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Old November 4th, 2007, 10:08 AM   #1
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What Important Features Do Professional Camcorders Have?

I've been using the GS-500 consumer camcorder for a while and it's been ok. The picture quality is excellent, and the audio is lovely with the Rode Videomic. I can adjust white balance, focus, and exposure manually. I

However, I've never used a professional camera before, and I think I may be missing something apart from:
- Zebras to prevent over-exposure.
- Ability to shoot decent video under household fluorescent lights.

True progressive video support would be cute, but let's face it:
- Most people are going to watch our videos on interlaced TV sets.
- Some consumer camcorders (such as the HV20) have that feature.

So, apart from the fact that they look so cool, what are professional DV or HD camcorders good for, compared to high end consumer camcorders? Thanks!
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Old November 4th, 2007, 10:21 AM   #2
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Larger CCDs and larger lenses alone make a big difference.

They are also, like a few prosumer models, expandable with various lenses, etc.
XLR inputs are also a plus.

Uncompressed output doesn't hurt on some models, too.
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Old November 4th, 2007, 10:42 AM   #3
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The high end professional cameras have quality viewfinders that you can use to judge exposure without even using zebras. They also have a lot less silly buttons stuck all over them, like a lot of consumer and pro-consumer cameras, that just get in the way.

Because they've got larger sensors they're more sensitive, they have a higher dynamic range and can handle highlights a lot better.

You have also have interchangeable lenses and the traditional zooms rather than the software controlled varifocal lenses found on most of the small cameras .
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Old November 4th, 2007, 01:05 PM   #4
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Actually professional cameras have much more, not silly, but usefull buttons all over. It is impossible to control input volume, exposure, gain etc via viewfinder touch screens when shooting. Small amateur cameras are physically too small to have ergonomical mechanical controll on their surfaces.

Pro cameras also have much more picture adjustements, like XH-A1 does, even though it is a prosumer cam.

New Pro SD cameras also have native 16:9 support, not just a cropped and resized 4:3 sensor.
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Old November 4th, 2007, 01:26 PM   #5
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[QUOTE=Petri Kaipiainen;770046]Actually professional cameras have much more, not silly, but usefull buttons all over. It is impossible to control input volume, exposure, gain etc via viewfinder touch screens when shooting. Small amateur cameras are physically too small to have ergonomical mechanical controll on their surfaces.
QUOTE]

The high end cameras can have quite a few switches and knobs, but most of them are covered so you can't knock them. The Z1 for example, is covered with switches that get accidentally knocked and some of them duplicate other controls. The JVC HD 100 and 200 series seem bare in comparison.

Most of the pro cameras have the same control positions, so that you can operate any model or even manufacturer without looking at the manual (other trying to find where the earpiece output is hidden or going into the menus for the advanced stuff).
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Old November 4th, 2007, 01:32 PM   #6
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More features = Better Aquisition Formats,(HD, Uncompressed, RED RAW, etc)Better sensors,(larger=better sensitivity, DOF) Better viewfinders, BETTER GLASS (high end lenses for HD can cost upwards of 100k... and yield better sharper images, less 'breathing') Better 'build' (sturdier)... the number of 'buttons' can vary depending on model and brand, but the ergonomics as others point out, are generally better placed.
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Old November 4th, 2007, 01:48 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Drysdale View Post
The Z1 for example, is covered with switches that get accidentally knocked and some of them duplicate other...
So true...
I've used a Z1 a couple of times, and while I was a happy with picture quality and the quality of the mic and the picture at low light, I hated the placement of all the buttons, coming from an XL1s!

With an XL1s (and I presume with for instance the JVC HD100 camera's) I have the feeling I can pick it up, press a few buttons, and start shooting. With a Sony camera (Z1) I really have to search buttons, and I lose time.
Not that great ergonomics...
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Old November 4th, 2007, 01:51 PM   #8
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I hate the XL design.
And once you get used to a pro camera, the ergonomics would be fine... rather, your familiarity with them.
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Old November 4th, 2007, 06:19 PM   #9
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The bottom line, before I get into minutiae is this: control, reliability and quality.

Focus marks on a fully mechanical lens for true repeatable focus changes are a key feature. Once you start moving the camera that matters.

The same can be said for zoom and iris control.

For film work the fact that these can be geared allows the camera operator to use an assistant. That allows you to accomplish even more complex camera movements.

Someone mentioned judging exposure on a viewfinder- hogwash. You can't maintain consistent exposure just by using a monitor. That's why zebras matter, why cameras like the HVX200 and the EX1 have built in spot metering that gives levels, and why professional monitors like the Sony LUMA series have built in waveform monitors. (Sucky ones granted, but they do the job.)

