Upgrading, DSLR or Camcorder?

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by nickyj182, Mar 24, 2016.

  1. nickyj182 macrumors regular


    Feb 12, 2002
    Morehead, KY
    I have used a Canon Vixa HG20 for a long, long time and I am wanting to upgrade. First of all, I'm in the $1000 to $2500 range for my upgrade. I do wedding videos and other events and also so a lot of short film making with my friends as a hobby. I have seen a lot more people using DSLRs lately, and it has me wondering. Should I be looking at Camcorders or DSLR Cameras?

    Like I said, my budget is $1,000 to $2,500 and I was to record gorgeous footage for events and make some short films that look great as well.

    Any and all opinions are appreciated! I've been eye balling the Canon XA35, gives you an idea of where my mind is. Thanks in advance!
  2. ColdCase, Mar 24, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2016

    ColdCase macrumors 68030

    Feb 10, 2008
    I've used a canon HDV 30 with upgraded lens for years and more recently a Canon EOS 70D (nice video capability). DSLRs are optimized for still photos and some have added features tailored for video. Video cameras are optimized for video (fast silent focus method, motorized variable rate zoom, audio systems). They don't take photos that well and are typically large.

    If I was buying strictly for video I would not buy a DSLR. But since I don't want to carry a ton of equipment a DSLR is a good video compromise, that is if you buy one, like a 70D, that has decent video features. When I carry one camera with me, its the DSLR which makes impressive video (although a little harder than a video cam). Some DSLR focus systems are way too slow or noisy/choppy for video.

    There are folks making gorgeous video on an iPhone. Its just a lot easier with a video camera. If you want the best looking video, the XA35 is a nice package... thats my opinion of course..
  3. joema2 macrumors 65816


    Sep 3, 2013
    In my documentary film group we have spent many hours discussing this. We have the HFG30 and XA25, plus several Nikon D810s, Canon 5D3, Sony A7RII, Panasonic GH4 and AG-DVX200, plus several drones, vest-mounted steadicams, etc.

    A DSLR or other large-sensor camera with a good lens can produce lush, cinematic video unlike anything a small-sensor camcorder can achieve. The XA25, XA35, etc are really good, handy to use, and have superb stabilization. However they simply cannot produce the beautiful shots in a low light wedding reception like a DSLR with a pro f/2.8 lens.

    When the DSLR video revolution began in 2008, there was no other large sensor option, short of a cinema camera. Now there are large-sensor camcorders starting with the Sony VG-30 and Panasonic AG-DVX200. However these are still more expensive than a DSLR.

    DSLRs often require more add-ons to use effectively. E.g, we use the Zacuto EVF Pro which provides focus aids, and a 3rd contact point to stabilize the camera (besides your left and right hands): http://store.zacuto.com/z-finder-evf-pro/

    However it is a hassle to strap on EVF, shotgun mic, possible external audio recorder, etc. A camcorder can be pulled from the case and shooting within seconds.

    You don't have to use those, and sometimes I see professionals shooting unaided DSLR video. E.g, ABC interview in front of the White House shot with three DSLRs (two having no aids): https://joema.smugmug.com/Photography/ABC-News-Using-DSLRs/n-BsScJC/

    There is a difference in suitability between run-and-gun field documentary shooting, wedding/events and scripted narratives. With run-and-gun, you must be able to rapidly set up, use and break down the camera.

    DSLRs are much more complex to run: in general you must use manual focus, manual exposure, shutter speed must be locked at 2x the frame rate (IOW 1/60th for 30 frames/sec). This is due to the 180 degree shutter rule: http://cameradojo.com/2014/03/28/why-shutter-speed-matters-with-dslr-video/

    This means for outdoor wide-aperture shots you must use a neutral density filter -- either fixed or variable. That in turn usually conflicts with a lens hood. So one complexity stacks on another one.

    It is essentially mandatory to use optically stabilized lenses with DSLRs, else you can't do hand held shots. Even then the stabilization is not smooth like a small-sensor camcorder.

    In your price range you could consider the GH4, but you'd need some lenses. Panasonic makes the 35-100 f/2.8 which is similar to a 70-200 f/2.8 on a full frame DSLR, and the 12-35 f/2.8 is similar to a 24-70 f/2.8 on FF. It's a good camera but it's micro 4/3 so not equal to a full frame DSLR in terms of shallow DOF and low light ability.

    A newer option is the Sony A6300 which has a great sensor and can shoot 4k. It doesn't have sensor-based stabilization, so all your lenses would require optical stabilization. It is APS-C so f/2.8 lenses will be larger and more expensive than micro 4/3.

    An even cheaper option is use an entry-level APS-C DSLR and spend the remaining money on a good lens. A Canon or Nikon DSLR with a 17-55 f/2.8 lens. I don't think the Canon and Nikon lenses are stabilized, but I think Sigma or Tamron make a similar one which is. I have never used those so you'd have to evaluate it for overall (and especially video) suitability.

