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Author Topic: What are the limits of DSLR combocam systems?  (Read 6179 times)
lowep
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« on: April 28, 2010, 02:17:53 PM »
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Looks like my old video camera has gone haywire so am considering alternatives. So far I have found plenty of promotional hype about DSLR combocams on the internet but had more difficulty finding answers to questions I have on my mind about the limits of the current systems. So to those of you with experience using a combocam system I would like to ask:

How many minutes of full HD video can be stored on one 16GB SD Card?

How many minutes of full HD video can be recorded with 1 OEM battery?

How difficult is it to hand hold the camera while filming without camera shake?

How much of a problem is not having autofocus when trying to film action for example at a concert or a demonstration?

How long does the system take to get going again after the buffer reaches the 12 minute limit?

Do these challenges outweigh the advantage of having two systems in one box instead of carrying around a separate full HD video camera and DSLR? Of course this depends on what you want to use it for. I am considering if it is a viable system for making a 30 minute documentary film.
« Last Edit: April 28, 2010, 02:22:36 PM by lowep » Logged
Morgan_Moore
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« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2010, 04:41:22 PM »
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Quote from: lowep
Looks like my old video camera has gone haywire so am considering alternatives. So far I have found plenty of promotional hype about DSLR combocams on the internet but had more difficulty finding answers to questions I have on my mind about the limits of the current systems. So to those of you with experience using a combocam system I would like to ask:

How many minutes of full HD video can be stored on one 16GB SD Card?

How many minutes of full HD video can be recorded with 1 OEM battery?

How difficult is it to hand hold the camera while filming without camera shake?

How much of a problem is not having autofocus when trying to film action for example at a concert or a demonstration?

How long does the system take to get going again after the buffer reaches the 12 minute limit?

Do these challenges outweigh the advantage of having two systems in one box instead of carrying around a separate full HD video camera and DSLR? Of course this depends on what you want to use it for. I am considering if it is a viable system for making a 30 minute documentary film.

Lots - one hour ?

45 mins

Impossible at longer than 14mm

10 seconds max

Absolutely

=====
The limitations are..
Hard to focus
Moire in wide shots shirts etc
No built in ND
No decent onboard sound
No '28-400' zoom
No smooth zooming in shot
Stabilisation lenses not really designed for video
Totally unforgiving (jello)
Hard to monitor

The comination of extra sound devices, follow focus, extra lenses, wires, filters leads is a lot more of a mess than a vidcam

but the stuff looks awesome


S
« Last Edit: April 28, 2010, 04:45:26 PM by Morgan_Moore » Logged

Sam Morgan Moore Cornwall
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Chris Sanderson
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« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2010, 05:30:58 PM »
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But one can learn to work around the problems to a certain extent without too much compromise - or perhaps more accurately with reasonable compromise given the IQ.

When I cannot use a tripod because I am moving too quickly,  I use a monopod with a pistol grip. This doesn't eliminate camera movement but with the vertical axis covered and with a claw foot to eliminate pan I am reasonably confident on getting the shot up to about 90mm. And when wanted, pans can look pretty good - not as good as a proper head by any stretch - but acceptable up to about a 45˚ arc.

The focus is a challenge but with the digital zoom feature on the rear screen (Canon 7D), I get at least 90%+ accuracy - in fact better than dreaded autofocus on a VideoCam.

I use a separate audio recording device (Zoom H4n) to get around the intractable problems of camera mounted mics on a DSLR.

Honestly, I usually travel with a videocam as well, but as Morgan says, the look of the DSLR's HD is superb.
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Christopher Sanderson
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lowep
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« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2010, 03:14:27 AM »
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Wow! When I read this I get a glimpse of how the farmer's who worked the same patch of land for generations must have felt when they got letters from the pioneers who crossed North America in covered wagons.

Looks like working with a combocam to shoot full HD video and DSLR stills is not only viable for traditional work but also opens up a creative space for hybrid projects -- if you are ready to work within the limits of the beast. Do I want to do that? Probably not yet but will continue to follow with great interest the experiences and issues that come up on this forum.
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Morgan_Moore
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« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2010, 03:43:01 AM »
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Quote from: lowep
Wow! When I read this I get a glimpse of how the farmer's who worked the same patch of land for generations must have felt when they got letters from the pioneers who crossed North America in covered wagons.

