Camera Advice – Looking for Versatility

Viewing 2 reply threads
  • Author
    • #62561

      Hi all,


      I'm a freelance multimedia producer who specializes primarily in the training / educational space. Recently, more and more of my clients are asking me to shoot video content for them. A little background – I have a lot of experience with editing, motion graphics, compositing and visual design, but not so much on the videography (or photography) end of the spectrum – I've been learning as I go. I have shot videos a number of times, but it's either been with a video camera supplied to me by an employer or using my own low-end (and now archaic) tape-based Canon consumer camcorder.


      This is an area I am committed to becoming more proficient in, as it's a growing part of what my clients are requesting of me (and therefore a growing part of my business), and so I have a fairly immediate and real need to upgrade to a professional (or at least semi-pro) camera for shooting video going forward. I'm a one-man band, so quick setup, breakdown and easy transport are important to me. I edit using FCP X on a Mac Pro workstation outfitted with AfterEffects, Maya and other image editing, compression and graphics software.


      The types of shooting situations I have to deal with are as follows:

      1 – 1-2 on-camera talent speaking directly to camera waist-up or medium close-up on infinite white background.

      2 – Shots portraying interior classrooms / equipment / facilities, typically in low and/or existing light. I have very little time for these shots, since I am only allowed to shoot during class breaks during business hours (15 minutes tops). Sometimes I'm able to quickly get a light or two into place, but not always.

      3 – Building and landscape exteriors in natural sunlight – outdoor beauty shots, essentially.

      4 – Sit down interviews with 1-2 people on-camera – I get more setup time for these and can add lighting, gels, etc. Clients would like the "golden fleece" of shallow depth of field for these per what you typically see shot on DSLRs.

      5 – Clients are also requesting green screen capabilities for certain projects.


      I already have a really nice set of Manfrotto tripod legs (351MVB2) and 503HDV fluid head, along with an NTG-2 shotgun microphone (connected to my videocam via a JuicedLink 4XLR preamp), an H4N audio recorder, two wired lavs, and a heavy-duty backdrop kit with white, black, textured grey and greenscreen 10 x 12's. For lighting I have two LED 600s from Coollights, 1 256 LED (for hairlight) and two cheap-o four-bank fluorescent CFL light fixtures with softboxes that I use for key and fill for infinite white shots (while using the LED 600s for lighting the background). This ssetup has worked OK overall for projects that were internal and low-budget, but for the projects I have coming up, the expectations (and my own desire) for very high image quality is much higher.


      I can only afford a budget towards video gear of $5000 tops for this year. I've been looking at video cameras for a long while now, and had been considering the Canon XF100 ($2500) because of the 4:2:2 color for green screen, and then 1-2 more (or at least better) lights, and a pair of Sennheiser wireless lavs.


      However, I keep reading comments abou the XF100 performing poorly in low light, and that the single chip isn't that great. I've looked at a lot of footage samples online, and overall they look "OK". The XF300 would eat nearly my entire budget alone, but would give me 3 chips, however I've read similar comments about it being poor in low light. I don't live anywhere where I could easily get my hands on any of these (or any other higher end video cameras) to test or try them out myself.


      I've never shot video with a DSLR of any kind (nor do I have one, or any lenses), so there would be a steeper learning curve there for me, and I'm not sure how easy it would be to get the "run n' gun" classroom shots I need to get with one of those. Plus, the current "pro" ones seem to be really expensive – a Mark iii would eat my whole budget.


      More recently, I've considered the possibility of a Black Magic Cinema camera (sit-down interviews, green screen, inifinite white), but wide-angle exterior shots (cropping from small sensor) and the run n' gun classroom shots would still be an issue. Of course, this would eat my whole budget too after I take into account lens(es), battery solutions, SSDs, etc.


      There's also the Sony FS100U (sold with a lens as a kit from B&H for $4500), but I think you lose the 4:2:2 color space unless you add an expensive external recorder.


      While I don't have any sort of "unbreakable" brand loyalty, I tend to prefer Canon or Sony simply because of their "ecosystems" within the video industry and the fact that I've really liked the camcorders I've used from them in the past. I did have the chance to shoot with a JVC GY-HM150U recently, but I didn't really love the results I got from it (although maybe with more experience with it I could get better results). I have no familiarity or experience with anything form Panasonic.


