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Cheap general purpose camera?

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John Cummings
Cheap general purpose camera?
on Oct 21, 2013 at 1:04:39 pm

I'm a working DP and my wife is a staff video producer for a nonprofit. For most jobs, she hires a pro DP for her projects, but more and more finds a need to have a cheap, small, easy to use, no-brainer video camera for quick interviews and small event shoots where there's no budget for outside help.
She's come to me for a recommendation for that camera, and while I'm current on pro gear, I'm at a bit of a loss as to what to tell her. There are so many options. At a minimum, I would think the camera would have to have XLR audio to mount a shotgun or wireless and a decent fixed lens...perhaps with image stabilization. Several non-pro staff people might end up using the camera, so it needs to be dead simple to use but capable of making a decent picture. I tend to think a DSLR would be a bad choice for this scenario because of the complexity and audio hassles. Finally it would be nice to keep the cost at around $2K or so...

Any ideas?

J.Cummings
Cameralogic Inc.
Chicago/Cleveland
Sony F3/HDX-900
cameralogictv.com



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Mark Suszko
Re: Cheap general purpose camera?
on Oct 21, 2013 at 3:06:59 pm

You're going to scoff, probably, but I think the Apple iphone, with an external mic adapter, and some kind of tripod attachment, is frankly, what would work for this specific set of needs. Easy to use in many conditions, good image quality on locked-off shots, not expensive, and since it's a phone, always present and available. So I would give her an iphone and some kind of easy-to-use tripod, and a supplemental softlight that was dirt-simple to place and operate.

Maybe even consider TWO iPhones, and a frame that would hold them together, so she could set one on a wide shot and the other, on close-ups.

A few years ago I would have suggested the Kodak Z-i08 series version of the HD soccer-mom HD Video camera, since it had an external audio input to add a lav or other sound source to it. The iphone though would tend to get carried around everyday more, so it would be ready for spur or the moment opportunities, versus having to decide when and if to drag along a separate camera every day.

If you are not an Apple person, either Moto or Nokia I think is currently marketing a cameraphone where the camera is the priority, it even looks more like a Canon Powershot than a phone, with a protruding lens housing.

BTW, I ADORE my Cannon powershot for the ease of use and great image quality I get for stills OR video.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Cheap general purpose camera?
on Oct 21, 2013 at 3:11:33 pm

As far as audio issues with the iphone, another thing you could do is pair it with a stand-alone Tascam or similar digital audio recorder. This can be placed at the front of the room/event on a tiny pocket tripod or mic stand and will get great sound with no fuss, and you can synch up the files in post with relative ease.


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John Cummings
Re: Cheap general purpose camera?
on Oct 21, 2013 at 5:06:23 pm

I appreciate the response.
Interesting idea but not really workable unless she's willing to share her phone amongst the staff for those after-work and weekend events. And mounting a small hotshoe wireless like a sennheiser might prove difficult without a rig.

I'm hoping to hear from someone's who's found the ideal small idiot-proof camcorder for a scenario like this.

J.Cummings
Cameralogic Inc.
Chicago/Cleveland
Sony F3/HDX-900
cameralogictv.com



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Mark Suszko
Re: Cheap general purpose camera?
on Oct 21, 2013 at 5:12:08 pm

OK,, but then have a look at the Zi8. Unassuming at first, but has the threaded hole for a pistol grip or a tripod, you can add a cold shoe and a tripod plat to that, in series, for attaching the wireless RX and/or an external hardwire lav. Long record time, idiot-proof operation, cheap price, so buy several and hand them out for multicam coverage.


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Rick Wise
Re: Cheap general purpose camera?
on Oct 21, 2013 at 5:20:06 pm

The Zi8 is no longer available, but the Zi10 and Zi12 are.

Rick Wise
Cinematographer
San Francisco Bay Area
http://www.RickWiseDP.com


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Micah Wolf
Re: Cheap general purpose camera?
on Oct 21, 2013 at 6:23:14 pm

Hey John,

Check out the Canon XF100. Its a nice little camera that I think covers all of your requests, except for price. Its not much over the 2k mark coming in at $2500.00. It has a real nice picture (a little over saturated but that can be adjusted). I have used one in the past and its matched up pretty nicely against some more expensive camera's Ive used.

Good luck.


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Rick Wise
Re: Cheap general purpose camera?
on Oct 21, 2013 at 6:41:35 pm

Or the XF100's little sister, the Canon XA10 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/749467-REG/Canon_4922B002_XA10_HD_Pro...)for $1,700. I haven't used it myself.... Canon claims the "auto" everything works well. To be determined. (In my experience, auto anything is asking for trouble. But for this purpose, maybe OK.)

Rick Wise
Cinematographer
San Francisco Bay Area
http://www.RickWiseDP.com


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John Cummings
Re: Cheap general purpose camera?
on Oct 22, 2013 at 1:08:15 am

Thanks guys.
I was hoping there would be a chorus of people saying you need to check out the "XYZ" camera!
I'll look at the Canons and the Sonys. I think the Kodaks probably aren't what I'm looking for. Plus Kodak is exiting that business.
Appreciate it.

J.Cummings
Cameralogic Inc.
Chicago/Cleveland
Sony F3/HDX-900
cameralogictv.com



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Bill Bruner
Re: Cheap general purpose camera?
on Oct 26, 2013 at 4:03:26 am

Hi John - hope you haven't given up on this thread. There are several entry level pro cameras in your price range you may want to take a look at.

The $1699 Canon XA10 will give you a decent piacture, but it is a few years old, has less sophisticated image processing and is limited to lower frame rates than the newer cameras.

Here it is in a doc/interview setting:

Its replacement, the Canon XA20, is $2199, shoots at 1080/60p and a higher bit rate, has better low light performance, a longer lens and wi-fi for wireless downloads.

Here it is in a doc/interview setting:

The Panasonic AG-AC90 is $1723.65 as of this post, and is also a very good modern entry level pro camera with XLR jacks and very good 5 axis stabilization. It lacks wi-fi, however.

Here is what this camera can do in an ENG/interview setting:

The best value for money camera in this price class, in my view, is the Sony HXR-NX30 at $1750 as of this post. Best stabilization in this class and a decent shotgun mic is included.

Here is what this camera can do:

Hope this is helpful!

Bill
Hybrid Camera Revolution


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Rick Wise
Re: Cheap general purpose camera?
on Oct 27, 2013 at 6:14:13 pm

Bill's suggestion of the Sony HXR-NX30 opened my eyes to a whole new, relatively inexpensive camera with phenomenal capabilities. For a terrific demo sample, take a look at:



All my life I have preached and practiced manual controls, but the auto "brain" in this tiny camera appears to be outstanding. My one caveat, without getting hands on, is The Sony look, which appears to me to be over crisp and edgy. I prefer the more rounded and nuanced look from Panasonic or Canon. I suspect there is a way to treat this camera's footage in post to overcome this (perceived) defect.

Rick Wise
Cinematographer
San Francisco Bay Area
http://www.RickWiseDP.com


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