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Old January 24th, 2011, 02:38 AM   #1
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DSLR vs. HD camcorder

Hi

I'm sure this has been disgussed at great lengths, but I couldn't find the thread. I'm trying to weigh the benefit of a DSLR against a dedicated HD camera. The DSLRs haven't been designed for video, but they've become so hyped that I thought I have to consider the option at least.

I don't need a second DSLR body, I'm interested strictly in the video acquisition, and even though I have a good selection of primes, for video I see a need for a zoom and image stabilization. So, the price difference of a DSLR kit compared against a HD camera becomes less of a concern.

So far, these are the pros and cons I've noted down:

pro DSLR video:

- interchangeable lenses
- shallow DoF
- superior light sensitivity

con DSLR:

- CODEC
- inferior handling
- limited recording per sequence
- inferior sound, reduced connection for external mic, no xlr
- timecode/sync problems with separate audio recording?

I think that handling is important, you might just miss that ENG/run'n'gun shot while you're fiddling with awkward controls and the time saved on a simpler workflow might justify spending that extra on a video camera.

So, what do you think, if you had nothing and wanted to shoot video, do the DSLR solution have an argument?

- In terms of image quality, what gives the best end result, recording in a good codec or the better light sensitivity of a bigger sensor? Is the extra quality from a bigger sensor lost with an inferior codec?

- Are DSLRs more susceptible to other problems, i.e. rolling shutter jello? Is the typical image stabilization of a DSLR suitable for video recording?

- And how do you compensate for the limited sound recording options offered by the DSLR? Do you have a separate audio recording unit?

- Finally, handling and workflow. I think both are a important issues, extra time spent on conversion of DSLR material or handling sound separately could justify spending more on a HD cam.

As for the pros of the DSLR, I don't really need interchangeable lenses, it's all about the final result. Interchangeable lenses only give a larger range of options. If DoF can be controlled and give reasonable good result on an HD cam the fixed zoom of would be fine with me.

On purpose I don't mention any particular brand or model and that's really not the answer I'm after. I think that you can pick any price point and find a reasonably comparable DSLR kit and HD video cam.

BR, Erik
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Old January 24th, 2011, 06:47 AM   #2
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Probably the reasons for DSLRs are reducing now that the Panasonic AF 100 and the NXCAM 35 are coming onto the market. Kitting a DSLR out for video costs quite a bit, which knocks the cost advantage of the stand alone stills camera.

For ENG stuff, unless you need the light sensitivity, the DSLR has a higher soft shot failure rate.
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Old January 24th, 2011, 07:29 AM   #3
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Hi Eric,

That really depends on what you're going to be shooting, or you're desired "look". For general use (a little bit of everything), my opinion is that if you're wanting to produce HD video, you should get a real video camera.

I have experimented with my Canon 7D and I can definitely see what the hype is all about, but it's no replacement for a dedicated video camera. I like that I have the option of augmenting my video camera footage with some cool looking clips from the dSLR, but I only shoot general stuff, so it's not worth it for me to spend tons of money trying to turn a camera optimized for still photography into a video machine; various microphones, portable sound recorders, matte box and follow-focus, rail system, stabilizing rig, viewfinder magnifier glass, etc. And then there's the workflow issue, which may not be a big deal if you don't already have an established video workflow.

I think the guys going all out on their dSLR rigs are people who's shooting style capitalizes on the strengths of these cameras.

I didn't see any mention in it in your post, but you ought to consider all the various settings and controls that decent video cameras have, whereas a dSLR has almost nothing. Choose any video camera in the $4,000-$9,000 range and download the operator's manual. Give it quick preview and note how many controls/ menu settings you get. Do the same for the Canon 7D or 60D.

It's all been hashed about. Take a look in the section: Canon EOS Camera Systems



Good luck to you,

Mark
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Old January 24th, 2011, 08:54 AM   #4
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I totally agree with Mark
The Camera born to do all....the DSLR born to take pictures. Sometimes you can use the camera to take picture and you for sure you can use DSLR to shooting video with a good quality due that u can change the lens and you have a dof much more good. But Zacuto,Cinevate, and so on.....became rich to sell all the accessory (follow focus,unsefull if you have not a man for that, matte box,viewfinder,) that in the camera is included.
So what I suggest and Mark also is to have an HD camera for all and if you want one DSLR to shoot something a little bit different!!!
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Old January 24th, 2011, 09:51 AM   #5
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Thanks, I've all the time been towards getting an HD cam, after all it's build for the purpose and it would be surprising if the DSLR world suddenly dug up the holy grail of video recording.

