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Could High Resolution Video End The Future Of Photography?

For years, videographers have been saying video will replace photography altogether. Last year we tested this controversial statement in our own Red Epic Video vs Hasselblad Photo Shootout. In this latest video, Abraham Joffe along with Philip Bloom and Sue Bryce test the idea of simply pulling out still shots from video and printing them at reasonable sizes. Just as we found with our own video, capturing the definitive "micro expression" with a video camera like the new Canon EOS-1DC can be both precise and incredibly clunky.

Obviously videography will never be able to rival the still image when it comes to flash photography or producing the highest resolution images (4k is around 8 megapixels vs common 50+ megapixels medium format cameras). But what it can excel at is capturing the absolute peak moment in naturally lit environments. Because video currently captures 24 - 300 frames a second, it becomes possible to record the absolute perfect shot of wildlife or a key moment during a sporting event. Combine these high frame rates with the growing need for web resolution media and you have a pretty powerful new tool for the photojournalist.

The naysayers will argue that any good photographer can capture the "moment" with a still camera, and that may be true. Peter Hurley, one of the world's most accomplished headshot photographers, strives on capturing the perfect moment of interaction between his actor clients and the camera. But when Peter was faced with shooting video, he was shocked to find that every perfect micro expression was precisely recorded and able to be exported both before and after the traditional click of the shutter. As described in Abrahams video above, we are now able to pin point the exact fraction of a second that a real genuine emotion happens, and those tiny changes in expression can produce completely different reactions from the audience viewing the media. For any photographer who makes their living producing that definitive "peak of the action" shot, it becomes easy to see how ultra high definition video could be a huge game changer.

Once the hiccups of editing and culling through unbelievable amounts of footage are solved, high resolution cameras with fast frame rate capabilities are going to change the way we perceive reality. It's already happening in the advertising world and soon enough it will happen in all other areas of photography and imaging. But can it eventually over take photography as a whole? I guess only time and technology will tell...but in the meantime it's pretty fun to think about.

Patrick Hall's picture

Patrick Hall is a founder of Fstoppers.com and a photographer based out of Charleston, South Carolina.

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I've been a professional videographer (and photographer) since the 1980s -- early 80s, not later -- and I've never said video will replace photography. Who these people are who are saying that, I have no clue... unless you're talking about videographers who have been shooting video for merely a decade or so (or less) and, frankly, those people aren't as long-time videographers/photographers as they might think they are. There is so much more to photography than simply the tech stuff. Sure, from a purely technical perspective, you can pull a still frame which equals or rivals a photographic still frame but technically-perfect or near perfect photos can also be the most boring photos. Video and photography remain two similar yet different types of media. Each has its own approach to the imagery. TThe way video is approached, from a production stand point, does not generally yield photos, especially of people, with the same impact and power as those captured with still photo techniques. That's my opinion and I'm sticking with it.

Could High Resolution Video End The Future Of Photography?  No

Could probably be useful for sports and wedding photographers. I have a hard time choosing between two frames taken within the second from each other. Would never be able to coop with 24 frames a second.

Stills and video generally require different exposure times, especially when motion is involved, either with handheld cameras, or a moving subject.  While video looks best at around 1/60s to 1/120/s, athletes or models on runways look best at 1/250s to 1/500s or 1/1000s or even faster up to 1/5000s to freeze a race/tennis swing/surfer launching an aerial/etc.  This is on average a factor of 10 difference!   And this will always be a factor, even when your cell phone is shooting 5K video!  For that reason we use a dedicated stills and a dedicated video camera bracketed together and call it 9shooting or 45surfing. :)  The stills and video are far superior with two dedicated cameras, as opposed to trying to shoot both stills and video with a single camera.  :)

Yeah but if you really wanted to capture a specific moment (one frame), wouldn't you be better off with filming it at a high shutter speed? It will look bad for video purpose, but wouldn't the stills you bring out of it be sharper? 

ie just using it as a super high frame rate camera

We run a bit of a contest every year to see who can grab the best simultaneous stills and video at a pro surfing event: blog.9shooter.com

Well, as a Nikon D4 will get you around 12 RAWS/sec, and as it is a tiny fraction of the cost of the RED EPIC which could maybe grab 60 RAWS/sec at the same resolution, and as the Nikon D4 is all set/weather sealed/small/nimble and can be coupled with awesome Nikon F4 600 mm Prime lenses, most sports photographers are going to go with the Nikon D4.  Then, they can add a video camera/camcorder/4k Sony by bracketing it to the Nikon D4 to shoot video at the same time.  As nobody has 5K nor even 4K displays, what's the use of shooting 5K video, unless you are Peter Jackson shooting the Hobbit?  :)

So basically...spray and pray.

Cameras are close to shooting 30FPS stills so there you go.

While I would love to be able to pull hires stills from video footage in certain situations, I still think a total fusion of video and photography is not going to happen. For instance, I am sold on strobe lights (for creative reasons, not technical). However, I think the development we are seeing her is simply amazing.


The appeal of using a very high definition video camera to select stills is that you get to choose the definitive moment after capture. However, you do not need to be capturing video for minutes just to be able to choose moments. A more efficient (both storage and post wise) approach would be to have a camera that captures 5 seconds before and 5 seconds after the shutter release is pressed. You then get to verify that the moment you captured is the one you wanted and if not make an adjustment. If you miss the moment by more than 5 seconds, this is not a profession for you - at least not yet. Now, this technology already exists in digicams, obviously, the mirrors in DSLR's  will be an issue, but some have sorted that out already (I am looking at you Sony) . What I think we will continue to see is technology move from the low end of the camera spectrum up the high end.

realistically speaking, a few nanoseconds are needed to call atention and transmit your message to an audience, just one frame baby!!!!.... this is why video cannot replace photography.

Scary as piss to think about... I fear change. Strobes would be completely useless rendering some forms of photography out of the question so no video wont kill photography but it could be a big game changer. 

So, will photographers spend less time behind the camera and more time in front of the computer in post production picking out which of the thousand of frames is the best photo?

Okay, I am not a pro photographer. I know which DSLR I want to buy. Can I afford it? H-E-double L No.  My Canon A-1 still works after 30 years. I will burn more film in 2013. I'll use the motor drive high speed during the Navy Blue Angels performance in Beaufort MCAS April 2013 and the Air Force Thunderbirds in Charleston, SC in June 2013; I didn't get the Knife Edge Pass last year at Shaw AFB; I reloaded prior to their performance and I had to reload during their performance.
I have Lightroom, but I don't do much to the photos other than cropping and alignment, and changing scans of Kodak BW400CN from sepia tones to B&W. I won't adjust my color film scans, except for perhaps shooting with tungsten or fluorescent lights. But you guys with auto-white-balance don't have to worry about that.

There's still film. I've read several blog posts where different photographers switched back to film. I was in one situation where I wish that I had a DSLR with its ability to change ISO without changing film; Kodak BW400CN pushed to 1600 was still too slow to photograph the final Space Shuttle landing.

Have you ever tried to use a stobe with video? It's bad news...

All that this technology does is to blur the distinction between still and moving image. Of course its not the 'end' of still photography but it certainly is helping to redefine what is meant by 'taking a photograph'