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Old July 18th, 2010, 03:20 AM   #1
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i would love to get an hmc150 but my keep seeing these dslr videos, they look pretty good. it seems they are becoming the new fad. are dslr's taking over pro camcorders? is the new direction of filming?
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Old July 18th, 2010, 03:48 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Shane Schommer View Post
i would love to get an hmc150 but my keep seeing these dslr videos, they look pretty good. it seems they are becoming the new fad. are dslr's taking over pro camcorders? is the new direction of filming?
I was not a fan of DSLRs for quite some time. I don't buy into the fanboi hype of them. However, they do solve a number of very difficult problems. Especially this one:

"How do you get selective DOF without a massive amount of light in an inexpensive camera?"

Getting that selective focus isn't hard. The 35mm DOF adapter solved that problem some time ago. However, they demand a lot of light because of the increased amount of glass.

Getting that DOF without the adapter isn't hard either. It's just expensive. You can use the RED, the ARRI, the F35, etc.

But getting all this in a camera affordable by indie filmmakers is another matter entirely. And that is where the DSLRs have really made a difference.

They are not without their drawbacks. Some matter little to users, some matter a LOT.

In general terms, the codecs are quite poor. This is changing slowly, but it is true for most of them.

They don't record useful audio. At least not for cinema level work. This isn't likely to matter for indie folks because they are used to recording double system anyway. But for those used to recording audio into the camera, it's a significant drawback

Some have limitations on recording time. The Canon's only record about 12 minutes at a time, the Nikon's about half that. This isn't much of a problem in narrative film, but could be a significant issue for event work, or documentary filmmaking.

They aren't very sharp. I think this one get's overstated quite a lot, but it is a factor. I find my Canon to be as least as sharp as the HVX and I've heard for years how that was "good enough" even though it had a 960x540 sensor in it and records to a 1280x1080 codec.


For all their problems, they are amazing for the cost. Yesterday on set, we were recording a young boy reading some books on his bed and fooling with some locks in his hand. We put on a F1.8 50mm lens. At ISO100 (the lowest the 5D would go) we had to close the blinds behind him to keep from being overexposed. That same scenario on my EX1 would have likely required additional light.

The fact that you can get into one of these cameras for under $1000 ready to shoot is simply amazing. They won't replace a professional camcorder in a lot of instances. But for narrative filmmaking, I think they are absolutely the best thing going.
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Old July 18th, 2010, 05:53 AM   #3
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Perrone summed it up pretty well.

I'd like to add that DSLR's are not 'taking over' as you put it in your question. Rather, they have opened the doors to new possibilites, and the camera manufacturers are definitely taking note.

HDSLR's are a fad, but big-sensor video cameras are not. We will be seeing a whole new breed of camera which has a DSLR sized sensor and is optimised for video - the best of both worlds.
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Old July 18th, 2010, 12:26 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Shane Schommer View Post
i would love to get an hmc150 but my keep seeing these dslr videos, they look pretty good.
If you want an all-rounder that will get almost every job done definitely go for the hmc150, DSLR's are specialist camera's that require much more attention to operate. If you always work under controlled situations or if you work with a team of at least 3 people a DSLR will be a better choice in many cases if you know how to bypass some of it weaknesses. If used right you can get some really amazing looking footage that comes close to what many perceive as a "cinema" look. (referring to the very shallow dof you get and the colors they can produce)

For me it's just a tool to complement my "real" videocamera which is much more versatile right out of the box, I only use a dslr during receptions (to make some impression shots were audio is not that important) because of it's nice colors and shallow dof, and then ofcourse for it's low light capabilities during very dark receptions. Also when doing interviews on fixed locations it has become a valuable tool but not without my main cam running as back up and to secure/record wireless audio.

