Pro 2/3-inch 3-CCD camcorders—Better than a DSLR?

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    • #91888
      AvatarSpace Racer
      Participant

      The price of used 3CCD 2/3-inch camcorders seems to be falling quickly and some are now within my price range. Are there any advantages to using one of these over something like a 5D, C100 or a 1-inch prosumer camcorder? I don’t worry about depth of field or the “film” look. I can get there on my own.
      I know they’re great for TV news crews, what about for people like us who are shooting for the web and for film festivals?
      Do they have richer/better colors because of the 3 sensors? And I assume their lenses are sharper than those on prosumer cams.
      Is there anything else they’re good at besides shooting car crashes and press conferences?

    • #215083
      AvatarVideoFreq
      Member

      It depends on many factors – e.g. the recording bit rate, color bit depth, the resolution of the sensor (and its quality), the CODEC it records and the glass it can use. Nearly any decent video camera is going to offer you many benefits over a DSLR, the biggest is one button touch to perform functions. Since audio is so important and a DSLR can’t give you pro-quality, then you’ll need a field recorder. And a DSLR is limited on how long it can record and is a compromise in bit depth and record rate, often producing moire patterns. All of the features on a camcorder are what make it so much better.

      The internet has hundreds of people saying they upgraded to a camcorder from DSLR and they couldn’t believe what they were missing. Now, when comparing a quality 2/3″ 3-chip camera to one with a 1″ or Super 35 mm chip, image quality could be better with a large chip. Other than DOF, most noticeable are facial tones and a better dynamic range producing overall tonal quality and shadow details, especially if the large sensor can record in S-log.

      Also, a large single chip can typically gather more light than a 2/3″ 3-chipper. If dark shooting is important make sure the camera has a good codec to do that avoiding video noise. You will also need to consider lens focus and aperture control – auto vs. manual. With large chip camcorders, most people use DSLR glass which are manually controlled.

      A lens with an auto-focus in a E, F, S or PL mount will cost multiple tens of thousands, which is out of most people’s budget. Most 2/3″ 3-chip camcorders come with a decent lens that has auto everything with the push of a button. This is most important when shooting “run-n-gun” events since you will not always have time to think and control focus, aperture, depth of field, white balance.

      With a 3-chip ENG type camcorder, this is automatic. 3 chip cameras were and still are the darling of the media for broadcasting and ENG event recording. They provide broadcast quality color and are designed for minimal post production work, retaining quality. Their CODECs are simple like MPEG2, with bit rates around 50mb/s, producing images good for television (as well as the web and most other mediums). They also edit easier without a proxy file. Large chip cameras are designed for higher quality images (higher bit rates =>100 mb/s and 10 bit color depths) so that their images can be processed more in post production without noticeable loss. They generally require more shot planning so that one can achieve a greater, controlled result.

      Finally, who is your audience? Most people still can’t tell the difference between 720-60p and 1080-60i on YouTube. Very few people can tell the difference between true quality, high bit rate/depth 1080-60p and 4K, most of which is shot at 80 to 100 mb/s, which is like 25 mb/s HDV. You have to decide since there are so many factors to consider. If you can’t control the event, get a 2/3″ 3-chipper.

      If you can, get a Super 35 cam with a high bit rate and 10 bit color depth otherwise, stick to 3-chips. Remember, Star Wars IV was shot in 1080-24p with a Sony HDW-F900 with a 2/3″ 3 chip CCD (FIT) at 100 Mb/s in 12 bit. Most people thought it was film. Good luck.

    • #215094
      Avatarpaulears
      Participant

      I’ve used pro format 3ccd (and 3 tube cameras before that) for a very long time, and for what I do, despite having a DSLR, it gets used for stills only. Nothing wrong with the image quality, which is very high and does look nice, but the plus points to a shoulder mount pro camera are many. I’ve moved from camera to camera over the years, and the majority have the same buttons in the same places, and my zoom demands from 20 years ago are still working, the base plate design has remained the same so I can attach the camera to 4 different heads and legs plus a heavy duty jib. They balance nicely when you use the on the shoulder, they have excellent depth of field. The images look like television. DSLR looks different. The two are just different. I like broadcast, others don’t. I don’t really see any advantage pin having the prism and 3CCDs – I just see quality in the images. 3 chip cameras at all quality sizes from SD to HD just have that particular ‘look’. You can indeed get some mega deals by buying these things when a year or two old – that’s what I always do.

