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Old June 19th, 2012, 04:35 PM   #1
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Shooting weddings with small handicams

Are there any wedding shooters out there that use smaller handicams only together with their dslr(s), with small I mean canon xa10 kind of small?

I have been shooting with my xh-a1 for 4 years now and it has been a real workhorse, I absolutely loved all the controls I had on the outside of the camera, most easily accessible.
But it really shows it's a first gen HD camera, with sufficient light it still performs well and I have and still am using it for corporate shoots and the clients seem to be happy with the output.

But for weddings there are some things I hate, lowlight is absolutely crap, even at 6db gain you see the ants crawl over over a big screen in HD. The viewfinder and lcd screen suck, I can't asses focus accurately, luckily the autofocus is very good, only not if you film wide and get too close, then it always focusses on the background.

I have got a sony hvr dr60, best investment ever and a solid performer but a real hassle if you need to act quickly because it has a 13 second start up time so you have to shoot to tape to get a shot if needed and for some shots still connect the camera to the pc via firewire to capture from tape and look for that shot.

With the dr60 it starts to become pretty heavy, not that fun to carry around for a longer time.

This year I wanted to invest in something new to replace my xh-a1 so I decided to get a sony xr730 to start with to complement my sony xr520 which I have been using as b camera during the ceremony. I really liked what this camera could do and how light sensitive it was but it lacks a decent wideangle lens so the 730 should cover that.

The first wedding I did with that 730 was a Chinese wedding, see link way below, and I was very impressed about this tiny camera output, I did some testshooting the day I got the camera and was so confident I used it all throughout the wedding day and the results have surpassed my expectations. I used it again at another wedding one day later and this time my xh-a1 stayed in the bag all day and when viewing the results, it's much better then what my xh-a1 can do.

So I started to question myself, do I really need a bigger xh-a1 kind of camera again when this tiny thing can produce such excellent results? it has an excellent wideangle, superb lowlight, amazing stabilisation when shooting handheld, it has peaking and very sharp display making focussing a lot easier and it even has zebra's so you get accurate exposure, it has a great autofocus as well for those run and gun situations. It starts up really quickly so you always get the shot you need.

But it lacks nd's which mainly shows in bright sunlight when they throw the rice f.i. which shows a high shutter, it lacks decent control, I can control exposure with a small knob but can't quickly change focus if needed. It hardly looses focus but if it does, only in very low light situations, it is completely lost and won't recover unless you assign the focus to that small knob and turn it until it's right.

I do like the mobility part very much, I can carry all my equipment in just one photobag, 2 dslr bodies, 3 lenses en 2 small handicams, 4 camera's hanging around your shoulder. I could put one camera in a small bag and attach it to my belt and make dslr shots on a monopod, hang the dslr around my shoulder and switch to the sony 730 for, "something important is happening now and I need constant good focus front to back", kind of shots. I can shoot in very narrow spaces, like I did during the Chinese doorgames and move the camera in positions not possible with the big xh-a1, high, low, at an angle, holding with one hand, 2 hands and each time as steady as a rock, what more could you ask for?

I do worry about how I look with that small cam in my hands, with a dslr everyone thinks you are the photog, "he has a photocamera so he must be a pro" right? But with a handicam holding in front of you, you see people look and think, "is that a handycam he's holding? Is he for real?" :)

For a corporate client I would show up with a dslr and get away with it but not with a small handicam, but for weddings it's different, here I first could show some footage and then the camera that has been used and they won't mind, as long as the outcome is good, I only feel quite "naked" if you know what you mean when holding that tiny camera. So I probably will be mounting it on a monopod next time, just for the sake of having abit more of "substance", not that it will improve that much and I might attach a viewfinder to the lcd, like I do with my dslr so it looks a bit more like a dslr.

I do get a kick out these very shallow dof shots with my dslr but I have been burned more then once with a 85mm attached to the camera, almost wide open as it was dark and suddenly lots of action all over the place and lots of, where should I focus first shots. Now I just grab that tiny camera from that small bag on my belt and get the shot I need that my dslr can't provide me with.

