family are doing great. Have a happy new year and fun with that camera you get, whichever it is!

  3. Hi guys it’s been a long time! Thanks for the replies!
    @Justin I haven’t really looked beyond Nikon and Canon but I’ll definitely take a look.
    @Daniel – This is exactly why I decided to put up this post. I really appreciate your thoughtful reply and found it extremely helpful. I haven’t looked at the 7D but my last camera lasted nearly 10 years and > 30K photos which my family will be able to enjoy for years if not generations.

  4. Hi Steve,
    my 7D is about 13 months old now, I got it two days after it became available in stores, and is somewhere around 50.000 shots now. I have used it mostly for Karate competitions and seminars and other sport events due to its awesome auto focus system. I am sure it’ll last another 100.000 shots easily before the shutter will go bad, so there are many shots to come forth from it. And yes, my 7D is just my backup camera (for the EOS 5D Mark II and EOS 1V-HS), though primary camera for sport events.
    I am looking forward to read your decision and maybe reasoning behind it.
    Anyway you go, you will be happy with the results, I am sure about that.

  5. Hey Daniel,
    I never knew your alter ego as a photographer! I’m missed chatting with you these last few years so I’m glad I wrote a post that drew your attention. 🙂
    I’ll certainly let you know what I end up doing. Chris Bensen (from Borland/Delphi) replied via email and I’m hoping to get a demo of some HD video from his camera.
    Thanks again for the replies here, much appreciated!
    I wish you a very happy New Year!

  6. Hi Steve,
    send me an email, I’ll try to get a video or two for you from the 7D in the next few days. Usually, I do not use the video mode much, but it should suffice for comparing quality with other cameras. What camera is Chris using for video?
    Regards and a happy new year to you too,

  7. Hey Daniel,
    I’ll quote Chris since I think he has some really good things to contribute.
    [quote]Just saw you blog post and thought I’d give you some advice. Video from SLRs is amazing but don’t bother. Come over and I’ll show you how difficult it is to use casually as a video camera. To capture in focus video you need a lot more equipment than just the camera. The only one that has auto focus is the Nikon D7000, but it doesn’t track very fast at all. I picked up a Panasonic GF1 and love it but it is in between an SLR and point and shoot, so really not quite an SLR by any stretch.
    Anyway, there are my quick bits of info. Let me now if you want to see anything or have more questions.
    p.s. Don’t underestimate the processing power, hard drive space or software needed for HD video!!![/quote]

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