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Old November 16th, 2010, 07:13 PM   #1
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Introducing my big leap quandary

Knowing that behind my back the work I've produced is still receiving praise among Bangkok's foreign media circles is all very nice and well, but my healthy repute is tarnished by the fact they all shake their heads with despair and say things like, "If only he stopped using that toy camcorder and invested in some professional equipment".

Indeed, turning up at media events with an aged Panasonic NVGS-500 is somewhat embarrassing, regardless of what I can and have done with it. Also, ...It is with great shame that I will admit to you all that I am still using imovie HD, but hey - I was knocking out work on it and simply ended up getting too comfortable sticking to what I know. I've filmed and edited features for local TV, done a couple of weddings and parties, still get the occasional website promo gig and my 2006 MacBook Pro has more than paid for itself.

Thing is work is a bit dry these days, so by doing some English teaching I've saved and invested. I plan to take a beginner course in Final Cut after buying a new laptop and new camera when I revisit the UK next month. My only obstacle is which camera to get, but I can narrow things down by stating the following requirements:

I'd like to stick with Panasonic, they've done me no wrong.
I will presumably need something HD.

I guess they will all be compatible with wireless mics, lights and other accessories - interchangable lens option would be a bonus but not essential, and though I will miss DV cassette I assume that moving on to solid state is the way forward, especially for somebody like mysef who's living abroad and has limited space.

I was considering getting that Canon 5D but amazing as the quality is, I don't see that it could be used for anything other than still tripod stock shots - unless I spent a ridiculous sum of money on body cages, handlebars and al the other apparatus required to use it as a video camera.

Budget wise I can go to 3,000 UK pound MAXIMUM but would prefer to spend between one and two. Most of my work is going to be website videos, cycling videos and the odd wedding and TV feature, so hopefully I don't need to make such a huge jump from what I have to what I want.

Advice warmly appreciated.

A sample of my work can be viewed here:
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Old November 18th, 2010, 01:15 PM   #2
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Hi, Cameron.................

Missed this post somehow, better late than never.

Can't advise on Panasonic, it's a total black hole to me.

Given the end result your expect to be achieving and the market you're selling into, how about this list, in ascending order of bankruptcy, but not necessarily usefullness for your purposes.

1. Canon XL2.

SD only but as reliable a workhorse as you'll ever need, a beautifull picture, tape AND changeable lenses.

Still on sale mint or available second hand if you wish to save some dinero.

2. Canon XH A1s

HD, HDV, tape, no changeable lenses but another tested workhorse. Beautifull picture.

(I won't suggest the XL H1 as I'm sure it's demise is imminant)

3. Canon XF 300

HD and how. No changeable lenses but solid state recording. For your purposes probably over kill.

Both Sony and JVC have vaguely similar line ups. I'm sure someone will pipe up with Panasonic options.

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Old November 24th, 2010, 05:21 PM   #3
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Hi Chris...

Sorry fr the late reply and cheers for the advice, which incidentally made me seriously consider the Canon XL2, however it has no evolved beyond DV cassette apparently, it would be very rare for me to need to change the lens and I am used to something I can hold in one hand so something less clunky perhaps.

In the meantime i'll compare the other two Canons with the AV-DVX's I've been looking at. Might even consider getting one second hand when I return to the UK next month.

Thanks again, will let you know what I end up with and if it's any good!
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Old November 24th, 2010, 11:07 PM   #4
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Maybe check out the Panasonic HMC-40.
It's got an optional XLR adaptor which you should also get if you're interested in external/wireless mics. It's about as small of a camera as you'll find without making big sacrifices to handling/controls.

The only problem (and one that is common to all AVCHD cameras) is that it requires a hefty amount of horsepower and/or extra steps transcoding the footage prior to editing. Even a high end laptop will have you pulling your hair out in frustration.
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Old November 25th, 2010, 03:27 AM   #5
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Also the HMC40/41 isn't great in low-light - adding a light would be essential. And it is CMOS, so if you have to cope with camera flashes at press conferences etc. it may be problematic.