Looks like working with a combocam to shoot full HD video and DSLR stills is not only viable for traditional work but also opens up a creative space for hybrid projects -- if you are ready to work within the limits of the beast. Do I want to do that? Probably not yet but will continue to follow with great interest the experiences and issues that come up on this forum.

I think you should use a DSLR

Just understand you are going to have to educate yourself a little before going onto the field and spend some wedge on more than the camera

My approach to education has been brutal self criticism (particularly of stability and focus)

The DSLR is a fine instrument - a vidcam is a blunt hammer

S


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Sam Morgan Moore Cornwall
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« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2010, 10:59:50 AM »
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Quote from: John-S
Everything has already been figured out.

Im not so sure that its all been worked out - for example I have never seen a thread bemoaning the Flimsy HDMI cable - the sort of thing that emabrrases you in front of clients -no vision mid take

It depends on your desired methodolgy of work

shaky indy cam and pop videos - yes

top level 5 crew production - yes

delivering a professional standard on a reasonable budget needs IMO going a little deeper in than those fora probably a personal journey of prcatice and self critique

S
« Last Edit: April 30, 2010, 11:07:09 AM by Morgan_Moore » Logged

Sam Morgan Moore Cornwall
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lowep
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« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2010, 11:27:52 AM »
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How about putting the shoe on the other foot?

Why not a camcorder that can also do stills rather than a DSLR that can do video?

For example the 12MP Panasonic TM300

Or just a compact HD camcorder and a good DSLR instead of a DSLR combocam and a truckload of accessories?

Heresy, lunacy or both?
« Last Edit: May 01, 2010, 11:28:55 AM by lowep » Logged
Morgan_Moore
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« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2010, 02:15:43 AM »
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Quote from: John-S
No issue with HDMI cables.

I have no issue with my HDMI - ive sorted it - my point is that a lot of users on other fora are not quite as experienced as they imply and their info should be handled with care

I was countering the quote

"Its all been worked out"

If you use DSLR a lot this issue, for example, comes to the fore very quickly and needs solving, one can extrapolate the lack of attention to detail on other fora to concluding that the information may not be as good as it looks

For example the rig test on Cinema5d refused to score a couple of rigs - rigs that members of the board are fans of - the bloke testing was a BBC stinger - not an indy kid - who to trust

my point is that information while proliferent in quantity may be low in quality

It has not all been worked out !

S
« Last Edit: May 02, 2010, 02:19:50 AM by Morgan_Moore » Logged

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lowep
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« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2010, 10:01:52 AM »
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Apart from the user-friendliness of the DSLR rig in terms of the features discussed above another question is about quality standards and minimum quality raw footage that is possible if carefully shot and edited to be slipped under the radar into the television broadcast environment? Is full HD more than enough or is the issue not that simple?

I am quite confused about how all the different variables such as sensor size, CCD array, frame rate, file type etc add up in this respect.

Obviously the 640x480 pixels pumped out by an old semipro rig like the PAL/NTSC Sony VX1000 miniDV camera is much less than full HD capacity of a current model Canon or Nikon DSLR combocam but maybe the 3CCD design of the older generation of semipro cameras compensates for that not to mention other features such as optics, etc?

My understanding is that PAL and NTSC standards are defined according to frame rate rather than pixel count, and would like to know how footage shot with DSLR combocams fits into this. How easy or difficult is it to output HD footage shot for with a DSLR combocam for television broadcasting. Does it have to be regeared in a software program like Adobe Premier before it can be output as a PAL program and if so what effect does this massaging have on the quality of the footage?

As Shakespeare may have said if he was here today: "TV or not TV? That is the question."

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lowep
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« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2010, 10:30:06 AM »
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Just found this partial reply to my own question on a different website:

"PAL and NTSC does apply for HD camcorders, although not in the same way as it would for an analog device. PAL records using a slower frame rate (50i instead of 60i) and PAL footage will likely have problems being outputted to an NTSC television (and vice versa). If you're planning to use the footage on a computer, however, the PAL/NTSC issues are irrelevant (most editing software supports PAL as well)."