    A skilled videographer can shoot better material with a small sensor camcorder than a less skilled one with a full frame DSLR, but we are emphasizing the camera in this discussion.
  4. kohlson macrumors 68000

    Apr 23, 2010
    The above is great feedback. IMHO, in that price range video cameras make it easy to shoot video. DSLR or mirrorless can shoot video, and if properly set up, can be gorgeous. But there are several shortcomings, including audio (poor facility for external mic), stabilization, and limited continuous runtime. My Sony a6000, for example, has a listed limitation of 30 minutes of continuous video. Depending on conditions, it can be less due to overheating. Early reports say this is still an issue with a6300. What you get with dslr/mirrorless is better glass, and the ability to swap. Different strengths for each.
  5. bent christian Suspended

    bent christian

    Nov 5, 2015
    SLRs can be great for shooting video if you also like to take photos, but I would not recommend one strictly for video. The technology is close, but not there yet. Shooting with an SLR is likely to be a far more manual experience than you are used to coming from a camcorder, more frustrating with the definite technique learning curve, and probably more expensive for the same result. I shoot with a Canon 60D and am pleased with the result for the price paid, but I am primarily a photographer who shoots home movies.

    In SLRs, I think Canon is the best choice right now. Beginning with the 70D, Canon introduced dual pixel focusing which in video mode allows continuous focusing by touch screen. When combined with an STM lens, auto focus is silent. Sadly, there are no full frame cameras that support STM lenses or the dual pixel focus. You will be stuck in the world of cropped sensors.

    You will absolutely want stabilized lenses. I shot hand-held and unstabilized for years. I would not recommend this unless you use a tripod or steadycam thing. This is the point at which the cost of shooting with an SLR goes way up - through peripheral equipment.

    @joema2 : Canon makes a 17-55 f/2.8 lens that is stabilized. Reports show noise from the image stabilizer, so I would not recommend this lens for video. The next best is that new Canon 16-35mm f4 IS lens. I will hopefully be purchasing this soon. Reports show it to be one of the best lenses Canon has ever produced.

    If you decide to go SLR, make sure you look into Magic Lantern firmware upgrade. This firmware is only for Canon bodies. Other hacks may exist for other manufacturers. Magic Lantern adds features like focus peaking, movable focus box, zebras, and a bit rate adjustment above Canon default levels (for greater adjustment in post) among about 50 other things. There is learning curve, but contains tools you will never be able to live without.
  6. coldsweat macrumors 6502


    Aug 18, 2009
    Grimsby, UK
    Have a close look at the Sony X70 - video camera with 1" sensor allows you to get shallow depth of field (not as much as a DSLR but still shallow) but is fundamentally a video camera. Cracking camera for the price & perfect for weddings + it records 4:2:2 broadcast spec if ever needed & can easily be upgraded to 4k!!
  7. v3rlon macrumors 6502a

    Sep 19, 2014
    Earth (usually)
    Most DSLRs have a time limit in the 12-29 minute range for continuous recording. If this is a deal breaker for you, be aware and work on it. If you are able to use both, keeping the Canon for B roll, it might not matter as much.

    The Sony NEX VG10/20/30 line are all APSC sized camcorders that take E-mount NEX lenses. I have the VG20, and it does well as my camcorder.

    Recent DSLRs have near insane lowlight capability, but there is that neutral density thing when you get in the sunlight.

    You could, if this is making money, go with a NEX VG camcorder and a video capable NEX still camera (so you can share lenses). Similarly, you could look at a Canon DSLR and a Black Magic Pocket Cinema with EF mount (getting beyond your budget here, so this is longer term).
  8. ValiumEater macrumors regular

    Dec 14, 2015
    DSLR. Great lens choices, better depth of field, usually better options in terms of functionality. I moved from a fleet of professional camcorders to a fleet of DSLRs and never looked back.
  9. orph macrumors 68000


    Dec 12, 2005
    you may want to chat to people local to you and see what they use & there problems with gear etc
    and if you can try stuff out, nothing like being told all the bugs by some one who's used it for a year there not going to tell you that in the shop. (handy if you can borrow gear from ppl you know too ^^ cheaper than rental)

    -as the sensor gets bigger the depth of field gets smaller which means it can be harder to keep focus when mobile.
    -auto focus is near useless while recording on all the DLSR like cameras.
    -battery life can be short.
    -you will need external audio and post sync most the time.
    -it's not a good time to get a canon for video unless you relay want magic lantern, then something like a 550D/600D/m is worth a look
    -moire can be a problem
    -you may need a rig
    -len's can cost a lot, dont get carried away

    id look at a GH4 for video, shoot 4K and downsized to 1080P is meant to look relay nice (or even down to dvd size),
    you also can buy old manual lens from most brands cheep to have fun with (but you do want IS lens for work).

