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Old October 29th, 2012, 10:22 AM   #1
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HDSLR vs. Camcorder

I was recently hired to shoot weekly training instructional videos for a professional mixed martial arts trainer. The client hired me after seeing some photos and video I shot at his gym, because he was blown away by the image quality. (His past videographer filmed dozens of DVDs for him with a small consumer camcorder mounted on a monopod that he carried as a Steadicam and the results were less than stellar.)

I'm currently using a Canon 5D2, L glass, and a nice tripod, but wonder if purchasing a dedicated camcorder would better suit my needs. The job requires me to walk around the people demonstrating the techniques and negates the use of a tripod, so I'm currently hand-holding the 5D2 with no support. The client has seen all of the video to date and still prefers them over his past videographers, but I'm still uncomfortable with the overall quality and want to improve it.

NOTES:
- I have a hard time maintaining focus or focusing on the right thing with the DSLR on the fly.
- There is excessive camera shake when moving around the crowded mat.
- I don't really want to lug around a shoulder rig everywhere.
- I compete in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and record my teammates matches. But none of them can operate my DSLR to shoot a video in-focus, so I never get to see mine.

Should I purchase an HDSLR shoulder rig or a dedicated HD camcorder? I'm really interested in adding a Canon Vixia HF G10 or an XA10 to the arsenal to make my job a helluva lot easier.

Last edited by James H. Taylor; October 29th, 2012 at 01:08 PM.
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Old October 29th, 2012, 10:46 AM   #2
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Re: HDSLR vs. Camcorder

The shallow depth of field and the autofocus issues on the 5D make it tough rig to shoot hand held in a moving situation where refocus is expected, In my experience, if you are trying to capture non repeatable events, where you don't have the ability to practice your focus setting for point A to Point B, as the action develops, you are likely to have extreme difficulty. One way to fix that is to increase the depth of field by shooting wider lenses, and using f stops in the 5.6 to 11 area, to increase the field of focus. Of course this means shooting at a higher ISO, and dealing with more grain, depending on your lighting situation. APC DSLR are a bit better in that respect.

The Vixia line cameras do have a pretty fast auto focus that seems to keep up well in action situation. I have and HV30 that I use for that purpose. Also, because of the smaller chip, there is a wider depth of field in the first place.

One larger chip camera (therefore shallower depth of field) that has a decently fast auto focus is the Sony VG20. (VG30 is latest model.) While you don't have the picture style capabilities of the Canon DSLRs, the camera is definitely set up as a video camera anmd seems to track focus pretty well..
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Old October 29th, 2012, 11:27 AM   #3
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Re: HDSLR vs. Camcorder

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Originally Posted by Chris Barcellos View Post
The shallow depth of field and the autofocus issues on the 5D make it tough rig to shoot hand held in a moving situation where refocus is expected, In my experience, if you are trying to capture non repeatable events, where you don't have the ability to practice your focus setting for point A to Point B, as the action develops, you are likely to have extreme difficulty. One way to fix that is to increase the depth of field by shooting wider lenses, and using f stops in the 5.6 to 11 area, to increase the field of focus. Of course this means shooting at a higher ISO, and dealing with more grain, depending on your lighting situation. APC DSLR are a bit better in that respect.

The Vixia line cameras do have a pretty fast auto focus that seems to keep up well in action situation. I have and HV30 that I use for that purpose. Also, because of the smaller chip, there is a wider depth of field in the first place.

One larger chip camera (therefore shallower depth of field) that has a decently fast auto focus is the Sony VG20. (VG30 is latest model.) While you don't have the picture style capabilities of the Canon DSLRs, the camera is definitely set up as a video camera anmd seems to track focus pretty well..
Thanks for the reply, Chris!

