Favorite Prosumer High Def camcorder ($2-5K)

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by mtfield, Jul 31, 2008.

  1. mtfield macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2008
    #1
    Hey guys.. i'm looking into investing in a new camera, and while i'm looking seriously at the canon XH-A1 (hoping for an update A2 before i buy) i would just like to take a poll where people listed off their favorite (or least favorite) camera they own or have used that fits this description. So if you guys could just list which on and then give a brief explanation about some thing you really like about it i think this could be a pretty interesting thread. thanks all
     
  2. ppc_michael Guest

    ppc_michael

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    Apr 26, 2005
    Location:
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    #2
    I've never had problems with the Sony HVR-Z1U, so I'll recommend that. A few things I don't like about it is the electronic focus ring, and iris control is a dial on the side, not a ring on the lens. Also the lens is permanently attached, so no primes.

    But that stuff doesn't come at that price point anyway.

    For the price I'd say it's a good quality camera.
     
  3. pdpfilms macrumors 68020

    pdpfilms

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    #3
    I was in the same boat about a year ago, and made the decision to go with the Canon XH-A1 for a doc project in Tanzania. Ultimately it was my only option for the price, considering it was small, had a tape-based workflow, and produced a very nice picture.

    Nearing the close of the production period, I've become quite dissatisfied with the cam. The biggest problem is the dropped frames- with HDV, a single dropped frame equates to a half second of lost footage. What was previously an acceptable technical malfunction in DV (losing only a 24th of a second) now ruins a shot. After beginning to log tapes, I've found it occurring on an average of once every 35 minutes, or almost twice per tape. Not good. Keep in mind this is with Panasonic Master Quality tapes- not some flabby Best-Buy garbage. The issues have persisted on the few Canon HDV specific tapes I've tested.

    Secondly, a problem I'd never anticipated is overheating. This issue occurs after only 20-30 minutes of recording. I knew that working with HDV was pretty processor-intensive, and had always wondered how the encoding could be done on such a small camera so reliably. Turns out, in temperatures between 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit, the camera takes a real hit. The sensor (being very sensitive to electromagnetic radiation as well as heat) begins to manifest extreme horizontal noise, especially in skin tones. The issue is fully apparent in extremely well-lit situations, as well as darker ones. Turn it off, take out the worryingly warm battery and let it sit for 30 minutes, and the problem disappears. Film for another 30 minutes and it's back every time. This is a serious problem that I don't think Canon engineered around, and is also a footage-destroying one. Seems to me they slapped on the standard "Operating Temperature: 32*F - 104*F" without doing any testing. Very unfortunate.

    Not to mention that my backup HV20 is completely non-functional due to what I can only imagine were manufacturing errors...

    I'd say go with the Sony, or await the Scarlet's arrival.
     
  4. P-Worm macrumors 68020

    P-Worm

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    Salt Lake City, UT
    #4
    I have used my Canon Xh-A1 since January and haven't had either of the problems that pdpfilms speaks of. I use the white Sony HDV tapes and haven't had a single dropped frame in all these months. I don't know if it's the tape, or I just got lucky with the camera. Who knows.

    As for overheating, I haven't seen that either. Here in Utah in the summer it can get over 100 F easily and I haven't seen this issue.

    I love my XH-A1 and have gotten some great shots with it. In fact, I'm shooting a wedding with it today. Hooray for getting work!

    P-Worm
     
  5. ChemiosMurphy macrumors 6502

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    Warminster, PA
    #5
    JVC gy-HD110 or gy-HD200. Excellent 720p should mount camera. REAL interchangable bayonet lens. Wonderful camera. I've shot on both types and they rock.
     
