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Old August 1st, 2011, 12:27 PM   #1
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Need to pass on advice on "personal" camera

Hi gang:

I was asked by a producer I work with regularly to advise his wife on a camera purchase and I just don't keep up with the cameras in this category any more. Would love to hear people's thoughts on what might fit the bill of the current crop. Hopefully there will be enough posts supporting one camera that will make this easy (obviously there are a number of choices). Here's what she wrote:

"I am looking for something I can carry with us on a family trip to South Africa, with memory cards I can just store or download easily. I am planning to shoot a bunch of stuff that will potentially become part of a full documentary, so 3chip, but easy to carry and use. And coming out of my own pocket. One voice said cannon d7. Another source at a tv doc company said go for this
Panasonic AG-HMC40 AVCCAM HD Camcorder AG-HMC40PJU B&H Photo

Then I'd add an shotgun mike and lav when i need it. But as it's also going to be a personal investment and my pick up and shoot camera, I am wondering if it is up to enough snuff."

She used to be in production but not any more, my guess is that her preference for 3-chip is based on the old wisdom that it was always better than single chip (i.e. pre CMOS), so I don't think that's so much of a consideration as picture quality. I don't think I would point her towards the "cannon d7" (well, we know what she meant) because of the complications of configuration--definitely a self-contained camcorder will be best. In general I don't think a large-format camera will be the right call, although I do wonder about the FS100 with kit lens...generally speaking I would think that shallow depth of field is not going to be the critical element here, so a smaller chip will probably be fine.

Suggest away, please.
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Old August 1st, 2011, 01:11 PM   #2
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Re: Need to pass on advice on "personal" camera

I work with a few prosumer people who do very similar shoots. I have recommended the HMC-40 to them and they couldn't be happier. One did an hour long documentary with over 50 interviews and it performed flawlessly. When I started editing the piece, couldn't have been happier with the picture knowing it's a sub-$2000 camera. I do recommend getting the audio section upgrade as it gives full control and has XLR ins.
The biggest challenge with the 40 is digging through menus to get to some of the controls. When I helped with camera setup, I essentially turned off the auto iris and auto white balance but left everything else in auto. This leaves iris control on the knob on the side of the camera. Setting white balance is a breeze. Left in auto those functions tended to pump a bit.

Next up on the list would be the XF100. Lot more money but good grief does it look amazing! I used one on a shoot recently and had a hard time telling the difference from my XF300. Benefits are dual cards for unlimited shooting length OR redundant recording. I like the CF cards a lot more than SD though with the 50mbps codec, you eat more memory per minute than the HMC40. The Canon already has pro audio built in. Also the Canon face detection auto focus is scary good.

Both of these cameras have very wide lenses with not a lot of reach on the zoom. There are doublers available if needed. It's really down to budget as they are in very different categories. Having personally used both, I can highly recommend them as perfect for your friend's needs.

And assure them that 3-chip doesn't equate to quality any more. As I said, my 300 is 3MOS and the 100 has a single chip and they were hard to tell apart!
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Old August 1st, 2011, 01:15 PM   #3
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Re: Need to pass on advice on "personal" camera

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
Hi gang:

I was asked by a producer I work with regularly to advise his wife on a camera purchase and I just don't keep up with the cameras in this category any more. Would love to hear people's thoughts on what might fit the bill of the current crop. Hopefully there will be enough posts supporting one camera that will make this easy (obviously there are a number of choices). Here's what she wrote:

"I am looking for something I can carry with us on a family trip to South Africa, with memory cards I can just store or download easily. I am planning to shoot a bunch of stuff that will potentially become part of a full documentary, so 3chip, but easy to carry and use. And coming out of my own pocket. One voice said cannon d7. Another source at a tv doc company said go for this
Panasonic AG-HMC40 AVCCAM HD Camcorder AG-HMC40PJU B&H Photo

Then I'd add an shotgun mike and lav when i need it. But as it's also going to be a personal investment and my pick up and shoot camera, I am wondering if it is up to enough snuff."

She used to be in production but not any more, my guess is that her preference for 3-chip is based on the old wisdom that it was always better than single chip (i.e. pre CMOS), so I don't think that's so much of a consideration as picture quality. I don't think I would point her towards the "cannon d7" (well, we know what she meant) because of the complications of configuration--definitely a self-contained camcorder will be best. In general I don't think a large-format camera will be the right call, although I do wonder about the FS100 with kit lens...generally speaking I would think that shallow depth of field is not going to be the critical element here, so a smaller chip will probably be fine.

