There’s been a bit of debate lately regarding the traditional still photography and grabbing stills from high resolution video footage. Some have also speculated that this will also end up killing off the photographer. Well as a photographer myself, I was keen to have a look myself.
First lets look at the reasons why you would want to extracts stills from a video.
- Capturing the moment. Though photographic stills can freeze a moment in time up to 1/8000 sec, it’s a very small window to get the shot that tells the story. Say the first kiss at a wedding, or the moment you smack a water balloon in your mate’s face. Shooting video allows you to have constant footage of the scene, which allows for a bigger margin on error whilst shooting.
- Killing two birds with one take. By this I mean you could just fire away on your film production as per normal without the need of an extra photographer since you can simply extract stills from your footage. Whilst shooting on 1080p still produces a resolution that’s higher than most consumer monitors, printing two megapixel enlargements isn’t quite ideal. An 8 Megapixel extracted still can technically produce acceptable results when enlarged up to 20×30
- Because it’s hip.
Or is it?… Maybe it might be a little bit of marketing where photographers have crossed the boundaries into videography ever since the 5D mark II. So maybe videographers are trying to bite back a bit.
Well here’s a quick test which compares the image quality of the Canon 1D-C’s video codec versus the RAW photo files. All shots use the exact same settings as listed below the images. The lens used for the test is the Canon EF 24-70mm F2.8L II which is one of the sharpest lenses that Canon has ever produced. Picture styles was also set to Standard.
RAWs were processed through Lightroom with no changes applied and video stills were extracted using VLC media player.
Our model Marcel posing for the camera: ISO 2000, F/4, 1/50
@100% crop, though both still fantastic results, the video loses out slightly in detail
I’ve gotta admit, I’m pretty impressed with how much detail is retained in the video footage. Resize down the image for web viewing and you won’t be able to tell the difference. For the pixel peepers, there’s a very slight loss in detail, especially amongst the hair. For commercial shoots and enlargement this might pop up, but then again you’d probably be using a Hasselblad for those sorts of gigs anyway.
A construction yard in the distance: 53mm @ ISO 160, F/8, 1/200
RAW file @100% Crop
Video Extract @ 100% Crop, note the extra contrast on edges
Shooting a construction yard in the distance, there’s a slight boost in contrast in the video extracts compared to the RAW files. This helps a bit to create the illusion of detail, maybe some sharpening has been applied in the video codec to help compensate for this. Then again, this is only noticeable to the pixel peeper.
In conclusion, I still don’t think video still extraction will ever replace photographic stills. Not because of the image quality (which is pretty darn good), but mainly in terms of operation.
Autofocus options are limited during video operations. Though live focus systems are improving nowadays, in low light situations they tend to struggle and manual focus can be difficult at times, especially with the shallow depth of field produced by the larger 35mm sensor.
The amount of data produced can also be overwhelming. A 5 second clip yielded about 350mb of data which can also increase on higher ISO settings. After that, you’ll have your post processing which may demand the needs of a pretty beefy machine.
Ergonomics plays an important part to the professional as well. Having shot 18 hour weddings, you’ll notice the extra weight on your shoulders by the end of the day. Videography normally demands extra support equipment such as tripods and shoulder rigs versus the photographer who tends to have at most a shoulder strap. What’s more is that photographer tend to use their face to support the camera whilst using the viewfinder. Videographers on the other hand use the rear LCD or an extra monitor and so the chances for shakey or blurry images increase. Normally not noticeable during playback but as a still this can be more prominent.
Then again, I’m a bit of a pixel peeper and I like to have the best possible image quality. So I’ll still stick with photography
The Canon 1D-C is still a brilliant camera, even having a 1-stop advantage over the 5D mark III. Check it out on our site here!