  6. redfoxpro1 macrumors newbie

    redfoxpro1

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    Aug 1, 2008
    #6
    Scarlet

    If your looking in the $2k-$5k range then you should definitely check out what Red Digital Cinemas is coming out with in early 2009! Their camera, named SCARLET, is going to be a pretty incredible camera. Its said to be 3k for $3k. Shoot in 3K onto Compact Flash cards and edit out to HD if you want. The work flow from what I understand is pretty smooth too in FCP. Here is a LINK to the Red site. This THREAD has a bit more info on what to expect when it is released. I'm pretty excited myself about what this camera is supposed to be able to do at the price they are selling it. Plus you can see all the gear from the Red camera that is compatible with the Scarlet as well. In my opinion I'd wait to get something until Scarlet is released - if anything to just see what its capable of doing before throwing money away.
     
  7. mtfield thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Jan 9, 2008
    #7
    Wow.. I had heard about RED One a good amount, and when i initially heard about the introduction of Scarlet i figured it would be around $10K or so.. but wow after your recommendation i did a couple hours of reading on it and i think i might have found my next camera haha I love all the things about it.. except i really wish it had an option to record to tape. I understand many people don't like recording to tape, but i have always loved the low cost and the ability to save it as a hard copy... compact flash seems like it could become quite expensive buying a couple 16GB cards... but am i correct in believing that you can buy that RED hard drive and plug that into the camera gaining 320 GB of space? this seems like the cheaper option I think... and would give me ample space per shooting day. It would be nice not to have to capture my hours of footage after the long shoot days. It seems to me that this rig could rack up cost quickly though... i'm a sucker for accessories haha. I'm going into production on a low budget feature in June of next year, so it seems like if the final shipping version stays true to what has been promised then this might be my companion on the trip unless canon, panasonic, or sony find anyway to beat this deal! thanks for pointing me straight
     
  8. LethalWolfe macrumors G3

    LethalWolfe

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    Jan 11, 2002
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    #8
    mtfield,

    Is the budget just for the camera or for a camera package (case, extra batteries, tripod, filters/adapters, etc.,)? What kind of shooting are you going to be doing (mostly locked down, mostly handheld, guerilla style, etc.)? I'm assuming you already have, or have a separate budget for, adequate lighting and audio gear.

    Before you decide/really lean towards the Scarlet camera I would offer these words of warning. First, no one knows when Scarlet will come out. If may come out 'on time' in 'early '09' or it may get delayed 6 months. And when it does come out no one knows how long the lag time will be between when you order the camera and when the camera gets shipped to you. If it's anything like the RED One there will be a deep back order for the camera so since you are planning a production for June make sure to have a back-up plan incase Scarlet falls though. Also, no one knows what kind of bugs the first batch of Scarlet cameras will have. Everyone is different, but personally I'll let other people sweat bullets and live on the bleeding edge of cutting technology.

    Second, make sure to spend a lot of time reading up on the RED workflow for editing. It's not plug-n-play, it's not standardized, and it's not fast (transcodes are still much slower than real time AFAIK). It's obviously do-able because people are working w/RED footage right now, but there are a lot of places and ways to screw it up

    Third, no one knows for sure, but IMO a Scarlet camera geared up to be used as a main camera is going to cost $5k on the low end.

    Finally, it's not the gear it's how you use it. There is a good post over at the Prolost blog squarely aimed at everyone who has said, "If only I had better gear I could make a sweet movie."