    the GH5 is out soon so if you can wait till it's out you can see if it's worth getting or pick up a GH4 on sale or used (im tempted to have a look at GH4's once the GH5 is out just for fun ^^ there getting cheep now.)

    the sony A7 line are worth a look as there selling cheep used :D bad for re sell but good for picking up.
    sony auto focus is meant to be baaadd

    but one thing is if your doing well with you camera at the mo why upgrade?

    ps i use a canon 6D, I got it for stills and shoot some video. at the time it was the best option for me but canon cameras are relay lacking in video now. the APC line has not changed much since the 550D (the new 2 have are a step back for video) and only the 5Dmk3 is moire free in video.
    the canon FF's also are just heavy.
  10. sevoneone macrumors 6502

    May 16, 2010
    Like others have mentioned, Canon is a bit behind these days in DSLR video features and quality out of the box, but it is easily overcome with MagicLantern and anti-alias filters are available for just about every model of Canon out there.

    I think the other plus to Canon is that, because they were the first on the scene when the 5DII, a lot of other manufacturers have licensed or reverse engineered the EF mount, like Black Magic and RED, to attract the people that have a lot invested in Canon lenses. I think you will see that continue. Which is not a bad thing, camera bodies go obsolete and are disposable, good glass you can use for a lifetime.
  11. orph macrumors 68000


    Dec 12, 2005
    Id relay think twice about canon or at least if you want to use canon wait till something happens that makes them more of an option. there just in need of a massive overhaul.
    there fine but the thing is you can get a lot better for the same price range.

    for video id get a Gh3/4/5 new or used (i see gh4's with lens adapters + len's etc used near me and cheep worth a look)
    but like any small sensor camera you dont want to go under 1600iso by far
    or if you are more brave a sony a7/a7s/a7r etc they cost more and thanks to the bigger sensor make focus harder but the iso will go up to crazy levels.

    & they both have a nice healthy video codec ^^ and lots of video settings including slow-mo

    both will take canon len's or relay any lens which for video is amazing you can pick up a cheep f1.8/2/2.8 etc manual lens and just stick it on and it will work you can grab some amazing glass for such a cheep price and it will just work
    Pentax/Nikon/canon/Minolta/etc there's some jems that are going so cheep now

    for sony's just amazing iso look at this
    and a review of the a7s

    and gh4 review

    and this you tube channel onelonedork is worth a look https://www.youtube.com/user/onelonedork/videos
  12. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    The DSLR is best if yu have control over the set. You can tell actors where to stand and you can set up lights and you have a separate sound recording equipment. It is a cinema camera

    The video camera is best if you are filming live events and are reacting to what happens

    It sounds like you are doing a little of both
  13. diipii macrumors 6502a

    Dec 6, 2012
    Remember good video is good sound with pictures.
    Sound is always more important than the pictures.
    Pictures are less important than the sound.
    If it hasn't got an XLR mic input it's no damn use.
  14. orph macrumors 68000


    Dec 12, 2005
    yep thats something to mention all the DSLR form factor cameras will need external audio, i use zoom recorders not the best but good for the price but means audio sync needed.
    suspect the topic is dead tho as no reply's from the thread starter
  15. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    The above is certainly true. Nothing make your work seem more amateurish than poor sound. People will put up with for video quality and not even notice but if the sound has even minor detects they judge the entire production is "junk".

    But this say little about what camera to buy because you can use something like a "Zoom" audio recorder to record the audio, Later in post, you attach the audio with the video. Use the microphone that is build into the camera to record a "throwaway" audio track that is used only to synchronize the audio from the "zoom" (or whatever you use) recorder. It is really easy in Final Cut to sync two audio tracks.

    Basically you need a microphone very close to each person who is speaking. Use a lavaliere, hand held or boom. The on-camera mic is only used to sync the sound so it's quality does not mater, the ones in low-end SLR is fine for this purpose.
  16. Opsore Suspended


    Feb 3, 2018
    New Jersey
    Have a close look at the Sony AX100, which is an extremely awesome little 4K and HD camcorder I wasn't generally all that energized when I saw the main model of the X70 at Communicate Asia back in June. You find in the past Sony have done this multiple occassions, taken a top of the line buyer camcorder, refreshed the firmware, included a handle and afterward sold it at a higher cost as an expert camcorder. Before, there has in all actuality been little contrast between the less expensive customer show and the more costly star form.

    The PXW-X70 is extraordinary. This is considerably more than an AX100 with new firmware. For a begin the body of the camera is very unique. The correct hand side of the X70 is very unique to the AX100. It has a substantially fatter hand grasp. This makes the camera substantially less demanding to hold easily for long stretches. It additionally makes space for a full size HDSDI yield and a full size HDMI yield. In any case, the distinctions don't stop there.

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