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Old February 9th, 2011, 05:14 PM   #1
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lower cost AVCHD cam for wideshots to complement the NX5U?

I am beginning to get requests for event videos (for theatre and conference panel work) and two camera coverage: one locked down on a wideshot and the other a roving camera for closeups.

However, short of buying a second NX5U (waiting for business to grow a bit more), I was thinking of using my current NX5U as the roving closeup cam on a Sachtler FSB-4 head...and then thinking of what could be a good locked off WIDESHOT camera that would compliment the NX5U (same AVCHD recording in HD) without shelling out another 4K.

So as I look at alternatives, they are:

HDSLRS...but I think only the Panasonic Lumix GH2 (about $1,500 with kit lens) has the ability to record over one half hour...and fill up your card completely. Most of the other HDSLRs are limited in recording time which would not work for longer duration coverage in a theatrical kind of show.

Sony does make an ultra compact AVCHD camcorder, the HXR-MC50U, for $1,599 retail...Exmor R sensor, 1080 @ 24 Mbps...though all recording modes are 59.94i.

If I recall, wideshots are the true test of a camera's higher resolution...so I think the HDSLR would excel in that kind of locked off wide shot. So I am wondering if I would be able to successfully intercut wide shot footage from the Panasonic Lumix GH2 while shooting my closeups with the NX5U.

Sony has their new "alpha" range of HDSLRs...but record times I believe are 30 minutes or less.

I'm sure there will be a diversity of opinion about this...but the central theme here is to look for a lower cost (under $1,500) viable second camera capable of longer record times (say a one hour and 15 minute first act of a play) that could be dedicated to wider shots...and still cut well with the NX5U (shooting 1080 30p or 60i).

I look forward to hearing your thoughts...

Thanks, John
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Old February 9th, 2011, 06:09 PM   #2
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Hello John,

I own two NX5U and I also use a Sony HDR-CX550. That sure does the trick as an extra camera, it shoots the AVCHD format then the NX5U and you can use the internal hard drive or a SDHC card.

I am very please with the image, in some instances it makes better shot than the NX5U. As per the price, it would be under 1,500$.

Unless, I am wrong you can only use 1080 60i with the HDR-CX550. However, this is not the main camera making it a good fit.

Good luck!
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Old February 10th, 2011, 07:54 AM   #3
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I agree the CX550 and the XR550 are very good choices especially considering you are staying within sony's line of avchd cams.

There are also some other options which may be better due to newer recording formats such as the new Panasonic HDC-TM700 which shoots 1080p 60p allowing you to get some amazing slow motions shots without having to sacrifice resolution. Another benefit the TM700 has over the CX550 and the XR550 or any other similar prosumer contender for that matter is the price! 749$!!! This is currently the best choice hands down.

Although i love my DSLR as it gets Stunning Depth of Field shots as well as shoots at 50mbps. The clip durations of 12min dont work very well with live events if you want to just leave it on a tripod unattended. I have done many successful event shoots with 2 DSLR's and 1 NX5U being the Wide Locked off Shot. The trick is to leave the NX unattended as i have the FMU128gb drive so it can sit there forever (11 Hours). My partner and I would then use the 2 DSLR's to do the roving closeups and then intercut those clips seamlessly with the NX wide shots. Then once the 12min clip durations end on the DSLR, you wait 5 seconds and hit record again. Worse comes to worse you only miss those 5-10 seconds of the event. A Solution to this would be to plan accordingly with your partner so that he was recording during that 5-10 seconds so your covered from all angles.

Considering that your only looking for a B camera which eventually as you said, will turn into a C camera. Save your money and get something under 1000$ like the TM700 until you pick up your 2nd NX5U. I do suggest a DSLR however because it will make your clients much more happy as it looks very similar to film. The GH2 would be a great choise or simply spring for the new T3i by Canon that was just released (800$). Whatever you decide, you have many options that will work well. Good luck!