    Lethal
     
  9. mtfield thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2008
    #9
    Hey Lethal,
    Thanks for the great reply. Yes the budget is for the camera itself, but if I end up going with the scarlet i'm going to have to factor in some of the accessories into the camera budget that i didn't anticipate with my previous choice camera. Tripods, lighting, batteries, etc. is already taken care of. My style is really a variation. I love camera movement as long as there is a reason for it. I try to stay away from moving the camera just to create something interesting for the viewer, because the hope is what's going on in that frame is interesting enough on it's own. but equipment wise i am looking for a shoulder mount rail system to blend with my tripod and glide cam outfit. I too was very wary of the workflow, not knowing much about it. However, I did a bit of reading and watched a few tutorials on the RED One workflow and, while there is some things that are still unclear, it appears to be a fairly straightforward path. My plan as of now is to wait an see how RED does with making their dead line and then see what the demand is like for the camera. I don't feel a need to pre-order (good thing too, because you can't hah) because i want to give it a month or two and see how the early adopters react. Like i said i plan to keep my eyes and ears pealed to whatever comes out between now and NAB '09 and will make my decision at that time, because i'd like to give myself a month or so to get familiar with whatever set up i decide to go for in the end. I know exactly what you mean about just using whatever and just get out there and shoot. It's the best advice to give to anyone who wants to make films, and it's the only way to learn your technique (in my opinion) i've shot on everything from beta cam, vhs, 16mm, mini dv, hddv, etc. to learn all i could about shooting and cutting. This project i hope to shoot next year though is special too me and i've put so much time into it that i want to do it in the best way possible. Luckily the project attracted a bit of interest and gave me some modest financial backing. so, i'm mixing that with my own savings and can't wait to get started. Thanks for all your advice! and let me know if you hear of any other cameras that fit my needs
     
  10. trudd macrumors regular

    trudd

    Joined:
    May 27, 2004
    Location:
    Texas
    #10
    I wouldn't bank on the Scarlet, either. Even if it did come out on time (which it shouldn't...they are still releasing new renders - do they even have a working prototype yet?) the line of early adopters is already miles long.

    And you've got to ask yourself - do you really have the means for 3k in terms of storage/computing power?

    I've had my XH-A1 since september and love it. The only issue I've had on dropped frames was tape related, and I've never experienced overheating. I wish it had a mechanical lens like the Sony EX1 or HVX200, but for the price it cannot be beat.

    I would avoid the Z1U, especially if you want to shoot in 24p. The newer, smaller V1U will do 24p just fine, but the Z1U's 24p isn't so great.
     
  11. LethalWolfe macrumors G3

    LethalWolfe

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    Los Angeles
    #11
    Since it doesn't sound like you'll be doing much run 'n gun, have you thought about using a Canon HV20/30 in conjunction w/a 35mm adapter?


    Lethal
     
  12. mtfield thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2008
    #12
    I have considered that, why do you say "since you wont be doing much run 'n gun?" is there something about the camera and or the adapter that would be bad for such a set-up? Run 'n gun is not my most used style, but it is one that i do use frequently. Thanks for the response.

    One thing that excites me about the scarlet doesn't really have anything to do with my liking the camera it's more about what it means for the other camera companies that hopefully will start to feel like they really need to step up the game. i'm really excited to see what's coming from canon with the XH-A"2" hopefully that announcement is imminent.
     
  13. trudd macrumors regular

    trudd

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    May 27, 2004
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    Texas
    #13
    If you use primes (most people do) with an adapter, you cannot zoom in or out. You have to change lenses. Also, you have to pull focus manually. This is great if you have time to plan your shots and block your subject, but not as versatile for documentary/run'n'gun work.

    I prefer shooting with prime lenses, but there are certainly times when I have to simplify my rig for versatility on demand.
     
  14. Gymnut macrumors 68000

    Gymnut

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2003
    #14
    This entirely depends on the camera and DOF adapter you choose to go with. I used to have a Brevis35 and an HV30 and unless you've got a bag to store it in complete, it's kind of a chore to reassemble and it was rather unwieldly because it was on rails. My work gravitated away from the use of DOF adapters and didn't afford the setup time associated with them so I upgraded to an XHA1 and use my HV30 as a second camera and deck. The costs associated with the adapter don't stop with the adapter itself. When you factor in the cost of the prime lenses, a decent monitor to pull focus with, follow focus, and mattebox, your budget has ballooned.

    Redrock has put out a pretty nice compact rig:

    http://rebelsguide.com/dl/hv20-hh.jpg
     
  15. LethalWolfe macrumors G3

    LethalWolfe

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    #15
    What he said.


