Buffer memory (and write speeds) to become major differentiator among pro cameras

8 Aug

With the recent enhancements made to the Magic Lantern firmware plug-in for Canon EOS cameras, it’s becoming clear that buffer memory is rather limited on current camera models for those users wishing to use the sensor to its speed limit. To recap, Magic Lantern now allows capture of raw video, i.e. a series of lower-res DNG format stills at the speed of the camera’s frame rate, for an expanding range of EOS cameras. Most user tests have come from the 7D, where it’s been reported that 40 to 41 frames can be recorded before the frame rate drops off (or recording stops in recognition or anticipation of that fact). That’s quite a good buffer size for still capture, but rather dismal for genuinely high definition (HD) video use. The reason I say genuinely HD is because the otherwise widely used H.264 codec, while offering very compact file sizes, continues to produce noticeable artefacts, which is largely responsible not so much perhaps for the inclusion of raw video in the firmware, but for the enthusiasm about it.

It’s likely that this feature will not go away as a fad, but remain here to stay, not least because without doubt, many photographers-come-videographers have been wondering when they’ll be able to fiddle with blown highlights in video the same way they can in stills. The next stop, then, is including the feature in factory firmwares. In the interim, much will be written about the different HD video abilities of Canon cameras, the only currently “open” platform other than Samsung (who made that decision recently, presumably to take advantage of the trend for open-sourced, user-provided enhancements to firmware; NB I’m talking about the firmware in Samsung’s higher-level NX cameras, not Android!). Then it’s over to the rest of the crowd to ensure that their cameras either come with huge buffer, or, even better, manage to clear it at great speed.


3 Responses to “Buffer memory (and write speeds) to become major differentiator among pro cameras”


  1. Olympus OM-D E-M1 announced: Lifeline for old lenses | breakfastographer - September 10, 2013

    […] glad to note that Olympus agreed with my assessment that bigger picture buffers were needed – the E-M1 offers a buffer depth of 40 RAW images – possibly larger than any current […]

  2. Winner of the RAW buffer race | breakfastographer - December 19, 2013

    […] to my ongoing interest in RAW buffers and how they affect camera performance, I recently took-a-look at some flagship models that had been touted as having particularly fine […]

  3. Nikon D500 finally announced | breakfastographer - January 6, 2016

    […] a personal comment, the large buffer really makes me feel that someone out there is listening, and fulfils my prediction from 16 months ago. Combined with the very fast write performance suggested by the inclusion of an XQD card slot, the […]

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