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Wedding / Event Videography Techniques
Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old May 3rd, 2005, 01:33 PM   #1
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Budding wedding amateur getting more serious...

Hello all,

You can't imagine how much I have learned from reading these forums. I'm looking forward to the day I have enough experience to actually contribute answers instead of questions!

I'm sorry to even bring this question to the board because there are so many of the "which camera should I buy" topics. But, I'm a bit lost here and could really use some pro advice. I'm torn between the VX-2100, PD-170 and the DVX-100A. I've been renting the VX-2000 for my wedding work so far, and I like it, but it feels a bit too small. I've held and briefly used a DVX-100A, and it felt so much better handholding, and I *love* the focus ring. I like the Panny a lot, but I really think I'm leaning toward the gadgets and 'coolness factor' and not choosing what might be best for wedding videography.

As far as the Sony's, I know they are better in low-light than the Pana, which is definitely a high priority. I'm just personally not a Sony fan when it comes to their other electronic products, but if they are the best choice for wedding videography, then that's what I'll buy. I've heard from some to get the PD-170, but others say that it's not worth the extra money for just XLR inputs. I'm ok with getting the 2100, but I was hoping for a bigger camera, and if the 170 feels like the 100A, then I would like the feel of it better I'm sure. Plus, with the $300 rebate on the 170, that brings the price closer to the 2100. But, and there's always a 'but', if I bought the 2100, I could afford even more equipment to support and expand it. My total budget right now is $4000, and I already have a great wireless mic system. So, my accessories budget would be mostly extra batteries and a case.

What do you think?

Thanks much!

Dan

(brief history: I've been a video enthusaist for 3 years, playing with iMovie for a while, then upgrading to FCE, then finally FCP. I started a year ago shooting concerts, events and celebrations at my church once per month running camera 3 on the floor. I've assisted a professional in about 5 weddings before being offered 2 weddings that, I think, turned out very well and the clients were very happy. I had an Optura Xi that just broke down for good, and that was my main personal camera. For weddings and misc events, I have been renting a heavily used VX-2000. But, I've decided to stop renting and buy my own camera to pursue weddings and events even more and to be able to gain more experience and practice by using my camera anytime vs renting only on the event.)
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Old May 3rd, 2005, 02:03 PM   #2
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Dan,

I'm probably newer at this than you (read my post from yesterday), but I had the same indecision for quite a while when I was saving to buy my cam.

When you're talking about weddings, low light performance is one of the biggest priorities; and since you dont have much control over lighting in the ceremony - the PD170 or 2100 is THE one for your budget- unless you're think you my veer off into independent films or better lit shoots.

As for the difference between the 2 of them - I decided on the 170 for the XLR's and the DVCAM even though I probably could have done without either one (or bought an XLR adapter for the 2100 later). I just would rather not be sorry later I didn't pay a little more rather than wringing my hands for it later - and like you said - with the discount, you're gonna come close to the price of the 2100 AND still have a grand left over that should get you every bit of the equipment you need.
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Old May 3rd, 2005, 02:47 PM   #3
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Hey Dan, how are you. I actually used to shoot with a DVX100 before going to the Sonys. I can say that they are both great cameras, no doubt about that. I personally like the "feel" and the layout of the Sonys better (just personal preference) accept the fact the Sonys don't have a button to toggle optical image stabilization on and off like the Panny.

The DVX had a real zoom ring- in that it wasn't zoom by wire like the Sony. Definitly an advantage if you want to do a snap zoom or QUICKLY reframe your shot. I do, however feel that the Sonys more inhibited "zoom-by-wire" ring to allow for smoother slow zoom crawls than the Panny.

The DVX's focus ring was a bit too loose for my taste- though I've heard it was tightened up on the DVX100"A". It felt like I was turning a loose lid on a peanut butter jar....no resistance. I like the tactle feel of the Sony.

The DVX is far superior in shooting formats, 60i, 24p, 30p. Though if your main use is weddings and you edit with slow motion 24p isn't recommended.

Image control- the DVX again is far superior. Granted the Sony DOES have a "custom preset" menu in which you can tweak the sharpeness, color saturation, etc. It's no where near as comprehensive as the Panny with it's control over black ped. etc.

Lense lenghts- the Sonys have a nice 12x zoom that is good for zooming in and getting the nice dramatic close ups- the Panny is slightly crippled with a 10x zoom- though IS very wide, and will provide similar coverage as a sony with a .77x adapter.

On paper the DVX trounces the Sonys, why in the world would I prefer the Sonys? Most of the answers are pure opinion but a big one is that is indeed factual is low-light performance. Don't be mistaken- it's not that the CCDs on the Sony can gather more light than the Panny. It's the electronic gain algorithm that enables it to shoot at MUCH higher ISO crystal clear without noise. The Pannys deteriorate very quickly as the light goes down- I even see a marked shift in color tone and saturation in low light. The Sonys are much more stable when the light dim. The Pannys higher gain settings will introduce a great deal of noise where as the Sonys can be cranked up to +12db without any noticable increase in noise.

