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HDSLR versus camcorders

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Neil Orman
HDSLR versus camcorders
on Jan 8, 2014 at 3:25:10 pm

I had a question on what camera(s) to get, and I'd be grateful for any feedback on this. I want to get either an HDSLR camera or an HD camcorder and possibly both, although of course I'd love to not break the bank and just get one or the other. I do primarily documentary-based work and all my experience is with Panasonic camcorders, but I really like the depth of field advantages of HDSLR cameras. So my question is, if you're seeking the flexibility of both, is it better to get both kinds of cameras, or can people recommend any good camcorders or HDSLR cameras that allow you to handle documentary-type situations as well as to have depth-of-field when you want it, such as doing a video interview where you want a shallow depth of field and a blurry background? Can you achieve that effect with a camcorder, and if so how? Again I'd appreciate any advice on this and good camera choice(s) for someone with a limited budget. (whatever the solution I'd like to not spend more than 4 K total.) Thanks again.


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Paddy Uglow
Re: HDSLR versus camcorders
on Jan 8, 2014 at 3:42:53 pm

I bought a second hand Panasonic GH2 and spent the big money on the 12-35 f2.8 lens. I got a Tascam DR100 for audio, and some mini battery/mains LED panels. It's a lot more fiddly than almost any camcorder, but I get a nice image. The GH2 is hacked so I can shoot long interviews.
Apart from being more fiddly, the only disadvantage of my setup compared to a camcorder is the lack of power zoom. On the plus side it's cheaper, has the shallow depth and a really nice lens. And can also be a stills camera with an external flash.

I use a JVC HM150 too, which is lovely in that you can just plug XLR mics straight in, but it doesn't have the same shallow depth, and I think my GH2 is a little better in low light.

I chose GH2 rather than GH1 because of the "ETC" crop-zoom which can bump up zoom without dropping optical quality, but I think the noise shows up more when using it in lower light situations.

I assume your 4K budget is dollars, but I think that should easily cover a camera, lens and useful accessories, especially if you go for some second hand.

Paddy, CreativeMedia.org.uk


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Jason Jenkins
Re: HDSLR versus camcorders
on Jan 8, 2014 at 5:59:29 pm

[Paddy Uglow] "The GH2 is hacked so I can shoot long interviews."

FYI, the GH2 natively records for as long as your memory card or battery holds out! No need to hack it to shoot long interviews. Great camera :)

Jason Jenkins
Flowmotion Media
Video production... with style!

Check out my Mormon.org profile.


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Paddy Uglow
Re: HDSLR versus camcorders
on Jan 8, 2014 at 8:06:25 pm

>FYI, the GH2 natively records for as long as your memory card or battery holds out! No need to hack it to shoot long interviews.

It does for lucky folks in the US, Jason - for European models they limit recording time so they don't have to pay the more expensive "camcorder" tax. :-(
Or at least I think that's what happens.


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Jason Jenkins
Re: HDSLR versus camcorders
on Jan 8, 2014 at 9:00:32 pm

[Paddy Uglow] "It does for lucky folks in the US, Jason - for European models they limit recording time so they don't have to pay the more expensive "camcorder" tax. :-("

Good point, Paddy; I'd forgotten about that.

Jason Jenkins
Flowmotion Media
Video production... with style!

Check out my Mormon.org profile.


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Neil Orman
Re: HDSLR versus camcorders
on Jan 8, 2014 at 6:20:56 pm

Thanks so much for that great, thorough recommendation Paddy (and yes I was talking about 4K in dollars), and thanks for your feedback too Jason. I've heard about the Panasonic GH2 and it looks good. I believe this camera is much smaller than cameras like the Canon 7D too. Is that right? To be honest I've heard conflicting recommendations from still photog friends, who say Canon and Nikon are the big players with all the lenses etc., but they're obviously coming at this from a different place, and your recommendations are very specific to my needs. Most of the time I'd be using a tripod, but do you know if this camera can shoot video hand-held? Paddy and Jason, I found the battery discussion interesting too. But I wasn't sure what the term 'hacked' means in this context?

