College Undergrad lookin' for Camera for outdoor/nature productions. Suggestions???? at
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General HD (720 / 1080) Acquisition
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Old July 23rd, 2006, 10:21 PM   #1
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College Undergrad lookin' for Camera for outdoor/nature productions. Suggestions????

Hey everyone! Well first off i just wanted to say that i'm new, and i think this place rocks!!!

Anyways, i'm a senior at a state college in NY, and i'm doing an independent study for the year, and i'm creating a pilot for an outdoor program, and i'm looking for camera reccomendations. I really would like to "take my skills up a notch" and go into HDV, but i'm not exactly sure if its that time to upgrade. I would rather not invest in SD and have to upgrade in a couple years, so thats why i was thinking of HDV. Would it be a good choice for me?

I was thinking of the SONY FX1, because i have heard great things about it, and the AU1 is just so damm small, and hte Z1 is way out of my price range

So what would everyone reccomend?? HDV or SD? What brands would people reccomend for Nature videography?? And a camera that comes with XLR/XLR adaptors

And this camera would be used for more than just this project, but for mini docs and other projects, and when i get out of college!

Any suggestions would be awsome!!!! Thanks!!
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Old July 25th, 2006, 12:26 AM   #2
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Jared, I think that HDV seems like a good solution for you, specially if you're geting into documentary making. You have, however, to take into consideration that when you buy into a camera, you are buying into an entire workflow. HDV, for example, requires a very fast computer with top of the line processors and lots of RAM, since it is a heavily compressed format. You can look at intermediate codecs to work on the footage, like Cineform, or you can go high end and work uncompressed through capture cards and expensive arrays. In the shooting department, all current HDV cameras have a terrible LCD, impossible for critical on-the-go focus (excluding maybe the JVC), so you need a 7" acceptable HD monitor to mount on your camera (everyone seems to recomend the Marshal.)All this costs money.

The Best solution today for very low budget professional content development - from filming, editing and final output- would be DV. That doesn't mean you shouldn't purchase an HDV camera: Because purchasing an HDV camera is like purchasing a Mini-dv + HDV camera. And practicaly all allow you to downconvert HDV to dv in camera, so that shouldn't be a problem. You can always keep the HD master footage and edit it later when you upgrade.

As for the camera of choice, since you are starting, I would sincerely suggest you go with the Sony A1. I was an undergraduate when I started filming, back in 1998, and I bought a Sony TRV 900 3ccd mini-dv. It was fabulous, because it was small, unintrusive, No one minded the camera everywhere I was shooting, I could go to restricted places and shoot, and it had all the manual controls I needed (excluding gain). I learned a lot with that camera. The A1 seems like the direct descendant of the trv-900, so I just can't see why it would perform worse. Just as a side note, it was with the TRV-900 that I won my first festival award. I Also did broadcasting work ( a documentary and some 30 seconds time filers) that impressed many Betacam veterans (of course, with some cc in post and fine tuning :) )

Nowadays I own the Panasonic HVX200 and love it. Ocasionaly I have to rent higher end gear, but from what I see the HVX certainly delivers high end results for SD broadcast. I'm looking into 35mm adapters, tough.( If well lit, the HVX is also a great HD performer).

I hope this helps!
If you don't believe in your film, no one else will.
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Old July 25th, 2006, 06:22 AM   #3
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Heythanks for the info! The first camera i stumbled across for HDV ironically was the Au1, and it was actually going to be the camera that i would be purchasing. However, i actually saw the camera in action, and its sooo small! Small is good, but it just seems that all of the controls are very close together/doubled up; and i'm not a huge fan of the interactive screen to get to some of your functions. The guy that was using it said that his main problem with the camera was that the tape loaded from the bottom, and that hindered his prodcutions a good deal; espcially when it came to missing those needed shots.

The SONY A1 may still be a choice for me, but we shall see. I might have an edge on getting a good deal on a FX1 soon, but i won't hold my breath haha.

