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should i go DSLR or Camcorder?

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Mike Cahn
should i go DSLR or Camcorder?
on Dec 14, 2012 at 10:54:47 am

Hi all,
Ive been reading some really useful posts here and so would appreciate some of your experience in helping me choose equipment.

My wife & I have a Nikon D40 with 2 kit zoom lenses -- 18-55 and 55-200mm. We both have taken lots of still photos over the years (with 35mm film, and now digitally), most recently for events connecting to our teaching farm (http://www.dulra.org). We rarely do video; occasionally I get something on the iPhone but thats it. The point is that we are reasonably good amateur still photographers, but have very little video experience (apart from of the kids when they were younger). So what we need is something that we can use easily but has enough flexibility that it wont stop us learning more. Also it would be nice to use those 2 lenses if possible, although I appreciate they are entry level ones.

So now we want to continue with stills but also begin taking video - to cover the activities and community at our farm, and more specifically to record and publicise a charity fundraising trip we plan to take from here (Ireland) to Mongolia (it's to fund ambulances over there).

So I will be the videographer for this trip, and will upload to video blogs as we're traveling, but also want the quality to be good enough that it could be made into a short film when we get back.

The key factors from a video point of view are: that most of this work, here in Ireland or on our trip, won't be studio work, and I won't have a crew, it's just me (at least for now). I have no video editing experience but I do have the full Adobe CS4 suite for my iMac, but as I can't bring my iMac on the trip, and our Macbook isn't high powered enough, I don't see how I can do any editing while travelling, except maybe simple cuts in camera. Also we want to be able to take stills as well, at least as good quality as what we're used to with the D40.

So I've considered a D3200 or D5100 body, the GH2 and am thinking from comments I saw on this forum and elsewhere, that we might be better off with a camcorder.

Our budget: hopefully less than US$1,000 for everything we'd need, so that would include camera, mem cards, batteries, tripod, audio equipment etc).

Any advice or suggestions would be much appreciated!

Mike


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Peter Burger
Re: should i go DSLR or Camcorder?
on Dec 14, 2012 at 12:25:08 pm

My two cents: I've been quite an experienced videographer before I went the DSLR route - so with me it's "the other way round" ;)

It took me about half a year to "get" DSLR videography.
DSLR handling is not too easy. It's not not complicated either, but you'll have to take your time and be willing to learn. A camcorder will most definitly be the easier way.

DSLRs IMHO do have three major advantages to "standard" camcorders:

First they have this incredibly shallow depth of field - even with kit-lenses. This is what blew me away.

Secondly: You can work with all lenses that are available. Most camcorders don't have the possibility to use interchangeable lenses.

And last but not least: DSLRs have better low-light qualities.

But DSLRs also have their "negative side":

If you really want to play out all the cards, you'll have to invest in gear (lenses, external audio, maybe a rig, ...) - so DSLRs only seem to be more affordable in the first place.

Autofocus is not really possible (exception the GH2, AFAIK). I don't use AF with my camcorders - so this is nothig I personally miss. But take in consideration, that because of the shallower DOF focus becomes even more important with DSLRs.

Due to their small size and form-factor it's almost impossible not to produce shaky footage, when hand-held especially with longer lenses. The better the stabilizers of the lenses are and the wider you shoot, the calmer it will be.
So, a rig and/or a tripod (or any other kind of stabilizer) is a must - nothing too fancy for me either, since I use a tripod for my camcorder almost all of the time.

Computer-power is almost a non-issue now, but it was in the beginning of DSLR videography.

Video-quality might be something you want to consider. H.264 is a very heavy compressed codec. So if you intend to do major post production, you might be better with a camcorder, but I doubt you'll get anything higher-quality within your budget. And most smaller camcorders also use H.264 (or equivalent) even with lower bitrates hence lower quality.

To cut a long story short: If you want something point-and-shoot: get a camcorder. If you're willing to "dive in" - DSLRa are the way to go.
Since you're experienced photographers, I guess you'll have less problems than I had.

------------------------------------------
"Tragedy is a close-up; comedy, a long shot." - Buster Keaton

Me on Twitter (english/german)
http://twitter.com/FastFoodVideo


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Mike Cahn
Re: should i go DSLR or Camcorder?
on Dec 14, 2012 at 12:32:08 pm

Peter, Thanks for those thoughts. Sounds like a camcorder is a better solution short-term, but DSLR worth going into if we get better at videoing. So if we go camcorder for now, would you suggest any particular make/model that would give us reasonable quality and a bit of room to grow before we move on to DSLR?


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Sareesh Sudhakaran
Re: should i go DSLR or Camcorder?
on Dec 14, 2012 at 3:45:38 pm

For less than $1,000 I suggest you look at the Panasonic GH2 with a good lens. If you had about double this budget I'd have recommended the Canon XA10 over DSLRs.

http://www.wolfcrow.com - Workflow information and support for filmmakers, photographers, audiographers and videographers.


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Peter Burger
Re: should i go DSLR or Camcorder?
on Dec 14, 2012 at 11:55:35 pm

[Mike Cahn] "So if we go camcorder for now, would you suggest any particular make/model that would give us reasonable quality and a bit of room to grow before we move on to DSLR?"

I don't want to talk you out of getting a DSLR. I love my T2i and it definitly was one of the best decisions I made when I bought it. It's just... well... DSLRs are not the perfect point-and-shoot cameras.
The problems I had were merely that I was used to point-and-shoot camcorders... :)
Maybe watch the fantastic video-podcast by Richard and Robbie. They perfectly show the advantages and disadvantages of DSLRs

http://podcasts.creativecow.net/dslr-video-podcast

I'm not too much into camcorders at the moment, so I won't dare to give you any model or brand advise. I heard and read a lot good about the Canon XA10 that Sareesh recommended. I almost bought it myself (didn't because my budget didn't allow it). Seems to be a great and reliable camcorder.

------------------------------------------
"Tragedy is a close-up; comedy, a long shot." - Buster Keaton

Me on Twitter (english/german)
http://twitter.com/FastFoodVideo


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Al Bergstein
Re: should i go DSLR or Camcorder?
on Dec 15, 2012 at 2:43:50 pm

Maybe continue to shoot stills with your nikon, and checkout the Panasonic tm90x series. A great camcorder with ext headphone and mic jack. Manual focusing if desired. You can buy a quality wide angle lens adapter from schneider, It takes ok stills. Low light is just ok, but this buys you a highly portable camera capable of running for hours with no fuss. I use mine as a b cam on occassion. DOF is standard cam corder. Nonexistant except at telephoto. There is at great forum for them on a competing board.

You might need to upgrade Adobe,as i am unsure of it's ability to handle modern hd codecs. Which then calls into question your Mac. Just sayin.

Nothing wrong with GH2, or newer Nikons, if you go that way,peter's thoughts are on the money, though.

Al


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