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I am a passionate photographer and currently own a nikon d80 with a handful of lenses, all Nikon Nikkor ones. Unfortunately, that camera has no video recording capabilities. I have missed so many professional and family occasions in which a movie would be key. my main doubt is whether to go with a new dslr or buy a camcorder. I am not a professional video editor but occasionally work on Premiere. Here are my ideal requirements:

  • possibility to capture various light and shoot conditions (I.e. sunsets, wide angles, decent zoom)

  • a good support for long recordings. A meeting may take 1.15hours. I won't like to swap the cards.

  • good builtin microphone with support for external ones, better if wireless

  • 1080p HD recording with quality and vivid colors

I found good camcorders from 150$ but wouldn't mind spending more if most of my ideal requirements are met.

What would you do if you were in my shoes?

Thanks a bunch!!

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4 Answers

The Canon 5D mark 2 opened the world to the abilities of DSLR shooting video. But if you read the real world discussion, you will find that taking amazing video with it is a serious challenge. And it takes only about 15 minutes of video at a time, so your 1 hour++ is simply not feasible.

The 5D mark 3, just announced and $3500, doubles the video time to about 28 minutes.

Things like auto focus are a ton easier with a camcorder.

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In my experience (I consider myself an "amateur" at best),

  • decent zoom will get you to DSLRs or a more expensive camcorder (maybe in the prosumer line). most $150 camcorders only have digital zoom.

  • your second req is going to get you into a dedicated cam. Like Pat said, the capacity just isn't there for continuous recording on DSLRs.

  • your third req is going to keep you from either. Most onboard mics are awful. DSLRs have adapters that expand your inputs to XLR or 3.5mm. Camcorders are hit-and-miss with ports, though, you can usually find a model with a 3.5mm input. I've considered downgrading from my Panasonic DVX-100B and going with a cheaper HD camcorder and an external recorder for audio (such as the Zoom H1 or H4).

If you have to have the 1.5hrs of continuous shooting, you'll have to go dedicated. Otherwise, it's more of your personal preference and/or price limit.

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Here's my two cents. I work as a professional photographer, have a background in film and video production, and own both DSLRs and camcorders.

When I was making the decision to go from NTSC to HD, I chose to go with Nikon DSLRs. I've been a nikon guy for years, mainly because of a large accumulation of Nikkor lenses, and was waiting for Nikon to catch upto Canon. I ended up with a D7000 (720p) and a D3S (1280i). Lens flexibility has been awesome. Camcorders rarely come with quality glass at the $150.00 price point, and they're rarely interchangeable. When they are, it's not nikon mount, so you're looking at an additional glass investment if you want that option.

Camcorder CCDs are typically 1/3" to 1/2". Nikon's F-series has full (35mm) frame CCDs. This results in significantly better color, resolution, and the biggest selling point for my money, DEPTH OF FIELD CONTROL. Awesome production value.

I've had good luck with Sennheiser external mics; some have a hotshoe mount & they plug into a minijack on the camera. Builtin mics on DSLRS are crap, and audio control is minimal, so you may not be able to manipulate audio as well as you need to. To solve this problem, I use an H4N.

I've not run into long recording time issues. I've alays found a way to swap cards..if I get the 128gb cards, you've got some decent recording time. While I've not researched them, I've heard that Canon has external hard drives to which you can record via HDMI. I've not seen these for Nikon, but that could solve your issue without a problem.

For my money, these capabilities, plus the ability to use a single tool for stills and motion sold me on the dslr concept. I'm hooked now,

Good luck!

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  1. Buy a Panasonic GH1. This is a $500-ish (with lens) DSLR that is known far and wide for its ability to achieve cinema-quality (or Canon 5D quality) via a free software hack.
  2. As they teach you in beginning videography courses, if the audio doesn't sound professional, the video doesn't look professional no matter your camera. So buy a lavaliere mic and clip it to your subject.
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