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First Time Camera Decision


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#1 Joseph Boyd

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 12:16 AM

I'm looking to purchase my first camera and am looking for input onto what of these options would be the best of my choices. None are great choices, but on my budget ($500ish) this is what I can do. Bear in mind, I'm not looking for something to film a masterpiece on, merely to learn the ropes and be able to churn out a passable product. My first project to learn the camera is an industrial video for a friend's company, then a documentary. Once I've learned the camera well enough, I would like to guerilla film some projects.

Choice 1: JVC GY-X3 (Or equivalant)- 3CCD SVHS Professional Camcorder. Manual everything, 60i. Also, would connecting a lower end digital camcorder as a recording deck be a feasible option? I already have video capture hardware I bought used, made by pinnacle.

Choice 2: A Higher end digital, but not 3CCD camcorder.

Choice 3: Non 3ccd, analogue El-Cheapo used camcorder or 2ccd old news camera and continue saving for a better digital.

I'm not considering film at this point, mainly due to the cost of processing, getting it transferred to film for editing, lack of access to suitable facilities, etc. I am open to buying an old Super 8 as something to play around with, but at this point I want something I can work with in my spare time (between college and full time work, this is rare).
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#2 Kevin Masuda

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 01:50 PM

I'm looking to purchase my first camera and am looking for input onto what of these options would be the best of my choices. None are great choices, but on my budget ($500ish) this is what I can do. Bear in mind, I'm not looking for something to film a masterpiece on, merely to learn the ropes and be able to churn out a passable product. My first project to learn the camera is an industrial video for a friend's company, then a documentary. Once I've learned the camera well enough, I would like to guerilla film some projects.

Choice 1: JVC GY-X3 (Or equivalant)- 3CCD SVHS Professional Camcorder. Manual everything, 60i. Also, would connecting a lower end digital camcorder as a recording deck be a feasible option? I already have video capture hardware I bought used, made by pinnacle.

Choice 2: A Higher end digital, but not 3CCD camcorder.

Choice 3: Non 3ccd, analogue El-Cheapo used camcorder or 2ccd old news camera and continue saving for a better digital.

I'm not considering film at this point, mainly due to the cost of processing, getting it transferred to film for editing, lack of access to suitable facilities, etc. I am open to buying an old Super 8 as something to play around with, but at this point I want something I can work with in my spare time (between college and full time work, this is rare).


Why not just get a regular minidv camcorder? You can get one for the budget you have.

Kev
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#3 Freya Black

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Posted 05 May 2006 - 03:41 AM

I'm looking to purchase my first camera and am looking for input onto what of these options would be the best of my choices. None are great choices, but on my budget ($500ish) this is what I can do. Bear in mind,


I think there is a panasonic 3 chip mini-dv camera close to your price point. Maybe about $600? You'll have to investigate but that would be a very good option as it has microphone inputs too.

Another option might be to get a low end mini dv camera with analogue in like the low end canons or something and get an old 3ccd news camera head and connect the two together. However the resulting beast will be big nasty and unweildy and probably only suited to studio work, or at least you won't be easily able to gun and run.

love

Freya
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#4 David W Scott

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Posted 05 May 2006 - 08:42 AM

Choice 1: JVC GY-X3 (Or equivalant)- 3CCD SVHS Professional Camcorder. Manual everything, 60i. Also, would connecting a lower end digital camcorder as a recording deck be a feasible option? I already have video capture hardware I bought used, made by pinnacle.



Definitely go for option 1. In your budget range, it's the only way to get video AND audio that will be acceptably professional. You say the first thing you want to shoot is an industrial video... that is exactly what these cameras were designed for.

I know it doesn't record DV -- but as mentioned, you can add a cheap $250 miniDV or Digital8 camcorder and use it as the recording deck. That said, S-VHS looks better than you think. If you bump your first-generation S-VHS to DV, you can still edit easily without generation loss. Generation loss is what killed the usefulness of S-VHS as a post-production format.

Think of the advantages of this camera compared to your other options (including buying a new 1-chip MiniDV camera):

-- 3 CCDs. Let me repeat. 3 CCDs. There is no substitute. Anything less has smeared colour that won't hold up to editingor post processing.
-- Decent lens. That's a real piece of glass hanging off the front of the GY-X3. Any MiniDV camcorded you could afford will have a pathetic semi-automatic lens, crippling the image quality even before it gets recorded to MiniDV. Also, a full size lens like that makes it MUCH easier to manually focus.
-- Big sharp viewfinder. The full ENG-style viewfinder will make it much easier to manually focus. If you are being paid for a gig, every shot MUST be pin-sharp. The low-res screens on little MiniDV camcorders make it very difficult to judge focus.
-- Shoulder mount. Much more stable for hand-held use. Also, undeniably more professional look for the clients. (I know that's shallow, but clients notice if you use a PalmCorder instead of the big iron.)
-- XLR audio input. I can't overstate HOW IMPORTANT this item is. Adding it to a MiniDV camera costs $500. It's necessary, to use any microphone better than a $10 radio shack mic. Plus, balanced XLR cables can be run for long distances with no loss in signal or interference -- very important when you need to put the camera at the back of the room, and put a microphone on a podium at the front of the room. Plus, you can always take the XLR feed off of the audio guys mixing board if you are shooting at a live event.

