All television starts with a camera. In 2012, it’s impossible to buy a new camera that doesn’t produce good images, from tiny 1/4″ sensors up to 35mm size and beyond. So what to choose?
For me, it has to have a large sensor. Large sensor video cameras just produce nicer images (particularly if you know how to focus!).
DSLRs are definitely inexpensive compared with cameras of years gone by, but they become unwieldy if you want to make them function more like a video camera. An F3 would be very nice but out of my budget. Skipper Jim, the founder of the Solar Odyssey adventure, had selected a Sony NEX FS100 and I’ve had no reason to reconsider that decision. It shares the same sensor as the F3 but has a street price under $6,000 with kit lens.
Once I read Adam Wilt’s detailed review I decided that there was zero reason to rethink the decision. Choice of mounts will be that of the primary camera person on board, after all she’ll be the one using it. (And yes, we’ll need neutral density filters and a wide adapter at a minimum.)
So, that’s a nice primary camera, but one thing I’ve learnt is how much easier editing is when you have two angles to choose! Particularly with interviews. But budget precludes additional FS100’s making the compromise the NEX 7, just released at the start of April. A slightly smaller APS-C sensor (but still bigger than a RED 1 according to the second comparison chart at CreativeCow.net) it’s in the same family and I feel confident that they’ll cut together. (Similarly, if I’d chosen the more expensive Canon C300, the DSLRs would have been Canon for the same reason.) At a kit price of $1350 with lens, I can add 3 additional NEX 7’s – for helicopter, b and c cameras. I got one in advance and shot both still and video at NAB 2012 and have been pleased with the results.
I fully recognize the compromise here: being 24Mbit AVCHD at 4:2:0 for both FS 100 and NEX 7 we’re not going to have a lot of headroom for color correction. On the other hand, I was unable to ‘break’ the compression on the camera despite testing it against rapidly flashing lights around various Las Vegas casinos. These were situations that I feel confident would have shown artifacting in HDV.
The relative affordability, and 1080P60 capability of the NEX 7 means I can mount one permanently on the Hoverfly helicopter throughout the journey, keeping setup times to a minimum.
Importantly, testing the NEX 7 I can be shooting video within 3 seconds of picking up the camera and turning it on. In reality TV that’s a huge plus. (By comparison the FS100 takes 12 seconds.) Kept available and ready to go any moment, these will likely get a lot of use.
The NEX 7’s will also be used for still photography – a long time hobby of mine and part of a deal we’re doing with Save the Manatees Club – so the 24 Mpixel sensor doesn’t hurt there either.
That’s the primary shooting kit – NEX FS100, three NEX 7 (one in helicopter). Then there will be at least two iPhones on board (my iPhone 4, Greg’s iPhone 4S) that shoot HD video (the 4S doing a much better job). Plus, another five 1080P cameras in the iPads on board (for our metadata entry app in development and to keep social media and casual browsing off the higher power-needy MacBook Pros). And likely two Go Pro Hero 2s for close and underwater work.
That’s six people on board and 12 accessible HD camcorders, plus the one in the helicopter. So, I think we should be able to “get the shot” regardless of what happens. By preference FS100 and NEX 7 as primary cameras, but if it’s a case of “getting the shot” I’ll take whatever camera is handiest.