The color reproduction is more true on the Sonys, to me. The Pannys tend to lean toward the greys - though some say the Sony's lean towards the blues which I disagree. I have done side by side comparisons between the two, both properly white balanced and the greys in the Sony are very neutral while the Pannys seem to take on a slight greenish cast.

Sharpness- the Sony image is razor sharp which I like. Some Panny fans have used that as a negative point against the Sony- in that it's less "filmic". Personally I like to shoot the cleanest most neutral image out of the camera and work on my film look, or what have you, in post. That's just my preference.

Other things I like about the Sony (in no particular order):
- Feel of the body, very rugged and metalic (not plasticy, and yes I DO know the Panny isn't plastic ...despite how it "feels")
- Volume controls; while I don't like having to hit a button PRIOR to gaining access to volume level controls I prefer the notched wheel style of the Sony than the recessed dial style of the DVX. I had trouble matching both channels to the exact same level. On the Sony you can lock both channels and raise and lower them together
- LCD; desite it being physically smaller than the DVX's LCD the sony LCD is much superior. It's a hybrid LCD that will work bright and clear even in the most direct sunglight.
- Guideframe. I know this is a small one but I LOVE the guide frame feature the Sony offers. It places a rectangle in your viewfinder/LCD which top and bottm are conveniently located on the 1/3'rd lines. Very helpful to building your compositions and following the rule of thirds.
- DVcam; you can shoot in DVcam mode which will give you a much lower percentage chance of drop-outs. Though you give up 20 minutes of run-time per tape while shooting in this mode.
- Shutter speeds; I can't remember if the DVX can do this but the Sony can shoot several frame rates SUB 60fps. I like to drop it to 30 or even 15 sometimes in dark environments where the subjects have very minimal movment. Makes A HUGE difference in the light reaching the CCDs.


All in all they are both fantastic cameras. If I were shooting shorts or indie films I'd most definitly be shooting with a DVX. For weddings I can't recommend anything better than the PD-170. But conversely they both can be used in opposite genres- they just seem more "fit" for opposite ones.
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Old May 3rd, 2005, 02:55 PM   #4
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Well, I'm a Sony guy, pretty much always have been over the years so my opinion might be a bit jaded.
There is more difference in the 2100 and 170 than just the XLRs and ability to run DVCam (which BTW, I don't do- I prefer to be able to get the full time out of a tape instead of 2/3rds but thats a personal preference)
I know a lot of folks that use the 2000/2100 for wedding but I run my camera in manual mode and the ability of being able to get to all of the controls on the 150/170 without having to go into a menu was a very big plus for me when i got my 150s 4 years ago. A for the XLRs well I've pretty much always had cameras with XLRs so it made me feel more comfortable. Again, lots of folks use the 2000/2100 and love them. Image quality is the same as the 150/170.

As for accessories, well 3 batteries and a charger, tripod and or monopod (both is better) an on camera light (the Sony 10/20 seems to be the light of choice for most) a bag or case and perhaps a good shotgun mic if you decide on the 170-probably not a bad thing for the 2100 as well. BTW, if you get the Sony 10/20 light you'll want 2 batteries for that as well. You can never have enough batteries, nothing worse than running out of power during a job.

Since you already have a wireless system your budget of $4000 should pretty well take care of your immediate needs.

Good luck and have fun,
Don
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Old May 3rd, 2005, 03:57 PM   #5
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Hi there. I use a 2100 and a PD-170 for wedding events and the reason I purchased the 170 was because Sony discontinued production on the 2100 which made it nearly impossible to track one down in Canada. Having worked for Sony Canada I have a little bias in this area but Cameras is what Sony does best and it shows by how many large broadcast companies use thier products. Either the Sony or the Panasonic it's the creativeness of the person behind the camera that truly inpires the work you see. You can have the best equipment in the world and still turn out a horrible picture.
Just my two cents.
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Old May 3rd, 2005, 06:30 PM   #6
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You should rent a 170 and then decide if you like the feel. Also, when getting DVX opinions make sure people are talking about 100a and not the 100. Many of the most common gripes about the 100 were addressed in 100a. And FWIW, Panny just extended their rebate on 100a and are throwing in a battery and some tapes too. I just bought the Panny. :) And I know wedding people who claim their clients LOVE 24p look.
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Old May 3rd, 2005, 08:38 PM   #7
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Thanks so much everyone for the detailed and informative responses! While I personally lean toward the Panny, you've all convinced me that the Sony is the way to go as the best tool for wedding videography. I'm sure once I hold it in my hands and get used to it, I'll like it as much as the 100A.

I do realize that the person behind the camera is the one creating the art, but the tool does make a big difference. And since I'm relatively new to weddings, I want all the advantages I can get from my tools... namely great low-light performance.

Now, as far as the 170 vs the 2100... it seems you are all leaning toward the 170. I figure that B&H has the 170 for $3200 - $300 rebate = $2900 total cost. The 2100 sells for $2300, a $600 difference even after rebate. By the time you add external XLR, I'm still around $400 less than the 170. Is it worth the extra money up front? Don, you mentioned that the external manual control is much better on the 170 than the 2100. Is the 2100 more menu based than the 170? Using the 2000 myself, it seemed the major manual controls were external and easy to get to.

