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Old October 7th, 2006, 02:04 PM   #1
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I really need some help in picking a new HD camera

For the past two weeks, I have been digesting as much as information possible on the HD camera's that are available now, or the ones that will be available later this year. I am somewhat lost in the wood.

First, let me introduce myself. I am a 22-year old inhabitant of the Netherlands. My dream is to become a filmmaker -- both fiction and documentary. When I was 17, I wanted to go to filmschool But my mum advised me not to do so. So I opted for an International Business & Management study. Which I do not regret. But now, five years later, I really want to move on with my dream. For the past year, I have been shooting with the HDR-HC1, a great little camera, but nothing like a professional one. I sold it last week, and I am looking for a new camera now. Last year, I also studied at the photo academy of Amsterdam for five months.

What do I want to do with the camera? As mentioned above, I want to make great films and documentaries. For film, I want to make short films. I really believe they are more powerful then longer movies. As for documentary, I really think each one is good for its own purpose. As the two things above do not rack in much money, I want to shoot weddings/events or company presentations in order to return my investment.

This are the camera's that I am considering at this moment:
(pricing shown is local, so in the Netherlands)

- Canon XH-A1 (4000 EURO)
- Canon XL-H1 (9500 EURO)
- Sony HVR-Z1E (5200 EURO)
- Sony HVR-V1E (4900 EURO)
- Panasonic HVX-200 (6200 EURO)

The JVC is a no go as it lacks auto-focus, which for events/weddings is not a very good thing. You must get it right the first time.

The Panasonic HVX-200 is a nice camera, but the P2 cards make it more difficult to decide if this is the right camera for me. If I want to shoot a wildlife documentary, I need to spend like $5000 on storage media. But on the other hand, it is $3000 cheaper then the XL-H1.

The XL-H1 looks like a killer package. I like the idea of a shoulder-mount camera. And back in the day, the XL-2 was the camera I wanted badly. On the other hand, I doubt that I will need different lenses etcetera. So maybe I am paying too much for it in that case.

The XH-A1 is said to have the same imaging chips and image quality as the XL-H1... only for $5000 cheaper. It also has a LCD. But what you pay is what you get for normally, so there must be some offers.

I have always been a great fan of Sony. I like the brand, their products are always delivering and they offer a complete package. Look at the new V1 mini-site, and you must know what I mean. However, the V1... so far I guess I prefer a larger camera for handling purposes. The Z1 is nice but there are newer camera's out there. Also, the CineFrame is said to be of much lesser quality then the 24F technology of Canon.

Anyway, here are some questions that remain. For documentary, what setting do they normally use / is recommended (I live in PAL territory)?
- 1080i/50
- 720p/24
The same goes for event videography.

For film, there is no doubt that any good 24 progressive mode is desired. The Sony V1 and Panasonic HVX-200E both have 24/25 progressive. I heard the Canon's do a good job with 24F. How close can you come to 24p in post from 1080i/50? That's is something that worries me with the Z1... the cine-frame mode.

All these questions are bugging me at this moment. I already bought a new computer, with a 24" Dell widescreen. I only have to decide upon the right camera for my needs. If it even exists. But I do not want to wait. I want to get started before January 1st 2007... Also, as I switched from PC to Mac, I need to find a new editor as I was using iMovie and later Final Cut Pro. And as not every NLE supports all modes of every camera, I want to make a decision on which camera is for me before I buy a new NLE.

I hope people here can give me some advice / feedback. Feel free to share you thoughts. Don't feel obliged to answer all questions, I am already grateful if you answer some of them. Also, when you own one of the camera's and could tell me which kind of shooting you do, and how the camera works or does not work for you... I would be very happy.
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Old October 7th, 2006, 02:59 PM   #2
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Hello Floris,

I am about to buy an HD camera within the next few months too so I've been going through the same things you have been going through. I've looked at all those cameras you mentioned and for my requirements I have narrowed it down to the HVR-V1U (in your case V1E) and the XH-A1.

