With every new Canon and Nikon camera we are witnessing the progression of an unprecedented convergence of video and photography ability, something completely unthinkable during the film era.

But I assume that the vast majority of the DSLR customer base is focused on the photographic capability of the camera, rather than video & photo, or video only.

Yet press releases continuously extol the virtues of these new DSLRs to the independent filmmaker!


The camera is also equipped with a number of new functions, including Multi-area mode Full HD D-Movie that enables movie recording using either the FX-based movie format or the DX-based movie format. (source)

Frankly Nikon, I don't care.

What I do care about is whether or not the manufacturers' insistence on trying to create do-it-all DSLRs is resulting in my camera doing a poorer job taking pictures, or, to be less cynical, not living up to its potential.

In summary, does the on-going manufacturer insistence on including video capability in DSLR cameras have a negative impact on their ability to take still images? or is this distinction irrelevant in the digital age?


6 Answers 6


First thing to come in mind is availability. Canon 5D mark II supply was in shortage for quite a while due to the camera's success among videographers. You can't take pictures with a camera you can't get, so good video capabilities reduced its potential by causing excess demand for the new model.

Another issue is cost - whether you need the capabilities or not, you must put your share in the pot for developing those features (and possibly dedicated encoding chips).

A related issue is allocation of resources. Each feature takes money to develop, and there's only so much that can be spent without exceeding target price. So some esoteric features to support specific genres of photography will be skipped (e.g. why do I need separate sound detectors with triggering box for high-speed photography while my camera could do it in software?). Some compromises could be pretty major, like leaving the poor AF system already criticized in 5D also in Canon 5DmkII - very important for still photographers, irrelevant for video work.

For those who pick up camera only as a tool to get some pictures, not to immerse in the process of making them, video-related options and buttons make the camera more complicated.

While you only asked about negative aspects, I'll also point out a positive one. Development in video has allowed Live View in dSLR-s, which often helps to nail precise manual focus or composition in awkward positions.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Good points, however none of them really actually impact a cameras ability to take still images. On the argument of cost, the initial list price of $6800 for the 1D X is cheaper than its predecessor, so cost did not factor in there (not sure about the D4 or D800). As for being more complicated, most DSLR's that I've played with that support video have ONE button to turn it on and off...ever so minimally more complicated...but not enough to impact the ability of the camera to take still photos. So good points, but I'd argue they don't actually apply to the question posed. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Feb 8, 2012 at 5:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 - I think your third paragraph presents the strongest argument. Every R&D dollar that goes to video functionality is a dollar lost that could have improved still photography ability. There are crossover areas like bandwidth as mentioned in other answers, but there are definitely some strictly-video oriented features and functions. \$\endgroup\$
    – Drew
    Feb 8, 2012 at 9:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Andrew I think the third paragraph is, at best, a mixed argument. Yes, it costs money to develop video features. But the manufacturers do it because, in their judgment, it will help to sell more cameras. If they're right, the people who buy a camera based on its video capabilities are helping to pay the development costs of the whole camera, to the benefit of still photographers as well. If one device can serve two audiences well, both audiences can be better off. \$\endgroup\$
    – coneslayer
    Feb 8, 2012 at 12:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Again, I think the idea that video features increase cost is demonstrably wrong. The D4 is $5999, where as the D3 was $5500, however accounting for inflation the D3's price would be about $5960 today...overall, no change in cost. The 1D III listed for $7999 when it was released, and the 1D X is expected to list for $6800...adjusting for inflation, thats a HUGE drop in price, despite the addition of video features. When you adjust for inflation, modern cameras are no more expensive, and often less expensive, than their stills-only predecessors. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Feb 8, 2012 at 18:27
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @jrista the trend of cameras being introduced cheaper than predecessors is much older than video feature. The first Canon 1Ds was $8k in dollars of 2002. My point is that you're paying for features you don't need, while there are others that you would want, but don't get implemented as the focus is currently on conquering the videography market. Like the multishot resolution enhancement that is present on stills-only Hasselblad MF bodies. \$\endgroup\$
    – Imre
    Feb 8, 2012 at 20:26

Given the improvements were seeing with the latest cameras from both Nikon and Canon, I'm of the mindset that NO, addition and enhancement of video features is not having a negative impact on still photography capabilities. The sample images from the D800 and 1D X are phenomenal from an ISO and noise standpoint, and other aspects such as color, contrast, etc. look excellent as well.

