A natural consequence of the convergence of video and still photography is that everything is going HDR (high dynamic range). Examples:
- iPhone 4
- Sony Alpha A55
- Red's upcoming Epic and Scarlet cameras, both of which will have Red's new HDRx shooting mode
HDR was possible before video/still photography converged, but it was a hassle. You had to fix your camera in position, usually on a tripod, for multiple shots, and that alone is too much work for the vast majority of photographers.
But many still cameras can now shoot video at the same resolution as stills, and many digital video cameras have sensors that shoot each frame at resolutions previously reserved for still cameras, and following both those trends to the horizon point leads to the same HDR method: shoot two or more frames in rapid succession at different exposures, then blend them to produce a single HDR still. If the frame rate is high enough and the camera decently stable, you no longer need to lock the camera down. With convenience comes more use.
The Red HDRx mode takes that principle one step further and extends it to shooting video. Of course, with motion, consecutive frames of video won't match exactly, and so a new requirement is a software algorithm to blend the two frames. An unexpected benefit of this frame blending, according to early testers, is that motion in digital video now looks more film-like. If that's the case, and the HDR can extend the dynamic range of digital video 1 or more stops, that's a significant breakthrough.
The increased flexibility is great, it allows usable photographs in situations that were formerly kryptonite for digital cameras. I traded in my Nikon D3 body for a D3s for its increased light sensitivity. At my sister's wedding recently I put the D3s through its paces. It doesn't have an HDR mode, but it has am improved sensor that can see into the dark without introducing eye-bleeding digital noise. Though my sister held her wedding in a dark vintage furniture store with lots of hard lighting, I never used my flash once, and the results were astonishing.
Of course, as with most tools, higher dynamic range is just a tool, and not a universal positive. I ended up going into Lightroom for most of the photos and taking all that the camera saw in the shadows and removing a lot of it, crushing the blacks and reintroducing the high contrast that a higher dynamic range photo lacks. The irony is that just because you can see everything doesn't mean you should. High contrast often heightens emotional response to a photo, and that, more than resolution or dynamic range or any number of other factors, is what matters.