The Nikon D90 and, even moreso, the Canon EOS 5D MKII, are shaking things up with their ability to record short bursts of VERY high-quality 1080p HD video, using a full-size 35mm sensor.
Of course, digital cameras that also record video have been around for years in the consumer world, and many of them are quite good. This reflects 2 important truths: many of the most important professional tools are evolving UP from consumer cameras (HDV anyone?), and that the best place to see the *future* of the tools you use is CES.
I've got a bunch of things to note from this year's show, but this little camera jumped out at me. It's from Casio, the company that first introduced the big LCD on the back of a camera as a viewfinder and to view the shots you've taken. (See? Big, embedded LCDs. First on a consumer camera.)
This particular little unit records 720p HD video, but uses it in ways that, frankly, are much more interesting than the 2 pro units I mentioned above. Pressing and holding the "shutter" button (shutter? An anachronism like "dialing" a phone) creates a burst of images from which you can choose one to keep. No more getting stuck with somebody's eyes closed, or a bunch of images you don't need. It also has the ability to keep recording to a cache, so that when you actually press the "shutter" button, it dumps everything in the cache to the disk, a way to go back in time so to speak. This is indeed something pro cameras have, but here implemented much more helpfully for still photographers.
Now all that said, here's the really insane part: 1000 fps video!!! Yes, it drops the res way, way down, but you know what? For a $400 digital camera for home use, it looks GREAT! My guess is that the current limit is constrained by the ability of an SD card to record images, as well as the size of the media...but think about what you can do with, say, big, fast pieces of P2 or other solid state media.
Hey, did I mention VFR? Go here
, then check out the second video. It's a shot of cheerleaders (settle down -- they're children, you perv) that starts at 30fps, and slides into 210 as they toss one of the girls into the air.
Then there's the "Science"
page that shows the same shot at different frame rates -very helpful to explain to folks that you might get the result you want at lower frame rates...but then again, that 1000 fps looks INSANE. Just click around. You'll get the idea. The first clip of the water balloon is pretty cool.
Oh yeah, here's one more feature in the Casio line of pocket-sized cameras: MOTION KEYING. Forget green screen. The camera auto-detects motion and extracts the moving parts. The application in this context is creating digital greeting cards. One of the examples is a kid swinging a bat over a static background that makes it look like he's at a big-league plate in a big stadium.
They're not claiming it's anything it's not -- they explicitly say that it's a set of still images, and I'm sure that the manual says something about limiting the number of moving objects in a captured sequence, and shadows are funky...the shadows themselves are treated as part of the outline of the moving object rather than keyed THROUGH....but dude, MOTION KEYING. And how's this -- you don't need a computer to do the compositing! The backgrounds are in the camera...and of course you can use the LCD to see if you have the desired results before you save it to send along later. And coming soon, an online service from Casio that'll give you a whole lot more control, tools to create your own backgrounds, etc. I imagine that this will be priced closer to Picasa (free) than not...but hey, you're already in for a couple of hundred bucks plus a flash card, so they could probably get away with charging a little for it.
Once again, a goofy but endearing gallery
You can check out the rest
of the cameras and features in the product line - another great movie of a water balloon on the opening Flash animation - but I'm telling you now, keep your eyes peeled for an inexpensive pro camera that records 1000fps or more, with real-time motion extraction. INSANE, I tell you.
Here's the video report that first caught my eye. If you've followed some of the links above already, you'll see that some of the features I mentioned are available in larger form factors, presumably higher quality and bigger price tags, but, seriously man, look at what the little baby camera will do.
PS. Hey Apple: this company's full name is "Casio Computer Ltd." I'm not sure they even MAKE computers. I'm just saying.