I'm definitely going to be increasing the DOF and see how that works out, but I think you confirmed my suspicion that the Canon 5D2 isn't the right tool for this job. (Plus, I already have my set on picking up a new camcorder.) Will I still need to use a shoulder rig or some sort of support system for a camcorder?
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Old October 29th, 2012, 11:53 AM   #4
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Re: HDSLR vs. Camcorder

I agree with Chris about using a camcorder for this type of work. I've done and still do a lot of run N' gun interview type stuff at corporate events and even using a small form factor camera (think PD, EX1, HVX series-not real shoulder mount cams) can be a real PITA especially with an on camera light, wireless receiver. It can be awkward. Luckily for me I have a friend that has a JVC HD200 that is IMO perfect for the work. Small small camera, not toteing around a 20 pound rig, even with the camera light, receiver and AB battery on it it's well under 15 pounds. Easy to get around with and I don't feel like I wnet 10 rounds with The Champ afterwards. Plus the stability of the shoulder cam is great.
Frankly if it were me doing what you're going to do, I'd be looking at something like the JVC HM 700 series or even the new Sony NEX-EA50.
But that's just me. ;-)
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Old October 29th, 2012, 12:08 PM   #5
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Re: HDSLR vs. Camcorder

One midway option would be a GH2; twice the depth of field at the same exposure levels. One of the T3i/T4i cams would also get you deeper focus and use the same EOS lenses well.
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Old October 29th, 2012, 12:29 PM   #6
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Re: HDSLR vs. Camcorder

What is it about the other shooters video that the client doesn't like and would it be no different than you shooting with a little consumer camcorder? The Sony camcorder line recently had a little unit added that has a built in stabilizer that supposedly works wonders. I recall a commercial showing a model moonwalking with it.

Last edited by Les Wilson; October 29th, 2012 at 09:59 PM.
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Old October 29th, 2012, 12:35 PM   #7
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Re: HDSLR vs. Camcorder

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Originally Posted by Don Bloom View Post
I agree with Chris about using a camcorder for this type of work. I've done and still do a lot of run N' gun interview type stuff at corporate events and even using a small form factor camera (think PD, EX1, HVX series-not real shoulder mount cams) can be a real PITA especially with an on camera light, wireless receiver. It can be awkward. Luckily for me I have a friend that has a JVC HD200 that is IMO perfect for the work. Small small camera, not toteing around a 20 pound rig, even with the camera light, receiver and AB battery on it it's well under 15 pounds. Easy to get around with and I don't feel like I wnet 10 rounds with The Champ afterwards. Plus the stability of the shoulder cam is great.
Frankly if it were me doing what you're going to do, I'd be looking at something like the JVC HM 700 series or even the new Sony NEX-EA50.
But that's just me. ;-)
Thanks, Don!

So I will need a shoulder mounted cam or a smaller camcorder with a shoulder rig to produce quality results? And here I was thinking I'd reduce the amount of gear to lug around...

Appreciate the camera suggestions, too. This will be my first camcorder purchase and I am quite overwhelmed by the whole thing.
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Old October 29th, 2012, 12:39 PM   #8
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Re: HDSLR vs. Camcorder

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Originally Posted by Kevin McRoberts View Post
One midway option would be a GH2; twice the depth of field at the same exposure levels. One of the T3i/T4i cams would also get you deeper focus and use the same EOS lenses well.
Thanks for the suggestion, Kevin!
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Old October 29th, 2012, 01:04 PM   #9
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Re: HDSLR vs. Camcorder

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Originally Posted by Les Wilson View Post
What is it about the other shooters video that the client doesn't like and would it be no differen than you shooting with a little consumer camcorder? The Sony camcorder line recently had a little unit added that has a built in stabilizer that supposedly works wonders. I recall a commercial showing a model moonwalking on it.
Great point, Les. I believe he hired me based on the fact that:
- he is my coach and I have a better understanding on what's being taught and what to look for.
- he likes the quality of video I CAN produce.
- the other shooter is based out of state and requires travel.
- he's received negative feedback on his past DVDs (filmed by other shooter).

