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Old June 11th, 2009, 09:53 AM   #1
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Thinking outloud about my camera purchasing strategy

Here's the deal: I'm extremely excited about the prospect of shooting with a large-sensor camera. I love the shallow depth of field look. I currently have a DVX100a with a Brevis 35mm adapter and a bunch of Nikon lenses and a Nikon D50 dSLR. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the DVX/Brevis setup. Yes, it can produce AWESOME looking images but the imagery is often a little softer than I'd like and there's a lot of noise.

So - I'm planning on upgrading. The Canon 5DmkII and the Panasonic GH1 are both thoroughly tempting. But they both feel very much like "stop-gap" solutions. I get the impression that right now might be a terrible time to buy a camera because there's a strong possibility that we'll see a really dramatic shift in camera design over the next 12 months (i.e. a shift towards larger sensors and interchangeable lenses). Obviously there's Scarlet to think about (and the Super-35mm Scarlet may be only a matter of months away). Then there's the possibility that Nikon will release a D300s/D400/D750 in the next few months with a decent video mode (although no one knows if Nikon will have addressed the jelloness of the D90). Then there's the rumour of a Canon XL camera with an APS-C sized sensor which may be officially announced this Summer.

But I have some projects coming up over the next few months! So... what to do???

I'm not comfortable spending cash on a GH1 right now because it's certainly NOT the "perfect" camera. And I'd be concerned that if I opted for a GH1 now then I'll also end up buying a D750 (for stills) AND a Scarlet. Expensive!

It's dawning on me that I should invest in kit which will enhance my current setup and can be used on future cameras. So that definitely means a matte box, filters and follow focus (all of which will be useful on my current Brevis setup and in the future a Scarlet or a large-sensor Canon XL camera). I'll continue building my own dimmable CFL lamps. I'll try building my own handles and shoulder mount to go with my Brevis rails (I'm reluctant to splash out a lot on a shoulder-mount because the Canon XL camera might be shoulder-mounted). I may buy a decent LCD monitor although, again, I'm a little reluctant because the Scarlet / D750 / Canon XL will all probably come with monitors (although perhaps the Scarlet wont?)

Ho hum.

Thoughts, anyone? I imagine a lot of folks are in a similar position to me.

Last edited by Jack Kelly; June 11th, 2009 at 10:27 AM.
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Old June 11th, 2009, 10:11 AM   #2
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I think you're right, and that chip sizes are on the up. Then JVC pops up with their HM100 that reverts to " chips, but I fear this is being seen as a retrograde move.

There was the big jump from hi-band analogue to 4:3 digital, then from that to 16:9 HDV, and now tinkerings with masses of other compression and storage formats. The next big move is to proper big chips, I'm sure.

We may have to accept less than 10x zooms and restricted maximum apertures to keep the lens size and weight manageable, but big chips = great low light performance and wonderful dof control.

tom.
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Old June 11th, 2009, 12:16 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply, Tom.

Just thought of one reason why buying a GH1 might be a good idea: it has face detection and tracking to drive the autofocus and autoexposure. Sure, these features wont be used very often in a "pro" environment but they could be really useful in a run-and-gun situation. Shallow DOF combined with face tracking AF is a very temping combination! And it's unlikely that RED or Nikon will introduce face tracking in their next cameras. But they might surprise us!
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Old June 11th, 2009, 12:25 PM   #4
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The thing is, they WILL surprise us. I remember being knocked back on my heels to be shown autofocus on the 35 mm Canon Sureshot in 1980. Here it was, in production, affordable, compact, using very little power, seemingly just minutes after seeing it hailed by Raymond Baxter as the next big thing on Tomorrow's World.

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Old June 11th, 2009, 01:07 PM   #5
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The future will constantly bring us newer and better options. Trying to guess what that will actually be is a risky business at best (count on surprises). If you're making a living with video production equipment, it's almost always best to base your decisions on what you need in the here and now and what is available in the here and now, rather than waiting for (and guessing) what the future might bring.
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Old June 12th, 2009, 05:35 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Hardwick View Post
The thing is, they WILL surprise us....
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert M Wright View Post
The future will constantly bring us newer and better options. Trying to guess what that will actually be is a risky business at best (count on surprises)....
Yeah, great advise! I'm starting to lean more heavily towards selling my Brevis and buying a GH1 plus matte box, follow focus and shoulder support.

By the way, it's starting to look like the next Nikon camera (probably called the D300s) won't be much of a competitor for the GH1 or 5DmkII in terms of video:

Nikon D300s LCD screen leaked? | Nikon Rumors

Nikon D300s specs | Nikon Rumors

It looks like the D300s will be released soon. It looks like it'll just be a D300 with the addition of the D90's movie mode and dual SD slots. There's no reason to believe the D300s will have anything other than horrible rolling shutter artefacts.

Now... if only RED would make an announcement regarding the Scarlet!...
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Old June 12th, 2009, 07:00 AM   #7
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More thinking aloud...

The options are shaking out...

It looks like the (rumoured) large-sensor Canon camera wont be available until mid-2010: Movie Making Manual/Cinematography/Large sensor digital film cameras - Wikibooks, collection of open-content textbooks

RED sound like they are still aiming for "late Summer" to start rolling out their new cameras, which probably means the earliest I could get a Scarlet in my hands is early 2010.

So, my plan at the moment is to:

* sell my Brevis 35mm adapter (but keep my DVX100a)
* buy a GH1 with microphone and Nikon lens adapter to use on some projects I have planned for this Summer
* try to hack together a way to use my R44 (portable 4-track SD audio recorder) with the GH1. Basic plan: use an audio transformer to convert line-to-mic level and also inject an inaudible high frequency signal into the audio to lock the GH1's auto gain (like the Beachteck box)
* buy a matte box and follow focus (these will be useful on the GH1, Scarlet, the Canon XL replacement etc)
* hack together my own shoulder mount
* DON'T buy a small LCD (because the GH1 doesn't output video during shooting and because RED are making a fold-away screen for Scarlet and the Canon XL / Nikon D400 will probably all have nice screens)

Then I'll sell the GH1 (which will depreciate horribly, I suspect) in early/mid 2010 to buy a Scarlet/Canon/Nikon/Surprise camera which will make use of my existing matte box, follow focus, lenses etc.

Thoughts?
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Old June 12th, 2009, 07:40 AM   #8
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If a GH1 is the right tool (of what is actually available in the here and now) for your summer projects, then go for it. Who knows what 2010 will actually bring us? You can drive yourself nuts speculating. Decide what to sell and what to buy in 2010, when 2010 is actually here.
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Old June 12th, 2009, 07:57 AM   #9
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I certainly agree that making decisions based on speculation will drive you nuts! But I'd defend my desire to *try* to make a reasoned decision based on the info available. Some info is very spurious (e.g. the rumoured specs of Canon's large-sensor replacement for the XL-series) but some info is almost certain (e.g. that a matte box and follow focus purchased this year will be useful on next year's cameras).

Ho hum.

But yes, ultimately I agree that trying to make decisions based on rumours is a very frustrating exercise!
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