Shooting Video on DSLRs vs Real Camcorders

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by Mr-Stabby, Apr 1, 2012.

  1. Mr-Stabby macrumors 6502

    Sep 1, 2004
    I work at a Media college and am in charge of purchasing equipment, amongst other things. When it comes to buying cameras to film on, i have always stuck with what i'd call 'proper' camcorders, cameras that were designed for filming primarily. Cameras like JVC HM150, Canon XF100. Mainly because they have the features that we need as part of the courses we do, such as onboard XLR inputs, and the ability to shoot in a Quicktime format that will work in Final Cut instantly without any conversion or rendering needed. A necessity when we churn out projects as quickly as we do.

    Now these cameras cost us £2000/$3000, but recently some students have been bringing in their own Canon EOS cameras and saying that these cameras give a much better picture for a fraction of the price. Even a 550d shoots something that looks a hell of a lot better than our cameras.

    I have to say i can't argue with this. Especially if they've got different lenses, the footage that comes out of these cameras appears to look a hell of a lot better than the footage coming out of JVC HM150s.

    My question is, should i be investing in DSLRs that shoot video too? I love the quality of footage that comes out of them, but i cannot help but notice they shoot in heavily compressed H.264, which would take an ice-age to convert if they've done a long shoot, they have no decent audio input facilities, they are awkward to handle unless you buy a rig for them. Plus they have other issues like rolling shutter. Yes these can all be fixed in post, but our other cameras don't have this problem.

    There's also the other issue that an EOS with a decent lens can work very well for beauty footage or for a feature film, but i've seen students do documentaries or news reports on EOS' and they use the stock 18-55mm lens, and it just doesn't look 'right'. The stock lens on most prosumer camcorders gives a nice picture but isn't distracting in itself, i.e. it isn't especially wide, it isn't especially telephoto, it's just, for want of a better word 'flat'. So the picture is never distracting, which is good when you're trying to focus on a person when interviewing them. But some students use the stock lens on an EOS, and have it as wide as possible when interviewing the person, and i just find the shot distracting because it's too wide, you end up looking at what's going on in the background instead of the person they're talking to.

    Part of me just wants to tell them they can get just as good a quality shot out of a HM150 if they actually bothered to set it up properly and not leave it on auto, but these are students we're talking about, if an EOS can get what looks like a better quality shot on auto, they'll go with that every time.

    I'm interested in other peoples opinions on the matter :)
  2. fa8362 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2008
    Look at the Panasonic GH2. It's designed for video, unlike the Canons. If you care about such things, you should be aware that it will be replaced within a few months by a newer model.
  3. cgbier macrumors 6502a

    Jun 6, 2011
    How do they define this?
  4. Mr-Stabby thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 1, 2004
    They can't really define it any better than 'It looks more like something that would be on TV'. (Really shows off how great our teaching is doesn't it..) I imagine they mean the shallower depth of field, the fact that a stock EOS camera lens has a different focal length to your average camcorder, and so looks different. They claim that camcorders like the HM150 look more like a better quality consumer camcorder.


    Ah will do thanks. :)
  5. Gymnut macrumors 68000


    Apr 18, 2003
    I shoot with the Panasonic GH2 as well, however the kit lenses, like most kit lenses, aren't suitable for most interior work, unless you have a lighting kit. You could consider the relatively affordable Panasonic 20mmF1.7 "pancake" lens for any situations where your students would need a fast lens.

    While the GH3 may be on the horizon(which nothing has been announced so it's all just speculation at this point), something to keep in mind is when the GH2 was released, Panasonic had a very difficult time getting stock out and a lot of us over at DVXuser sat in frustration trying to find the odd camera shop that had one or two "in stock".
  6. THX1139 macrumors 68000


    Mar 4, 2006
    In our school we have 8 brand new Sony HD cameras. Can't remember the model number, but I think they cost the school $3,500 a piece. Students are allowed to check those cameras out along with a range of professional lighting and grip equipment.

