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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old September 16th, 2012, 06:19 PM   #1
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Camera(s) to replace XLH1a

Hi guys, long time reader first time poster here.

I've just recently started out filming weddings "professionally". My previous work was with promotional films and events/productions although I had filmed a few friends weddings.

My current cameras are:
Canon XLH1a
Canon XHA1
Sony HDR-XR550
Sony A65 (DSLR)

I want to concentrate more of my efforts on weddings now but on the few I've done so far, I've found a few issues. The first is low light. As I'm down in rural Cornwall, UK, lots of wedding ceremonies are in small dark churches and receptions are in big marquees. As it gets late and the lights go right down low, the XLH1a and the XHA1 seem to struggle a bit (I have to use my video lights at quite a bright level) The XR550 and A65 cope beautifully with the video lights on just a low level (which also adds depth to the shot)

The second issue is the size. I use my XLH1a as my A cam with a Datavideo DN-60 and while it's size is fine whilst on a tripod during the ceremony and speeches, when it comes to the photos and other bits where I need to "mingle" with the guests, it's not particularly subtle. At the last wedding I did, I used the XR550 (with external mic and video light - to make it look a little less like "uncle Bob's handicam") and whilst the cam performed really well, I was very self-concious that guests might have thought "he's not professional - he's using a tiny camera"

Ideally, I'd like to replace both my XHA1 and XLH1a but to start with, I think I'll just swap out the XLH1a and keep the XHA1 (which I'll connect the DN-60 to)

I'm thinking that I'll have around 3000 to purchase replacement equipment. I quite like the idea of getting a "medium" sized camera (similar to the A1) to use as my A camera and another "handicam" size camera as an additional C camera (or as a B cam for when the XHA1 is gone) If funds don't allow for 2 cameras, just a replacement A cam will do and I'll continue to use the XHA1 as B and XR550 as C for the multicam shots.

From trawling through the forums here, I've put together a little list of what people seem to be using. I was just hoping to get some more opinions based on your experience with the cams.

"A cam":
*Sony PMW-EX1R (looking at a used one for around 3500 - over budget and would mean only 1 cam but seems like a great camera)
*Panasonic AG-AC160 - as above, over budget but could stretch if it really is a game-winner
*Sony HXR-NX5E
*Sony HXR-NX70E - slightly smaller size
*Canon XF100 - as above, slightly smaller than the XHA1 size

"B/C Cam":
*Sony CX730E
*Sony HXR-NX30E
*Canon XA10
*Panasonic HC-X900
*Panasonic TM900 (what's the difference between these two? - I couldn't see much)

As mentioned above, the main selling point would be low light, but I'd also be looking at things such as ease of manual control, ergonomics and weight for using hand-held.

Any help greatly appreciated.
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Old September 16th, 2012, 08:37 PM   #2
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Re: Camera(s) to replace XLH1a

I would go for the XF300 above the XF100 as the A cam if you can swing it. Amazing camera. XF100 is a great B cam.
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Old September 17th, 2012, 06:27 AM   #3
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Re: Camera(s) to replace XLH1a

Hi Pete.
Check out the thread below this one, there are a couple of my wedding clips there. The bottom one is a mix of EX1 and TM900. I would go for a used EX1 for A cam, unbeatable, and a TM900 or CX730 for B cam. The Sony will give you better low light performance. Having said that, I have never had a problem with my TM900, and as you say, we have some pretty dark churches down here
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Old September 17th, 2012, 06:54 AM   #4
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Re: Camera(s) to replace XLH1a

Thanks very much guys.

Tim, I do very much like the look of the XF300 but the 5000 price tag is just too much for me.

Colin, good to hear from a fellow videographer down here (if you ever need a 2nd shooter, give me a shout!) I did see the previous thread which is why I've included the TM900 in the list (what's the difference between the TM900 and the newer HC-X900 - they both look pretty similar?)

The thing I can't decide at the moment is whether to go for the slightly bigger (EX1) size cams or something a little smaller like the XF100 or the Sony NX70E.
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Old September 17th, 2012, 08:35 AM   #5
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Re: Camera(s) to replace XLH1a

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Originally Posted by Pete Appleyard View Post
As mentioned above, the main selling point would be low light
If you have the budget for it I"d get a ex1, Panasonic 900 and a cx730, you get very good lowlight performance with the Sonys, a very wide angle lens on the cx730 and the pana will be able to keep up resolution wise with the ex1. So if you are in a thight spot you can use the cx730, if you need good low light performance you can use the ex1 and the cx730 and if you need very fine detail in wide shots from a longer distance you can pair the pana with the ex1.
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Old September 17th, 2012, 12:29 PM   #6
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Re: Camera(s) to replace XLH1a

What about a second A65 or an A57, since you've probably got the accessories already? Backup for your 65, and aside from the 29 minute clip length meaning you have to be sure to restart if the clip reaches/goes over that... pretty nice cameras.

And a 7xx series handycam to mirror the 550.

That pretty much describes my current kit actually... with a handful of TX100V's for "fill" where they can be put close enough. You have the pair of handycams to "free run", the Alphas for stills and glamour shots, not a bad setup.

Sony does have a bunch of new cameras hitting the street, so maybe a VG20 might be on closeout... again trying to meet the budget, and sometimes "last year's model" fits the bill, at a discount to make room for the shiny new toys.
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Old September 18th, 2012, 09:43 AM   #7
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Re: Camera(s) to replace XLH1a

Hi guys, thanks for your input.