Also, 2 more questions:
1) Is the 16x9 mode useful for weddings? I don't know if many, if any, clients ask for or like this. If so, does it need to be true 16x9, or is letterboxing ok?

2) How do the image stabilizers compare between the 100A and the 170? I've heard the Panny IS is not that great, but it seemed fine when I experimented with it. How does the Sony's compare?

Thanks again for all the advice and time you spent writing it!

Dan

Last edited by Dan Shallenberger; May 3rd, 2005 at 08:48 PM. Reason: Adding more questions
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Old May 3rd, 2005, 09:27 PM   #8
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Keep in mind that with the 170 you also get the wide angle lens, and the shotgun mic. Both are very similar in feeling and you won't notice much of a diffference.
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Old May 4th, 2005, 07:20 AM   #9
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I've never used a 2000/2100 but its my understanding that certain things are menu based-perhaps not but I do know that certain setting like gain have a limited control. I do not think you can set it to a precise number as on the 170. Again, I could be wrong. I do know the controls on the 150/170 are very very convienient once you know the layout and have heard from people I know that use the 2000/21000 that the controls on the 150/170 are more convienient than the 2000/2100

As for the 16:9-well, I've only been asked once in passing about it for a wedding and for the OIS system on the Sony, I've not expereinced a problem with it but like with any OIS system when panning go slow.

Also as was mentioned with the Sony you get the WA attachment which even though I don't use my WAs that much anymore there are times during a wedding when I would be lost with out it. As for the shotgun mic I think its pretty well know that the stock mic is just that-an inexpensive mic to get you sound-most people replace it either with an ME66 or AT897 or something else along those lines. However, you can get decent audio with the stock mic if you know its limitations.

HTHs
Don
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Old May 4th, 2005, 09:34 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Shallenberger

Now, as far as the 170 vs the 2100... it seems you are all leaning toward the 170. I figure that B&H has the 170 for $3200 - $300 rebate = $2900 total cost. The 2100 sells for $2300, a $600 difference even after rebate. By the time you add external XLR, I'm still around $400 less than the 170. Is it worth the extra money up front? Don, you mentioned that the external manual control is much better on the 170 than the 2100. Is the 2100 more menu based than the 170? Using the 2000 myself, it seemed the major manual controls were external and easy to get to.

Also, 2 more questions:
1) Is the 16x9 mode useful for weddings? I don't know if many, if any, clients ask for or like this. If so, does it need to be true 16x9, or is letterboxing ok?

Dan
Hi Dan,

Another thing to consider in the price of a VX2100 is this. When you use an external XLR box, it turns the on camera mic off, so unless you already have a shotgun mic, you will have an additional cost in buying an additional mic, unless you will never need to run a mic on the camera while using a wireless.

With the PD-170 you can use one wireless and still use the on camera mic.

In the 16x9 mode you lose image quality because the chips are not 16x9. It's kind of an electronic 16x9. If you need the look, crop it in post, however, when viewing a cropped 4x3 on a 16x9 montior it doesn't look ideal, but it's your choice.

All My Best,
Mark Von Lanken
Picture This Productions, Inc.
www.TulsaWeddingFilms.com
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Old May 4th, 2005, 09:49 AM   #11
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Thanks Mark, I never thought of the mic issue. Thanks everyone for all your time in replying to my question!

Ok, so it seems that going with the PD-170 is the overwhelming opinion, and I agree with that myself. I think if I have the budget, then starting with the higher-end option would make available options I might not use right away, but would be nice to have when I might need them.

As far as 16x9, if a client would like true 16x9, my choices are lower quality, or no dice. I can't imagine there are many clients at all that want true 16x9 anyhow based on many other posts I have read here. I'll experiement with it and see how it would turn out. My other choice, Pannys 100A, does not offer true 16x9 anyhow, and I wouldn't base my camera choice on that alone anyhow.

Thanks again everyone! I'm sure you'll all know when I get the camera because I'll be back on here with more questions.
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Old May 4th, 2005, 01:19 PM   #12
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"I can't imagine there are many clients at all that want true 16x9 anyhow based on many other posts I have read here."

Although that's still generally true, I've seen posts from people who do mostly widescreen video now and find that their clients like it. It's also worth noting that true widescreen SD video is a good compromise during the transition from SD to HD, because it will look good on both 4x3 TVs and widescreen HDTVs. If you used cropped 4x3 SD video or electronically "faked" widescreen video and try to output that to an HDTV, it's not going to look very good...so 4x3 video is a poor solution if you have clients with HDTVs. In other words, it's time to start buying widescreen camcorders, either DV or HDV.
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Old May 6th, 2005, 03:40 PM   #13
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I would think that the serious wedding videographer ought to consider going high definition. You can get a good HD camcorder complete with editing software starting at $2000. Since high definition is playable on most windows XP computers the clients dont even need an HDTV to start watching their wedding in high definition. Also standard definition copies of the wedding can be distributed. It may be true that their really isn't a demand yet for high definition however a lot of customers today believe that with digital you automatically get high definition.
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