Video Production Experts - Which Camera?


#1

I’m interested in shifting away from specialising solely in electronics, and one area I’ve had a long standing interest in is video production. I’m considering getting into this as a hobby, a means to get out of the house, meet a whole different group of people and hopefully make something more of it going forward. Not necessarily to record videos for YouTube and become famous, but to learn the techniques for shooting and editing video. (Although I could apply those techniques and become famous for it later. Whatever happens, I say.)

I’m looking at cameras. Not necessarily high end cameras. Basic cameras for practice and learning some of the key concepts. I want to find something with decent bang-for-buck results, and a good feature set that allows for room to move as I start to experiment beyond visual technique. Specifically:

  • Good Optics
  • Good Low-Light performance (within reason, I realise this is a more high-end feature)
  • External Microphone connections
  • Expandable Storage

Finding a combination of these features is challenging. At least without spending $600-$700 on the camera itself. (Overcoming the cost barrier to some extent is a massive incentive to pursuing this further.)

The consensus so far seems to be that a camcorder may be sufficient as a starting point. Few camcorders have external microphone connections, but one stood out as meeting almost all of the criteria above, and at a reasonable price - the Canon Vixia HF R800.

It has an external microphone connection, decent optics, decent low-light performance and it accepts Class 10 or faster SDXC cards. It supports some interchangeable lenses and it’s available for a reasonable price - around $200 USD new or $150 refurbished from B&H Photo and Video.

But Canon doesn’t sell this camera in Australia. Instead, we get cameras such as the Legria HFR806, which is similar, but more expensive and doesn’t support an external microphone connection. (It does however support these sh*thouse useless functions like “Baby Mode” for registering children in the camera software for recording their early childhood moments. Yay.) On the other hand, the Legria supports both MP4 and AVCHD formats, while the Vixia supports only MP4. Otherwise the specifications are almost identical - same CMOS, (1/4.85-inch), same megapixel count (3.28), same zoom ratio (57x Advanced / 32x Optical) and same focal length (2.8-89.6mm).

But the difference seems to be in frame rate. The Legria records 1920 x 1080 x 50p/50i or 50 frames per second. The Vixia records in 1920 x 1080 x 60p/60i or 60 frames per second. Some discussion forums have tried to make the case that this is the reason I should stick with a locally available cameras in Australia - NTSC vs PAL. But considering the video is being recorded for editing on a computer and exported, does it actually matter? It seems that the higher the frame rate the camera is capable of, the better (when such time comes that recording in that frame rate is desired), and the limitations of using a 60fps/NTSC camera in Australia or a 50fps/PAL camera in America is more applicable in a time when television transmissions and receivers were locked to the frequency of the electrical grid - 60Hz US, 50Hz AU. Perhaps the AV outputs wouldn’t work with some televisions, but it doesn’t matter that much here.

I wonder if I’m missing something, because the Vixia seems like a seriously good deal for what it is, and the reviewers seem to agree. Outside of warranty support from Canon for an imported product, I can’t seem to find a reason to purchase the more expensive Legria over the cheaper but more capable Vixia.

What am I missing?

Of course I could skip this camera altogether. Perhaps it’s not the best option, but I haven’t found anything better so far. Perhaps I need to increase the budget, and so be it, but I still want to be smart about it. (Like setting a cap for the camera and spending the rest on microphones, lighting, etc.) I’m considering taking a wander into the city next weekend and talking to stores like Diamonds Camera, Video and Digital to get their opinion as well, but have a feeling the solution even for an entry-level content creator will be prohibitively expensive.

And for anyone that asks, I’m avoiding using a smartphone because I’d rather start with something a little more versatile, with better connectivity, a bigger lens and sensor, better manual control, expandable storage and less interaction with the mobile OS when syncing or recording.

As for “Why not rent the equipment instead?”, it’s a great solution, but for something I want to mess around with in my own time, not all that practical. The name of the game here is being able to grab it and go.

Anyhow. Anyone involved in video production in the house? Want to tell me what you think, where I’ve gone wrong or where I should be looking next?


#2

$200 isn’t going to get you much beyond a “GoPro” type of thing and then you may as well get the Chinese copy of it. Really if you want a serious video oriented camera and you want to step up your game to something that can do video well and has some future prospects then in the $500 used range you can get a Panasonic G7. Otherwise, get a GoPro equivalent but you will be sorely disappointed once you get used to it and the limitations of a fixed lens, small sensor camera.

The G7 will give you future proofing now as it does 4K already in 30 and 60fps. It won’t give you the type of action camera slow frame rae of 120fps but you have to ask whether what you shoot needs it? Then you can work from there.

