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ALwin

Guide: DSLR or Video camera? (work in progress)

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Posted · Original PosterOP

*My guides will be kept as "work in progress" forever as I intend to keep on improving and updating them as long as I am able.
 
A missing thread in this section is one that discusses why someone should get a DSLR with video recording capability or a dedicated video camera... for recording video.  If there is a thread discussing this already, I haven't seen it yet and I am too lazy to look through dozens of pages.
 
Hence I might as well start one and edit/improve it with input from fellow members.

 

Let me start off by saying, whether you're interested in photography, cinematography, or even just recording sound:

While having high quality expensive gear would be nice, don't let the lack of having such gear stop you from being creative.

 
Disclaimer
I am not trying to tell you which way to go, I am only trying to make you aware of the differences between the two.  I see people asking in this section whether a particular camera model is good or not, what camera they should get, etc.  Many of them do not realize or understand how the cameras work or how the workflow changes between using a DSLR for video and a dedicated video camera for video.  They get advice from their friends or online communities, many of whom have limited experience with using various types of cameras and push onto the person asking for advice to go a particular route without explaining why, perhaps they themselves do not know and have forced themselves to stick to the format where they have made their investment.
 
The first DSLR with video recording capability was the Nikon D90, it came out in the later half of 2008.  I bought a D90 in early 2009. My first DSLR for photo was also purchased in January 2009, a Sony Alpha A350.  Before that I was taking photos with film and recording videos on magnetic tape drives.  Since my first D90 I have owned about 10 different DSLRs including the famous Canon 5D mk II and 3 video cameras, and have worked with more expensive professional grade video cameras belonging to friends and colleagues.  I've probably spent over $100,000.00 on camera gear in the past 10 years and have about $50,000.00 worth of gear in my bags when I travel.
 
Right now I am planning to buy a $3000 semi-professional grade video camera, the Ursa Mini 4K, $7000 Sony PXW-FS7 for my personal and professional freelance work.
 
I don't make videos for Youtube** nor do I manage a Youtube Channel.  I work as a freelance consultant for the United Nations and on my own dime and time I travel around filming and photographing.
 
So, should you get a DSLR or a Video camera, for video?
(Doesn't matter what your budget level is, it will apply to all in general.)
 
I also recommend people read this guide on B&H: Basic Equipment for New Filmmaking Students
 
To start off let's compare a DSLR and a Video camera.
Note: when we talk about DSLR here we will also include mirrorless cameras such as the Sony NEX or A7rII and other models.
 
1. Price and Cost
Of course price and cost will always be a factor.
 
2. Sensor size
Both DSLRs and Video cameras come in a range of sensor sizes.  For DSLRs the most common flavor of sensor sizes are

  • Micro Four Thirds
  • APS-C
  • Full Frame (35mm film equivalent)

Video cameras come on a wider variety and prices go up as the sensor size becomes larger.  A majority of consumer video cameras have sensor sizes much smaller than Micro Four Thirds and very expensive models such as the Sony PXW FS7 ($8000) will have a Super 35mm sensor which is about the same size as an APS-C sensor.
 
So why is sensor size important?  Or to better phrase it, why does sensor size matter?

  • It matters because of depth of field
  • It matters because of low light capability

When photo cameras such as the Canon 5D mk II were produced, with video recording capabilities, it opened the doors for more film makers to achieve visually appealing cinematic looks in their films that was once available only by either using film or buying very expensive digital video cameras.  The shallow depth of field meant a more artistic look in the recorded video with blurred backgrounds and beautiful bokeh.
 
Of course this added a lot of extra work for film makers, as a larger sensor with a shallow depth of field can make things harder to focus or keep in focus.
 
As for low light capabilities of larger sensors, consider the millions of tiny photosensitive cells on a camera sensor like buckets that can hold light that falls upon the sensor.  A larger bucket means it is capable of holding more light, so an 8 megapixel sensor that is larger will have larger photocells than a smaller 8 megapixel sensor.
 
However there is a disadvantage with larger sensors, which inherently means more pixel count.  While a photo camera may record wonderful 20 megapixel still images, a Full HD 1920x1080p video is only about 2 megapixels.  So the camera must convert the 20MP image recorded by the sensor into a 2MP frame in the video being saved onto the memory card. Most cameras achieve this down sampling by only taking the image from every X number of lines from the sensors, other cameras downscale the captured image.  With this internal resizing of the image captured by the sensor, there are risks of the recorded video having anti-aliasing artifacts, moire, soft look and feel.
 
But one thing I learned when I started out as a photographer, and which applies for video as well, learn to use both natural and artificial lights.  Do not become used to relying on the capability of the sensor or camera.  So if natural light isn't enough, before boosting the ISO or widening the aperture or using longer shutter speeds, add more lights.  Because changing ISO or aperture or shutter speed can effect the look and feel of the recorded video which is harder to edit in post than adding more lights.
 
So for sensor size:

  • Larger means shallower depth of field and a better artistic look to the recorded video (of course this will also depend on the skill, talent of the film maker)
  • Shallower depth of field means harder to keep things in focus, even the slightest movement can change what is in focus
  • Smaller sensors make it easier to keep objects in focus, but of course it hardly gives you that beautiful bokeh or blurred background.
  • Larger sensor also means better low light capability, but again you should always rely on external light before changing settings on the camera
  • Larger sensor means higher cost (true for video cameras, not 100% true for photo cameras)
  • Larger sensor also brings the risk that the image quality of the recorded video will not be as sharp, clear as it should be and have image artifacts such as moire.

But can people use videos recorded on a camera with a smaller sensor?  YES! YES! YES!
Ask yourself this, do you really need that shallow depth of field look for your videos?  NO!
 
