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Turn Off the Digital Effects In Your Video Camera.

There is no digital video effect that your camera can do that you should allow it to do.


If you shoot nice clean video, you can always add a dorky effect like posterization later with one of many computer editing programs designed to do it. But if you shoot posterized video, you can never take it off. You’re stuck with it forever. Did I mention it was dorky?

Despite what the box at the store would have you believe, digital effects don’t give your camera special powers. Instead they take the high-quality picture your camera is capable of at its best and degrade it with digital zoom or “night-vision” or some other ghastly thing they thought up in marketing to make their list of features look longer.

Shoot all your footage normally, always. If you feel the need to “night-vision,” “night-vision” it in your computer’s editing program. That way, you’ll still have the original, nice-looking footage just in case.

A “digital zoom” is like white chocolate or blueberry bagels. It doesn’t really exist. Circuitry inside the camera blows up what the lens can see, causing digital distortion and a generally awful look.

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Steve Stockman

Steve Stockman, president of LA-based Custom Productions, Inc., is a prolific producer, writer, and director, known for over 200 diverse media projects. He is also the author of the best-selling book "How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck," taught globally from middle school to graduate level, and available in 9 languages.


  • steve says:

    The technology has changed even in the few years since I wrote the book, and your point is well taken. Still not true (as of this writing) with smartphones, most still cameras that shoot video, or any camera less cool than the newer Sonys. So the advice to avoid the digital zoom is still MOSTLY good.

    Luckily there's not much tech in the book, so I'll only have to fix a few things like this for the second edition….

  • I am a happy new owner and reader of this exceptional book. The book is not meant to be gear oriented, but I'd add a comment to the sweeping declaration of digital zoom useless. In still image photography, absolutely, no question; but in HD videography with large sensor/resolution cameras, it might work brilliantly with reasonable limitations, of course.
    As Gary Friedman explained in his book about Sony A7, clear image zoom (CIZ), a kind of smart digital zoom, works perfectly fine on large sensor/resolution (24M) cameras in HD VIDEO mode. The idea is that the camera when recording video downscales the large 6000×4000 megapixel resolution of the sensor into a much smaller 1920×1080 video-frame. In CIZ the camera uses only the central part of the sensor never going beyond 3000×2000 in HD or 3840×2160 in 4K. This is exactly as if the sensor had only a smaller 3000×2000 pixels sensor, which works very nicely in good lighting conditions with high quality lenses. The huge advantage is that I can use a high quality prime lens as a 2x zoom lens with CIZ in video. CIZ of course, in still image mode is completely meaningless, but in HD vide it works brilliantly.

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