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Old January 22nd, 2010, 04:38 PM   #1
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Advice on purchasing camera

I'm looking to purchase a prosumer camcorder (or maybe a DSLR). I know there's tons of posts on this so I'll be specific about what I'm looking for to avoid redundancy.

Budget: up to $4000.
This includes any lens and tapes/cards I need to use it effectively. I've already acquired/budgeted for support, sound, lighting, editing, etc. I could make adjustments though if someone convinces me.

Considering: XH A1, HMC150, XL H1 (used), HVX200 (used), 5D Mark II, but open to suggestions.
I've watched probably a hundred videos of these cameras online, but it's impossible to tell how much is the quality of the camera vs. the skill of the operator.

My intended use for the camera is narrative and documentary film to be displayed primarily on the web for now. Since narrative film is the main use, 24p is a must and the ability to create shallow DOF would be great (I know the 5D is awesome but it can't be the only camera you can get that with as long as you know how to manipulate the iris, shutter speed, etc.) Given that I'm not counting on my work to be blown up on a huge hdtv or the silver screen, sharpness isn't as important to me a color (this make sense, right?).

It's also important to get a camera that I can learn with. I'm less interested in one which shoots fine by itself but doesn't offer a lot of real manual control either during production (I'm skeptical about panasonic's iris 'knob' and about the 5D) or post-production (I've read the 5D lacks enough color info to seriously play around with in post.) Interchangable lens would be great for this reason and others, but the cost can add up quickly. It would also be nice ifthe camera was forgiving about lighting. I'm more concerned with too much in one area than too little overall.

Audio quality is irrelevant. I'll be using a portable audio recorder.

Tape vs. P2 is a concern, but as long as I don't plan on shooting more than 4 hours of footage a day, I shouldn't need to worry about offloading, right?

Lastly, I'd like to mount the camera on a Merlin. They should all work except for the XL H1 which is too heavy, but maybe someone can warn me about trying to use the 5D on one.
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Old January 22nd, 2010, 06:51 PM   #2
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hdcam under 4k

this is a no brainer. look no further than the new sony nxcam that just came out, goes for just under 4,000.
shoots on sdhc cards at 24mb /sec on the high end. 20x GL lens, you can also get an addon that will give you 120gb of storage/ 11 hours of HD footage
2 32gig sdhc cards will give you 170 minutes of hd fooage on each card, the cards should be the class 6 and theyre very reasonable.
cam has 3 1/3in CMOS chips.
this is a step under the EX1R.
they should sell alot of these
heres info on it

A new year. A new format. A new choice in camcorders.
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Old January 22nd, 2010, 07:25 PM   #3
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I don't know if I'd call it a no-brainer. There's real options. If you are not looking for a particularly sharp (highly detailed) image, for significantly less money than the NX5U, an HMC150 would be quite a viable option for shooting 24p, as would an XH-A1 (which can be found used for close to $2K nowadays - and is almost infinitely adjustable with custom presets, to get virtually any look you want out of the cam).
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Old January 22nd, 2010, 08:09 PM   #4
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camera purhase

true, but if lowlight is important , the sony is clearly better on that. the price diff between the 2 is only 500
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Old January 22nd, 2010, 09:06 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin F. Teague View Post
I'm looking to purchase a prosumer camcorder (or maybe a DSLR). I know there's tons of posts on this so I'll be specific about what I'm looking for to avoid redundancy.

Budget: up to $4000.
This includes any lens and tapes/cards I need to use it effectively. I've already acquired/budgeted for support, sound, lighting, editing, etc. I could make adjustments though if someone convinces me.

Considering: XH A1, HMC150, XL H1 (used), HVX200 (used), 5D Mark II, but open to suggestions.
I've watched probably a hundred videos of these cameras online, but it's impossible to tell how much is the quality of the camera vs. the skill of the operator.

