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Old February 4th, 2013, 06:37 PM   #16
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Re: Buying my first camera

This has made me think about what I would buy, starting from scratch, to shoot films on a budget. Here goes...

First, I'd get a used Canon 550D (T2i) with the stock 18-55mm zoom lens. The lens is crap, but it's cheap and covers the critical range for narrative shooting. I'd then add an EF 50/1.8, also used. This lens offers a great image for medium closeups and works well in low light, though mechanically, it's not so great for pulling focus. You will want to upgrade these lenses over time, but they are an effective place to start.

Next, I'd buy a cheap, all-in-one audio recorder, like a Zoom H1. Put it on a painter's stick for a cheap boom mic or in a shirt pocket for a single person speaking. You could also hide it behind a plant, candle, or in some other practical location. It won't sound great, but it will sound way better than anything mounted on-camera. You could add a lavalier mic, allowing you to better hide the unit on an actor. Like lenses, you will want to upgrade over time.

Next comes the camera support. You can get a cheap, photo tripod to hold the camera still. If you want to pan and tilt smoothly, expect to spend a fair amount of cash. Consider your intended style. Maybe a minimalist, no-camera-moves style matches your approach. If you want to shoot handheld, you'll want a rig. If you're handy (or have handy friends), you can build something out of aluminum and/or wood that will give you handles and a shoulder or chest mount.

There are tricks. Like using a large bean bag to support the camera for low shots. Get a smooth piece of wood and put wax paper on it. You can now pull the beanbag across the wood as a budget slider. Want a high shot? Borrow a couple ladders and put a 2x4 piece of lumber between them. Drill a hole in the middle with the right sized screw to mount the camera. Want an underwater shot? Put the camera in a fish tank and push the tank a few inches underwater, rather than spending hundreds on a housing. This approach won't cut the mustard on a pro-crew in Hollywood, but if the shot looks good, the audience has no idea what junk might be behind the camera.

You will need to pull focus. You can build a cheap focus handle with a hose-clamp and dowel, or with a large zip-tie. Just attach to your lens' focus ring to provide a long handle. Better to spend $5 than the $500+ that it costs for a proper follow focus outfit.

For lights, you can get cans that are used to hold bulbs in ceilings. Or get some garage utility lights with clamps. Purchase some 300W bulbs. Get some black foil (from a pro video store online). Now you can create some hard lights. Bounce the light off of some foam core or a white sheet and you have a soft light. Stands can be expensive, so borrow ladders.

That gets you in the game for a modest budget with camera, lenses, audio, support, focus, and lights.

Oh, and get an ND8 filter (3 stops) if you shoot in daylight and don't want super-deep focus. A polarizer can also be handy for removing reflections from glass and for removing additional light outdoors.

With that equipment, you can start creating some work and will learn where your kit's weaknesses are. You will also learn your style. That's probably the most important aspect as the ideal tools for one style might be exactly wrong for somebody else's style.

Best of luck!
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Old February 4th, 2013, 07:22 PM   #17
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Re: Buying my first camera

First off, welcome.

What do you want to shoot? how would you rate your skills and knowledge? will this be a 'once and done' purchase, or are you likely to expand your interests, gear, and talent?

With camcorders, you have more startup capabilities, with a DSLR you have wider filmic options with many limitations that can be overcome by throwing money at them.

Honestly, if you go the DSLR route, i suggest a used T2i (i have 3), and budget 500+ pounds for audio and misc gear. if you go camcorder route, i would go with an HPX-170, XH A1, or HVX-200B in that order, used, and you have very good audio and other capabilities all built in.

I went from XH A1's with 35mm adapters to DSLR's; its been an interesting experience and there is definitely a learning curve, but most issues are thoroughly worked out now, Magic Lantern is stable and awesome, and the imagery is great. I still miss my XH A1; that an a CF recorder. I STILL recommend that over the DSLR route to those with limited to no experience. I started off in photography, so i had a solid background in lighting, composition, editing, etc, and a partner who had 15+ years of experience in broadcasting to teach me or let me use his old gear.

Any of the aforementioned cameras is capable of great things; and terrible things, the only consideration is really what are YOU willing to go through, buy, learn, and use? Also consider your editing software and equipment. I started off with a $1,000 editing machine and $2,200 camera and 35mm adapter, some old primes, and $500 worth of cheap lights. I used milk crates as a tripod or light stands. more than once. now i have MUCH, much more. I have thought about what a nice new sports car all my gear could have bought. more than once.