Problem is the more I find out the more confused I get  

But figure that it is better to try and unravel this before rather than after investing in a new system

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Chris Sanderson
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« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2010, 10:43:50 AM »
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Quote from: lowep
Apart from the user-friendliness of the DSLR rig in terms of the features discussed above another question is about quality standards and minimum quality raw footage that is possible if carefully shot and edited to be slipped under the radar into the television broadcast environment? Is full HD more than enough or is the issue not that simple?
Carefully shot & processed HD is more than adequate for most broadcasters...but...
Different broadcasters have different standards, therefore you need to check with them to know. Some have arbitrary rules that disallow content shot on certain cameras. Always be aware of broadcaster's limits on analog Black & White levels. See many older articles on this such as this discussion with Graeme Nattress on Larry Jordan's site

Quote from: lowep
I am quite confused about how all the different variables such as sensor size, CCD array, frame rate, file type etc add up in this respect.
Obviously the 640x480 pixels pumped out by an old semipro rig like the PAL/NTSC Sony VX1000 miniDV camera is much less than full HD capacity of a current model Canon or Nikon DSLR combocam but maybe the 3CCD design of the older generation of semipro cameras compensates for that not to mention other features such as optics, etc?
Perhaps to accede to the arbirtrary 'rules' of some broadcasters who are still back in SD-land, that old camera might satisfy them. But with careful conversion the DSLR HD will easily surpass the quality of an older camera IF without serious artifacts or jellocam effect. That's quite a big IF... Just to really scare you ;-) take a look at this article!

Quote from: lowep
My understanding is that PAL and NTSC standards are defined according to frame rate rather than pixel count, and would like to know how footage shot with DSLR combocams fits into this. How easy or difficult is it to output HD footage shot for with a DSLR combocam for television broadcasting. Does it have to be regeared in a software program like Adobe Premier before it can be output as a PAL program and if so what effect does this massaging have on the quality of the footage?

As Shakespeare may have said if he was here today: "TV or not TV? That is the question."
That massaging requires in-depth knowledge and fairly sophisticated tools: Final Cut Studio/Premiere etc. Conversion from HD to SD can look great. Standards Conversion PAL/NTSC is complex but effectively accomplished by Graeme Nattress' Standard Converter
« Last Edit: May 02, 2010, 10:59:10 AM by Chris Sanderson » Logged

Christopher Sanderson
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« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2010, 11:12:58 AM »
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Quote from: Chris Sanderson
Carefully shot & processed HD is more than adequate for most broadcasters...but...
Different broadcasters have different standards, therefore you need to check with them to know. Some have arbitrary rules that disallow content shot on certain cameras. Always be aware of broadcaster's limits on analog Black & White levels. See many older articles on this such as this discussion with Graeme Nattress on Larry Jordan's site

While I'm sure they have standards on input quality, sadly many of those standards go out the window when they output. HD content is often compressed too much to cram more channels in the limited bandwidth a provider has which degrades the quality - some even claim it's almost at SD standards on some US "HD" stations.
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bcooter
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« Reply #12 on: May 04, 2010, 10:52:30 AM »
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From a still photographer perspective, moving to motion, there are some things you see in motion, that will never bother you in stills (like hand held), some things you see in stills that just don't resonate that much in motion, (like slight change of focus as a subject moves), but the most glaring issue of the dslrs used for motion is pattern moire.

This is a small crop from a project last week, shot in vertical motion.  

[attachment=21837:5d2moire.jpg]


In a still in can be corrected, (not easily, but not break the bank hard), but with motion it's glaring because you can see the pattern moire move.  A dslr with motion (5d2) reminds me of shooting a 6mpx still camera.  You have to check for this type of artifact or moire all the time and it's impossible to see it on the back of the camera, even difficult on a 7" hd monitor with hdmi connection.

Luckily we caught it early, changed camera position and moved on, but had we not been aware of it this would have been a deal breaker.

It is also very important that you treat motion with the same respect, (sometimes even more) with your workflow.  All too often still photographers are placed in a position to shoot motion as a secondary part of the project, which translates to less time for workflow, checks, calibration, even proper production values and it's kind of a fright because we can be exposed to this type of issue which can be a costly fix in post.

In certain ways, I think the 5d2 is an amazing camera because it works so well in low light, it's form factor is small enough, even with all the gizmos attached to move quickly, but other things like these artifacts, the in ability to really mark focus points and some of the other workarounds make the RED look more like a solution than a web movie overkill.

