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Old July 31st, 2012, 03:18 PM   #1
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Documentary Camera Suggestions

I am about to start shooting a feature length documentary in October, and I have a budget of around $3500 for the camera. I need a camera that I can shoot hundreds of hours of footage on. I was thinking of the HVX200a (w/ 2 x 64gb P2 cards), the HX-A1, or maybe even the 5D Mark III, but I worry about separate audio, overheating, recording time limit, aliasing / moiré, as well as not having some of the automatic features the other cameras have (auto focus, exposure, etc).

The doc will be shot 100% verite with no formal interviews, so auto focus and auto white balance is important (going from outdoors to indoors etc). I will be shooting in every lighting situation (indoors, outdoors, low light, full daylight, etc) and I need a good run and gun camera with nice resolution, and a flat image that responds well to color correction.

Any suggestions?
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Old July 31st, 2012, 03:35 PM   #2
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Re: Documentary Camera Suggestions

What about this?

Panasonic AG-HPX170 P2HD Solid-State Camcorder AGHPX170PJ B&H
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Old July 31st, 2012, 03:45 PM   #3
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Re: Documentary Camera Suggestions

Or this?
Panasonic AG-AC130A AVCCAM HD Handheld Camcorder AG-AC130APJ B&H
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Old July 31st, 2012, 04:14 PM   #4
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Re: Documentary Camera Suggestions

Too many options!
Panasonic AG-AC160 AVCCAM HD Handheld Camcorder AGAC160PJ B&H
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Old August 2nd, 2012, 11:03 AM   #5
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Re: Documentary Camera Suggestions

Oliver -
I'm currently using the Panasonic AC130 (bought it at a lower price before the 'A' model came out) for much the same purpose - and I think it's decent for that. Not great, but decent. I tend to use manual focus (occasionally using the momentary push to autofocus button) so I really cannot comment on the effectiveness of full auto focus on this camera - but many users have complained about it being slow and often 'searching' for focus.

I do not find the AVCHD codec well-suited to color correction/grading, but I have been able to dial in the in-camera settings (which are pretty extensive) to give me the overall look I want straight out of the camera. For me, the price point & SD card recording are worth the trade-offs.

The biggest problem this camera presents for me in true run & gun situations, is the ergonomics... mainly tied to the viewfinder placement at the back of the camera. I have ended up adding a Zacuto EVF to the rig (though I'm still trying to find just the 'right' mount for it). And while the weight balance is not going to be a nice 50/50 without adding a real shoulder mount with counterweight, I find the camera pretty comfortably rest on my shoulder and brings the external EVF in a good spot. This of course added $1300 or so to the total price, but again I'm OK with the trade-offs considering the overall performance & feature set at this price point.

The camera makes nice images and for run & gun the 22x zoom lens really fits the bill. That in combination with the OIS generally makes very steady hand-held shooting possible & the camera overall really flexible. It excels in low-light for a smaller sensor camera too.

It is a much larger camera than most 'palmcorder' designs - and that may not be evident in photos of it. This can either be a benefit or liability depending on what type of documentary material you're capturing.

Last edited by Dave Rochelle; August 2nd, 2012 at 01:29 PM.
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Old August 2nd, 2012, 11:41 AM   #6
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Re: Documentary Camera Suggestions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oliver Darden View Post
I am about to start shooting a feature length documentary in October, and I have a budget of around $3500 for the camera.
How about 2 cameras: a Panasonic GH2 for artistic and indoor low light along with a Panasonic HMC80 for shoulder mount run and gun?
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Old August 2nd, 2012, 07:29 PM   #7
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Re: Documentary Camera Suggestions

Hi Dave

I think auto was mentioned here at the beginning and the AC-160 and AC-130 are really hopeless in full auto!! The AF hunts and drifts and the autoiris has such a tiny range it's unusable in auto. I bought two and sold them after 100 hours use and went back to HMC82's (PAL version over here) I previously had them and they are a brilliant (and cheap) run 'n gun camera!! Full auto works in almost every situation..It just needs a Rode Videmic on the coldshoe (I have one on each camera) and a decent on-camera light and you have every situation covered!!!

I do have a hacked GH1 for low light but, really, I'm not thrilled about using it, I'm happier using a proper camera and a light. If you need less physical size and weight then get an HMC40 and grab an XLR module to bring the audio up to spec!!

Chris
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Old August 3rd, 2012, 12:34 PM   #8
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Re: Documentary Camera Suggestions

Thanks for the help guys. I'm going to mount whatever I get on a red rock shoulder rig with a follow focus.

I have been doing a ton of research and actually am now seriously considering spending the extra money and getting the Sony EX1R -
Sony PMW-EX1R XDCAM EX Full HD Camcorder PMW-EX1R/3 B&H Photo


Thoughts?
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