Need low cost "semi-pro" used camera.

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by ChrisA, Jul 23, 2013.

  1. macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    I'm looking for a video camera. I know theory and photography but I'm an "old guy". I took film classes back when we shot on real film, cut to A/B rolls and hat it printed. I know how to set up., light and frame shots and some editing. But zero about the video camera market

    I got into still photography but now I want to shoot video. So I'm looking for what I'd guess you'd call a "prosumer" type camera that does "HD" without horrible compression artifacts, has decent optics and, I don't care so much about low light ability, I'll buy lights if need be.

    But COST is a MAJOR concern so I'm looking for used gear, maybe 6 to 8 years old, I don't know but to calibrate the deal I'm looking for, I just bought a Nikon D200 body It is slightly old very well built and I paid $200. It's a "built like a tank" two generations back semi-pro SLR that now sells for "peanuts"

    This will be used for interviews and short instructional videos and maybe something more fun.

    Size does not matter, big is OK, It would be really good if it had a way to plug-in and monitor a quality microphone. I would always have a tripod.

    I've been into 35m and medium format still photo for years, I'll want some control over the camera.

    I don't know what else to ask for. What features and prices should I be looking at. The basic need is for quality video.

    Some day I'll buy an SLR body that can capture video but as of 2013 the price is off budget. So I buy a "real" video camera that is a few years old.

    What I really need is "terms for Google". and model numbers, just pointers.
  2. macrumors 6502a

    Sep 4, 2009
    Basically look up what Sony or other camcorder companies have on the market on older models.
  3. macrumors demi-god


    Jan 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    What's your budget? Even a Sony FX1 (a first generation prosumer HD camera) still lists for at least $600 or $700 on eBay. DSLRs that shoot video are probably some of the least expensive options (besides consumer 'handicams') and are typically what people w/o a budget start out with. Audio is a big weak link with them though so you'll need a separate audio recording solution and you'll join the audio and video together in post.

    A camcorder will give you better audio out of the box (most likely no need for separate audio recording gear) but you'll have a fixed lens with probably a single, 'servo' style ring that can be set to zoom, focus or exposure. That (and the smaller sensor size) will limit your ability to control the image compared to a DSLR or interchangeable lens, large sensor camcorder (like a Panasonic AF100 or Canon C300).
  4. thread starter macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    This is the kind of information I'm looking for. I don't really even know that categories. I figure there must be "better" camcorders. I'm not going to need an interchangeable lens. My main requirements are (1) a microphone input and (2) lack of noise and compression artifacts.

    I have an 10 year old DV camera that I use inside an under water housing
    It is SD, not HD but still the image is so clean compared to new consumer camcorders. The DV format compresses each frame independently and it looks good. Basically I want an HD camera that shoots video that looks as nice as the old DV cam.

    So one more basic question, on the used market what are the categories and price points? Maybe some one can give example model numbers, I'll go off and read some old reviews

    Eventually I'll have more budget, but I've taken a few years off work to go back to grad school.
  5. macrumors 6502a

    Sep 4, 2009
    A few years back i had the same idea as you have now. I took steps and invested in a small camcorder for my needs and it is the... Sony HDR-CX305E.
    It those the job to my needs in this fast market of camcorders. Works well with my Mac regards transfer etc...
  6. macrumors member

    Oct 9, 2008
    I still use a Sony A1 which is compact but prosumer spec - has balanced audio in via an adaptor. Records onto HDV tape so less compression than some newer camcorders but then there is the added task of capturing the tape before you edit. Occasionally I've seen these crop up secondhand but I guess many folk hang on to them or else the ones that come up are well used so needs careful checking especially of tape usage which is available from the menu. If you go for one of these make sure the XLR adapter and lens hood are included. There is no HDMI out on this model but with the included leads you can use component video to an appropriate monitor. Data transfer is from a 4pin firewire socket.

    However, if you can afford it take a look at the new 'budget' HD camera body from Black Magic Design. They have introduced a 2.5K and more recently a 4K body - but the one I'm referring to is HD 1080p and quite a lot cheaper. If I was starting from fresh this is a camera I'd have on my shortlist. Lenses are additional.
  7. macrumors 6502a


    Aug 11, 2009
    I hear you. I'm in the same boat.

    The problem I've found is that in order to get the best features (XLR jacks, decent sensor size, 3 chip) you either have to spend the money on a relatively recent camcorder, or buy a tape-based camera (like the aforementioned FX1).

    Now that I'm using FCP X, I simply couldn't go back to tape. Having said that, tape may suit your purpose.

    Example of cameras: I'd love a Sony NX5 (released 2010) but the second-hand ones are as rare as hen's teeth. When they do come up, they're over $2000. If I was to go smaller, I'd look at a Canon XA10.

    If I was to get a tape-based camcorder, Sony HVR-VR1U (or VR1P for me) comes to mind (though mine at work has just gone in for a very expensive lens refit...) but any of the other HDV-capable ones would be fine as long as they have XLR audio jacks.

    Personally I can't see myself going down the DSLR route for one-man corporate videos. They're too fiddly, and video always seems like an add-on, not to mention iffy audio handling. I like a big(-ish) camera stuck on a tripod pointed at something with room for two mics, a decent zoom and enough auto things to get me out of trouble since I'm usually busy trying to wrangle the people in front of the camera at the same time.

    I hope this helps, or at least fails to add to the confusion.
  8. thread starter macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    I've started looking at SLRs and micro 4/3rds cameras. I found you can buy a used Nikon 1 J1 for $225. These all have a large sensor.

    Either that or I get an entry level Canon R400 camcorder. It looks like it will be good enough for instructional videos, These videos are done on a tripod with lights. The R400 has a microphone input and a way to set the audio level on an external mic.

    I think for more serious work an SLR might be the way to go. They don't work for shooting events or news but I don't do that.

    What I don't know about SLRs is how they compress the video data. What bit rates do they record at What codecs?

    Anyways the entry level camcorders seem to make really nice images if you use then in ideal conditions, that is with tons of light and on a tripod.

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