Nikon video firmware with AF through the sensor in development (Nikon video)

This is coming from somebody close to Nikon development (new, anonymous and unconfirmed source):

"He/she told me that he/she has been working on firmware that only supports video. Namely, his/her area is autofocus through the sensor. He/she told me to think of it as tripod mode in Live View but that it was much more complicated. Apparently speed is important and an area that is out of focus can be selected and the lens be made to jump to focus in that point in one move without hunting.

He/She told me that this required distance data and AFS from the lens. As far as I know, all AFS lenses support distance data but I'm not sure.

At any rate he/she says there's hardware support for h.264 encoding. He/she also said that there is support from increments of 24 fps and 30 fps (so 24, 48, 72, 96 etc. and 30, 60, 90, etc) but I didn't ask how high.

He/she said there would be no support for still image captures though it's all progressive video which lends itself (a bit) to having still images pulled from video.

He/she said 1080p, 720p, 480p, and 320p (?) are supported.

I was discussing trading up from my D300 to a D300s just for the video support and he/she told me to wait. He/she said that there wouldn't be anything soon but it would be in the lifespan of a D300s.

I asked him/her if it was a video only f-mount body. He/she told me he/she had very little knowledge of the hardware.

He/she did mention working with a team that is developing a NEF equivalent for video. Which was very high in bitrate necessitating high end media. He/she didn't know if it was CF or SD."

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  • NikoDoby

    Don’t let us down Nikon. Keep up the good work.

    • HDZ

      Nikon stay on good work for 91 years, people just hope too much.

  • Anonymous

    what’s 320p?

    • dB

      Possibly very low rez video for high speed filming?

      • Ennan

        thats what I was thinking… like those high speed casios maybe?

  • NikoDoby

    Wait life span of a D300’s or a D300S’s? Doesn’t this kinda seem like an iphone’s tap to focus? Let the speculating begin!

    • low

      thats kinda like what i was thinking…but in live view video recording.. and yes, let it begin.

      • NikoDoby

        Tap to focus on a DSLR !? Now that would be cool wouldn’t it ! Thank you Nikon hermaphrodite firmware worker!

        Not sure I like the idea of yet another NEF-video format though 🙁

        • dB

          RAW video footage? I don’t like the idea of it being proprietary, but RAW video in any form on a DSLR would be amazing

          • NikoDoby

            Yes but your going to need some major computing firepower to process RAW video from lets say a 24mp D700(x) !!! You’ll also need the proprietary software to run it. Just like those huge RAW files you get from RED video cameras.

            You need the REDCINE software to run the REDCODE files. You can’t just open it up in Premiere Elements or Windows Media Player.

          • Desinderlase

            This video only device, would certanly not have a 24mp.

          • dB

            Yes, processing RAW video takes a lot of computing power, and expensive software. Give me give me.

            You don’t HAVE to shoot RAW if you don’t want to, but would be a great feature for those who can manage it considering how few cameras offer it

  • Alex

    D700x baby…. (the only camera I care about right now)

    • jbl

      You said it Alex.

      Also, that he/she thing is getting very interesting.

      • Ritchard

        Yup…d700x all the way!

      • I did not want to reveal the gender of the source in case this is true – I can imagine that the team that works on this project is not so big.

        • Anonymous

          LOL, so basically you’re saying it’s a woman.

          • not really, I may have said that to misinform you 🙂

        • Anonymous

          You already did reveal the gender. I’ve never seen “he/she” in your articles before.

        • Chris Lilley

          “they said” is equally gender neutral, without drawing attention to the gender issue like “he/she said” does. It also reads better. Just a suggestion.

    • Anonymous

      just out of curiosity, if it there would be a D700x tomorrow, with video, less jello and rolling shutter, how much would you guys be willing to throw at it?

      • Alex

        I think $3500 for the body would be about my limit. If It came out around $4000, I would probably still get it, if i can get 10% off through my contact at Best Buy. But under $3500 with 10% would be even better!

        • Anonymous

          Frankly I doubt that the price will be below $ 4000, regarding the price relation of the D3 and D700, which are around now for quite some time. A price tag around $ 4500-4800 seems rather realistic. Maybe dropping to $4200 6 months after it hit the stores.
          Hopefully the release of other FX cameras from Canon and Sony will have an impact on their price policy. But I doubt it. With their 24mp sensor it seems to me as if they see themselves more in competition with the mid format cameras as with Canon or Sony SLRs.

          • peter

            $4500…are you insane ? the MkII is only $2700 ffs.

          • Guest

            Agree. They both insane ($4000-4500). Crazy.