Logically, I'm still in the NO camp. Sensor design keeps improving...higher densities, lower electronic noise levels, better quantum efficiency, higher frame rates, better shutters, more features, better AF systems, etc. etc. Unlike film, digital brings to the table the opportunity to use the same exact hardware for additional purposes. Video features are pretty non-intrusive in the cameras that offer them, and they simply use the same hardware in a different way, maximizing the capabilities of the whole camera. I would actually argue that use for video has helped spur on the ISO wars again...pushing Canon to make usable ISO at 51,200 levels possible because its just as helpful on the video front as the stills front. I think native ISO 51,200 from Canon was first seen on the 300C, and I believe Canon made headway on ISO performance by working on video...it forced them to evaluate the problem and look at it in new ways that resolved issues on both fronts (btw, ISO 20,000 and above on the 300C looks FANTASTIC, and while I don't expect it to look quite as good on the 1D X given the nature of still photography, it should still be an order of magnitude beyond what we've seen before.)

I think video will, long term, be beneficial to still photography DSLRs. It will spur on new levels of competition between manufacturers, all of whom very well know that their still photography customers are by far their largest base of customers for DSLRs, and will probably remain that way for the foreseeable future. They won't do anything to compromise that, and with more heated competition to bring quality still and video features to key cameras in their lineups, I think that could only be a good thing for the consumer...not a bad thing. And if it becomes a big enough issue for enough of their DSLR customers, I'm sure manufacturers will start selling camera models that only offer still features and eliminate the video features (although I don't think that would have any impact on the quality of stills you could get from such a camera...it would ultimately just boil down to appeasement.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ I would think leaving 5DmkII with poor AF performance is an example of sacrificing still photographers for sake of video market (where AF doesn't matter). \$\endgroup\$
    – Imre
    Feb 8, 2012 at 20:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Possibly, however no one really knows why Canon left a crappy AF system on the 5D II. Based on the rumors, that should be getting resolved with the 5D III, as its currently rumored to get some kind of 61 point AF system. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Feb 8, 2012 at 20:41

It's not quite what you asked, but I think there might be some effect on photographers' abilities, at least for people who are new to DSLRs. Although the cameras can do both still and video, they can't do both at the same time and I find it takes a bit of a mental switch to go from getting good photos to good videos. (This probably isn't an issue for more seasoned pros.)


On balance, I'm going to go with NO as well. The differences between shooting video and shooting stills really really quickly are actually pretty minimal, and include things like:

  • Additional downsampling hardware (scaler)
  • Additional compression hardware (codec)
  • Long-term mirror lock-up without huge battery drain (for DSLRs, anyway)
  • Possibly additional sensor cooling
  • Minor video-specific software features related to UI (e.g. zebra stripes)

Ostensibly, developing those video-specific software features might theoretically result in a trade-off versus still-specific software features, but that effect is minimal.

And even if it weren't, it would still be more than cancelled out by all of the other features that were largely driven by video shooting, but that also benefit still photography:

  • Video shooting resulted in live view mode, which is useful for difficult shots.
  • Dual-pixel focusing for video also gives you better live-view focusing and potentially lower-light focusing
  • Faster CPUs, extra buffer memory, and faster flash slots allow faster still shooting
  • Global electronic shutters can eliminate shutter sync speed issues and allow for faster burst rates

and so on.


The simple answer is YES - design is always about making compromises and every feature you add costs you somewhere else (even if only by taking away resources from other features), of course, due to the advancements in technology every DSLR with video in existence today is better than any older DSLR without video.

But there are also advantages, for example the memory card bandwidth requirements of video makes the burst mode faster and more capable.

And finally your assumption that most people who buy a DLSR don't care about video is wrong:

  • In the consumer market most people view video as an advantage - so most people who buy entry level bodies do care about video and there's more people there than there are pros and serious hobbyists.

  • A lot of videographers are buying DLSRs now - and there are a whole lot of pro videgraphers out there, maybe as many as pro photographers.