So why spend all that time, money and effort to record a video when it may be faster and easier to record something with a smaller sensor camera.  Even for your Youtube channel's videos you don't always, more like hardly ever, need that shallow depth of field look.  Not unless you were trying to make an Indie film, and even then you don't always need it for every shot.  Otherwise you will be like J.J. Abrams adding lens flare effects to almost every scene in his movies.  As for Youtube itself, anytime you upload a video it processes and converts your videos even if you upload something with bit rates and formats using their guidelines, you will lose quality in your uploaded videos.

 
3. Form factor
It should be obvious why a DSLR is designed the way it looks and a video camera is designed the way it looks.  You don't hold a photo camera the way you hold a video camera.
 
The design of a DSLR is optimized for taking still images, hence it is not optimized for providing the longer term stability hand held as an image takes only a brief moment to capture.  While a video camera, especially the larger ones with a design built in for carrying it on the shoulder, is designed for recording several minutes of video while trying to provide the best stability for hand held use.  Even a small camcorder, the way it is designed, is optimized for people to hold it longer while it records.  The palm up, bent elbow, upper arm braced against the torso makes holding onto that camcorder for several minutes easier and keeps the camera more stable than you would holding a DSLR.
 
Of course stability can be improved for both types of cameras by using a tripod or other accessories such as steadicams and gimbals.  However a tripod is not designed to be used if you need to follow the action while filming a scene that may take place over a distance.  And good steadicams and gimbals can be expensive.  So many, especially those on budget, opt for the shoulder mount first when trying to chase the action during filming.
 
You want to rig up a DSLR for shoulder mount, you'll need to buy additional accessories which will will discuss in another section.  Mid to high end video cameras tend to be shoulder mount ready.
 
4. Audio
A DSLR has more or less a bit more internal volume than a comcorder, of course larger DSLRs have more internal volume while mirrorless cameras may have as much room as a small camcorder.  Video cameras tend to have larger internal volume, especially in the higher end models.  So more internal volume means more room to include more or better features.
 
However a DSLR such as the Nikon D3300 will have about 25% of it's internal volume of the body used up by the SLR mirror chamber and the pentamirror for the viewfinder.  While a small compact camcorder such as the Sony HDR PJ650 will have a volume about the size of a ping pong ball holding the zoom lens, the sensor and part of the stabilization mechanism which might total less than 1/5th of the total internal volume.
 
DSLRs and mirrorless cameras come with at least two built in microphones to capture stereo audio.  But these microphones are small and tend to pick up the sounds of internal moving parts.  Additionally as the camera has to also have circuit boards and chips dedicated for photo processing there is hardly any room left to add in any quality preamps or good connection points for external microphones.  And all DSLRs come with at most 1 2.5 or 3.5mm port for a microphone.
 
Video cameras on the other hand, as they are primarily video first, their internal components are designed to assist in recording both the audio and visual aspect of a video.  So the microphones and preamps built in tend to be a bit better on the low end and a lot better on the higher end.  And higher end models come with connections for multiple audio capture devices and better input ports (i.e. dual XLR vs 3.5/2.5mm jacks in DSLRs)
 
5. Features
 
Ability to choose the lens
Obviously DSLRs allow you to change lenses, so you can pick the "right" lens for the job.  Few video cameras allow you to change lenses, and most of those few are expensive.
 
However, video cameras with built in lenses (non changeable) tend to have a longer zoom range than many DSLR lenses.  So if you go the DSLR route or buy a video camera with an interchangeable lens system, unless you buy the very expensive broadcast level lenses such as the Canon KJ20x8.2B, you will be sticking to consumer/prosumer camera lenses that have a short zoom range if they have any zoom at all.  And even if their prices are lower than B4 mount lenses, if you want to cover a good zoom range you will have to invest in quite a few.
 
Note: If you are choosing either a DSLR/Mirrorless camera for video, know that in proper video cameras the most common mounts are now Canon's EF mount, Sony's E mount and Micro Four Thirds system mounts.  Professional video PL and B4 mounts are dedicated to video only and you almost never see them on photo cameras.  So if you buy lenses with EF mounts, E mounts or MFT mounts, you can find both photo cameras and video cameras that can use those lenses.  You will have a hard time finding both types of cameras with Nikon F or Sony A mounts, unless you plan to use adapters.
 
Which brings up something else to consider, lens mount adapters and flange distance.
Flange distance is the distance between the sensor plane and the exterior surface of the lens mount on the camera body.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flange_focal_distance
 
You can find adapters to use Nikon F lenses on a Canon EF body because Nikon lenses are designed to work with a longer flange distance than Canon.  So wedging an adapter ring between the lens and the camera body is not an issue.  You will be hard pressed to find an adapter that lets you mount a Canon lens on a Nikon body however, because if you wedge a metal ring between the lens and the body, it will increase the flange distance a lot more than what the lens was designed for and you will lose the usage of certain focal lengths and focus distances.
 
At the moment for both photo and video cameras the most versatile mount is the Sony E-Mount because the flange distance is very short, any lens can be mounted to it using a compatible adapter.
 
Additionally some expensive adapters will allow you to retain the use of the lens' built in features such as auto focus motor, image stabilization mechanism, zoom feature if any exists on a different camera body.  Normally it is nearly impossible to make two different electronic systems (e.g. Canon EF lens to Sony E mount) communicate with each other because they are designed and the firmware are programmed differently.  However an adapter with an electronic chip inside can allow the two different components to communicate.  And some brands are closed systems (i.e. adapters that allow Nikon lenses to communicate with non Nikon bodies hardly exist at all).
 
Difference between still photo lenses and cine style lenses (@nickl)


Focusing and Image stabilization
In a camera designed to be photography first (i.e. DSLRs) their auto focusing and image stabilization mechanisms are optimized for recording still images that capture a single moment. Video cameras have auto focus and image stabilization mechanisms that are optimized for continuous usage.