My intended use for the camera is narrative and documentary film to be displayed primarily on the web for now. Since narrative film is the main use, 24p is a must and the ability to create shallow DOF would be great (I know the 5D is awesome but it can't be the only camera you can get that with as long as you know how to manipulate the iris, shutter speed, etc.) Given that I'm not counting on my work to be blown up on a huge hdtv or the silver screen, sharpness isn't as important to me a color (this make sense, right?).

It's also important to get a camera that I can learn with. I'm less interested in one which shoots fine by itself but doesn't offer a lot of real manual control either during production (I'm skeptical about panasonic's iris 'knob' and about the 5D) or post-production (I've read the 5D lacks enough color info to seriously play around with in post.) Interchangable lens would be great for this reason and others, but the cost can add up quickly. It would also be nice ifthe camera was forgiving about lighting. I'm more concerned with too much in one area than too little overall.

Audio quality is irrelevant. I'll be using a portable audio recorder.

Tape vs. P2 is a concern, but as long as I don't plan on shooting more than 4 hours of footage a day, I shouldn't need to worry about offloading, right?

Lastly, I'd like to mount the camera on a Merlin. They should all work except for the XL H1 which is too heavy, but maybe someone can warn me about trying to use the 5D on one.
Well,

It's refreshing that you seem to know what you NEED and are looking for a camera that fits it. So let's dispel some rumors and see if we can't get you into a camera.

In your price range, you are either going to be shooting HDV onto tape or H.264/AVCHD onto Compact Flash or SDHC cards. My preference leans greatly toward 24Mbps AVCHD. You'll have to transcode the footage after capture, but you'll get better results from it.

You mention that 24p is a requirement. The 5D does not currently shoot this format, but the 7D does and it should be a STRONG contender for your attention. For narrative shooting when you desire shallow DOF, this camera is very hard to beat. I don't know where you've heard about the color of the 5D/7D but your information is grossly in error. I own an EX1 and frankly the colors I got out of the 5D were equal or superior. I was very surprised when we got the footage to post.

The new Sony NXCam should also be a strong contender. Has many nice features, at a decent price. I know a lot of people really like the Canon cameras, but to be honest, HDV is a technology who's time is past and I wouldn't be investing there if you're looking to the future.

The concern I have is that you've listed documentary work. While the 12 minute recording limit of the DSLRs isn't really much of an impediment to narrative work, it might be in a documentary. This is something you need to weigh carefully.

Your concern about the camera being forgiving to lighting is simply not realistic at this price point. None of these cameras is going to have much exposure latitude. In terms of low-light senstivity, the DSLRs win going away, but the Sony would probably be next.

You mentioned Tape vs P2, though you didn't mention SDHC or CF. P2 costs are still high. If you plan on shooting at 1080p, then P2 will cost you a small fortune. Current prices are $900-$1000 per hour. Clearly better than the $3k per hour this time last year, but still significant.

In terms of putting the camera on a Merlin, I don't know that I'd try that with the HVX or the H1. The DSLRs will be fine, as should the HMC150 and other mid-range cameras.

If I were in your shoes, the answer would probably come down to the NXCam vs the 7D. They offer the most of what you want in your price range. Both have reasonably priced recording media. And both can be shot fully manual if you so choose.
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Old January 22nd, 2010, 09:11 PM   #6
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I don't know that the NX5U is going to offer a huge advantage in low light (compared to an HMC150), and B&H's price on the HMC150 dropped shortly after the NX5U was announced (about a $750 difference right now). Another potential option, especially since audio is not a factor, would be an FX1000 (uses the same CMOS imaging chips as an NX5U, I believe) for about $1100 less than the NX5U, but 24p is recorded in a 60i stream with an FX1000.

For web video (or distribution on DVD), there really shouldn't be much difference in the end result, between HDV or AVCHD recorded footage. There would be a noticeable difference for distributing on Blu-Ray though.

