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Old March 31st, 2011, 01:17 PM   #1
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Why DSLR instead of a camcorder?

So, as some who may have followed some of my other forum posts have noticed, I've been on a mad-spree to try to pick-up some equipment for the Canon T2i I got before Christmas as well as understand some of the ins and outs of DSLR filmmaking (or....um, video making).

In seeing that I was spending on lenses, mics, an editing computer, memory cards etc. a friend of mine asked me: "If it's so costly to do it on a picture camera why didn't you just get a camcorder?"

I tried to formulate a proper answer and was left blank. Why not a camcorder? Don't they store more? Zoom farther? Have less focus issues?

It gave me pause...

Incidentally, this friend also told me to stop calling it filmmaking when no film was involved. :P
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Old March 31st, 2011, 01:29 PM   #2
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Re: Why DSLR instead of a camcorder?

For many people here who do this for a living, it's not either / or -- it's both.

Just about everything extra that you need for a D-SLR, is also needed for a camcorder as well.
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Old March 31st, 2011, 02:26 PM   #3
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Re: Why DSLR instead of a camcorder?

The ability to change lenses and depth of focus control are the two primary considerations. Or just buy a cheap P&S camera with video...
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Old March 31st, 2011, 03:14 PM   #4
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Re: Why DSLR instead of a camcorder?

I see some of the differeces, glaring in some instances,of videos shot with a DSLR and a camcorder on Youtube and have read that sensors are better on DSLRs but, at the moment, the DSLRs primary use is still for photos and the Video aspect has been added on as a bonus for photographers wanting one camera for both forms of media.

I started out working with 16mm film back in film-school. I remember when we were handed out first digital camera, a Canon XL...it was great to not have to use costly film anymore and we could see our projects right away.

When I choose the Canon T2i to shoot on I had been pretty much dormant as a filmaker for many years. I missed the whole "digital revolution" until picking up an old Canon S2IS. I started shooting video on it and was impressed with what I could do with it, though obviously the quality was subpar. Still, I made a few short documentaries with it for myself and it started to spark my interest in filmmaking again.

A friend of mine asked me to shoot their wedding with it and they loved what came out. When it died on me last year I spent much time deciding to step up to a DSLR. I'm mostly an "auto" guy though I am learning slowly. Forums like this one are a great help. I don't think I made a poor choice in the Canon and though I haven't really started serious work with it, just a lot of test stuff, I am getting more comfortable with it.

To me, I suppose my only real concern in shooting with a DSLR is the focusing. From what I gather, they won't focus automatically as a camcorder might or even the low end S2IS did. Having to continuously fix focus alters my run and gun style a bit as I just like shooting one thing, turning and grabbing something else, moving in to a shot, etc. The other day I was out with the 50mm 1.8 lens and realized that this is going to be a lot tougher.

I like the aspect of depth of field, though, and the pulling focus reminds me a lot of my 16mm days with an old Bolex.

I guess I have a lot to learn still as it really is a new field out there.

Perhaps one day I will own BOTH but, for now, I think I need to figure out how to master my T2i, especially the focus part that worries me the most.
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Old March 31st, 2011, 03:30 PM   #5
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Re: Why DSLR instead of a camcorder?

Focus control is indeed your biggest challenge. After that, it's probably the 4GB clip length
limit which means that your longest single take is appx. 12 minutes. For short-form narrative
filmmaking, that's a non-issue. But for event filmmaking and long-form recording, it's a real
headache.
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Old March 31st, 2011, 03:58 PM   #6
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Re: Why DSLR instead of a camcorder?

That clip length limit is just a Canon and EU thing.
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Old March 31st, 2011, 04:04 PM   #7
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Re: Why DSLR instead of a camcorder?

He has a Canon Rebel T2i, that's why I mention it.
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Old March 31st, 2011, 04:50 PM   #8
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Re: Why DSLR instead of a camcorder?

Yeah, that 4gb clip length is a bit of a pain for sure, especially for my want to shoot weddings. From what I gather, there is a Firmware update I could use that would cause a 1 second or so blip and them keep recording but:
1) I am a bit worried but doing something not authorized by Canon to the camera and, perhaps, damaging it
and
2) I've read about overheating issues when shooting a long time (of course, just another example of how these cameras are not utilizing video as a prime focus)

Though I can work around the 4gig limit with clever editing, the focus thing is harder to deal with for me.

Any tips? I've read that stopping down a bit helps. Also, there are focus rings or something that could be purchased but others say that it is better to just use the focus on camera and try to master that.

To me, what I do mainly is set the camera up on my shoulder or on a monopod and just point and shoot. In seeing how some people have pulled off nice moves with a slider and the kit lense I thought focus wasn't going to be a big deal.

At the moment, it is still a bit tricky and I've had a least a moment or two where I thought "Damn, I SHOULD have got a camcorder" . . . but I'm a stubborn bugger and will keep plugging away.

:p
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Old March 31st, 2011, 05:26 PM   #9
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Re: Why DSLR instead of a camcorder?

