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


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Old February 16th, 2007, 06:50 PM   #1
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Replacement Camera Needed

I have alluded to this in other posts, but the short of it is that my camera operator is leaving the country and taking his nice HDR-FX1 with him (and tripod, and shotgun mic). So aside from my Sony MD audio recorder, a little RCA based 4 input mixer, and my editing setup, I am in need of some very basic video equipment.

Here are my expected uses: Weddings (hence the post to this forum), and two long form (1/2hr to 1hr) projects potentially to air on local public access TV, local PBS, and for sale online. The projects are Ho-To-Do-It-Yourself projects. One is a home solar air heater the other is a bio-diesel plant. My vision is to produce both like a This Old House episode mixed with Bill Nye Science Guy (in other words, you see the project in various stages of construction, but the filming involves multiple locations and lots of science references) as well as production plans, documents, guides, etc as part of additional reference materials.

Given those expected projects... What camera best fits my needs? I have searched DVInfo.net and other places but seem to lack results for new GL2 to used XL1 comparisons (I mention these because those seem to be my two options for either new or used equipment at my <=$2000 for camera, accessories like tripod can be above that).

The requirements I have are few: Good image stabilized lens; 3CCD system (for good quality pictures), not crappy low light performance (due to weddings), good automatic setting functionality (I'm not a camera pro yet). A "would be nice" feature is native 16x9 so I get good looking widescreen SD footage.

An odd feature I have grown accustomed to is a flip out LCD so I can frame shots while the camera is on a 7' tripod or being held at a distance from the body for more stable shots. I don't know how well I can adopt to a viewfinder only mode of shooting, but I suppose that with practice I would be 2nd nature.

I am leaning to the GL2 if I buy new mainly because of its lens, small size, and flip out LCD, but alternatives are entertained. I don't know much about the PD150 but I hear good things.

I am looking at a used XL1 in the classified here at DVInfo and the price is tempting (a major benefit actually), but I am having a hard time justifying the purchase of a >=7 yr old camera and a hard time actually finding specs for the camera. Can it record in native 16x9 or is it squeezed / simulated? The manual says it has a Frame mode, but is it true 30p, true 24p, or is it an internal approximation of frame mode (this isn't too important). Will the auto focus & zoom issue on the 16x lens be a problem for low light weddings?

Should I go with GL2 instead? Lighter weight, newer technology, fixed lens, large 20x zoom. Will the GL2 provide better "future staying power" over the XL1? Is there a noticeable difference in picture quality between the XL1 and GL2? The price drop (from new GL2 dropping to used XL1) might be as much as $1000 after purchasing batteries, filters, etc for the GL2 and that is what makes the XL1 an attractive option.

The last detail is budget. I can probably convince the Mrs. to let me spring for about $2000 for the camera but anything above that will need to be an amazingly good deal, or slipped in under the radar until the bank statement comes around. I also might get a small business loan to finance this expansion in equipment, but that is less desirable. I don't expect the camera to pay for itself in income until possibly 2-3 years because I cannot take many clients (being only part time at this).

So there you have the full of it. Fire away with any reasonable suggestions and thank you for your patience if you managed to read through to the bottom.

Jason Robinson

Last edited by Jason Robinson; February 17th, 2007 at 01:10 AM.
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Old February 16th, 2007, 09:25 PM   #2
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Hey Jason,

Your budget is going to kill you, especially considering what you are looking for. Just native 16:9 limits you to fairly new cameras such as the FX1. You could probably pick one up on Ebay for 2500-3000.

If you are willing to shoot 4:3, a used pd150 (or better pd170) would be a great camera, and a lot cheaper. Fantastic in low light, XLR inputs, shotgun mic included. Look for someone who is selling a whole shooting kit. You'll get a much better deal than buying everything separately.

But to do any video justice, you are also going to need a good tripod, probably an on-camera light for running around at weddings, a shotgun mic, ideally a wireless mic, extra batteries, etc, etc.

For your doityourself projects, you need a lighting kit.

You are realistically looking at more like 5000 for your basic needs. If you are lucky and get good prices on used stuff...

Hope this helps, and isn't discouraging.
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Old February 16th, 2007, 09:42 PM   #3
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By the way, I see that Hugh Mobley is selling a Sony HVR A1 in the Private Classifieds section of DVINFO. Check out his package and read some reviews. That would get you native 16:9.
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Old February 17th, 2007, 01:12 AM   #4
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Thanks for the tip

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vito DeFilippo
By the way, I see that Hugh Mobley is selling a Sony HVR A1 in the Private Classifieds section of DVINFO. Check out his package and read some reviews. That would get you native 16:9.
Thanks for the tip. I'll be crawling the classified quite a lot until I can get this taken care of.

jason
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Old February 17th, 2007, 02:11 AM   #5
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cameras

So I guess I am more interested in the best picture possible than the aspect ratio or CCD count. If I can get a good picture on a single chip 16x9 or a 3CCD 4x3 then I would go for that. I suppose my main concern with buying the used XL1 is that it is so old. I just find myself questioning if that camera can have much life left in it.