I think this JVC camera only has composite video out, which is fine. But you won't really see the full fidelity of what is recorded on tape until you play back in a deck with S-Video connections. Of course you can always add that later, keeping your eye open for ANY cheap S-VHS VCR, because they will all have S-Video out.

My suggestion might be different if you were comparing the GY-X3 to a good DV camera like the Panasonic DVX-100 or the Canon XL 2. But for your budget, the GY-X3 is a steal. You'll be able to shoot like a pro, with good picture quality, and learn how to operate a real camera. Invaluable.

Good luck.
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#5 Marco Leavitt

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Posted 05 May 2006 - 09:45 AM

Interesting points David. One thing though. An XLR adapter does not cost $500. It's more like $30 to $150 depending on what features you need.

Joseph, if you do go the miniDV route, the Canon Optura 60 (if you can find one) is a possibility. It has decent manual controls, including audio gain control. While it is a one chip, Canon's RGB filter technology works really well, and if you can feed it enough light the images rival that of the three chippers. I believe the inexpensive Panasonic 3 chippers don't have control over the audio gain, which completely eliminates them from consideration in my opinion. They recently downgraded that line to take out even more features.

Edited by Marco Leavitt, 05 May 2006 - 09:46 AM.

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#6 Hal Smith

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Posted 05 May 2006 - 11:26 AM

Interesting points David. One thing though. An XLR adapter does not cost $500. It's more like $30 to $150 depending on what features you need.


This question comes down to what are you doing with the audio inputs on the camera (I'm going to speak generally here).

If the camera has a pretty much standard low-impedance microphone input AND the XLR corded mike will be within 15 feet or so of the camera, then all one needs is a simple corded adapter, parts cost around $10 or so. If the camera only accepts electret condenser type microphones (the ones with a small battery inside, or that require a low voltage feed from the camera) then one does need a microphone preamplifier to use professional dynamic microphones and the cost easily could escalate to $150 or more. That would be the same situation for a professional condenser microphone requiring a phantom power supply. One cannot assume prosumer gear to have properly balanced microphone inputs. Therefore long mike cords start to require external preamplifiers to minimize picking up hum and electrical noise. The little Shure FP23 preamplifiers can be purchased new in the $300 range.

The most expensive route, but also most general solution, would to use a professional field production mixer like the Shure M367. A M367 will accept just about any type of microphone input with or without phantom requirements, line level inputs (like from a professional wireless), and deliver simultaneous mike and line level outputs while also supplying headphones. There's even a built-in option for a simple version of IFB. It has a basic limiter built-in to help audio from getting out of hand. That puts you close to the original reply quoting $500 or so. I just bought an extra one off eBay for $131 but I got lucky, it was only listed in the electronic test equipment category.

I don't work for Shure or any of their dealers. My day job is radio broadcasting engineering consulting and I've learned to trust Shure over the years. Their gear isn't always the slickest thing available but it meets its specs and it's reliable. I've also used enough of their microphones over the years to know their pretty dog-gone good for what they sell for.
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#7 David W Scott

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Posted 05 May 2006 - 11:48 AM

Interesting points David. One thing though. An XLR adapter does not cost $500. It's more like $30 to $150 depending on what features you need.


I'm sure you can find cheaper solutions, but the standard Beacktek is pretty pricey in Canada ($479 CDN):

Beachtek adapter at Vistek

I struggled for years with XLR-to-miniphone adapter cables. They really don't cut it in the field - those mini plugs are notoriously flaky. They provide a very small area for electrical contact, and when the springs in the socket get weak, you get more and more problems with hum and dropouts. This is especially problematic when you only have one shot at getting the sound (i.e. a wedding, an event, documentary, etc.) I am gun shy about using any camera that doesn't have XLR connectors right on the body.
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#8 Marco Leavitt

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Posted 05 May 2006 - 12:14 PM

Okay, I was talking about passive adapters. If you want something with phantom power, gain, limiter, high pass filter it does run about $400 per channel.

Can't beat:

MM1 (for boom-op)
http://www.bhphotovi...oughType=search

Sign Video passive XLR adapter (at the camera)
http://www.bhphotovi...oughType=search

I've never had a miniplug mic input die on me, but I know what you mean. It's scary.
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#9 Joseph Boyd

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Posted 05 May 2006 - 05:42 PM

Thanks all for the advice. Unfortunately, I got outbid on the JVC while I was in class, so I'm continuing the search. I played around with some HD's at the camera store and fell in love, but that's far off in the future as neither my budget or my computer would get along with one.
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