My main requirements are:
  • Cost effective to own and operate
  • Long run times
  • Image quality and film cadence
  • Small and lightweight

So I eliminated the HVX200 and XL-H1 due to high cost to own, operate and archive the footage (for the P2 system). Cost is important to me because digital technology improves so quickly I want to buy at the sweet spot of the cost/performance curve where the upgrade cycles won't affect me as much. Also, both the HVX200 and XL-H1 are IMO too heavy for their form factor. I have considered the JVC GY-HD200 and may get one in the future but for this camera I am going to start with a small form factor. It would be nice if Sony came out with a similar product for 1080P (1/3" compact shoulder mount) since 1/3" professional detachable lenses are becoming more common.

Between the V1 and the A1, I am leaning slightly towards the V1 because of the smaller size and weight and the possibility of better latitude with CMOS sensors (although we need more footage to see this for ourselves). But the A1 has the wider lens range which I like.

Either way, I don't plan to buy any camera until I've tried them out in person and have seen a lot more footage. So I know it's hard, but I would just relax and wait a few more months for the picture to get clearer and then you'll be able to make your decision.
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Old October 7th, 2006, 04:02 PM   #3
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In my experience the Canon XL-H1 is difficult to hand-hold for any useful length of time, so that combined with the high price makes it undesirable for event videography. Also, one of the main things you're paying extra for with the XL-H1 is the HD-SDI outputs, so unless you have a use for that the camera is expensive compared to other options.

My suggestion would be to wait until the Sony V1E and Canon XL-A1 are shipping and have been thoroughly compared to each other, then pick one of those unless you find a good reason to go with something else. Then let's say a few years from now you decide you want something even better, by which time there will be more HD cameras to choose from at reasonable prices - and you'll have a fine 'B' camera to use which didn't cost you an arm and a leg.
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Old October 7th, 2006, 09:23 PM   #4
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Thanks for the feedback. I hope more people will respond in here!
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Old October 7th, 2006, 11:15 PM   #5
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It all comes down to need. Is low light performance the biggest priority(and often is for wedding guys as prosumerHD is a fair bit worse off then prosumerSD cams to begin with), or is resolution in progressive mode more important?
The Sony comes very close to the Canon's resolution in progressive 25p mode and with a slight tweak can be easily converted to 24p(Do not shoot in the 24p mode!). In fact Cineform's software will do the conversion automatically on ingest, then your editing in a vlossless codec as well.
Have you read the DV.com's two HD shootouts?
Just finished reading your post and see your on Mac. Shame as PC rules the roost as far as HDV goes. You will have to ask which progressive modes of which cams are not supported in FCP. It may affect your decision. Can anyone help?
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Damnit Jim, I'm a film maker not a sysytems tech.
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Old October 8th, 2006, 02:44 PM   #6
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I am on Mac now, but I am switching to PC. My configuration is being build right now. I expect to receive it next week.
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Old October 8th, 2006, 03:39 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Floris van Eck
This are the camera's that I am considering at this moment:
(pricing shown is local, so in the Netherlands)

- Canon XH-A1 (4000 EURO)
- Canon XL-H1 (9500 EURO)
- Sony HVR-Z1E (5200 EURO)
- Sony HVR-V1E (4900 EURO)
- Panasonic HVX-200 (6200 EURO)
Your quoted prices are a bit off some of the current best prices in Europe.

You can 100% get all of the above for the following prices (Europe dealer, expressed in Euro's at current rates) :
- Canon XH-A1 Eur4000
- Canon XL-H1 Eur8020
- Sony HVR-Z1E Eur4880
- Sony HVR-V1E Eur4380
- Panasonic HVX-200 Eur5750
(taxes included.)
- and even those may not be the best rates in Europe. But they are all concrete prices, at prevailing x-rates, orderable now.

