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transitioning to digital help and advice dslr

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#1 Adam Stephens

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Posted 07 June 2014 - 10:27 AM

I'm a fairly recent art school grad, photo concentration. I spent two years in the mopix program a few years prior to that, shooting on 16mm b&w reversal and physically cutting in a dungeon to edit, not even a year before they switched over to digital almost completely. After that, I got through my last year or so of photo classes by the skin of my teeth with my old 35mm point and shoot, arguing with professors about why I wasn't shooting digital, trying to b.s. them that it was purely an artistic choice because I didn't want to admit that I was too poor and struggling to keep a roof over my ahead that I couldn't get a digital camera. 

Well, I've finally been able to climb into a more comfortable money position, and to my utter surprise, am now able to drop money on a nice DSLR, tripod and some other accessories. In addition to needing a new camera to take stills in the 21st century, I also need a camera to take quality HD video to shoot a handful of micro-budget shorts that I've been writing. Now, I promise I'm not a caveman when it comes to digital. I've been working around them while doing freelance set p.a. jobs on commercials and helping filmmaker friends with their shorts and try to stay as up to date as I can on what's available and what's new, via online and professional magazines. I don't need too much hand holding. I just hoped I could put some feelers out for what professional cinematographers out there enjoy using, especially for the value. 

I'm looking to spend around $1,500, tops, on the camera itself, before accessories, and have been leaning, initially at least, towards the Canon Rebel t5i.

Any advice I could get from you guys would be greatly appreciated


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#2 Matt Sezer

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Posted 08 June 2014 - 12:17 PM

At least for video, the T5i isn't noticibly better than the T3i, which is significantly cheaper. The 60D is much more than the T5i, but it's much better built and has far better controls and buttons.

 

Although I haven't used it, the Panasonic GH4 has amazing specs for video, it shoots 4K, 200mbt/s HD, and takes pretty decent stills too, but at $1700 for just the body, it's a little more that your budget. Technically, the GH4 isn't a DSLR, so it doesn't have an optical viewfinder, if that's important to you for shooting stills.

 

Also, do you have any lenses that you want to use with your new camera? The GH series cameras have micro 4/3 sensors, which produce around a 2X crop factor in terms of 35mm equivalent field of view. For video, this is fine. It's somewhere in between the senesor size of 16mm and 35mm motion picture film. The Canon APSC cameras have a sensor that's pretty similar to 35mm montion picutre film, while the full frame DSLR's have a sensor that's equivalent to 8-perf 35mm still film.


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#3 Matt Sezer

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Posted 09 June 2014 - 12:13 AM

I actually meant to say the Canon 60D is not that much more than the T5i and would be better for the money. Sorry for the typo.
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#4 Adam Stephens

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Posted 11 June 2014 - 03:04 PM

Thank you so much for all the advice and info Matt. I've got a lot to think about before I put in the money. I didn't know much about the Panasonic GH4. I looked into it further after your recommendation, and it definitely sounds like a beautiful camera. But the price, especially when factoring in several hundred more dollars for a nice, dependable zoom lens (it's definitely a longer term goal to even think about a set of primes of my own), it's just a bit too rich for my blood at the moment. I think I'm going to have to stick to the nicest Canon or Nikon dslr I can find. And afford.


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#5 David Peterson

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 12:20 AM

Adam, given your budget you should go with a Panasonic G6, Nikon D5200 (or perhaps D5300, but that is a fair bit more expensive while the D5200 is going very cheap) or the Sony A6000.

I wouldn't consider any prosumer or consumer DSLR from Canon, the only one which could compare in image quality would be the 5DmkIII and that is waaay outside your budget. (buying a 5DmkIII makes no sense to me, when a person could instead pick up a D800 and still have enough cash spare afterwards to get a D5200 too!)

 

 

At least for video, the T5i isn't noticibly better than the T3i, which is significantly cheaper. The 60D is much more than the T5i, but it's much better built and has far better controls and buttons.

 

It is even worse than that... the image quality of a 60D/T5i/7D/etc is essentially the same as an old T2i! Canon has done next to nothing for their APS-C sensor cameras in pushing it forward.

 

 

Although I haven't used it, the Panasonic GH4 has amazing specs for video, it shoots 4K, 200mbt/s HD, and takes pretty decent stills too, but at $1700 for just the body, it's a little more that your budget. Technically, the GH4 isn't a DSLR, so it doesn't have an optical viewfinder, if that's important to you for shooting stills.

 

 

An EVF is waaaay nicer for use when filming than a DSLR's OVF, so that is a big plus in favour of mirrorless cameras.

 

And at the rate EVFs are improving, we're more or less at that point in time when an EVF is preferable over an OVF.

