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Camera recommendation

by mcgra / February 23, 2013 9:24 AM PST

I am a choreographer and recently received a grant to purchase a video camera, which I plan to use to create dance/video works. I'd also like to use it to document live dance performances from the back of the theatre. I'm looking for a good camera for around $2000, which will have low light capabilities, High speed, be able to capture movement, and which I can easily use a Mac for editing. Any suggestions?

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Best Answer chosen by mcgra

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Camcorder for theatre work
by Terfyn / February 24, 2013 12:50 AM PST
In reply to: Camera recommendation

You will probably be advised to buy Sony, Panasonic, Canon etc.etc. as we all have our favourites. I am a Panasonic fan so I will suggest the HC-X920 as it has a good spec for low light conditions - 1.6 lux. Normally the bigger diameter lens will give better low light performance.
You mention high speed for dancing but low light and high speed filming don't normally go together as the shutter speed does not allow for decent exposure. I have found that most camcorders perform well for sports action given good lighting. If you need high speed filming, a sports camcorder may be the answer - GoPro.
In my camera, a Panasonic HC-V700, a 32Gb SD card will give over an hour of video but some cameras, if left to run by themselves, may switch off after 20 minutes or so - check this before you buy.
Hope this helps.

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I agree with
by boya84 / February 24, 2013 2:15 AM PST

Terfyn regarding "the bigger diameter lens will give better low light performance" - and will add that it is the combination of large lens diameter and large imaging chip (preferably 3CCD or 3CMOS system rather than a single imaging chip) that will provide the good "low-light" quality video.

The largest diameter + imaging chip cams in the consumer range from Sony, Panasonic, Canon and JVC come in around 58mm diameter for the lens and about 1/3" for the imaging sensor.

You did not tell us which Mac... Assuming it is one from the last 2-4 years, you should be OK with pretty much any of the camcorders from the above manufacturers working with the computer. Whether use of high-compression AVCHD format video is debatable. This does not usually get along very well with fast action.

Since we don't know how large the venue is, we don't know how far away "the back of the theater" is. Whichever camcorder you get, turn digital zoom off in the camcorder's options menu. Use only optical zoom if zoom is required. Audio could be an issue.

I also agree with Terfyn that the Panasonic HC-X920 should be on your short list. Large 1/2.3" 3CMOS imaging sensor array but the 49mm lens diameter is a bit small.

The JVC GZ-GX1 sports a 1/2.3" single chip COMS sensor and 46mm lens diameter - again, a bit small...

The Sony HDR-PJ710V has a 52mm lens diameter and 1/2.88 (6.3mm) single CMOS imaging chip. The price includes a built-in projector that I do not believe is worth it - I would probably stay away from this camcorder.

The Canon HF G20 is more of a "prosumer". 58mm lens diameter + 1/3" imaging chip. This should be on your short list.

Between the Panny and Canon, I'd be leaning in the Canon HF G20 direction. (I generally use Sony camcorders, but they are a bit different from those mentioned above). Be sure to include a few flash memory cards and a decent tripod (Davis & Sanford; Manfrotto - anything in the $200-$300 vicinity should suffice), an optional high capacity battery from the camcorder manufacturer and a decent case (like a Pelican 1500). And consider an external mic or two... It/they would be handy for pre/post performance/rehearsal interviews.

And assuming the video will be edited, an external hard drive for the Mac is STRONGLY suggested... in the 1+ TB size... When the video files are imported for editing, they are decompressed and transcoded so the video editor can deal with them. 60 minutes of decompressed high definition video will consume 44 gig of computer hard disc space - so starting to think about long term storage strategies now is very important.

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Canon HF G10
by mcgra / February 24, 2013 5:44 AM PST
In reply to: I agree with

Thanks so much for the advice. I was in a rush to get a camera to start this project so went ahead and purchased online last night. I was recommended the Canon HF G10. With my grant money I was able to purchase all the accessories...including 2TB of harddrive. This camera was recommended by a friend. What is your opinion? I can still send it back, so I'd appreciate if you would let me know if you think it will meet my needs. Here is a link to the specs:

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The G10 and G20
by boya84 / February 24, 2013 10:28 AM PST
In reply to: Canon HF G10

are very close siblings. The lens diameter and imaging chip are the same. You'll be fine.

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Caveats around your new camera
by Terfyn / February 24, 2013 4:13 PM PST
In reply to: Canon HF G10

The G10 has a very impressive spec, I also have a Canon HV20 tape based camcorder of 2005 vintage and still use it along with my HC-V700. Please check that the Canon will run for the time required before buying, the files on the SD card will be very big. This should not be a problem as long as the camera does not take it upon itself to switch off after a period of time thinking you have forgotten it!

Do use the supplied software to download the files from the SD card. It will sort out any additional "housekeeping" files created by the camera.

A remote mic will be essential as the sound captured by the camera at the back of the theatre will be rubbish! Full of echo and dampened by the seating etc.

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Thank you
by mcgra / February 24, 2013 9:53 PM PST

Thanks for all the great advise....

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