 

The image stabilization system in a photo camera relies on having a glass element inside the lens, or the sensor being able to shit movement based on the direction of camera vibration/shake.  The image stabilization inside a camcorder for example is more like a gimble system, it moves the entire container which holds the lens and sensor.

 

The first part of this video shows you how in-lens IS works for a photo camera.

 

 

Here is a video that shows how sensor shift IS works.

 

 

This is how IS works for a proper video camera.

 


 
BUT the main downside of auto focus (in all types of cameras) is the "auto" part.  The camera is making the decision for you on what it wants to keep in focus.  If you want your filmed scene to have focus on different parts of the scene differently, or change focus in a different order, it is always better to use manual focus (even if you are using a $20,000.00 cinema camera), with a manual follow focus accessory or an electronic focus pulling system.
 
Focus assist and other viewfinder/monitor features
Focus assist features such as focus peaking or false color displays for monitoring exposures tend not to be part of DSLRs.  And it certainly is not easy trying to use a tiny optical/electronic viewfinder or a small LCD display on the back of the camera to manually focus.  So video cameras come with several features built in to assist the user.  For DSLR users they need to rely on external field monitors or viewfinder accessories to get these features.  Of course for both DSLR and video camera users having at least one external field monitor will also allow other people to monitor what is being recorded.  Especially clients who may want to see a preview.
 
Recording formats and quality
Most consumer/prosumer level DSLRs with video and video cameras allow you to record in MP4, H.264, AVCHD which are "OK" for editing and publishing on Youtube.  However if you want to do serious filming, editing, content creation at full HD, 4K or even better, the recording format not only does it have to use a good codec but also be able to sample at a very high bit rate.  DSLR's at most record at 50Mbps (megabits per second) though some do support higher bit rates with an external recorder or firmware hack such as Magic Lantern.
 
Even if you are able to use an external recorder to capture better quality video than what your camera can do internally, the HDMI or SDI output of your camera has to support that higher quality.  An external recorder such as the Atomos Ninja or Samurai can record ProRes HQ 422, but a lot of DSLRs' clean HDMI output tends to be 420 (or 8-bit) color, therefore even if the Atomos was recording the video file as ProRes HQ 422 it is not receiving a true 422 (10 bit) color signal.
 
A $300 camcorder records h.254 or AVCHD at 25mbps which is as good as the video recorded internally by a $500 DSLR.
 
Video cameras on the other hand, because they are designed to be video recording devices, support better codecs, better bit rates, better color sampling.  Mid to high end video cameras can record at bit rates over 100Mbps, with more advanced codecs like XAVC or ProRes, with true 422 (10-bit) color or better.
 
Of course better quality video means larger files.  But better quality recording makes it easier to post process and better able to bring out hidden details and improve the quality of your final product.
 
Frame rates, global and rolling shutter
When recording video, you will come to see numbers such as 25p, 23.97fps, 50p, 120fps, etc.  These are all various ways of indicating how many frames per second a video is being recorded/played back.  Standard video frame rates are

  • 24p which can sometimes be actual 24fps or in most cases 23.97fps
  • 25p which is 25fps
  • 29.97fps
  • 30p which can sometimes be actual 30fps or in most cases it is actually 29.97fps
  • 50p which is 50fps
  • 59.97 fps
  • 60p which can sometimes be actual 60fps or in most cases 59.97fps
  • And some good cameras are capable of recording faster frame rates for producing super slow motion scenes

PAL systems are always exact numbers, and they are 25p or 50p (or multiples of either two).
NTSC is 24p, 30p and 60p and their multiples.  The .97 fps comes from a NTSC standard and the reason for that can be found in this article: http://www.bodenzord.com/archives/79
 
Global shutter: To record each image frame for the video, the image captured by the sensor is recorded all at once.
Rolling shutter: To record each image frame for the video, the image captured by the sensor is scanned line by line
http://www.red.com/learn/red-101/global-rolling-shutter
 
So how are they related?

  • Global shutters require slightly more processing power and produce more heat, therefore limiting how much it can be used.  While rolling shutters utilize slightly less processing power and produce less heat
  • Faster frame rates require the "shutter" to work faster, hence most cameras with high speed frame rates utilize rolling shutters rather than global shutters
  • However, rolling shutters can produce the Jello effect when recording a moving scene or when moving the camera during filming

Image quality, color depth and dynamic range
 
Dynamic Range: When it comes to digital CCD and CMOS camera sensors "Dynamic Range" is an indicator of how much detail that the sensor can record between the darkest and brightest part of a scene.  I don't think I could explain it in a few words, so let me link you to a page that explains it in good detail.
http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/dynamic-range.htm
 
Color depth: Is an indicator of how many shades of any particular color is recorded when it comes to cameras, or being displayed when it comes to displays (TVs, monitors, etc). 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_depth
 
Both the dynamic range capabilities of your camera's sensor and your camera's ability to record a certain color depth will affect the recorded image quality.

  • Most photo cameras are able to take still photos of up to 14-bit color when capturing in RAW mode
  • However most photo cameras, especially at the low to mid end of the product lines, allow up to 8-bit color when recording videos. Both internally and via clean HDMI output.
  • Higher end photo cameras may allow up to 10-bit color in recording video, if it is not capable for internal recording then it will provide it for the clean HDMI out when used with an external recorder
  • Many video cameras record at 10-bit color at the lowest end and can go up higher in more expensive models
  • Better color depth capability will mean larger files
  • Better color depth recordings are more flexible for editing
  • A sensor capable of wider dynamic range will enable you to record more details without having to rely much on accessories such as ND filters or filming techniques that may not work all the time
  • However do not allow the camera to dictate what you can and cannot do, technology is no substitute for knowledge and experience
  • The limitations of dynamic range can be compensated with knowledge, experience and use of certain accessories (e.g. gradient ND filters) or techniques (e.g. HDR)

