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Old November 25th, 2013, 12:42 AM   #1
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Help choosing a DSLR for video - is there a comprehensive guide?

As many videographers have done it recently, I'm thinking about purchasing a digital SLR to be used both for photography and video.

But with all the available options, I am really confused. I am no stranger to photography, although not on a professional level, and know just enough about professional video gear to be dangerous, as they say...

The most tempting option is Canon EF glass and a full frame DSLR body, plus the option to use the same lenses on a Canon dedicated video body. But I am reading that focus is problematic on on the 5D/6D, and better on the 7D, even better on the new 70D... and that brings me in the EF-S lens world, and lost is the compatibility with a video body, plus the smaller sensor size is not so attractive. Choices are not always good... or at least not easy...

Then there is the Nikon product line, and I am reading good things about Panasonic as well - micro four thirds, GH3 and AF100 etc.

So where should I turn? I know, the first reply to this question is going to sound something like "tell me what you need this for and I'll tell you what to buy" - well, if I knew what I need it for, I would have no trouble picking out the right gear... there is quite a bit of info on that. I need a good photo camera for professional photo work but not in the Hasselblad league, and I see more and more work opportunities where I could make some money if I had a video capable DSLR.

What I am specifically looking for is a comprehensive guide to DSLRs in general and video capable DSLRs in particular. I would like to understand the basics before making a bad/expensive decision for the long run. This forum is a wealth of information but digging out the million bits and pieces wears me out.

Any help directing me to the right source of information appreciated.
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Old November 25th, 2013, 01:57 AM   #2
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Re: Help choosing a DSLR for video - is there a comprehensive guide?

"if I knew what I need it for, I would have no trouble picking out the right gear.."

You probably don't want to hear this, but if you don't have a clear picture of what your needs are, then it's going to be quite difficult to narrow down what is best for you. So you might ask yourself general questions such as:
1. Will you will shoot ENG, Event, or Documentary style where ergonomics and flexibility are more important than the resulting image quality, then you would be pulled towards the more dedicated smaller sensor video camera direction. If you will be shooting under more controlled situations and desire that cinematic look then a dslr or other camera with a larger sensor and better codecs will be more suitable.
And then their would be choices which try to serve both functions.

2. What is my budget and what as a novice should I invest in while I learn the craft? Should I buy a cheaper B-camera now, and get a better A-cam later when I have more experience?

3. Which family of lenses would be most useful in the long run? Many photographers consider the
camera bodies to be somewhat transient, while their lenses are an investment that continues to be used by updated cameras that make the current technology somewhat obsolescent. That scenario has been going on for many decades but it may have its own demise as radically new lens technologies could come forth to match revolutionary new sensors, etc.

Lots of other considerations of course, but that's a start.
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Old November 25th, 2013, 03:17 AM   #3
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Re: Help choosing a DSLR for video - is there a comprehensive guide?

Something to really consider is lens choice as that is a long term investment, the camera bodies is something you would change every few years but not your lenses, they can last a lifetime, especially lenses that don't communicate with the body, electronics can fail but if you have a pure mechanical lens with manual focus and a separate manual iris ring it will fit on about any type of camera out there with an adapter.

I have invested into native m4/3 lenses mainly because they are so small and light which makes moving around much easier, they do have auto focus and/or stabilization and even though I know electronics can fail (my wife recently had a expensive canon lens that stopped communicating with the body) I consider them as a good investment since even quality glass is half or 1/3 of the prize compared to Canon glass. So in my case budget is also a deciding factor as I can get a full production kit for less then half the price then what I have to pay for a Canon alternative plus I can fit twice as much gear in the same size bag.

I would start with making a list of what you find important the camera must be able to do and that will help narrow your choices down to the right camera.
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Old November 25th, 2013, 04:51 AM   #4
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Re: Help choosing a DSLR for video - is there a comprehensive guide?

Ervin - your post is a very good one. A lot of people, I'm sure, have the same/similar decision problems, myself included. In fact, I've been going through this decision process too so here is my take.

Anybody who has been around cameras for awhile knows that camera body equipment is a real moving target. What one buys today becomes superseded in six months. Pretty much everything else, on the other hand, has varying degrees of lifetime usability staying power.