 

 

Also, do you have any lenses that you want to use with your new camera? The GH series cameras have micro 4/3 sensors, which produce around a 2X crop factor in terms of 35mm equivalent field of view. For video, this is fine. It's somewhere in between the senesor size of 16mm and 35mm motion picture film. The Canon APSC cameras have a sensor that's pretty similar to 35mm montion picutre film, while the full frame DSLR's have a sensor that's equivalent to 8-perf 35mm still film.

 

 

 

Once you stick a focal reducer on a MIcro Four Thirds camera (as I and many others do) then the sensor "becomes" equivalent to a bit greater than APS-C / Super 35mm size. I find any discussion around sensor size of the GH series just works in their favour :-)


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#6 Adam Stephens

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 03:29 PM

Some really helpful info guys. Thanks so much for your time and advice. This has made me think a lot harder about my choice in a really productive way. I might have rushed into something I would have ended up regretting if not for you guys. My primary ambition for a new camera is shooting video, small scale, short scripts, to get experience shooting and editing. Stills, however, are still near and dear to my heart.

That being said, I think I'm zeroing in on the Nikon D5200. One other question I would like to pose, either to you kind people who have already donated time and knowledge, or anyone else who happens upon this topic: How concerned should I be with sensor size? While researching digital cameras, I find of the whole long list of tech specs, that I hone in on sensor size pretty quickly and maybe fixate too much, possibly because I'm so used to shooting on 35mm, and using digital cameras' sensor size as a possibly not very good benchmark for whether I should be interested or not. I feel like I'm bordering on sexual innuendo now, so I'm going to end here.

Thanks again for all of your time and help.


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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 05:06 PM

For shooting digital video on a still camera, your choices are either Micro 4/3 sensors such as in the Panasonic GH4 (about 18mm wide so halfway between Super-16 and 35mm cine), APS-C which is similar to 3-perf Super-35 in size (about 24mm wide), and Full-Frame, which is similar to VistaVision in size (about 36mm wide).

 

Generally the larger the sensor, the better low-light capability but also a tendency towards a more shallow depth of field.


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#8 David Peterson

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Posted 22 August 2014 - 12:01 PM

Yes, go for the D5200!

The D5200 is very very good camera for video recording with (I myself purchased a D5200 earlier this year, which I use professionally for videos. Just got back from recording an opera workshop which I was paid to record today, for this I used my Nikon D5200 together with my Panasonic GH1), and is a top notch stills camera in its class too.

The Nikon D5200 is easily the best value high performing DSLR you can buy new today.
http://www.eoshd.com...on-d5200-review
http://www.eoshd.com...non-5d-mark-iii

And for a bit more, you could get the D5300 instead. Which is basically the D5200 but with a few nifty additions such as WiFi and 60fps FHD (plus they've fixed the FPN).

http://noamkroll.com...vel-dslr-today/

If I was a professional photographer, instead of a videographer, then I'd get myself two D7100 bodies (as you need at least two bodies for doing live events, but preferably own 3+ so you've got an extra body as a backup and for your assistant. Though they don't have to be a D7100, could be a D90. D5200, or D7000 instead). Then I'd get these lenses:

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 (or Sigma 8-16mm)
Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8
Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8
Nikon 50mm f/1.8G
Nikon 85mm f/1.8G

This is just a suggested starting point, plenty of other lenses which could be added there such as adding in the soon to be announced Samyang 50mm f/1.2

Plus of course all that other stuff, monopod, tripod, reflectors, lighting stands, speedlights, modifiers, memory cards, hard drives, etc etc

Anyway, go for D5200 instead you're a videographer like me :-)

Though if you want to look beyond DSLRs, check out some mirrorless cameras..... such as the Panasonic G6 and Sony A5100.


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#9 John E Clark

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Posted 22 August 2014 - 12:05 PM

Some really helpful info guys. Thanks so much for your time and advice. This has made me think a lot harder about my choice in a really productive way. I might have rushed into something I would have ended up regretting if not for you guys. My primary ambition for a new camera is shooting video, small scale, short scripts, to get experience shooting and editing. Stills, however, are still near and dear to my heart.

That being said, I think I'm zeroing in on the Nikon D5200. One other question I would like to pose, either to you kind people who have already donated time and knowledge, or anyone else who happens upon this topic: How concerned should I be with sensor size? While researching digital cameras, I find of the whole long list of tech specs, that I hone in on sensor size pretty quickly and maybe fixate too much, possibly because I'm so used to shooting on 35mm, and using digital cameras' sensor size as a possibly not very good benchmark for whether I should be interested or not. I feel like I'm bordering on sexual innuendo now, so I'm going to end here.

Thanks again for all of your time and help.