6. Accessories
 
Pimping up a DSLR

  • Base plate or cage
  • Rods
  • Follow focus
  • Field monitor
  • Audio recorder or preamp
  • External microphone
  • Lights

Pimping up a video camera

  • External microphone
  • Lights

7. Investment
 
Low end DSLR with video recording capability: approximately $400-500

  • External microphone: at least $100 (on camera mounting, and having at least 1 external microphone is not optional)
  • 2nd external microphone: at least another $100
  • using two microphones means getting an external recorder or preamp (e.g. Tascam DR-60D): $180
  • Rig system (including shoulder mount, handles, 15mm rods): at least $200 on ebay
  • Follow focus: at least $50 on ebay
  • Field monitor: at least $200 (not including the cost of batteries for the monitor)
  • Lenses: prices vary

Video camera with 2x XLR inputs: using Panasonic AG-HMC80 3MOS AVCCAM as an example: $1500

  • 2x External microphones: at least $100 each (this is optional)

Final thoughts
If you're looking to buy a camera to make videos, as in "video first", consider a proper video camera before considering a DSLR or mirrorless camera.
 
Additionally, after reading what I wrote, you may feel like I am pushing you towards buying a video camera instead of a DSLR.  That is not the case.  If you are creative, imaginative, talented, know how to edit videos properly, create special effects, etc. perhaps a good DSLR for video may be the better option for you.  For making creative works.  A proper DSLR video setup with the right set of lenses and accessories, keep in mind I am not talking about sticking with the kit lens, will likely cost less than a video camera that will offer you the same creative potential.  If you are only going to stick to the kit lens, while you may get the advantages of a larger sensor, you will not be utilizing the camera to its full capabilities.
 
Also keep in mind, the higher resolution you record, the better quality you record, the shallower depth of field you use... will be very unforgiving with any mistake you make.  It will require more time for preparation, planning and re-doing things until you get it right.  Even if the audience of your video doesn't notice it, you as the videographer and editor will always know the mistakes you made.
 
However if you are simply looking for a video camera for your blog or Youtube hobby channel, perhaps a video camera is a better option.  Even if it's simply a low cost camcorder.  It will be easier to setup, faster to record and edit, and most of the tools you need will be inside that compact form factor.
 
And remember cameras are just tools.  They don't make any decisions for you, they don't inspire your creativity, your ideas, your visions.  They do what you tell them to do, nothing more.
 
** Not entirely accurate, I do use Youtube to share some stuff with friends.
 
Comments, tips, edits to help me improve this guide will be most welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On 9/4/2015 at 10:29 AM, ShadowCaptain said:

Agreed there are too many pros and cons to 1080p vs 4k, - 4k as an acquisition tool, is fantastic, being able to crop in post and down-sampling for a really sharp 1080p image are just a few of the benefits

But it brings with it increased cost of media, storage, editing and rendering time, most pros still deliver video in 1080p, dont forget while you may be able to handle a 4k workload your client might not be able too
as far as amateur stuff goes for YouTube, 4k is nice, but if you upload your 1080p video in 4k it will look really nice (assuming a nice 1080p image) and wont really benefit from the increased strain of working in 4k - due to streaming compression etc


DSLR vs Video camera

Honestly it depends on the user, what they want in a camera, how they shoot and various other factors, the best part about a DSLR with video is you also have a fantastic stills camera, that can take stunning video if shot correctly, they can get the shallow depth of field look, can change lenses and upgrade with your skills, and you can get all sorts of interesting aesthetics with different glass, downsides? its clunky to use, and requires care and planning, AF on MOST (not all) DSLRs is lacking, so you will be doing EVERYTHING manual

A video camera (im talking like a Camcorder) is a great way to start of doing video, while they often lack the image quality, and have poor to no stills options, of a DSLR, they make up for it in ease of use, amazing auto focus, easy controls, more stable/comfortable grip, - you will not get as nice of an aesthetic as properly done DSLR footage, BUT - its 100x easier to do, so a beginner using a camcorder will take better video than a beginner using a DSLR

Cinema Camera - well thats a whole different league and probably a little above the purposes of this thread, obviously these cameras are ideal for shooting cinematic video, however they bring a steel learning curve and a bit like a DSLR everything will be done manually, however they do not suffer rolling shutter thanks to global shutters, they often shoot very advanced video codecs, have built in ND, better controls, better lens mounts, more stable bodies etc et etc


Mirrorless

Mirrorless cameras have taken the DSLR world by storm, and there is one area they benefit over a traditional DSLR, especially for a newbie
1- decent autofocus even during video
2- ability to use legacy glass - some of them even still supported AF and more modern things- - can save you a lot of money compared to buying brand new lenses

 

On 9/7/2015 at 1:01 PM, ALwin said:

Ok another thing about making videos with whatever camera you have.
(I am only saying this because I know people have a lot of expectations when they come online to ask about buying a camera and people can have high hopes and dreams of what they want to achieve. I know a lot of people give up because what they were hoping to achieve and what the reality was in store for them wasn't what they expected.)

1. Videos like Linus Tech Tips, NCIX tips, JayzTwoCents stuff
They are easy to make because 99% of the time the camera is stationary, the subject is relatively stationary in the same position and the lighting is near constant. Keeping the subject in focus and within the composition is relatively easy as almost every moment of the scene is predictable.

2. Now go out and try to film even a short few minutes segment of an action sequence, unless you want your camera to be fixed at one position, it is not easy to do. And it gets harder with a photo camera which was primarily designed for capturing still images and not moving images. Even a simple short scene of your friend at a park skateboarding can be tough. If you want to make the video interesting you will need to invest in proper accessories and do several takes in order get the video, it is not something a beginner will accomplish on the first attempt or even the first 100 attempts. Otherwise you put the camera on a tripod or use a simple shoulder mount and follow your friend around, getting general perspective shots. No closeups, no low angles or high angles, nothing that would make the video look even more interesting or exciting.

