Pernicious camera envy.

I've got a temporary case of it and I'm fighting it....

But Olympus and Magic Lantern aren't making it easy. Let's start with the ground breaking change to the Canon 5D mk3 first. If you are a still photography only person this may not shake the ground under your feet or cause you to do much more than walk down the hall for another cup of coffee, but for the people who want to do commercials, movies and other kinds of video with their hybrid (still+digital) camera this is big.

There is a company/group/source called Magic Lantern and they've made a hobby of writing terrific hacks for cameras that can do video but seem to be a bit crippled by their manufacturers. When the Canon 5D mk2 first came out videographers flocked to buy it because it was the first time a full frame (35mm frame) camera could be pressed into making video and that meant that film makers of all stripes could take advantage of the big sensor size to do all sorts of effects with shallow depth of field. But the camera had some flaws for video production. The biggest was no control over audio. The camera handled external microphones about the way a point and shoot would, it used automatic gain control, which results in compressed dynamic range (audio) and a lot of hiss and noise during quiet moments.

The industry went into work around mode. Film makers started buying up digital audio recorders and shooting second sound. This means they shot video with the 5D2 and recorded audio on a separate device and then tried to marry up the two tracks in post production. That led to another workaround in the form of some software called, Pluraleyes, which automatically sync'd up the tracks. The camera was also locked at 30 fps while film makers also wanted access to 24 fps.

So Magic Lantern created a "hack" that gave the 5D2 both fully manual sound control and 24 fps. Embarrassed, Canon later added both features in a long overdue firmware upgrade. Something they may have never done if the Magic Lantern folks hadn't showed the buying public how easy it was...

Now we've got the Canon 5Dmk3 and it comes factory equipped with both of the features that were missing at the previous model's launch. But video makers keep evolving and what they currently, desparately want is video with much better codecs or, even better, no compression at all. The current holy grail is to be able to shoot raw files. It's something offered by the Red cameras and a few other manufacturers but not by any DSLR hybrid maker. The general wisdom is that the thing holding back full frame video from ultimate quality is precisely the codec, of the way the files are compressed and then uncompressed.

You guessed it. About a week ago the Magic Lantern people announced and have distributed for beta testing a hack that does just that. It allows the 5D3 to shoot in raw. And the content I saw on EOSHD (yes, click the link for samples and details) is pretty compelling. It leapfrogs the 5Dmk3 well ahead of many dedicated, high end video cameras in the nose bleed price territory. Even those over $20,000. And unliked the uncompressed files you can get from some camera via the clean HDMI output into a digital recorder the hacked 5D3 will write directly to fast CF cards.

So now budding film makers can scale the capabilities of their 5D3's to match final use, creative expectations or client budgets. While the camera is still a 2k device there is the potential to sample from the entire frame and get a higher level of resolution as well.  Do I wish I also had a Canon 5D3 for the times I want the ultimate in video quality? Yes. As a still shooter do I have the same grass is greener on the other side of the fence envy? Nope.  Go to this link and read all about it because this will change the professional film and video market: http://www.eoshd.com/content/10324/big-news-hands-on-with-continuous-raw-recording-on-canon-5d-mark-iii

The potential downside (and we may already be seeing this in the introduction of new lenses like the 24-70mm 2.8, is that high end videographers may drive Canon to up the quality levels of their premium lenses and to (expensively) optimize them for shooting video. It all depends on where the market momentum winds up.... At the moment, through no hard work of their own, Canon takes the lead.

My second hunk of envy is much more straightforward. I was an early Olympus Pen adopter. I owned the original Pen film cameras, those cuddly little half frame cameras with the extra dose of great industrial design, that came out in the 1960's and soldiered on through part of the 1970's. I also bought several of the newer digital Pens. I loved the EP-2 camera and the EP-3 was even better but when we seemed forever stuck at a kludgy 12 megapixels I got lured away by the siren call of the IQ in the Sony Nex 7.

When Olympus came out with the OMD EM-5 camera last year I looked at it and played with it a dozen times but I didn't like the way the body was designed and it didn't evoke the warm and fuzzy nostalgia for the OM-1 that Oly hoped. I bonded with the cleaner and more logical EP/rangefinder-esque bodies and couldn't make the leap. But I did love what I saw from the camera and I still wish, from time to time, that my current cameras had the same prodigious image stabilization as the OMD EM-5.

The new EP-5 is nearly everything I wanted in a camera configuration I wanted when Olympus came out with the OMD EM5 instead. One thing that makes the new package even sweeter (and better than the OMD) is the upgraded EVF. The new version more that doubles the resolution of the VF2 while shortening the already good lag time down to 30 ms.

The other thing Olympus fixed was the fiddly control dials. Now there are hortizontally oriented control dials on the front and the back of the camera. There's other relatively meaningless stuff, like WiFi but the camera seems to have hit the sweet spot of both industrial design and performance. It's making me sweat a little when I look in the Nex equipment drawer. I'm sure I'm not the only Nex user who's saying: "Where's my Nex 70mm 1.8 ?????"

For more information go to the metrics source, DPReview: http://www.dpreview.com/previews/olympus-pen-ep5/

Just try not to get embroiled in any good forum fights while you're there....

Sunny and happy in Texas, and looking on the other side of the fence...