HD camcorder vs DSLR: thoughts?

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by Madmic23, Jul 6, 2011.


Preference: DSLR or dedicated HD camcorder

  1. DSLR with video

    5 vote(s)
  2. HD camcorder

    13 vote(s)
  1. Madmic23 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 21, 2004
    Hi everyone, I'm looking for a new video camera and need some advice. I currently have a Flip Ultra HD , which is good, but I'm looking for a few more features, namely zoom, better picture quality, and a decent microphone. Expandable flash memory is a bonus.

    I'm looking at cameras in the $400 - $500 range.

    However, I've started to look at DSLR with HD video capability. I currently have a Canon Rebel XSi, which I'm thinking of upgrading to a T3 or T3i. I have a few different lenses for my Rebel which I think would greatly add to the versatility of the camera and it's video capabilities.

    What are your thoughts on using a DSLR as a video camera? I like the idea of the better lenses and image sensor of the DSLR, but I also like the idea of having two separate devices.

    Primary use for the camera will be home movies, as my wife and I are having our first baby in the fall. We also do some travelling, and the Flip has been great for that due to its small size, but I always bring my Rebel anyways.

    I will be editing my movies in iMovie 11 on a Core 2 Duo MacBook with 2GB of RAM and a 500GB HDD

    So what do you think, dedicated HD camcorder, or DSLR with video?
  2. thejadedmonkey macrumors 604


    May 28, 2005
    I don't know how iMovie 11 handles movies off of DSLR's, but having used a $1500 video camera, and a $600 DSLR to record video off of, I have to say that, except for the loss of XLR input for a mic, the video itself was better on the SLR, mainly because I could use better lenses, creating a better depth of field. Plus, I find that an SLR allows me to take really good pictures, too :)

    However. That doesn't mean it's right for you. Consumer camcorders are designed to be used by someone takes video for a hobby. They have more consumer-friendly features, you can hold them easier than an SLR. There's less menus that tend to get confusing, and won't over-heat if you use them for an hour at a time.

    It's like saying that a Macbook Pro is better than a Macbook, but you need to ask yourself, if, you're only going to be on Facebook, do you really need the power of a Macbook Pro?
  3. cgbier macrumors 6502a

    Jun 6, 2011
    I have been editing HDV (from a Sony A1 and Canon HV30) on a Macbook in FCE. For AVCHD video it doesn't have enough horsepower, despite AIC.
  4. acearchie macrumors 68040


    Jan 15, 2006
    My personal preference is DSLR (just bought a 600d and other items for video) however, for you I would suggest a dedicated HD video camera.

    Since you are moving from a flip I don't know how much you know about iso, aperture, shutter speed, depth of field. Things that need to sort of be carefully thought through for each shot using a DSLR.

    Before using my 600d I used (and still do) a Panasonic TM300 which I suppose is a high end consumer camcorder. The images from this were very good but I was looking for a cinematic shallow depth of field and more control over the finer details of my image for planned shoots. I am lucky enough to still have the panasonic for when I need a more run and gun shooting approach.

    For your uses I can imagine that you would be upset if your babies first swim/steps/word/school (I'm guessing these are moments that you would won't to cherish for ever) were suffering from rolling shutter or were out of focus or over exposed.

    My panasonic is 2 years old but the features on the newer cameras don't add many functional items so the technology in the smaller sensor camcorders isn't moving as fast as the DSLR video market with a new XXXD camera coming out every year. So my suggestion is start with a dedicated camcorder to get the moments and then if you can build up some spare cash over the next few years (although I've heard that babies can be expensive! :D) and get more cinematic moments for your home movies.

    Also AFAIK iMovie '11 doesn't support DSLR cameras right now and you would have to import the files yourself and then convert them to AIC (Apple's codec) and then import them to iMovie. With the panasonic (or other dedicated camcorders) you can just import from camera (similar to the Flip) and start editing.

    However, if you are looking for an upgrade for your Xsi (not sure what the european equivalent is) and can successfully manually focus and can put up with rolling shutter etc. then maybe a DLSR would be the best choice.

    Maybe head into your local electronics store or find a friend that has a camcorder or DSLR and ask to borrow it so you can feel the difference between the two in your hands as a DSLR is still built ergonomically for photos.

    It's an interesting point but I don't think the Macbook/Pro reference is quite suitable. That's like comparing a 600D and a 7D and not a camcorder versus a DSLR as it is clear that a Macbook Pro trumps a Macbook in nearly every way apart from weight, price (although on value for money the macbook pro wins) and size (that's all I can think of on the top of my head).