Since weddings account for 90% of my income this year, that's the are I should invest in, so it looks I"m only trying to convince myself that these small cams combined with dslr's are the way to go for a solo wedding videographer :) For corporate work I can continue to use my xh-a1 or rent a camera.

I"m just curious about the experience of other videographers that work with similar equipment. I do think I have no other choice then to get at least a canon xf100/sony nx70 type of camera just to get a bit more extra control when the camera goes haywire, only for the price of one such camera I could get 3 cx730's :). What are your real-life experiences and what have you done to bypass some of the small camera shortcomings (like that lack of control f.i.)

Shot with a xr520, cx730 and one dslr with a 35mm f1.4 and a Canon 10-22. Only one shot of the xh-a1 at 01:34 which was set up as safety. Used a blackbird and homemade slider.
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Old June 19th, 2012, 06:42 PM   #2
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Re: Shooting weddings with small handicams

Hi Noa! I do shoot with a small handicam camera, and sometimes if you need a quick draw, it is always fast and easy to pull from my holster. Im using the Sony CX550v with the hand grip that has the versatile of being a tripod so I can just place it anywhere on a table, floors, light stand etc.

I also shoot with a DSLR, what I do so that guest won't be posing while Im filming them is I put a mattebox on front of my 60D, so now it wouldn't look like a photog's camera.

Back with the small camera, I always shoot with 3 camera's and the small one during ceremony is place on front and is raise 8 feet on a light stand tilted down a bit with a wide angle lens covering the whole front of the ceremony. I just let it run for the whole ceremony, During reception, same set-up.

I don't have a problem matching 3 camera's in post, for I am using all Sony cameras, just a little cc, neat video filter and voila!
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Shooting weddings with small handicams-cx550v.jpg   Shooting weddings with small handicams-60d.jpg  

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Old June 20th, 2012, 02:27 AM   #3
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Re: Shooting weddings with small handicams

Years ago when we still used XHA-1s we also had a consumer camcorder the HV30 as backup & were really impressed with the quality & ease of use. I have recently been considering getting a couple of newer camcorders to complement our current cameras. For a minimal singlehanded wedding shoot I use a locked off XF105 for a wide 'safety' shot & XLRs for audio plus I operate a 5D3 on a tripod then have a 5D2 that I use locked off or on a Glidecam. I have also tried a GoPro up on a lighting stand but the video quality isn't good enough for using more than a second or two at a time. There are several current Canon consumer camcorders that use the same CMOS sensor as the XF105 but have apparently been tweaked for improved low light performance. There are at least half a dozen models all around the same price e.g. Canon Legria HF M41/46/406/52/56/506 I think that a couple of these on light stands would be great for additional angles of view.
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Old June 20th, 2012, 03:04 AM   #4
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Re: Shooting weddings with small handicams

thx for the input guys!

Have you been into a situation where the lack of controll (compared to their bigger brothers) caused you to miss a shot or have a not usuable shot? With my dslr that has been in many cases, with the cx730 I can take a manual whitebalance quite quickly and then switch to manual exposure which works very well, the autofocus is very good but there have been situations where it was really dark and it would loose focus quite bad and not recover automatically. With my xh-a1 I can make an adjustment in a second, with the 730 it takes at least 10 seconds to do the same. Do you rely on the auto features a lot with these camera's?

I have been filming interviews handheld during a wedding as well with the 730 and even though it was quite dim, the footage was nicely exposed, no grain at all, pinsharp and very stable, I only felt real silly holding that tiny camera in front of me and had the feeling everyone was looking at me instead of the guy giving his speech. With my dslr I at least "look like a pro" and those can also more easily be fitted with accesoires to give it a more pro video look (like Rick showed in his photo - thanks for sharing Rick!) but a small handicam...

Do you guys worry about the look of these camera's and what the guests (and maybe potential clients) might think of you when they see you carrying around with a camera they might have in their inside pocket as well?