But, with all the hype going I wanted to know if it was just that, hype, or if it has more to it. I haven't been following the development in tech the last few years - It's easy to be happy with what you have as long as you stay ignorant of what you don't :) ..

but, now I'm back as I want to go tapeless, so I was overwhelmed by the hype.

BR, Erik
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Old January 24th, 2011, 08:08 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Erik Norgaard View Post
con DSLR:

- CODEC
- inferior handling
- limited recording per sequence
- inferior sound, reduced connection for external mic, no xlr
- timecode/sync problems with separate audio recording?
Canon isn't the only game in town. Panasonic and Nikon make good DSLR's. I just bought the Panasonic GH2. The codec is AVCHD. Here's a comparison to the HDV format found in many prosumer cameras: Today FAQ's: AVCHD Vs. HDV Format

The Panasonic has is only limited in recording time to the size of the SD card you put in it. The Canons shut off after 12 minutes or after overheating.

My Canon XHA1 prosumer camcorder records audio at 384kbps as per the HDV codec. Having external sound on my Zoom H4N gives me much better audio, and recording audio separately is how most big budget productions are shot, anyhow.

The Panasonic isn't cumbersome to get to common functions like white balance, etc.

Overall if you need something to record live events mostly then a regular video camera is the way to go. No rolling shutter, better on board audio, XLR inputs, more stable handheld, built-in ND filters, zebras.

Also, tapeless isn't always better. I just worked a gig where I used my Canon. The guy handed me some tapes, I filmed the event, then handed the tapes back. SD cards aren't as cheap and disposable.

If you have the ability to compose your shots get a DSLR. If you are mostly live event/run&gun get a camcorder.
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Old January 24th, 2011, 08:24 PM   #7
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And it will really help you to read all the different sections of this forum.

There has been lots said in this arena, including some good advice in this thread. I needed a broadcast-acceptable CODEC so I went with a Panasonic HPX170 that records DVCPRO HD, and fill in with interesting shots from the Canon T2i DSLR. The Canon is a little more acceptable now that I have a Zacuto Z-finder and Magic Lantern running. DSLRs are not much good for video without a good viewfinder.

Do lots of reading, it will come to you.
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Old January 25th, 2011, 12:22 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Erik Norgaard View Post
So, what do you think, if you had nothing and wanted to shoot video, do the DSLR solution have an argument?
Absolutely,
but it is really all about what am I shooting, live event single camera DSLR? forget it, I'll miss half of the shots, live event 2nd and 3rd camera - DSLR only, I know that i will have time to setup my focus and ISO, and the image is awesome! When I shoot in controlled environment, and I know that I can have as many takes as I need, I don't use camcorder at all, even I do have an easy access to RED MX, unless client wants it and budget permits, because of portability and faster setup i prefer to use my Canon 1/5D,
but I really hope things will change with the Scarlet.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Erik Norgaard View Post
- In terms of image quality, what gives the best end result, recording in a good codec or the better light sensitivity of a bigger sensor? Is the extra quality from a bigger sensor lost with an inferior codec?
h264 is not that bad to loose all the benefits of much larger sensor, but as always, there are too many variables to it, lots of action - codec is important, low light situation - larger sensor will perform better;
Quote:
Originally Posted by Erik Norgaard View Post
Are DSLRs more susceptible to other problems, i.e. rolling shutter jello? Is the typical image stabilization of a DSLR suitable for video recording?
I think jello is, after all DSLR was designed as a photo camera but it's being constantly improved;
rolling shutter, I don't have any numbers, but visually it's more or less the same as any CMOS sensor based camcorder, but again, there is a constant improvement, and faster imagers are coming (I hope)
IS lenses are good, very good, sometimes I think IS L lenses stabilization works better than EX1 steadishot, the only thing is that if you want to go faster than f 2,8 you'll have to pay over $5K;
Quote:
Originally Posted by Erik Norgaard View Post
- And how do you compensate for the limited sound recording options offered by the DSLR? Do you have a separate audio recording unit?
DSLR onboard sound is good for reference only, as an option you can use juicedlink or beachtek adapters, but I prefer separate sound recording solution,
Quote:
Originally Posted by Erik Norgaard View Post
- Finally, handling and workflow. I think both are a important issues, extra time spent on conversion of DSLR material or handling sound separately could justify spending more on a HD cam.
not sure about FCP, I am a PC person, i believe today all major NLE software able to edit h264 as well as AVCHD native, but you will need a faster machine, especially for AVCHD; yes, there is an extra time involved in synchronizing sound, but to me the image is well worth the effort;
There is a good reason why DSLRs "became so hyped" , it is a much cheaper and portable solution to more expensive camcorders, or DOF adapters setup, just take a look at any properly exposed sharp focus DSLR footage - it's breath taking.
I hope this helps to answer some of your questions, and also it'll make you go and try it for yourself.
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Old January 25th, 2011, 04:42 PM   #9
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Thanks, well it did answer a lot of my questions, I see that to actually take advantage of the DSLR capabilities, investment doesn't stop at a DSLR body, far from, which just push me more towards a HD cam, one piece designed for video.

