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I am a film student and I have a cannon XL1 that has served me well but I would like to get into the HD arena, and I was wondering what would be better a DSLR or a prosumer camcorder. I am looking to spend 1200 and I have seen a few out there and was wondering which would be the better way to go. Plus I am running final cut X and don't want to deal with the hassle of changing up software.

asked Dec 08 '12 at 12:15

Mrfull08's gravatar image


For your budget, I recommend getting a canon T3i then using the rest of the money to get a good lens. http://www.amazon.com/Canon-T3i-Digital-Imaging-18-55mm/dp/B004J3V90Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1354992482&sr=8-1&keywords=canon+t3i


Camcorders in this price range will not give you to good control over depth of field and bokeh that you will get from a DSLR.

It also has support for an external mic and is supported by the magic lantern firmware which allows it to function more closely to a more professional video recording camera.

many sale prices basically knock off the the price of the kit lens.

(wanted to include a tip for those who are new to DSLR's, if you can get the kit lens for cheap, then go for it, while many don't recommend using them, they are great for when you are ready to learn better composition while out in the field. It will also get you experience with using the camera in various environments and dealing with the non perfectly clean air which will eventually dirty the lens thus requiring you to clean it. Better to learn from composing and cleaning a cheap lens than to jump head first into doing this with a expensive lens.

answered Dec 08 '12 at 13:30

Razor512's gravatar image


edited Dec 08 '12 at 15:05

As Razor512 said, there aren't really any dedicated camcorders worth going for in that price range, so I'd suggest getting a DSLR or mirrorless stills camera for way less, then buy a couple good lenses.

I love my Sony NEX-5N. The video quality stands up to the Canon lineup, the codec is better so the files are half the size (while keeping the same detail), and you can mount just about any lens you want to it because of the versatility of the E-Mount. Really a great camera, and you can get it for $500 with the kit lens. The newer NEX-5R is also a very intriguing option, just a little more expensive. I love the fact that the screen flips up and you can download an app for time lapse. But I imagine the video quality is similar.

The Panasonic GH2 is also a great option, but only if you want to hack it. If you do, it can produce some stunning results, with amazing detail. The GH3 was just recently announced, but it's slightly out of your price range, even without any lenses.

You might want to check out Philip Bloom's reviews. He always does a fantastic job. His Christmas Shootout last year helped me out in making my decision to go with the 5N.

At the end of the day, it's all about what's best for YOUR personal, very specific needs. So none of us can definitively say which camera you should get.

answered Dec 09 '12 at 01:43

sfrancis928's gravatar image


any decent camera with changeable lenses and a minimum of a APC-C sensor (the smaller sensors make it extremely hard to get the shallow depth of field needed to get that cinematic look).

And after investing in good lenses which are most important when it comes to the feel of the video, you can then upgrade to a full frame camera which will allow even more control over the focus of the scene

When you goo full frame, the values on the lenses behave in a 1:1 manner. So you can literally draw a line on the side of the camera at the depth of the sensor, then when setting up your scene, you can select a lens based on the desired aperture, then use the focus values on the lens (in feet) and simply make all of the lines for your follow focus, and know how the scene will look and that everything will be in focus and that the main focus of each frame will be spot on before you even start recording.

Other than that, you want to make sure that the camera has an audio input as the built in mics will suck and you will hear the noise of the image stabilization, focus gears (even if you focus manually), The built in mics also have no bass and depending on the scene, will not pickup the actor at all, making it hard to even use it as a audio sync source.

(Dec 09 '12 at 13:05) Razor512 Razor512's gravatar image

Well, the camera doesn't necessarily need an audio input. The 5N doesn't have one. I record audio separately then sync automatically in FCPX, which has not failed me yet. Again, it just depends on your specific needs.

An important thing to think about is not just the camera, but the lens mount you're investing in. If you get a Nikon DSLR, then later decide to upgrade to a full-on camcorder (Nikon doesn't currently make one), you'll be stuck with your Nikon lenses.

(Dec 09 '12 at 13:27) sfrancis928 sfrancis928's gravatar image

for me, I like having both clearly defined so that audio can be auto synced.

On cameras where there is no mic input, I often find my self using one of those pet training clickers so I can match the peaks to sync the audio (perfectly fine on a set, but for those of us who do more of a run and gun style of shooting (eg interviews, or activism, or journalism)

With all that in mind, I would still go with any camera that offered the best quality for the money, as at the end of the day, you can work around crappy audio, but you cant work around crappy video quality without getting a better camera which is not much of a workaround.

(Dec 09 '12 at 13:59) Razor512 Razor512's gravatar image

Yeah, if I did a lot of run and gun interviews and stuff like that without time for setup, having to sync audio would be more of a hassle. I mean it's not the end of the world, but it could be very inconvenient.

(Dec 09 '12 at 14:23) sfrancis928 sfrancis928's gravatar image
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Asked: Dec 08 '12 at 12:15

Seen: 637 times

Last updated: Dec 09 '12 at 14:23