          • Anonymous

            @peter: not insane, realistic. Nikon doesn’t care what Canon does. Especially since most of the photographers that once switched to Canon are now back in the boat.

          • Anonymous

            LOL, Nikon doesn’t care what Canon does??? Yea right! All both these companies are doing is imitating each other camera after camera. Not a problem to me but you can’t hide the facts.

          • [Ô]

            A D700x wouldn’t be a direct 5D competitor as the D700 body is FAR better built / sealed etc than the 5D. not to forget the better AF better light metering. . .

            Please stop being dissapointed when the better Nikon body is more expensive than the not as well made Canon.

            If Nikon take you guys seriously and starts building to a price point that will match Canon we will all be left using poorly built cameras.

            I like Nikons quality products and I am prepared to pay for them!

  • dB

    If this were true….

    It sounds like Nikon is considering serious video performance, including usable autofocus and possibly RAW video capture with multiple frame rates. I don’t think these types of major upgrades would come in the d700x, I would expect that it would be more likely to see these in a D4. Then again, the D3 still has a fair amount of time left in its update cycle.

    I would be very interested in a camera with these types of video capabilities

  • Anonymous

    How about contrast AF updates for the video in the D90?

    • Anonymous

      Frankly I doubt it. I’m still hoping for an update for the D300, as the D300s is promised to have a bit less noise.
      Does anyone remember how long it took from the release of the D70s until there was a firmwareupdate for the D70?

      • Anonymous

        The D70s and the update for the D70 was announced the very same day.

        • NikoDoby

          Looks like your answering all of your own questions Anonymous .
          Good job!

          • another Anonymous

            Well, I doubt that they are all the same “Anonymous”…

    • WoutK89

      Don’t get your hopes up, if I read this story right, it will be new hardware exclusive, so Nikon is very nifty in this choice. Making you buy a new camera for real video possibilities…, wouldnt have thought otherwise, people just like the idea all is fixable through firmware updates 😛

    • Matstar

      My thoughts exactly – videoing outdoors without AF is like shooting stills with a pinhole camera. How on earth do you focus an LCD in direct sunlight??

  • Gary

    There’s no doubt that video on a dslr has proven to be a popular feature, and manufacturers like Nikon and Canon will undoubtedly continue to develop this feature.

    However, if I were the writer of this rumor, I wouldn’t put off buying the D300s if you want to enjoy video on your dslr. Buy it now, enjoy it, learn more about how to make it work for you, and when these other models come out in the next year or 2 then you can upgrade. It would be silly to wait for something that will come out in the lifespan of the d300s…which again could be 1 to 2 yrs.

    So enjoy what’s out there now…if you always wait for the next technology breakthrough, you will wait forever.

    • Jurno

      I agree with this. Of course, it comes down to money. I’m not sure I can justify spending $2,000 (Cdn) today for a D300s and then another $2,000 in two years for the better video. But conceptually I agree, don’t wait for the best thing because there’s always going to be something better coming down the road.

      • Anonymous

        Well, looking at prices of a used D300 with the D300s in the frame, I don’t think one would loose too much, if you didn’t shoot the life out of it, within the year.

    • Guest

      Who knows, when approximately the Nikon D90’s successor will come? For me important question. For now I don’t have any camera. And I don’t need for now.

      Thank you.

      • Anonymous

        The D90s live spam will be between two and three years. If you don’t have anything right now, I advise you to pick up a D40 or D70, they are dirt cheap in the meantime, and the D40 should still be available as new.
        And if you get deeper into the subject I’ll promise you that you won’t sell either of those two, no matter which camera you get in a year or two.

        • Guest

          Thanks. I had D40. Excellent camera. But I understand, that for me D40 not enough. Believe me, I understand why, I’m not new in this question.

          • Anonymous

            just out of curiosity, what were the limiting aspects of the D40? And if I may ask, how many pictures did you take with it?

          • Guest

            1) Ergonomics. Lack of some direct buttons, second weel, joystick located too low etc.
            2) Smaller viewfinder, than D80 or D90.
            3) 3 auto focus points is OK, but sometimes I need more. And more points cross-type.
            3) Lack of Depth of Field preview button.
            4) Lack of second monitor (but it’s not so critical for me).
            5) No function, when mirror goes up beforehand.
            And for now:
            6) Screen size and resolution for today already not enough.
            7) No LiveView.
            8) No Video mode.
            9) High ISO not as perfect, as in modern cameras.
            10) No possibility to shoot RAW+JPEG Fine (not only Basic).
            11) 2,5 fps not enough for me.