Last edited by Robert M Wright; January 22nd, 2010 at 09:44 PM.
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Old January 22nd, 2010, 09:24 PM   #7
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I don't know that the NX5U is going to offer a huge advantage in low light (compared to an HMC150), and B&H's price on the HMC150 dropped shortly after the NX5U was announced (about a $750 difference right now).
Until Panasonic moves up to some actual full frame imagers, I have trouble recommending them. And the single SDHC slot is ridiculous. If someone wants an inexpensive CCD camera, it's defenitely one to consider, but has some real drawbacks.
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Old January 22nd, 2010, 10:03 PM   #8
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Until Panasonic moves up to some actual full frame imagers, I have trouble recommending them. And the single SDHC slot is ridiculous. If someone wants an inexpensive CCD camera, it's defenitely one to consider, but has some real drawbacks.
An HMC150 is pretty low res, and doesn't interest me much at all, but for shooting footage destined for distribution on the web or on DVD, that's not really much of an issue. I don't have a clue why Panny decided to go with a single SDHC slot. That just strikes me as pretty short sighted - essentially conceding an advantage to any competitor that wants to seize it (and obviously Sony didn't pass up that opportunity).

Panasonic put themselves in a position where they will almost have to introduce a new cam not so long after Sony and Canon have entered the prosumer AVCHD camcorder marketplace, to remain competitive. About the only segment of the market they can really hope to hold onto, with the HMC150, is the folks who live in fear of anything getting near a CMOS imager turning instantly to jello (and even that assumes that Canon doesn't go with CCDs in their new cam, or somehow manages to just plain lay an egg that would be very untypical of them).
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Old January 22nd, 2010, 10:47 PM   #9
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My preference leans greatly toward 24Mbps AVCHD. You'll have to transcode the footage after capture, but you'll get better results from it.
I won't need to transcode AVCHD if I edit with Adobe (cs4) right? I'll be using an overclocked i7, 12GB Ram, and separate (non-boot) HDD for editing. Think it will be fast enough?

Quote:

You mention that 24p is a requirement. The 5D does not currently shoot this format, but the 7D does and it should be a STRONG contender for your attention. For narrative shooting when you desire shallow DOF, this camera is very hard to beat.
I don't know where you've heard about the color of the 5D/7D but your information is grossly in error. I own an EX1 and frankly the colors I got out of the 5D were equal or superior. I was very surprised when we got the footage to post.
I've heard a firmware update to 5D for 24p is coming soon, but I guess I shouldn't hold my breath. I've added the 7D to the list of options to explore. Glad to here I was misinformed about the color. My other big concern with the DSLRs is the jello effect. Most of the films I've seen made with these guys have had just still shots. If put them on a Merlin and do a lot of moving shots will this be an issue? I'm not going to wip the camera from side to side, but what if I want to move from a wide shot to close-up with some speed in my step?
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Old January 23rd, 2010, 12:56 AM   #10
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I won't need to transcode AVCHD if I edit with Adobe (cs4) right? I'll be using an overclocked i7, 12GB Ram, and separate (non-boot) HDD for editing. Think it will be fast enough?
Yes, you will need to transcode. Just pencil it in as part of the workflow. Especially with Premiere (or Vegas).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin F. Teague View Post
I've heard a firmware update to 5D for 24p is coming soon, but I guess I shouldn't hold my breath. I've added the 7D to the list of options to explore. Glad to here I was misinformed about the color. My other big concern with the DSLRs is the jello effect. Most of the films I've seen made with these guys have had just still shots. If put them on a Merlin and do a lot of moving shots will this be an issue? I'm not going to wip the camera from side to side, but what if I want to move from a wide shot to close-up with some speed in my step?
Yes, Canon says it's coming. But the 7D offers it now. And is $1k cheaper. As for Jello, it really depends on what you do with the camera. On a Merlin the effect should be minimal. We shot our entire short with no tripod in sight. All handheld, or on shoulder mount or fig rig. Pure handheld we had issues with one shot, an on a quick pan we had some issues. But we ran with the camera, pushed in or out, crabbed, craned, and had no issues.
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Old January 23rd, 2010, 02:29 AM   #11
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The concern I have is that you've listed documentary work. While the 12 minute recording limit of the DSLRs isn't really much of an impediment to narrative work, it might be in a documentary. This is something you need to weigh carefully.
And then there's heat issues I hear. Something like a 90 minutes cap for the 7D, perhaps because of its two processors.

