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#1 Tom Griffiths

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 06:24 AM

Hello all,
I'm currently trying to undertake the incredibly complicated process of choosing a camera. Before I go into the actual camera stuff, I thought it may be best to give you an idea of my background and aspirations as this may help with your advice.

About 6 years ago I decided that due to my interest in films and visual effects I wanted to study Computer Animation & Visualisation at university but, not having any art background to speak of (apart from a rather casual TV course I was doing at the time) I found I'd have to do an art foundation to get onto my desired course at Bournemouth University, UK. Whilst doing this course, I got very heavily interested in photography and fell in love with the media. Even though I'd now got into photography, I didn't want to study it formally at uni but more as a personal persuit so, after getting a distinction in my Art course I got onto the Computer Visualisation course at Bournemouth. Whilst doing my degree creating short 'films' on the computer, I got more and more interested in Cinematography. Computer animation is a great way to explore this because you can, technically, create anything you want. Needless to say, I graduated last year and am currently working in the visual effects industry (currently on Harry Potter) but I now aspire to study Cinematography at a post graduate level and hopefully progress from there. So that's where I was and want to go which hopefully gives you an idea of the kind of person I am.

I hope to try an translate my current photography style into moving images which I explored with my degree on the computer. Here are some of my images. The photos are a few from my various travels (scanned from slide and adjusted in the computer to match the slide with minor contrast and brightness adjustments). The other images are from a project/animation I did at uni.

Photos:
http://i45.photobuck...New_Zealand.jpg
http://i45.photobuck...g-Australia.jpg
http://i45.photobuck...Island-Fiji.jpg
http://i45.photobuck...ara-Morocco.jpg
Computer renders
http://i45.photobuck...hs_promo_01.jpg
http://i45.photobuck...hs_promo_02.jpg
http://i45.photobuck...hs_promo_03.jpg

So, onto the camera question.....

I have been trauling the internet looking for advice on different cameras and two have caught my eye, the front runner being the Canon XL H1. The other being the Sony HVR v1e.

For my stills photography I use an old Canon AE1 manual camera (http://www.mir.com.m...urces/SLRs/ae1/ ) because I love the hands on approach and much prefer manual to automatic (even if it does make my life a bit harder sometimes!). From this I am a fan of the Canon name because even though my camera and lenses are some 30 years old, they still produce great photos and since then canon have been getting better and better regarding their optics. Unfortunately, being only 23, I don't have the finance to use a film camera and all the processes that go with it so I've been looking at digital cameras. Also, seeing as HD is going to be the norm relatively soon I thought it would be best to look at HD cameras rather than SD, but maybe that's a mistake (which is part of the advice I need).

Some of you may be thinking that to jump in at the deep end with a high-end camera like the XL H1 is a bit silly but I'll give you my reasons why I don't think so. I have confidence in my ability to be able to tame the beast and use it properly (after a considerable amount of experimenting of course) and I have the passion to carry on learning indefinitely. I know this is what I want to do (cinematography) and therefore a camera is going to be an investment for me, not just a toy. I want a camera that I can use to learn on and when I do get to a much higher level, I want a camera that can take me further. Therefore I'm willing to invest the considerable amount that the Canon costs. What I'm wondering is whether you guys think that the Canon is up to lasting a fair few years (such as built quality and features)? Perhaps you still think that the Canon is too much for me to take on and if so I'd appreciate your advice.

Here's some of the things I like about the camera:
- I like the fact it has a decent, sharp manual lens (even if it doesn't have finite zoom and focus rings)
- The fact you can use EOS lenses is cool as I have access to these
- Whilst being bigger than some cameras, it's still relatively comapact. I also like the fact that it isn't too light (although it is said it's rather front heavy) and shoulder mounted as it makes it more stable (for me anyway, which is why I like my solid metal stills camera!).
- The high res chip is higher than most of it's competition and from what I've read, it's very sharp.
- The multitude of colour and image controls provides great flexibility.

Coming from a stills background, my primary desire to get great quality images (even if they are to be degraded later) and from what I've read, the Canon does deliver this, however, some of the concerns I've come across:
- Some people have said the viewfinder is rubbish. Just how rubbish are we talking here? Due to the cost of the camera itself, I'm not going to be able to afford many upgrades/accessories any time soon after purchasing it so a new viewfinder is kinda not going to happen.
- The latitude of the camera. As most of the stuff I've read is from when the camera was just released I can't be sure whether it was pre-production models being tested and it was mentioned somewhere that the camera doesn't have a particularly large latitude. Does anyone have any examples I could look at? I'm not sure how much this will actually concern me because I'm used to shooting on Fuji Velvia for my stills stuff which is known for it's saturated, contrasty look.Hello all,
I'm currently trying to undertake the incredibly complicated process of choosing a camera. Before I go into the actual camera stuff, I thought it may be best to give you an idea of my background and aspirations as this may help with your advice.

