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Old September 9th, 2012, 12:01 PM   #1
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Help deciding on new cameras

I shoot mostly weddings. I don't do any editing. I simply give my clients the raw footage at the end of the day. Most of them edit the video themselves.

I've been shooting with three Sony PD-170's for years and love them. I need to upgrade to HD, especially because I'm starting to do more corporate work.

I'm trying to figure out whether I should go DSLR or HD camcorder.

Major considerations:

1. Price. I'm on a fairly limited budget and would like to keep cameras/accessories to under $2,500 per camera. For this reason, I'd definitely consider used cameras.

2. Compatibility with popular editing systems. I need to deliver my footage in a format that most people will be able to edit with. Most of my clients are using iMovie, Sony Vegas or something similar. I think I've ruled out AVCHD from what I've read.

3. Low-light performance.

4. Maximum recording length on a single card. I'd rather not be switching out cards every 20 minutes.

5. File size. I imagine most of my clients don't have a ton of hard drive space.

Any suggestions or links to good info. would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks!
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Old September 9th, 2012, 12:55 PM   #2
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Re: Help deciding on new cameras

Well, as far as format goes, you're pretty much stuck with AVCHD. If you deliver it the right way, any modern NLE can handle it. You don't want to use tape, and MXF formats are even more difficult for end users to understand. A program like ClipWrap can 're-wrap' the AVCHD files into more common .mov files and only takes a few moments as it doesn't transcode anything.

The small file sizes of AVCHD will help with maximum recording time per card (≈90 minutes per 16GB) and also on saving hard drive space for the clients. Nearly every modern video camera in your price range records to AVCHD. The only other real option in your price range is the JVC HM-150 that can do .mp4 and .avi - so that might be worth a look.

One more thing about AVCHD - most of the time camcorders record this format to SDHC cards. You can get get these dirt cheap, like $10 for 16GB. At the end of the day, just give the cards away to the client! This keeps things simple and also makes things much easier on the editing front, as the editing programs will recognize the card immediately without any type of transcoding or conversion. The trick to AVCHD is keeping the structure of the card intact. By giving the cards to the client, you avoid any confusion with formats.

If you're coming from PD-170's, you may like the Sony AX-2000, or NX5. Both are similar to what you have now and the logical upgrade. Another option many are doing is using a single higher-quality camera like the AX-2000 and then complimenting it with a pair of consumer model camcorders, like the Sony CX580V. If you don't need fancy manual features on all 3 cameras, you'll find the picture quality on the smaller handy-cams to be remarkably similar if not better!

DSLRs are awesome, but it's a completely different route you need to commit to - lenses, accessories and support equipment all cost lots of money, and it's a different look if consistency across cameras is a concern. For event work, they're a pain. For highlights and beauty shots, they can be amazing. For weddings, you could buy one DSLR and two consumer Sony cams. Then shoot the pretty highlights and stuff with the DSLR and use the video cameras for the event type segments.

Ok, lots of info there. Let me know if anything doesn't make sense.
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Old September 9th, 2012, 12:59 PM   #3
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Re: Help deciding on new cameras

Wow! Thanks Nate :) Never expected such a thorough, helpful reply right off the bat. You've been a BIG help!!!
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Old September 9th, 2012, 01:04 PM   #4
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Re: Help deciding on new cameras

Also, welcome to the forum!

One more thing, if you want to stay "all in the family" with Sony, you may want to check out the rumored upcoming VG30. It's a sort of DSLR/video camera hybrid. Not very popular overall, but may be just the thing for your shooting style and what you use it for.
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Old September 9th, 2012, 01:11 PM   #5
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Re: Help deciding on new cameras

With DSLR, there is a lot of footage that your clients won't want to see. They may even say, why pay for something like this.

There are a few tape cameras still on market, but those require firewire to off load, and while that was there with the 150's too, you are then in HDV which has its own issues.

Again, AVCHD is the current codec, and despite some limitations, I believe it still improves over HDV in terms of ability to record great video.

Despite its history, AVCHD is becoming more usable on consumer level. Most latest versions of video editors will handle it fine.

For ready to deliver video, I would suggest something like the Sony NX70u. While it does not have ability to set specific scene files, its preset exposure provides a lot of latitude, and it does have a cinetone setting. It is a rugged camera, can operate in damp and dusty conditions, and has an internal memory of 96G and card slots that can be recorded to at the same time to assure back up. It has a separate microphone fed to XLRs too. I sent mine back because of lack of scene profiles, but it was a great little camera for a lot of reasons. Right now the $2800.00 list price, is supplemented by a $ 300.00 rebate, bringing it in right where you want to be.

NX70u | B&H Photo Video

By the way, the 70U is just a bit smaller than your 170's
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Old September 9th, 2012, 01:36 PM   #6
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Re: Help deciding on new cameras

Yes, AVCHD does full 1920x1080p versus the 1440x1080i of HDV. So you're getting a better picture from the start, not to mention a codec claimed to be twice as efficient as its predecessor.

Nice find with the NX70, I suppose you could even take that 'inclement weather' clause out of your wedding contract!
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Old September 9th, 2012, 01:42 PM   #7
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Re: Help deciding on new cameras

For a little over your budget you might also want to consider the Canon XF100. I'm personally not a huge fan of AVC as a codec but that's because almost everything I shoot goes through some sort of post color correction. The Canon uses a better codec and has about the same features.

Just another option to consider.
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Old September 9th, 2012, 02:21 PM   #8
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Re: Help deciding on new cameras

The xf100 is a good camera for sure but it's not a low light champ, so you"ll be adding a videolight in no time when doing weddings. Just one thing to consider.
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Old September 9th, 2012, 02:37 PM   #9
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Re: Help deciding on new cameras

The 50Mbps 4:2:2 codec of the XF100 is without question more robust, but if the OP is giving footage directly to clients without editing, I feel that the AVCHD format is a better choice for compatibility sake.
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