    • #215155
      AvatarSpace Racer
      Participant

      Wow. Thanks guys. I always assumed that if you want to play with the big boys, you need to bring the same toys.
      But it’s always a mystery to me when I go to a news event and the camera guys from the big networks are all using old school, shoulder mounted 40 lb. ENG cameras (mainly Sony) while everyone else is using cameras ranging from beat up 70Ds and Canon XF300s to FS7s to various flavors of Red.

      So, if I understand, are you saying that it’s not the 3-chip imaging chain that makes the cameras more suited to NBC/CBS/ABC/CNN broadcast world. It’s more that their audiences expect a certain look when they tune in and that’s what those cameras deliver?

    • #215168
      Avatarpaulears
      Participant

      Yes and no. The BBC, for instance, if you do news, want an on the shoulder camera from a very short list of acceptables. The look is important, but the other aspects are common batteries, common format for ingest into their systems, standard audio facilities, slot in radio mic receivers. All the acceptable cameras have virtually identical controls and operation style. They have common connectors for the lens controls – they have B4 mounts so operators can easily swap the lenses or hire them in pretty well anywhere. They pop out of the case, have a battery slapped on and up and running in seconds. They can have their output connected straight to a sat van, or OB unit, most can have CCUs attached, and they fit easily into the broadcast world. Turn up with one at a studio and the pictures match. B4 lenses mean decent depth of field – they usually have range extenders too. even things like base plates mean I can remove and attach my cameras to other peoples equipment. You can perch one on a very tall set of head and legs so it’s perhaps 7 ft above ground, and you can see the viewfinder – you can’t do that on a DSLR – unless you add on extra kit. These cameras are designed to do exactly what they do. Can’t say that about DSLRs, and the large format cameras are more suited to Cinema style product. Nothing related to image quality – just practical stuff!

    • #215535
      Avatartmoss@tmoss.com
      Participant

      I would like some brand and model number recommendations. Cameras that will accept DSLR lenses (with adapter of course).

      Thanks!

    • #215539
      Avatarpaulears
      Participant

      Rather defeats the object, to be honest. A few people attach specialist lenses – as in extremely long ones, or ‘special’ ones, but DSLR lenses usually lose you the very features ⅔ B4 cameras excel at. Zooms that stay pin focus and can go in/out fast or very slowly – the reporting back to the camera for auto iris and other things. Most cameras with the adaptor can take whatever lenses you have available, but you also get a change of field of view too, as the sensors are different sizes, so the usual result is a zoom in – with some loss of quality. A DSLR wide angle looks pretty standard on a B4 mount.

    • #215905
      AvatarZcream
      Participant

      I was thinking of getting 2/3 in 3-ccd camcorder and recording the HDMI or sdi out. I liked the rich colors from 3-ccd. Is there a camera that offers something similar to a lot profile as well and 10-bit HDMI output?

    • #215907
      Avatarpaulears
      Participant

      The ⅔” cameras that have HDMI out are going to still be quite expensive, and quite rare – so not a huge amount of choice. The more sensibly priced ones usually have firewire and record to tape –

    • #301469
      Avatarpaulears
      Participant

      The ?” cameras that have HDMI out are going to still be quite expensive, and quite rare – so not a huge amount of choice. The more sensibly priced ones usually have firewire and record to tape –

    • #215952
      Avatarperry
      Member

      @paulears Please tell me what do you mean by “3 chip cameras at all quality sizes from SD to HD just have that particular ‘look’.”
      What look do you mean? What is the difference between this look and others? Thanks

    • #215958
      Avatarpaulears
      Participant

      Well – 3 chip cameras have depth, and just a different look. Edge detail is different, the colour rendition is different and the signal to noise is different. single chip cameras look a little flatter and on a decent monitor, less good. Standard definition from a camera with decent optics is noticeable. Many so called HD cameras have really cheap lenses and optically inferior imaging chips – yet they have 1920 x 1080 output. Some of the ⅔” real lenses cost more than many cameras, because the glass is excellent. The same thing happens with still cameras. You can put a £50 lens on a DSLR or a £2000 lens – one looks better, doesn’t it?

    • #215969
      AvatarTrevor
      Participant

      Also 3CCD cameras have one color assigned to each chip, so for your 2/3″ chips you are having one chip process you C, another you Y-B and another your Y-R, which if you are shooting DVCPROHD (or DVCPRO50 for SD) where your chroma subsampling is 4:2:2 (or Mini-DV/DVCPRO25’s 4:1:1) then you are getting a lot more color resolution and separation than if you had just 1 CCD. Even now with CMOS, even though they claim to give the same color as 3 CCD’s, I’m still on the fence. Of course most CMOS cameras I’ve seen so far have used the AVCHD codec with a 4:2:0 chroma, so it might be the codec.

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