If I were going to do it all again right now, i would probably go with a used T2i, a used 50mm f1.8 and 35mm f1.8, and a (used if possible) Rode VideoMic Pro, throw ML on it, and spend a few weeks experimenting and learning. That wouldnt set you back more than 500 pounds, and you'd have some money left over for sticks, cheap lighting, filters (i would go with a polarizer and 2 or 3 ND's) or software/hardware to edit with.
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Old February 5th, 2013, 05:32 PM   #18
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Re: Buying my first camera

I would suggest renting. That way you can be sure what best suits your needs. Technology changes so quickly it's not worth it. Use a flip cam or an iphone - just light the heck out of it.

Invest the money in a computer for editing/color - that is where you will make your hd footage shine.
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Old February 6th, 2013, 02:36 PM   #19
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Re: Buying my first camera

Renting is good when you have a specific project and the experience to get things done on schedule. It's not so good for learning or conserving your funds for purchases.

In fact, it can be better to borrow money, purchase used, sell the equipment some months later, and then re-pay the debt. On items like lenses, you might even make money if you buy low, sell high.

The problem with renting is that it can cost $100 or more for a single weekend. You can only learn so much in that time. And if you don't finish the project in that weekend, you'll need more rental cash.

What makes sense is to buy an inexpensive camera, like a used T2i, learn it well, then apply that knowledge to a high-end camera and lens kit that you rent for a very short time. (Hint: study the manual cover to cover during the week before the rental so you're not fumbling around when "on the clock".) But again, you need that specific project and good scheduling to make a rental work well.
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Old February 9th, 2013, 07:56 AM   #20
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Re: Buying my first camera

Hi everyone,

After much deliberation and research RE: 'buying me first camera', I like the idea of the Canon T3i. It's a big step to start with a DSLR but I will have to learn and experiment, regardless of what camera it is, and it seems to be a professional camera for a good price, and all footage I've seen looks really great. Along with the lens', tripod and audio equipment, it may be slightly over my budget, but I'm happy to wait a couple more weeks to save more, if it's the right one.
If anybody could just pass their verdict on this choice and give their opinion that would be a great help - you've all been really helpful in getting me to this stage, so I'd value the user's of this website's opinion.

Thanks very much,

Vicki
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Old February 9th, 2013, 09:53 AM   #21
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Re: Buying my first camera

Hi Vicki.
I have for sale a GH2 which may be of interest to you.
Stunning video, some of the sharpest you will see.
No time limit on recording
Complete with 14-42 Lumix lens + Olympus Zuiko 50mm 1.8 and 28mm 2.8 lenses and MFT to OM mount.
The camera is 11 months old and in as new condition, with all accesories, manual, box etc.
You can check out the credentials of this camera on the forum, it is a legendary piece of kit. You are most welcome to test it out to your hearts content. I am on the North Cornwall coast, just over the Devon border, probably about 2 hours from you.
Feel free to contact me, should this be of interest to you.
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Old February 11th, 2013, 04:41 PM   #22
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Re: Buying my first camera

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vicki Helyar View Post
...... and all footage I've seen looks really great. Along with the lens', tripod and audio equipment, it may be slightly over my budget, but I'm happy to wait a couple more weeks to save more, if it's the right one.
There's nothing like zeroing in on the target - a new (or new-to-me) camera. "Slightly over budget" eh? (that's Canadian speak) [we live near the border so I can't help it]

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vicki Helyar View Post
but I'm happy to wait a couple more weeks to save more ... Thanks very much, Vicki
We're always happy to help spend other peoples money. Remember what Cher (of Sonny & Cher fame) said? "Money is meant to be kept in circulation."

Oh, and don't forget to add some storage media to the budget list. Video files eat up a lot of storage.

Just wondering, by any chance did you happen to check if the proposed camera files will work with the editing software?
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Old February 11th, 2013, 04:56 PM   #23
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Re: Buying my first camera

The T3i is a very good choice.