You are right that the budget is a problem. That is what I am wiling to consider a used camera, though the new GL2 prices are close to affordable from B&H.

I am a little concerned about the size and heft of the XL1 when compared to a GL2 or PD170. I do not expect to operate the camera with out a tripod (except for very specific scenes like garter / boquet tossing) so heft is not too big of a deal.
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Old February 17th, 2007, 02:16 AM   #6
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Flip Out LCDs?

Regarding a flip out LCD, how many wedding professionals out there use them, as opposed to the eye piece? Am I out on a limb in using the flip out LCD almost exclusively?

jason
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Old February 17th, 2007, 07:25 AM   #7
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Jason,
As for the LCD or VF when I shot my 150 or any other breadloaf type camera I use the LCD more than the VF about 90% of the time actually. If on a tripod the LCD works best -and when handholding simple ergonomics and comfort dictate use of the LCD. I use the VF when 1) outside especially in bright sunny conditions and 2) when I need super steady and don't have a tripod or monopod handy-the VF makes for a nice balance when stuck into my eye and helps ME become the tripod.
I don't do as much with the small cameras anymore but when I do the LCD is really the thing of choice-as it is for about 90% of the guys I know in the business who use same or similar cameras.
Don
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Old February 17th, 2007, 09:43 AM   #8
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only a suggestion

Jason,
I think that you need to focus on the PD 170, it is an incrediable camera and has all the things that you have above mentioned, screen, low light, stablizer, long battery life, great picture quality, it also records in the DV cam mode. I do about 40 weddings a year and for someone who is not that great at running a camera the PD 170 does a great job in auto mode. I must say that you will see some advantages to running it in the manual mode and it is really easy to pick up on and the controls are very easy to get to.
Dont want you to take this the wrong way, but I am selling a PD 170, I have a job coming up this summer that is requiring me to use HD.
I dont want you to think I am trying to be a salesmen here, but I have ran many different cameras out there and owned nearly all of them. The PD 170 is at the top, it is the best sub $5,000 cam out there.
The one that I have for sale is in perfect condition, but is a little higher than what you said you were wanting to spend, $2400, but it does come with a carrying case, rain cover, and wide angle lens, all very usefull accessories.
Good Luck,
Brandon Potthoff
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Old February 17th, 2007, 03:14 PM   #9
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Jason,

To answer your GL2 vs. XL1 question...In my opinion the GL2 produces a nicer looking image than the XL1. The GL2 also does a very good job at shooting in 16x9...better so than other 4x3 cameras in that price range. I shoot in 16x9 with my GL2 as a backup to my XL2. Although if you do end up getting the GL2, make sure to buy a tape rewinder to do all of your rewinding. For some reason, frequent rewinding of tapes in the GL2 leads to problems.
Also note that the pd150 or vx2000 are better in low light than the Canon cams. But if you have a light, it's really not much to worry about.

-Jim
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Old February 17th, 2007, 04:11 PM   #10
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GL2 vs XL1

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Herman
Jason,

To answer your GL2 vs. XL1 question...In my opinion the GL2 produces a nicer looking image than the XL1. The GL2 also does a very good job at shooting in 16x9...better so than other 4x3 cameras in that price range. I shoot in 16x9 with my GL2 as a backup to my XL2. Although if you do end up getting the GL2, make sure to buy a tape rewinder to do all of your rewinding. For some reason, frequent rewinding of tapes in the GL2 leads to problems.
Also note that the pd150 or vx2000 are better in low light than the Canon cams. But if you have a light, it's really not much to worry about.

-Jim
Thanks for the input. I know the cameras are in completely different target markets, but since they are now about the same price (or the XL1 is slightly cheaper used) I thought I would compare them.

I also am aiming at the Canon systems because of their large zoom lenses. The GL2 has a real nice 20x lens and the XL1 a 16x. Many of hte other cameras seem to have 12x and I occasionally wonder if I would be limiting myself from being able to take those "back of the church" shots of the bride & groom kissing if I didn't have >=14x zoom.