 

From your first post you mention a budget of $1500 for the 'body' of the camera. For that price, I would strongly suggest looking at the GH-4. It's price is around $1600 or so (Ok 100 more than your desired price...).

 

I've had the GH-1 for as long as it has been out, and for what I paid, for what I do, short films, as well as 'happy shots', it is entirely adiquate for the purpose. I also am one to advocate testing the hell out of a camera to learn what it is capable (and what it is not...), and make lighting, and situations work for the camera.

 

In that regard I tend to shoot on tripods, if I'm moving, very limited very 'slow', so certain motion artifacts are not an issue, as they maybe if I were shooting fast action, or major 'shaky cam' styles.

 

I also am not a fan of 'shallow' DoF... so the smaller sensors relative to Still 35mm does not bother me in the least in this regard.

 

I bought the Wife a Nikon D600 last year, and have not really tested it for 'filmmaking'... because that is her camera... but I have done some video and I find some of the video uses 'features' awkward. I don't know if the D5200 'fixes' or has better usability features. I have seen some people who are quite pleased with the camera.

 

I've used Nikon for years, so I did buy a Nikon adapter for the GH-1, purely mechanical, no 'auto features', but again for 'narrative' work that's not a major impediment for me.

 

I also bought the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera while there was a recent fire sale (probably not available any more...), but due to the millions of people taking advantage of that offer, I'm on backorder with that, and can't comment on any tech features/non-features.

 

I will say, that at NAB last spring, the 'tech' guy in the Black Magic booth was far and away a more informative person than any of the other booths, such as Canon, Panasonic, or Nikon for this level of camera. The major brand name camera booths seemed to be staffed with people who would read from a 'script' on features, but had really no deep knowledge of the tech specs of the various cameras.


Edited by jeclark2006, 22 August 2014 - 12:08 PM.

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#10 David Peterson

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Posted 27 August 2014 - 07:00 AM

For shooting digital video on a still camera, your choices are either Micro 4/3 sensors such as in the Panasonic GH4 (about 18mm wide so halfway between Super-16 and 35mm cine), APS-C which is similar to 3-perf Super-35 in size (about 24mm wide), and Full-Frame, which is similar to VistaVision in size (about 36mm wide).

 

Generally the larger the sensor, the better low-light capability but also a tendency towards a more shallow depth of field.

 

It is only a very very rough rule of thumb that "the larger the sensor, the better it is at low light". Because while it is a factor, there are so so many other factors which go into the low light performance, I'd say this rough rule of thumb can probably be shown to be more often wrong than right.

For instance right now the Sony A7s is "the king of low light" (and performs at a level well above most of us regularly need for low light), but all other 135 format (or so called "full frame" as the marketing departments of Canikon spin it as) cameras can be matched or beaten by cameras with smaller sized sensor such as APS-C. Then when you consider mirrorless cameras (such as Micro Four Thirds), most of them have Focal Reducers available for them which will double (or more!) the amount of light hitting their sensor.


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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 August 2014 - 09:27 AM

Yes, I know it's a rough rule, I didn't add that it depends on how many photosites they are cramming into the sensor.  But on principle, you can expect that an 18MP sensor, for example, would be more sensitive in a FF35 size than in an APS-C size, because each individual photosite can be larger on the larger sensor.

 

I switched from a M4/3 Olympus E-PL3 to an APS-C Sony NEX6 for my vacation snapshots mainly because of the difference in low-light sensitivity.  Outdoors in sunlight, the images from both are rather similar and I preferred the form factor and design of the Olympus Pen.  But once you go beyond 400 ISO, the Sony NEX camera takes better pictures.


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#12 David Peterson

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Posted 27 August 2014 - 01:18 PM

Yes, I know it's a rough rule, I didn't add that it depends on how many photosites they are cramming into the sensor.  But on principle, you can expect that an 18MP sensor, for example, would be more sensitive in a FF35 size than in an APS-C size, because each individual photosite can be larger on the larger sensor.

 

Is tricky to even base it too heavily on the number of photosites on the sensor (especially as many older cameras will have less megapixels, but as we all know they're much worse at low light even though they've got far less photosites).

Sometimes having less works out though, such as famously with the Sony A7s. But you can't always leap to immediately conclusions about this, as for instance when the Nikon D800 came out then many photographers assumed its low light ability would be bad. Due to the 36megapixel sensor! And yes, when viewed at 100% it showed more noise than other cameras, but once output at the same size as the lower resolution cameras the noise was much finer and thus it performed similarly as other top cameras of its time did in low light.

Personally I'm currently using a Nikon D5200, which has a DX / APS-C / Super 35mm sensor, and I'm very happy with its low light.

 

http://rungunshoot.c...entary-footage/

"So I can shoot ISO 6400 and get a clean image in post. "


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