About three months ago I bought a new digital camera, a Canon 7D digital SLR (DSLR). This camera is a significant step up in cost and features from my Canon Rebel XTi I bought about three years ago. I’m still learning how to use the 7D effectively.
I am nowhere near where I would like to be in using its video mode features, and one of my many projects this summer is to learn how to produce video projects that are exploit its capabilities. I have a ways to go. I bought the camera primarily for its video capability. For major events/trips I take whatever digital camera I have, as well as my mini-DV camcorder. Sometime a still image cannot do the activity justice. What I did not realize is how much buying this camera would impact my entire digital photography workflow – the steps I take from initially taking an image through sharing and backing up these images.
My plan is to share some of the things I’ve learned and things I have not learned yet in these posts. This is not going to be an overnight journey on my part, and I suspect some of my comments will have to be modified in later posts as I learn more. I would like to think that even if your situation does not match mine exactly, you will still find the reading of these posts interesting and helpful.
The Canon 7D – Very Large Image Files
The two main capabilities that my 7D possesses that immediately impacted my workflow was its 18 megapixel resolution (my XTi is 10.1), and its ability to take full high definition (HD) video, which is 1920x1080p at 30 frames per second.
For the past couple of years or so, I have been shooting only RAW images rather than JPEGs with my XTi. At 10.1 megapixels, its JPEG Fine image was in the order of 4 Mb in size, and a RAW image about 10 Mb. The Canon 7D produces a JPEG Fine image of about 6.5 Mb, and its RAW image is in the order of 24 Mb.
With this kind of increase in file size I could see where it would not take long for me to start worrying about disk space. All of my images/videos are on a second internal 1Tb hard drive. When I installed it a few months ago, I figured it would hold my images for good long time, but I’m beginning to wonder. So, now I’m back to shooting JPEG Fine images for normal situations, reserving RAW mostly for scenery and special events.
Continuous Mode Shooting at 8 Frames per Second
One other 7D feature that began me thinking how about my still image workflow is its 8 fps continuous shooting capability. I use the burst mode a lot for sports and just taking pictures of my granddaughters, Lucy and Paige. My XTi could take about 3 fps. I have been generally keeping all of the photos in a given burst, even after I’ve decided which one to use for a project. With almost three times the number of images getting captured for a given burst, I am now deleting those that I don’t initially use much more often.
Full HD Video at 30 Frames per Second
Learning how to use this new camera and adjusting my workflow to accommodate its still image capabilities and size is hard enough. The real challenge is to come up with workflow that will effectively handle the HD video I shoot. At its Full HD setting, video from the Canon 7D fills up an 8 Gb memory card in 12-1/2 minutes. The video file uses the H.264 compression scheme and puts this highly-compressed data stream into .MOV files. Decompressing such a large image size and displaying a smooth running video is extremely hard on your PCs hardware and the software it uses. I have spent most of my time trying to come up with a good workflow for handling video from this camera. I’ve made progress, but I’m not there yet. Further complicating my task is that I am not nearly as comfortable with my video workflow as I am with dealing with my still images.
So throughout the summer, I will periodically post my progress adapting my workflow to accommodate my new situation. You may not yet have a camera with specs similar to mine, but I suspect your next one will. In fact even today, there are relatively low cost compact cameras that have image resolutions of 12 megapixels or more and take HD video. Video is not coming. It’s here and we need to handle it efficiently, or we will become completely overwhelmed.
That will do it for this installment.