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I'm confused as to go with the costlier body cheaper lens vice-versa, I have a budget at around $1000, and i am looking at the canon 550d with the 50mm f 1.8.

I would like to get advice on the lens selection, the dslr will be used mostly for video. Also is there a nikon alternative to the 550d? Your answers are greatly appreciated.

Options: Sony A55 Sony A580 Canon 550d

Regards

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Depending on what type of video you're aiming for, the 50 mm might be too narrow... If it's outdoorsie things, it'll do fine, but if you are going inside in a cramped area, it might prove to be less than useful. Just a thought. Also, the best camera depends a lot on if you want 24 or 30 fps, and if 1080p is a requirement, or if 720p will suffice. I suggest you edit your questions to include this bit of detail. –  Pearsonartphoto Feb 23 '11 at 13:01
    
Mainly indoors, low light. I prefer 24 / 1080p. Thanks for the reply –  user4031 Feb 23 '11 at 14:36

3 Answers 3

Nikon hits both above and below the 550D (T2i), but not right at that level. There's the entry-level D3100, which is less expensive (and relatively new), and the recently-released D7000, which comes in at about $400-$500 more (but is very capable). At around the same price level as the 550D, there's the D90 -- but it was the very first video DSLR, so it's not quite up-to-date in terms of features or video resolution.

I'm not a video person, so I can't tell you anything useful about the video features of either camera except that the D7000 seems to be pretty much feature-complete. The D3100 doesn't seem to get very positive reviews for serious video (major rolling shutter effect and short recording time being the major complaints), and the D7000 is more of a competitor to the Canon 60D than the 550D/T2i. The D90, as I said, is a bit of a black-and-white vacuum-tube television compared to anything more recent.

(Rant Expurgated -- but it felt good while it lasted)

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Hello, I am on a limited budget so can't really opt for the d7000. Thanks for your reply –  user4031 Feb 23 '11 at 12:45

If you're all about video, Nikon D3100 (my friend owns) shall give you exact video quality as Canon 550D (I own) as well as can save a few bucks. Additional money can be used to buy a better lens f.e 28-135mm than the kit lens. 50mm f/1.8 is a very good lens for its price but not sure a prime could suffice you need for video or not. I'd prefer a zoom lens for better video framing.

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Thanks for your reply, What the 3100 lacks is external mic input, and the cont. auto focus in video is noisy, that is a complete no-no. Could you suggest any 3rd party zoom lens for video? –  user4031 Feb 23 '11 at 12:43
    
If I were you, I'd avoid using any 3rd party lenses. Lenses that are good for general photography should do good for video as well. I don't know if there's any specialized lens for video to be honest. After getting decided on a body, you'll also need to consider a few things (light/sharpness/focal length range etc) for deciding a lens. –  ShutterBug Feb 24 '11 at 3:39

Normally, it is advisable to go with a better lens even if that means a cheaper body (due to budget constraints), as lenses make much more a difference than most modern DSLRs.

Since you are going for primarily for video, you need to consider audio as well. There is no built-in microphone that is good enough for serious documentary, so you have two choices:

  • Buy a camera with a mini-jack so that you can plug in an external microphone.
  • Buy an external sound recording device and record sound separately. Merge the sound track from your recording with the video track using video editing software.

The second option is more flexible and also more costly. As usual, you need to spend enough on a sound recording to get something good. Don't both using you cellphone's sound-recording function ;)

There are very few DSLRs which will autofocus while recording video. It is often a concern for people buying cameras for home videos but for anything serious it does not matter.

If you do not go with one of the sound options above, then you will have to worry about the camera recording the sound of autofocus. On the cameras I tried (Nikon D3100 and A55), it will make your sound track annoying to your audience.

Even if you do use external audio, the contrast-detect autofocus system used by the D3100 causes the lens to move back and forth while focusing. This is easy to spot in videos and just does not look right. The Sony Alpha SLT-A55 and its sibling the A33 are the only cameras that use phase-detection during video recording and avoid this particular problem.

If possible for the subjects you are documenting, you should use Manual Focus while filming. This will let you decide precisely on what to focus, when to change focus and how slowly to do it. It will take lots of practice to get right, so try it on squirrels or whatever animal you have roaming around where you live.

If you are filming things that move a lot or live-events (in which case retakes are not possible), then you may decide to rely on autofocus. You will occasionally end up with shots that are partially out of focus since sometimes the camera simply goes after the wrong thing. You can edit such parts out and move any relevant audio.

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Thanks a lot for the insight, that's the reason I checked the 3100 off the list, I also will be doing some run and gun shooting. Having something like the zoom h4 is a solution but not really useful at unprepared shots. –  user4031 Feb 23 '11 at 14:40

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