As and aside, if you add the XLR unit and a decent microphone, you don't look quite so amateur!

Similar tinycams are the JVC HM100 and the forthcoming Canon XF100/105. Not too expensive, not too big, but are capable of "pro" use. The HMC is the cheapest of the bunch.
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Old November 25th, 2010, 05:26 AM   #6
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In addition to the Panasonic line:

The Sony Z5 is a very capable 25mbs HDV tape based camera in this class that has a solid state accessory that clips on (Sony MRC1K) giving you recording to both or either.

The Sony NX5U is another possibility that is fully solid state with modern features and uses a 25mbs AVC codec.

A used JVC HM700 or Sony EX1 are other possibilities that will give you various pro-features and are based on the 35mbs XDCAM codec.

Something I didn't have appreciation for is just how much HD content is 720p. Not going gangbusters on 1080p capability may stretch your money further to a very capable 720p camera. Also, don't think of this as your last camera and as usual, remember you need a quality tripod for HD.
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Old November 25th, 2010, 05:58 AM   #7
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A different direction might be to buy a high end consumer HD camera such as the Panasonic TM700 ($1,000 with battery and cards) and add a t2i with Tamron 17-50 f2.8 VCii ($1,500 with lens, battery, and cards) or the Panasonic GH2 for dramatic shots. If you buy the right backpack, you can carry all the electronics on your back and throw a tripod over your shoulder for incredible portability.
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Old November 26th, 2010, 02:21 PM   #8
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Canon XH A1

I love my Canon XH-A1. It's easy to use and very "programmable". Lately, however I've been helping a friend make documentaries and have had low-light issues. His camera's images look great and mine are too grainy to use when the lighting is not great. Of course his is a $10,000 Sony (can't remember the model#).

On my Canon, if I crack the aperture all the way open the picture is often still too dark. If I use automatic gain the picture brightens right up and looks good in both the LCD and the diopter viewfinders, but when viewed later on a monitor the graininess is awful.

You might want to consider how often you'll end up in low light situations. I stand behind the XH A1 as a great camera, but it fails in low light.
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Old November 28th, 2010, 08:33 PM   #9
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Neat Video can help clean up noise from cameras that struggle a bit in low light. $100 in software isn't as good as having a new $10K camera, but I was able to salvage a lot of footage from my XHA1 that ended up looking quite nice that was quite poor when I started. Neat does slow down renders considerably also.
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Old November 29th, 2010, 04:48 AM   #10
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Panasonic AG-HMC152 + GoPro sidekick

Thanks do far for all the advice, I've looked into most of the cameras mentioned. I rang Panasonic Thailand and asked them to recommend a trustworthy retailer which I visited a few days ago. The little JVC one is nice and compact and apparently is very Mac compatible in that the files don't need to be rendered and are ready to go.

I'm very used to having a compact camera but looks and size do count here when doing any kind of professional job so I really need something that looks the part. Also, JVC don't have that good a reputation from what I have heard, not bad but not that special either.

The Canon XF300/305 seem very impressive and look very nice but a little out of my price range, a bit too big a leap maybe.

The Panasonics have the areodynamic qualities of a shoebox but have reasonable reviews, so I currently have my eye on the AG-HMC152 which is 185,000 THB (2,930 GBP) (4,568 USD) and is considerably cheaper than the HDX170 which has it's price bumped up by these new P2 memory cards which I don't really need at this stage in my career, so long as it's HD.

I've since heard a couple of negatives, i.e. it takes a long time to import footage into a laptop but I guess any decision I make will have plusses and minuses - I won't really know if it's the right one until I've spent a good few weeks using it.

I will be buying it with some money I have put aside in the UK, and it may even be cheaper there so I'll get it when I'm over unless I find something more suitable. I'l have a look on the search here for any user reviews, and any feedback on it is of course welcome.

I also want to get the GoPro Hero sports camera which I'm sure you've all heard of. It's very affordable and I'm looking forward to using that more than I am the main camera.

Thanks so far.
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