I see that Colin has offered the GH2. Deciding between them really depends on what you will shoot. If you will mainly do people-centered pieces, especially with closeups. then I prefer the T3i. The shallow depth of field achievable with the larger sensor allows one to blur the background and really bring the audience's eyes to the character. On the other hand, if your films will be about places, the GH2 will do better with shots of skylines, bricks, cobblestones, and the like. The deeper focus and finer detail is well suited to landscapes and the like.

The limitation with the Canon DSLRs (aside from the 5D3) is that they alias. Down the road, you could add an anti-aliasing filter (Mosaic Engineering Home), but that would be a budget buster today. Of course, when filming organic objects (like faces) and blurring much of the remaining image, aliasing isn't an issue. But if you do wide shots of cities and closeups of fine lace, aliasing can be a real problem.

No matter what you buy, consider your project and style first, gear second. And remember that you can always sell gear that doesn't suit you. I'm now on my 3rd set of lenses and have recently been considering the sale of one to crossgrade to some other glass. Since I bought used at a good price, I might even make a few dollars on the sale. :)

Anyway, envision your projects - maybe even storyboard them or take cellphone photos to envision what you will do. From that vision, you can best choose your gear.
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Old February 12th, 2013, 08:34 AM   #24
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Re: Buying my first camera

Iím not trying to hijack this thread, but it might be a good place to ask and see what opinions there are of the option of the Canon HF G10? I see these refurbs on sale and I know itís getting pretty long in the tooth so to speak, but how does it stack up in terms of quality to the current crop for a more Ďproísumer camcorder than the rest of the Vixia line from Canon and other manufacturers?

The refurb price on these is pretty hard to ignore when they are available. Iíve got a refurb HF S20 that Iíve come to see the shortcomings of in low light. Itís not a really big deal; Iím not out making art or anything really, but Iíve got my tax return coming in soon and I might consider Ebaying the S20 to offset the already nice price on the G10 possibly.
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Old February 12th, 2013, 04:49 PM   #25
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Re: Buying my first camera

Yeah, it would be a hijack. I'd recommend asking here: Canon XA and VIXIA Series AVCHD Camcorders Forum at DVinfo.net
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Old February 12th, 2013, 05:11 PM   #26
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Re: Buying my first camera

Hi all

Thanks for further comments and suggestions, much appreciated.

The Canon T2i was suggested, but in looking at videos and reviews etc, I felt I wanted to give the T3i a shot, as I've already mentioned, as it seems a great price for something which produces such great shots. However, people do keep saying that it's a big step, with a lot to learn, so I keep re-deliberating!

To respond to certain things mentioned/asked:

Hiring - I'm going to be shooting something which is ongoing - I don't think the hiring would work, as it will be continuous, and much of it will be sporadic and spontaneous, and therefore I feel I need to be in possession of the camera, rather than have it on specific days. Also, wouldn't it be more cost effective to buy, rather than rent (if I'm going to be using it a lot)?
Experience - my experience is very limited, I've used and hired camera's, but never really learnt them PROPERLY, and never owned one before. I do, however, want to rectify that.
Content - First off, I'm going to be shooting an ongoing diary/blog/mockumentary. This will be focussed on people, primarily (rather than lots of scenic shots).
I know this doesn't necessarily need the power of something like the Canon T3i (although it will involve various locations, both indoors and out), but I have various other projects that I want to shoot, the next being a short which I will be entering into festivals, and so therefore would like something lovely and filmic looking.
Editing - I am a beginner, and so therefore am uncertain of which editing system I would need and how this would effect my decision of which camera to buy (if at all?), but my Macbook is entry level and doesn't have a great amount of power, so cannot use Final Cut Pro (which I do have, but can't run successfully on my Mac). When I've edited, previously, I used Corel (previously known as Ulead) on a friends PC, but that's it - have never used another editing program.
Equipment - yes, I will be purchasing all the other gear - lights, sound, tripod, storage. I am new to this also, but want to make my kit complete and learn this side of filming too. Thanks Jon for all your suggestions/advice on this.

I do really like what I've seen of the T3i, so kind of had my heart set on that, but still really want to consider as much as I can before taking the plunge, which I'm going to have to do very soon!

Thanks all and any more comments/suggestions very welcomed.

Vicki
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Old February 12th, 2013, 06:15 PM   #27
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Re: Buying my first camera

The T3i is a great choice. For video, the T2i, T3i, T4i and 7D are all roughly equivalent. The T3i gives you the flip out LCD screen, which can be helpful for low and high shots. And with your people-oriented blog/diary as an anchor, a DSLR is a great choice.