Look at this video from the 90s showing all the different accessories they had to use to get different camera movements. You can see that while the camera was important to record the scenes, all those accessories played an even bigger role. Without them to enable the camera, these guys wouldn't be able to do anything.


http://petapixel.com/2015/09/06/these-were-the-devices-used-for-camera-moves-back-in-1993/

I'm primarily a stills photographer, and I can photograph in almost any type of environment whether it is in a controlled place like a conference hall where unpredictable things rarely happen or on the streets where I may have to chase down a moment and unpredictable moments can occur. It's easy to do because all you have to do is be at the moment, aim the camera, focus and press the shutter (assuming you have relatively correct settings). But when it comes to video, I am experienced with the camera being stationary (tripod) or in a controlled environment (interviews, conferences, etc.) but I would do a poor job recording events that can have unpredictable moments. I don't have the experience to do what those guys in that video clip above are doing, I would need tons of practice.

Though I do have some experience with using certain gear such as motorized tripod mounts, dollies and sliders. Simply because all I need to think about are the starting point and the end point, everything else in between is predictable. Setting up your equipment for making a video like this (see below) is easy, the important thing is how creative you are. The only reason why I find this video interesting is due to the beautiful landscapes (subject matter), the cinematography is boring. There are so many similar productions like this that it doesn't really stand out.


Now here's a similar timelapse video where both the subject matter and the cinematography are interesting, and Tom Lowe used a lot of accessories for the cameras to get those interesting sequences.

Guide: DSLR or Video camera?, Guide: Film/Photo makers' useful resources, Guide: Lenses, a quick primer

Nikon D4, Nikon D800E, Fuji X-E2, Canon G16, Gopro Hero 3+, iPhone 5s. Hasselblad 500C/M, Sony PXW-FS7

ICT Consultant, Photographer, Video producer, Scuba diver and underwater explorer, Nature & humanitarian documentary producer

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I was looking at the URSA 4K Mini, it seems to be a really good camera!


So thanks for reading guys, if this post sucked, I'm not sure what you can do, but if you liked it, go 'head and hit that like button, or maybe add me as a friend. Otherwise, go subscribe to LinusTechTips on YouTube, follow them on Twitch, follow @LinusTech on Twitter, and support them by using their affiliate code on Amazon, buying a cool T-shirt, or supporting them directly on this community forum.

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Posted · Original PosterOP

I was looking at the URSA 4K Mini, it seems to be a really good camera!

 

I hope they start delivering the orders soon.


Guide: DSLR or Video camera?, Guide: Film/Photo makers' useful resources, Guide: Lenses, a quick primer

Nikon D4, Nikon D800E, Fuji X-E2, Canon G16, Gopro Hero 3+, iPhone 5s. Hasselblad 500C/M, Sony PXW-FS7

ICT Consultant, Photographer, Video producer, Scuba diver and underwater explorer, Nature & humanitarian documentary producer

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Posted · Original PosterOP

No one really interested in this thread?


Guide: DSLR or Video camera?, Guide: Film/Photo makers' useful resources, Guide: Lenses, a quick primer

Nikon D4, Nikon D800E, Fuji X-E2, Canon G16, Gopro Hero 3+, iPhone 5s. Hasselblad 500C/M, Sony PXW-FS7

ICT Consultant, Photographer, Video producer, Scuba diver and underwater explorer, Nature & humanitarian documentary producer

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No one really interested in this thread?

I'm interested, there isn't much to say, I guess, it is more of a factual article, and less of a question.

Really good job, anyway.

One quick question as you seem to know a lot, do camcorders and DSLR's output more vivid and less flat images than cinema cameras because camera makers don't expect people who are using camcorders or DSLR's to know as much and/or want to spend as much time as professionals grading their footage?

 

Also, what is the difference between a cinema lens, and a DSLR lens, and what accounts for the vast difference in their pricing?


So thanks for reading guys, if this post sucked, I'm not sure what you can do, but if you liked it, go 'head and hit that like button, or maybe add me as a friend. Otherwise, go subscribe to LinusTechTips on YouTube, follow them on Twitch, follow @LinusTech on Twitter, and support them by using their affiliate code on Amazon, buying a cool T-shirt, or supporting them directly on this community forum.

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Posted · Original PosterOP

I'm interested, there isn't much to say, I guess, it is more of a factual article, and less of a question.

Really good job, anyway.

One quick question as you seem to know a lot, do camcorders and DSLR's output more vivid and less flat images than cinema cameras because camera makers don't expect people who are using camcorders or DSLR's to know as much and/or want to spend as much time as professionals grading their footage?

 

Also, what is the difference between a cinema lens, and a DSLR lens, and what accounts for the vast difference in their pricing?

 

I was hoping people would comment with questions, suggestions or even point out errors that I may have made.

 

 

To answer that question, it is a Yes and a No.

 

Some cameras allow you to change recording styles and settings, with some built in options for flat or cinematic looks.  Others you can change the look by changing the white balance and color settings (Standard, Vivid, Monochrome, etc). And some cameras don't. 

 

A few years ago I was filming a conference utilizing 1x Sony and 2x Panasonic camcorders.  I needed 3 cameras to cover the entire conference room and I was working alone, didn't have anyone to help me operate the cameras,everything was static and placed on tripods. The Sony camcorder, my own, gave a flat neutral color video while the Panasonics gave me very warm color tone due to the auto white balance, leaning towards the red end of the spectrum.  I couldn't change it easily in the Panasonic cameras to get the same look as the Sony. I had to equalize in post.

