My personal review of the EOS T2i and DSLR cameras in general
I wanted to write about my personal experience using DSLR cameras. The disclaimer I will make is that each person and each type of job has different needs. So what works for me won't necessarily work for you and vice versa.
I don't like my DSLR. I am mostly a one-man band, run and gun documentary film maker. I travel a lot for work. I'm in the mountains filming snowboarders one week. And the next week I'm walking in a small village in India.
My gear: Canon EOS T2i. 18-200 lens. Miller CF tripod. Zoom H4n recorder. Sennheiser K6 shotgun mic. Boom pole. Small light kit. LitePanels MicroPro. LCDVF viewfinder adapter.
Pros of DSLR. Light weight. All that gear in my camera backpack was relatively easy to transport. When just taking pictures, I only had the camera. When just shooting b-roll, the tripod and camera are small and lightweight. Oh yeah, and conspicuous. Many people just thought I was taking pictures. The image is nice. Having a lens and camera combination that gives a shallower depth of field and does well in poorly lit situations is nice.
Cons of DSLR. Try shooting video and capturing audio while on the move. I dare you. It's a pain in the ARSE! I made a rig that holds my mic, my Zoom and my camera. But still, trying to make sure you're monitoring audio, recording audio, recording video and checking focus and exposure all at the same time, on different equipment, is super hard. I have buttons and controls on all sides of the camera. I have buttons and controls on all sides of the Zoom. I felt like I was controlling the space shuttle Discovery. Which by the way, is obsolete and no longer in service.
The camera is quite difficult to operate and hold still and change focus and change exposure all at the same time. I say pick one. Control either focus or exposure. Left hand on the zoom ring. Same hand on the focus ring. But right hand has to hit record. And right hand has to change ISO, and exposure and shutter speed. How do I hold the camera steady? I guess when I set up a stationary interview on a tripod, it's not nearly as bad. At least the 5D has two control dials. The cheaper T2i only has one dial to control ISO, shutter, and f-stop causing you to press one button while at the same time turning a knob. Not good for running and gunning or quickly setting up shots.
Having a separate recorder for audio was a pain. More than once I forgot to hit record on the audio recorder. Perhaps I can chalk that up to inexperience. Whatever. Still, I'll have to go in and find out which clips have audio and which clips on the camera were only meant for b-roll and have no audio on the audio recorder. The whole syncing of clips seems like a pain. Yeah, I know they do it for film movies. Whatever. I'm not a film shooter and I don't have the budget for all that stuff and all those man-hours.
Although I made a rig, sort of a homemade version of the expensive name brand stuff, it didn't pack well. I had to completely disassemble everything off my rig in order to put it into the bag. Oh, and what about getting into and out of taxi's or motorcycles, or rickshaws. No way. My rig was even awkward for that. Any rig, purchased or handmade, is not meant to pack and go.
Overheating. While shooting snowboarding, in the snow, I had no problem with overheating batteries. But in a room with at least 70 degrees F, the camera would start to overheat. Oh, yeah, and the battery life is terrible. Perhaps an hour or two. And very little warning before death. We're talking perhaps a 60 second warning that the battery is about to die. What happens when your interview subject is in the middle of an emotional story? You can't just say, "Hey hold on a second. I know you're crying about your father's death, but I have to change my battery." I would like to see an accurate battery meter on the display.
Ok, another pet peeve was that there was no warning when my card was about to get full. Remember the days of tape and you could see your time code? Or even the P2 cameras and other SD card cameras give you a display of the time left on the card. Yeah, more than once the card became full with no warning to me. I had to stop the interview and pick back up.
Focusing. I purchased the LCDVF for under $150. Great purchase! It was very useful in finding focus. However, these sort of devices are limited. With a regular camcorder, you can put the camera below eye level, like at your waist, or above your head, then adjust the viewfinder, and keep your composition and focus correct. With these DSLR's, you can't do that. The only exception being the new Canon EOS 600. It has a swivel display. Or, you could buy yet another piece of equipment,and tether that to your camera, and buy batteries for it. It's called an LCD viewfinder, like the kind you buy from Marshall.
The problem with having to buy all this extra gear: viewfinder adapter (or LCD monitor), audio recorder, lens, rig, etc, you might as well have purchased a regular video camera and had everyone in one nice box with good ergonomics and easy to use functions.
So overall, if you have a really low budget and you're looking for ways to capture decent quality video at a low price, then a DSLR is a viable option. But be prepared to make several sacrifices along the way. You'll also need to purchase a few more pieces of equipment. And you'll need to take more time for set up and tear down of your shots. And you'll have more inconveniences like batteries and full cards.
I can't wait to have enough money to buy a real video camera!
Red Eye Film Co.
As your self, I work as a one-man-band and often in complicated conditions.
I love the pictures of the DSLRs, but when I saw the difficulties of working with them, I deleted the idea out of my mind.
Now I have the idea of the PANA AF-100, but first I need to test how works on those situations.
Big captors and DOF control are great, as long as they do not compromise your work. When I go to shoot, I've to make sure that I will come back with stuff to make a movie, no just a bunch of super-beautiful pictures that I may be unable to put together later on.
At the moment my EX-1 is proving great.