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Old October 21st, 2008, 01:58 PM   #1
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best small camera for docos?

I used to have a sony pdx10 but sold it to buy a canon xha1. The canon is great but on a recent visit to the Middle East, on a tourist visa,i found i'd have been better off with a more touristy looking camera 90% of the time. I'm going back again in a while and wonder what would be ideal. I know the shortcomings of small cameras audio capabilities, so could bring along a Zoom or edirol audio capture device. Alternatively there's the Sony A1 with xlr's.

Really, i'd like sony to do a mini version of the EX1, but i'm not hopeful. My next trip is january so there may be a new cam in the pipeline?

What are the very best options out there for getting professional results while looking like an amateur?

Any thoughts much appreciated.

Dom
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Old October 21st, 2008, 02:10 PM   #2
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Have a look at teh HV20/30 range. Tiny cameras and in good lighting perform great. Have audio inputs too so can run a wireless or wired setup or as you say a Zoom and sync in post.
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Old October 21st, 2008, 02:21 PM   #3
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Yeah, it does make sense to go the HV20 route. Not a day went by without me kicking myself for not having one at hand. The only time the XHA1 was nice to have was being able to keep out some of the light with a polariser and the ND's. How does the HV20 cope under these situations? the middle East is very bright.

BTW, what is the benefit of the HV30 over the 20? i'm happy to stick with 1080i, so if it's an extra format option i'm not too bothered.
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Old October 21st, 2008, 04:15 PM   #4
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Hi,

I have the Canon Vixia HF100, the AVCHD camera. I think the CODEC is superior to HDV, and the light sensitivity is a bit better, too, to my eyes.

SDHC cards aren't terribly cheap, but they aren't expensive either. I generally travel with my laptop, so it isn't too inconvenient to download as I go, but I have enough cards to carry 15-20 hours at highest bit rate anyway. I could decrease the bit rate to HDV size (in pixel resolution) and that would increase my number of hours by 50%.

Naturally, the content is randomly accessible, and you can delete what you don't want, and you can get Juicedlink for audio linking XLR inputs, transcode to another CODEC for editing, and really have a neat travel camera that is quite capable of doing a lot of serious work masquerading as a toy - handy when in semi-hostile environments.

My best,

Mike
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Old October 21st, 2008, 05:07 PM   #5
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You may wanna check out the sony A1U. It's small and kind of a mix and match of performance features...although I'm not quite sure that it's what you are really looking for. It doesn't seem to have great low-light performance....

Last edited by Michael Kraus; October 21st, 2008 at 05:59 PM.
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Old October 22nd, 2008, 01:50 AM   #6
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Thanks for the suggestions. The HF100 sounds interesting Mike, and i shall read more on it.
The sony A1 is no doubt a good camera, but i'd really have to sell my XHA1 to buy it. An HV20, or perhaps the HF100 might be better options. It would make sense to stick with a canon as a second camera.

Mike. You say the HF100 is superior to HDV? what about as companion to the XHA1. Would i not be better off with an HV20? I'm definitely interested in getting a solid state camera, but it must be compatible with my XHA1
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Old October 22nd, 2008, 09:13 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dom Stevenson View Post
Mike. You say the HF100 is superior to HDV? what about as companion to the XHA1. Would i not be better off with an HV20? I'm definitely interested in getting a solid state camera, but it must be compatible with my XHA1
Hi Dom,

When I've had the opportunity to try the cameras (HV20 and HF100), I think so. And the CODEC - HDV and AVCHD, yes, at least for the HF100's lower light capability.

With AVCHD, you would have to have a much stronger computer to edit the CODEC, or use an encoding program like TMPGEnc - Products: TMPGEnc 4.0 XPress Product Information to encode to another format. You can even use it to get a topnotch 24 frame progressive product if that's what you want. I've posted the recipe for removing the pull down (again using TMPGEnc Xpress) here http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/hdv2-cano...-settings.html.

Sony Vegas edits AVCHD without transcoding, but I sometimes do more than one thing to my edits, so I will typically transcode to HDV or Huffy or something so it is compatible with AfterEffects, SoundForge, and Boris and all the tools I have. If you want to go that way, I don't find that the transcoding has a downside except that it takes a bit of time, perhaps 1.5x real time. Since you can delete bad takes in the field, that's hardly a thing to worry about, and you can batch encode over night while you sleep. ;-)

The pros are that you can use a Program Mode which selects aperture/shutter for best shooting, Time value (shutter) Mode and then aperture/gain, Aperture Mode and then shutter, and Cine Mode and then aperture/shutter/gain.

You can adjust focus, audio, and exposure. It doesn't have zebras.

In fact, there aren't indicators for gain, and you don't get a lot of other good information. You have to adapt to the camera and figure out how to make things work.

But in the end, it's a $600 camcorder that puts out a $10,000 image.

I've shot with a lot of cameras in a lot of places, and I encourage you to tryout any of these models a go yourself. I live in a fairly remote area. My wife and I visited London last New Year and stayed about a block from the American Embassy. The state we live in is the 3d largest in the lower 48, but you could take a 30-minute bus ride from the US Embassy in London and make that a radius and draw a circle from it and in that circle you would have a population 3 times that of Montana.

I'm not complaining... But I get my equipment by UPS. You can touch yours before you buy, and I would certainly suggest that you do. I think you'd be impressed by the AVCHD cams.
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Old October 22nd, 2008, 11:54 AM   #8
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Interesting. Thanks Mike.

"My wife and I visited London last New Year and stayed about a block from the American Embassy."