In my case I was very fortunate with the first camera as it was free. It was a JVC prosumer full HD model so this was a really good starter. It came without a battery charger and a few days later I had my second videocamera. Wound up buying a cheap used one because it used the same charger and was cheaper than buying a replacement charger. When it rains it pours.

Since then I've spent a few thousand on various and sundry kit items: lights, monopod, preamp (convert mini to XLR), mics, Glidecam, reflectors, computer gear, software, etc. But, as I gain experience I've still been looking for that next camera, however, in the meantime I've now got two cameras to play with.

Stephen - You really hit the nail on the head with your decision process, I liked it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen Brenner View Post
"if I knew what I need it for, I would have no trouble picking out the right gear.."

2. What is my budget and what as a novice should I invest in while I learn the craft? Should I buy a cheaper B-camera now, and get a better A-cam later when I have more experience?
Of the three options, I'd spring for Number 2. Why? Because video cameras are constantly changing and by the time you get one then figure out how all the settings and adjustments work they've come out with a newer model, with more and better features, at the same price you paid for the one you got. A B-camera is nice to have if for no other reason than to have as a backup.

Solution: Get what you can today, even used, play with it while you find out what you really want to do, then, when you're a little more sure what area you want to go into, start collecting items for your 'ultimate' system (which might be temporary too).

Noa's m4/3 lens solution is a good one too. Here is a link to a Micro 4/3 Lenses Chart
The Complete Micro 4/3 Lens List

Last edited by John Nantz; November 25th, 2013 at 10:09 AM. Reason: deleted duplicate paragraph
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Old November 25th, 2013, 07:18 AM   #5
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Re: Help choosing a DSLR for video - is there a comprehensive guide?

My experience is with Canon so it's based entirely on that.

Get a 70D.

Live autofocus during video means that, for typical conditions, I recommend it over anything. It also has a function to keep filming meaning the 12 minute time limit isn't as big a deal (it creates multiple files). It's modest price point means it's easy to get another camera or a good lens or two and still spend the same as buying a 5dMark iii.

A full frame like the 5d mark ii or iii has better low light performance (1 to 2 stops better) AND can be pushed further on ISO, especially the mark iii. So if you think you'll be working in the dark, get a full frame. IF budget is an issue, a gently used mark 2 can be had for $1000-$1200. If you want the best DSLR, get the mark 3. Magic Lantern will fix most of the limitations on these cameras for you.
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Old November 25th, 2013, 08:00 AM   #6
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Re: Help choosing a DSLR for video - is there a comprehensive guide?

Quote:
So where should I turn? I know, the first reply to this question is going to sound something like "tell me what you need this for and I'll tell you what to buy" - well, if I knew what I need it for, I would have no trouble picking out the right gear...
This actually you need to know because otherwise you"ll never be able to make a good decision, just a few questions that come to mind:

Is good low light performance important for you, do you need very high iso, low noise performance?
Is it important that if you buy a lens it can be used on any other type of camera (panasonic, canon, sony)?
What's your budget?
Will you be filming a lot handheld?
Do you plan to shoot a lot handheld with fast stabilized prime lenses?
Do you find a extreme shallow dof important?
Do you want a very sharp image?
Do you want a moire free image?
Do you want a full manual camera or does it need to have good auto features as well?
Does the camera need to have a ND filer or do you plan to screw on one on the lens?
Does your work allow to risk using a hack on the camera to expand it's possibilities?
What type of productions are you planning to shoot?
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Old November 25th, 2013, 09:21 AM   #7
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Re: Help choosing a DSLR for video - is there a comprehensive guide?

If you need it today - 5D mark3 my friend, no second thought;
and with the ability to shoot raw it just became absolutely unbeatable deal in the history of moving pictures capturing devices.
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Old November 25th, 2013, 08:45 PM   #8
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Re: Help choosing a DSLR for video - is there a comprehensive guide?

You know, the conventional wisdom seems to be that if you can afford a full-frame dSLR it is the obvious choice.

Having worked with a 60D for a year now, and looking at the new-gen AF features of the 70D, I'm not so sure. (IF you need it, the 70D's AF is a whole new ball game...)

