This year, a digital camera snapped the official presidential portrait for the first time. Also this year, the same camera shot commercials, indie films and even parts of network TV shows. That camera was the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, the first digital SLR that shoots full high-definition video.
The Mark II thrills videographers because, unlike similarly small camcorders, it can use a vast collection of high-quality lenses, letting them set up precisely composed wide-angle, telephoto or fixed-focus scenes. Photographers, meanwhile, love it for the large, 21-megapixel image sensor that captures views the same size as 35mm film does. The trick for Canon was adding motion to those gigantic shots, since most video-shooting still cameras take far smaller, easier-to-encode pictures. Engineers had to design a processor powerful enough to convert 21 megapixels to two—the resolution of 1080p HD video—and repackage the data into a standard movie format, 30 times a second. Despite this feat, the camera maintains a respectable two hours of battery life in video mode, giving filmmakers a portable alternative to big, five-figure movie rigs. So to the camera that’s a hit with both Hollywood and the president, we say hail to the chief gadget breakthrough of the year.