September 24, 2014 at 3:03PM

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Prosumer Camera or DSLR?

Hey everyone. First timer, here. I hope this makes sense, because after typing it out, it sounds pretty confusing.

Last year, I bought myself a Panasonic AG-HMC40 for my birthday. I haven't gotten much use out of it. I've been doing a lot of work with some local bands, shooting in low light venues. In the future, I'd like to do more work with more bands, but at the same time, I'd like to make some of my own short films. I've always been a fan of horror movies, and that means I'll be shooting in more low-light situations than not.

So I propose the question; Would it be better for me to sell my Panasonic and instead pick up a DSLR and a few lenses for it? I don't know next to anything about lenses other than what I learned in my high school broadcasting classes.

Thank you all in advance for your answers. Hope you all have a great day.

22 Comments

The Panasonic HMC40 is a great little camera, but it's horrible for low-light work.

If you want to shoot bands and be able to shoot with the available lighting ( or only have to bring a few small lights to supplement the lighting that is already there ) then my first pick would be the Sony A7S, which has become the undisputed low-light king for DSLR cameras.

You could also get by with the Panasonic GH4 and fast lenses, but the Sony A7S is already built for low-light shooting so it would not need high-speed lenses the way the GH4 would.

September 24, 2014 at 3:48PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32596

Maybe you could try the Sony A7S! But before you sell the Panasonic, you've gotta ask yourself if your needs can be fulfilled if you switch camera systems entirely, especially with the band work you're doing. Perhaps it'll be a better option to keep the Panasonic (or upgrade it), and pick up a DSLR-type as well. might turn out serving you better on the music stuff too.

September 24, 2014 at 3:50PM

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Basil Yeo
Director of Photography
239

Could you guys perhaps give a recommendation for a more college student budget? Both the A7S and GH4 look great, but that's a pretty big hit on my wallet. I'm not exactly at the point where I'm getting paid for most jobs.

Thanks for the recommendations!!

September 25, 2014 at 12:36AM

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Christopher Brazil
Audio/Video Tech
449

For helping you, I need the next information:
what's money do you are thinking spend and what class of jobs yo will be doing?

September 25, 2014 at 2:42AM

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Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director
7921

I'm not sure exactly how much I'm willing to spend. I'm just looking for a rough estimate or an idea of where to look for my next camera. Thanks for your comment!

Christopher Brazil

September 25, 2014 at 2:18PM

you shoud buy a Canon T3i/600d, its cheap and you can adapt a great range of old lenses to it, so you can use a nikon 50 1.4 or an m42 24 2.8 . that gives you the light that you are missing in an affordable price.
But even so, you always shout try to have a few lights, our job its more biutiful if we can paint with light oder than fixing the lack of it with ISO or aperture.

sorry for my english, i need to practice!

September 25, 2014 at 9:43AM

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Baltazar Nadalino
Director de Fotografia
86

Awesome! I'll definitely look into the T3I as well as the lenses. Thank you so much!

I would love to put more lights on the stages that I work on, but the lighting directors don't really care about my job because I work for the bands, not for the venues.

Thanks for your comment!

Christopher Brazil

September 25, 2014 at 2:21PM

I agree the t3i $500 would be your best budget professional dslr. Get one with the kit lens which is 18-55mm and then I would also get a 50mm 1.8 and those usually run about $100. Get a Rode VideoMic Go $100 for an on camera mic. If you are doing sit down interviews then I would invest in separate system sound like a Tascam DR-40 $150 and then get a wired lav Shure SM-93 about $135 dollars. So for about $985 dollars you can have a full kit to get going. Hope this helps.

September 25, 2014 at 1:12PM

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Chad Fortenberry
Director of Media Content
196

I have an external mic as well as a Zoom H4N external recorder. I assume that's what you mean. I'm going to invest in a lav mic eventually, but I think the camera is going to be my next piece of equipment.

Thanks for your comment!

Christopher Brazil

September 25, 2014 at 2:27PM

Yes the Tascam DR-40 sometimes is a cheaper external recorder than the Zoom H4n but basically the same tech and capabilities. I love the Zoom and now use a Zoom H6 which is the big brother to the H4n. You are already ahead of the curve if you have the Zoom and the shure is a great lav as I have tested it in the field and got great sound quality for the price.

Chad Fortenberry

September 25, 2014 at 2:42PM

I've never heard of the Tascam DR-40. I used a Zoom on a web series last summer and really liked how simple and effective it was. I love that I can tape it straight to my boom pole and residue doesn't stick to it.

Christopher Brazil

September 25, 2014 at 3:23PM

Although the DR-40 has XLR inputs it is made like a toy and actually records at a lower bit rate than the Zoom H4N. I got one for a shoot recently, the 3/8" attachment cracked the first time I tried to connect something and the headphone socket disappeared inside after four hours use. RMA'd it the same day it arrived, just awful. I had my H4N for four years, took a lot of punishment.

Studio LAX

September 27, 2014 at 5:40PM

Christopher, I have good news and even better news.

The good news is that your camera is better than a comparable DSLR solution.

For example here are the things that your camera can do that a DSLR can't:

- shoot in 1080/60i which means HD slow-mo!
- lens is 40.8 - 490mm 35mm equivalent means you have normal and tele look. This is the lens range professional cinema cameras use. You never want to shoot a short film with a wide angle lens.
- lens aperture is f/1.8-2.8 which will give you nice defocus aka bokeh for the background. This alone is better than any of the budget lenses for a DSLR.
- focus expand, focus bar and Face detection in Auto Mode + Auto Focus mean you have more help with keeping images in focus than you'll ever have with an DSLR unless you get Canon's 70D or Pana's GH4. This includes continuous Auto focus!!!
- Waveform monitor lets you properly expose your shots -- 99% of the DSRLs dont have this.
- Optional AG-MYA30G Professional XLR adapter available -- this is huge, get the adapter unless you already have it and you won't need a stand-alone recorder.

