For years, DSLR and mirrorless cameras have been bogged down by video recording limits that prevent users from recording for too long. But why? What are these limits? Today, we’ll look at the recording limits of various cameras and discuss some ways to overcome these issues.
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Brief History of Video Recording Limits
One of the first DSLR cameras to break into video recording was the Canon 5D Mark II. The camera came with a 12-minute recording limit. There was a very good reason: a 4GB size limit on files in the FAT32 file system the camera used. Because of the way the camera stored files on cards, the files needed to have a cap. If there was no cap, the camera would overheat.
As time went on, the cameras got better at this. Canon released the 5D Mark III in 2012 and recording limits started to change. This big brother to the 5D Mark II had a newly designed interior, overcoming the overheating issue. Seamless file spanning also fixed the 12 minute cap. Suddenly, 30 minutes became the new video recording limit.
More companies began to add video features to their DSLR and mirrorless cameras. Consistently, they met this 30-minute recording cap. Nikon, Sony, and more – all capped at 30 minutes. It seemed you needed a true video camera in order to record any long-form interviews or shoot without having to stop and start your recording. The problem is, most of these video cameras come at an extreme cost.
In 2006, the European Union created a law that added an import duty of 5-12% to any video camera. What determined whether a camera was a video camera? In short, the ability to record longer than 30 minutes. Thus, companies like Canon and Nikon decided to cap their video clip lengths, preventing their enthusiast and prosumer cameras from being considered video cameras.
For years, companies have been able to avoid this tax because the EU considers photography cameras “information technology products”. Video cameras/camcorders, however, took on the tax because of their ability to record things like television shows and movies, theoretically causing competition for cable companies. This is all supposedly going to get phased out starting in July of 2019 (only about a month from the time of this writing). Keep an eye out here for more news on that front.
Overcoming Current Limits
The reason why this is being questioned is the 30 minute video recording limit is just not necessary. It has nothing to do with file systems and overheating cameras anymore. Nowadays, it is just a way of avoiding the 5-12% tax on cameras in Europe. Were these companies to allow their cameras to record longer, they’d need to increase the cost of the cameras. Because many DSLR users don’t wholly focus on the video aspect of their cameras, this would be an undesirable cost increase for these companies to incur.
If you need video clips longer than 30 minutes, there are ways to do it:
• You can use an HDMI-connection external recorder, such as the Ninja Flame, to easily capture longer content out of your DSLR. Learn more about how to use external recorders in Crash Course on External Recording Monitors.
• You can use only certain models of cameras, such as the Panasonic GH5S, which don’t have recording limits. The GH5S is one of the first digital cameras of this class and form factor to break away from the video recording limit. Panasonic is putting a lot of effort into video capabilities for its users.
• Used a firmware hack, such as Magic Lantern, that can remove the 30 minute limit on Canon DSLRS. However this will void your warranty.
The Future of Recording Limits and the Information Technology Agreement
It’s hard to know what the future holds in terms of video recording limits in digital cameras. One thing is clear, video is here to stay. These cameras has seen a huge uptick in sales due to their video capabilities. If people are willing to spend a little more to overcome these recording limits, camera companies may decide it’s worth doing. Only time will tell.
Cameras that Record more than 30 Minutes
Panasonic Lumix S5
Panasonic LUMIX S5
$1,897.99 AT B&H VIDEO$1,697.99 AT ADORAMA$1,899.99 AT BEST BUY
- Dual card slots
- Internal 10-bit video recording
- Fully articulating screen
- 4K 60 video recording
- Lens selection
The Panasonic Lumix S5 is an impressive all around camera. For a very reasonable price under 2K, the Lumix S5 is a great choice for both videographers and photographers. The camera’s 24.3MP full-frame CMOS sensor ensures the camera captures great quality.
On the video side, the Lumix S5 is capable of UHD 4K 60 video, 10-bit internal video recording an APS-C sensor area and 4:2:0 10-bit color. Additionally, the camera can shoot full-frame UHD 4K30p with 4:2:2 10-bit color. Its ISO ranges from 100-51200 native range, which is expandable to ISO 50-204800. One of the Lumix S5’s key features is its inclusion of dual card slots, allowing you to keep recording when one of the memory cards becomes full.
Still shooting modes are available for recording continuous 3:2 or 4:3 8MP stills at a 60 or 30 fps shooting rate or 18MP stills at a 30 fps shooting rate.