Thanks again for the post!!
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Old July 25th, 2006, 04:14 PM   #4
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camera for you

I like my a1u, see no reason to not recommend it. Small is big in my book. I can take it places I can't or don't care to take a bigger cam. You can buld a custom LCD menu to get to the most used items, so I am not that put off by the touch screen.

But, if you can afford the FX, by all means do so. If you stay with your plan, I think you may outgrow the a1u. I believe the FX will have more flexibility (lights, filters, etc) overall. If money is tight, consider an older (used) SD camera; may be a good fit. I started that way and it's still viable. The edit gear is cheaper and generally speaking for an outdoor shooter, you will need low light capability and a long, long lens, a1u really has neither, compared to say the Canon XL series, for instance.

You may consider trying to intern at a tv station to get some hands on work or possibly rent (or tryout somehow) a couple camcorders before buying, as the other gentleman indicated you're getting married to a workflow. It better fit.
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Old July 25th, 2006, 04:59 PM   #5
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One issue to consider in the nature production area is telphoto capabilities. I have FX1. In fact, I have been pretty much Sony oriented since got into video production as a hobby.

However, the 12 x zoom leave the camera a bit short for nature stuff, in my opinion, and you will need to consider a telephoto adapter. In that respect, the smaller "filter" size requirement may make the A1U a better choice given the limited amount of 72mm telephoto extenders for the FX1.

That also may make you lean toward the Canon standard definition XL2 with a 20x zoom, but its prices may be going beyond where you want to go.
Chris J. Barcellos
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Old July 26th, 2006, 02:22 AM   #6
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If money wasnt an issue than the HVX200 would be an excellent choice but for your case Id recommend a Z1u over the FX1 because of the added XLR inputs and yes you can add an extra unit to the FX1 to allow XLR inputs but it wont be as convenient as hooking a mic directly to the camcorder.
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Old July 26th, 2006, 07:07 AM   #7
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echoing what chris said, you better check out the limitations on the FX-1's 12x zoom v. the 20x zoom of the canon models, if you are doing nature stuff. i love my FX-1, but the *only* major frustration is the limited zoom. i've missed animal shots which i could have taken with another camera. hummingbirds are tough with a 12x. the FX-1 is great for macro work, though, for bugs and such. the detail of HDV for macro is amazing! so i guess it partly depends on what you plan to shoot in nature. but if price is a consideration, the "good" 1.6x telephoto add-on for the FX-1 is priced at a whoppin' $800.
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Old July 29th, 2006, 08:17 PM   #8
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Thanks everyone!!
Your info has given me a lot to consider in the next couple weeks. I guess i'll just have to wait and see what happens! Cheers!
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Old July 30th, 2006, 02:31 AM   #9
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Jared, have you read about the new Canon HDV cameras coming up?
If not, read about them on this site, they may be of an interest to you.

Best regards,
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Old July 30th, 2006, 05:14 AM   #10
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I'm a big fan of the HDV format, but for nature work you'll want a long zoom lens and that rules out the Sony FX1/Z1U (unless you add a telephoto adapter). The Sony A1U others have mentioned here is a fun little unit, but I can't see recommending it as a primary camera due to quality limitations of its CMOS sensor - and lack of a good zoom range. You could try something like the JVC HD100/110U, but that's a bit big to lug around and the manual-only focus could be a challenge for nature work.

If you need the camera soon I'd say the Canon XL2 would be a good choice, even though it's also a bit large. The XL2 has a true widescreen recording mode, which isn't as good as shooting in HD but better than shooting 4:3 DV or the pseudo-widescreen mode of some DV cameras. Or if you can wait until the new Canon HDV cameras start shipping those would be ideal for your situation, but it will be late in the year before those become available. Or if you can spring for the Canon XL-H1 at almost $9000 that would be another good choice, but that's a lot of money to spend for a first camera.

