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The best but most cost effective HD cameras


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#1 Adrian Barry

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 06:45 AM

I will be shooting a music video in about a month and trying to find the right camera to suit our very tight budget of £500. Previously I have mainly shot on super 16 but due to budget restraints we are having to find a digital alternative. My digital shooting experience only extends to using the Z1 or some of the DSR range. However I have assisted on many times on the D20, D21 and genesis but feel these would not be suitable due to cost restraints and a lack of technicians and assistants. I will however be looking to get an adapter to use 35mm lens?.


Could any one recommend a reliable digital camera that will produce a broadcast quality image as the video will be aired on the UK music channels? Essentially a cheap but effective HD camera that is suitable for small crews.

All of your help is greatly appreciated.
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#2 Nate Downes

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 08:11 AM

HVX200, XL-H1 or EX1 would likely be your best bets in this regards.
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#3 Adrian Barry

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 02:34 PM

HVX200, XL-H1 or EX1 would likely be your best bets in this regards.



After briefly researching into the cameras you have listed it seems they predominately shoot at 1080 interlaced rather than progressive. From my understanding on the subject, it is always better to shoot progressive, especially as the video will be used for the bands internet site and other promotional websites as well as being broadcasted. If possible i would like to avoid de-interlacing the footage in post.

Could you recommend a camera that will allow us to shoot progressive but under the same criteria I have mentioned before i.e. cost effective, requires minimal crew (only 1st ac and second ac) and reliable. It would also be helpful if we could use straight 35 lens' and not have to use and adapter.

Many thanks for your help as I am currently getting to grips with shooting digital.
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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 02:37 PM

PMW EX1 from sony is naively 1080p. Probably the most cost effective. Plus with it's larger chips it seems to have slightly better low light capabilities and will suffer less, in theory, from the lens adapter.
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#5 Nate Downes

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 08:18 PM

After briefly researching into the cameras you have listed it seems they predominately shoot at 1080 interlaced rather than progressive. From my understanding on the subject, it is always better to shoot progressive, especially as the video will be used for the bands internet site and other promotional websites as well as being broadcasted. If possible i would like to avoid de-interlacing the footage in post.

Could you recommend a camera that will allow us to shoot progressive but under the same criteria I have mentioned before i.e. cost effective, requires minimal crew (only 1st ac and second ac) and reliable. It would also be helpful if we could use straight 35 lens' and not have to use and adapter.

Many thanks for your help as I am currently getting to grips with shooting digital.

All three cameras do have progressive modes. As mentioned above, the EX1 is likely the most powerful of the three. It's main drawback is in the editing process, which is non-standard and has given some people issues.

Incidentally, HD broadcast is interlaced, not progressive.
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#6 Nate Downes

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 08:28 PM

PMW EX1 from sony is naively 1080p. Probably the most cost effective. Plus with it's larger chips it seems to have slightly better low light capabilities and will suffer less, in theory, from the lens adapter.

I've used the EX1 with the lens adaptor, and found the native Fujinon lens is too flat to take as much advantage from the adaptor as other cameras. Incidentally, he was discussing for broadcast work, not movie making, so the lens adaptor would not be part of the issue in his case I'd imagine.
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#7 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 08:35 PM

See personally, I like the flatter lens on the EX, but this is my personal preference, as I enjoy being able to tweak a bit more in color correction. But, that's just me.
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#8 Walter Graff

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 08:47 PM

"Incidentally, HD broadcast is interlaced, not progressive. "

Actually it depends on the broadcaster. Some broadcast digital in 720 and others in 1080i. ABC is an example of a network that broadcasts in 720p while CBS uses 1080i. Most first and second generation digital sets make everything 720p anyway through a process called scaling so it matters little. You can't really see the difference at home regardless of whether it's 1080 or 720.
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#9 Nate Downes

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 10:05 PM

"Incidentally, HD broadcast is interlaced, not progressive. "

Actually it depends on the broadcaster. Some broadcast digital in 720 and others in 1080i. ABC is an example of a network that broadcasts in 720p while CBS uses 1080i. Most first and second generation digital sets make everything 720p anyway through a process called scaling so it matters little. You can't really see the difference at home regardless of whether it's 1080 or 720.

Well, I was thinking in the 1080 he mentioned above and concede the point.

Incidentally, there is no 1080p broadcast standard I am aware of.
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#10 Chris Durham

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Posted 30 September 2008 - 01:18 PM

the HMC150 might be available to you when you shoot. This is the upgrade to the DVX100 but from what I've seen rivals the HVX200. And it seems like its low-light characteristics might be handy in dealing with light loss from a 35mm adapter. The EX1 does have a 1/2" capture plane, but if you're using an adapter this is irrelevant, and CMOS = Rolling Shutter = Risky.

Here's some footage from the HMC150


View on Vimeo
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#11 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 30 September 2008 - 01:32 PM

I would conversely argue that larger chips, giving better dynamic range is equally as important through an adapter as not. But that's just my own stance. As for rolling shutter; I took my own EX out and shot some stuff, pushing it as I could. Yes, there were rolling shutter artifact in the frame, but nothing which to me would be a deal-breaker (such as bent verticle lines on a pillar as a train pulled into a station quite quickly-- motion blur covered them well, though). I haven't yet seen it on pans etc on my own camera, but I'm sure certain situations will cause it to arise; same happens to film cameras though in certain circumstances.
Point being the camera is just a tool, go with the most cost effective you can, what you can afford etc; then work on getting the best lighting you can, and time, time to light the locations, to work.
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#12 john serrato

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Posted 06 October 2008 - 11:17 AM

very subjective topic :)

Right now I'd have to say the Panasonic camp (HVX200, HPX170, HMC150) and the Sony Camp (EX1) are the big dogs in the +/- $5500 range (with the exception of the HMC being $3500 ish).

I wouldn't say the EX1 is the "most powerful" of the bunch, but it is clearly the sharpest camera. Panasonic's HVX200a, HPX170, and HMC150 offer what people generally agree upon as a more "cinematic look" straight out of the camera. However a lot can be done in post to achieve similar looks with the EX1.

Another thing to consider is the video codecs each use and how this will effect your editing. In short, the HVX200 / HPX170 shoots in DVCPRO and that is without a doubt the most robust editing codec of all the cameras mentioned, and easiest to edit.

You really can't go wrong with any of these cameras and I would research all 4 of them and choose the one that best fits the shooting you will be doing. The HMC150 is the newest of the bunch so there is not as much collective information about that camera as there is with the EX1/HVX/HPX170.

However if you can wait a year, there are so many exciting things on the horizon happening in HD. I am personally most excited about how dSLRs like the Nikon D90 and Canon's 5DII are affecting the HD market. It is no secret that Red has admitted the release of these cameras had at least something to do with their decision do a major overhaul with Scarlet. THAT'S exciting! It's just a very exciting time for HD.

Edited by john serrato, 06 October 2008 - 11:17 AM.

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