          • Guest

            And about how many pictures I made. You know, I never calculate. When I’m shooting for me it is a creativity, not a mathematics. So…

          • Guest

            Forgot something else
            12) No any types of bracketing (wite balance, exposure, active D-lighting).
            13) No Active D-Ligting, by the way.

          • Anonymous

            I don’t see how any of those points can keep one from taking pictures… How does a smaller viewfinder limit you, sure it’s nice to have a 100% on FX. But does it limit you?

            These are not limitations, these are plain about comfort. And once you would shoot with a D40 or alike, you’d realize that the “limitations” by your gear are not the problem. 😉
            That was my experience, at least.

          • Guest

            Actually it was 14) becouse two times I made 3)

          • Guest

            Yes, it’s not so limitations. But you know, people are different. Othrwise D90, D300, D700 etc. never come. Right. OK, if you call it comfort, let it be. It’s my choice, and I’m free to choose, what I need, not you.

  • Geoff

    Well I suppose any improvement is good, and it’s good to see Nikon progressing and improving it’s video. I just hope that the investment in this development/technology doesn’t take away from their research into improving the quality of their cameras ability to improve on the photos it can make. eg Dynamic range, colours, iso performance etc.

  • jsa

    Now this is starting to sound like something that would retire my D300 and HVR-A1P, and open my wallet.

  • OH MAN OH MAN OH MAN! If this is true at all, then I certainly hope they come out with a similar firmware update for the D90. There’s not enough of a difference for me to jump to a D300s yet. And where is that D90 firmware fix they said they were going to release last year?

    • Matstar

      Totally agree here. No AF video sux hard! (Esp outdoors)

      • Jester

        I’d take fully manual over af any day.

        • jbl

          I agree… manual focus video is the way to go.

          Also, there won’t be a firmware update for the D90 just like there’s no firmware update for the D300 to have the video feature on it…

          the new af in video will either be in D700x/s or in the D4/D400

  • BIG B

    Well I can’t wait…D300s here I come! And in 3 years I’ll pick up a D400s or D800.

  • just give us that fabulus d700x now, dont streach the paine.
    just deliver

    • Hakejo

      you said it!

  • I’m a D3 user switched from Canon over a year ago, but I’ll tell you what: I’ve just ordered Canon 5D Mk II for video. I’ve been waiting few months for the Nikon full HD video update and nothing happened, so for now I just wish Nikon made D4 or D700x with full HD recording and I’ve ordered C5DMkII.

    • alex

      you should get scarlet if video is what you need, costs the same.
      or wait until the firmware hackers do more work improving video.

      • Anonymous

        Scarlet doesn’t exist, nor does it have a release date.

  • alex

    if you get a rumor when someone tells you “wait, don’t but anything from nikon in the next 1-2 years” (1-2 years ~ lifespan of d300s) you know what that means…..

    • Joe R

      Nikon’s lifespan of a camera vs. the owners are very different. I own a D300. I would LOVE to shoot video through my Nikon glass, but I can’t afford to upgrade my body every time Nikon comes out with a new one. If someone told me Nikon was going to release and f-mount video-only (or video specialized) body in the next 1-2 years. I would hold off on upgrading my D300. Realistically it’ll be another 1-2 years before I would greatly benefit from something better than a D300.

  • Kwartjuh

    Sounds mostly like a giant wishlist. but if this is true and nikon pulls it off, then that would certainly be a giant hit!

    • Joe R

      Yes and no.

      It does sound awesome (perhaps too awesome). But… if Nikon has a 1920×1080 pixel chip that could dump a reasonably high-bit rate video out at more than 90 fps it would shake up the entire industry- assuming it’s a consumer/prosumer device. If it’s going to be $8,000 it won’t matter much. It would have to compete with Red’s stuff.

      A box that lets me put my Nikon glass and record really high-quality video it immediately interesting. I wouldn’t mind keeping my still body separate from my video body and from Nikon’s point of view, would they mind tons of existing Nikon body owners buying all new video-only bodies? Nope!

      What seems most suspicious is that one would think there is existing hardware if someone is out there working on firmware. I’m inclined to think we would have heard something else about this new sensor/body.

      • Ken Elliott

        It is not unusual to develop firmware using a hardware simulator. This gives them plenty of time to develop the firmware, based on the specifications for the hardware, while it is being developed. It also means they can begin testing as soon as the hardware is available.

        Of course, sometimes the hardware doesn’t exactly match the spec, so they either alter the firmware to resolve the issue or (the ugly) go back and redesign the hardware.