I wouldn't recommend any standard DV camera at this point because 4:3 video is becoming less relevant, and you'll want your work to look good on widescreen HDTV displays in the future.
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Old July 30th, 2006, 11:00 PM   #11
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I also suggest the A1 over the FX1. However, once you starting piling on accessories, don't expect it to look consumer and not have people (authorities) questioning what you're doing. At this learning stage, you don't need more than an A1, even a HC1 will do, although for me, the audio and extra features were important. The FX1 doesn't have XLR mic inputs like the A1 does, but A1 doesn't have independent iris and gain manual control. A1, however, is much worse at low light than the FX1 - and even the FX1 is not as good in low light as other cameras. The A1 also doesn't have a slow zoom and reproduces the color red as lilac sometimes.

I don't suggest the Marshall screen. It's way too expensive. Half the price of the A1. You don't need a super good computer to edit HDV. You just need patience. I've edited HDV on my small not-so powerful laptop (1.6ghz, Pentium M, 756mb RAM, not dedicated) without Cineform or Gearshift (I use Vegas 6.0d).

But HDV is not the best compression scheme. You might want to wait a few years and see if AVCHD becomes more popular and incorporated into more prosumer cameras.
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Old August 18th, 2006, 06:32 PM   #12
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same situation

I was in the same situation last year and I went with the sony hdr-fx1. I shoot mostly short films and the most glaring drawback of the FX1 thus far has been the lack of XLR. I bought the beachtek dxa-8 because it has two phantom powered xlr ports whereas the cheaper versions do not. I use Adobe Premiere to edit HDV natively which isn't too bad if you don't use too many effects. It is an excellent camera but I am afraid that with the release of the new canon XH A1 in october, its feature set will feel very outdated. The price of the fx1 plus xlr adapter approaches $3500 and for $500 more (at MSRP) the canon provides a better lense, arguably better image (we'll see), and 24P in the form of 24F.
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Old August 19th, 2006, 01:46 AM   #13
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First, the camera is only a small part of the action. If you are a cinemaographer, well it is a big part. However, if you are doing the whole thing, you need to deal with audio, grip equipment, lighting, editing, script development, scheduling, etc. My camera represents 20% of my total purchase.

If you are a cinemaographer, you will need to deal with tripods, steadicams, matteboxes, filters, etc. And maybe DOF 35mm adapters.

Actual filming may only represent 10-15% of the time of a production, so rentals are even an option.

First two things I would ask are: what is your target audience and what is your budget. Your combination needs to be able to produce the result for your audience. If that market is distributing HDTV, then HD is a requirement. If it is distributed as 480p DVD or via the Internet...maybe not.

If you are going SD, there may be many used Panasonic DVX100A (insist on an 'A' model) available used. Progressive CCDs. Good electronics. Great images. Then you can worry about how to mic and light your talent.

Also keep in mind, any camera you get now will be superceded by newer, better models in 2 years. In another forum on this site you can read about H.264 video compression, one of the upcoming technologies.
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Old August 31st, 2006, 10:32 PM   #14
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Careful on the A1U

Just a suggestion to consider. About six months ago I purchased an A1U which was an "upgrade" from my XL-1. Clients of mine instantly were questioning the professional quality of me and my camera. I tried to explain its like cell phone technology with its size being smaller. Despite reasoning people are just not sold on the small size and its association with professionals. I know this sounds old school but people still see that the bigger camera you have the more professional you are. About a month later I upgraded to an FX-1 with Cavision Matte box. Now I no longer have to explain myself or what camera I'm using. Now people ask how much it costs. Also I multi-clipped my FX-1 footage and the A1U. You could tell the difference. When you buy a camera get as much as you can afford with the most professional options. It will pay for itself in a short time.
Jeff Zimmerman Love what I do Colorado + North America
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Old September 1st, 2006, 06:31 AM   #15
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I've found that if you put a matte box with flag on the front, a mic (say ME64) on suspension mount above, and throw it on a three stage tripod with a decent head (even a Manfetto 503), it looks 'professional'. Although all of XLs and JVC HDs with their removable lenses also look professional. I've been told by a couple of people that is one of the reasons they bought them.

However, that professional camera is more likely to get someone asking about a permit.
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