Camera For Documentary/Educational Film

Viewing 7 reply threads
  • Author
    • #42861

      Help. I would appreciate some guidance on where to best compare-shop cameras. This will be my first purchase of a camera for a new passion I’ve descovered in film making.

      Here’s what I *THINK* I need – input would be appreciated:

      1. manual focus

      2. manual iris

      3. mic input and headphone jack

      4. optical zoon & optical stabilization

      5. hard disc recording (one you wear on your belt)with simultaneous tape recording (for back up)

      6. manual audio control

      I’m considering the following cameras, what are your thoughts and experience with these machines?

      Panasonic AG-DVX100A

      Panasonic AG-HVX200

      Canon GL2 or XL2/XL1

      Sony HVR-Z1U

      Thanks guys and gals – I look forward to your input!

      Tom W

    • #179484

      I’m a big fan of Sony products and have a FX-1, so I say go with the Sony HVR-Z1U.:)


    • #179485

      Wellllll…..this is tricky. If you are really ambitious, then you can go for an HVX or even the Sony EX1, which is outstanding. However, you mentioned this will be your first camera, and while the HVX and the EX1 are fantastic cameras, they might not be the best thing to learn on. You might want something to learn the basics on something easier, such as the GL2.

      If you don’t mind putting in extra time to learn everything about your camera, how to shoot, and learn clever techniques, definitely go for the HVX or EX1; however, if you don’t have a lot of time, get a GL2. Keep in mind that Panasonic announced they will be coming out with the HVX200a soon and Sony just came out with the EX3. So wait a while to see what happens in the market. The EX1 might go down in price and obviously if you want the HVX, wait for the HVX200a. Also, if you are thinking about those 2, do some research on the difference between the 2. I personally like the EX1 better.

      Also, when buying new equipment, it’s easy to forget to look at what our needs are. Do you really need HD? It’s nice, but what are your videos going to be for? If the videos aren’t going to be viewed on HD TVs, then why get it. You could however shoot HD and down-convert to SD. It makes for very nice images. You will also have to think about your computer. Can your computer handle HD? It’s more than having enough hard drive space and RAM. There’s a lot to think about when getting a camera. Make sure you go over everything. And be sure not to buy something you don’t need. It will hurt you more in the end.

    • #179486

      Thanks a bunch for the great advice!!! I agree, I won’t need HD, but it seems that all the great machines are only HD anymore. I’m upgrading to a new mac with FC Pro for editing, so I’m maxing the machine out (haven’t had a new computer in 5 years, so I’m splurging). I found a local store (not box mart chain) that carries many of the models discussed above. Here’s some other questions:

      1. Do you recommend purchasing from “mom and pop” or going online/catalog? (like to support small biz).

      2. what models can record tape and hard drive simultaneously?

      3 what is the most useful feature for YOU in your work?

      4. what is the LEAST useful featurefor YOU?

      Thanks again!!!

    • #179487

      It’s not true that “all the great machines are HD only anymore.” If it can handle HD it certainly handles SD as well. It’s not like Apple said,”Lets make a Mac that is HD only.” The software and hardware you have determines whether or not your computer will handle HD or not. These days, any thing can handle SD. And if you’re getting a Mac, I wouldn’t max it out. You’ll be paying for more than you need. Actually, are you getting a MacPro or a MacbookPro? If you’re getting a MacbookPro, then yes, max it out. If you’re getting a MacPro, you don’t need to max it out.

      As for where to buy from: If you’re getting a Mac, order from Apple. Either go to or call 1-800-My-Apple. Then you can get warranties. If you are getting other video equipment, order from B&H. Their website is and I order everything from them. They usually have the lowest price for everything.

      I don’t know of any cameras that can record to tape and a hard drive at the same time because I never needed or wanted it. So I never looked into it. I wouldn’t get hung up no that though. It’s pointless and doesn’t really matter if it records to both at the same time. Just pick one. I would lean toward getting a camcorder that records to a memory card or hard drive more than tape though. Just because it makes for a faster work flow.

      As for what I look for in a camera, right now I’m looking into getting an HD camera. The one I really like is the Sony EX1. I like it because it uses 1/2 inch CMOS sensors as opposed to the usually 1/3 inch CCDs you find in many cameras in it’s class. This allows for a higher sensitivity to light and allows for a shallower depth of focus. It also records a native 1920×1080 resolution. HDV cameras only record 1440X1080 and I believe even the Panasonic HVX200 only shoots 1440X1080, then they stretch and distort everything to make it cover 1920×1080 (at least, i believe that’s how it work. I could be wrong.) The EX1 also records to a memory card (and i heard they’re making a hard drive for it soon). I don’t want to deal with tape anymore. Logging and capturing footage is the most boring part for me, and I’m sure everyone else, in the post production process. Recording to a memory card also eliminates the chance of drop outoccurring, which is something else that really annoys me about miniDV tapes. The EX1 also has a really good lens made by Fujinon and has some innovative features. I also will only get a camera with XLR inputs.