      I consider this an investment for the next 3-5 years (is that possible any more?), so I really want to make the best choice possible and to examine every contender carefully, but quickly.


      Any suggestions?


    • #207505

      Wow.  Thanks for the comprehensive outline of your requirements – from your level of expertise, to client preferences, to codec and color space, to editing software!


      In your situation, with clients looking for the "golden fleece" of shallow depth of field, a traditional small sensor camcorder such as the XF100 will not work for you.


      And for run n' gun – you need something that can autofocus very quickly, is compatible with a power zoom, is not overly susceptible to artifacts from moire and aliasing, has power zoom lenses and headphone monitoring.  Except for video autofocus and the power zoom, that describes the 5D Mark III – but, as you say, it is darned expensive – even at $2900 on eBay.


      That's why I recommend the $1298 (body only) Panasonic GH3.  It has: lightning fast autofocus in video mode, power zoom lenses (if you want them), a headphone jack, and records AVCHD or FCP-compatible .MOV 8 bit with a 4-2-0 color space. It may be 4-2-0, but the codec is so strong, you can chromakey it without a problem.  See this example:



      For interviews, here is what it can do:



      Hope this is helpful!



      Hybrid Camera Revolution








    • #207517

      Thanks so much for the reply and the suggestion, Bill!


      I know my post was a bit long, but in reading through many other "which camera should I buy? (WCSIB?)" posts, the first responses tend to ask for those specifics, which definitely factor into which camera models to consider.


      I'm definitely adding the Lumix GH3 to my short-list, and have starting looking into it more. I assume I'd need a physical ND filter like any other DSLR (versus a switch or software one built-in like on some video cameras) for bright sky outdoor shooting. Also, you mentioned that I can use auto-focus for video on this camera in run n' gun situations? If so, that's pretty awesome! 


      I've definitely got a bit of a learning curve ahead of me if I go this route in terms of understanding what types of lenses to use for various shooting situations (what would be good for exteriors versus interviews, etc.), as I've never shot video (or even stills) with an interchangeable lens camera before. Is there a good lens or two you might suggest as starters?


      One question I have concerning the GH3 is how do you think it will stack up against the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera (supposedly) coming out in July? They seem very similar, with BMPC being more purely video-centric and with a cost of $999 vs. $1299. Additionally, they both use Micro 4/3 lenses (which as I mentioned above I'll need to learn more about if I go with either of these cameras).


      Thanks again for your input!


    • #207526

      Glad I could be helpful. There are quite a few questions here, I have parsed them out for clarity:


      [quote=multimedia_guy]I assume I'd need a physical ND filter like any other DSLR (versus a switch or software one built-in like on some video cameras) for bright sky outdoor shooting.[/quote]


      Yes, this is true. I use a screw-on variable ND filter or an inexpensive matte box, but these are not optimum solutions.


      [quote=multimedia_guy]Also, you mentioned that I can use auto-focus for video on this camera in run n' gun situations?[/quote] 


      The video autofocus is lightning fast with this camera, and will track a moving subject quite accurately. In addition, Panasonic video optimized lenses have silent autofocus motors and will not ruin your soundtrack.


      [quote=multimedia_guy]Is there a good lens or two you might suggest as starters?[/quote]


      I would get the Panasonic 12-35mm constant f2.8 lens for indoors and interviews, and the 45-175mm power zoom for run n' gun and outdoors.  After that, you'll know what lenses to buy next.


      [quote=multimedia_guy]One question I have concerning the GH3 is how do you think it will stack up against the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera (supposedly) coming out in July?[/quote]


      Based on the one sample video I have seen, the Pocket Cinema Camera is going to be a great camera with great dynamic range and an awesome codec. I have one on pre-order.



      But I have the GH3 out camping with me right now, and am shooting with it this weekend – while I don't know how long I'll be waiting for my Blackmagic 🙂


      Good luck with your decision!



      Hybrid Camera Revolution

Viewing 2 reply threads
  • The forum ‘Professional Camcorders’ is closed to new topics and replies.

Best Products




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.