There are a tonne of Micro Four Thirds lenses you can use with a G7 either Panasonic or Olympus, but then you might need a gimbal setup (which you will need eventually on your rig if you take this seriously).

You will be hard pressed particularly at your young stage of learning about video to tell the difference in terms of image quality between the Panasonic camera and a RED cinema camera. You will get some depth of field with wide aperture lenses. It’s relatively cheap to get an F/2 prime down to 24mm if needs be and you will be in business with the stock lens anyhow.

I wouldn’t skimp below that but you might…


#3

I’d consider shooting a typical YouTube video without it looking like shite to be a reasonable starting goal. 4K isn’t anywhere on my immediate radar, nor would any computer I have around be able to crunch it adequately. At the end of the day, the ultimate aim is to have some fun with this and see whether it’s something I want to pursue further. As long as the camera doesn’t inhibit my ability to enjoy experimenting with it (like as I discovered, having reasonable video but really terrible audio with no microphone input option), it’s more than adequate.

However…

You raise some extremely valid points that has me questioning whether it makes more sense to source a good long term camera as opposed to purchasing a basic short term practice camera, then replacing it later on.

The Panasonic G7 has a microphone input, making it one of the few cameras I’ve looked at this evening that actually has one. It ticks all the boxes and then some, albeit at a not insignificant cost, but still far less than most cameras on the market and with considerably more room to grow.

I was also looking at some photos taken with a Nikon D3300 and was seriously impressed with the image quality for stills, envious even of the skills of the operator (my brother, third year film, photography and design student) and what he was able to achieve. Was really tempted to set some extra funds aside for one and dive in right there and then. Of course the D3300 is discontinued and Nikon removed the microphone input from its replacement the D3400, meaning it wouldn’t cover all bases.

Of course I have no qualms about a used or refurbished older generation model either. That could actually be an effective option in this instance.

I suppose I need to establish a starting point. I need the equipment to practice, I need some knowledge of the practice to choose the equipment. Not to mention the cash to invest into it, and making that cash requires time, which has kept me out of dedicated classes to learn these basics. But I need to start somewhere, and true to form experimentation with whatever equipment I can get my hands on is probably the easiest option I have at this time.


#4

Features you need to consider;
Do you want a dedicated Video Camera or a Hybrid stills/video Camera

I’d advocate getting a camera that gives you the option of manual control of; shutter speed/angle, aperture, white balance, ISO, frame rate and Manual Focus. Stretching for 4K/UHD would give more room to develop.

Ones I would look at Video the Sony AX100 and for a Hybrid the Panasonic GH4.
Both of these are not the latest models so may be available second hand.


#5

Have a look at the Pana range of 3MOS cams.

Look at the specs of a Panasonic HDC TM900.
Sounds like it will meet your requirements.
I’ve used these and similar Pana models for years.
Set up right, they are hard to beat for their designed purpose.

I even have one for sale.

Al


#6

Looks like a decent camera. Will do some research on it. Any idea what you would be looking to get for yours? Perhaps send me a message and we can discuss it further from there.


#7

Message sent.

Al


#8

That’s my point… do it once do it right. You can start with the kit lens and if it grows you can buy some proper lenses. It’s a camera that will last you until 8k becomes the next thing. There are a significant amount of pros out there that use it as their B camera or even their A camera. Particularly as you are learning you won’t need a better camera until you are given one to work with as a professional.

There are limitations… low ISO range… You will top out at ISO3200. Depth of field is doubled, an F/2.8 lens is equivelant to F/5.6 and I don’t even want to talk about my medium format film camera but I can get the same depth of field at F/6.3. Light gather remains the same. The issue is that fast lenses down to F/1.4 or faster get expensive if you really want shallow depth of field. The other limitation with the G7 is that it doesn’t shoot in a logging format nor does it give you a true RAW video format, and it doesn’t output to a monitor via HDMI which can be painful particularly depending on how your rig will be set up. Those are all limitations I could live with though.

As to mirrored cameras (DSLRs) I’ve come to the conclusion I’m not a huge fan of the size and the weight and those are the grounds you need to consider. The D3300 is a pretty small body, it has a great sensor for an entry level camera… It’s way better than the Canon 100D which was its competition. It just doesn’t tick the boxes for me once you strap on a full frame lens onto that APS-C camera which inevitably you will do if you get more serious… Those lenses are the size of a small grenade launcher. That’s another reason why I shoot Micro Four Thirds.