      As for the a feature that interests me least, I would say interchangeable lenses. The Canon XL series has them and that one JVC camera does too. It’s nice, but it’s not something I need. Weight isn’t an issue to me. A lot of people think light cameras are easier to hold, but in reality, when you’re zoomed in all the way a heavier camera is easier to hold steady. And besides, you should be using a tripod whenever you can.

      I would recommend to you the Panasonic DVX100B. It’s standard definition. I don’t know if it is capable of recording to a hard drive, but it does have XLR inputs and shoots a damn good picture. It’s a camera used by lots of professionals, but if you read the manual and look for tips about it on the internet, you can become a master of this camera as well. I wouldn’t say it’s a hard camera to learn on, it just takes time like everything else in the world. My friend has had a DVX for a while now and is amazing with it. He got a lot of info and tips about his camera from

    • #179488

      Thanks so much for the great information. What are your thoughts on the Panasonic AVCHDAGHMC70 or AVCHD format in general?

      I’m really leaning towards a Panasonic model for two reasons: 1) all the videos I have viewed thus far, the ones shot with a Panasonic seem to have the best picture. 2) I have discovered I have a local Panasonic dealership for local support. Video quality is ULTRA important to me, because at the end of the day, after the great story line, the viewer demands great quality video in my opinion.

      Also, my research on this website has lead me to believe I don’t need any fancy script writing software. However, I’m beginning to run into issues viewing / proofreading my script in MS Word (using the table feature with two colums for A and B roll). What are your thoughts on a script writing program? Also, if you use a script writing program, what do you like/dislike or recommend?

      I am planning to go with a Macbook Pro 15″, 200GB/7200, 4GB with an external drive for storage (I travel and want to edit on the road). I found a local VAR (I might have that accronym incorrect, but they are a Mac dealer for the past 20+ years). I am strongly considering purchasing my Mac from this VAR. They have a Mac licensed/trained guy on staff, can do everything a Mac store can do it seems (without the crowds) and can set up the machine with the camera and software (FC studio). Thoughts on using them over the Mac store?

      I’ve also planned to go with the Adzen 200 UHF wireless mic system and Manfrotto 501HDV, 745BK, MBAG80P tripod- any thoughts here?

      That’s my progress/update thus far. Appreciate any comments or input anyone has on my above plans for this educational/doc. film.

    • #179489

      I believe AVCHD is highly compressed. I think it’s more compressed than HDV. It good if you are going to be shooting for a long period of time but don’t have a laptop or something to dump your footage onto from the memory card. I personally wouldn’t get it because I don’t find myself in that situation.

      I agree, Panasonic makes some great cameras, although, I’m all about the Sony EX1 and EX3.

      A good script writing program that is use is Celtx. You can also use Final Draft as well. They are pretty similar. I use those if I am writing a script for a movie. If I’m doing a documentary style video, I just make a script page script in Word. Just make a table that has 2 columns and like, 50 rows. Then designate one side for video and the other side for audio.

      If you are writing a script for a documentary, I wouldn’t get too hung up on it in the early stages. Just decide what you want your video to be about and come up with good questions to ask your subjects. Then take what they say and turn it into a story. Add narration where it’s needed.

      I personally like either ordering strait for Apple or going to an Apple store. That way you get their warranty and they are nice people. And besides, Macs are easy to use and it’s not hard to install a program.

      Dont get a wireless mic unless you need it. To me, its a last resort. If you can’t put a wired mic on your subject, and can’t get a boom op. with a shotgun mic close enough to your subject, thats when you use a wireless mic. I’ve read that the best wireless mic won’t have as good of sound quality as an average wired mic.

      Manfrotto makes some good tripods. The things to look at are how stable it is, the type of head, type of legs, and price. At least, thats what I look at. Be sure to get a tripod that supports your camera enough so that when you’re zoomed in all the way, you still have a stable image. I have a tripod that works great zoomed in, but when I put a 2X teleconverter lens on, it’s no longer stable enough. Usually the more stable it is, the heavier it will be. Also, be sure it has a fluid head. I also prefer to have crutch style legs rather than telescoping legs. Telescoping legs are just a pain in the ass I think. It’s also nice to have a tripod that allows you to adjust the pan and tilt drag. Don’t be cheap about a tripod. You get what you pay for, and having a good tripod makes a big difference.

      Good luck

    • #179490

      In the third paragraph I mean to say “split page script” not script page script

Viewing 7 reply threads
  • The forum ‘Other Camcorders’ is closed to new topics and replies.

Best Products

The best lights for video production — 2021

Lighting needs run the gamut, from huge budget productions to small, DIY vloggers, and there’s something for every niche. This article will explain what to think about before buying lights and provide a list of the best video lights currently on the market.



Given away to one lucky winner

Competition is open worldwide


Need help making a stellar first video?


Download our free eBook with 8 tips to get on the right track and create a video that you can be proud of.