Quote:
There are several current Canon consumer camcorders that use the same CMOS sensor as the XF105 but have apparently been tweaked for improved low light performance.
I have noticed this as well in the many user videos I have observed, wedding videographers all crave for one thing and that's low light sensitivity because that's a very important factor when doing weddings, some will tell to use a videolight but often that is not done and only results in people looking away half blinded. How does the xf100/105 compare to the xa10 in low light? That last one seems to be very good in low light but I have the impression that the 100/105 outputs quite some grain at 12db based on some tests I saw.
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Old June 20th, 2012, 04:35 AM   #5
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Re: Shooting weddings with small handicams

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Originally Posted by Rickey Brillantes View Post
I also shoot with a DSLR, what I do so that guest won't be posing while Im filming them is I put a mattebox on front of my 60D, so now it wouldn't look like a photog's camera.
Rickey, can I ask which supplier makes the mattebox and guiding rails you use? It does look quite compact, do you think a sony cx730 would fit as well? Does it also allow for wide angle lenzes to work, the cut out in front for the lens does look too narrow or can you remove that part?
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Old June 20th, 2012, 10:14 AM   #6
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Re: Shooting weddings with small handicams

Hi Noa

Sadly people still equate size with the price of a wedding package so if you charge $5K and arrive with a camcorder that looks about the same size as the one the groom has at home in his top drawer then they may feel that they have been cheated. I have two full size cameras up front and then my GoPro at the back and I admit that not one person has ever wondered why I have such a tiny camera.

I guess you can always put the cam on rails and a matte box to make it look more expensive ...has anyone actually queried the size/quality of your camera at weddings?? If not then just continue and tell them it may look ordinary on the outside but inside there is tens of thousands of dollars of hi-tech sensors..that should keep any questions to a minimum.

I have seen a guy in your part of the world you has used a Panasonic GH1 inside a DIY case and with a Betacam EVF and lens and it looks impressive!!! Maybe that's the way to go.

Chris
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Old June 20th, 2012, 10:58 AM   #7
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Re: Shooting weddings with small handicams

Quote:
has anyone actually queried the size/quality of your camera at weddings??
We"ll no, it's just that feeling I have, you know? Let's say your gopro would produce a better image then your bigger pana's, would you choose the Panasonic for their size and appearance even if you know the image quality will be worse to stand in front of the altar filming the couple's vows in a spot where everyone in church can see you or would you choose the gopro for a better image quality and hold it in one hand in front of you and point it at the couple?

I never had this feeling with my xh-a1 or even with a dslr but I do have this with the cx730, the cx730 produces a better image then my xh-a1 in church but the last weddings I did I had my right hand holding the camera and my left holding the lcd screen for stability and I held it in front of me. The image I got was really superb, (just look at the doorgames in my video I posted, that was all chaotic handheld work :)) so I should go for best image quality, right? And still, I feel like an amateur holding that small box in front of me. :) And I fear that this will be the impression more people, and maybe potential clients, will get, not the couple, because they choose me for the work I produce and they have seen samples but I see people looking at the camera during the day and it bothers me.
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Old June 20th, 2012, 11:30 AM   #8
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Re: Shooting weddings with small handicams

Noa. I use three Sony CX550s along with my two JVC HM700s at weddings, and like you I find under certain poor lighting conditions the Sony will out-perform the costlier JVCs. I never really worry about what the guests will think, or even if they notice me, I think most are busy enjoying themselves to worry about what camera I'm using, or even if I'm the videographer; not many are note-taking for their own weddings (though some may be). I had one couple book me after watching their friends DVD that I made: they were at the friends wedding and didn't even realise it was being filmed until they saw the DVD afterwards and then decided to have me at their wedding. As for brides and grooms, I could be using a corn flakes box for all the notice they take, in fact most tell me afterwards they hardly noticed me and I doubt if any one ever could tell me the camera I was using, they are only interested in the results. Having said that the weddings where size is important tend to be Asian ones where in my experience they really like to show the guests that money has been spent, the more and bigger the better.

Though I've never used one of my Sonys as my main gatherer and stood out front hand-held, I find that the are quick and easy to set up discretely for those extra shots in church, with a long life battery I can set it and forget it, no worry about them running out during the ceremony or speeches. During the evening they work as if on a glidecam rig when I go hand held on the dance floor. For interviews I found the opposite to you, people never get distracted by the size, in fact they seem to respond more comfortably with the small cam and I can shoot in situations I'd not be able to with the JVC or the lighting would be too low.