    Lethal
     
  16. CaptainChunk macrumors 68020

    CaptainChunk

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    #16
    These are words of wisdom and I can totally attest to it. I've been working as an assistant editor on a feature-length RED One project for about 4 months now and I had to dive into the workflow not knowing much about it. After months, I'm quite intimate with it. The companion software (RED Alert, RedCine, etc.) is all still in beta, so there's known bugs and other issues that creep up on you and everything is slower than it really should be, even on a decked out 8-core Mac Pro workstation. Nothing truly plays in RT in FCP unless you're offline editing 1K proxies (2K plays ALMOST in RT on Mac Pros), which is fine for editors, but not the director who's always sitting behind you and wants to see everything on the timeline in at least HD quality. It's slowly getting faster with software updates, but it's kind of scary at the same time when a production entrusts a large project on a camera system that really isn't finished.

    You can also transcode out to ProRes using the FCP L&T plugin or RedCine/RedRushes (slower, but better quality) prior to editing, which will give you RT in FCP, but then you miss out on the powerful RAW video color grading you can do later in Red Alert after you finish your offline edit, which aside from resolution, is the real strength of the REDCODE workflow.

    If you take the quality route with RED (doing offline first and then online and conform), buckle up. A lot of us are forced to buy Crimson (a workflow application for RED that sells for $200) to make our unfinished RED applications and FCP play nicer with each other.

    The point here is that a lot of indie productions are going totally nuts about RED because of resolution and 35mm lenses. But what they really don't fully understand is that their camera system takes an "open source" approach, so it's largely buy and use at your own risk. While formats like P2 and XDCAM have matured quite a bit, it'll take RED at least 2 years to achieve that same level of stability. There's even people on reduser.net that have defective RED Ones and they have to wait and wait for replacements because the demand is huge and RED has more orders than actual production output. I can almost guarantee that this will be the same case with the Scarlet and probably even worse.

    With all that said, the RED is still a great camera and the Scarlet should revolutionize the prosumer industry. But, I'd keep an option to fall back on just in case because you really never know what will happen...
     
  17. LethalWolfe macrumors G3

    LethalWolfe

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    #17
    CaptainChunk,

    Not to completely hijack this thread, but are you guys going to use Scratch for grading?


    Lethal
     
  18. Gymnut macrumors 68000

    Gymnut

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  19. mtfield thread starter macrumors 6502

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  20. mtfield thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #20
  21. LethalWolfe macrumors G3

    LethalWolfe

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    #21
    It's a step lower than the HVX200.


    Lethal
     
  22. Gymnut macrumors 68000

    Gymnut

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  23. ccuk macrumors regular

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    Jun 5, 2008
    #23
    I am interested to see what the Scarlet brings to the table so to speak.

    I live in hope that Apple may support Red natively in FCS3. The possible integration of GPU assisted rendering with the use of Grand Central would make a Red based workflow much easier.

    Echoing what others have said in this thread... the Z1U/E is a very capable camera but I feel it falls short when you compare its rather pitiful "24p" cine mode with other cameras such has the HV20/30.
     
  24. CaptainChunk macrumors 68020

    CaptainChunk

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    #24
    I wish but unfortunately, we do not have the budget for it. Red Alert/RedCine with Crimson workflow and a Kona card with a Panasonic monitor this time around. Maybe in a future film where we have more money, we can get grading done on a scratch system with good colorist. ;)

    We just locked picture and the film looks REALLY good in the rough cut, even with uncorrected color, no VFX and bad sound. And to think that it will be even better when it's all done... :cool:


    Oh, and to the OP:

    I don't know how big your project will be, but if you're set on using a RED camera, why not rent a RED One package instead of buying a Scarlet package? Honestly, it's pretty realistic to assume that a turn-key package with rails, monitor, magazines and batteries will probably cost about $8-10k on the low end. There's rental houses in LA, NY and even Phoenix (where I'm at) that rent out RED One packages. The advantage of a rental is that you don't have to deal with the expense of repairs and support like actual owners do, especially on a $30k+ dressed-out package. In this scenario, you also get freedom of lens selection and more resolution.
     

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