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I am officially BEGGING for help in selecting a cam...


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#1 LovinItAll

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Posted 09 December 2005 - 02:32 PM

Great stuff all over the place on this board. Thanks to the folks for contributing their knowledge and opinions.

Okay, I am in analysis paralysis..... I have read and read (and then read a little more), and I am still undecided......

I currently shoot video shorts using a low-end Panasonic GS-250. I've maxed this little cam out, done some good work with it, but it is time to move on....

As fortune would have it, I now have a $5,000 budget for a new cam. I'm loaded with high-end audio gear, so support of XLR inputs is a must. On to the question----

To HD or not to HD?

Goal: To continue producing shorts in SD for internet delivery of content (bandwidth requirements limit HD delivery at this time). In addition, I would like the ability to distribute work on DVD (not in HD) for the short term. Long term, I am trying to figure out whether shooting in HD and down-converting to SD for current projects is practical (in case I wish to release the same footage in HD at a later time).

Dilemma: If a cam in my budget offered both native 24p and HD, there would be no dilemma! (Notwithstanding the Z1's "fake" 24p). Alas, I seem to be stuck. Do I go with the Z1 or the DVX100? I ruled out the XL2 because of it's shoddy eyepiece, though I am sure it is a great cam. Is there another cam I should throw into the "consideration" mix?

In SD, does anyone know which of the two I am considering stands above the other? Can I go wrong with either? Will I see significantly better results than I am currently getting with my puny 250? The 24p mode has some appeal should I ever (probably never--but I think about it all the time) attempt to shoot a little movie and become rags-to-riches famous! :)

Am I babbling yet?!?! I need to make a decision, as I have a shoot coming up in 12 days and would really like to get the cam in here NOW and become familiar with it before the shoot.

All opinions count, and any help is greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance ~ Lee
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 December 2005 - 02:55 PM

Well, the technology keeps changing so at some point, you just have to pick something and live with it.

Also remember that shooting in HD probably (although not necessarily) means monitoring and editing in HD, which you have to factor in.

And it's not like the Sony HDV camera is your only choice. Personally, from what I just saw at DV Expo of the Canon XL H1 and Panasonic HVX200, I'd pick either over the Sony any day (and spend more money, I'm aware of that.)

The Canon 24F mode, though not true progressive-scan, appears to be much more lossless than Sony's CineFrame 24F. The Panasonic is even better (true 24P, 4:2:2 DVCPRO-HD quality, multiple frame rates and formats) but then you have deal with P2 cards, downloading to drives, etc. compared to the convenience of HDV tapes. Plus the Canon allows interchangeable lenses. So as of December 9, 2005, those two cameras intrigue me more than the Sony HDV cameras. Next week, who knows.

But if you don't need HDTV or large screen digital presentation or a transfer to film, then I'd stick to either the DVX100B or Canon XL2 for now.

Edited by David Mullen, 09 December 2005 - 02:56 PM.

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#3 Trevor Greenfield

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Posted 09 December 2005 - 03:00 PM

Ive said this many times on several forums.

Right now I believe it would be absolutely foolish to buy an SD camera. If you don't like the HD choices yet, wait, but SD is going to be going the way of the VHS and 8-track 1 year after Bluray and HDDVD come out.

I pose these questions to everyone who doubts this:

Do you own a HDTV?

No? Well if you were to buy another TV, would it be SD or HDTV?

And there you go. Thats EVERYBODY's story, across the USA.

To further illustrate my point, this is the difference in frame size ALONE, not talking about quality or sampling or anything else, just frame size and the difference in resolution.

Posted Image
Posted Image

Edited by Trevor Greenfield, 09 December 2005 - 03:05 PM.

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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 December 2005 - 03:13 PM

Yes, you make a strong argument. Trouble is that I've been hearing that SAME argument for six years now! More than enough time for some professional to have bought and paid for an SD camera with SD work. Back in 2000, people were saying "don't buy an SD camera because everything's going to be HD soon."

If you are shooting regularly, you should plan on paying off your investment within two years, so until recently, it still made sense to buy an SD camera. That market for SD product will still be with us for a few more years.

But as of today, your argument is making more sense because we're seeing the tipping over point as HD sets get cheaper and more common. I finally bought one last year after owning a 21" Sony for 12 years.