  • This is one of the most interesting Nikon rumours for a while. A Nikon camera shooting high-bitrate h.264 with little or no jello would be awesome. Compressed RAW video recording would be absolutely amazing. Fingers crossed Nikon are also working on a sensor with the low-light performance of the 5D mk II’s sensor too.

  • Neil

    If this is true, no reason why it would have to be in a D series camera. Maybe Nikon is planning a V series. Like a V1 for professional video, V100 for prosumer, and V1000 for low end.

  • Ken Elliott

    I’m hoping this will be Nikon’s answer to RED – a pro video camcorder with an F-mount. I don’t care if it can take still shots, just don’t compromise on the video. Video guys know the limitations of using an SLR for video. It’s fun and cool, but in no way can replace a good camcorder. Great for home clips, but just too limited.

    Don’t forget that Nikon once made a film movie camera (Super 8, I believe). Both Canon and Sony have separate divisions for camcorders, so there may be problems for them having one division competing against another. A “V-1” video camera that fits within the modern F-mount system would be a game changer. Like RED, Nikon could create a much more affordable HD camcorder with a FX-size sensor, that used great glass, and had that shallow depth of field look. If it sold for $3000 US, it could completely change the game. Canon and Sony want to protect the high-priced line, which RED is going after. Nikon has no such product line to protect.

    This will also create additional demand for AF-S primes, so this is a great thing for all the still shooters.

  • Kuri

    I’m not a filmmaker myself, but a friend who is and who I showed this to says it is very common in 35mm film/video production to pre-focus a lens at two points and then either put markers on the ring or physical blocks so you can swap between two focussing distances very quickly and accurately, for example when focussing on 2 different people depending on who’s talking. If that could be achieved by ‘storing’ 2 )or more?)focussing points in a memory and then they could be accessed by just a quick tap, that would be a very nice feature to have in a video camera, potentially saving lots of production/editing time too.

    • Steve

      They have people who adjust the focus, they are the 1st Assistant of Photography. Also known as focus pullers. They have large white knobs that allow them to mark distances, and pro focus pullers can accurately estimate distance off of near objects. I don’t really think storing focus distances would be much of a development.

  • getanalogue

    everyone speculating on D700x to be the candidate of such a firmware upgrade. why noone thinking about D400? I think it’s too early for D700x, it will have about same video like D300s, and next generation video as described in the rumor above in a D400 first, followed by D4? and provided as firmware download to D700x? Totally agree to speculative dedicated video body with F-Mount, also very much likely.

    • WoutK89

      Something like this is not applicable through a firmware update only! Try realizing this…

  • Ryan

    good point Neal… i wonder if they will expand as sony and canon have already made that part of their mainstream business… i always wondered why nikon hadn’t gone into the video business… maybe they are seeing into the future and realizing video is more imminent in the future of photography/photojournalism.

  • Steve

    YES! Nikon will pwn Red and Sony CineAlta. Multi-frame rate native progressive scan 35mm imager? Every filmmaker will be on the boat if they can make it DSLR-priced. Nikon will OWN.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, Nikon’s current efforts look pretty film-like. If they can increase the quality and hold onto the organic look, they could have something quite valuable.

  • It has not begun

    Sounds like total B.S. to me. A RAW HD video format??? Now what kind of memory card are you gonna need for this! Anyone interested in 30 sec on a 16GB card??? You’d have to hook up some magnetic storage to the camera, I don’t see that happening.

    • Anonymous

      Where does the rumor say they’re working on RAW?

      • dB

        it says they’re working on a NEF video format, which everyone is assuming means RAW (including me)

  • dave

    I don’t see why so many think this is a firmware upgrade for an existing DSLR or something that will show up in a new DSLR. I think this clearly points to a HD video camera that will accept f-Mount lenses. A DX sized sensor with 1920x1200or 1920×1440 resolution would be much cheaper to manufacture than existing sensors and have better light gathering characteristics simply due to the size of the sensels/photosites. Providing a RAW format allows you to pull more detail out of the shadows or highlights in post processing, alter white balance more easily, etc. IT would be an awesome video camera.

    When the D90 was announced, I said, although not in this forum, that Sony and Canon better take notice, because it was not just the first SLR with video, but it was Nikon and not Sony or Canon that made it to announce first and gave Nikon a new foothold in the world of video, and Nikon may very well be signalling it’s potential re-entry into the video camera market.

    Nikon could make a big splash with this if done correctly. They could also fall flat on their faces if they screw it up.

