Canon’s much-ballyhooed but
universally welcomed 5D Mark II also (and this is a new thing for SLRs)
operates as a high-def videocam. There are two videos linked from
Online Photographer and they are mind-bogglingly, jaw-droppingly
beautiful. But it won’t work for you. The pictures you take with this camera
will almost certainly look great with little effort, while your videos will
require huge effort and probably still end up lousy.
[Update: The comments, after only a few hours, are outstanding, full of erudition and common sense. Check ’em out.]
[Also: See Tim O’Brien’s two-parter in response: Getting Started with Video and Part 2: Steady Shooting.]
Skill · The first reason they’ll look lousy is because there’s a whole lot of skill and practice that goes into making good video, and most of us don’t have it. You can get it, sure, and who knows, you might even turn out to have some talent, but count on months of work to get your chops down. Still, that’s not the real problem.
Tools · A poor workman blames his, they say. Well, when it comes to video, I am a poor workman, and I do blame them. For still photos, there’s iPhoto which does more or less exactly what a casual photographer needs, and is easy to learn and operate. And if you’re serious, there are Aperture and LightRoom, which allow you to process huge numbers of photos in almost no time, given a reasonably powerful modern computer, and get really great-looking pictures.
For video, there’s nothing remotely close. iMovie would like to be an iPhoto analogue but it’s an awkward, complicated, klunky piece of software that doesn’t make the easy things easy. Final Cut Pro (and the cut-down Final Cut Express) are tools for the serious, and I mean really seriously serious. They are massively complex, the manual is over a thousand pages, and nothing is self-evident.
On top of which, processing video so that you can actually watch it, whether on your computer or TV, is insanely time-consuming, and there are dozens of settings, and usually you don’t get it right first time.
I would advise watching the behind-the scenes video on the making of Reverie to get a feeling for the amount of work that went into that piece.
Speaking Personally · I have two beautiful children in their formative years, and also a high-def videocam, but it’s mostly a write-only medium. I pull it out from time to time to capture something that seems like it ought to be memorable, but the process of actually processing it so that anyone else can watch is so daunting and failure-prone that the data mostly just sits in a closet, ignored.
I’ve whined before about Video Pain; argh, I see that was four months ago, and I haven’t taken another run at the problem.
What About the 5DMkII? · I don’t know. It might be the right camera for you. But don’t buy it on the basis that you’re gonna be pumping out pro-quality video anytime soon. Unless, of course, you already have the expertise and tools and are willing to invest hours of work for a few minutes of video.