So it really depends on how many years of use you need from the camera and from the footage after that. If you're shooting a local commercial spot for SD broadcast and it has no long-term value ("2005 Christmas Sale at Joe's Sex Toy Emporium!"), then there's not much point of shooting it in HD...
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#5 LovinItAll

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Posted 09 December 2005 - 03:25 PM

Thank you, gentlemen....

Regarding Canon's new entry, the XL H1, I would love that cam, but I would also prefer to keep my genitals intact, which they would not be if I bought that cam and my wife found out how much I spent.....

I still want to know--- Shooting in SD, will I achieve better results with ANY of the aforementioned cams (one would think so) than I get on my little 3 CCD Panasonic 250?

I appreciate Mr. Greenfield's position that the world is headed toward HD, but in two years I won't have a problem buying another cam. Question is, which cam to buy TODAY?! As I said, I intent on delivering my content on SD initially, so I am trying to figure out if it is worth it to shoot in HD, downconvert to SD, and retain the original for the future. The content that I shoot has a long "shelf life", so to speak.

Again, my budget is five grand max..... A question for the two of you: If you had $5k and had to buy a cam today, what cam would you buy?
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#6 Trevor Greenfield

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Posted 09 December 2005 - 03:32 PM

Hmm not sure why but imageshack died for about 10mins and the links above dont work and now I cant edit my post!

So here's another try.

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Posted Image

David - I haven't been saying that HD is going to take over effective immediately until HDV, the affordable DVD came out and I realized that HDDVD and BluRay are literally around the corner. This is EXACTLY how DVD started out. The first year or so all the diehards converted over, one thing that slowed the conversion was the price of the players. The next thing you know within two years everybody is buying dvd players, renting and buying DVD movies, and VHS is looking like yesterday's news. Today, what has VHS been relegated to?

Further, there is a real prime factor that will drive the HD boom - Studios and Distributors. They have already mastered all of their material in HD or higher, now is a chance for them to sell the same movie they sold us already on SD DVD, AGAIN, in a lot of cases only a year or two or three after they did it the first time! Its brilliant! They can also get top dollar for them, at least initially, because HD is such a huge buzzword.

And when the day does come when HDDVD players are affordable and the market is not yet innundated with HDDVDs, whom is to profit when a consumer goes shopping? Someone with a DVD in HD or SD?

For yourself, David, and many other pros, 35mm and Varicam or even Viper are merely an aesthetic choice or a choice of budgetary reasons. But you're not making the same decision that many first timers are - do I shoot in this 24p or in HD or what - almost exclusively guided by the fact that they themselves, after working for 2 years at McDonalds or something have saved up enough money to buy a camera and maybe a tiny bit left over for a budget for another short, to them its not an everyday choice, for most it is a camera that they will own and operate for possibly 5 or 10 years, depending on how quickly they make money or quit.

My contention is, knowing the person that has the HD product when the boom comes is the one to profit, and not the one with the SD, and knowing that HDV or something similar can be downsampled in the near term, I just cannot for the life of me figure out why anybody would spend 3k on a SD camera at this time.
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#7 Trevor Greenfield

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Posted 09 December 2005 - 03:48 PM

I still want to know--- Shooting in SD, will I achieve better results with ANY of the aforementioned cams (one would think so) than I get on my little 3 CCD Panasonic 250?


Yes.

I appreciate Mr. Greenfield's position that the world is headed toward HD, but in two years I won't have a problem buying another cam. Question is, which cam to buy TODAY?! As I said, I intent on delivering my content on SD initially, so I am trying to figure out if it is worth it to shoot in HD, downconvert to SD, and retain the original for the future. The content that I shoot has a long "shelf life", so to speak.


Again, your reasoning is contradictory to mine in what shelf life will entail in the next five years. It is my contention that SD will be for all intents and purposes dead in three years, and HD will be the only thing that anyone will shoot or release on. Therefore, I, who looks at a documentary my father made in Borneo only 10 years ago, recongize the end of shelf life of a product is VERY real, and not just some arbitrary term. If you want your product to be worth anything to anybody in 5 years, or lets say 10, you will want to make it HD. Remember you can always come down from HD but you can never go up satisfactorally. I would also contend that anybody serious about creating cinema in today's world, unless they specifically need the look of SD for aesthetics, should be striving to produce cinema at as high of resolution as possible... it is the nature of what we do, for distribution and for projection. If you have no intention of ever making this material into a serious piece that could be distributed into cinemas, do a festival run, or make it onto an HDDVD for someone to buy, then I would contend that your intentions for what your piece is to be doesn't merit buying a new camera at all - it would simply go to waste.

