Dedicated camcorder or Mu4/3?

Discussion in 'This or That?' started by turboBB, Mar 12, 2013.

  1. turboBB

    turboBB Mu-43 Rookie

    Mar 4, 2013
    (sorry for the long read but really appreciate any inputs based on actual personal experience you may have, TIA!)

    Hi there,

    I conduct very specialized reviews of high-output LED flashlights and as such, one of the common themes is to compare beam profiles and output in near total darkness. Here is an example of a video shot (very poorly) on DMC-FZ150 that covers the spill and throw capabilities out a long distance:
    [ame=]turboBB's 2012 Labor Day Camping Beamshots Comparo - YouTube[/ame]

    My problem is that I needed to bump the ISO to 1600 (I think) in order for the camera to be sensitive enough to capture the spill of these lights but that of course introduced a lot of noise into the video and degraded quality greatly.

    I've been contemplating purchasing a dedicated camcorder (Canon HF G20) since it's been highly regarded for low light shooting situations but am wondering if perhaps I'm better served by a Mu4/3 camera. I've been doing a lot of research on this but can't seem to get a clear answer in particular about the quality of the video in low light conditions as per my needs. Some threads seem to indicate the HF G20 would be perfect, others favor a digital camera.

    Thus far, I've arrived at the following conclusion based on the research I've done and would appreciate your input and recommendations based on real world experience:

    HF G20
    - Super fast & silent continuous auto-focus (for when I need to do desktop reviews and need both hands to demo a product as well as filming the kids, events, etc.).
    - good low light capability (but not sure about image noise)
    - controls are ergonomically geared towards videography
    - full manual control (a MUST)

    - small sensor size
    - limited use beyond video (poor stills)
    - additional device to carry around
    - considerably poor DOF (not the most important but a consideration)

    - fast & silent continuous auto-focus (I guess it depends on lens so was thinking of Panny 14-140)
    - great low light capability (but not sure about image noise in video since I've never handled one)
    - great all-around for both videos and stills
    - full manual control
    - macro/close-up ability via lens swap/close-up filters etc.

    - Still a hybrid and not dedicated towards videography (in context of vs. dedicated camcorder) thus potentially more awkward to handle for non-tripod use
    - so-so DOF (of course depends on lens and setup)

    I'm not expecting to get movie studio quality but in special consideration for the people who depend on these lights for their jobs or survival - SAR, first responders, LEO's, military, firefighters, etc., I'd like to able to provide the best quality for them to make an informed decision as to what best suits their needs. Even for the casual/recreational user, I'd still like to just put out higher quality/more polished videos.

    Based on personal experiences, would you recommend sticking with a camcorder or going w/the DMC-GH3 (or E-M5 which I think is probably the better stills camera but not as good videography-wise)? (I realize the G20 is still pretty new so even experiences with a G10 or camcorder of similar low-light capability would be appreciated!)

    Also, I'm uncertain of the G20's macro capability, I see it has tele-macro function that allows minimum distance of 1.3' but I usually need to get up close right up to the lens during desktop reviews. The GH3/E-M5 can at least handle this w/certain lenses or close-up filters but the G20 can't take filters.

    I've been into photography on/off for many years but am new to the forum and videography so please go easy. :tongue: Also, I did do a search and best I could find were these threads but they don't deal w/low-light use specific to my application:

  2. kinlau

    kinlau Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 29, 2012
    A GH3 or E-M5 with a 14-140 has worse low-light performance than the G20, due to the slow f4 of the 14-140 compared with the f1.8 of the G20.

    You do have the option of fast primes with a m43 body, which is less flexible in some cases with the difficulty of need someone to help with pulling focus. The deeper DOF of a camcorder does make it easier to keep everything in focus, less hunting. But a fast prime like the 20/1.7 or 25/1.4 gets you into some really low light situations that's quite unbeatable for the price.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    best value camera for video plus stills is a GH2...bigger sensor than the G20, lots of lenses...big control of video settings.. fully articulated screen and the ability to hack... though not actually necessary and probably going cheap right now as people flock to the GH3.

    Basic rules of video... switch off autofocus, set you camera to 1/50 sec ( Europe) 1/60 (US/Japan), adjust aperture and ISO to get good image and shoot.

    • Like Like x 1
  4. speedandstyle

    speedandstyle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Either would work for your projects. If you are hand holding then the Canon will be far easier to use. If you use a tripod then they would be about the same. To get the same hand ability with a DSLR style camera you have to spend some money and get a rig. These rigs work great but add cost and weight.

    For what you are doing I would think you would want as deep a DOF as possible. In that case the Canon would be better because of the smaller sensor. Especially if you have to shoot with the iris fully open.

    You listed "fast,continuous autofocus" as a pro under the GH which it WOULD NOT HAVE!, at least not like a true camcorder would have. BTW it isn't that camcorders' focus faster but that they focus SMOOTHER. Even $10K pro camcorders can hunt at times and are very prone under low light conditions. The AF on the GH will hunt more and be more obvious about it especially if you shoot with a fast aperture{because of the shallow DOF}. Some of the m4/3 lenses are noisy too which can affect your audio if recording in camera.

    If you need to get closer you can always fit a close-up diopter. These are screw on lenses that allow the camera to focus closer. They are not very expensive and easy to use.
    • Like Like x 1
  5. turboBB

    turboBB Mu-43 Rookie

    Mar 4, 2013
    Thx for all the really thoughtful replies which includes points I hadn't thought of. I ended up going with the HF G20. GX1 will serve my Mu4/3 shooting needs for now.