 

(Yes I could've changed the setting in the Panasonic camcorders, but I didn't have my white balance card that day, and so the native Auto White Balance for the cameras were different, or more like how Panasonic interprets a scene compared to how Sony does it.)

 

Personally, I would recommend that before you record a video whether it is with a DSLR/Mirroless or video camera, use a white balance card to set a custom white balance.  Over expose a bit, as details in over exposed highlights can be recovered in post processing.  Details in under exposed shadows cannot be easily recovered.  In photography, we call this "leaning the histogram towards the right".  Not too much, just a bit like 1/3 a stop or 2/3 a stop.

 

Record as neutral a color as you can get, because you can enhance flat colors in post. Though some might tell you differently and they may be right.  Peter Jackson when filming the first Hobbit movie, I believe he was using RED cameras at the time.  Because by default the cameras he used recorded flat tones, the set designers for his films had to over saturate some of the sets and props with color when they created them.

 

I would say this all depends on the camera, how the manufacturer designed it and what final look and feel you want.  If every camera did the same exact thing, there would hardly be any point in looking at different models for cameras in the same price and spec range.  The manufacturers like Sony, JVC, Panasonic, all have slightly different ideas of how they want to design their camera and process the images recorded.

 

But all of this depends on what you are recording and for what purpose.  If you were shooting for commercial purposes, some agencies that will buy or use your footage may not accept anything that looks "fake" or heavily edited/processed.  If you were making a home video or even an indie film, wouldn't you want your video to look the best possible.  If I take a photo of someone I deeply care about, I would want her appearance in the portrait to be the best possible, and of course I don't mean photoshoping like fashion magazines.  Even for my own clients, people I hardly know, I try to make sure they look their best or their full expression/emotions are shown.

 

But yes, I think for consumer products where the manufacturer assumes that the user will want to spend less time editing in post, they may make the recorded video look more vivid.


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Posted · Original PosterOP

As for difference in lens prices, again that depends.

 

  • Quality of the glass used
  • The type of mount, PL mounts tend to be quite expensive
  • Certain design features, such as smoother focus, zoom and aperture rings (keep in mind most photo camera lenses don't have an aperture ring now, they are all electronically controlled)
  • Marketing hype ;)

And an important feature that zoom lenses for videos have that few photographic zoom lenses have: parfocal.

Parfocal lens is a lens where as you change the focal length or magnification, zoom, what you had focused on initially stays in focus.  Most photographic camera lens tend to be varifocal, where if you use a 70-200mm lens for example and had focused on an object while at 70mm and you want to zoom to 200mm, you need to refocus the lens.


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As for difference in lens prices, again that depends.

 

  • Quality of the glass used
  • The type of mount, PL mounts tend to be quite expensive
  • Certain design features, such as smoother focus, zoom and aperture rings (keep in mind most photo camera lenses don't have an aperture ring now, they are all electronically controlled)
  • Marketing hype ;)

And an important feature that zoom lenses for videos have that few photographic zoom lenses have: parfocal.

Parfocal lens is a lens where as you change the focal length or magnification, zoom, what you had focused on initially stays in focus.  Most photographic camera lens tend to be varifocal, where if you use a 70-200mm lens for example and had focused on an object while at 70mm and you want to zoom to 200mm, you need to refocus the lens.

What is special about a PL mount and what makes it better/different from an EF or similar lens mount?

 

Also, what is the difference between a flat image and an image with low dynamic range? Does flat mean lacking color saturation, and low dynamic range mean a blowing out of the highlights, and the darks and shadows being underexposed, and just black?


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Posted · Original PosterOP

What is special about a PL mount and what makes it better/different from an EF or similar lens mount?

 

According to this discussion

http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/canon-cinema-eos-camera-systems/503034-pl-mount-vs-ef-mount.html

 

PL mount:

- Natively mount Canon PL lenses and most third party PL lenses.

- PL stands for positive lock. There's a ring that locks the lens into place, making a very solid connection.

- The PL mount actually allows the lens to be oriented in any of four different configurations.

- The C300's PL mount does not have any electrical contacts at all. So no lens metadata will be transferred to the camera.

 

http://www.premiumbeat.com/blog/whats-the-difference-between-lens-mounts/

 

I don't have first hand experience with PL lenses.  Mainly due to price and that all my friends have non PL lenses.


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Hmm this topic slipped my radar earlier on.

Will try to come up with some usefull information or points to decide on when it comes DSLR vs camcorder in a kinda money/performance way.


May the light have your back and your ISO low.

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No one really interested in this thread?

 

Not had time to read/analyse it yet :P I will add/help when i get a chance


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Posted · Original PosterOP

Reading some of your comments I've realized I forgot to mention a few items. Lens mounts, image color, dynamic range. I will add those parts when I get home from work.
 
Ok home now, before I add/edit my original post:
 
1. The reason I omitted mentioning lens mounts is because currently the photo camera for video industry uses three main types of mounts across several brands. Canon EF, Micro Four Thirds (MFT) and Sony E-mounts.  Mounts like Nikon's F or Sony's A are not as commonly found outside of their particular brands.  I wasn't sure if it is important to mention initially but now I will add it.
 
2. Image color and dynamic range, I consider this to be an advanced topic that may overwhelm beginners who are here looking for some advice.  I have to be careful about how I explain it, I don't want to cause a misunderstanding and make people think their cameras are inadequate because they don't have the super wide dynamic range of very expensive cameras.  In fact, I often don't think about dynamic range anymore as I am very much used to compensating for it using various other techniques or with accessories like gradient ND filters.
 

Also, what is the difference between a flat image and an image with low dynamic range? Does flat mean lacking color saturation, and low dynamic range mean a blowing out of the highlights, and the darks and shadows being underexposed, and just black?