You can use the shallow DOF to blur the background, so it will remove clutter in a typical home location. And since the subject and camera will largely be in a fixed location, you don't have to worry about pulling focus. Just don't move closer and farther much!

With a blog, don't forget about lighting. It cracks me up when people's faces are in the dark and the room is brightly lit. You can bounce a light from a white wall or some foam-core for a nice, soft light. A high light behind the subject highlights hair and provides an outline over the background. A hard light from the side adds a more dramatic look.

Practical lights can be used in the background for good effect. A lamp, candle, or Christmas lights not only light the background, but can add interest.

But since the audience will mainly be looking at a talking head, the most important aspect is the audio. Regardless of equipment, the general rule is that the closer the mic the better. If you can tame echos in the room - possibly by hanging a blanket behind the camera - you can make a bigger difference than buying more expensive equipment.

In fact, if you hang a white duvet behind the camera, it can tame reverberation and can also be used for bouncing your soft light. Double duty! :) Just don't get a hot light too close to it to avoid a fire hazzard.

With the T3i, some attention to lighting, a reasonably close mic, and reduced sound reflections, you can create a very professional result. Simply add talent. :)

Best of luck with your project!
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Old February 13th, 2013, 07:56 AM   #28
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Re: Buying my first camera

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Fairhurst View Post
Yeah, it would be a hijack. I'd recommend asking here: Canon XA and VIXIA Series AVCHD Camcorders Forum at DVinfo.net
Iím not particularly asking how the HF G10 stacks up against the other Canons Ė Iím interjecting it as an option for the OP as a Ďfirst cameraí that seems viable Ė he asked himself about the Vixia lineup.

Thanks for going out of your way to be a dickhead though.
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Old February 13th, 2013, 09:23 AM   #29
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Re: Buying my first camera

Didn't mean to be a jerk. (Hey, I did the work to find a link to the correct forum for the G10.) I thought you were asking about the HF G10 for your own use, rather than proposing it for the OP.

We have an XA10 at work, which is similar to the G10. It's a small sensor cam that is not really cinematic. It would be fine for documentary use. We use it for a master shot at events. That allows us to use DSLRs for the majority of the content, but we have the wide, fixed XA10 shot to cover moments when the DSLR misses focus or has to be restarted due to the 12 minute limit.
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Old February 13th, 2013, 02:31 PM   #30
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Re: Buying my first camera

Vicki - thanks for staying in touch with your thoughts. Franky, I can really relate to your dilema as one who "has been there, done that." Not exactly "that" but close, and kinda started cinematic life with myself painted in a corner from the get-go. My first video camera used *.TOD files. Ever hear of them? Me neither! And neither did my iMovie application.

So, here I sat (about 3 years ago) with a really nice High-Def camcorder (a couple years old that retailed in the $1,400 range) that I couldn't even edit the videos of. Talk about a bummer. After a great deal of searching I found a number of applications that would both work on my MacBook White AND take my TOD files and covert them to something my movie editor (iMovie) would understand.

Lesson learned: make sure your video eco-system will work ahead of time. That's the camera/camcorder + editing application + computer. Since the camcorder was given to me I had money to burn on other things (upgrading computer to MacBook Pro, upgrading to FCPX, etc.) so that was really great.

For Apple applications one can search "[iMovie][Final Cut Pro X] supported cameras" and get a good list of known cameras that are compatible.

When I started with the video experience I also had my dream projects (and still do!). Life is full of compromises so it becomes a real balancing act when making decisions. Especially for a hobbyest there is "Best," "Good," and there is also "good enough for now".

One good thing in your favor, though, is the longer you spend researching this the better your cost-effective decision should be, and, the less expensive the gear should be. The street price for new cameras tend to plumet in price after their release so that's in your favor. The quality of used gear improves as people upgrade to the newer equipment so that's helpful too. And as you look maybe that good-deal-you-couldn't-refuse happens to come along.

I think Mr Fairhurst had some great creative ideas of how to scrimp and make-do in certain areas so you could allocate more assets to other areas (f.e., camera). The waxed-paper trick was a good one I remember. Getting a used tripod cheap and holding off for a true video tripod until later is what I did because panning wasn't a requirement.
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