To be honest, I don't know what would set my videos apart if we're both using small camcorders. But I assumed, based on sample footage on Vimeo and YouTube, that the Canon Vixia G10 or XA10 both produce a better quality video than the other shooters. I figured that since the client already prefers my video that anything that is in-focus and less shaky would be even more preferable. Do you think, even if I have a far superior camcorder, that our work would be no different?
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Old October 29th, 2012, 02:21 PM   #10
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Re: HDSLR vs. Camcorder

Quote:
Originally Posted by James H. Taylor View Post
NOTES:
- I have a hard time maintaining focus or focusing on the right thing with the DSLR on the fly.
- There is excessive camera shake when moving around the crowded mat.
- I don't really want to lug around a shoulder rig everywhere.
- I compete in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and record my teammates matches. But none of them can operate my DSLR to shoot a video in-focus, so I never get to see mine.

Should I purchase an HDSLR shoulder rig or a dedicated HD camcorder? I'm really interested in adding a Canon Vixia HF G10 or an XA10 to the arsenal to make my job a helluva lot easier.
You might want to look at the upcoming
Panasonic AC-90.
It's got an amazing stabilization system that makes hand holding look almost like steadicam work, and a lightning fast autofocus. It'll also do 1080p60 to give you some mild slow motion.

Something else to consider anyway.
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Old October 29th, 2012, 02:23 PM   #11
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Re: HDSLR vs. Camcorder

Content is probably the first difference. Maybe that's enough. Stability and Image quality are the other factors. Handholding a DSLR or a small camera puts in the same boat as the other shooter as far as stability goes. The 5D produces a great image and is better in low light so going to a camcorder with smaller chips and less low light performance is an IQ bait and switch...... try borrowing or renting a modern small camera and see what your client thinks of it with your skill.
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Old October 29th, 2012, 03:04 PM   #12
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Re: HDSLR vs. Camcorder

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Originally Posted by Bruce Watson View Post
You might want to look at the upcoming Panasonic AC-90. It's got an amazing stabilization system that makes hand holding look almost like steadicam work, and a lightning fast autofocus. It'll also do 1080p60 to give you some mild slow motion.

Something else to consider anyway.
Very cool. Thanks, Bruce!
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Old October 29th, 2012, 03:55 PM   #13
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Re: HDSLR vs. Camcorder

Don't NEED a shoulder cam for stability but after a while the small form factor cameras can be problematic to hold especially with a bunch of stuff on it. However there is another solution that I use and that's a DVMultiRig. I can carry a small form factor camera, wireless receiver and an on cam light for a lot less money than buying a full size camera. I throw a small controller on one handle and have control over start/stop, zoom and focus.
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Old October 29th, 2012, 07:19 PM   #14
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Re: HDSLR vs. Camcorder

Quote:
Originally Posted by Les Wilson View Post
What is it about the other shooters video that the client doesn't like and would it be no differen than you shooting with a little consumer camcorder? The Sony camcorder line recently had a little unit added that has a built in stabilizer that supposedly works wonders. I recall a commercial showing a model moonwalking on it.
I had tried the 70u for a while, and the stabilization was spectacular.
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Old October 30th, 2012, 04:51 AM   #15
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Re: HDSLR vs. Camcorder

James - I am a DSLR/DSLM shooter, but it sounds like you need a small sensor camcorder with deep depth of field.

The Panasonic AG-AC90 looks like it's going to be a good camera, but it isn't available yet. The new $1999 Sony HXR-NX30 is available right now. It has great mechanical stabilization ("Optical Steady Shot") that will allow you to shoot smooth handheld video without a rig. It is a couple of hundred more than the not-as-well-stabilized http://www.amazon.com/Canon-XA10-Professional-Camcorder-Internal/dp/B004HW7DY8.

Here are a couple of Sony promos showing it in action:



Hope this is helpful,

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