The better news is that you yet have all this potential to unlock in this camera.

Thus keep shooting, keep challenging yourself, and you will see that this camera can last you a few more years!

Good luck!

PS Oh, and don't buy a t3i. I.e. I shoot with t2i and the specs on your camera are so far ahead of the entire tXi Rebel line!

September 25, 2014 at 6:48PM

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Alex Zakrividoroga
Director
3960

"You never want to shoot a short film with a wide angle lens" That's not exactly true is it?

Studio LAX

September 27, 2014 at 5:33PM

Hi Alex. Thanks so much for your comment and insight!

This is a shot from my Panasonic in a very low light situation.

http://puu.sh/bSd33/c23e831593.jpg

As you can see, there is TONS of disgusting artifacts that make my footage nauseating to look at. All of the research I've found states that DSLRs are much better suited for low light situations, which is what I normally work in.

Every Camera Op I've ever talked to completely shuns the idea of auto-focus, so I just assumed that it's looked down upon in the professional world.

Sorry that it's taken me so long to reply. NFS really needs to get a notification system.

Christopher Brazil

September 28, 2014 at 11:56PM

Alex, you’re a little off on a few issues here.
- “Shoot in 1080/60i which means HD slow-mo!” 1080/60i doesn’t usually mean slow-mo. 60i is interlaced, which means it’s only giving you half of an HD image for each frame. You’re getting the same amount of detail as 30p, just spread over twice as many frames. That being said, I’ve never tried to do a comparison test between slowing down 30p and 60i footage to see what looks better. My gut would say that 60i might look a little better, but it’s not nearly the detail that 60p would give you.

- “You never want to shoot a short film with a wide angle lens.” That would depend entirely on the type of film you’re shooting, wouldn’t it?

- “Lens aperture is f/1.8-2.8 which will give you nice defocus aka bokeh for the background.” This is the most untrue. Even though the lens aperture on the Panasonic is f1.8-2.8, the sensor is only ¼". Sensor size affects bokeh just as much as the aperture does. This is WHY people were so obsessed with shooting video with DSLRs when they first came out, because camcorders up until that point had such small sensors that you could never get a shallow depth-of-field out of them. See this diagram: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image_sensor_format#mediaviewer/File:Sensor...? The sensor on the Panasonic AG-HMC40 is smaller than the smallest example in that image.

The rest of your advice is sound, but there is a reason people are shooting video on DSLRs instead of camcorders nowadays. They give you a much more “film-like” image (nice shallow depth-of-field and beautiful bokeh) because of their large sensor sizes. Camcorders with ¼" or ⅓" sensors just can’t come close.

Ryan Toyota

September 29, 2014 at 2:30PM

my beef with slr (though ive owned and used in the past) is the crap quality of accessories. With all the crap you need to put on it to make it "good enough", it's way too much work and the accessories easily costs more than the cameras.

This week we debated on taking the new nikon d810 with us on a shoot but recapping all the accessories and extra weight needed to make it a "video camera", we concluded it's more work and less quality and opted to take our epic.

for video, if all possible, id recommend a camera built for video.
How about a fs100 or a c100?
ive been able to push up fs100 footage recently without too much quality loss

September 26, 2014 at 12:47AM

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Kazu Okuda
Filmmaker
1335

I've personally made the switch away from DSLRs to the C100, which doesn't have a billion frame rate options, but really removes the hassle of the ergonomics of DSLR filmmaking.

I now can grab one single unit and have XLR phantom power inputs, HDMI out, TONS of recording time on SD cards, batteries last forever, and can use EF and EFS lenses.

Don't worry about the 'exact' camera that's best for you, think more about your workflow. DSLRs are a serious headache, but you may be willing to put up with it to save a little cash.

September 29, 2014 at 2:20PM

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Jordan Mederich
Documentarian / Filmmaker
1253

Chris, Alex is right. For right now your camera is more than adequate. If you are in a low light static shooting situation, try some clamp-on work lights selecting bulbs that will match the color temp of your surroundings. Shoot at a slow shutter speed at 24fps. As far as producing your own shorts.......start out with your story/script and then determine if and what you need to tell that story. Don't acquire equipment that you will use only once or very infrequently. Renting is the way to go. Remember........the story is everything.

November 1, 2014 at 6:49AM

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Jerry Roe
Indie filmmaker
764

Most people want to go the other way. From DSLR to a 'proper' camera. Don't forget low light doesn't mean no lights. You still need to light anything you shoot to make it look amazing no matter what camera you use.

The renting idea is a great one. So you can get a feel for a dslr and see if you like it but there's a world of difference between shooting with an actual camera and DSLR.

July 16, 2016 at 3:25AM

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Cole Black
Filmmaker
322

I would try to sell that Panasonic while you still can, the market for prosumer 1080p camcorders is imploding.

July 18, 2016 at 12:49PM

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Cary Knoop
Member
2209

The choice you're making is to either kit out a new DSLR setup or build the kit you have with your current camera, both will need more components.

Whatever you choose will need to be built upon. Id suggest one of the TXi series of canon cams, with magic lantern and some good lenses you can get a decent image. Maybe an Sony A6300 or a Panny G7 but I cant speak of their low light as videos Ive seen are a mixed bag.

July 18, 2016 at 4:25PM

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Chris Hackett
Director, Director of Photography, Writer
1140

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