Panasonic HDC-TM700 High Definition Camcorder HDC-TM700K B&H
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Old February 10th, 2011, 08:23 AM   #4
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Also, be aware that the new 2011 Panasonic cams will be available in the next 2-3 weeks. After reading a recent Camcorderinfo review of the (new) Canon HFG-10 and it's comparison section with the TM700, I've just ordered a Panasonic TM900 (for £775 here in the UK) and the (very reputable) dealer tells me they will arrive on 26th Feb at his shop.

It's basically the same as the much acclaimed TM700 but has a bigger and better resolution LCD screen and a few tweaks to the image processing etc.

http://panasonic.net/avc/camcorder/hd/900_800_series/

It will shoot about 35mm FOV on the widest setting (you can buy a relatively inexpensive wide angle adapter if that's not enough). It's also 3D capable too (with a silly looking optional attachment) but I don't care about that! With it's on-board memory (32GB) and all the 16GB SDHC cards I already own it'll provide me with 8 hours of razor sharp 1080p50 footage as a B or C cam, crash cam etc. should I ever need it (along with many other benefits like a small, always have it with you cam, holiday cam), and all for the price of one decent lens for my Canon 7D.

My Sony EX3 and Canon 7D (and all it's lenses) are superb kits but I don't carry them everywhere...

So if you go the Panasonic route make sure you get a (even better) deal on a 2010 model or wait for the new ones to hit!

EDIT - Just got this e-mail from my UK supplier:

"Good news! We have had further updates. The Panasonic TM900 have already been dispatched to us and it will be with you Tuesday 15th February."
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Last edited by Andy Wilkinson; February 10th, 2011 at 09:52 AM. Reason: Update delivery info
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Old February 10th, 2011, 12:19 PM   #5
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Waiting for this to be released next month:
Sony HDR-CX560V HD Flash Memory Camcorder HDR-CX560V B&H Photo
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Old February 10th, 2011, 02:31 PM   #6
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I suggest skipping the new CX560 and looking instead at the CX700. If I recall correctly, the CX560 will be viewscreen only --- no viewfinder. Not a problem when shooting stage shows indoors but can be a big problem when you need to shoot in very bright lighting, particularly outdoors.

I also would suggest skipping the MC50 as it is nothing more than a CX550 dressed up with a lens hood and a proprietary external shotgun mike. Not worth the $400 price difference, in my opinion, at least for a second cam to pair with your NX5.

If you want progressive recording options, I would look at the new CX700. It is expected to be $1299. It is basically a CX550 with the addition of 1080p and 24p capabilities, zebra stripes, "expanded focus" and peaking (for better manual exposure and focus settings), and more internal flash memory (96 gb versus 64 gb for the CX550), but has a slightly smaller viewscreen (3" on the CX700 versus 3.5" on the CX550).

Like Daniel, I also use a pair of CX550 cams with my NX5 (and an FX1000) for theater and dance video. They match very well. Sony's default settings for the CX550 are a bit too bright and you will likely find that you will want to dial down the AE settings. I use -2. Some folks go down to -4.

I find that CX footage rarely requires color adjustments to match the other cams in editing. Because much music and dance can be high-motion/high-contrast, I have generally shot in 1080i, and never found it a problem. The CX 550 cams do not do progressive modes.

If you really want to 1080/60p or 24p modes in you B cam, you've got a couple of choices. One is the new CX700 listed above and the other is the older but well-thought of Panasonic TM700. The TM700 is less expensive (currently $799 US, I believe).

As I recall, opinions seem divided on whether TM700's 1080p (which is recorded as 28Mbps Mpg) is perceptibly better than its 1080i 24 Mbps AVHCD. Do note that the 1080p mode produces much larger files which cuts recording time by about half. Since the TM 700 only has 32 gb of onboard memory, the resulting limited recording time may be inconvenient for running in 1080p mode as an unattended b cam for video of stage production.

The CX550v has twice the on-board flash memory capacity (64 gb) and the CX700 will have three times the capacity (96gb).