Suggest away, please.
Canon XA10 would be my suggestion.
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Old August 1st, 2011, 02:23 PM   #4
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Re: Need to pass on advice on "personal" camera

I wouldn't rule out asking her to take a look at the Canon 7D or Nikon D7000. I just finished shooting a short with a number of cameras one of which was the 7D. Once you get use to it and learn about it's limitations you can get some pretty incredible shots. I haven't been able to test the Nikon D7000 yet but from what I understand it does a decent job if you need to use auto controls and might be worth a look. I'm not a big fan of DSLR's to shoot video but I've thought about what camera I would bring on a trip if I could only bring one and the ability to shoot video and stills quickly is very appealing. The ability to capture quality stills could be an even bigger consideration if she might be taking the footage to a full documentary. Ken Burns has made the overuse of stills in a documentary an acceptable practice (of course that last statement is only my own opinion).

-Garrett
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Old August 1st, 2011, 02:32 PM   #5
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Re: Need to pass on advice on "personal" camera

Garrett, I have to disagree strongly with you. She sounds like a prosumer at best. Adding the need to manually focus, have several lenses, separate audio rig, viewfinder, etc. IMHO is a lot to deal with on a trip to a foreign country. Before I get blasted by the masses...I know you can shoot without all the extra stuff but for an amateur to get good footage with a dslr handheld is asking a lot. MUCH simpler with a true camcorder. And both the 40 and 100 take fantastic stills BTW.
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Old August 1st, 2011, 05:09 PM   #6
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Re: Need to pass on advice on "personal" camera

"Pick up and shoot" is kinda in the eye of the beholder. I'm not sure if she wants a family camcorder that anybody can pick up and shoot but only her frankenstein it into a kit or does she mean a small ENG that only she picks up and shoots?

All the cameras mentioned thus far are good. The FS100 is a good thought but depends on the skill of the person doing the "pick up and shoot".

Notably missing from the list thus far is the Canon XF100 which, if that documentary is going to have any hope of getting on the BBC, will have to be in 4:2:2 50MBS and thus the XF100 is a slam dunk. :-)
Video review of the Canon XA-10, XF100 and XF105 | Philip Bloom

On a side note, I somewhat infrequently used a predecessor of the HMC40 in the SD days (the DVC-30) and I found it a nice package that can break down into a consumer looking kit yet bulk up to a nicely balanced production kit with real XLR inputs, phantom, remote control, the whole 9 yards and still leave the shoe available for a light. The balance is an aspect to those types of cameras to consider. The XA10 looks very top heavy to me but I've never held one.

If she's actually talking consumer camera than can frankenstein, there's the 3-chip Panny TM900 and similar cameras that have a shoe, headphone jack and a 1/8 mini mic input jack for a mic.

Tripod? I mention it having just been through it for a trip to Africa. The Manfrotto 190cxpro4 with a 701HDV head fits nicely in a 24" suitcase and is rated for 6lbs which is a chunk better than your basic photo tripod. The smallest and lightest in the "real" video tripod category I found was a Sachtler FSB-4 with the DA-75/2D ENG legs.
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Old August 1st, 2011, 05:24 PM   #7
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Re: Need to pass on advice on "personal" camera

Quote:
Originally Posted by Les Wilson View Post
"
Notably missing from the list thus far is the Canon XF100 which, if that documentary is going to have any hope of getting on the BBC, will have to be in 4:2:2 50MBS and thus the XF100 is a slam dunk. :-)
check post #2 ;)

Agree the 701 is fine for the xf100. Instead of sticks, could even use a Gorillapod and anything on hand like a chair or door!
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Old August 1st, 2011, 08:14 PM   #8
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Re: Need to pass on advice on "personal" camera

IMO the key words in her enquiry are *South Africa* and *a family trip* with the latter being .. how many kids and how old?

Mostly if you go to SA it's for the African safari thing .. so the primary interest is not in the big 5, lipons leopards etc. it's in the kids. Ours never came with us but I watched some other families out on safari and it'll take a lot of her time keeping track of her brood, even though they might be teens. And keeping track of your luggage can be a nightmare, we waited 2 hours in the airport queues at Joburg.

If she takes a tripod and similar add ons they'll just end up languishing in the hotels. It's unrealistic to take them out in the safari vehicles, especially if you're travelling with others. And if you spend too much time with any camera on a trip there, you can actually bypass the African Experience .. and that's what you go for.

The reality is it'll be handheld, mostly run and gun (not a good term in SA) and buy it early enough to practice with it. Don't wait to buy it duty free at the airport, she'll end up stuffing things up. So I'd say a Canon HV40 or similar .. and maybe a beanbag.

Cheers.
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Old August 2nd, 2011, 12:50 PM   #9
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Re: Need to pass on advice on "personal" camera

monopod, there are thousand ways to use it.
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