Like you I would choose the tool for the best result I can achieve and not to impress on-lookers who probably just assume that as I'm the 'paid professional' I must know how to get the best out of what may look like the one they've seem in the Argos catalogue.


As a sideways nod to they Go-Pro thread that's running here. I have considered the Go-Pro and although they are smaller any by extension more discrete the Sony's do give a lot more control and versatility as well as having quite useful audio.

These small cams get a thumbs up from me.
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Old June 20th, 2012, 01:01 PM   #9
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Re: Shooting weddings with small handicams

Quote:
Originally Posted by Noa Put View Post
Rickey, can I ask which supplier makes the mattebox and guiding rails you use? It does look quite compact, do you think a sony cx730 would fit as well? Does it also allow for wide angle lenzes to work, the cut out in front for the lens does look too narrow or can you remove that part?
Noa, here is the link where I bought the mattebox
http://www.amazon.com/PROAIM-MB-600-Sunshade-Normal-Lenses/dp/B005C3MXJQ/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1340215096&sr=8-2&keywords=mattebox
And the raiils
Genus GL GSBK Shoulder Brace System Kit GL GSBK B&H Photo Video


The Mattebox has different foam sizes depending on your lens size that can be mounted on the donut.
It is really compact and Im using a ef 50mm 1.4. The mattebox and rig are inexpensive compared to some, but the quality of mattebox and rig are impressive.
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Old June 20th, 2012, 02:08 PM   #10
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Re: Shooting weddings with small handicams

I use three Panasonic TM900's in addition to two Canon 5DII's; when I say "in addition" thats not stricktly true as the Panny's are taking over from the 5DII's in many instances because not only do they give superb images they are often the best tool for the job.

Their small form factor and the way they can be positioned in all sorts of unlikely vantage points using brackets suckers and lightstands, and work well locked down on auto-everything, makes them so versatile. A big advantage and disadvantage at the same time is that guests do not see them and block the view.

My main business is stills photpography but I've videod probably 50-60 weddings in the past year. NEWSFLASH: one reason why videographers get booked so infrequently is because of the take-over-the-room size of all their paraphanalia which the couples do not want intruding on their day. They do not want some huge sweaty creature at the front complete with broadcast size video camera on a tripod, wearing headphones and switching on video lights. Even less do they want a second huge sweaty creature on the opposite side at the front, and believe it or not a third huge sweaty creature doing the same at the back.

The small size and affordability of these cams and the associated audio recording devices is a massive opportunity being offered to you on a plate :- )

As regards the impression guests will gain? Your unintrusiveness will get many onside. Yes, if you were to be using just one handheld "handicam" that might not be good but they are going to see you working with maybe 3 or 4 or more, plus the audio gear and are more likely to be intregued than put off.

The very low light performance is not great, of course its not. But there aren't many ceremonies and wedding breakfasts where they can't cope. 1st dances are more problematic. At this stage of the day its more acceptable to use lightpanels but I tend to use the 5DII's. Again, you can often get the venue to turn up the lights a little if only for the actual 1st dance.

Just added a GoPro Hero 2 as well. First outing to be this weekend. I'm not expecting miracles from it but it should be good for a few seconds of scene establishing etc here and there.

Pete
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Old June 20th, 2012, 02:39 PM   #11
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Re: Shooting weddings with small handicams

Another long term "small cam" shooter. Adding A65's for the "big cams" (and stills since we shoot both, 2 ops), still a compact package.

First, get over the "size matters" question... you already know from your firsthand experience the "best" tool for the job, use it well, and as you've already said, show your "reel" with the great results, and say you use multiple high quality cams to capture the day discreetly from as many angles as needed. I've had comments that the small cam (decked out) looks very "Star Trek", i.e. futuristic/high tech... If some bonehead guest shows up with a "bigger camera", just chalk it up to "compensation" and move on knowing YOU are the one hired to do the job and get it right!

