I got another email asking me info about cameras. Here’s the email and the reply:
Hi, my name is Steve and I really like your blog. I was wondering if I could ask you a question. I want to make a documentary, mostly talking heads, nothing extravagant, which could then be distributed if well liked. (By the way, I have little experience with film – I just think I can do a good job). Could you recommend what videocam I should buy. I was looking at these choices:
1) Sony HDR-FX1
2) Sony HVR-A1U (Sony HC1‘s big brother)
3) Sony HDR-HC3 (Sony HC1‘s little brother)
4) Panasonic AG-DVX100 (HVX200‘s famous predecessor)
Could you recommned which one would be a good choice?
First off, you’ve got some excellent cameras on your list. I’ve been a SONY fan for years and I’ve never been disappointed with the results I get from them. I’ve been disappointed with both Canon (XL1S, GL2) and JVC in terms of the actual video look that I get. Panasonic has been a so-so (considering I never used their 24p).
Moving on to the cameras. All but the DVX100 are HDV cams which will shoot in 1080i. If you feel your documentary has a chance to be shown in HD, go for one of the three SONY’s. Besides, DVX100 24p mode will not be of any specific advantage to you since you’ll be shooting a documentary.
Of the three Sony cams, I have used the FX1 which produces excellent video, even in low-light situations. If you already have a lighting kit, this won’t be a big consideration. If you don’t, getting a more sensitive camera is a must – FX1 is definitely the way to go.
Number two on my list is the new Sony HVR-A1U. It’s a based on Sony HC1 but offers additional features, including a shotgun mic that could be VERY handy when shooting dialogue on a budget. I believe you can get it for below $2,000, so that’s the budget choice.
Keep in mind though that depending on the people you interview, a bigger cam will make a better impression. You’ll be seen as a pro rather than an amateur. People have no respect for handicams (HC3 is TOO small for my taste).
If you need to switch between PAL and NTSC and you need a “big” cam that also has professional audio, I suggest you “upgrade” to Sony Z1U. It has a $4,500 price tag attached to it though.
Happy shooting and let me know how it goes!