 

Ok so basically a PL mount is more durable when it comes to supporting heavy lenses.  It is tough, and it is designed to be mounted on 4 different orientations.  Unlike normal lens mounts where you have to line up 2 dots to be able to attach the lens, the PL mount can be rotated so that (the dot for alignment if there is any) can be rotated 90, 180 or 270 degrees and still be able to mount.  This makes it easier to have an assistant who may be doing the focus pulling to be standing on either side of the camera.

 

 

As for your question about flat image and low dynamic range, a flat image means you are recording an image or video with the lowest image settings in your camera.  Lowest contrast, lowest sharpness, lowest color tones, you want to reduce any processing that the camera does internally before saving to the memory card.

 

Low dynamic range means that the captured image or video is not fully recording the full dynamic range between blacks and highlights in the actual scene.  So yes, if you try to set the exposure for the shadows, dark areas, the highlights will be way overblown without any detail, and if you try to set the exposure for the bright highlights, the darks and shadows will be completely black.

 

Of course if you have a good sensor with a decent dynamic range capability you don't have to worry as much, or compensate for the sensor's low dynamic range capability by illuminating the shadows with artificial lights or using ND gradient filters to bring down the brightness of the highlights.


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Posted · Original PosterOP

Hmm this topic slipped my radar earlier on.

Will try to come up with some usefull information or points to decide on when it comes DSLR vs camcorder in a kinda money/performance way.

 

 

Not had time to read/analyse it yet :P I will add/help when i get a chance

 

All help will be appreciated, and I don't want this discussion to be all about my opinions or point of view.  I just want beginners to understand what they are getting into, because I see people giving advice or telling someone to get camera xx model without explaining why.

 

I've met a lot of beginners who were given some advice or just told to get some model device, beginners who are enthusiastic about learning and improving but who end up being discouraged because the advice given or the recommended product they purchased ended up making them more confused.


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All help will be appreciated, and I don't want this discussion to be all about my opinions or point of view.  I just want beginners to understand what they are getting into, because I see people giving advice or telling someone to get camera xx model without explaining why.

 

I've met a lot of beginners who were given some advice or just told to get some model device, beginners who are enthusiastic about learning and improving but who end up being discouraged because the advice given or the recommended product they purchased ended up making them more confused.

 

I can find myself a bit into that, it is hard to give a recommandation without depending to much on your personal opinion and experience's, which might be diffrent for an other person.

 

my personal example:

my uncle gave me his old and trusted Canon 350D because I wanted to start doing photography, after +/- 1y the coating on the grip started to wear out(so holding the metal when shooting) and it felt out dated on multiple areas, so I decided to buy a new DSLR and couldn't chose between a 600D and the 1200D which where the same on paper, the store guy recommanded the 1200D since it was just released and more "user friendly" so going by that advice I bought the 1200D and regretted that(still doing that partly), since it was less advanced and more focused on point-and-shoot style/beginners, which was kinda useless for me since I already learned to work a certain way, which I don't have to do now since it's automated.

 

So yeah, giving advice is something I don't do alot, since I don't have enough experience around the field with other camera's and/or their ways of working.


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No one really interested in this thread?

I am so glad someone made this thread.  Now we can simply link this, without going through (simply) why each system is betterfor each purpose. 

 

Maybe adding something about which resolution is better for different jobs, because people are asking "should I buy a 4k camera", and again, having the information in one place is ideal.


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Posted · Original PosterOP

I am so glad someone made this thread.  Now we can simply link this, without going through (simply) why each system is betterfor each purpose. 

 

Maybe adding something about which resolution is better for different jobs, because people are asking "should I buy a 4k camera", and again, having the information in one place is ideal.

 

Good idea, I will think about this.  Perhaps you or others have some thoughts about this too?

 

One important part to resolution is what is the purpose of the video being recorded, private or commercial use.  If you are working for a news agency they have their requirements. Shooting video for professional advertisement agencies, they may have their own requirements.  Working as a professional videographer, you can shoot in any resolution you want as long as your client is willing to pay the fees you charge for each resolution.  Making an indie film, again up to your preferences, and you may even release different resolution versions of your film.

 

In the end, answering a question like "Should I buy a 4K camera?" is not a simple yes or no.  Personally I would say, even if you plan to produce final videos at 1080p max, if you can afford a 4K camera then go ahead.  Obviously I mean a good quality 4K camera.  Because you can record in 4K and down sample to 1080p in post and depending on your workflow, your 1080 down sampled footage will look better than native 1080p recording.

 

I also feel that there is no right answer for "What resolution for what job?".  The best answer I can give is, work with the resolution that you can afford to work with.

 

Of course, with resolution comes the cost hardware for editing, storage space, and perhaps a change in your workflow.

 

Would be nice to have comments and opinions from others too, that way I'm not the only one talking.  Would love to hear people's thoughts on why a DSLR or video camera is a more preferable route to start out with, whether investing in a 4K capable camera is worth the cost, etc.


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In the end, answering a question like "Should I buy a 4K camera?" is not a simple yes or no. .

 

Would be nice to have comments and opinions from others too, that way I'm not the only one talking.  Would love to hear people's thoughts on why a DSLR or video camera is a more preferable route to start out with, whether investing in a 4K capable camera is worth the cost, etc.