About 6 years ago I decided that due to my interest in films and visual effects I wanted to study Computer Animation & Visualisation at university but, not having any art background to speak of (apart from a rather casual TV course I was doing at the time) I found I'd have to do an art foundation to get onto my desired course at Bournemouth University, UK. Whilst doing this course, I got very heavily interested in photography and fell in love with the media. Even though I'd now got into photography, I didn't want to study it formally at uni but more as a personal persuit so, after getting a distinction in my Art course I got onto the Computer Visualisation course at Bournemouth. Whilst doing my degree creating short 'films' on the computer, I got more and more interested in Cinematography. Computer animation is a great way to explore this because you can, technically, create anything you want. Needless to say, I graduated last year and am currently working in the visual effects industry (currently on Harry Potter) but I now aspire to study Cinematography at a post graduate level and hopefully progress from there. So that's where I was and want to go which hopefully gives you an idea of the kind of person I am.

So, onto the camera question.....

I have been trauling the internet looking for advice on different cameras and two have caught my eye, the front runner being the Canon XL H1. The other being the Sony HVR v1e.

For my stills photography I use an old Canon AE1 manual camera (http://www.mir.com.m...urces/SLRs/ae1/ ) because I love the hands on approach and much prefer manual to automatic (even if it does make my life a bit harder sometimes!). From this I am a fan of the Canon name because even though my camera and lenses are some 30 years old, they still produce great photos and since then canon have been getting better and better regarding their optics. Unfortunately, being only 23, I don't have the finance to use a film camera and all the processes that go with it so I've been looking at digital cameras. Also, seeing as HD is going to be the norm relatively soon I thought it would be best to look at HD cameras rather than SD, but maybe that's a mistake (which is part of the advice I need).

Some of you may be thinking that to jump in at the deep end with a high-end camera like the XL H1 is a bit silly but I'll give you my reasons why I don't think so. I have confidence in my ability to be able to tame the beast and use it properly (after a considerable amount of experimenting of course) and I have the passion to carry on learning indefinitely. I know this is what I want to do (cinematography) and therefore a camera is going to be an investment for me, not just a toy. I want a camera that I can use to learn on and when I do get to a much higher level, I want a camera that can take me further. Therefore I'm willing to invest the considerable amount that the Canon costs. What I'm wondering is whether you guys think that the Canon is up to lasting a fair few years (such as built quality and features)? Perhaps you still think that the Canon is too much for me to take on and if so I'd appreciate your advice.

Here's some of the things I like about the camera:
- I like the fact it has a decent, sharp manual lens (even if it doesn't have finite zoom and focus rings)
- The fact you can use EOS lenses is cool as I have access to these
- Whilst being bigger than some cameras, it's still relatively comapact. I also like the fact that it isn't too light (although it is said it's rather front heavy) and is shoulder mounted as it makes it more stable and just feels better (I'm actually a fan of heavier cameras, hence my solid metal AE1!).
- The high res chip is higher than most of it's competition and from what I've read, it's very sharp.
- The multitude of colour and image controls provides great flexibility.

Coming from a stills background, my primary desire to get great quality images (even if they are to be degraded later) and from what I've read, the Canon does deliver this, however, some of the concerns I've come across:
- Some people have said the viewfinder is rubbish. Just how rubbish are we talking here? Due to the cost of the camera itself, I'm not going to be able to afford many upgrades/accessories any time soon after purchasing it so a new viewfinder is kinda not going to happen.
- The latitude of the camera. As most of the stuff I've read is from when the camera was just released I can't be sure whether it was pre-production models being tested and it was mentioned somewhere that the camera doesn't have a particularly large latitude. Does anyone have any examples I could look at? I'm not sure how much this will actually concern me because I'm used to shooting on Fuji Velvia for my stills stuff which is known for it's saturated, contrasty look.
- The faux progresseive scan. There are sooooooo many conflicting opinions on this I don't know what to believe. I haven't been able to see too many examples of the XL H1 in action so I'd appreciate some clips to look at. Here's my main question, does it look like progressive motion? Whilst resolution loss is important to an extent, not many people will pause a film just to analyse a still frame to see if it's actually interlaced etc. Being a traditionalist (I know, rare for someone my age!), I really like the look and feel of film (as I'm sure most people do) and that's what I want the ability to be able to emulate (as I don't have the money to actual use it!). Originally I wasn't that bothered about the 24/25f mode as I thought it was like Sony's v1e (which as far as I have gathered is an actual progressive image but stored in fields like an interlaced image. It may even use an interlaced chip?) but it would seem that is not the case.
- What is the build quality like?