    The 600d is not better than a camcorder but it has a more aesthetic images for some people. It doesn't have autofocus so if you can't focus you will never make a good film whereas you could make an aesthetically aesthetic film with a camcorder in Auto.

    I probably haven't explained it well enough but one isn't better than the other they just offer different features for different people that make some things easier with one and much harder with the other.
  5. THX1139 macrumors 68000


    Mar 4, 2006
    I'll try to keep this simple. The advantages to DSLR over (comparable) video, is cost and creative control. Plus you have interchangeable lens, and the ability to grab photos along with shooting video without having to pack around another camera (but it can be heavier and bulkier than a smaller camcorder). In addition, some of the latest DSLR's are really good in low light (if you have the right lens) compared to equivalent HD camcorders.

    The bad: Audio input is bad, unless you don't have high standards. Most of the current DSLR's audio is recorded in MONO unless you buy an external microphone. It's waaaay more difficult to get easy shots with DSLR compared to video cameras. The auto focus sucks, if you even have it at all. And due to the smaller form factor of DSLR, unless you lock it down, or have a specialized bracket... the camera shake is horrendous! Seriously, unless you know what you are doing, people will be really annoyed watching your cute baby videos. And your wife is going to be constantly annoyed because you'll be fiddling with your DSLR instead of just shooting. Be prepared to have most of your footage unusable. Another issue that might bother you is that most DSLRs can't record for more than 10 minutes at a time. I won't get into why.. you can google that. And finally, you might really struggle editing footage from a DSLR in iMovie with your measly Macbook and 2 gigs of ram. It can be done, but expect to do a bit of transcoding and futzing with the codecs. The file sizes are going to be really large!

    All this being said, and the fact that you're limited with budget and equipment - plus being an amateur, I highly recommend that you go with a decent HD camcorder and save the DSLR for a different hobby.
  6. Madmic23 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Apr 21, 2004
    Solid advice everyone, thanks. I think I'll go the HD camcorder route due to the file size, clip length and image stabilization issues mentioned above.

    I'm very comfortable with adjusting the iso, aperture, and other manual controls on my current SLR, and think I would pick up the video on a new one in a snap, but I know my wife wouldn't. I'm sure my next camera will have video, but I don't need to upgrade from my XSi yet. I'll probably upgrade my Mac before that happens.

    Having said that, any recommendations on a good HD camcorder that plays nice with iMovie?

    Like I said, I like my flip, but I'd like to step up a notch or two. Good low level light shooting, good audio, and a decen zoom are all features I'm looking for.
  7. Keebler macrumors 68030

    Jun 20, 2005
    First of all - congrats on the forthcoming addition! :)

    2ndly, HD camcorder all the way. Yes, A DSLR is fantastic, but I found myself with the same question a year ago. I finally bought an HD camcorder and don't regret it. I do have DSLR, but use it just for photographs.

    I shoot our home movies too and it's about capturing those moments which happen quickly. You turn the camcorder on, bam! you're filming. Most DSLRs i'm sure are easy to use, but what if you have the wrong lens on and you have to switch...wait...you just missed his/her first step while switching lens! :)

    I've been the stay at home Dad for over 10 years and moments like that, happen when you least expect it and having the camcorder on a kitchen counter or wherever your family spends most of the time, is golden. I've recorded over 120 hours over the last 10 years (slowed down the last few), but I've got some fantastic memories for my boys. I'm now digitizing and making appletv and ipad/ipod touch files for them. They love it!

    Good luck,
  8. shedworx macrumors newbie

    May 17, 2011
    Perth, Australia
    Camcorder or DSLR video

    I've been doing a lot of video testing with a Panasonic GH-1 DSLR and a Panasonic TM700 .

    I switched from camcorders to the DSLR about a year ago, but I've now gone back to the camcorder for video.

    The GH-1 allows you to 'get Hollywood' in controlled situations, but struggles in real world situations.

    Using the GH-1 at sports events, school productions, etc didn't work out too well. The DSLR does not handle high motion video well at all - auto focus is slow and the video quality is poor.

    I've been using the TM700 instead and it's performing a treat. Based on a lot of video shooting and editing, I give the camcorder top marks.

    As for recommendations - the TM700 is great but it's a bit out of your price range (about $1000). Also, I use it at 1080/50p which isn't supported for direct importing into iMovie or Final Cut Pro X.

    I've used a lot of HD camcorders over the past 4 years and I always recommend Panasonic when asked. You can go for the 3MOS high-end camcorders (like the TM700 and TM900) at around $800 or the single sensor 1MOS camcorders (like TM90) at around $500.

