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Thread: Prosumer or Second hand Pro?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2010

    Default Prosumer or Second hand Pro?

    Hi everyone. I'm in the market for a camcorder, for makling short films, docs etc.
    I've been looking at prosumer level cam's, such as the Canon Legria HF M31 which is HD, with a internal 32Gb flash memory (with heavy compression I assume?). It's 600 to buy brand new.
    Also I've been looking at pro level cam's; Canon XL1, Canon XM1, Sony PDX10... These to buy second hand are less then the mid range new prosumer stuff.
    I'm not too fused about HD, Standard Def is cool, and i feel more comfortable using mini DV over compressed flash memory doodaa jobies.

    So in a nut shell my question is.... Brand spanking new prosumer, or second hand pro mini DV With a max budget of around 600.

    Any advice would be very very greatly recieved!!

    Thanks for your time.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Queen's Park NW6


    I'm not aware of the Cannon you mention and I'm not sure what pro second hand mini DVs you've seen for 600, but I feel these are the things you need to check before you buy.
    1. Has the camera got a full manual mode? All of the cameras you look at in this price range will be automatic cameras with manual modes, but how flexible the mode is depends on how good the camera is, for instance, can you manually control the iris settings? Can you manually control the shutter settings? How accessible and easy to use are the manual buttons? A lot of cameras that claim to have manual functions put hard to use, small buttons on their cameras and the manual parameters are often too narrow.

    2.How many extra jacks and sockets does the camera have (very important!)? A camera with plenty of firewire, component, usb, RCA, XLRs and so on, is going to be much more functional than one with a limited amount. For instance if you end up putting it on the end of a jib arm, do you have the correct jacks (component) to hook it up to a monitor, something you might not do straight away, but as a would-be short film maker you'll want to try this out at some point. Can you hook a wireless lav mic and a hand-held up to it at the same time?

    3.What's the battery life like? If you're going to be shooting on location a lot, which you probably will with docs and short films a long battery life is essential and how much are the extra batteries?

    4.How good's the LCD on the camera? I own a Panasonic HVX 201, a lovely camera, but one of my bug bears is the fact that the LCD is pretty low quality, I've learned to account for this in my head when shooting, but on some cameras the LCD is so bad that it affects you when shooting.

    5.How good is the lens and the chips inside? You're going to have to do your homework on this one, narrow down which cameras you're in the market for and read reviews, watch demo videos that people have shot with those cameras.

    6.Can you change lenses, is it adaptable? If you're making short films then using depth of field and focus to create an effect is something you're going to want to do a whole lot, so can you change lenses and if so how much are those extra lenses to buy/hire? Can you add a letus extreme or equivalent to it?

    7.As far as the HD compression is concerned, I wouldn't be too concerned about the compression method (codec) as in most cases the files are large and detailed, what you might want to consider is, how compatible is it with the editing system you're using? Again this will require some research, reading reviews and asking questions on forums such as this one will answer your questions on this subject.

    8.Very important if you're going HD, how much footage does the storage method hold and how much are extra cards/drives? You mentioned that the Cannon has a 32gig flash card, how much will that store at 720 and 1080? How much are extra cards, are they within your budget range?

    9.With second hand cameras you should get a lot more extras thrown in that you might not get in the original package, batteries, filters, lenses, tripod, get the best deal possible.

    All in all, I would tend to point you towards HD, simply because it looks better, it's cheaper in the long run as you don't have to buy tapes and it's quicker to ingest the footage when it comes to editing, but after reading my points above, you may find that you see a second hand pro mini dv that has all the qualities you need.

    Good luck, if I remember anything else I'll post up again.

    Video Production Services Company UK London
    Last edited by dariv; 12-04-2010 at 10:03 AM.

  3. #3


    Just to help you in search of answers to your question. Your not actually looking at the difference between prosumer camera's at 600 new and second hand pro camera's at similar prices.

    Your looking at consumer cameras at 600 and second hand prosumer at similar prices.

    The main difference your going to find here is that the brand new consumer camera's will have more modern formats and chips that will pretty much give nice clear crisp images under most conditions, but with very little contol options. You normally might as well put these camera's in full auto mode, but some are a bit better than others with different aspects of manual control options.

    The second hand prosumer camera's in that price range obviously tend to be old, with older formats (pretty much mini dv) and ccd's which do have advantages of their own, especially compared with the smaller cheaper modern chips. Even at over 10 years old some of these cameras do offer excellent quality pictures. You will get manual controls but, as dariv points out, not to the full extent of a pro camera.

    Personally I'd go for a second hand mini dv standard definition prosumer camera over a brand new HD alternaive in the same price range, but I'd want to check the camera out and see the picture on screen before purchase. I'd also avoid the xl1, it had issues with focal drift and no back focus adjustment to make correcting it a possibility.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2010


    Thanks for the reply both of you.
    Quite happy with miniDV, I don't mind logging footage!!
    I want a camera with manual controls ideally, no point and shoot crap. I was looking at the *prosumer (I stand corrected!) stuff partly because I want to learn how to pull focus, adjust exposure etc on the fly. When I said "pro camera" I didn't mean RED or anything like that!!
    That said what prosumer cameras could you recommend? I'm fairly aware of my needs, as said have no problem with SD, or MiniDV. If the XL1 has these focal drift issues what other options are there I could pursue? I can stretch my budget if really need be. Interchangeable lenses would also be preferable. Are DOF adapters available for these type of camera? Also I own a Nikon D300 and have many DX format lenses. I have heard that you can get an adaptor so that you can mount these lenses onto a camcorder, is that true?

  5. #5


    A mate of mine recently picked up one of these from ebay:

    Sony DSR-200A Camcorder in mint condition. 3CCD. DVcam on eBay (end time 07-Dec-10 14:48:39 GMT)

    As with most prosumer cameras, it isn't a fully manual focus, it's a servo focus, the zoom rocker is nice (no optional zoom ring) and the iris is controlled by a wheel on the body rather than a ring on the lens. So you do get a decent amount of control.

    It has the older ccd's (better for action but not as good for low light) and even by ccd standards it isn't that great under low light conditions.

    The sensors are a half decent 1/3" size, so you can pull focus closer to the long end of the lens.

    You can get adapters to put non-standard lenes on some prosumer - pro level cameras now but this one doesn't have an interchangable lens, so it's not an option here. To put slr lenses on it you'd need a DOF adapter, which dramatically narrows the DOF and also lowers the amount of light getting in even more. Decent DOF adapters that don't lose great amounts of light cost a lot more than your looking to spend on a camera, and if doubling your budget was a possibiltiy you'd be better buying a better camera than this one and a DOF adapter, it's not really the ideal camera for that type of thing.

    They're pretty much constantly listed on ebay, at the moment, with spare batteries (they don't last hours like modern batteries/cameras) and full size dvcam tapes. The one he got has an excellent picture, and a beautiful bokeh, he asked the seller to send him a recent clip shot on it before bidding.

    It might not be ideal for what you want, I don't know, definately check out what else is available. But they are definately worth considering at the price they are going for at the moment.


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