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Old January 19th, 2009, 06:19 PM   #1
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Is buying an SD camera at this point a sin?

Hey to all,

I was recently browsing for camcorders on the internet, and came accross the much acclaimed Panasonic AG-DX100B...Downfalls: no native 16:9, and no HD. I looked at its older HD brother the AG-HVX200 but was not able to swallow its price tag without gagging. Would I be committing indie filmmaking suicide by purchasing a Standard Definition camcorder? The reason I ask and have not totally ruled out this SD gem, is because of its incredible resolution! It can't be beat! I read on cnet.com that it has 3.8 megapixels effective video resolution, which I have yet to see in any 1/3" CCD or CMOS High Definition camcorder. Most have around 1.56 megapixels, such as the XH-A1 from Canon. I know I would take a hit with the lack of 16:9; regardless, I may need some background here. I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around SD and HD. SD is 720 x 480, and HD is 1920 x 1080, so SD seems absolutely pathetic in comparison...This is why I need your guys' expertise; I'm a fish out of water here. If it means anything, I would mate the Letus 35 adapter (or other brand equivalent) for that extra filmic look.

Thanks,
Tyler
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Old January 19th, 2009, 06:37 PM   #2
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Interesting challenge you face, my friend. I think time is against you on this one. Although there's a lot that's still delivered in SD, the lack of 16:9 is a killer. Not only are nearly all television shows (not counting infomercials) produced in 16:9, all films are 2.35:1.

Your decision should probably be based upon what you are going to be shooting. If you want to make indie films, I think there are better camera choices out there for you.
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Old January 19th, 2009, 06:49 PM   #3
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Good to know! Thank you. I will keep waiting, and writing in the meantime.
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Old January 19th, 2009, 07:24 PM   #4
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Hi Tyler,
Be careful not to get too caught up in all the specs with all these new cameras, at the end of the day it still comes down to the person behind the camera more than how many pixels one camera has as apposed to another. Having said that, there is a sustantial difference between the number of pixels recorded in SD compared to HD(V). The number of effective pixels recorded on the DVX100B is actually 380,000 (not 3.8 megapixels but .38 megapixels). The number of pixels recorded on the XH A1 is 1,560,000 (1.56 megapixels) All that extra resolution certainly makes a difference which is why so many are making the move to HD/V cameras, even when downconverted to SD the picture is still noticably better, & of course you always have your HD master!
I believe the DVX will do a letterbox 16:9 at least, so you could always do that. Just remember that you will lose a bit of resolution going that way.
Maybe you could look at the HMC-150 from Panasonic, it is full HD, shoots to SD cards, & has a beautiful filmic picture from all reports. Only downside is editing the AVCHD codec, but if you can get around that, it may be worth considering.
Hope this helps,
Bryce
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Old January 19th, 2009, 09:25 PM   #5
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I had a brief experience with the DVX100. It does a 16x9 squeeze, like it's own built in anamorphic lens. In post you can "un-squeeze" the image to get a full 16x9 picture. It is better than the process on the PD170 series of cameras because the image is full height out of the DVX. The PD170 family actually looses vertical resolution. Tyler, should you buy a SD camcorder now? I am sure they will still be some demand for SD for a while. But I think I had something like 8 or 10 paying jobs in the last year for my Betacam and maybe 2 or 3 paying jobs that I can think of for my VX2100. I think there will still be some work for SD cameras in the future. But the future is HD.
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Old January 19th, 2009, 09:41 PM   #6
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Thank you all for your input...and finally some sensor resolution clarification!! I appreciate all your advice, and for now I will hold back on SD due to its "outdated-ness" and HD due to its pricetag. When in doubt, there's always the Red Scarlet...if it ever hits the market.

Thanks again guys,
Tyler
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Old January 28th, 2009, 12:45 PM   #7
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If you've got the cash to drop on a Letus35, you probably should think about something like a Canon XH A1. It can do SD and HD, and is usually found cheaper than the king of SD, the Canon XL2.

I see a lot of Panasonics going for 2000-2500 (Canadian). XH A1s can dip as low as 2700-3000 Canadian. I think it'd totally be worth the extra cash to upgrade to that, and if you don't like HD, you can always shoot 16:9 SD footage with it too!
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Old January 28th, 2009, 01:54 PM   #8
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People watch the content not the camera that shot it. If you've got a great story and a limited budget, buy what you can and perhaps even reshoot it when you are discovered as the next George Lucas.