My advice is : XL-H1 is a big heavy machine and i just do not think that it is a good step to go from HC1 to that.
I consider the whole P2 thing to be too expensive, so my opinion is as expressed by a previous poster in this thread to get either the V1E or the Canon XH-A1. Which one? Well wait another month or two, read all the reviews that will be coming out, read user feedback from the first people to take delivery of these machines (I am friends with someone who is taking delivery in Europe of a V1E in less than 4 weeks time) and for DEFINITE go to a dealer and play around with these machines in your own hands.
By that point, you should be familiar with all the specs and nuances and details of these 2 machines and will probably be leaning one way or another, and hopefully playing around with them in the flesh, ONE of them will just feel 'right' and appeal to you more and hopefully thats the model that you were leaning towards in the first place.

Technique, lighting, audio management, basic skills as regards composition and also your editing skills are paramount in making documentaries and films, so remember that the cam is just a tool and the biggest factor in how your films/docs turn out will simply be yourself and your own skills.
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Old October 8th, 2006, 06:56 PM   #8
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I wouldn't totally rule out the JVC HD100. Yes, it has no auto focus, but personally I find an auto focus which occasionally wanders off with a mind of its own (just because something briefly passed if front of the camera) much more disturbing than a half-second focus pull at the beginning of a shot. The JVC is beautifully easy to focus, (as well as generally being a beautiful camera, ergonomically speaking) and as it has a proper manual focus, It doesn't have that annoying "ring keeps on turning forever" thing that some other cameras have. I suggest you give it a try, if only to prove to yourself that it's not the camera you want... (and yes, I've done a wedding on one, and it came out fine)
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Old October 9th, 2006, 04:02 AM   #9
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I'll post this link again, it's a bit old but good...

http://dv.com/news/news_item.jhtml;j...leId=177103305

Unfortunately there is no up on the actual 'handyness' of these cameras, but picture quality is defined down to the pixel.

I personally from that test would choose the HD-100 for picture quality, look at the examples from the trumpet tests and the stills. The jpegs from the Cinealta and the HD-100 in 720p, and compare them side by side. That's a sharper image in my humble than the others (except the native CCDs) at 'normal' exposure.
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Old October 9th, 2006, 09:18 AM   #10
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I find myself in the same position as you do, Floris van Eck. I'm looking to upgrade to a nice HD camera, and looking at the cameras you mentioned, as well.
I'm leaning towards the Canon A1 at the moment, because of price and features. However, the one thing that bothers me about that model is, I've read it's not the best camera for low-light conditions.
I do wedding videos, as well as, short films, and I would really like a camera that doesn't need big bright lights to get a decent picture in low-light.
Other than that, the price and other features make it very tempting.
I'm waiting until more reviews come out, and until I can try some of these cameras before I make a decision.
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Old October 9th, 2006, 09:38 AM   #11
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I believe the Sony HVR-Z1 is the low-light champion. Rated at 3 LUX, while the Canon's rate 4 LUX. Anyway, in the shoot-out that is linked above, the Canon XL-H1 scores only slightly worse then the Sony HVR-Z1. While the JVC and Panasonic have bigger problems in low-light.
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Old October 12th, 2006, 09:00 AM   #12
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Remember that at the upper ends of your price range, you can buy used pro gear which will give you infintely better images even if they're standard def.

chuck
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Old October 12th, 2006, 09:04 AM   #13
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Chuck, can you explain that a little bit further. What kind of equipment do you mean and what are the expected costs of that equipment?
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Old October 12th, 2006, 09:14 AM   #14
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If there will be any way for you to see the cameras in person and test them out in a store, this will go a long way in helping you to eliminate any doubt in whatever camera you decide to go with. Consider what it would take to find a location where you could do this.
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Old October 12th, 2006, 10:55 AM   #15
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You don't say what your budget is...

If you're just learning... I would instead of going with the high end Canon or HVX... go with the least expensive Canon or the Sony... which one will depend upon once you see real footage from the cameras yourself and I'd spend the extra money on lights, sound, etc... than buying the XLH1 or HVX...
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