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Best choice for documentary camera?

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Brendon Marotta
Best choice for documentary camera?
on Nov 24, 2012 at 4:49:57 am

I'm looking for a camera for run and gun filmmaking for under $5000. Something with high image quality (must), a built in input of some kind for sounds (preferably), and good autofocusing (must).

I was looking at the Cannon 5D Mark III, because I've used the Mark II before, and gotten great images from it, but a friend of mine who owns the Mark III suggested Sony NEX-VG900 instead. His main reasons were that setting up and focusing with the Mark III is difficult when documenting live events, and the Sony NEX-VG900 has really excellent auto-focus, zoom, and ways to run a mic in. Wanting a camera he could go from seeing a shot, to pulling the camera out of the bag, to shooting in 15 seconds ruled out the 5D. Is there a camera with built in auto-focusing, suited for run and gun that maintains image quality comparable to the 5D? The closet I've seen from Cannon is the c300, but that has a dramatic price increase. Ideas?


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Al Bergstein
Re: Best choice for documentary camera?
on Nov 24, 2012 at 3:18:55 pm

Well, if your choices are to go from a 5D to a C300 in price, then I'd wait for and seriously look at the C100. I use a 5D M3 and can setup and shoot in 15 seconds if need be, depending on the action. And the lens will determine your auto focus ability.

But for run and gun, I usually use a Canon xf300/305. It has a great zoom lens (a big shortcoming for DSLR's), and the picture often is better than my 5D, unless you look at DOF on interviews (that's when I will reach for the 5D).

The Sony might do the job. However, if you have an investment in Canon glass, the C100 might be the better choice. It should be shipping this week or next.

You didn't mention what kind of run and gun you are looking at..the use of the camera and final target market will very much determine which way to go. Private client (i.e. sports, weddings, corporate), web only, broadcast...they all can drive a different set of choices.

Al


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Harry Pallenberg
Re: Best choice for documentary camera?
on Nov 25, 2012 at 4:43:04 am

Like Al I use a xf300 and think it is way better for run & gun than a dslr... as would a sony EX1 (or the new 50mb sony) or panny AC130 / 160... these cameras are literally made for video - unlike a digital still camera that can shoot video.

Also like Al said you need to know what you are shooting and what is most important: cheap price, DOF, low light, image....

Good luck.

Thanks,
Harry

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Al Bergstein
Re: Best choice for documentary camera?
on Nov 25, 2012 at 6:14:01 am

I agree with Harry. The xf300 is not the only choice. But that list is a good starting place to compare true run and gun cameras in your price range. I use to shoot Panny, and love them. They are a shooters camera. The Canons are great, but their ergonomics are not as good as Panny. But their image and useability are.I would not trade my xf305 for any current Panny model, I love what I can do with it, though I am not comparing the AF100 in that list.

Al


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David Howard
Re: Best choice for documentary camera?
on Aug 11, 2014 at 7:16:58 am

Cannon dslr cameras are really good for documentaries, I have been working on a few and the camera man always used a Cannon 7D

Redefined Media

Video Production Sydney


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Brendon Marotta
Re: Best choice for documentary camera?
on Nov 25, 2012 at 7:14:55 am

You didn't mention what kind of run and gun you are looking at..the use of the camera and final target market will very much determine which way to go. Private client (i.e. sports, weddings, corporate), web only, broadcast...they all can drive a different set of choices.


I'm shooting documentary - with the occasional off narrative project shot in documentary style. The project I'm editing now involved more than one political protest and surgery being filmed - not exactly moments you can do over.

There aren't any deliver requirements beyond those I set for myself. My primary concern is image quality and flexibility shooting. For example, a RED had great image quality, but when I spy two protestors who are both characters in my documentary about to meet for the first time, and my equipment is still in the bag, I need a camera I can bust out, focus and get the shot with quickly.

I was looking at the Sony NEX-VG900 not because it has the strongest video quality, but because it functions like a handycam and the auto-focus is supposed to be good. The image quality may be too much of a compromise for me, but that ability to gun appeals to me.

I looked at the xf300 - next to the DSLRS, it looks very videoish to me still. I can see why it got lost in the DSLR boom.

I'm not too invested in any glass. C100 is definitely on the shortlist. AF-100 is a bit up in price range, but I'll look at it.


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Al Bergstein
Re: Best choice for documentary camera?
on Dec 14, 2012 at 4:08:38 pm

I have a wide range of cameras to choose from, from the XF105, 305, 5DMkiii, and 7D, and lately the M. For what you describe, I would be breaking out the 5Dmkiii (or if I was on a low budget, with somewhat lessor quality in some cases, the GH3).

Beyond that, the C100 would likely be my next choice, if you didn't need stills. ( I always like to crank off a few stills).

The 5D mkiii is giving me fabulous results, and is much better to shoot video with than the 7D. For one lens for all purposes the 2.8 24-70. But I have been mainly shooting primes, which I love.

I have been keeping the 105 around for it's B camera capability and it's infared. My 305 is mainly a concert camera, for shooting long live shows for possible broadcast use. But it may get retired next year.

Al


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Ryan Douthit
Re: Best choice for documentary camera?
on Dec 17, 2012 at 6:58:32 am

I've been using the Sony A77 DSLT camera to do some run-and-gun style shooting and its been working surpringly well. He's a video I produced after having the camera a couple days... I literally bought it two days before flying to the UK. I only use manual focus, but it has both fast auto focus (granted at f3.5) as well as image stabilization in-body.







I also filmed this while I was there:







I'm now considering adding either a VG900 of A99 to my camera lineup.


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