Small = discreet, so that's a BIG plus at a event that should have a degree of dignity to it! Sure, if the clients want it to look like a Hollywood set... roll out the crane, the steadicam, etc. etc.... but I've found the officiants really notice when the "tech" and ops are invisible or close to it.

With a little practice and a momopod, you can fake the crane shots with the small cam, the IS is solid enough to ditch the steadicam and vest, but STILL get the shots... with a operator that knows the shots and how to get them! When the bride sees the "high production value" shots in the finished product, that's ALL that will matter!

I've always "decked out" my cams a bit - hoods (cx730 should have one stock?), maybe a shotgun (even if you're using onboard mics!), and use a monopod, belt support (short monopod stuck in pocket!), or a shoulder rig like the Chinese MultiRig copies (cheap, and "look" more pro, though they are sort of overkill for a small cam!).

RESULTS are what matters, and you've already discussed the shortcomings of ANY camera - focus in low light is a PITA! No camera focuses on a black cat in a dark room at midnight with no moon... and unless there are sharp contrast points to "lock" on, it'll hunt.

IF you're close in and the camera needs more light, pick up a small LED - a REALLY small one would be best, but the smallest one I've found with a DIMMER (an ABSOLUTE MUST HAVE!!) is a CN-Lux560 (56 LEDS, 3 AA batts, rotary dimmer, and a couple "filters" included, dirt cheap). You need some form of shoe mount, either and adapter for the AIShoe or a bracket, but it's not a big or heavy add on, and might also make you look a tad more "pro"... you'll NEVER need the full on setting, the "low" is about the most you'll want, and that is not so blinding that it scatters your "talent". I'm still looking for something with an even smaller LED array (maybe 36?), a dimmer, and the ability to use the FP/FH/FV series Sony battery! Fact is that the Sony Handycams don't need MUCH light, but a little goes a long way!.

Have you tried spot focus using the touchscreen? IF there's something for the camera to lock onto, it should narrow its 'search".

Not sure if Canon still has that "radar" type AF system the HV20/30/40 used to have? Canon guys? That was the ONE feature that I thought was slick on the HV's, because it would shoot out a signal and use the reflected signal it got back as a rangefinder... IF the current small Canons have it (and have lost the "'toy" build quality with squeaky chassis), might be a reason to add one or more?


The simple fact is that at an average wedding now, the odds are good that every guest will have a "camera" with some varying degree of quality, up to and including high res stills and HD video on a dang phone....while our equipment can and should differentiate us a "professional" (most guests won't have multiple cams and 5-10K in gear... even small cams can add up!). What sets the pro apart is the skill as an operator and later an editor, plus all the other "hats" a solo shooter has to wear to 'git 'er done.

Focus on YOUR skill set and ability, NOT the tools you use to get the job done, then deliver a top notch product with "Hollywood" production values and multi-angle edits, good close ups, etc. Stuff the "guests" can't get and that "uncle Bob" with the old cam he pulled outa the sock drawer doesn't have the vaguest idea HOW to get...

Hope that helps...
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Old June 20th, 2012, 02:42 PM   #12
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Re: Shooting weddings with small handicams

Oh, one other thing, have you turned on the "low lux" setting on your 730? It's not on by default, it only kicks in when the lights are really low (so no penalty for leaving it "on", and it will give the camera nearly "see in the dark" capability, which should also improve the autofocus function significantly...
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Old June 21st, 2012, 01:55 AM   #13
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Re: Shooting weddings with small handicams

Quote:
Originally Posted by George Kilroy
I could be using a corn flakes box for all the notice they take
I challenge you to glue your cx550 in such a box and make a cut out for the lens and then post a photo here of you standing in the church :D
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rickey Brillantes
Noa, here is the link
Thanks for the link Rickey, much appreciated. Have you ever tried fitting the small handicam to it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Riding
The very low light performance is not great
The 730 is absolutely amazing in low light, it's much better then my dslr with a f2.8 at 1600 iso and rivals a 35mm f1.4 lens at 3200 iso. I did some side by side tests in very dark circumstances and will post but it can take a while.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Blackhurst

First, get over the "size matters" question...
I know it's all between the ears, I think next time I"ll just add my monopod if I need to film in a place like the church during the vows, in Belgian Catholic weddings you do stand at that moment right in front of the altar, just behind the priest, facing the couple but also facing everyone in church. At least I won't feel that "naked" as the monopod will add some size.

