14 Replies Latest reply on May 31, 2008 7:35 AM by (Howard_Cromwell)

    Toss up between cameras...

      There is a lot influencing this decision so I'll just lay it all out there; About four years ago I purchased a canon zr50mc (a real old miniDV camera that is near obsolete in these forums). I used it to film interviews for advanced slide shows and montages. It worked good then, the color and quality of the overall image didn't leave much for the average client to complain about, and it basically got me through the day with some lower paying customers.

      I've started to move up on my client chain doing higher paying jobs. About 5 months ago I got my hands on the production suite and have become very attuned and attached to the editing software (and of course After Effects). I used to use FCE and have now moved to PP CS3 (very recently).

      So here in lies my problem; I have been reading up a lot on camera features (such as aperture, focus distance, color correction etc...) I'm looking to make a purchase with a few things in mind. First off I will continue to do the interviews for these advanced slide shows. Secondly a friend has asked me to make him a compiled video for a band he manages; it will include their live performance and a semi professional music video. And lastly, I'm looking to get real serious in terms of short films and creative pieces; I plan to apply to some graduate programs in a year and a half to 2 years and I need to start compiling a portfolio. Now I was planning on getting myself an hv30. However I am starting to lean away from HDV as I'm not sure its entirely needed. In addition, the hv30 does not have as many manual controls as I would like. I'm looking to experiment with different effects and styles BEFORE I hit the editing room (such as DOF, color correction, white balance etc...).

      I started looking at the GL2 and from what I read there are some issues and it really isnt as fluid as I'd like. So I looked further up the chain with the hopes that something in this new price range will last me a long time before an upgrade is needed. I started to set my sights on a DVX100A or a used xl2. Now I'm weighted evenly in two directions here. On one hand I realize half the controls on these two machines will be entirely foreign to me until I finish the users manual and really experiment (I know more about the internal workings of the camera than things that can actually be toggled). In which case I'm not entirely sure I need something like this or if it will be obsolete in the next year or two. On the other hand I know myself, and I catch on to things very quickly. This being something I'm interested I know I'll spend every ounce of free time I have either reading up on styles and the options for the controls or experimenting with the actual things themselves. In addition to that I know there are presets for different types of things and I'm completely willing to put the time into reading up on what these machines can do. And I'm quite confident that with one of these things I could make some really good portfolio pieces once I've experimented enough.

      I'm not that concerned about price as the only expenditures I've had in the last few years (in terms of equipment) are software upgrades and tapes / mics etc... The only thing holding me back is that whatever choice I make, I'm getting a new mic / a stand (off camera, I've had enough w/ camera mounted mics) and a cheap light kit. Sorry for the long post but I did all that in the hopes of an honest answer and to save the board from 25 posts answering questions. Thanks in advance, and give me as much insight into your experiences as possible.
        • 1. Re: Toss up between cameras...
          Jim_Simon Level 8
          I'd look at the DVX100B. It has some nice upgrades to the A, and some better features over the Canon - like a large LCD (the Canon has none), a much more user friendly body design and control layout (in my opinion), and better auto-focus for when you need it. (This last is actually based on the XL1S. The XL2's auto-focus may be much improved. But at least test it before you buy, cause that XL1S was a pain to use in auto.)

          On the other hand, the Canon has a 20x zoom (double the Panny's), and I believe it's one of the few cameras out there that has four XLR jacks for 12 bit 4 channel recording, plus interchangeable lenses. So it's no slouch either. It's about a grand more than the 100B new, so a used one might end up the same price as a new 100B. That's something to consider.

          I think either way, though, SD is rapidly going the way of the dinosaur. While the cameras are likely to hold up for two or three more years, the SD format itself will fare less well, I think.

          If you can wait, Panasonic is coming out with a new model in the fall, the HPX-170. It's essentially an HVX200A, but without the tape transport mechanism. First reviews put it on par with the much lauded Sony EX1 in low light performance, (a nice upgrade for the Panny line.) But at half the price of the EX1, using a more robust HD codec with no temporal compression, and the preferred CCDs over the Sony's CMOS chips.
          • 2. Re: Toss up between cameras...
            Level 1
            Jim, do you know if the HPX-170 up-samples it's image like the 200 does? That's one of the few issues that keeps me looking at the Sony EX1(and EX3 too) over the Panasonic.

            I've shot with the DVX100 for awhile now, and I really love Panasonic gear, but native 1920x1080 is very nice, and the images I've see from the EX1 are amazing.
            • 3. Re: Toss up between cameras...
              Jim_Simon Level 8
              It does unfortunately upsample the footage. The EX1 (and 3) will remain the resolution champs for a while.
              • 4. Re: Toss up between cameras...
                (Michael_Martorella) Level 1
                Thats part of my worry, but I feel the image out of those two cameras is nothing to look down upon. If those machines (and SD) would hold out for me for 2 years I'd consider that a good buy. Plus by that time the cameras would have more than paid for themselves.. And Jim I knew it was more than the DVX which is why I'd look at it used. And yes the interchangable lens system, the OIS and the manual zoom / focus rings have me leaning towards the xl2 (they look more user friendly than the dvx). I'm still just trying to get as many recommendations as I can. Thanks a lot for your input.
                • 5. Re: Toss up between cameras...
                  TradeWind Level 3
                  The DVX has an actual manual zoom ring, wheras the Canon has a servo driven zoom. I also like the focus on the DVX much better than the XL2.