So it looks like I've got to ask myself two hard questions:
1) Am I sure I'll never need to shot more than 12 minutes in one take or many hours without break?

2) Am I sure I'll be displaying the finished films only on the web?

If yes to 1, go with the 7D and get some good glass (though it's not 35mm size)
If no to 1 and yes to 2, go with a used Canon XH A1 and save the $$$ for other tools.
If no to 1 and 2, go with the NX5U.
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Old January 23rd, 2010, 02:47 AM   #12
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And then there's heat issues I hear. Something like a 90 minutes cap for the 7D, perhaps because of its two processors.

So it looks like I've got to ask myself two hard questions:
1) Am I sure I'll never need to shot more than 12 minutes in one take or many hours without break?

2) Am I sure I'll be displaying the finished films only on the web?

If yes to 1, go with the 7D and get some good glass (though it's not 35mm size)
If no to 1 and yes to 2, go with a used Canon XH A1 and save the $$$ for other tools.
If no to 1 and 2, go with the NX5U.

Well, I don't know that I'd quite put it that way. I've projected our 5D footage on a 40ft screen, and it looked pretty darn good to me. The heat issue was never a problem on the 5D. And we used it for literally 10 hours on one shoot day. Though it was not continuous. It was basic narrative. A few takes, some readjustment, more takes, etc. If I was using it for a sit down interview that was an hour long... I'd think about pretty hard.

Whatever your decision, I would encourage you to remember that the glass and the sensor are crucial. With a tool like the Convergent Design's Nanoflash, you can bypass the internal recording mechanisms of the camera and record absolutely gorgeous footage. But the sensor and glass can never be bypassed. A camera like the 7D offers an excellent sensor, and you can choose your own glass.

Trying to get decent shallow DOF from one of the 1/3" chip cameras is going to require an adapter. The price of that adapter is going to run near the price of a 7D and it's going to be a lot more finicky.

So it really comes down to whether or not you can live with the 12 minute time limit. Before all this video camera stuff, there was film. And frankly, the limitations of the 5D/7D are the same as film. And look what that brought us for nearly 100 years. Every documentary on the major wars. Travel documentaries, biographies, compelling stories of all manner of things commited to real film with the same kinds of time limits. So you CAN get it done, but you have think with a "film" mentality, and not a "video" mentality.

The question is... can you adapt?

Found this nice Vimeo video. You can see where things turn to jello and what you can do without jello. Nice to see the contrast between what works and what won't.

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Old January 24th, 2010, 01:26 AM   #13
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So it really comes down to whether or not you can live with the 12 minute time limit. Before all this video camera stuff, there was film. And frankly, the limitations of the 5D/7D are the same as film. And look what that brought us for nearly 100 years. Every documentary on the major wars. Travel documentaries, biographies, compelling stories of all manner of things commited to real film with the same kinds of time limits. So you CAN get it done, but you have think with a "film" mentality, and not a "video" mentality.
Very true.

I'm going to go with either the 5D or the 7D. I'll wait a month to see if the firmware for the 5D is released and if it fixes any problems. For my purposes, the main strength the 5D has over the 7D is its using full frame rather than APS-C sensors/lens, which I believe allows for a bit wider shot. I'll probably stop by B&H and compare them myself.

EDIT: My mistake, the 7D is only less wide if you use full frame lenses with it.

Thanks everyone for all the help!

Last edited by Justin F. Teague; January 24th, 2010 at 12:30 PM.
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