Dave, I think I'm looking for something a bit more like a video camera. I love my A65 but wouldn't want to use it to run'n'gun with. I also love the image quality and focus ability of the XR550.

Noa, when you say the EX1, do you mean the original EX1 or the newer EX1R? If I were to get one, the lowest price I've found a 2nd hand one is around 3600 - quite a bit above my budget.

Would the image of an EX1/R be significantly better than something smaller like an XF100 or a Sony NX70E?

Thanks again.
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Old September 19th, 2012, 12:39 AM   #8
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Re: Camera(s) to replace XLH1a

Must confess I am having great luck with my Panasonic AC160 in shooting theater and concerts in mixed lighting conditions. I'd give it a serious look. For a "B" cam, the XA10 sounds like a good bet. Same chip etc as the XF100. I often use an earlier Canon HFS-10 as a "backstage" cam and it actually works very well in that role. Those little Canons are great in that kind of role.

Last edited by Steve Wolla; September 19th, 2012 at 12:42 AM. Reason: Added Info
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Old September 19th, 2012, 01:36 AM   #9
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Re: Camera(s) to replace XLH1a

If you like the xr550 you like the cx 7xx series even beter, it produces way less noise at high gains and has less forced image, especially it looks like there quite some sharpening going on inside the camera that the cx7xx doesn't have.

I don't have a EX1, a friend of mine does and I guess the image should be the same as the "r" version since that last one has some improvements but I"m sure you can find a lot of info back about it on this forum.

Recently I did a shoot in church with my cx730 and the EX1 joined in as well, in post I saw there was more fine detail in wide shots from a distance in the EX1 but after applying some minor sharpening on the cx 730 and after crushing the blacks on the ex1 I managed to to use the image side by side. The nx70 should have the same image characteristics then the cx730.

Don't know that much about the xf100 but from what I have seen I think it will pair well with the ex series unless it gets too dark, I read that many won't go past 6db as the image gets too noise while with the cx series 21 db is no problem.
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Old September 20th, 2012, 06:05 AM   #10
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Re: Camera(s) to replace XLH1a

So I'm now trying to decide on size. I think for weddings perhaps something like the size of the XF100 or NX70 might be better but the quality of the EX1r seems to be unbeatable?

So hard to decide!
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Old September 20th, 2012, 07:28 AM   #11
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Re: Camera(s) to replace XLH1a

The NX70 isn't a good camera if you plan to spend a lot of time at or near the telephoto end of the lens. The lens is the biggest letdown about this camera, moreso than the zoom rocker issues (that can be worked around).

It's OK if you like one side of the picture soft and the other sharp, and don't mind crazy Chromatic Abberations. But then who likes those?
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Old September 20th, 2012, 07:29 AM   #12
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Re: Camera(s) to replace XLH1a

It's not fair to compare a three 1/2-inch chip camera to both one chippers, overall the ex1 is a better camera but it's also twice the price and size. It's also 3x heavier, the tripod and tripod head should also be adjusted to that wheight meaning even more added wheight. Some things to consider when you do weddings. I think it's a better idea getting 2 smaller cams for the price of one bigger as image quality is allready excellent on the new generation smaller camera's. Your wedding clients will be very happy with it but if you plan to do a lot of corporate shoots as well I"d get the ex1.
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Old September 20th, 2012, 07:34 AM   #13
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Re: Camera(s) to replace XLH1a

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Originally Posted by Mike Beckett View Post
It's OK if you like one side of the picture soft and the other sharp, and don't mind crazy Chromatic Abberations. But then who likes those?
I' ve seen a report about that, does this mean it's a problem that all nx70's suffer from? Both my cx730 have a sharp image side to side. Also Chromatic Abberations is something I don't notice unless I export a frame and zoom 400% but in that way you will find artifacts in the image of almost any camera. At a normal viewing distance from a lcd tv the image looks very good. Maybe the nx70 has a different lens compared to those smaller cxxxx versions, eventhough the technology behind it seems the same?
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Old September 20th, 2012, 02:59 PM   #14
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Re: Camera(s) to replace XLH1a

Some people have commented that the NX70 suffers from some lens issues that the CX730 doesn't... I can't comment, because I don't have a CX730.

The focus issues seem more noticable in some circumstances than others, I have never quite nailed it down. The CA issues are pretty bad any time you zoom in and there's contrasting edges. Very disappointing. My cheaper Pansonic HMC41 didn't suffer from that problem, so it isn't endemic in all small camcorders.

Another thing are all the touch screen options. If you're shooting events, it may be bettter to have something with more physical buttons on it. The XF100 allows you to assign up to 6, and I understand it has a separate exposure wheel which would be very useful.

The NX70 is good at wide angle, reasonably good in auto, and I find it does a pretty good job in low lighting. It's not the worst camera in the world, but it isn't worth the $$$.
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Old September 23rd, 2012, 07:40 AM   #15
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Re: Camera(s) to replace XLH1a

Ok, thanks again for your help.

So the NX70 is out. I'm definitely leaning either towards a 2nd hand EX1/R or a smaller Canon XF100.

Noa, what you say makes sense. I'm certainly doing more weddings than corporate at the moment but that doesn't mean that it won't change. Perhaps an EX1R would be better in this respect.

I've also just seen the Sony NEX-EA50EH which looks like it could also be a contender. Shallow DOF would be good in an ENG style but I wonder if low light and auto focus will suffer?

Hmmmm.
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