    In a recent class, 5 different teams were out shooting semester long video projects. I think only one group used the HD cameras for their film. Otherwise, all of the students used their own Canon DSLR's. We used the Sony HD cameras, but only for the auditions. For the actual films, we shot on Canon 7d's and 60d's with follow focus, shoulder rigs, and camera sliders. Our footage blew the HD cameras out of the water.
  7. Mr-Stabby thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 1, 2004
    How easy was it to actually deal with the EOS technically? Such as getting decent sound on the recording without XLR inputs, or the fact it records in H.264? I've actually just seen a vid on YouTube that says that plugging in something like a Zoom H4 audio recorder to the EOS' minijack input and using the Zoom to get the sound is actually a good idea. It just seems a lot of extra work though.
  8. matteusclement macrumors 65816


    Jan 26, 2008

    1. Pluraleyes. google it. software magic
    2. sync clap. ah, just like the old days. it's not that bad.
    3. Magic latern. hack the EOS to have manual levels. it's free. google it.

    I use a zoom h2 with a monopod as a boom pole and it works great. Look at this one shot with a t2i:
  9. Mr-Stabby thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 1, 2004
    Shiny :) Thanks.
  10. puckhead193 macrumors G3


    May 25, 2004
    I think it comes down to what works best in what your shooting. I don't think I could use a DSLR in sports, but on a sit-down interview, gathering b-roll shots etc with the right support from a tripod etc it works. It comes down to knowing what tools you have and knowing how to properly use them.
  11. musique macrumors regular


    Apr 10, 2009
    The Panasonic Lumix GH2 seems to be the hot one to beat at the moment for video. Take a look at DVXuser or vimeo and see some of the amazing video in which it's been used, especially with the hack and the variety of mods.

    For any DSLR the OP brings up some valid points. Audio must still be recorded separately. Rolling shutter (and banding...) are valid problems. And getting a rig set up may add considerably to the cost.

    As with any tool in a world of rapidly changing technology, it's almost impossible to buy for the future. Maybe spending less on DSLRs or mirrorless systems (like the GH2) and getting solid video is worth the other expenses (audio recorders, post-issues, rigs, etc.).

    Remember the old days when people could say things like "No one ever got fired for buying IBM!"?

    Hard decisions. Good luck.
  12. pigbat macrumors regular

    Jan 18, 2005
    I think it's realistic to believe DSLR is here to stay for the next several years in the indie film scene. It would make sense for a media college to recognize this and offer some gear to support it. Due to the lower entry point for DSLR's, most students will have access to one on their own. The film school my son attends has not bought any SLR's yet but all of their supplied camera sit unchecked. No reason to buy them if the students don't use them.
  13. Babybandit macrumors regular

    Oct 29, 2008
    [From the Perspective of a Student who knows our Equipment Manager very well]

    Until September this year really, our school has been focused mainly on Proper Camcorders such as the V1P, A1S and recently bought several XF100. They are often booked and used for various purposes.

    However, after discussion with some student members including myself, they've purchase two 60Ds and a variety of Canon Lens and Lens Adaptors because some students such as myself has the Lumix GH2. For Audio, we have Zooms and other Audio Mixers tagged with XLR microphones and proper headphones for audio monitoring.

    I think it's undeniable that DSLRs have had a huge impact in student and indie filmmaking. And with the low cost of entry, many students have one of their own. So the results of the discussion was that school would get two 60Ds for the students who don't have access to them (There are obviously, some), and to focus on purchasing lens, rigs, lens filters and adaptors so students using their own or school's DSLRs can all benefit from them.

    Lens : Nikon AI lenses for their great compatibility with other systems. Canon EF and Sigma Canon Mount because our school has decided to go with Canon. I think investing on Rig and Lenses are probably better than Camera Bodies will show their age. But the Rigs and Lenses will still be compatible with purchases of the future.

    Finally, That doesn't mean the school shouldn't still purchase a camcorder or two. We just had three new XF100s, and will be purchasing another soon. It really depends on the course you're offering. Our school offers GCSE O/A Levels Media Studies, BTEC Media Production and IB. With BTEC, they need proper gears (Camcorders) in order to do Live Shows with a Tricaster because DSLRs lack SDI. So at the end of the day, it does depend on the course the school offers.

    But DSLRs are going to stay for a few years. Oh, and if I could, I'd recommend the Panasonic GH2 (With Hack). But I'd mainly go for Nikon AI or other Manual Focus Lens as one problem with Mirrorless is the lack of Manual Aperture which means it can't be used on any other systems in they future - Which is hardly good for a school environment where there is limited budget.

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