Jason
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Old February 17th, 2007, 04:35 PM   #11
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LCD use

Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Bloom
Jason,
As for the LCD or VF when I shot my 150 or any other breadloaf type camera I use the LCD more than the VF about 90% of the time actually. If on a tripod the LCD works best -and when handholding simple ergonomics and comfort dictate use of the LCD. I use the VF when 1) outside especially in bright sunny conditions and 2) when I need super steady and don't have a tripod or monopod handy-the VF makes for a nice balance when stuck into my eye and helps ME become the tripod.
I don't do as much with the small cameras anymore but when I do the LCD is really the thing of choice-as it is for about 90% of the guys I know in the business who use same or similar cameras.
Don
Don, thanks for the input on LCD use. I noticed almost right away that I just don't use the VF at all. That is my major concern for shooting on an XL1. I also noticed that i used the LCD on the HDR-FX1 as a steadying point when shooting hand held (boquet toss, garter, etc).

So it looks like my shooting style (as far as holding the camera) is not out of the norm. Thanks for the feedback.

jason
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Old February 17th, 2007, 05:01 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brandon Potthoff
Jason,
I think that you need to focus on the PD 170, it is an incrediable camera and has all the things that you have above mentioned, screen, low light, stablizer, long battery life, great picture quality, it also records in the DV cam mode. I do about 40 weddings a year and for someone who is not that great at running a camera the PD 170 does a great job in auto mode. I must say that you will see some advantages to running it in the manual mode and it is really easy to pick up on and the controls are very easy to get to.
How does the 12x zoom do for "back of the church" sort of shots? I would hate to be limited on shot placement just because I don't have a 20x (for example) when compared to a GL2.

Also how has the microphone & mount on the PD170 worked for audio at weddings. The HDR-FX1 I used had an Azden shock mount and that seemd to be the ONLY way to isolate camera button noise from the mic. I noticed that the PD line of cameras has a mic mount, but the mount is not an isolated shock mount. Does it produce good audio with out the shock mount or is it only a backup sort of source?

Thanks for the input and PD170 suggestion. I'm looking into them more.

jason
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Old February 17th, 2007, 05:13 PM   #13
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Jason,

It's not the size of the lens that matters, it's how you use it. I can't quite figure out why more lens is an advantage because at 90% of the venues you don't need the extra glass and certainly not when you shoot in a controlled environment. The extra glass just kills your light level and really isn't a good reason to buy a particular camera unless the majority of your work requires it (i.e. outdoor wildlife camera work). If you think you need a tighter shot plan ahead and position yourself close enough to get it.

For wedding coverage I would highly recommend the 150/170 over the Canon. There's a reason you don't see many of them being sold used: they're really that good. I shot canons for years at weddings and lighting wasn't a problem if you use an on camera light, but man just save the trouble and get the sony. At the first reception you'll know why. I prefer the look of the canon for day shooting and in proper lighting. But when the lights go out it just isn't even close. The sony image is not only brighter but so much cleaner its amazing.

The only reason I'd say go for a canon would be budget. You can pick them up used pretty cheap right now. And I would agree that the XL1 is past it's prime. You can make it look great, but you really have to work at it. The GL2 has a much better image processing. The sony's are very run and gun and look good out of the box.

Tough choices man but good luck : )

Ben
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Old February 17th, 2007, 11:42 PM   #14
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Honestly I can say that even though the 150(s) and the 250 I use for weddings and other event the lens isn't a major problem. Knowing that is doesn't zoom in like say a Canon 19 or 20 I just work around it and frankly I've never shot in a church in the greater chicagoland area that really required anything more than the 12X zoom that the Sony's offer. Do I wish I had the ability of say a 20X, yes, but again it's never really hindered me and I've worked some very very large churches with aisles that you feel you need to take a taxi to get from the back to the front.
As I always say, it is what it is. In those situations I try to stay within a reasonable distance even if that means not going to the back, I might cheat my way forward a bit closer and then dolly back for the recessional. I love the Sonys have been using them for a total of almost 12 years (starting with my old and now dead VX1000 :-( and that is really the only thing I do wish they would have changed on the 170.
As for the mic and mount I personally don't care for the stock mic and for the mount when I used the 150 as my primary camera I put a CAC12 mic mount on it along with first a Senn ME66 then went to an AT 897-now I use the CAC12 on the 250 with a n AKG Blueline hyper and the 897 on the 150 in the stock mount. Of course that camera is pretty much a lock down piece now but the 897 works great and the stock mount works fine as well but again I'm not doing a lot with the camera but if I was, I'd definately get another CAC12 even though they're abotu $175.00.
HTHs
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Old February 18th, 2007, 01:04 PM   #15
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Mic mount

Jason,
I really hope that you are looking much harder at the sony now. As for the mic mount I have really no big complaints I use a MK 70 mic on the camera at reception but use a field recoreder at the cermony. I have used the on camera mic and it does the job. But once you have heard a MK 70 which is $1,800 you wont think any thing sonuds good anymore.
If you would like you can visit www.switzerfilm.com this is my website, look at are highlights and you will see the image quality of the PD 170. Then you can really see what I am talking about.
Hope this helps! Good luck!
Branodn
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