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Why you still need a video camera

Following my previous post: Shooting and editing with multiple cameras, I’ve had a number of people asking me about the best type of camera to use as a “second” or “safety” camera.

If you’re shooting live events, which for a lot of us is going to be weddings, you’ll

Panasonic's AG HMC41 AVCHD Camcorder

want a second camera locked-off and at the back of the church or wedding breakfast, shooting wide-angle. This is especially true when you’re shooting on your own. The safety camera gives you constant and reliable coverage to which you can cut away in the edit to hide the re-composing, refocusing and general tweaking of your main camera. The problem with a DSLR, with its shallow depth of field and limited recording length, is not exactly a fire and forget camera. That’s why you’re almost inevitably going to need a classic video camcorder

Just like still photography the technology behind video cameras has moved on in leaps and bounds in the last few years. Ironically one of their biggest leaps has been the introduction of large format sensors i.e. the ones in our still cameras. However video cameras incorporating these large format chips tend to be expensive, starting around £4000 and having all the same strengths and weaknesses that our DSLRs have – shallow depth of field and very manually operated. For a safety camera we don’t need the bells and whistles. Just good autofocus good white balance and the ability to work well on its own without a human constantly pressing buttons and pulling focus.

Sony's HXR-MC50E

Products like Sony’s HXR-MC50 and MC2000 at around £1300 inc vat will give you a pretty good lowlights sensitivity, record on its internal 64 Gb solid-state memory or SD cards and will provide good autofocus and auto exposure. For a thousand pounds more the Sony NX70 at £2500 and the Panasonic AG-HMC41 at £2200 add professional grade XLR audio inputs, better lowlight performance and, in the case of the NX70, rain proofing.

There are times when the ergonomics of a simple camcorder are hard to beat. The ability to grab the camera, switch it to auto everything and grab the moment can be invaluable because of the and unplanned and spontaneous nature of live events. Your DSLR will give you beautiful film-like shallow depth of field and great colour and all the benefits that interchangeable lenses will bring. However, if your job entails capturing the most important moments of someone’s life you need to be prepared for every option. A traditional video camera will give you that.

Thanks to Graham at H.Preston for advice while researching this article. Their web site is http://www.videokit.co.uk