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Shoulder mount ENG Doco camera kit on the cheap? Buy used?


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#1 Hendrikus De Vaan

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Posted 11 January 2015 - 03:15 PM

I will be shooting a documentary in the Caribbean this year as a pre-cursor to a narrative feature film I will be doing there.

 

I'm done with DSLR Frankenstein rigs, and really miss using ENG broadcast shoulder-mount cameras for this kind of work. I want something I can chuck on my shoulder, and will stand up to some light abuse (happy to buy a portabrace cover of course).

 

I miss ergonomics.

 

Unfortunately, my total kit budget is sub $5000. But I don't really need a tripod for what I'm doing, and I'm a one man director/camera man on this one. Interview audio will be recorded with a portable device, so the budget can be sunk into just the camera, lens, and acceptable onboard mic.

It will need to preform well in bright sunlight, but also have some sort of ability to shoot in lower light situations (bars etc),although I don't mind a bit of noise, as long as it's usable footage. (so fairly clean at 1600 iso ideally).

 

The only thing new in my price-range seems to be something like the Sony NEX-EA50UH, with a few minor add ons. I could set that up for under $4000 I'd say. But it doesn't look particularly durable, and I would almost never use that lens that comes with it.

 

I'm open to suggestions of used equipment, maybe a Sony F900 (I really like the F35, but it's out of my budget range, and not super practical)? Although I'm a little weary of the amount of abuse used broadcast equipment will have endured. It's a hard, hard life for cameras in the doco world!

 

Thanks! Look forward to hearing what you guys think.


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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 11 January 2015 - 03:29 PM

I've been trying to solve this problem for a while.

 

The biggest problem is the lens. You can't get a decent lens that operates like an ENG lens, of any HD-worthy quality, for $5k, let alone the rest of the camera. I reviewed the EA50 and while it's OK for what it is, the lens is still servoactuated and it is terribly front-heavy. Almost all of them are, to the point where you feel the need to put a baseplate and rod system on it and sling some big batteries on the back just to give it some mass and balance. And then you're back into rigs.

 

My choice would probably be an old F900 and some sort of flash recorder to keep away from the expensive, iffy-quality HDCAM workflow. But that doesn't really solve the lens problem.

 

Plan B is indeed a DSLR rig, but with a separate recorder and an SDI audio embedder to solve the audio problem. But that doesn't solve the lens problem either.

 

P


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#3 Hendrikus De Vaan

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Posted 11 January 2015 - 03:43 PM

Thanks Phil,

 

I'm quite happy to shoot with Nikon, Contax Zeiss, or Canon FD primes (Some FD zooms are supposed to be particularly good for video work too, so I've heard). Ideally it would be an ENG lens, but that's probably not really possible in this budget range.

 

The Sony F900 and viewfinder would cost pretty much my entire budget on revised inspection, so even that wouldn't be possible to set up I'm thinking.

 

Originally I was going to go GH4 or A7s or something, but rigs and wires and adapters and separately powered accessories (although I'd prob just go v-mount and run everything off of that). But then it's VERY exposed to the elements too.

 

But I don't need a power zoom, or autofocus. So maybe that solves at least some of the lens concerns.

 

H.


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#4 Hendrikus De Vaan

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Posted 11 January 2015 - 04:12 PM

The other thought I had was maybe a FS100 with a v-mount adapter to make it more shoulder balanced. Seems like a good compromise between Frankenstein and ENG right?


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#5 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 11 January 2015 - 04:33 PM

Any reason why you're buying and not renting?


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#6 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 11 January 2015 - 04:39 PM

Personally I'd build something around a Tilta BS-T03 baseplate. It's probably about as integrated as you can make something like that. With a few extra bits and pieces you can add somewhere to put a battery, viewfinder, and handle, and then you have something that's quite operable without being too much of a nightmare tangle, especially if you're willing to record on camera and put up with the on-camera audio.

 

People have put older standard-def zooms on GH series cameras with results that are - well - surprisingly watchable. You would probably want to try a few and pick the best, stay away from the long end, and choose not to shoot below, say, F4. To me that might be the best compromise and it would be affordable. Nothing wrong with an FS100 and it does have XLR audio inputs, although I do like the selective sensor windowing on a GHx and if you're recording it on something like an Atomos Ninja you may be able to inject the audio separately.

 

Not to answer for Hendrikus, but there are many reasons to own gear. Chief among them is the fact that we don't all work in Los Angeles on productions which book blocks of weeks, weeks in advance, and will send someone to pick up the gear for us. I have done many, many jobs with irregular, as-available shooting days in which the hassle of picking up and transporting gear would have added impossibly to my schedule and risked short-notice availability problems.

 

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#7 Hendrikus De Vaan

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Posted 11 January 2015 - 04:46 PM

Any reason why you're buying and not renting?

 

Because I'll be shooting for a few months, as the rest of my time there will be spent doing research. It will take some time to track down some of the elements I need to shoot, and I need to be able to grab and go at a moments notice.

 

For anything narrative I ALWAYS rent, as I don't shoot nearly enough to justify owning a camera (and I'm primarily a director, not cinematographer). 

 

Totally understand the concern though.


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#8 Hendrikus De Vaan

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Posted 11 January 2015 - 04:58 PM

Personally I'd build something around a Tilta BS-T03 baseplate.

 

That looks like a very good option to build on.

 

I really thought the GH4 or A7s would be good options, but there's another slight consideration: The area where I am going has a VERY high violent crime rate, and there's a definite chance I'm going to get into some uncomfortable situations from time to time. Someone has advised me that they generally won't mess with journalists or news type people, so it's generally suggested to look like a professional technician. I.E not a rich tourist with a really nice DSLR and a bunch of stuff attached to it.

 

The other thing with something quite solid is, in a situation of having to run, it's pretty easy to pull it off your shoulder, grab it by the top handle and move quickly without having to worry about getting it snagged, or loosing bits of kit etc.

 

Don't get me wrong, there's a good chance this won't happen, but I'd rather not become a 6ft5 target. 

 

So if I went the DSLR route, I'd get a GH4 and a small lens, and rely on internal audio for syncing. But that's a hassle.


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#9 Hendrikus De Vaan

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Posted 11 January 2015 - 06:59 PM

I'm assuming also that older cameras such as the PDW-F350L are not overly practical for what I'm doing? I'm not too fussed about shallow DOF etc, but I guess these older cameras have pretty terrible low-light yes?


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#10 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 11 January 2015 - 07:02 PM

I'm sure they'd be fine but again, lenses are the issue.

 

The low light capability on an older ENG camera is nothing to what a GH4 can do, let alone the legendary night vision device that is the A7S, but I shot that sort of camera for years without worrying too much.

 

As to the crime issue, I wouldn't rely on people being able to interpret your equipment to avoid being targeted! To be honest, though, by the time you've put a GH4 or something similar in the middle of a whole load of gear, it probably won't be that obvious what it is.

 

P


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#11 Hendrikus De Vaan

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Posted 11 January 2015 - 07:37 PM

So then GH4 or the FS100 are really the only sensible options, and I'll just have to deal with rigging it, and powering an evf etc.

 

I can live with that if I need too, just wanted to see if I had options first.

 

Thanks so much for your help Phil!


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