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Old April 11th, 2008, 01:21 PM   #76
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Hi Chris -
Been following the thread for a while, hope maybe if you're considering "small" cameras I can be of some help.

First you're going to need a camera built like a tank, literally - I'd look at Sony cams in that respect.

Second, the newer HD cams are incredible in good light, and really not that bad in low light, a simple on camera light/diffuser will do the trick in many cases, if you choose your setting carefuly and have the add on light as a "fill".

I'm gussing that you might be facing "run and GUN", so having a small cam would be a plus, especially in the field.

Your original budget was around 2K, this could put you in good running order with two small Sony cams and enough accessories to cover most situations.

Take a look at the HC9, in black - the HC7 was it's predecessor, and is pretty good too, but I'm thinking a black cam might make you less the target, and the HC7 is probably going to be hard to find now. Similar in design and execution to the HV20/30, more solid build, usable manual control, good auto, tape/HDV that any editing package should be able to handle relatively smoothly. Can be had in the $800 range. Has nightshot, if nothing else makes an excellent "B" cam.

IF you have a computer with some horsepower available (AVCHD format takes a bit to work with, and is where you MAY need proprietary Sony software, PC only, though some Mac users are making it work), then the CX7 and SR11/12 might be worth a look.

CX7 is super small, I hang mine off a lanyard from the "D" ring on the strap, or stick it in a large pocket when not filming. Uses Memory Stick Duo which can be expensive to get the real deal (watch out for Chinese knockoffs!!!), but the camera is pretty close to invincible - good for "extreme" situations. Nightshot again included (sounds like you've got the best IR illumination one could ask for available). Limited manual control, but auto seems to do a pretty good job all the times I've used it. Again, around $800.

SR11/12 are HDD based, so there's the question of durability - great cams, but I'm a bit hesitant to recommend because I'm not sure how the spinning HD will be in extreme conditions.

Perhaps a HC9/CX7 pair would be a good set, all the accessories are interchangeable, lenses, filters, batteries, chargers and any accessories that fit the Sony AiShoe would work on both cameras.

I'd add a decent tripod, maybe a basic monopod, a couple clamp or mini tripods, a couple brackets to create a mini-fig rig type stabilizing device (HD needs to be held steady), a WA lens, clear protective filter for the front end, with an extra lens cap, a couple FH70 high cap batteries (FH100 is bulky , but would last all day). Mic wise, add a small digital recorder or maybe the Sony bluetooth mic for a "wireless" audio with better than on cam quality. Sound won't be great at this price point, but won't be terrible either. Have a set of headphones to monitor sound - open air type preferred so you can hear what's going on around you too. Sony doesn't make a light that uses the FH series batteries unfortunately, but you could get one that uses the larger batteries, either NP-F or FM series. HVL-20DW2 uses the bigger batteries or HVL-20DMA uses the smaller ones - add a StoFen diffuser and you've got usable portable light. One other possible add on would be the Sony Sport Pack, which encloses the shell for shallow water use, and is also not a bad idea for blowing sand...

This more or less describes my set up, it's compact, relatively inexpensive (accessories can add up, I've collected mine on the cheap secondhand), and with a little experience you can shoot "professional" grade footage - I've seen quite a few others using similar "small" rigs, to good results. The quality of the small cameras combined with the price point opens up a LOT of possibilities to the person who wants to shoot serious video on a budget - you'll get 90+% of the quality of current "big" cameras in most cases.

I'd also note that the small cams are getting used in "pro" situations for many of the "reality" type TV shows - they're "expendable" cams, but do the job OK!

Hope that is helpful from a "small cam shooter" perspective.
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Old April 11th, 2008, 03:07 PM   #77
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Check out aliveinbagdad.com could get some ideas.
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Old April 11th, 2008, 10:14 PM   #78
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Some consumer HD cameras can shoot stunning footage in ideal lighting, no doubt. To get a reasonably broadcastable image in low practical light environments, would take some serious additional lighting (more than just a small, inexpensive on-board light). It doesn't seem very realistic to me to be hauling the lighting equipment that would be needed around Afghanistan (along with soldiering gear), nor would it seem very suitable for run-and-gun shooting.