Again, my budget is five grand max..... A question for the two of you: If you had $5k and had to buy a cam today, what cam would you buy?


I would check out every HD camera I could, go to shows, go to stores, and if you have broadband, there are quite a few places online you can your hands on RAW .m2t files for FX1 or Z1 or HC1 or A1 or get raw files from the new Canon, JVC, and Pana models.

Find out what you like, what you need, what you don't. Maybe you want to wait on that big project until a camera you really want comes along.

The absolute last thing I want to see is filmmakers going out and buying cameras that will be boat anchors in 5 years, and making products that will have a short shelf life because another format change is coming.
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#8 LovinItAll

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Posted 09 December 2005 - 04:01 PM

Again, your reasoning is contradictory to mine in what shelf life will entail in the next five years. It is my contention that SD will be for all intents and purposes dead in three years, and HD will be the only thing that anyone will shoot or release on.


I agree. My content has a quite long shelf life, so you have convinced me that shooting in HD makes the most sense. I had come to that conclusion myself, but I'm a baby and needed reassurance...

I would check out every HD camera I could, go to shows, go to stores, and if you have broadband, there are quite a few places online you can your hands on RAW .m2t files for FX1 or Z1 or HC1 or A1 or get raw files from the new Canon, JVC, and Pana models.


I suppose that is the root of my problem. I HAVE researched these cams, and at the budget number I have, the Z1 keeps popping up the winner. But then I read something some "expert" has written that dogs the Sony, and I start vascillating all over again.

Regarding "holding off" on the project, I shoot at least one a month, so I need to bite the bullet and buy a cam.

Thank you so much for your replies. Really, I wonder if I can go seriously wrong with whatever I purchase keeping in mind that buying another cam in 2 years will not be an issue....
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#9 Chris Keth

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Posted 09 December 2005 - 04:39 PM

I agree. My content has a quite long shelf life, so you have convinced me that shooting in HD makes the most sense. I had come to that conclusion myself, but I'm a baby and needed reassurance...
I suppose that is the root of my problem. I HAVE researched these cams, and at the budget number I have, the Z1 keeps popping up the winner. But then I read something some "expert" has written that dogs the Sony, and I start vascillating all over again.

Regarding "holding off" on the project, I shoot at least one a month, so I need to bite the bullet and buy a cam.

Thank you so much for your replies. Really, I wonder if I can go seriously wrong with whatever I purchase keeping in mind that buying another cam in 2 years will not be an issue....



If I were you I'd hold off a bit, save some money, and see if any problems arise with the new Panasonic camera. If there are no big complaints about it floating around in a couple months, I'd get one.
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#10 Michael Collier

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Posted 09 December 2005 - 05:24 PM

I am a big fan of the JVC HD-100U. Its HD. It has native HDV resolution CCDs (not the 720x1920 that it playsback, but the 720x1440 (??) that all HDV is limited too(including sony and canons). It also does true progressive and true 24p (i am think, not sure, that the 24p actually records only 24 frames, not padding it to 29.97 with duplicate frames that are flagged) That alone is enough for me.

What sells me on it though, and the reason I have stayed away from JVC in the past is the lens. Time was JVC was one of the only manufacturers who would not put a zeiss lens or a lecia (sp?) on their low end to prosumer range. They always had the cheapest lens of anycamera (most JVCs in that range usually say 'video lens' on the markings around the front optic.)

