Video as photography
May 1, 2009 3:52 PM   Subscribe

Help me choose a good camera (dSLR or camcorder) for "fine art" cinematography.

Sorry for the pretentiousness of the question, but what I was trying to get across is that I'm not looking to shoot a soccer game or a wedding. I'm really intrigued with 24p, shallow DoF type footage I've seen on vimeo and youtube.

I'm pretty deep into the Sony Alpha system (I own an A900 and some higher-end glass), but I don't think Sony is going to be releasing any new video-capable bodies soon, and if they do, there's no way they'll let it effect their huge video market.

Having said all that:

Nikon D90 video looks great (and seems like a great camera), but you don't get manual control over alot and you get the jello effect from an array of subjects.

The Nikon D500 is just coming out, but it looks like a d40x with video at a D90 price. No go for me.

The Canon 5dMkII is about 2.5x as much as I'm willing to spend at the moment and seems to have QC issues of it's own.

The Canon T1 seems to be similar to the D90, but with NO manual control.

The Panasonic HDC-TM300 seems like an amazing camcorder, but it would seem impossible to get shallow DoF on a sensor that small.

I like the idea of a Canon HV20 or HF100 with an adapter, but it seems like it would be a pretty huge pain to do (upside down lcd, bad weight distribution).

So, does anybody here have any ideas for me?
posted by lattiboy to Technology (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The Nikon D500 is just coming out, but it looks like a d40x with video at a D90 price.

It's D5000, and it more like a d90 at a d60 price. (Sensor is the same as the D90, and that's what you're really buying when you buy a DSLR, right?)
posted by blenderfish at 4:04 PM on May 1, 2009

Response by poster: But it lacks an AF motor, right? You can't use the older Nikkor stuff. That's my understanding.
posted by lattiboy at 4:09 PM on May 1, 2009

When you say "with an adapter," do you mean a 35mm lens adapter? Because, yeah: That.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:15 PM on May 1, 2009

I don't know about camcorders, but I do know that with the nikons that lack AF motors, you can use older lenses, however, you must focus them manually. Good luck!
posted by majikstreet at 4:32 PM on May 1, 2009

True, on the D5000, no AF without an AF-S (I think 'S' is right) lens. AF doesn't work while the video is shooting, so it would only be for shot setup anyway. You can, of course, still manually focus the older lenses.

Another shortcoming of note is that it doesn't act as a commander flash for Nikon's 'CLS' flash stuff (I think attaching an SB-800 or 900 would get you that, but not 100% certain.) Not an issue for video mode. (I would hazard a guess they deliberately disabled that in software to help differentiate the product line.)
posted by blenderfish at 4:35 PM on May 1, 2009

Sorry to slightly derail with the D90/D5000 thing.

Perhaps you could offer a specific budget, some example lenses you have you'd like to keep using, or more specific examples of scenes you'd like to film?
posted by blenderfish at 6:02 PM on May 1, 2009

Response by poster: okay. I think between $1,000 and $1,500. My favorite lens is the 84mm f/1.4 (f/1.8 would be fine too). Looking to shoot candid street and beach shots.
posted by lattiboy at 7:35 PM on May 1, 2009

Best answer: Check out the Panasonic DMC-GH1, sounds very much like what you are looking for, David Pogue just did a review.

It should come in at around $1200-$1500 when it gets release in the US in a month or so. Unlike the other DSLRs that do video, the included kit lens was intended to be a video lens from the ground up: it's silent, has auto focus while shooting video (you might not care doing video) and more importantly a continuously variable aperture while shooting video. It also has full manual controls. It will also record as much video as you have space on your cards (not short clips).

It uses a 4/3 sensor, same as Panasonic and Olympus' DSLRs, not quite as a shallow depth of field as a APS-C or full frame camera but way more than any no-pro video camera. I have the G1, the immediate non video predessosor to teh camera, and here are a couple shots that have a shallow DOF with a 14-45mm lens (the GH1 goes to 150mm, giving you an even shallower DOF): A beer mug, Buddha, and Bug on a flower (using diopters).
posted by cftarnas at 10:47 PM on May 1, 2009

Sorry for the follow up - I didn't make clear the GH1 (and G1) is a interchangeable lens camera, and with adapters can pretty much any M mount lens like a Leica, even the noctilux, talk about camera porn (and what a bokeh that would give!). Actually there are adapters for C mount cine lenses as well.
posted by cftarnas at 10:55 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow! Thanks cftarnas! I hadn't even thought of checking out the Panny dSLRs! I'm going to try one out when it's available here in Seattle!

Hive mind strikes again!
posted by lattiboy at 12:56 AM on May 2, 2009

I'm going to second what cftarnas said, even though I shoot canon myself. Generally speaking, this is an awful time to be buying a video camera, the market is in a huge transition right now. Lots of new, promising technologies and tools with poor implementations. That said, out of all of them the Panasonic looks strongest... for now.

Also, remember that 35mm cinematic is a 24x18mm frame, which is a lot closer to aps-c (24x16 iirc) than full frame, so don't worry about not having that 36x24 frame.
posted by jedrek at 3:44 AM on May 2, 2009

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