I've been working on finding the best way to set my HV20 for shooting indoors, mostly with filming my grandchildren around the house in mind. I'm doing most of my experimenting in my "office", which was built to be a pretty ordinary size bedroom (about 11'x12' or so), illuminated by two 100 watt equivalent bulbs (daylight flo twists - ceiling and one wall are painted white, the other three walls being paneling) in an overhead fixture (all in all, the room is pretty well lit for indoor home lighting here in the states). The best image I've obtained so far is certainly reasonable for personal use, but sure wouldn't cut the mustard for broadcast. There is simply to much noise in the image (with noticeable loss of detail as well) for that (even at 1/24 shutter). In this same lighting, my GY-DV300U does well (at 1/60 shutter).

Aside from really struggling in low light, even the best consumer cameras don't offer anything like the manual control of a pro camera (forget image tweaking, even if they do offer somewhat decent basic manual control of iris, shutter, gain and focus, which most don't).
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Old April 14th, 2008, 03:33 AM   #79
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I was presuming based upon earlier posts that:

A) shooting on base and daylight, adequate light would be available, or it would be possible to improvise a "practical" light kit - "field solutions" are pretty common, I'd think something might come together.

B) any low light/night shots would be "nightshot" territory, and it sounded like the head and tank mounted IR illuminators would be preferable to anything else available. NO cam I'm aware of has nightshot and good manual control, save perhaps the HC1/A1U...

As far as "broadcast quality", I've seen a fair amount of nightshot being used on TV...

While not ideal, for close in work, the 20W light with diffusion can help a lot to give a more usable image.

I'm considering what can be done within the 2K budget originally contemplated, and yes, manual controls may of necessity be expendable - and the "auto" functions on some of these new cams do a pretty decent job, and I'd not want to be trying to figure out manual functions "under fire"...
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Old April 14th, 2008, 05:06 AM   #80
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Dave, Some good information you provided for me. I was (For a short time) considering a "Small" camera for these purposes and still am for a "B" camera. However my decision to use a "larger type" camera for somethings is based upon where and what I would be using it for. Iwill look into the small handycam's for "Outside the Wire" type shooting. But for stuff here on the base I figured on the DVX or PD170 because I will (In mast cases) have control of the lighting or set up. Mostly this camera will be used for interviews, general footage on he base etc. My current cache of equipment is:

Panasonic SDR-H200
Kodak Easyshare C763 (Still Photos)
Nikon D2xs with a 80-400m zoon (Still Photos)
A Chineese knock off small handycam I got for $100.00 (Video)
ATC Helmet mounted camera (30FPS with 2GB SD Care)

For that little amout of stuff its pretty good but I want better. I feel that the DVX since it has the 24p capibilities would work so you are able to differ between "Amature" vs. "Professional" type stuff to give it that "real documentary look". I decided to just kick HD out of the process due to the Price and the fact that I need more lighting.

s far as the night shots go, your right. IR lighting is no problem, in fact it may be better then then I think. I like the night shots, it give it that "real military feel". But dave, Ill look into thoes other cameras you mentioned. I am actually putting together a "Sponser a Soldier" letter to send out to some vendors to see if I can get a loaner or one at a really good price. Ie thats the case then I can get more things to make this prodution work.

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Old April 14th, 2008, 08:34 AM   #81
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Originally Posted by Dave Blackhurst View Post
CX7 is super small, .....Limited manual control, but auto seems to do a pretty good job all the times I've used it.
David, A little off topic but I was wondering if you had the DIY plans to make the LANC adaptor from the A/V-Remote D plug. I bought 3 A/V plug off of ebay and have one hacked apart. I would like to get an LANC and Video OUT from the A/V plug.

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