Now that they have Fujinon stock servo lens I couldnt be happier. Its a standard bayonet mount, with the iris being an ENG style manual ring (not the menu selected iris the XL series had, which also had a proprietary mount and communications system, limiting lens choice) now basicly any 1/2" bayonet lens will work (though HD lenses are preferable)

Also this means a direct path for the mini-35 to mate with the CCD block (im a huge fan of the mini, but DOF plays a huge roll in my style of photography, for others it may not be worth the pricetag)

Also a physical lens has a psycological value to it. your controls arent dampend and muddied by the computer curcuits that control the lenses zoom and focus optics (which I suspect cheap electronic lenses have few optics and less linearity in focus, zoom etc, but has a computer program that sorts out how to maintain a 4ft. focus over the length of the zoom and coninually compensates, ie adjusting backfocus as the lens zooms. just a theory.)

But actually turning the focus and being able to roll it as little as 1 degree over a 180 or 270 degree envelope gives a feeling of total control. If like on the pany DVX-100 you have a level of 1-100, thats almost 2-3 degrees per step. (and if you zoom in to far that you only get 50 levels of focus) if your backfocus is in check I get a much better feeling on a fujinon by zooming in and setting focus and pulling out. even doing that on the ZU1 (sony) I am shooting a feature on, I dont trust it. I use all their focus assist tools but in the end I need a monitor to be sure. and I have noticed backfocus drift in weird ways (I think it depends on your iris setting, how fast you pull out and how far the subject is)

In the end the CCD blocks all come from silmalar designs and processes. The color corrections in camera are all similar and need help in post to get to the final look. Most cameras in that price range has XLR inputs. Most shoot either 24p or a setting that mimics the 24p look (sonys 24F is pretty close) and with the HD its amazing clear (SD is for chumps since the HD cameras now are in close price points) And if your still doing SD or internet work you get a sharper image from the downres and you have much more latitude in color correction

but i talk too much
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#11 Max Jacoby

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Posted 09 December 2005 - 06:00 PM

But as of today, your argument is making more sense because we're seeing the tipping over point as HD sets get cheaper and more common. I finally bought one last year after owning a 21" Sony for 12 years.


What TV did you buy David? CRT or LCD or Plasma?

HDTV is coming to Europe now as well, but since I don't watch broadcasts only Dvds and Laser I do not plan to get a HDTV for the next couple of years. Once the next generation Dvd battle is fought out and the prices come down I will look into it.
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 December 2005 - 01:15 AM

I guess my attitude is that given the choice between a progressive-scan DV camera and an interlaced-scan HDV camera.... I'd save up for a progressive-scan HD camera!

Just as you don't want an SD camera that will become a "boat anchor" you also don't want to rush into buying an HDV camera that only does interlaced-scan only to discover that what you really needed was one that did progressive-scan. Unless you really are OK with the look of interlaced-scan HD, like for shooting documentaries and travelogs, versus narrative fiction.

I'm just saying it's not an easy choice between a DVX100 versus a Sony Z1 for me because I prefer 24P over interlaced-scan capture, even though I prefer HD over SD. So I'd just keep saving up...

As for my TV set, my choice was partly determined by what was a bargain out there, so I bought a 37" LCD Sharp Aquos (1280 x 720 pixels, I think), which was cheaper than the Sony and Panasonic LCD's of similar size, by at least a thousand dollars... I like watching DVD's on it - my only beef is how LCD's handle really dark scenes. The blacks tend to glow in the dark compared to a CRT screen. The CRT HD monitors were just too bulky for the space in my living room.

Edited by David Mullen, 10 December 2005 - 01:17 AM.

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#13 LovinItAll

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Posted 11 December 2005 - 11:37 PM

See? This is why I was in analysis paralysis!

JVC HD-100U - Done.......

One of you guys have an extra room? I bought some accessories.......

Thanks for everyone's help. I'm sure I'll have buyer's remorse soon enough :)
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#14 LovinItAll

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Posted 12 December 2005 - 08:26 PM

Gee.......Did you guys know the learning curve was slightly longer with my new cam than with, say, one of my Sony HandyCams?

Or as my wife says, "A busy man is a happy man!"
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#15 Tom Bays

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Posted 16 December 2005 - 11:09 AM

Most TV stations downconvert to SD anyway when inserting commercials...so i don't think you will be burned for quite a bit by using SD. At the Time Warner Cable that i work we won't test inserting HD until the end of next year even though we could do it now. Things take time.

I mostly use the Sony Dvw-790, but i've used the XL2 and i think it gives you plenty of options that will allow you to be creative with the camera.
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