[attachment=21838:5d2mouinted.jpg]

Though once you get a 5d2 with everything it takes to work professionally, it becomes a rather large camera and in this case the tripod you see here is not large enough, (we only use this manfroto to shoot low angles where we can spread the legs and even then you have to be extremely careful to keep it smooth and steady.




BC

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Graeme Nattress
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« Reply #13 on: May 04, 2010, 11:42:47 AM »
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The issue of broadcast standards is a tricky one. Not only are there technical rules on levels and frame rates and how conversions are performed, but there are also rules on how much of what types of cameras can be used. It is always wise to check with any potential broadcaster ahead of time.

For international work, shooting in 24p or 25p has practical benefits in that they are easily converted through 4% speedup or slowdown to work in traditionally PAL or NTSC environments. They also are progressive, which means they compress better for the web, and work properly on a computer monitor.

Graeme
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« Reply #14 on: May 05, 2010, 08:25:02 AM »
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Another tricky issue with current generation of DSLR combocams seems to be lack of built-in optical stabilizers that are standard features in many camcorders. Is this because the larger size of the DSLR sensor is more difficult to deal with in this respect.

The Panasonic GH1 does boast an optical stabilizer in the kit lens. Is it just a gimmick or does it enable headache-free handheld shooting at shortest focal length (forget about telephoto) in good light? The specs look quite attractive but the price is high and used units seem to be as rare as guinea fowls in Greenland.

I have also seen the Canon 550D offered in a kit with Sigma's 18-200mm DC AF OS lens which also has built in optical stabilizer. Do you know of anybody who has tried this combo?

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Morgan_Moore
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« Reply #15 on: May 06, 2010, 12:48:39 AM »
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Quote from: lowep
Another tricky issue with current generation of DSLR combocams seems to be lack of built-in optical stabilizers that are standard features in many camcorders. Is this because the larger size of the DSLR sensor is more difficult to deal with in this respect.

I have the 24-105 and 5dmk2

IS does help if you are trying to handhold a stationary shot

I can imagine it being useful if you use a tele say a 400

fundamentally however IS does not know the difference between starting to pan and shaking the camera

so when you pan it takes off too slowly and over runs the end of the pan

giving a kind of weird drifty feeling

good camera handling is better than IS

S


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Sam Morgan Moore Cornwall
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« Reply #16 on: May 06, 2010, 11:09:24 AM »
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BC

That shot of your camera reminds me of the beasts that stalked the planet in War of the Worlds. Do you feed it meat?
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lowep
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« Reply #17 on: May 06, 2010, 04:42:12 PM »
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Quote from: John-S
Video is about telling stories. I don't see stories being told very well with a camera operator running around like a chicken with its head off.

That chicken running around with its head off sounds like a good point of departure for a story based on my experiences trying to come to grips with DSLR combocams.

Now thanks to John I discover that I am the only one left on the plnet who doesn't already know Canon has a whole range of IS Image Stabilisation lenses including the standard EF-S 18-55 f3.5-5.6 IS kit lens that comes with the 550D system. So does this mean that with this lens hand holding the 550D is viable for fairly ordinary video shooting subjects at fairly wide angles, for example standing still and filming people walking along a street. Or not?

Just forget about panning formula one racing cars and meteorites.

Is the Panasonic flavor of lens image stabilizer technology very different and/or better than the Canon flavor?
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bcooter
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« Reply #18 on: May 08, 2010, 11:50:02 AM »
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Quote from: lowep
BC

That shot of your camera reminds me of the beasts that stalked the planet in War of the Worlds. Do you feed it meat?


No, just money.  And not BMW 7 series money, more like Chevrolet money.

As a video camera it requires a log of workarounds, some easy, some not so easy, though the funny part is the camera is the cheapest thing you buy.

The cage, the monitor the matte box total to almost double the camera.  Then of course there are lenses.

For simple focusing, without marks, the Canon lenses are fine and sharp, but to do it right would take a set of real cine lenses, whether they be the new Ziess mini primes or Cook, or if you want to break into a Federal reserve, the new Leica lenses.

BC
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lowep
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« Reply #19 on: May 09, 2010, 05:37:17 PM »
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another stone in the coffin - no on-board audio monitoring capability, right?

However there must also be a reason why archery continues to be practiced in this day and age  
« Last Edit: May 09, 2010, 05:39:25 PM by lowep » Logged
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