The Panasonic Lumix S5 is weather-sealed and can withstand both splashes of water and dust. Additionally, the camera is lightweight, so it’s portable.
For all the Panasonic Lumix S5, it’s clearly the best all around camera currently out on the market.
Budget all-around camera
$898.00 AT B&H VIDEO$898.00 AT ADORAMA$899.99 AT BEST BUY
- No record limit time
- 120fps in HD
- No in-body image stabilization
- No headphone jack
The Sony a6400 is the follow up to the a6300 in Sony’s lineup of compact, lightweight APS-C cameras. Sony claims the camera has the fastest autofocus in the world, with an acquisition time of just 0.02 seconds. That’s is lighting fast. It also sports 4K video recording, “Real-time Eye AF” and “Real-time Tracking,” and of course the 180-degree tiltable LCD touch screen.
The camera uses a 24.2 MP APS-C sized image sensor with an upgraded BIONZ X processor. With this combo and the same image processing algorithms as Sony’s full-frame cameras, noise in the a6400 is greatly reduced.
This is also Sony’s first APS-C mirrorless camera to include the Hybrid Log-Gamma picture profile. Both S-Log2 and S-Log3 are available, as well. Other handy tools include Zebra functionality, Gamma Display assists and proxy recording. That last feature should make editing large video clips in post much easier. Overall, the Sony a6400 is a feature-rich camera.
Best camera for online video
$1,699.00 AT B&H VIDEO$1,499.00 AT ADORAMA$1,699.99 AT BEST BUY
- 10-Bit 4:2:2 DCI 4K
- Eterna Bleach Bypass Film Simulation
- Long battery life
The Fujifilm X-T4 comes with a lot of important features for online video creators. It has a newly designed IBIS system, a quiet shutter and a new vari-angle LCD screen that makes it easier for vloggers to shoot in selfie mode. Plus, it adds Eterna Bleach Bypass Film Simulation for that cinematic look. It can also record F-Log footage in 10-bit color, straight to the card.
Inside, the X-T4 has a 26.1 MP, back-side illuminated CMOS sensor and an X-Processor 4. The camera can record DCI 4K/60p and Full HD/240p super slow-motion video. Additionally, the AF-C subject tracking works in low-light conditions down to -6EV. Finally, it has a battery said to last quite a while and a form factor that’s both compact and lightweight.
Budget option for online video
$579.00 AT B&H VIDEO$599.00 AT ADORAMA$579.99 AT BEST BUY
- Long battery life
- Good image quality
- Flip out screen
- Significant rolling shutter
- 2.56 times crop shooting 4K
The Canon EOS M50 sports a 24.1-megapixel APS-C sensor and can capture 4K video at 24fps, 1080p video at 60fps, and 720p video at 120fps. While one of the big features for the M50 is its 4K capabilities, 4K recording comes with a 1.6X crop. That’s an additional crop to the existing 1.6X APS-C crop factor. The M50 uses Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF and a new “eye detection AF” that automatically locks focus to a subject’s eyes, but unfortunately, you can’t use phase-detection Dual Pixel AF in 4K.
The M50 has built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC connectivity. There’s also a vari-angle, flippable touchscreen perfect for vloggers. Solid video functionality and an articulating screen makes the Canon EOS M50 a solid pick for vloggers on a budget.
Best hybrid photo/video camera
Sony a7R IV
Sony a7R IV
$3,498.00 AT B&H VIDEO$2,998.00 AT ADORAMA$3,499.99 AT BEST BUY
- 61 Megapixel sensor
- Real-time Eye AF
- 240 MP Pixel Shift multi shooting
- Poor menu system
- No 4k 60p
- No 10-Bit video
The Sony a7R IV offers more to hybrid shooters than any other camera before it. The a7R IV combines a 61 Megapixel resolution image sensor with 6K oversampled video for capturing UHD 4K. Plus, it has no record time limit. While the codec, frame-rate and resolution options for video haven’t changed since the previous model, the added benefits to still shooters elevate the a7R IV to the level of hybrid shooter’s dream camera.
If you are a hybrid shooter, meaning you want a strong video and stills camera, the Sony a7R IV is at the top of its class. Just looking for a high resolution stills camera? The a7R IV might still be for you, though you will pay a premium for the added resolution over the previous model a7R III. If you are a video only shooter and wouldn’t be able to use the photo features, then the a7R IV might be a poor choice. You can get much more for less money from many other cameras on the market. In all, the video looks great, and with the addition of no record limit time with dual card slots, its ready for just about anything.