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Choosing an HDV camera

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Poppy Dixon
Choosing an HDV camera
on Feb 24, 2011 at 5:08:54 pm

Hi there,

I'd love some advice on which camera to buy.
I have $3000 to spend and need a camera, tripod and mics (I'd say 1 radio mic set and a top mic). Will also need a bag I guess - so essentially I need the basic set up. I'd rather buy new, but would go used if there is some guarantee.

I'll be making short taster tapes for documentaries, so sound quality is important. Image needs to be great (is to show to broadcasters), but probably to to broadcast.

I'm a one-man band, so don't really want external audio devices or anything too complicated.

I will mainly be shooting in the USA, but if there was an affordable camera I could switch to PAL, that would be really helpful. Don't really care if tape or card - see advantages in both.

So, on to cameras. I used to use a Z1 or Z7 for this purpose, but unfortunately (even used) they're too expensive for me.
I've been looking at the following:
Panasonic AG-HMC40
Sony FX7
Sony FX1 (though hard to find and might be more expensive.
Sony HVR-A1U

Does anyone have any particular thoughts on these, or any other suggestions?
I'm buying in New York, so recommended resources there would be great as well.


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Rick Wise
Re: Choosing an HDV camera
on Feb 24, 2011 at 6:13:30 pm

Of the three, the Panasonic is the newest and the cheapest. All are "poor" in low light. Given all your other requirements about sound and sticks, I think I'd go with this one.

Audio input is only a mini-jack, not XLR, which is unfortunate but not a killer. You will be hard pressed to get "good" audio with no external devices. A small shotgun, even the Rode Videomic, will work OK for voices provided you are within three to four feet of the speaker and there is not too much ambient sound. If you anticipate a lot of talking heads I would invest in some form of radio mic, or at the very least a lav connected by hardwire to your camera.

A good tripod will chew up much of your remaining budget.

I presume you are shooting with available light. Maybe add a small, light onboard LED for an eye light? If you do that, you'll need a way to mount both the shotgun and the LED on the camera.

Rick Wise
director of photography
San Francisco Bay Area
part-time instructor lighting/camera
Academy of Art University/Film and Video (grad school)

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