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The TOTEM Poll: Totally Off Topic, Everything Media
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Old August 22nd, 2008, 07:09 PM   #1
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Why are pro cameras so big?

Given the modern "prosumer" cams have (arguably) closed the quality gap with the professional gear, I don't understand the size difference between what I have (XH A1) and the stuff that the news guys drag around.

I know that their larger sensors require more internal space and the tapes are larger, and they have functions that my Canon does not. But still... with all the places that everyone wants to take video cameras, pros and amatures alike, why are many of the pro cameras the size of a '59 Borgward?

Kinda makes me go, "hmmmmm".
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Old August 22nd, 2008, 07:52 PM   #2
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A shoulder mounted camera is far more stable than a handheld camera. Most news cameramen are already accustomed to carrying a large camera that they can rest on their shoulder. While the cameras could retain their functionality and be smaller, the large size is what people are used to. Another reason is the modular-ness of the large cameras. The XH A1 doesn't have interchangeable lenses, and you can only use a certain battery. ENG cameras have standard lens mounts, and Anton-Bauer battery plates come standard or can be retrofitted. Also, try mounting a light, A/B battery pack, and a wireless receiver or two on a handheld camera. Not very comfortable to hold. In certain situations a handheld camera is an advantage, but large ENG cameras still have their place in the field.
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Old August 22nd, 2008, 08:45 PM   #3
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As a rule, pro shoulder-mounted cameras have numerous dials and switches that take up space, not to mention 26-pin camera cable ports, and large sensors with large prism blocks & lens mounts to match.

A prosumer camera has most if not all the same controls, but they are buried in menus with just a couple controls. The pro camera will have dedicated switches for color bars, for 3 different white balances, for gain, dials for audio inputs, monitor output level... the list goes on, but most importantly, all these functions can be easily touched while shooting without having to go into menus.
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Old August 22nd, 2008, 09:46 PM   #4
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Interesting... Makes sense about the add-ons. I see how I could quickly overload the A1 with all that.

One would think that switches and connections would not necessitate such bulk, but I'm not an engineer and don't understand all that goes on under the bonnet. The Canon XL is shoulder mounted, but reasonably small. I'm sure a lot of the design goes to ergonomics. Shooters obviously don't want the balance wrong or switches tucked into inconvenient places. Makes sense.

Thanks for the info.
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Old August 23rd, 2008, 09:00 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Tripp Woelfel View Post
Interesting... Makes sense about the add-ons. I see how I could quickly overload the A1 with all that.

One would think that switches and connections would not necessitate such bulk, but I'm not an engineer and don't understand all that goes on under the bonnet. The Canon XL is shoulder mounted, but reasonably small. I'm sure a lot of the design goes to ergonomics. Shooters obviously don't want the balance wrong or switches tucked into inconvenient places. Makes sense.
Tripp, the camera designs are more or less standardized at that level between the various manufacturers. The critical switches have a standard location just as the controls on your car do.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the tape cartridge and transport mechanism are much larger than for a mini-dv cassette. Part of the reason for the high compression of mini-dv and dvcam is that the data rate has to be low enough to get reliably recorded on a small tape form factor.

The larger cameras are also built much sturdier because they have to stand up to daily use and abuse. Some news outlets are trying to use cameras such as the HVX200 and XDCAM EX. While the image quality is more than adequate, these cameras just don't hold up to the rigors of daily ENG use. This is already proving itself with some of those stations who adopted the HVX200. I suspect the same will also hold true of the EX cameras in that type of environment.

When you pick up a prosumer camera vs. an all out professional one, the difference in build quality is immediate. Even the full size S270 camera feels 'plasticky' compared to my F350.

None of what I'm saying is meant to knock the lesser priced cameras, just to point out that there really is a difference and the price reflects that.

-gb-
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Old August 23rd, 2008, 12:51 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Tripp Woelfel View Post
Interesting... Makes sense about the add-ons. I see how I could quickly overload the A1 with all that.

One would think that switches and connections would not necessitate such bulk, but I'm not an engineer and don't understand all that goes on under the bonnet. The Canon XL is shoulder mounted, but reasonably small. I'm sure a lot of the design goes to ergonomics. Shooters obviously don't want the balance wrong or switches tucked into inconvenient places. Makes sense.

Thanks for the info.
Meaning no disrespect but the XL series (as well as the Sony EX3) are FAR from "shoulder mounted". They are shoulder LEANING and far from ideal for shouldered shooting, in the opinion of this broadcast shooter. Once again, no disrespect, just a shared opinion.
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Old August 24th, 2008, 08:01 PM   #7
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Yeah, an XL on your shoulder is not very comfortable, and you wouldn't want to do an all day shoot like that.
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Old August 25th, 2008, 06:06 PM   #8
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Better glass, better build and bigger CCDs. There is a reason all TV, news and feature films are shot on "big" cameras. Bigger camera=bigger image.
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Old August 25th, 2008, 06:17 PM   #9
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The current clear difference is CCDs. Prosumers are moving to rolling shutter CMOSes and only recently did a rolling shutter HDV ENG camera roll around. It will take quite a while before CMOS is accepted in ENG cams, but only if the rolling shutter is resolved and a global CMOS shutter is used would better progress be made.
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