I can easily afford good EF-S crop-sensor glass at f2.8. The Canon EF-S 17-55mm alone is a reason to consider crop-sensor! Pair it with a Tokina f2.8 11-16mm, and.... then you've got to decide if you need longer than 55, (equiv. 88mm). For me the answer was yes, I ended up with a Sigma f2.8 50-150 OS, I needed the tighter head shots at reasonable working distances.

My point here is that I'm not involved in a mindless quest for the ultimate shallow DoF, nor am I shooting "Cinematography" style projects. They are more "Videography". I suspect that's true for many people. These EF-S lenses are significantly smaller and lighter than their full-frame counterparts, not to mention more affordable.

A student of mine bought a 7D and we were comparing lens choices; he went with the excellent Canon f4L 28-105mm as his first lens. For me, 28mm (45mm equiv) is not wide enough, I'm mostly shooting interiors. Him, not so much, f4 is reasonably fast for an exteriors lens, and he needed the reach.

It's hard to say for anybody else when good enough is good enough. For me, I like the more compact rig, and the affordability and quality of the lenses with Canon crop-sensor. And wide-open 2.8 on a crop sensor is shallow enough focus for me.

BTW, the Canon C100 and C300 accept EF-S lenses without vignetting or whatever, the sensors are NOT full-frame. My fave 17-55 looks real good on a C100!

All the points in posts above are good, don't get me wrong. I'm just saying that most people looking at dSLR purchases are getting advised to value cinematography performance, and those are not the only values we can think about. Anybody who has a serious problem with my contrarianism; please send me a 5Dm3 and some lenses and I'll do some testing ;-) Lengthy, lengthy testing.

BTW, I've used the 5Dm2 over the same year I've owned the 60D, and it's a great camera. I want one of everything, really...
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Old November 25th, 2013, 09:11 PM   #9
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Re: Help choosing a DSLR for video - is there a comprehensive guide?

I'm having a hard time understanding why people aren't freaking out about how revolutionary the 70D is. I don't care what you are currently shooting, you owe it to yourself to try a 70D for a couple days.

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Old November 25th, 2013, 10:02 PM   #10
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Re: Help choosing a DSLR for video - is there a comprehensive guide?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Ohlemann View Post
I'm having a hard time understanding why people aren't freaking out about how revolutionary the 70D is. I don't care what you are currently shooting, you owe it to yourself to try a 70D for a couple days.
Exactly, Bob. Everyone should go watch the video in the other thread showing what it can do. Two major issues with DSLR video is focus and exposure. The 70D solved the focus issue. Magic Lantern's scopes on your screen solve exposure.
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Old November 26th, 2013, 03:39 AM   #11
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Re: Help choosing a DSLR for video - is there a comprehensive guide?

If I was about to get into DSLRs at this moment for photos and video, and if I had the cash, I would probably get a 5d mkiii (with Magic Lantern) and a 70d. For lenses, a 24-105 and a 70-200 2.8 IS and a few fast primes, a set of ND filters, for audio a zoom H4n and two Rode video mic pros. A decent monopod and good tripod with fluid heads that have matching QR plates and you have a really versatile kit that fits in one backpack.
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Old November 26th, 2013, 01:45 PM   #12
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Re: Help choosing a DSLR for video - is there a comprehensive guide?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary Nattrass View Post
...I see so much material that is badly shot and out of focus these days just because people have this quest for cinematic imagery out of context with the delivery platform and without the discipline required for cinematic workflow.

You can buy any camera you wish but at the end of the day it is how you use it that matters!

(Quoted from this thread: ENG Cameras for Cinematography)
Gary's words on the quest for cinematic imagery sum it up for me.

Sometimes we are creating cinematic imagery for cinematic purposes.
Sometimes we are creating cinematic imagery to enrich productions that aren't in cinematic distributions.
Sometimes we are hacking at techniques to use cinematic-capable equipment when cinematic imagery isn't needed, and getting frustrated in the process.
Sometimes a 2/3" or 1/2" sensor on a camera that can record good sync sound is really the best choice.
Sometimes a "crossover" camcorder like the C100 or FS100 or etc. is the sweet spot between many of these uses... but a very poor choice for some!