    • Anonymous

      Where is this talk of RAW coming from? The rumor does not provide any indication that Nikon is working on RAW footage. Also, if you read about the challenges facing the RED Camera Company, you’ll realize that it’s very, very unlikely for someone new to the video market to create a camera that can extract RAW footage from an S35 sized sensor. RED has the cheapest camera that can do it and it’s $17,500. How is Nikon going to do the same thing for the price of a DSLR?

      • Ken Elliott

        Here’s your clue:

        Check out the SI-2K mini and ask yourself “what if Nikon came out with something like this?”

        • Anonymous

          That’s a 2/3″ sized sensor, not an s35 sized sensor…

          Besides, you’re suggesting that Nikon is working on a camera that has to be tethered to a computer? Not likely…

  • David

    Sounds fake. If the timing is unknown, why would a Nikon employee tell you to wait on buying the D300s? Maybe I’m being a conspiracy theorist, but it sounds like a ploy to drive D300s sales down.

  • jsa

    MX = Movie ??

  • Steve

    No one uses flash memory for shooting RAW video. Use a RAID 0 multi-terabyte rig if you wish to shoot for a long time. It’s really no problem to do that these days. Just strap it on to your Steadicam rig.

  • dave

    He/she said not to trade up from D300 to D300s just for movies. And this product would be during the life of the D300s. In other words, it isn’t a replacement for the D300s. It’s a different product. That’s my read anyway. And this person works on firmware, right? A fair amount of which has been farmed off to a joint venture between Nikon and Fuji (or something like that, I forget the specifics). So being “close to Nikon development” doesn’t have to mean a source inside Nikon.

    So, one way to interpret it would be, “I’m working on firmware for a handicam that will use your AFS lenses, so don’t trade up from the D300 to the D300s just for video, because this thing should be out within a year.”

    Pure speculation of course. Based on third hand information, about a conversation that may or may not have taken place between two completely unknown entities…

    Remember this… ?

  • Chagchag

    This smells fake rumor. Also AF on a videocamera is not very useful. No pros (including myself) wants autofocus. No pro camcorder or filmcamera have this feature, because it is of very limited use.

    What we DO want is full manual control of exposure, which for some reason Nikon thinks only is usefull for stills. Go figure….

    BTW, the Red One has an option to shoot raw on CF cards. Convergent Design’s videorecorder also records uncompressed HD on CF cards.

    • I agree that few pros want AF in its current implementation. I can’t speak for anyone else but I’d LOVE an AF mode which works the way I want it to work (i.e. locks solidly to the object that you want to focus on and allows you to easily select other objects in the frame to pull focus to – apparently RED are working on this kind of technology). I believe we’ll see “pro video AF” within the next few years. The Panasonic GH1 is an interesting step in the right direction but it gets confused too easily (e.g. if your subject turns their head so the camera sees a profile shot then then face-detection gets confused and the AF hunts which looks horrible).

  • Digital Cinema

    Sounds real to me. I think both Canon and Nikon are very interested in competing with Red.
    If you read Canon rumors going back into the spring, Canon Is developing a 35mm sensor based video camera based on their XL series that will take EF lenses and have RAW video.
    Nikon can not sit back and not compete with Canon and Red. I predict a totally new video only box with F mount.
    For everyone thinking of this from a DSLR point of view, don’t, this all about competing in the video/filmmaker arena.

  • I just hope Nikon’s RAW workflow fits well into existing workflows. We really do need a standard for compressed RAW. It’s just about acceptable for each manufacturer to have a different RAW format for stills because there are only a small handful of applications used in stills workflows (PhotoShop being the most dominant). But there are LOADS of software tools used in mid- to high-end film production.

    There was some talk of a “Cinema DNG” format a while back. I wonder what happened to that? Adobe were making enthusiastic noises about RAW for video a while ago. My hope is that Adobe will integrate something like the Adobe Camera RAW editor into Premiere Pro (whilst HIGHLY optimising the maths so it can play back 24/25fps, perhaps using 1 or more GPUs)

    I really hope that Adobe are working on applying their awesome image grading tech from the stills world to Premiere Pro and I hope that Nikon are working on launching an answer to RED. A Nikon camera with manual controls, compressed RAW (with a decent post workflow), decent audio inputs (2xXLRs and/or S/PDIF) and audio controls and monitoring, no jello, DX or FX sized sensor. I’d buy it in a second.

    But I hope the camera can also take reasonable stills. I am a believer in convergence.

  • Chris Lilley

    NEF equivalent for video is an interesting part, and would put it directly into RED territory. Just as NEF is better than JPEG for editing stills, so a raw video output is better than motion JPEG or any MPEG-based, lossy compressed solution for editing video.

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