$1000-$2000 Professional Video Camera advice needed
May 31, 2009 10:03 AM   Subscribe

$1000-$2000 Professional Video Camera recommendations for my sister.

My sister is over her head trying to find the best video camera for her needs.

She will be using it to create horseback riding training videos. So it will be mostly outdoors and in an indoor arena with available light. She has not done much video taping before and is really confused.

1) So far her choices are: sony hdr fx7, sony dcr vx2100, panasonic dvx 100b, canon gl2, sony hvr a1u/v1u. Any stand out or should be avoided?

2) She wants to know if is it OK to get interlaced scan?

3) She doesn't want to spend over $2000 and she wants it to last her a good 5 years.

4) She will be editing on a new Mac.

5) Is there a reputable place to buy used cameras?

Thank you.
posted by Vaike to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The Sony DSR-PDX10 is my fav. You can probably find a used one within that price range. B&H has a well-regarded, used-camera operation.
posted by sswiller at 10:55 AM on May 31, 2009

I can't answer all the questions, but I think most of those cameras are pretty good.
Interlaced is fine; progressive, which I don't think most of those cameras can do REALLY, is intended for people who are going to be a) sending their video over to actual film, or b) people who know the video will only be online. This is changing a little bit with all the new progressive TV sets, but for someone creating horseback riding videos that will probably be sold on DVD, interlaced is completely fine.

B and H is the best place to get equipment, used or otherwise.

If I was her, I'd go for either the DVX100 (total workhorse) or the A1U (though I don't know how it works in low light). But the key is that all of these cameras are pretty good, and that the manufacturers enjoy the technical confusion.

Your best advice is to not sweat it to much. The one caveat is, I would look at examples of CMOS skew and wobble online. If she thinks there's going to be a lot of fast panning around the horse place*, it might mess up her picture. I know the dvx100 is a ccd camera, so it shouldn't have those issues with quick movement. Second, go to vimeo and type in the camera model. You can see what people have done with it and it'll give you a sense of the picture beyond all the marketing hoopla. But really, don't stress it.

*Horse place: She knows horses, I know cameras.
posted by history is a weapon at 12:03 PM on May 31, 2009

As standard definition cameras go, I'd go with the DVX.
The Sony A1U & V1U are both nice cameras, as are JVC's HDV cameras, but at that price point, you're probably going to get a better overall camera with a standard def camera rather than an HD camera.
Progressive vs. interlaced depends entirely on what the final output medium is - DVD? Web? Broadcast?
I have experience with all the cameras you listed except the fx7, and I wouldn't say that any of them are bad cameras. I like the DVX a lot - can do interlaced & progressive, and while it has a lot of manual functionality, a novice user can get a good image out of it without too much fussing.
The best possible thing she can do is try to spend some time with her hands on whichever cameras she's considering. Size and weight will be a big consideration, and it's worth thinking about how much time she'd be spending with the camera on a tripod vs having it handheld. A big pro video superstore like B&H (who has a fine used department) is the ideal place for this, but a video rental house might let you do this as well.
good luck
posted by kid_dynamite at 12:12 PM on May 31, 2009

At this price point, none of these cameras are 'professional' - they're mostly pro-sumer. A professional camera will have a number of technical advantages, including greater durability, better optics, zebra striping, and more.

I know a number of people doing 'great work' with prosumer items - I just want to mention this as a clarificaiton.

1) High definition will pretty much trump any of the standard definition choices. In fact, she has to do her work in HD, as I'm sure the field for training videos is competitive.

2) She wants to know if is it OK to get interlaced scan?
Yes. All NTSC (and some HD) is interlaced. There is quite the debate over interlacing vs. progressive video. Truthfully, her intended audience won't care terribly much. What is important is to figure out the workflow before she starts shooting.

The other debate is what constitutes a 'film look' (which is where usually the progressive argument comes in; film is shot 24 full (progressive) frames per second, while video is 30 interlaced frames (each frame is actually two separate captured moments 1/60th of a second apart.)) Personally, I feel that the look is better captured by the contrast and depth of field, than the question of interlacing. In short: don't pick a camera solely on this. But do worry about how you'll get from tape to however you intend to distribute it.

3) She doesn't want to spend over $2000 and she wants it to last her a good 5 years.
Unless someone comes out with a $2000 camera that has some killer feature, the camera should last. I'll also throw out the idea that if she's not making $2k profit inside of her first six months, than maybe it's a bad business choice for her to get into.

4) She will be editing on a new Mac.
Great. Final Cut Pro, Avid and Premiere Pro are your editing choices (all over $1k). Final cut Express isn't bad (and cheap when you buy a mac) but lacks serious DVD authoring.

5) Is there a reputable place to buy used cameras?
Not really. Consumer cameras don't have an easy way to measure 'hours' - the life measurement of a camera (like miles in a car.)

Other notes:
B&H is terrifically cheap - but note when you have problems with them, they're serious.
posted by filmgeek at 1:37 PM on May 31, 2009

I just wanted to respond to a few things filmgeek said:
First, most of those cameras have zebra striping.

Second, She doesn't "have to do her work in HD." Competitive or not, standard def is still a fine format; I think gizmodo blogged about a recent study where a fifth of the participants couldn't even tell the difference between standard and high def on their screens . And HD will not blanket trump Standard Def. I know a lot of people who would shoot in standard def on a panasonic or a sony over JVC's HD. I'd apply some of the same arguments of "her intended audience won't care much, important is to figure out the workflow before she starts shooting." to the HD/standard points.

I'm not trying to flame and I certainly agree with point 3: "if she's not making $2k profit inside of her first six months, than maybe it's a bad business choice for her to get into."
posted by history is a weapon at 1:58 PM on May 31, 2009

The Canon 5d Mark II camera body has just dipped below $2000 on-line, and a free firmware update available this week gives the camera manual control over its HD video, which makes it more exciting to many.

It is a DSLR--one of the first still cameras to have full HD video--so it has a unique set of serious disadvantages (ergonomic awkwardness, for one) to go along with its advantages (depth of field, low-light performance and interchangeable DSLR lens). But the video is so gorgeous with its full frame 35mm sensor that I think it is worth researching. Anything that could produce videos like this and these is worth considering.
posted by umbĂș at 7:14 PM on May 31, 2009

Here's a better version of the Canon 5d Mark II Dan Chung basketball video, which includes the option to watch the full HD version of the piece, so that you can really see a video that wasn't recompressed to post.
posted by umbĂș at 7:19 PM on May 31, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for your advice. This will be very useful to her.
posted by Vaike at 11:35 AM on June 1, 2009

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