Both the CX550/700 and the TM700 go very wide when zoomed to full wide. They will both be much like the NX5 in that respect. The CX550 does a 10x optical zoom, the TM700 goes a skoonch longer to 12x. Not so great for being further back in a large venue. But, very useful for getting wide views and putting the cameras closer to the stage or performance area.

Like the NX5, the CX550/700 have Sony's enhanced "active steady shot." This pretty amazing for hand-held shooting but unimportant when you are running the small cams as locked-down "b" cams. (Actually, you should shut it off when running locked down unless the camera is next to loudspeaker or placed on a bouncy floor that dancers will shake.)

Some folks think the TM700 goes deeper into low light than the CX550, and some think the other way around. I do not have experience with the TM700 to say one way or the other. It seems unlikely that there would be much difference with sensors as small as these are. What I do know is that the CX550 (in low light mode) will go nearly as deep as the NX5 and tends to exhibit less video noise down at the bottom end of the light level. (Video noise -- pixel twitter and grain -- is endemic to low light shooting.) I've also found that the autofocus abilities of the CX550 are faster and sometimes more accurate in low light than the those of my NX5. But do note that running the NX5 manually --- as it was designed for such conditions --- can take care of those problems.

I have not tried matching TM700 footage with NX5 footage, so I cannot comment on how easily its footage (1080p or 1080i) will match up with the 1080i from the NX5. Your NX5 has a lot of adjustments, so you could, in theory, develop matching pre-sets to get similar color balance.

The CX550v is still a pretty good value. Last time I checked, B&H was supplying FV100 batteries with the CX550v, which would be $100 if purchased separately. (That makes the CX550 effectively about $200 more than a TM700). I got some "100" batteries with my CX550s and have never run out of battery power even when running the cams for hours and hours. (e.g., shooting two back-to-back performances of a nearly two-hour-long show and also mid-day to evening weddings.)

I know next nothing about the new Panasonic TM900 except that I believe that there will be an option to add a 3D splitter lens so you can record 3d if you wanted to do so. The price of £775 ($1275 US??) seems pretty close to that of the Sony CX700. I thought somebody (B&H??) was going to be offering them for $1099 (US$).
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Old February 10th, 2011, 11:18 PM   #7
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Thanks for the advice

Very helpful information and I appreciate the level of detail in all your posts. Between the current model cameras and the newer ones about to emerge, there seem to be some plentiful lower-cost options for a "second camera" dedicated to wideshots. I'm printing out a hard copy of all your responses so I can better do my homework.

This is exactly why these forums can be such an asset...helpful not only to me, but many others as well. Thanks again for the excellent detailed responses! I'll update this this thread again after I make a decision in the weeks ahead.

Thanks,

John
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Old February 10th, 2011, 11:29 PM   #8
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You're welcome! Let us know what you end up going for and how it works out.
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Old February 11th, 2011, 05:45 AM   #9
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Thanks Jay...but for me, the small cam is only used for my wedding work...and specifically it is used during the ceremony as the 4th cam and where it is typically hidden....'
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Old February 11th, 2011, 01:23 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark A. Foley View Post
Waiting for this to be released next month:
Sony HDR-CX560V HD Flash Memory Camcorder HDR-CX560V B&H Photo
Hey Mark, did you wind up getting an NX5U?
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Old February 11th, 2011, 01:27 PM   #11
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I got three Mike...
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Old February 11th, 2011, 03:37 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark A. Foley View Post
Thanks Jay...but for me, the small cam is only used for my wedding work...and specifically it is used during the ceremony as the 4th cam and where it is typically hidden....'
Good point.

There have been a several times when I've stashed my tiny CX550 cams down front in stage shoots and weddings. I tape over the viewfinders to hide the little dot of light that calls attention to them. It is like hiding tally lights only the viewfinder makes a bigger dot. (In fact, I'll be doing this when shooting a dance recital tomorrow evening.)