I seriously considered getting a small APS-C camera a few years ago. Then, the difference between APS-C and Micro Four Thirds for video is insignificant. Its also defeatist. If I were going to get a really small camera, with a larger sensor, and I had money to burn I’d just buy a Sony A7… That’s not within the constraints of most people’s budgets though.

If you want a video only camera there are plenty of other options. That’s just not my forte so I’ll leave that to a true videographer to talk about if they want to. Video is a side interes to me with what these cool DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras can do now.


#9

I have a Panasonic TM900 - great camera!

I’ve no idea what’s on the market these days, but certainly when I got that camera (2012), it was one of the best in terms of “prosumer” - professional / consumer quality - I saw quite a few people in the lower end of commercial production (think weddings, corporate video) spruiking them as a great option for a “B” camera - ie they’d have a proper commercial grade camera, but also have a Panny TM900 for additional shots, as the quality really held up.

In terms of making something that doesn’t look crap…
Get a tripod, and/or
Practice how to hold a camera steady if you’re doing moving shots.
Learn about framing your shots.
Angles - when cutting between different angles of the same subject, there’s science behind those decisions.
Colour grading really really makes a difference between amateur and professional looking images.
Sound - it’s important not to forget sound. ALWAYS get some ambient sound recorded on your location shoots.
Ok, going overboard, I’ll stop there.


#10

Not at all. This is exactly where I’m at. I haven’t even started learning these techniques yet, so it’s great to get a rundown of the basic areas I should start with.

Now I certainly understand the advantages of doing it once, and doing it right. I’ve applied that old adage to almost every project I’ve tackled in recent times, be it a computer build or restoration, to a car repair, or even frivolous projects like my makeshift television transmitter.

I’m torn between two schools of thought.

I like the Panasonic G7 and the flexibility it provides, being able to grow with the camera and not be too concerned about hitting its limitations too soon. But it’s expensive. Just within my immediate reach for the camera and kit lens, and if I saved for a month or so, I could certainly afford to dive in. It has several features that wouldn’t strictly be necessary at first, including 4K recording since I don’t own a 4K capable display nor have a computer modern enough to crunch it (to the best of my knowledge, not to underestimate the Quad i7 Ivy Bridge in the slightest).

The Panasonic HDC TM900 is inexpensive and certainly very capable, albeit limited for growth in some aspects. That said it accomplishes good results for video and would be suitable for practicing, working on framing, angles, sound and lighting, and perhaps shooting some casual YouTube videos of projects or filming some videos for others.

I’m sold.

I’m almost convinced I want both. I’ve seen some incredible night time footage shot entirely on the Panasonic G7 with 14-42 kit lens that makes me want this camera more than life itself. There’s some impressive night footage almost directly off the camera (albeit edited and colour graded) that looks rather nice too.

Across the other end of the scale, the Panasonic TM900 is capable of producing some nice video too, from a bright and sharp outdoor scene to some interesting results with some creative editing.

I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube creator content, particularly Simone Giertz’s robots and feel that if I wanted to make content like that, the TM900 would be perfect. However if I want to create more detailed, cinematic nighttime shots - and recording video in Adelaide at night would be fun (provided I didn’t have my camera stolen or something) - the Panasonic G7 would certainly be the winner here.

Different cameras for different applications. Maybe. I’m not sure.

I’ll take a moment to think about it, perhaps consult with some others and show them the sample footage, and maybe wander into the city on Saturday to see the G7 in person. Then I may be able to make a call as to how I’ll choose to proceed.

And of course I’ll continue discussing this here in the meantime. I feel like I’m starting to narrow in on some decent options now (and particularly ones that are in the realm of affordable) but I’m still very much an amateur when it comes to knowing what makes one camera better than another, or how to get the best results out of them. That still needs a lot more refinement.

Also, on a somewhat related note, I’ve been looking at the channel DSLRguide and love their video on inexpensive set lighting. It makes it look so simple, and in some sense it is, just basic principles applied using common, readily available items. It makes the entire process of learning film technique seem a lot more achievable overall.


#11

I own and use a G7.
Would I use the G7 for a video job, no.
A dedicated vid cam is my first choice.

If I had to choose only one camera to shoot stills and video, G7, it’s simply one of the finest pieces of kit I’ve used.
Understanding the menu system is quite an achievement. But is necessary to milk it’s potential.

My biggest erk is no headphone socket.

Al


#12

Regarding the Panny TM900 in low light…

http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/panasonic-avccam-camcorders/496091-tm900-low-light-situations-hows-beachtek-dxa-2t.html

You may need to join the site to read - if so, go ahead - it’s full of helpful people when it comes to the world of video.