Wow! so you can afford an HDcam? LOL

The US Embassy (we call it The Fortress) is now so well protected you can hardly drive within a block of the place anyway. Hope you enjoyed your visit.

"you could take a 30-minute bus ride from the US Embassy in London and make that a radius and draw a circle from it and in that circle you would have a population 3 times that of Montana. "

Well you should go to the (former) US Embassy in Tehran, renamed "The Den of Espionage". You'd have 5 times the population of Montana within a kilometre. And the craziest traffic situation in the world.

I'm running FCP6 at home on a Mac Pro and FCP6 in the field on my macbook 13". Presumably the pro machine will do the job, but how about the little macbook? To be honest the HV20 looks rather more user-friendly given that it shoots in the same format etc. as my XHA1. And remember i will still have my XHA1 with me, it's just that i realised that 80% of the time a smaller camera would have been a lot more useful.

BTW, I have not found any discernible benefits to going down the progressive road so far, though i know many XHA1 users will think i'm missing out on a key feature of the camera.
So i shall probalbly finish, as i started, with 1080i50.

Cheers

D
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Old October 22nd, 2008, 12:07 PM   #9
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I also have an XH A1 and have been looking at a small consumer camera for similar situations. I spent quite a bit of time looking at the HV30, the HF10 and HF11. There are several things I like about the AVCHD camera, but not the codec. It's too much of a hassle to edit and intercut with HDV. I do like the smaller, more compact cameras. However, the HV30 has the focus knob on the side and the joystick on the back, so it feels a lot better to me in terms of user-friendliness. Also, the HV30 has a viewfinder; the others do not--only the LCD screen. If you only have one camera and have no need to intercut footage with HDV, then I'd say the AVCHD cameras might be a good choice. There are quite a number of people using the HV20/30 as a second camera for the XH A1 and it seems to work well for them. Also, the chip is slightly larger than those in the Canon AVCHD cameras, and a bigger chip is always nicer. In the camcorderinfo tests, they do a side-by-side comparison with the HV30, and it's difficult to tell the difference, and in some cases where you'd expect the smaller chip to be not as good in low light, it is quite good. So in terms of the end quality, both the HV30 and the HF10 or 11 would be almost indistinguishable. Also, reviews say Canon seems to have made the 24p thing work with decent motion in those cameras where some other manufacturers have not. If you have an XH A1 as your main camera, then the HV30 would be the most viable second camera; at least that's my opinion. Also the HV30 has a standard hot shoe, so you can mount things like a Sennheiser wireless receiver if you want to. The smaller cameras have a new mini shoe, which is weird.
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Old October 22nd, 2008, 01:19 PM   #10
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I agree with Bill analysis. I was in a similar situation and after pondering the choice between HF100 and HV30 I choose the latter, for the following reasons:
It just seems to me that the quality of the HV30 was better , to my eye at least,
the easiness and reliability of the HDV workflow,
the HV30 is now my playback machine for the Canon A1,
as Bill did mentionned , the hot shoe size , I use my Senn G2 all the time (and keep a AT 35 as a back up, for the HV30),
th extensive support from the communauty of users of HDV (Canon A1 and HV30).

I am happy with my decision, I enjoy the simplicity and coherence of a standardized system and the complementarity of my toolkit. Good luck with your decision.
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Old October 22nd, 2008, 01:39 PM   #11
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Hey, Robert--the HV30 will play back 24F footage from the XH A1 OK, won't it? I saw a reference on a UK board, something like simplydv.com (I think) that said a 25p tape from an XH A1 would play back as 50i with the HV30. I don't think that's right, but want to double check with a real user before I buy one (I'm not in PAL land, that's just where the post I'm referencing came from).
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Old October 22nd, 2008, 01:51 PM   #12
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Cheers Bill and Robert. Mike made some persuasive arguments, and i enjoyed his quirky post, but i think i'm leaning your way on this. I like the idea of using the 2nd cam as a capture deck too, though i'm quite happy capturing in 20 minute chunks on the A1.

I found not having a small camera on my last trip a serious impediment to getting the job done. Looking through my rushes i'm sure i would have shot 3 times as much if i'd come with an HV20/30. There were so many situations where i'd have got some nice stuff with a little camera, but hadn't even bothered to bring my A1 along because it wasn't the kind of occasion when i could get away with looking like a filmmaker(i was on a tourist visa).

I met a guy from a TV station while filming nomads in the desert, and he drooled over my camera because it was HD. He had a VX2000 and was shooting for broadcast.

Having the benefits of the A1 were nice when i needed them, but most of the time i would have been better off looking like a tourist. Traveling with both will be the best of both worlds, and the HV20 is not a major extra load.

I'm looking forward to going Solid State, but can hang on a while yet.
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Old October 22nd, 2008, 02:20 PM   #13
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Hi Dom.

It sounds like you can't go wrong whichever direction you go.

Personally, I like the advantages of a tape-less environment. Good luck in whichever way to choose.

Mike
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Old October 22nd, 2008, 02:36 PM   #14
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Bill, the answer is yes, the HV30 playback 24f recorded with the A1 (I also am in NTSC country).

I am also looking eventually for tapeless, but my HDV workflow still have few years to go and I prefer to stick to it because I am not yet convinced by the affordable alternative; meaning under 5000$. The only option seem to be the Pana 150, and it doesn't seems to offer any substancial improvement (if any) over the A1.
Since I am not a technician or a great cameraman, the reliability of the workflow is paramount.
I certainly will keep an eye on the future discussion and comparaison, by the good people of this forum, of HDV vs AVCHD and maybe the next generation Canon camera with their new H264-Qtime codec.
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