Along with the XLR audio inputs are better controls for the level on those inputs. You also get options that allow you to have an outboard mixer operated by the sound crew piped in to the camera.

Larger lenses matter, as mentioned, because they can be built with higher quality and precision. That leads to less chromatic aberration, vignetting and other lens defects.

Along with larger lenses we talked about improved sensors. One simple way to improve them is to make them larger, and thus more light sensitive. Another feature of improved sensors often overlooked by video users is the increase in exposure latitude- or the difference between the whitest white and the blackest black the camera can differentiate.

Better recording formats were mentioned, but again not why. There is a lot more information in these formats, and its useful for high end color correction, and special effects.

Also better quality recording media is important. Witness P2 and SxS media. Also look at the engineering in the Betacam & HDCAM tape transports. There is a reason that stuff is so much more reliable than MiniDV.

Finally... progressive support isn't "cute" for people who make a living doing this work. While a lot of people have interlace TV's in their home, an increasing number are watching on large widescreen progressive capable HDTV's.

Also, some of us use video cameras to generate footage that will be output to film- and progressive images are a must there.

As you learn more an more about how to recognize and make quality images these facts will become self evident.
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Old November 4th, 2007, 06:55 PM   #10
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I hate the XL design.
And once you get used to a pro camera, the ergonomics would be fine... rather, your familiarity with them.
I doubt you hate the XL design, you are probably just unfamiliar with it. (back at ya, :) )

I agree that every camera has its idiosyncracies (I am being nice here), but given time to learn the camera most designs at the prosumer level and up are quite workable.

I didn't like the HVX200 when I first used it, because it was different from the two XL series cameras I used the day before. After two weeks my tune had changed. I felt the same about Betacam and Varicam and HDCAM when I had a turn on those. I'll feel that way about RED and the EX1 when I finally get my hands on them.

Now when I evaluate a camera I don't ask whether or not I "like" a control, but whether or not I can learn to use it effectively.

Now what I have problems with is camera limitations. An example would be the infinite spin no correlation and unmarked focus controls popular on many prosumer cameras. Those "controls" stop me from doing certain tasks- and THAT is the only unforgivable sin for a camera.
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Old November 4th, 2007, 07:04 PM   #11
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Nope. I had the XL1 for a year, never liked it and eventually sold it because it made me not want to film things. It's ugly, bulky, and it's missing things that really didn't need to be missing-- like the LCD.

I haven't used the pro cams, so don't take what I say to imply that I love those, but I'm certain that once you grow used to them, the consistency would be a benefit.

And you'd lose no time once you knew how to setup quickly. That was my point.

Perhaps your comment was standalone, that the ergonomics were bad, but it seemed to be the conclusion to your argument-- that because of what you said, therefore the ergonomics were bad. I was saying that isn't the case-- that's just that you haven't gotten used to the layout yet.

For example, I didn't like the XL1, but I didn't find it slowing me down. I could FIND the buttons... I just didn't like them.
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Old November 5th, 2007, 03:22 AM   #12
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Nothing beats a professional lens. You have to set everything manually (except the iris, which can be set automatically, but you really don't need that feature). After a few weeks of practicing you'll notice that even you have to do more stuff manually, you're actually faster and will more often get good pictures. With a high res b&w viewfinder (not some lcd where you can turn the color off, but a real high res b&w) with peaking and double zebras you have perfect control over your shots.

Not to speak of the quality of a good lens, it beats all the small camcorders easily (that's why the lens alone usually costs a lot more than a small camcorder)
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Old November 5th, 2007, 04:55 AM   #13
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Regarding using the B&W CRT V/F on high end cameras for setting exposure: correctly set up and using your eyes you can achieve very reliable results.

You can set exposure using meters etc, but as what the image actually looks like you have to use your eyes. Zebras are great for confirming what your eyes tell you and ensuring or at least knowing where you're going over peak white. Although, you can usually see that you're losing highlight detail in the V/F.

However, for serious consistant work you need a waveform monitor, especially trying to match when doing the "prince of darkness" stuff.

Zebras on faces tend to work best with average tones anything different causes difficulties. You work with the zebras, but know when to make a creative decision as to what you want to achieve. Sometimes the image you want is when the "low light" warning came up in the V/F on some of the older cameras.

Unfortunately you can do any of this on the LCD's on the small cameras, which are pretty useless for making exposure judgements.

Yes, the high quality glass is the key difference.
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Old November 5th, 2007, 08:14 AM   #14
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Yes here is a digital camera that you should have:)

http://www.panavision.com/product_de...?cat=36&id=338

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Old November 5th, 2007, 10:51 AM   #15
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Yes here is a digital camera that you should have:)

http://www.panavision.com/product_de...?cat=36&id=338

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