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Canon XF Series HD Camcorders
Canon XF305, XF205 and XF105 (with SDI), Canon XF300, XF200 and XF100 (without SDI).


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Old July 20th, 2014, 07:04 PM   #1
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Dance Recital Videography - Camera Upgrade Advice Needed

Hello! I'm new to the forum and while I have been browsing this topic for a while, I don't see any recent threads about HD video cameras that are specifically successful with Dance Recital Videography! I'm upgrading from the Canon XH-A1 because loading tapes manually is killing my turn around time.

The four cameras I am considering are:
Sony HXR-NX3
Canon XF-300
Canon XF-200 (not released yet)
and the Sony FDR-AX1

I'm not ready to enter into the world of interchangeable lenses of the Sony FS100. I prefer to stay with a set up I know. I've read so many good and bad things about the AX1 but I don't know how it all relates to dance recital theaters and stage lighting. I love the idea of being ready for 4K but I have no need for that right now. What is the good, bad, and ugly? I'm ready to buy - but what???

Thanks for the advice in advance.
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Old July 21st, 2014, 08:24 AM   #2
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Re: Dance Recital Videography - Camera Upgrade Advice Needed

Hi Nick,

I have an older Sony FX7 HDV camera and what I've done the last two years for my recital jobs is to rent a Sony AX-2000 camera, with superior low-light performance, among other benefits. Records AVCHD to SD cards, has XLR inputs, nice unit. I do actually still use the FX7 as the wide camera, and rather than change tapes, I take the HDMI output into an Atomos Ninja 2 that records full HD to the ProRes codec, ready to edit, no capture.

I used to use TWO HDV camcorders and would eat up nearly 50 tapes for one weekend and then needed to capture all of those as well, then one dropout could throw off the audio sync and that was a nightmare in editing.

Look me up if you want to discuss, I'm local in Milwaukee. I've been shooting recitals for 20 years.

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Old July 21st, 2014, 08:35 AM   #3
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Re: Dance Recital Videography - Camera Upgrade Advice Needed

I have an NX5U ( sort of pro version of the AX2000 ) and an FDR-AX1. The AX1 is about 2 stops slower than the NX5U so not that good in low light. As a fixed full stage camera it is fine for most things. Focus is super critical. Cannot emphasize this enough in 4K focus is very very critical. Cropping and pan in post is fine when there is enough light to get a good clean image. The NX3 is a newer version than AX2000 so should be better in most respects.

As a single camera I would not just get the FDR-AX1.

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Old July 21st, 2014, 09:06 AM   #4
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Re: Dance Recital Videography - Camera Upgrade Advice Needed

+Ron I think you were about the first person I heard of to get a 4K camera. I hear you when you stress the focus issue. Is it a dof issue by and large? Obviously any out of focus shot is unusable in the normal sense but is anything in focus in the frame usable?
I went on a rant in another thread about what I see as an unnecessary complication introduced with this tracking/subject focus feature whereas the slightly older tech was more likely to focus on what you want rather than not.
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Old July 21st, 2014, 10:00 AM   #5
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Re: Dance Recital Videography - Camera Upgrade Advice Needed

The issue comes in low light as the camera has to be wide open with a lot of gain. This makes the image grainy and really not 4k at all !!! In good light everything can be sharp in focus. When the light is low managing gain is the controlling factor on image and slightly out of focus just makes this worse. In focus and the downscale looks lovely. So to zoom in or pan one needs good light to get the clean image at 3840x2160 where there are real pixels of information rather than gain noise pixels !!!

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Old July 21st, 2014, 10:28 AM   #6
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Re: Dance Recital Videography - Camera Upgrade Advice Needed

I have heard good things about the XF200, but it is not released just yet. Supposed to be slightly better at low light than XF100. Canon has a promo video which demonstrates this, including footage with a fairly low lit stage.

I may rent an XF200 when it shows up (should be soon) and try it. How it might compare to a Sony could be evaluated by renting both.
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Old July 21st, 2014, 10:40 AM   #7
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Re: Dance Recital Videography - Camera Upgrade Advice Needed

Hey Nick. I've only done one or two dance recitals but have done a large number of stage music shows in places likely to be similar to your dance ones. I have owned the XF305 for a couple of years, and owned an xf105, which I sold, and also own a C100. I've been looking at the new XF200/205 as well for live broadcast as a B camera for the XF305. Since the other folks have experience with the Sony's and this is a Canon board, I'll give you a bit of Canon info.

To me it comes down to how much light you are able to shoot under. I have had the luxury of working with real stage lighting from above, much like you would expect from theater and live music shows. In these settings the Xf305 really shines. Beautiful 4:2:2 images and long telephoto throw. I have done a few shows where the lighting was so dim, that I needed the C100 with it's larger sensor (or any decent HDSLR). But I give up the great zoom, and it does not match well with the xf305. It works, you can boost the gain a ways, but not a great fit. The good news is that the grain is very tiny, and doesn't look 'bad' until you get up over 20dB. Even then, it's very fine and I personally don't find it a problem.

The xf105 was my 'B' camera, which I primarily used for the Wide establishing shots, and cutaways, while I worked the 305 zoom for closeups. The xf105 does not have the low light capability of the 305. I understand the 200 will have *better* low light but with a single sensor it likely won't be much better. It certainly will have the zoom of the 305, as it's also a 20x throw.

If I was to do it again, I'd likely wait on the 205 and see how much better it is. Or just get two 305s.

If low light is a problem, like doing most of them in dimly lit halls, I'd likely be looking at using my C100. It has never let me down when the lights are low.