Last I just wanted to throw out another budget recommendation I got in this area, to see if you or anyone else has any thoughts on its content:

'If budget is your primary concern, B&H sells a Canon T5i video kit with a Rode video mic on a good lyre mount for $1100. Add the Rokinon Cine 35mm and 85mm lenses for another $800, along with a Tascam DR60-D mixer/recorder and a dslr cable for $400, another $700 for a viewfinder loupe and rig, arms and mounts, cards and batteries, and a cheap TV monitor (use for interviews to keep things in focus,) and you're good to go for $3000, assuming you already have mics and lights and tripod.'

Thanks again.


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Jason Jenkins
Re: HDSLR versus camcorders
on Jan 8, 2014 at 7:27:48 pm
Last Edited By Jason Jenkins on Jan 8, 2014 at 7:33:02 pm

[Neil Orman] "I believe this camera is much smaller than cameras like the Canon 7D too. Is that right?"

Yes, the GH series are mirrorless cameras, so they are more compact.

[Neil Orman] "To be honest I've heard conflicting recommendations from still photog friends, who say Canon and Nikon are the big players with all the lenses etc., but they're obviously coming at this from a different place, and your recommendations are very specific to my needs."

Yes, they are likely most concerned with still image quality.

[Neil Orman] "Most of the time I'd be using a tripod, but do you know if this camera can shoot video hand-held? "

Sure, but I do recommend some kind of device for steadying the camera to minimize rolling shutter artifacts. I like to shoot handheld with a Gorillapod on the bottom and a SmallHD monitor w/sunshade mounted on the top. The Gorillapod feet rest against my abdomen and I press my face into the soft sunshade, while holding the camera with my right hand, lens with the left. It gives me several points of contact and makes for steady footage.

[Neil Orman] "I found the battery discussion interesting too. But I wasn't sure what the term 'hacked' means in this context?"

Firmware hacking doesn't affect battery life as far as I know. Its main purpose is to increase the bitrate of the video. I've never found it necessary to hack my GH2.

[Neil Orman] "'If budget is your primary concern, B&H sells a Canon T5i video kit with a Rode video mic on a good lyre mount for $1100. Add the Rokinon Cine 35mm and 85mm lenses for another $800, along with a Tascam DR60-D mixer/recorder and a dslr cable for $400, another $700 for a viewfinder loupe and rig, arms and mounts, cards and batteries, and a cheap TV monitor (use for interviews to keep things in focus,) and you're good to go for $3000, assuming you already have mics and lights and tripod.'"

I recommend a Panasonic GH3 (body $1,100), SmallHD AC7 w/sunhood & accessories $750 (having a good external monitor is critical). You could get the nice Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 or get a Voigtlander adapter, then use inexpensive manual Nikon lenses.

As far as audio, do you want to do wireless lav, shotgun or boom? If you do it right, you can record audio in-camera and skip messing with a separate recorder.

Jason Jenkins
Flowmotion Media
Video production... with style!

Check out my Mormon.org profile.


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Neil Orman
Re: HDSLR versus camcorders
on Jan 8, 2014 at 7:52:26 pm

What a great help, thanks Jason! To answer your question I'd like to have both wireless lavs and a shotgun mike, as I'll usually be a one-man band, so just let me know if you have any tips there. I already have a 416 shotgun mike, but I'm assuming you can't mount that on a GH3 body? Paddy had mentioned the Tascam DR100, so I was curious too if my existing 416 shotgun mike could be plugged into that or a similar recorder. Very much obliged for your great, specific recommendations.


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Jason Jenkins
Re: HDSLR versus camcorders
on Jan 8, 2014 at 8:59:26 pm

[Neil Orman] "To answer your question I'd like to have both wireless lavs and a shotgun mike, as I'll usually be a one-man band, so just let me know if you have any tips there. I already have a 416 shotgun mike, but I'm assuming you can't mount that on a GH3 body?"

For interview audio, I recommend booming that 416 over the talent and plugging in to a JuicedLink preamp, which feeds the mic input of the GH3 (set the GH3 to the lowest sensitivity). Much easier than using a separate recorder like the Tascam.

With this Rycote mount and the JuicedLink Riggy, you can have the 416 directly on the GH3 as well.

Jason Jenkins
Flowmotion Media
Video production... with style!

Check out my Mormon.org profile.


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Todd Terry
Re: HDSLR versus camcorders
on Jan 8, 2014 at 10:06:14 pm

Just noticed you have a 416... you're GOLDEN, then. The MKH416 is my favorite mic ever... couldn't live without it. It has such a beautiful warm and open sound... and you couldn't ask for better directionability (is that a word?). The only downside to it is the price, but it is worth every penny, and then some.