I never forked over for the option, but it can also shoot in 3D with an adapter lens… I know - total gimmick, and apparently not one of the best consumer 3D cameras, but hey - your own 3D content! :slight_smile: No Idea how to edit the footage though…


#13

The G7 is quite crisp providing you have some available light to work with. Not to push you in that direction just saying. They are different cameras entirely though and as I haven’t played with camcorders or dedicated film cameras in numerous years I can’t guide you beyond that.

As to rigs and lighting, that’s really a matter of creativity in craft. You can make a lot out of very little and there are even some Chinese light rigs that are high enough quality to be learning with.

The above comment is right in a lot of ways, you have to know a whole heaps of things about light, aperture, depth of field, and ISO to get the most out of a DSLR or mirrorless camera as a video camera. You will be limited in shooing time. Due to international regulations DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are only allowed to shoo 30minutes of footage, but most of your scenes will only be a few minutes at a time and you have to be incredibly good a what you are doing to shoot scenes that are longer than a few minutes at a time.

You will have to learn certain things about film production in the first place before you get anywhere and that is story boarding and making use of that to also include all off the things above, aperture, depth of field, iso, lens length, is it a close up, medium or long shot? Scripts… etc… The theory is just as important as the camera and the shot… if not more so.

If you want to learn the whole game, build a complete rig, learn about on and off camera, lighting and sound control, gimbals, and building your own rig from scratch then a G7 is a good choice. It comes with a steep learning curve though so maybe a camcorder is better for you initially or even a bridge camera such as the Panasonic FZ-1000.


#14

That’s more a EU tax thing, but some manufacturers produce a US version and a rest of the world version. My Australian purchased GH4 can shoot for longer.


#15

It seems to be a camera model by camera model thing and yes it is an EU thing. The GH4 is a different thing altogether. It’s recognised a video camera first that can take good photos second.


#16

I looked into Panasonic, and comparable to other cameras I really liked what I saw. Primarily because of the feature set, price and image quality, but also because the Micro Four Thirds specification and non-proprietary standard for camera lenses opens a lot of potential choice, and spare or replacement batteries aren’t difficult to source either.

I did some research outside of here as well, and taking into account everyone’s feedback, looking at sample footage, how it handles stills, how it handles video, looking at prices, specifications, expandability, lens options, batteries…

…I came home last Saturday with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7W. A Lumix G7, with both 14-42mm and 45-150mm kit lenses, accessories and a shoulder bag for $899. I can also request a couple of training sessions at no extra cost, if I choose to do so. (And lets be serious, I need them.) For comparison, Panasonic currently has the DMC-G7W kit alone marked at $1,099.00 RRP.

I’m looking forward to learning more about it and discovering how to get the absolute best out of it over time. And I do expect it’ll take some time. I’m learning essentially via the internet, with limited access to some experienced photographers, and whatever practical experience I get over the weekends and occasionally weeknights, although I’m finishing work well after dark at the moment.


#17

Perfect for low-light learning!


#18

My uncle and I run a video production business doing commercials and promotional videos for small to medium sized business and we use a Panasonic GH5 as our main camera and a G85 as the secondary. The GH5 and GH5S are widely regarded as the best small-form factor video cameras available, so if you’re looking for smaller cameras then the Panasonic range is definitely the one to go for.


#19

Good work on getting the camera. You’ve got a lot of learning ahead of yourself especially if you decide to go fully manual. In the mean time you can put it in auto and shoot.

As to the platform, yes there are a tonne of lenses, some of the SLR Magic cinema primes will be good for what you do. They have clickless apertures rings and are fully manual for video. Or you can also adapt old 35mm camera lenses, some of these have also been adapted with clickless aperture for film. There are some cheap options to begin with and then if you get more serious you can get something better.

You will need a gimbal rig with non-Panasonic lens, but you will need to learn how to use a gimbal if you get serious about film though anyway. For now if you’re going to just learn about run and gun then I’d stick with the Panasonic lenses and make sure the stabiliser is turned on on the lens if you’re moving around.


#20

Hmm, I’m in a similar situation but have been a Nikon DSLR user predominantly. last model I used properly for stills was a D90 with a serious set of lenses.

So I’ve been considering a Mid range current Nikon with perhaps adapter and canon lenses (as apparently they are cheaper for good AF lenses) as well as a gimbal setup for light, mic etc.

idea is to use the camera for both Video and stills in 4K so i can process down to 1080p,720p,480p etc. though im not planning on making YouTube my primary focus content wise. it would be second wave of release behind my own site and a platform like floatplane or similar.