Now, I wouldn't buy a new SD camera but a good used one could be a great way to start.

Have you looked at the Canon HV40/30/20? A used one of them might be the way to go.
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Old January 29th, 2009, 11:29 AM   #9
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Heck, I've always felt you should invest in a good tripod, sound equipment and lights first anyway. Whatever money you have left put into the camera. If there's enough for HD or HDV, fine. It doesn't really matter much to tell you the truth. For all the agonizing people do over specs and blah, blah, blah, the camera is the least important part of the chain, although there's certainly a minimum that you can't go below.
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Old January 29th, 2009, 11:35 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marco Leavitt View Post
Heck, I've always felt you should invest in a good tripod, sound equipment and lights first anyway. Whatever money you have left put into the camera. If there's enough for HD or HDV, fine. It doesn't really matter much to tell you the truth. For all the agonizing people do over specs and blah, blah, blah, the camera is the least important part of the chain, although there's certainly a minimum that you can't go below.
Marco, I must admit that in my years of shooting, I have never heard it said better than that! I hate to admit it, but you are 100% right. You should write a book (if you haven't yet).

JS
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Old January 29th, 2009, 05:20 PM   #11
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A properly lit scene shot with the adapter on the DVX will look stunning on a TV. Project it onto a theater screen and it will still look decent. Compare it to HD though on the big screen and you'll see a difference. My short shot on the DVX played along with some HD films and it held it's own quality wise but HD was pretty crisp.
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Old January 29th, 2009, 11:48 PM   #12
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I recently picked up a used GL2 for what I thought was a good price. I wanted to go HD but its not in the budget at the moment. I shoot weddings and all thats been promised is SD, no HD yet so the GL2 will get me through this year and I can upgrade at the end of the year to the latest and greatest.
My advice is buy the best you can afford.
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Old January 31st, 2009, 01:18 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Greg Laves View Post
I had a brief experience with the DVX100. It does a 16x9 squeeze, like it's own built in anamorphic lens. In post you can "un-squeeze" the image to get a full 16x9 picture. It is better than the process on the PD170 series of cameras because the image is full height out of the DVX.
Just to clarify, since there isn't an anamorphic adaptor *in* the DVX100, it gets that 16:9 image by cropping, and therefore just throwing away what hits the top and bottom of the sensor, just as it does when you put it in the "16:9 letterbox" mode. Then it digitally stretches it out to the top and bottom. This might save a little time in post perhaps, but it does mean you're at the mercy of the DVX's stretching algorithm...I'd rather take care of that in post and have my choice of algorithm. Also, at least as far as I can determine, shooting it in letterbox means that you are only compressing the central portion of the video stream, which means it could well be sharper, since it has a fixed data rate, and less frame to spend that data rate on, if that makes sense.

So personally I prefer to shoot in normal 4:3 mode, with 16:9 marks on the pop-out monitor- the reason being, I can easily get some warning about the boom coming into shot, and also, at least in theory, I could pan and scan to correct a shot vertically in post.

Films shot on a DVX100 have won cinematography prizes- though how many of them used 35mm adaptors I couldn't say...
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Old February 1st, 2009, 06:28 AM   #14
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I had the same dilemma but went for a second hand DVX100A just before christmas because it meant I could afford decent lights and sound stuff and so I dont regret it yet.

Im currently looking into getting the anamorphic widescreen lens adaptor but they cost around 500. Im trying to decide if its worth the investment or if that money would be better put to one side for a future upgrade. Im doing short films I plan on entering into festivals so I need it really. I heard the lens fits on other cameras too such as the cannon so im thinking it wouldn't be a waste even if the DVX100 becomes obolete.

What do you think? Is that widescreen adaptor any use on a HD camera or do they all shoot proper widescreen anyway?

Sam
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Old February 1st, 2009, 10:53 AM   #15
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Hey Phil, because of some quirk in the way that the DVX operates, using the incamera 16:9 in progressive mode is far superior to doing a crop and stretch in post. It's not quite native 16:9 but it's close. The benefit apparently only exists if you are shooting progressive. This was documented in DVmag some time back.
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