Some new questions came up, that I hadn't thought of:

So, DSLR image stabilization is reliable for video, what about auto-focus? and iris on DSLR is normally in 1/3 or 1/2 stops, but AFAIK continuous on video cameras, is this a problem?

I thought that h.264 and AVC was the same, as I have understood h.264 and MPEG4 part 10 are equivalent only with the difference that one is ITU-T and the other is ISO, and MPEG4 part 10 is then being marketed as AVC, and HD is just the resolution. I know that MPEG4 is supposed to be superior to MPEG2 - at the same bit-rate, but with MPEG4 in 24Mbps 4:2:0 vs. MPEG2 at 50Mbps 4:2:2, I believe that the latter is better? OK, this takes this thread into another dimension that has probably been discussed at length somewhere.

Also, I thought that jello and rolling shutter sort of refer to the same problem, rolling shutter being the cause and jello being the effect.

Thanks, Erik
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Old January 26th, 2011, 08:24 AM   #10
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I believe only Panasonic DSLRs offer autofocus in video mode, but I don't have any experience with that and can't tell,
I shouldn't mention any codecs, what I meant to say was MOV and MTS referring to Canon, Nikon and Panasonic video files wrappers;
Rolling shutter is a cause and jello is an effect ,but there two major problems and when I think about jello it's bending images when you pan your camera too fast, and rolling shutter per se is a partially illuminated by photo flash video frame, but yeah, it's all rolling shutter;
Talking about color sampling and data rate, I'm not sure If i choose 4:2:2 50Mbs from XF100, over 4:2:0 from EX1, not 25Mbs though, but 35Mbs.
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Old January 26th, 2011, 09:49 PM   #11
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The Nikon D7000 does differ from the Canon DSLR's in a couple of areas. It still has that infamous rolling shutter. But from what I have read, the D7000 reads it's sensor faster than the 5D MK II or the 7D. If that is the case, it could exhibit less bending effect during fast pans. Unfortunately, everyone wants to demonstrate the horrible panning defect by whip panning much faster than anyone will ever pan for a real video. I would guess that normal speed pans would be fine. The D7000 does have auto focus during video recording. After watching some demo videos, I have to say that it isn't nearly as good as AF used in any "normal" video camera. The D7000 has some exposure adjustability during shooting but I have no idea how it works or any limitations it might have in that area. I know it doesn't use the same CODEC as the Canon DSLR's. I believe it is using the AVCHD CODEC. I don't know if that is a plus or a minus. After watching several D7000 videos, it seems like it may have less moiré and anti-aliasing issues. I don't know if that could be related to the CODEC or some other technical difference. As for the audio, obviously it has no XLR inputs. But I thought I read that the audio recording quality was actually the same as some pro-sumer camcorders, like the Sony FX1000. And I thought the Sony's audio was the same quality as an audio CD. I think it has a stereo mini pin audio in. And the D7000 does have minimal audio recording level controls. Like "low", medium", and "high" audio input levels. I would think you could feed the tape out from a field mixer into the D7000. If that is right, audio may be decent and not require an external recording device. Time will tell when more Nikons get out into the field.
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Old January 27th, 2011, 07:50 AM   #12
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It has been a while since anyone mentioned

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My own two-bob's worth is that both products do not necessarily have to compete but can complement each other if used on a project as some of the photo-journos and seriously courageous video news shooters in the worlds hot spots have already demonstrated.
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Old January 27th, 2011, 12:29 PM   #13
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"I think that handling is important, you might just miss that ENG/run'n'gun shot while you're fiddling with awkward controls and the time saved on a simpler workflow might justify spending that extra on a video camera."

This is the main factor for me since i got a 5dmkii after a couple of years with a XHA1. I now have to rent a "proper" video camera for many jobs and the 5D is my second camera for DOF and super wide stuff. And then there's the dreaded codec issue. Don't get me started on editing in FCP.

My advice is to get a good video camera - Canon xf range look good - and have a DSLR as a second camera.
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Old January 27th, 2011, 12:45 PM   #14
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Between the AF100 and Sony's NEX there really is no good reason to buy a DSLR and kit it out anymore
(if what you want is VIDEO). I have a 7d and a T2i, and as much as I like them, the reality is that as new purchases theyre pretty obsolete.
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Old January 27th, 2011, 02:56 PM   #15
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Rick Presas

"the reality is that as new purchases theyre pretty obsolete."

I'll second that.
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