I also have been using my hoodloupe with those magnifying glasses (which sticks onto the lcd screen of my dslr with a magnet) for more critical focus by just holding the hoodloupe against the cx730 screen and it made all the difference. The lcd screen is equally sharp compared to my 550d and it made checking focus so much easier. I do have a unused hoodloupe here that uses some kind of elastic straps to attach to the lcd screen, I"ll see if I can find a way to easily attach it onto the cx730 screen when I flip that open. That does give the same appearance and ease of use when I"m using my dslr.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Blackhurst
IF you're close in and the camera needs more light, pick up a small LED
The cx730 has a build in videolight and it works really well, quite sharp and it will blind you when you look at it but in those too dark situations it can light up enough to save your shot. I"ll be fitting it onto my steadicam next week if there's another venue that likes to switch of all lights during the first dance. I only need to add wheight as the camera is too light for the steadicam to balance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Blackhurst
Have you tried spot focus using the touch-screen?
I have found the spotfocus to be less reponsive as the xr520, it takes longer ans sometimes it doesn't focus right, best bet is still to do it manually.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Blackhurst
have you turned on the "low lux" setting on your 730?
Yes :) I leave it on by default, it does produce a bit of grain but it still looks better then 6db gain on my xh-a1. I do use it with care as the shutter goes to 1/25th but for those pitch-black situations combined with the build in light you can light up any room.
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Old June 21st, 2012, 02:08 AM   #14
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Re: Shooting weddings with small handicams

For the canon xa10 owners;

It does have a lens ring for focus adjustments, what I only cannot see is how you adjust exposure? Both focus and exposure are 2 functions I like to be able to control somewhat easily in realtime, if there is a small knob that you can turn to adjust exposure, does it jump between stops if you adjust or does it do this smooth and gradually?

Also, are there any experiences matching this canon with the sony exmor's handicams, do they somewhat match?

For what the xa10 costs it seems to offers quite a lot, especially compared to the competition (price/feature wise) and I think such a camera should make my collection complete as it at least looks more "pro" then the small cx730. So I also can finally put my at897 shotgun to use (I only used it on my xh-a1 when needed but stayed off most of the time because it made the camera to bulky for weddings) I only think it might be to long?

In Belgium the xa10 is 1000 dollar cheaper then the Sony nx30 while I see nothing that justifies that price difference (both camera's seem to be each other competitors?)

Last edited by Noa Put; June 21st, 2012 at 08:23 AM. Reason: typo
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Old June 21st, 2012, 04:22 AM   #15
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Re: Shooting weddings with small handicams

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Riding View Post
I use three Panasonic TM900's in addition to two Canon 5DII's; when I say "in addition" thats not stricktly true as the Panny's are taking over from the 5DII's in many instances because not only do they give superb images they are often the best tool for the job.

Their small form factor and the way they can be positioned in all sorts of unlikely vantage points using brackets suckers and lightstands, and work well locked down on auto-everything, makes them so versatile. A big advantage and disadvantage at the same time is that guests do not see them and block the view.

My main business is stills photpography but I've videod probably 50-60 weddings in the past year. NEWSFLASH: one reason why videographers get booked so infrequently is because of the take-over-the-room size of all their paraphanalia which the couples do not want intruding on their day. They do not want some huge sweaty creature at the front complete with broadcast size video camera on a tripod, wearing headphones and switching on video lights. Even less do they want a second huge sweaty creature on the opposite side at the front, and believe it or not a third huge sweaty creature doing the same at the back.

The small size and affordability of these cams and the associated audio recording devices is a massive opportunity being offered to you on a plate :- )
We don't use broadcast size video cameras or have huge sweaty operators but there is no comparison between using a bunch of locked off cameras & having operators following the action. The former may as well be CCTV which admittedly is immensely popular here in the UK but isn't the sort of wedding video that our clients want to watch.
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