 

Agreed there are too many pros and cons to 1080p vs 4k,  - 4k as an acquisition tool, is fantastic, being able to crop in post and down-sampling for a really sharp 1080p image  are just a few of the benefits

 

But it brings with it increased cost of media, storage, editing and rendering time, most pros still deliver video in 1080p, dont forget while you may be able to handle a 4k workload your client might not be able too

as far as amateur stuff goes for YouTube, 4k is nice, but if you upload your 1080p video in 4k it will look really nice (assuming a nice 1080p image) and wont really benefit from the increased strain of working in 4k - due to streaming compression etc

 

 

DSLR vs Video camera

 

Honestly it depends on the user, what they want in  a camera, how they shoot and various other factors, the best part about a DSLR with video is you also have a fantastic stills camera, that can take stunning video if shot correctly, they can get the shallow depth of field look, can change lenses and upgrade with your skills, and you can get all sorts of interesting aesthetics with different glass, downsides? its clunky to use, and requires care and planning, AF on MOST (not all) DSLRs is lacking, so you will be doing EVERYTHING manual

 

A video camera (im talking like a Camcorder) is a great way to start of doing video, while they often lack the image quality, and have poor to no stills options, of a DSLR, they make up for it in ease of use, amazing auto focus, easy controls, more stable/comfortable grip, - you will not get as nice of an aesthetic as properly done DSLR footage, BUT - its 100x easier to do, so a beginner using a camcorder will take better video than a beginner using a DSLR

 

Cinema Camera - well thats a whole different league and probably a little above the purposes of this thread, obviously these cameras are ideal for shooting cinematic video, however they bring a steel learning curve and a bit like a DSLR everything will be done manually, however they do not suffer rolling shutter thanks to global shutters, they often shoot very advanced video codecs, have built in ND, better controls, better lens mounts, more stable bodies etc et etc

 

 

Mirrorless

 

Mirrorless cameras have taken the DSLR world by storm, and there is one area they benefit over a traditional DSLR, especially for a newbie 

1- decent autofocus even during video

2- ability to use legacy glass - some of them even still supported AF and more modern things- - can save you a lot of money compared to buying brand new lenses


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Posted · Original PosterOP

Mirrorless

 

Mirrorless cameras have taken the DSLR world by storm, and there is one area they benefit over a traditional DSLR, especially for a newbie 

1- decent autofocus even during video

2- ability to use legacy glass - some of them even still supported AF and more modern things- - can save you a lot of money compared to buying brand new lenses

 

Agreed with everything you said, but even if Mirrorless cameras have some advantages over DSLRs they still possess a lot of the same disadvantages too.  It requires care and planning, the AF may not work the way you want and it might even be easier to use manual focus to get the shot you want*. 

 

And keep in mind, they will need rigging up. But if you have the knowledge, experience, and the budget to properly gear up a DSLR/Mirrorless camera for video it will be a great experience.

 

*OK, the main downside of auto focus (in all types of cameras) is the "auto" part.  The camera is making the decision for you on what it wants to keep in focus.  If you want your filmed scene to have focus on different parts of the scene differently, or change focus in a different order, it is always better to use manual focus (even if you are using a $20,000.00 cinema camera), or a manual follow focus accessory or an electronic focus pulling system.

 


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 if Mirrorless cameras have some advantages over DSLRs they still possess a lot of the same disadvantages too.  It requires care and planning, the AF may not work the way you want and it might even be easier to use manual focus to get the shot you want*

 

Agreed here too, I never rely on AF but it can be useful sometimes in weird scenarios where pulling focus is just impossible, and its certainly getting better like the 399 point AF on the new A7rII

 

Pulling focus is a skill all people wanting to make video need to understand and is probably the hardest thing, especially if you are doing on moving subjects or having to focus mid shot


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DSLRs are using line skipping for rescaling the image thus a bigger sensor doesn't improve low light capabilities that much.

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Posted · Original PosterOP

DSLRs are using line skipping for rescaling the image thus a bigger sensor doesn't improve low light capabilities that much.

 

For some sensors, yes.  But remember that lenses for DSLRs, especially the higher end lenses, tend to be larger and capture more light than smaller lenses.

 

f/1.4 on a small point and shoot does not offer the same performance as f/1.4 on a full frame camera.

 

The thing to worry about with larger size, larger pixel count sensors are anti-aliasing and soft image quality.  But again, these are improving.


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@ALwin, this has been an awesome read.

Are you going to add a small section for file formats and benefits of that and bitrate? I think this should also be considered when comparing a dedicated video cam vs a DSLR.

I remember when I was starting to shoot video, this was one thing I over looked that was also at a time before NLEs edited h264 natively.


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But remember that lenses for DSLRs, especially the higher end lenses, tend to be larger and capture more light than smaller lenses.

 

f/1.4 on a small point and shoot does not offer the same performance as f/1.4 on a full frame camera.

There's no difference.

 

The thing to worry about with larger size, larger pixel count sensors are anti-aliasing and soft image quality.  But again, these are improving.

Due to lineskipping it's causing the exact opposite or it's having no effect depending of the camera's anti-aliasing filter.
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Posted · Original PosterOP

There's no difference.

 

Due to lineskipping it's causing the exact opposite or it's having no effect depending of the camera's anti-aliasing filter.

 

A f/1.4 lens for a tiny sensor doesn't perform as well as a f/1.4 lens for a larger sensor.  Look at their physical dimensions.  Aperture values are just ratio between focal length and aperture diameter, they do not indicate the amount of light falling on the sensor.

 

A Canon G16 can shoot at f/1.8, but my Nikon D4 + 24mm prime lens at f/1.8 defeats the G16 by a very wide margin when shooting the same low light scene.  And I don't need to boost the ISO of the D4 as much as I need to in the G16 to get a stable image.

 

 

 

I have a Nikon D4 that proves otherwise.  Very poor video quality at 1080p. Due to how Nikon implements line skipping and internal image processing for video.


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Posted · Original PosterOP

@ALwin, this has been an awesome read.

Are you going to add a small section for file formats and benefits of that and bitrate? I think this should also be considered when comparing a dedicated video cam vs a DSLR.

I remember when I was starting to shoot video, this was one thing I over looked that was also at a time before NLEs edited h264 natively.

 

I think I mentioned a tiny bit about formats, but that mentioned only H.264 and AVCHD.  But I assume you want to know in more detail about RAW, Lossless, Lossy, compression formats, etc. and how bitrates relate to video quality?


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