                  Also, you can get a zoom/iris/focus/record remote controller for the DVX (also works with the HVX). Varizoom makes it, very very handy for tripod event work, especially when you need to get over a tall crowd.

                  Also very handy to have for Steadicam work (if you think you'll ever do any of that).

                  On the HD route, the Panasonic HMC-150 will be out, around $3K to $4K in price, and will use AVCHD compression on cheap little SD cards. This camera will be a near-identical setup to the DVX in controls and body style, and it has native 1920x1080 (based on current reports...no cameras available to test that out just yet, though). The downer is that your SDHC card isn't nearly as robust and durable a solution as the P2 cards, and the format (AVCHD) is a bit lossier at times than the DVCPro HD solution....but, it's a huge leap from the DVX, and not going to be a whole lot more money (the HPX-170 will be a little more expensive than the HMC-150, probably somewhat comparable to the HVX).

                  The Varizoom controller should also be compatible with the new HMC and HPX as well, so you could build your equipment around the DVX (or HVX) for now, and then upgrade easily within the next couple of years without throwing away a bunch of accessories.

                  Just thinking out loud...
                  • 6. Re: Toss up between cameras...
                    Jim_Simon Level 8
                    >it has native 1920x1080

                    I believe the 150 has the same CCDs as the 200A and the upcoming 170. It'll record the full HD raster, but the imagers are not full resolution. They get upsampled.

                    Having said that, early reports do still put the EX1's resolution on top, but the image from the 200A (and very likely the 150 and 170) seems very comparable in other respects, and at half the price of the EX1, (and about 1/3 of the EX3.) For the 150, you can get up to three hours of highest quality Full HD on a 32GB SDHC card, so that's nice. And Panasonic makes a free piece of software which will convert the AVCHD files to the P2 structure, so you can edit them in Premiere.

                    >you could build your equipment around the DVX (or HVX) for now, and then upgrade easily within the next couple of years without throwing away a bunch of accessories.

                    Slight adjustment. The 150 and upcoming 170 do have a smaller 72 mm lens barrel, rather than the 80 mm of the current DVX and HVX lineup, so not all accessories may translate.
                    • 7. Re: Toss up between cameras...
                      (Michael_Martorella) Level 1
                      So, with respect to canon and panasonics' future camera releases, it makes more sense to go dvx than xl2?
                      • 8. Re: Toss up between cameras...
                        TradeWind Level 3
                        My DVX100B has a 72mm filter mount...the mounts are supposed to be identical
                        • 9. Re: Toss up between cameras...
                          Jim_Simon Level 8
                          It could be the change is only in relation to the HVX200, then.

                          In regards to future cameras, I would look at Panasonic. Canon has chosen the HDV format for their HD line, which I feel isn't up to my own quality requirements for the kinds of shooting I do. Panasonic cameras have their own flaws, like using less than full resolution CCDs. But that's the kind of thing that can be fixed by Panasonic. (Whether or not they ever will is another issue.) The HDV format has it's flaws built in, nothing Canon can do about it.

                          Either way, I think both the DVX100B and XL2S will take excellent SD pictures, so it's a matter of niggling details. I prefer the Panasonic's strength's a little more, and mind it's flaws a little less. Get your hands on both before you buy, though. You may feel differently.

                          Now if only someone would build the ultimate camera: HPX-170 body form, mechanical zoom, iris and focus on the lens barrel, full auto and manual modes, at least 16:1 zoom, full resolution CCDs, 1 million pixel 4.5" flip out LCD, AVC-I codec, variable frame rates and resolutions (including SD), and a $5,000 price tag. That would be my camera!
                          • 10. Re: Toss up between cameras...
                            (Michael_Martorella) Level 1
                            That sounds good. I'm kind of addicted to the pro "look" of the xl2, however all the reviews I read say they both share multiple similarities but the dvx takes the crown (especially with that price). I agree though, I'll absolutely get my hands on both in b&h before I buy. Are there specific things I should ask about while I'm there? (like I know if its used I should ask if it was ever used as a deck).
                            • 11. Re: Toss up between cameras...
                              Have you looked at the Sony Z7? Could be a contender! Interchangeable lenses, record to tape and/or flash cards (Cheap!) simultaneously etc.

                              Just a thought

                              • 12. Re: Toss up between cameras...
                                Fighting Sticks Level 2
                                Michael Martorella,
                                Adobe provides a list a cameras it defines as 'compatible with the SC3 software. If it aint on the list do not consider it if you intend to use SC3.
                                • 13. Re: Toss up between cameras...
                                  Jim_Simon Level 8
                                  I have to disagree with Jarrod's advice. There are plenty of cameras not on Adobe's list that work fine. Chances are that most any DV camera will work at least for capture.
                                  • 14. Re: Toss up between cameras...
                                    Level 1
                                    I second what Jim said...