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Old March 22nd, 2010, 07:09 PM   #1
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New to HD - What camera for discreet shooting?

We're needing to buy our first HD camera soon. It's a bit overwhelming with all the options out there. We're moving on to HD and need something that will be used for discreet documentary work. We don't want a XHA1 body style... it's too big. Here's our wishlist.

Good low light performance - won't be able to control light in most settings
Discreet size
Manual Audio Control
Mic Jack
Manual Focus
Aperture control

We're not too picky about the format. We have CS4, cineform, and a beefy editing system.
What else do we need to be thinking about?
What's worked good for you?

Thanks for your help.
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Old March 22nd, 2010, 07:43 PM   #2
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If you're looking for low-light performance, it generally means bigger sensors which means a bigger lens and camera. What mics are you planning to use? If you need XLR inputs (standard mic connectors) then I think the smallest cameras that offers them as an option is the HMC40 from Panasonic. I wouldn't say it's very small though - probably the smallest prosumer camera around though that offers what you need, although for low light performance it won't be as good as an XHA1 or HMC150 with 1/3" sensors.
If you must have something smaller, you'll need to sacrifice a lot of that list - the newspaper I worked at used the Canon HV30 for that reason (now replaced by the HV40). However, it needed an adapter to accept mic inputs, and focusing manually isn't the easiest to do with a tiny wheel - overall, it had the manual controls we liked, but because of the size they were always awkward to use. Otherwise, it worked pretty well most of the time.
hope this helps
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Old March 22nd, 2010, 08:36 PM   #3
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We can do an adapter for mics as necessary. We've got a Sound Devices MM-1 and appropriate accessories to get to mic level on a mini plug. But we've also got a separate audio recorder to use as necessary.

Yes, small is what we want for this particular camera. Low light ability to do indoor shots on the fly is important.

Thanks
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Old March 22nd, 2010, 08:49 PM   #4
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Hi Kent,

I have a Canon HV30, and have used it for a few projects (usually shoot with a much bigger XL2 :) I have a mic adapter that I can hook up so I can use an XLR and shotgun mic, and sometimes a wireless lav mic setup.

It's small and discrete, and with some know-how you can use it manually. Not sure about what type of low light situations you'll get into, but I've shot at dusk, and inside a "dim" restaurant. It looked a bit under exposed, but looked okay to me (I didn't want to open it up as it'd introduce some noise).

Have you looked into the Canon HD flash drive cams? I recently recommended to a friend the Canon HF S10 (he wanted it for family videos, but he also wants to use it for short films).

Good luck,
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Old March 22nd, 2010, 08:55 PM   #5
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I'd recommend you to take a look at this year Canon and Panasonic consumer camcorders,
HF S21/20/200 and HDC TM/HS700, looks like they did an amazing job again,
I just downloaded native TM700 file - wow, I might even let S21 go, first will do my own tests:)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Khalil View Post
low light performance it won't be as good as an XHA1 or HMC150 with 1/3" sensors.
I used to own HF S10 - amazing little cam, here it is next to A1,
before going to Vimeo, guess where is what :)
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Old March 22nd, 2010, 09:16 PM   #6
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I haven't used the HFS10, but sensor technology definitely changes - my comment about low-light performance was just in general in regards to cameras I've used and what people have said here, particularly comparing the Panasonics. Also, do keep in mind that the single sensor in the HFS10 is larger than the XHA1's 3CCDs at 1/2.6 compared to 1/3- I just looked this up and was pleasantly surprised, which explains its excellent performance in the clip here. Also, CMOS censors have generally been nicer in low-light than CCDs, which gives it even more of an edge against the XHA1. It might just be the perfect camera for you.
Since I'm shopping for a camera too at the moment, definitely lots to consider. Kent, what kind of indoor events will you be shooting? Will they be concerts or similar events with some lighting?
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Old March 22nd, 2010, 10:19 PM   #7
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We'll be recording in people's homes mostly... candid stuff... with whatever light is available. Not conducive to setting up lights. Sometimes it will be used to record teaching events.
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Old March 23rd, 2010, 10:29 AM   #8
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Look at the Panasonic xx700 (there are apparently 3 different prefixes depending on memory/storage configuration - replace the "xx" with HS, TM, SD), the HF-S21 from Canon, and the CX550V/XR550V from Sony. Personally for "existing light", I would lean towards teh Sony, as the EXMOR R CMOS is excellent in that situation, BUT some of the samples coming in from the Panasonics look pretty good, and the Canon has a few more recording options.

This years crop of "top of the line consumer cams" are shaping up to be a tough choice, but would give you a small discrete rig at a pretty reasonable cost. You sacrifice some control, but the auto/intelligent functions can help a lot when the controls are small and limited.
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Old March 23rd, 2010, 12:09 PM   #9
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shooting indoors

Hi Kent,

You probably know this already but just a reminder that shooting indoors can become a complicated issue, specifically when dealing with different color temperatures (i.e., open windows with sunlight vs. lamp lights vs. flourescents).

Most of the smaller cams have presets for certain lighting conditions that work best for some situations, but not all work for all situations. It's best to find a camera that you can manually white balance; and in cases where you're shooting with big open windows (at 5600k) with indoor bulbs (at 3200k), you'll definitely have to "balance" between the two (pun intended :)

And I believe most of the "higher" end consumer cams like Dave had mentioned will have manual white balance available.

Best,
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Old March 23rd, 2010, 12:40 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kent Fraser View Post
Here's our wishlist.

Good low light performance - won't be able to control light in most settings
Discreet size
Manual Audio Control
Mic Jack
Manual Focus
Aperture control
A Canon 5DmkII with the new firmware update for manual audio and a 50mm f/1.4 lens would work for this as well...as long as you don't need more than 12mins per take.
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Old March 23rd, 2010, 09:02 PM   #11
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If the 12 minute barrier didn't exist, I would jump. But due to the nature of what we're shooting, we don't want to interfere with the natural flow of communication... when they're sharing from their heart and they're closing in on 12 minutes. Can't wait to hear that the 12 minute barrier is broken down.
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Old March 24th, 2010, 06:55 AM   #12
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The Lumix GH1 does not have the 12min barrier.
And I have successfully used footage from the GH1 cut with my Red in broadcast situations.

All the Best!
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Old March 24th, 2010, 03:47 PM   #13
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Is a XH A1 size camera really that intrusive, I mean its not like a full shoulder mounted one which would be intimidating.

I think for your situation something like a 7D or 5D would be the best option. I know the 12 minute limit isnt perfect but it gets the job done, all you have to do is when the person stops for a moment around 8-12 minutes just quickly press stop and start again.
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Old March 24th, 2010, 04:18 PM   #14
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I think the 12 minute limit can get really bothersome depending on what is being shot - personally, I would sacrifice somewhere else rather than the recording limit. I think any of the high-end consumer HD cams will work fine and that way there's still money for accessories depending on what the budget is.
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