The original poster has a dilemma... eventually you weigh the factors as best you can and roll the dice!

For pro use, the question is always "will I make my money with this cam before it goes obsolete?"
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Old November 26th, 2013, 02:56 PM   #13
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Re: Help choosing a DSLR for video - is there a comprehensive guide?

Ervin's original post said, in part:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ervin Farkas View Post
As many videographers have done it recently, I'm thinking about purchasing a digital SLR to be used both for photography and video.

But with all the available options, I am really confused. I am no stranger to photography, although not on a professional level, and know just enough about professional video gear to be dangerous, as they say...

What I am specifically looking for is a comprehensive guide to DSLRs in general and video capable DSLRs in particular. I would like to understand the basics before making a bad/expensive decision for the long run….

Any help directing me to the right source of information appreciated.
And Seth's post said in part "… The original poster has a dilemma... eventually you weigh the factors as best you can and roll the dice!"

I think what Ervin wants is a resource that lists the various video capable DSLRs and provides the good and bad about what they are for.

As an example for camera comparisons perhaps something along the lines of this one that compares m4/3 Native Lenses: SOUNDIMAGEPLUS: m4/3 Native Lenses - Part 1
This web page has a discussion about various camera lenses, but the question is, "is there something like this with regard to the camera?" (those are my quotes for what I think what Ervin is looking for)

The problem with cameras, though, is they are a real moving target. By the time someone writes something about what one is good, or not good, for, there is a new model out. So what Ervin wants is probably either a web page somewhere or perhaps something like one of those quarterly-type speciality "magazines" that cover photography and video.

At least I *think* so.
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Old November 26th, 2013, 04:05 PM   #14
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Re: Help choosing a DSLR for video - is there a comprehensive guide?

For usability, portability, and value, the GH2&3 (and AF100) are difficult to beat. No recording time limits, 1080p60, live built-in EVF's, better in-camera pre-amps, and double the depth of field of full frame (both a positive and a negative), crop mode on the GH's, I could go on. Add an appropriate SpeedBooster adapter if the m43 crop bothers you and you'd rather have a "Super 35" aesthetic.

For compatibility with a greater majority of other shooters, a Canon 5D3 or 70D. Seemingly everybody owns a Canon DSLR. Bigger, heavier, more expensive, alias & moire, 70D has great AF but lacks a headphone jack, 5D3 can yield a different look with its full frameness and is more light sensitive, and they're flat out better stills camera. I rent a 5D3 body if a shoot calls for it, but I'm not inclined to own one.

For ultimate newness, Sony's A7/A7R bodies offer a full-frame sensor without the mirror (and weight). Use any other system's full-frame (or APS) glass via the plethora of inexpensive (to very expensive) E-mount adapters. 1080p60, great built-in EVF, offers APS-crop if you need the extra reach or focus depth, etc etc... haven't seen many truly pro video samples with this camera yet, but its spec sheet checks an awful lot of boxes.
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Old January 10th, 2014, 09:59 AM   #15
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Re: Help choosing a DSLR for video - is there a comprehensive guide?

I'd like to take a minute to thank everyone who chimed in - this is to close the thread by letting you know that I am now the happy owner of a Canon 6D.

As stated in the original post, I wanted the best possible balance between a professional STILL and VIDEO camera. While some of the options suggested above make more sense for video, most posters disregarded my need for still photography. Out of respect for this website, I will not mention other sites, but in the end my research has provided quite a bit of information on the subject. "Google is your friend" as they say... all that info, plus the excellent posts here was of great help.

So I went for a full frame body, with the latest Canon processor which means good low light capability. I know the 5D3 is superior in that it has the moire and aliasing issues solved, but I promise I won't shoot brick walls or telephone poles/wires (not to mention that the 5D3 is out of my budget). In real life those issues can be mitigated quite well.

Also, not negligible in my decision was the fact that our trusted sponsor B&H had the 6D in a kit with the 24-105mm L lens and a few other goodies over $400 off regular price.

Once again, thanks for all your help! Knowledge IS indeed power...
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