YES, boom it on a fishpole. Don't put it on the cam.

I used (and loved) the 416 as our primary boom mic on location for years. Then one day some nimrod accidently dropped our usual AT booth mic onto the concrete stage floor here (ok ok... it was me). In a pinch to record some VO we pulled the 416 out of its blimp and put it in the audio booth to record the narration track. It sounded GREAT. Only after that did I learn that many of the top narrators use the 416 as a booth mic (and I mean the big guys... Beau Weaver, Joe Cipriano, Peter Thomas, etc.). I'd always thought of it as just a great shotgun and it foolishly hadn't even occurred to me to use it for any other applications. Now, its just about the only mic we ever use.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Neil Orman
Re: HDSLR versus camcorders
on Jan 9, 2014 at 1:14:57 pm

I couldn't agree more, Todd. My 416 has been awesome, and thanks to you I'm going to consider using it for voiceover and other applications now. I use a Blue Snowball mike for VO now. Much appreciated.


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Neil Orman
Re: HDSLR versus camcorders
on Jan 9, 2014 at 1:08:38 pm

Very helpful, thanks Jason!


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Mark Suszko
Re: HDSLR versus camcorders
on Jan 8, 2014 at 4:28:13 pm

Making the look of a shallower DOF in a "regular" camera is relatively simple, and you can easily try this at home with what you already have.

Put the camera at least twice as far from the subject as you normally would, and put the talent a farther distance from any background walls or objects, then zoom in and set focus on the talent, zoom out to frame the shot. This should give the illusion of a tight DOF, when you zoom to make your subject the right size. Admittedly, this somewhat constrains the ability to move the camera around while shooting, as the telephoto setting magnifies any bumping of the camera, and it would make jib or slider shots harder. But you can do a lot with this shot anyhow, for sit-down interviews.

DOF is tied to the iris opening of the camera; a gross simplification is that a bigger lens (iris) opening shortens the DOF. You may need to add some Neutral Density filtration to the front of the lens, or adding a higher shutter speed, or some combination of these, as if you were outside on a sunny day, to get a wide-open iris, without making the image too bright.

Put these two techniques together, and you can get similar results to what the DSLR gives you.


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Neil Orman
Re: HDSLR versus camcorders
on Jan 8, 2014 at 7:11:45 pm

What a great help Mark, much appreciated! On the second half of your answer, I'm playing with different combinations of ND, gain and shutter speed and I'm not seeing a significant difference. I work with a Panasonic AG-HPX170 so just let me know if you or anyone else has any recommendations on how to adjust this variable, on this camera, to affect DOF. Thanks again for your insights!

Neil


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Todd Terry
Re: HDSLR versus camcorders
on Jan 8, 2014 at 7:58:33 pm

[Neil Orman] " I'm playing with different combinations of ND, gain and shutter speed "

Careful with the shutter speed. Unless you are going for some kind of special effect (such as the strobby "narrow shutter" look), you should always try to keep that at a "normal" shutter speed whenever possible... normal being "one over twice the frame rate." I.e., if you're shooting 24p a "normal" shutter (one that emulates a 180° shutter in a film camera) would be 1/48th. Normal for 60i would be 1/60th (since 60i is 30fps).

Don't change your shutter speed very much except as an absolute last resort. If your exposure is too much with your iris open, and you can't adjust it enough by tweaking the ISO a bit, then use ND filters. If you want to keep the iris locked absolutely wide open for minimum depth of field, then a variable ND filter is the way to go to ride the exposure.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Neil Orman
Re: HDSLR versus camcorders
on Jan 8, 2014 at 8:02:03 pm

Much appreciated, Todd!


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Mark Suszko
Re: HDSLR versus camcorders
on Jan 8, 2014 at 8:12:30 pm

I would not mess with gain, and make sure the iris is set to manual. Add more lens to subject distance, and add more ND filtration, then bring in more light to make it up, if you have to. Take to heart what Todd says about too much shutter, but I sometimes will put in a *little" bit (the lowest setting my camera offers) in high-brightness environments, as long as there is not a lot of camera or subject motion.


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Neil Orman
Re: HDSLR versus camcorders
on Jan 9, 2014 at 1:10:53 pm

Thanks Mark!


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