  • Especially for pro event photographers pressure from customers is going to force them to either start doing video as well as stills or go out of business.

Remember when the 5Dmk2 came out there was a shortage due to all the people who bought it for video - do you really think a minority group that is so small it should be ignored by the camera companies bought so many cameras manufacturing couldn't keep up? no, sorry, the majority of camera buyers in the world want video.

I love to take still pictures and don't care so much about video, probably most of the people on this site are (hey, we even kick out video questions) - don't let that hide the fact that outside photography sites and camera clubs people love video.

I'm sorry to tell you this so bluntly but this anti-video thing is just like the anti-digital mindset many photographers had in the early days of digital photography (I'm too young to remember the transition from B&W to color but I'm sure it was accompanied by the same feelings).

Also, I believe combined still and video is the way of the future for commercial photography - and if you are doing this for money and have to deliver what the customer wants this is evolution in action - adapt or die (if you are an hobbyist or want to be a starving artist feel free to ignore the video mode in your camera).


The last tow paragraphs are obviously controversial and requires some clarification -

  • Being upset about the big bad camera manufacturers adding something we don't like to our beautiful pure cameras is not productive, especially when it obviously makes business sense for them to do so.

  • Today most pictures are viewed on screens not on paper, the move from prints to screens will continue, over the next few years customers that traditionally only wanted still photography will demand more video and still/video combinations - if you support yourself by running a photography business ignoring this trend is a bad move.

  • I'm not saying video is good, I personally don't like this trend but prices will rise, kids will be disrespectful and customers will want more video regardless of the superior qualities and power of the still image.

  • Still images will not disappear, but video will take much bigger piece of the pie than it does today.

  • Those are obviously my personal predictions for the future, I do not have special powers and cannot see the future so my predictions are at best educated guesses - but can you really honestly believe that in the future people will want less video and slideshows and more static pictures? paper-based newspapers and magazines are dying and e-book sales will soon overtake paper book sales (if they haven't already) - soon just about every image people will see will be on a screen that can support video, now just look at the web - as soon as the technology to add video to web pages arrived (youtube and friends) everyone started adding video content - and the relative amount of video content is just growing and growing.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I was with you until the last paragraph. The comparison is illogical. I can hang a black and white photo, or color photo, or film-shot photo, or digital photo on my wall in the same location, inside the same frame. They are variants of the same format. Video clearly is not. \$\endgroup\$
    – Drew
    Feb 8, 2012 at 9:12
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @AndrewHeath - Today most pictures are viewed on screens not on paper, where video does fit "in the same frame" - and the move from prints to screens will continue and will drag photographers, probably kicking and screaming, into a more video oriented world. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nir
    Feb 8, 2012 at 9:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AndrewHeath - I just want to clarify, what I'm trying to say is that over the next few years customers that traditionally only wanted still photography will demand more video and still/video combinations. Still photography is not going away but if you are a pro ignoring your customers demands is not a good move. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nir
    Feb 8, 2012 at 10:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Combined still and video is the way of the future" SERIOUSLY? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 8, 2012 at 17:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jakub - yes seriously, I've updated my answer to clarify exactly what I mean. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nir
    Feb 8, 2012 at 20:31

I think at least part of the problem is that what "serious" photographers want and what the camera companies want often differs. As to whether or not adding video makes a camera worse at taking photos, probably not.

The camera manufacturer wants to sell cameras. To do that they have to appeal to a wide audience and to make owners of slightly older products dissatisfied with them, even if older equipment could continue to do a good job for many more years, and no-one that matters would see any difference in our photos if you did "upgrade".

So they add features.

More relevant are the current fetishes of chasing high-ISO ability, lots of pixels and high dynamic range, at the expense of the subtleties of low-ISO noise and colour rendering. They could have resulted in poorer Image Quality at low ISO in order to provide the convenience of shooting at high-ISO and capturing masses of detail that is only visible when pixel-peeping or in a print the size of the side of a house.

It is hard to pass any definitive judgement because doing valid tests is time consuming for little reward, and it is also hard to find accurate technical details of the nitty-gritty details of a camera's internals.


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