But if audio is critical and if I need to cover events that require almost instant "one chance to do it right" recordings my canon xh-a1 is my best friend and the dslr get's a safe place in my back pack. :)
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Old July 18th, 2010, 02:33 PM   #5
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Good summation of what DLSR's are "handy" for, as well as where a regualr video camera still has its place. If you go to the "news" thread (second from the top in DVi), you'll find a thread on a new Sony VIDEO camera, which is of the "large sensor, interchangeable lens" variety...
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Old July 18th, 2010, 03:01 PM   #6
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Having shot a dSLR yesterday for the first time in an event situation (I bailed a buddy out of a wedding shoot - I don't normally do weddings), I can tell you that where dSLRs "fail" is in the stuff we take for granted on dedicated video cameras - simultaneous zooms with focus and iris adjustments can be pulled off seamlessly on a video camera (fully manual) but are a BEAST on dSLRs. Not to say the most talented out there can't pull them off but photo zoom lenses are not designed to be zoomed easily and without jerking (at least every lens I've ever used - I'm sure there are SOME exceptions). As well, not all photo lenses are set up properly in terms of backfocus to enable one to zoom in, focus and then recompose - I'm thinking specifically of the Canon 50 - 500 zoom I was using yesterday.

Stuff is "buried" in (thankfully SHALLOW) menus that I'm used to having on switches (gain/ISO, white balance) so that was tricky in fast changing environments and required me to stop recording BEFORE I could change them. On the cameras I'm used to, flick a switch, it changes.

As well, once a dSLR is mounted on a rail system, I find it exceedingly hard to find a way to put it down, both in terms of where to grab it as well as finding a place to set it down level.

The other issue stems from the fact that cheap photo zooms (the type MOST people are going to try and use on these cameras DESPITE the availability of VERY high quality photo glass out there) are quite slow, especially compared to video zoom lenses. Most detachable video zooms are capable of f1.8 at least at the wide side. Most KIT photo zooms are f3.5 - f5.6 through the zoom range. This effectively helps to negate the high settable ISO. IF you are running fast primes OR a hideously expensive fast zoom, you can negate this argument quite effectively BUT for maximum flexibility a video camera STILL outperforms in a given light scenario IF you haven't "gone for" fast lenses for your dSLR.

The image quality was quite phenomenal at the price point. Colour was awesome. Shallow DOF was EASY to manipulate. Shadow detail compared to comparably priced HD camcorders was superb.

Ran into issues with short battery run times, 12-15 minute clip lengths stopping recording and overheating outdoors in 25 degree weather.

Worked to their strong suites, these things are AMAZING. I can imagine that as a gorgeous B-roll camera or in a dramatic cinema shoot, they would excel! BUT I insist they are NOT the right tool for every job. Having said that, they may well be the EXACT right tool for YOU.
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Old July 18th, 2010, 11:23 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Shaun Roemich View Post
BUT for maximum flexibility a video camera STILL outperforms in a given light scenario IF you haven't "gone for" fast lenses for your dSLR.
I agreed with everything you said... except this statement. I have an EX1, which is one of the best "low end pro camcorders" with respect to light gathering. I rate that camera at either 320 or 400 ISO depending on how I have it set. And that is with it F1.9 lens. If I boost that camera to ISO800, and compare it to the lowly T2i, the T2i wins by a mile. If I further boost boost both cameras to 1600 ISO, the EX1 image is unusable by my standard where the T2i just begins to show a hint of grain that is easily knocked down by a decent de-noiser program.

With F2.0 glass on the 5D/7D/T2i, you'll nearly be inventing light. I had never conceived of needing ND filters INDOORS shooting at 100 ISO. But that is exactly where we have been the past two days on our shoot. We have an outdoor shoot next weekend, and I am going to be scrambling for a way to knock our exposure down 4-8 stops.
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Old July 19th, 2010, 12:10 AM   #8
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With F2.0 glass on the 5D/7D/T2i, you'll nearly be inventing light.
I think that this is a point we can meet half way on - I was talking specifically about KIT lenses (again in the f3.5 and slower range) versus an f1.8 video lens. That 2ish stop difference is "robbing" you of a LOT of light. Again, I'm talking about a specific mix of kit ZOOM lens. Your F2.0 example is no doubt a prime. There are times when a zoom lens is preferable for reframing without moving the camera and it is THIS that I am suggesting the dSLRs don't excel at.
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Old July 19th, 2010, 01:17 AM   #9
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To be fair, I have the 18-55m F3.5-F5.6 zoom mounted on the T2i right now as it sits next to me. So I decided to try a little experiment. What would happen if we pit the EX1 against the T2i (with kit lens) in a low light scenario.