This was shot with the 305. It is a dance performance/collage piece. Since I was shooting for the kids, I tried to spice it up a bit.
This was shot with two xf305s. It was good but fairly low light. I think it looks ok.

Good luck with your choices.
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Old July 21st, 2014, 03:50 PM   #8
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Re: Dance Recital Videography - Camera Upgrade Advice Needed

I'm rather picky with stage stuff - it's what I mostly do, and the look of that fiddler works well for me - I love the dark, and the clean images.

Any camera that can't hack the light levels with a decent depth of sharp focus is out for me. I can't work properly with a stage that isn't sharp front to back.
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Old July 21st, 2014, 09:59 PM   #9
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Re: Dance Recital Videography - Camera Upgrade Advice Needed

I'm shooting with a Sony nx5u as my primary and a Canon XA20 as a backup.

I like both because I'm usually in the back and a 20x optical zoom is handy sometimes.

The xha1 is a great camera, but yeah for long dance recitals, it would be 2 or 3 tapes used up.

Ever since going tape less about 5 years ago, I've never looked back!
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Old July 21st, 2014, 10:02 PM   #10
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Re: Dance Recital Videography - Camera Upgrade Advice Needed

The XF300 is a monster of a camera. All things considered, it's a good bit larger than the xha1.

The nx3 doesn't look bad. I like the nx5 because I can dual record to the FMU for instant backup.
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Old July 22nd, 2014, 01:41 AM   #11
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Re: Dance Recital Videography - Camera Upgrade Advice Needed

One thing not in the specs, and a constant major complaint from users is the cameras ability to give pictures in blue LED lighting, which is getting more and more common. My JVCs manage pretty well, but many brands, and Sony commonly (based on reading comments) are unable to expose and focus properly, causing much adverse comment on the 'bad' lighting. Nobody yet has produced a list of cameras that suffer badly, something that with dance is very limiting. LED lighting gives amazing saturated light and while it's not used much for most genres of performance, for music and dance it's becoming very popular with lighting designers. Previously, a bit of Lee 181 Congo blue had a transmission factor of about 1%, 99% being lost as heat, so bright blue meant lots of light sources and plenty of power. Now we can have really bright blue easily, so it's taking off. The video people hate it, but it's here to stay. If I was buying a camera for dance, then ability to deal with blue light is absolutely essential. The usual advice to ask the lighting people to change their lighting is fine dealing with amateurs, but if the show has perhaps engaged a professional lighting designer, then they resist changing their design to suit poorly designed cameras, unless the requirement was in their original brief, which it rarely is.
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Old July 22nd, 2014, 06:41 AM   #12
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Re: Dance Recital Videography - Camera Upgrade Advice Needed

Good point about the blue lighting, and perhaps another reason to rent a few cameras and test them.
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Old July 23rd, 2014, 07:06 AM   #13
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Re: Dance Recital Videography - Camera Upgrade Advice Needed

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick Bailey View Post
Hello! I'm new to the forum and while I have been browsing this topic for a while, I don't see any recent threads about HD video cameras that are specifically successful with Dance Recital Videography! I'm upgrading from the Canon XH-A1 because loading tapes manually is killing my turn around time.

I prefer to stay with a set up I know. I'm ready to buy - but what???

Thanks for the advice in advance.
NICK
Hi Nick. If you like using your XH-A1, and the image you get is satisfactory to you, you could just get a card based recorder for your camera. That's what I did for both my XH-A1 and XH-A1s. My choice was two DataVideo DN-60s. They are five or six hundred dollars each now. To replace my two cameras with something similar, but more up to date (XF 300 or XF 305) would have been roughly 10 times the cost of the recorders. Plus, I didn't need to update my editing setup to handle a different codec.

I no longer load tapes in the camera, but stick with the recommended SanDisk 32 gb cards. Each card holds 2 hours 24 minutes of footage. It takes twenty minutes or so to ingest a full card on my system. Haven't lost a frame yet. No more tape dropouts etc.

Of course, if you need better image quality, and still keep the xlr ports, three control rings etc., be prepared to spend a lot of money on a newer camera. My choice was a business decision. When I shot video for a hobby, I bought whatever I wanted. Now, making a profit counts.

Hope this helps.
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Old July 24th, 2014, 11:02 AM   #14
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Re: Dance Recital Videography - Camera Upgrade Advice Needed

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Van Duyn View Post
Hi Nick. If you like using your XH-A1, and the image you get is satisfactory to you, you could just get a card based recorder for your camera. That's what I did for both my XH-A1 and XH-A1s. My choice was two DataVideo DN-60s. They are five or six hundred dollars each now. To replace my two cameras with something similar, but more up to date (XF 300 or XF 305) would have been roughly 10 times the cost of the recorders. Plus, I didn't need to update my editing setup to handle a different codec.

I no longer load tapes in the camera, but stick with the recommended SanDisk 32 gb cards. Each card holds 2 hours 24 minutes of footage. It takes twenty minutes or so to ingest a full card on my system. Haven't lost a frame yet. No more tape dropouts etc.

Of course, if you need better image quality, and still keep the xlr ports, three control rings etc., be prepared to spend a lot of money on a newer camera. My choice was a business decision. When I shot video for a hobby, I bought whatever I wanted. Now, making a profit counts.

Hope this helps.
I did very much the same thing as Roger, but went for the Sony MRC1k. I had to find a bracket to mount it on the tripod pan-handle, since I often put a microphone on the hot-shoe. Otherwise, it worked out of the box.
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Old July 24th, 2014, 01:08 PM   #15
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Re: Dance Recital Videography - Camera Upgrade Advice Needed

Yeah, the Sony is a very good unit. Very reliable.
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