Still, I've found the CX550 such nice little cameras that I almost automatically grab one to stash in a bag or backpack. For those kinds of uses, it is nice to have the viewfinder.

Somebody (Jim Stamos, I think) mentioned a not-terribly expensive "loupe" by Hoodman. It clips over the view screen and more-or-less converts it to a viewfinder. Seems a little cumbersome for those times when you need to access the touch-screen menu settings but helpful for when you are in really bright light and having a hard time with the viewscreen.
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Old March 2nd, 2011, 10:40 AM   #13
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Re: lower cost AVCHD cam for wideshots to complement the NX5U?

As I continue my research into an under $1,500 AVCHD camera to complement my NX5U, some users mentioned the Sony CX550 and others in that same model range. I downloaded the CX550 manual and as far as I can tell, correct me if I am wrong, that VIDEO GAIN IS AUTO ALL THE TIME...and the only manual controls you have control over are:

Iris, shutter, AE shift, WB shift...

The manual mentions "Exposure" but this is a touchscreen item...for example, you go to the area on the LCD that you want to expose for, touch it, the camera readjusts...but it doesn't say whether it's affecting the video gain or the iris or the shutter.

So I'm a bit in the dark as to whether this is FULLY MANUAL, allowing me to cap the video gain, while adjusting the iris, shutter, etc.

I obviously don't want the GAIN going up on me in low light situations.

I did do a test with a friend's Panasonic GH2 DLSLR...whose video picture is quite stunning...and it appears that I would have full manual control with it.

My usage of the camera is for locked off unmanned wideshots for event video to be intercut with the NX5U for closer in coverage.

If any one can cast light on whether the Sony CX model line gives you control over video gain (like the NX5U does), that would be very helpful. If I find that it doesn't, that the video gain is auto all the time and readjusts to the manual settings of the iris, shutter, etc., that would probably tilt me away from using it.

Thanks,

John
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Old March 2nd, 2011, 01:40 PM   #14
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Re: lower cost AVCHD cam for wideshots to complement the NX5U?

I have a CX550 and a TM700 and neither of them allow the gain to be manually contolled. The Sony does not even show the gain setting in record mode, you can only see it on playback. It will adjust the gain as you manually set the iris. The Panasonic shows the gain setting for manual iris, and once the iris is fully open it will start to increase the gain - this is about the limit to your control over gain on this camera.

The Sony is noticeably noisier in low light - the Panasonic's three chips seem to be able to control noise much better, except when light levels get really low in auto mode and it pulls out all the stops to get an image.

I use mine as remote cams for stage work so I need them to fend for themselves in full auto mode or in one of the scene modes. The Sony copes well with stage lighting and gives acceptable colour balance and rarely burns out highlights if you drop the AE shift back a bit. The Panasonic's auto WB gets confused sometimes and needs to be manually pre-set, but in spotlight mode it handles high contrast lighting extremely well without burning out faces.
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Old March 2nd, 2011, 06:00 PM   #15
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Re: lower cost AVCHD cam for wideshots to complement the NX5U?

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Vasey View Post
I downloaded the CX550 manual and as far as I can tell, correct me if I am wrong, that VIDEO GAIN IS AUTO ALL THE TIME...and the only manual controls you have control over are:

Iris, shutter, AE shift, WB shift...

The manual mentions "Exposure" but this is a touchscreen item...for example, you go to the area on the LCD that you want to expose for, touch it, the camera readjusts...but it doesn't say whether it's affecting the video gain or the iris or the shutter.
The front dial can control: Focus, Exposure, Iris, Shutter Speed, AE Shift, and WB Shift.

However, you can only control one of the following at once: Exposure, Iris, or Shutter Speed. So you can control one of those while still setting focus, WB shift, and AE shift. If it's dark I usually run mine at 1/30 shutter speed with low lux off. Low Lux mode is 24dB and 1/30 at the brightest, with low lux off it'll only go to 18dB. If it's manned during a stage show it's at 1/30th and AE shift is used.
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