One of my other considerations is the cost. It's a pretty hefty price tag, which I'm willing to invest in but are there any other new cameras I'm not aware of that will address some of my concerns? Is Canon planning on bringing out an H2 that could drop the price of the H1?

The other camera I was looking at was the Sony v1e simply because it is progressive, has the sony build quality and is cheaper! That said, I don't particularly like using a lcd screen to compose images and it's form factor just seems unstable (shaky hand syndrome!).

I would really appreciate some advice on this matter and whether you think my assumptions on the camera are valid. I'm not going to be buying a camera for a while yet but I just wanted to do my homework on what's available at the moment (and obviously when the time coems I'll be going out to test the cameras first). If you got this far down, well done and many thanks!
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#2 David Bradley

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 08:07 AM

"seeing as HD is going to be the norm relatively soon I thought it would be best to look at HD cameras rather than SD, but maybe that's a mistake (which is part of the advice I need)."

Hi Tom

Do you really need a HD camera? In reality it could increase the overall cost, not just for the camera but also the fact that you will need HDV Capturing and Authoring facilities. HD is far from a 'standard' at the moment particularly amongst low to no budget film makers. Having said that there is no harm in shooting 1080i with the XL H1 and down converting to SD in post but its not really worth it. The XL-H1 is a great camera yes but if you choose an SD option you might get more for your money.

Negative (XL-H1)
-non progressive frame rates (faux F(frame) function)
-you could buy a 2/3" CCD camera for the same price
-will you actually make use of the HD function?

In your position I might be looking for something more along the lines of a Canon XL2. All round its as strong as the XL-H1 (less the HDV aspect) and it has a true progressive frame rate. The HVR V1E also has a progressive frame rate and is capable of shooting HDV but the XL2 is just better for reasons I can't explain and don't care to!

Go XL2 you won't regret it and it won't break the bank. If you want to go HD later wait until the technology has evolved some more and the lower end stuff becomes more economically viable for a low budget film maker or enthusiast.
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#3 Tom Griffiths

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 09:33 AM

Well my only reason for HD really was to give it a little bit longer of usable lifetime (i.e. I wouldn't need to upgrade as soon) so the XL2 is worth the consideration. However, like I said, I won't be getting a camera for a while and prices could change in the meantime.

What are the main differences between the H! and the XL2? (apart from the res!)

Sorry for what seems to be me repeating myself halfway through the post! I must have pasted there by mistake. Unfortunately I can't edit it out now :(
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#4 will griffith

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 12:43 PM

EOS lenses can be used with the adapter, but at 7x the original focal length (20mm = 140mm)
so that makes most lenses useless except for telephoto.

Look at its cheaper little brother the A1. It has the same chip.

We have 2 XL2s and one H1. Since getting the H1 we have not used either XL2.

The H1 is more expensive, but the image quality is worth it.

The images it produces ARE progressive and sharper than most other cameras close to its
price range even though it is not "real" progressive scan.

Load a custom preset such as "Panavision" found in the preset area on this site.
If you can rent or borrow one for a day you will not be dissapointed.

also...

build quality - good, not great like a ENG, but good enough

dynamic range - as good as a F900 from tests @ CML
(if doing outdoor work I would utilize ND grads when possible like with any format)
We have filmed in the snow on VERY bright days and have got some amazing footage

Viewfinder - junk. plain and simple. bad color, not sharp. Not sure about the A1.

-you could buy a 2/3" CCD camera for the same price


The cheapest 2/3" HD is 14000 (USD) and hasn't been released yet.
(and that is body only, no lense) So the H1 is less than half the price of
any 2/3" HD cam.
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#5 David Bradley

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 07:27 PM

QUOTE(David Bradley @ Mar 20 2007, 09:07 AM) *

-you could buy a 2/3" CCD camera for the same price


The cheapest 2/3" HD is 14000 (USD) and hasn't been released yet.
(and that is body only, no lense) So the H1 is less than half the price of
any 2/3" HD cam.


Sorry I probably didn't make it clear but I was refering to a 2/3" CCD SD camera.
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#6 will griffith

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 07:33 AM

Sorry I probably didn't make it clear but I was refering to a 2/3" CCD SD camera.

You are right. 2/3" CCDs are very nice. The overall image quality from HD is
much better, but it would be great not to have EVERYTHING in focus all the
time. :D

Edited by will griffith, 21 March 2007 - 07:34 AM.

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