I very old school but I'll throw my $.02 cents in anyway. IMO every camera, well actually every piece has it's own function. Like tools in a toolbox. You won't drive a nail with a pliers although you could it's just not as efficient as a hammer.
IMO the "camcorder" regardless of make, model and whatever codec it shoots in is made for long form events such as weddings. A typical Catholic mass ceremony in my parts runs the better part of an hour. 2 cameras (at least) running, generally restricted movement of the camera operator, audio (if using wireless) leads me to continue using a true video camera for weddings. Now having said that there are portions of the wedding where, if you are not running solo as I do, a DSLR can be a great added value tool. The shallow DoF itself can be worth it during the ceremony, if you can move around a bit and have at least aanother operator to run your main vidcamera while you go off to make nice with your DSLR. The post ceremony time during the photo shoot, the reception during the cocktail time, receiving line, even introductions, toasts cake cutting and dancing could very well be done on a DSLR. Not by me but that's just me. Also what form factor do you prefer? Again a question of capturing audio. How about focusing while running around at a reception where it's dark lots of people moving around and trying to hold the camera while focusing on the run.
Now I am not saying it can't be done obviously it is being done and quite successfully by many people here, I am saying it's a tool in the toolbox. Put it together with a good vidcam, learn how to use both properly and what each can accomplish better than the other, know the limits of each and now you've got a kit.
Just one old geezers opinion
Either way, learn all you can about the gear before going on a job with it. Someone elses wedding isn't the time or place to learn about your new gear.
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Old March 31st, 2011, 06:17 PM   #10
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Re: Why DSLR instead of a camcorder?

I agree with others here who say its just another tool in the kit. Use it when it works for what you are shooting and don't use it if it's going to give you more headaches.

That said, there is alot more to DSLR's than just shallow DOF (which is what sparked this whole craze).
Interchangeable lenses, dynamic range, colour reproduction, low light ability, price (Try finding a camcorder under $1000 that offers full manual control of Iris, shutter & gain), the list goes on.

All those extra expenses you mention - a better computer, mics, memory etc are needed with a camcorder as well. If you want to build a full-blown production rig around a DSLR, then yes it can be expensive; by the time you add half a dozen L-series lenses the camera starts to look very pricey.
But keep in mind that unlike with a camcorder, you are buying into a system. Once you have five lenses, you can buy extra bodies for just $800 and viola! - you have a b-camera with identical performance and all the functionality of your main camera. Same goes for the 3rd, 4th, 5th camera etc. And when something better comes out in a year, you can sell just the body and even if you only get half of what you paid for it back you only lose $500-1000. With a camcorder, losing half the value when you sell it means $2000-5000 per unit. And if you decide to sell all that excellent glass in 5 years, you have a good chance of getting 80% of what you paid for it back, or possibly even making a profit. So when you look at it over time and consider the resale/upgrade possibilities, the DSLR's suddenly start to look like a cheap investment.
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Old March 31st, 2011, 07:05 PM   #11
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Re: Why DSLR instead of a camcorder?

I guess I struggled with the whole issue quite a lot too. I love the interchangable lens capability, the bigger sensor and shallow depth of field, but the manual focus thing is something I just don't enjoy that much. I can do it, but I don't like it.

The ergonomics issue was a big struggle for me. I shoot a lot of stills work, and hold a DLSR conventionally, the way it works best for stills. That's not always as easy shooting video with that body design...again, I can do it, I just don't like the way it feels.

I bought a Sony VG-10 hoping to get the best of both worlds...interchangability and shallow DOF, proper ergonomics, etc. and despite all of the bad knocks that camera has gotten, I have been thrilled with the results I'm gettting. doing a direct comparision, I have made more money with the VG-10 consistently than any other camera I've ever owned.

I've added a shoulder brace, upgraded my tripod, and incorporated a slide into my shooting. The ergonomics are "right", I can shoot for as long as I have memory. I have modified a follow focus to serve zoom duty, and love the way it works.

For me, this camera was the solution for me. I've shot video with a DSLR, and frankly I doubt I'd have continued doing it....just too many "issues" between good video and poor video that I really didn't want to wrestle with. That's not to say that a T2i or T3i isn't the perfect answer for a lot of folks; it just wasn't for me
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Old April 1st, 2011, 10:35 AM   #12
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Re: Why DSLR instead of a camcorder?

I don't own a dSLR, but have been using Canon 7d and 5d on perhaps the last 8 out of 10 projects.

Don make an interesting point for a hybrid approach that works in weddings. I'm not sure how unique weddings are, maybe very unique, in having need of both event doc and short-form vignette stories in a single production. Just speculating, it's a bit outside of my world of production.

To the original poster's question, for me and the people I work with, the first advantage to choosing dSLR is about picture quality for the price.

Next would have to be the lensing. In my neck of the woods, I can rent any Canon L prime for $30/day, or, for longer shoots, online lens rentals. Wow, this is great glass, and the opportunity to match the glass to the shoot is spectacular.

After that, lowlight picture quality for the price. Most of what I shoot is lit, but now lit a bit less, and more able to take advantage of existing light.

For those willing to go the extra mile on audio (sync audio isn't so important to some), the financial leverage of dSLR is fantastic. Picture quality equal to any sub-$10,000 cam I've seen.

I'm anxious to see the new Sony Super-35mm NEX-FS100, and I haven't had a chance to use the Panasonic AF100; both of these cams seem to be about bringing a dSLR style sensor/lens approach to a camcorder that does the things we expect a video cam to do, like good audio, zebras, viewfinder flexibility, timecode, SDI/HDMI, I'm sure there's a longer list.

I think we can also expect to see better autofocus performance out of dSLRs, Panasonic already has it in their GH2, other manufacturers will follow...
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Old April 1st, 2011, 01:10 PM   #13
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Re: Why DSLR instead of a camcorder?

Yes, I think for me it was that option of having something that could take both great video and photos so as to not have to purchase two cameras. Knowing what I know now about focus and such I probably would have went the same way only have debated it much longer.
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