The setup:

Canon T2i with 18-55mm kit lens, set to record 1080/24p video. Lens set at F5.6 ISO 1600

vs


Sony EX1 set for +12db gain which puts it a similar ISO (by my measurements). Lens set to F5.6, also recording 1080/24p with the picture profile set to off so as not to color the results.

The results to me are not surprising, but they are illustrative. Both videos were placed into Sony Vegas, and a frame extract done to lossless PNG.


(For those who care, available light was 4.2FC/45Lux. My meter indicates a proper stop of just over F2.0 for correct exposure at 24p/ISO1600)
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dslr's-canon.png   dslr's-sony.png  

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Old July 19th, 2010, 01:30 AM   #10
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Just for fun, I recorded two more videos with the T2i. Same paramters, but ISO at 3200 and 6400. Here are the results.
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Old July 19th, 2010, 06:36 AM   #11
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Nice test and example shots Perrone, thanks. I agree with you completely. On Saturday I used my recently aquired Olympus Zuiko 50mm 1.4 on my 550D, needed a shot in low light, the EX1 would have done it, but I didnt like the ammount of gain needed. So I wacked the 1.4 onto the 550D, wow, who put the lights on, an absolute life saver.
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Old July 19th, 2010, 11:42 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Shaun Roemich View Post
Having shot a dSLR yesterday for the first time in an event situation (I bailed a buddy out of a wedding shoot - I don't normally do weddings), I can tell you that where dSLRs "fail" is in the stuff we take for granted on dedicated video cameras - simultaneous zooms with focus and iris adjustments can be pulled off seamlessly on a video camera (fully manual) but are a BEAST on dSLRs. ...

The other issue stems from the fact that cheap photo zooms (the type MOST people are going to try and use on these cameras DESPITE the availability of VERY high quality photo glass out there) are quite slow, especially compared to video zoom lenses. Most detachable video zooms are capable of f1.8 at least at the wide side. Most KIT photo zooms are f3.5 - f5.6 through the zoom range. ...
The importance of these issues is often under-rated. Zooms designed specifically for film and video use are designed to hold focus and a constant aperture throught the zoom range but those traits aren't often much of a consideration in zooms for still cameras, even rather expensive top of the line zooms (one reason cine and video lenses are so much more expensive). The videeo and still workflows are just opposite of each other. In film/video you zoom full-in to focus, then zoom out to frame. In still work you set the framing with the zoom and then you focus.
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Old July 19th, 2010, 03:46 PM   #13
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DSLRs for video are not an end-all but I wouldn't say they are a fad either. Not only do they fill a price gap for high-quality, filmic acquisition, but they also provide a great solution for ultra-compact hight-quality acquisition. For tucking into corners, DSLRs are second to none.

Today I shot an interview with NY Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, who is notoriously hard to pin down schedule-wise. The producers requested we shoot two cameras in order to cover more ground in the short amount of time we were given. My A-camera was an EX1, which was used as a variable CU. I brought on my T2i as B-cam and tucked it right up against the EX1 for a locked off wide. I couldn't have gotten the same results with any other camera. I got the T2i RIGHT up next to the EX so the eyeline was VERY close (which the producer wanted). Also, I was able to maintain a nicely shallow DoF even in my wide by going with the larger sensor of the T2i.

Large sensor video cameras are certainly great but for me, it's not the quality but the size factor of the DSLR that's the main reason why I think they will continue to be used in pro video. They are not the best but they definitely have their uses.

~~Dave
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