Keeping up with still and video equipment for ‘news’ work

For professional "news" photography and video, digital provides faster turnaround times for event coverage and a better chance of capturing the "right" second in a frame.
A compact flash card: A photographer's "film" in a new century.

While shooting both photos and video Tuesday night at a public hearing before The Floyd County Board of Supervisors, a friend asked if I missed the old days of shooting on film instead of digital.

“Yes and no,” I said. “I miss this the tonal quality of film but I don’t miss the limitations of space.”

“Space? How so,” he asked.

“When I shot film on a 35mm single lens camera like the Nikon F5 I used until the turn of the century (which was only 20 years ago), I usually shot images on a roll of film with a limit of 36 exposures,” I said. “When I switch to using a Nikon D1, my only limit was the size of the compact flash card.”

In 2004, I sold my Nikon equipment and switched to Canon because, at the time, they delivered a better quality image on digital. Been using Canons ever since for still photography. My current EOS-1D X uses two compact flash cards (up to 250 GB each), which allows shooting thousands of images without stopping to reload.

That camera is now a couple of generations old. The current EOS-1D X Model III uses CFExpress cards to handle both still photos and video but — at $6,500 for just the body — is no longer affordable for a semi-retired shooter like myself.

Thousands of images? Not as extreme as one might think. During my one assignment for National Geographic back in the past days of film, I would shoot two or three hundred rolls of film every day. Today, it is not unusual to shoot two thousand photos of a football game (assuming we can ever have football to photograph in the near future).

Covering FloydFest over five days or do could generate more than 5,000 photos and several hours of video. Selecting images and video clips takes longer than actually capturing them on cameras.

Motor drives on professional still cameras can capture 12-15 images a second if needed. That would exhaust a roll of 34-explore film in a couple of seconds. In sports, that kind of speed gives photographers a better chance of capturing the exact microsecond of an action shot.

Both of my still cameras are now “out of date,” but still deliver good, sharp images that serve my needs for shooting images for The Floyd Press and other media outlets. My second camera is a Canon 5D Mark III that shoots both still and high definition video. It can serve as a backup for either still shooting or video.

For most video work, I use a Panasonic shoulder-mount ENG (Electronic News Gathering) camera that provides quality necessary for TV news work. I had a Canon C100 that I sold earlier this year when times got tight in the pandemic.

With the two still cameras, I can capture more than 5,000 images at high resolution without changing cards and the video setup allows shooting more than nine hours without a need to change batteries or storage cards.

I still miss film, not so much for color image work but for the tones that a roll of Kodak Plus-X film could deliver in black and white. I still have a couple of Nikon film cameras and an ancient 4×5 sheet film “press camera” that I used back when I served as the school photographer as a student at Floyd County High School. The image quality of that large format camera is incredible.

How times have changed.

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