Last weekend I finally upgraded from 7D to my first full frame camera, 5D Mark 4 (more on this in a near future). One of things that this camera can do (I’m sure there are many others on the market which can do the same) is extract 8-megapixel stills from a 4k video. I don’t think we are too far from being able to extract 12 or 16-megapixel stills from 6k or 8k videos in near future.
To put this in perspective, my first digital camera was only a couple of megapixels and my first DSLR 10 years ago was Sony Alpha, which shot around 10 megapixels. A little bit of cropping to the image and I would be around 8 megapixels quite often. So still image extraction capabilities of the 5D are now on par with the DSLRs or previous generations. I suspect the image quality is also better.
This does raise a very interesting question and one that I suspect that we haven’t had to face since the advent of digital photography. Are the stills extracted from the 4k video, photography? or even art?
Brooks Jensen also discussed this topic in the LensWork podcast 1011 and I highly recommend that you check it out.
Picking out a frame from a video quite obviously makes it much easier to pick out the “decisive moment” but first question that I raise is if in principle, picking out a frame from 4k video is any different than picking out a frame after shooting dozen or so shots at say 7fps like you can on new DSLRs? I do not think so.
Obviously, in a video, you have many more frames to play with but the principle remains the same. I do not think there is a difference between the two. If someone shooting stills at 7 fps is a photographer, so would be someone extracting stills from 4k.
Extracting stills may feel like cheating to some but then again, post processing images probably feels like cheating to some digital photographers. To some traditional darkroom photographers, digital photography feels like cheating and photography as a whole probably feels like cheating to may painters.
Photography is perhaps the only creative medium which has undeniably been made easier by technology and this is just another example. But the challenge to photographers has never been about accepting or rejecting technology. It may feel like it is sometimes but ultimately, it never is. The challenge always been making expressive photographs that say something regardless of the medium. So if extracting the still helps the photographer find that decisive moment and make compelling photographs that connect with the viewers, I am all for it.