Camcorder or DSLR for video

03 Dec, 2010

11 Comments

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Recently I have received a lot of questions about making video’s with a DSLR. Even though I only recently bought the Canon 550D (Also known as Rebel T2i in America and Canon Kiss X4 in Japan), I’d like to share my experiences.

Using a camcorder for video

But before talking about the DSLR HD video making, I’d like to look back a bit. Before I bought the 550D I used my trusty Canon HF100 camcorder to make HD video’s.

I actually bought it for making video’s on our trip to Japan in 2008. This camera is really nice and easy to operate, the quality is very nice too. These camcorders fit really well in the hand and is easy to hold. With the strap around your hand this thing is planted. The LCD screen needs to be flipped open to see what kind of video you are making, this at the same time functions as an extra grip to keep the camera quite steady. Which makes it ideal to shoot video’s from the hand.

Video I shot with the Canon HF100:

A camcorder can be pretty much operated with just one hand and focuses automatically while making movies, making it really easy to make video’s.

At one point I wanted more out of my camera so I bought this Raynox HD super wide angle conversion lens 0.5X. This allowed me to make better video’s in confined spaces, but is no miracle worker by any means.

An exampe of where I used the converter:

I was moderately happy with the lens, what I really wanted was a 35mm adapter to get that really nice shallow depth of field that you see in movies. There are converters available but these can be quite expensive. Moving on to the DSLR.

Getting a DSLR for video

So this is where I decided to get a DSLR for making video’s, because you can swap the lenses easily. My opinion on the best dslr for video is either the Canon 550D (Rebel T2i) or the Canon 7D. There are a lot of reviews and comparisons out there between these two. The 550D and the 7D are almost equal when it comes to video, when you just start out with DSLR video and have no assortment of lenses, go for the 550D and spend the money on lenses.

An example of a video I made with the canon 550D:

Which lenses are good for video

When buying a DSLR primarily for video make sure you get a fast lens. The first time I read this I thought “how the hell am I supposed to know which lens is fast”, well apparently the lower the value of the F-stop the faster the lens. To give an example; Canon EF50mm 1:1.8 II, the value “1:1.8” is the F-stop also referred to as just “1.8”, the lower the value the faster the lens. At the same time the lower the value the shallower the focus, which creates a nice blurry background and another added effect, it captures way more light. And for making video and of course pictures we need light.

When buying a lens for video you need a lens with a maximum F-stop of F2.8, anything higher than that is not beneficial for the quality of the video. However lenses with a very low F-stop tend to get more expensive. There are a couple of exceptions though; Canon EF50mm F1.8 Mark II is by far the best performing lens compared to the price. Another good lens which is relatively cheap but already 3x more expensive is the Canon EF35mm F2, when doing more video in confined spaces this is a more practical lens because it’s not that much zoomed in.

Note: Both lenses are actually created for full frame camera’s like the Canon 5D Mark II, when using these lenses on a non-full frame camera (Rebel T2i/550D/Canon 7D) the distance (how much the lens is zoomed in) is different. the EF50mm is effectively around 85mm and the 35mm will effectively be about 50mm.

DSLR vs Camcorder

When comparing a DSLR and a Camcorder side-to-side for making video’s there are some things that stand out. A Camcorder is really easy to use and really flexible in a lot of situations, the quality is good. But you will not get film like effects or the same quality as with a DSLR. Although you can add things to your camcorder get closed to certain effects, it influences the quality.

On the other side you have the DSLR, with which you can get amazing results. The results are actually really close to professional camera’s. But the main downside of the DSLR is that it does not auto-focus when shooting the video. You will have to focus by hand and that takes a lot of practice to get perfect. Also focusing using the LCD screen only works well when really zoomed in, which means you really have to setup the focus before shooting the video. There are of course accessories to improve all of this.

The perfect solution might be something in between the DSLR and the camcorder. But when you get used to the DSLR you get really good results.

Next up I will write something more in depth about the actually shooting of video’s with a DSLR. If you have anything specific you want to know let me know in the comments.

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11 Comments to “Camcorder or DSLR for video”

  1. 3 December, 2010

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-ARFgNCeAo

    This should be interesting for you.

  2. 4 December, 2010

    hey Remi, I think it is just Canon’s DSLR’s that don’t auto focus when taking movies. The Nikon D3100 does. Im planning on that to be my next camera actually. I wanted a 550d but then I held both of them, spec wise they are kinda similar but ergonomics wise im going with the 3100.

    Great videos BTW

  3. 4 December, 2010

    @Jeffrey; Thanks, that is useful information.

    @Piner, thanks for pointing this out, I did not know about this.

    I have tried to find some information and it seems that it is a decent camera for video, but there is a big difference between the 550d. The LCD screen on the back has way lower resolution, you can hear the camera autofocusing. And not all nikon lenses work on this camera. But it’s a cheap camera.

    Here is a good review about the camera:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nmK3qrY2NE

  4. 13 December, 2010

    Your videos are wicked dude! I feel like i am there. Looking forward to your next write up. Do you use an external mic to get engine sounds?

  5. 13 December, 2010

    @Piner: I was also looking for the D3100 of Nikon but there are some downsides.

    Check the reviews of it, they prefer the D5000 of Nikon but both camera’s are 720P instead of 1080P like the Canons have.

    And the Canon EOS 550d got a better processor so the video’s are less laggy.

    The only thing what keeps me back is that I haven’t got really steady hands and the red rock micro shoulder rig is quite expencive. Still looking for a more cheaper sollution. Got any tips Remi?

    And I have a Nikon D60 for photo’s so if I take the Canon, I have to buy new lenses :( :P
    But I think it’s worth it, I want to start my own production company so I see it like an Investment. :)

  6. 13 December, 2010

    Making hand-held shots more steady you mostly do by getting lenses with Image Stabilization and using software to remove the shaking. In Final Cut Pro 7 you have an effect called smoothcam to make the video more smooth.

  7. 13 December, 2010

    Thanks for the advice Remi, I still use iMovie to edit but I already got Final Cut Pro so I’ll soon switch over to that.

    Some people said iMovie makes the shaking even worse and to be honest, some of my vids are quite shakey.

    I’m now checking out the EOS550D, really like it sofar! :D

  8. 13 December, 2010

    @ApexR no external mic yet. Really have to save up for some better equipment :)

    @Jordy, I have no regret getting this camera what so ever ;)

  9. Marcelobtp
    14 December, 2010

    Very well done! GREAT videos, hungry for more!
    Thank you!

  10. Yoda
    15 December, 2010

    Greetings Remi,

    I’ve enjoyed all of your videos! Looking forward to the new ones.

    I myself am in a proces of buying a new camera. The choice came down to 550D & 60D.

    We can say I’m an amateur & don’t wont to outgrow my new camera to quickly.

    What are your opinions about the above mentioned two ? Cons/pros ?

    Thank you very much!

    Best regards from Croatia!

  11. 22 December, 2010

    Apologies for my late reply.

    To be really honest I think the real benefit of the 60D is the screen that can flip out. This might sometimes be really useful. However on technical specs the 60D is not that impressive, to me it seems that the flip screen is pretty much the only benefit. But make sure you read a lot of reviews, because I have never used a 60D it’s hard to really give an in depth advise.

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