    Hope that helps - camcorders all the way :)
  9. Madmic23 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Apr 21, 2004
    I went to Best Buy yesterday to check out my options for camcorders. It came down to the Panasonic SD90 and the TM900. Even though it was twice my original budget, I went with the TM900. The larger LCD was a big selling feature, and I found the quality of the lens and the 3 chip sensor to produce better quality than the single CMOS SD90. I did lime the zoom on the 90, which was a 20x optical zoom vs the 12x on the 900, but the 900 has a much nicer lens.
    Part of me is still wondering if I should have saved the $500 and went with the cheaper camera, but I really can see the quality in the video produced by the 900.
    Any suggestions on editing the video? I see iMovie doesn't support the highest quality setting of the camera. Also, I see there is a Mac specific video format that the camera can record to called iFrame. It imports directly into iMovie with no transcoding necessary, but the downside is it's only half the resolution. Anyone ever use this format for editing?
  10. shedworx macrumors newbie

    May 17, 2011
    Perth, Australia
    TM900 and iMovie

    Good decision to go with the TM900. You will be glad to have it when you start shooting videos that are important to you.

    You will notice a 1080/60p button on the inside of the LCD door which puts you into that shooting mode. iMovie and Final Cut Pro X won't work with this video mode, so just go with the highest quality setting without using 60p.

    Don't use iFrame. The second top AVCHD setting will be much better for you.

    When Apple support 60p with an iMovie update, go to 60p at that time.

    Good luck with it. The TM900 is a great camera.
  11. Nostromo macrumors 65816


    Dec 26, 2009
    Deep Space
    As THX 1139 said (PS: saw the movie twice),

    it's about handling and audio that are a DSLR's downside.

    I recommend a DSLR with constant autofocus like the Nikon D 7000 (oops, just saw your budget. As long as your budget doesn't budge, there are few options)

    Upside are huge sensors, compared to camcorders. Image quality will be much higher.

    I suggest you go to a shop and handle both.

    How much are you into still photography? If you're into it, the DSLR is a no-brainer. External microphones can be had for around $100.

    I still have a Sennheiser ME-66 from my DVX-100 days. It's only mono - but it'll do. You can also get an inexpensive mono microphone if your budget is tight (the Sennheiser isn't a budget mic, it's supposed to be operated in pairs to get stereo sound).
  12. cannondale1974 macrumors newbie

    Jul 4, 2011
    Lexington, Ky.
  13. Madmic23 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Apr 21, 2004
    So I'm pretty happy with my panasonic tm900. There are just a few things that I'm kind of wishing I had that are actually I. The cheaper model, the SD90 http://www.trustedreviews.com/Panasonic-HDC-SD90_Camcorder_review

    It has a wider angle lens, which I didn't think was a big deal until I tried my TM900 in the new baby room. I cant quite fit the whole room in the frame with the 35mm lens on the TM900, but I could probably do it with the 28mm lens on the SD90. It also has a better zoom. I've read that the improved zoom is actually because of the smaller sensor in the camera, which leads to reduced image quality.

    These aren't major stumbling blocks, but the camera is also $300 cheaper. Anyone have any experience with the SD90? Or better yet, a direct comparison between the two?
  14. acearchie macrumors 68040


    Jan 15, 2006
    It seems that you are questioning your purchase. You should ask yourself if you really need that extra $300 and if you do and you think you can take the drop in quality then do it.

    If you want to go wider you could always buy a wide angle lens. I bought a raynox 0.66x wide angle lens for about £80 that has worked really well for me however, on some shots the quality is slightly less, particularly low light as it slightly reduces the amount of light that can reach the sensor but the tm300 (the model I have) is quite good for a camcorder in low light.

    If you want an example of what you can do with the TM300 (basically the older version of your model) then I filmed this entire video on it http://www.vimeo.com/24604967.

    The shots in the bathroom were with the wide-angle lens and the shot at 1:32 is using it.

    However, I think you will see that the camera produces a more aesthetically pleasing image when it is further up the focal range and a bit more zoomed in. I realise when you want to get a wide shot of your babies room but you can't get it in and you can't move any further back then the wide angle adaptor would be the way to go but for other shots I would recommend taking a step back and zooming in to get the better looking shots which are more like the perspective of what the human eye sees.
  15. Madmic23 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Apr 21, 2004
    I'm not totally questioning my purchase. Like I said, this is an awesome camera, and the main reason why I went with it is because of the 3MOS sensor and the potential for much better video with it. However, I do see the practicality of the wider angle lens.

    I'm just curious if the SD90 is close to the TM900 video wise. If it wasn't that big of a drop in quality, it might make sense to go with that one.

    BTW, nice video. I'm going to have to check out your YouTube channel.

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