And The Winner Is….



I’ve been working with the footage from my grand experiment, pitting the Sony NEX VG 10, an APS-sized chip camcorder against HDSLRs, in this case, the Nikon D7000.

And before I tell you what my take on the whole thing is, I’d like to preface it by saying:

I really wanted to like the Sony—-what the hell, it should have been the best of both worlds. A camcorder design with an APS sized chip, better audio, great image stabilization, and interchangeable lenses, an articulated LCD, and an electronic viewfinder.

What’s not to like? In a word—the User Interface, and the goddamn file format.  Wait, that’s more than a word, it’s a sentence. And in this case, for me, a death sentence.

Oh man, whoever invented the AVCHD format should be taken out behind the barn and given a good whuppin’.  It’s a horrible, computer-averse, super highly compressed format that is just horrific to work with, especially a Mac. When you uncompress this format, and transcode it into something you can work with in iMovie or Final Cut, it bloats to 10x the size!

At the highest quality settings, that works out to about a gigabyte a minute…yes, 1GB for every minute of video. At least. It will gag the most robust of computers.

And in anticipation of emails and comments, yes I know that iMovie and FCP will import the AVCHD as is, but here’s the deal…I rarely import more than about 25% of what I shoot. I first like to “scrub” the clips (using Photo Mechanic and Quicktime) and only import what has a chance of being used. Try that with a direct import.

It’s clunky, unwieldable, and unnecessary. And don’t get me started on the moire issues with this camera….the D7000 and the D5100 kick ass in this department, and also in lens and sharpness categories as well.

So despite the fact that I have to stick on an auxiliary LCD loupe, an auxiliary mic and a sound recorder, and a wacky shoulder stabilizer to get the same ergonomic ease that the Sony gives you with no after-market chatchkas hanging off it, the nod goes to the DSLR…in this case, the D7000, but I have a feeling it will eventually be the D5100 (because of the articulating screen).

So, I’m selling the Sony NEX VG 10….but I’m keeping (and loving) the little Sony NEX 5 that I picked up as a backup camera with this setup. This is a compact, APS-sized (or near enough) sensor compact camera with articulating LCD, a great auxiliary mic, tiny size, lovely pancake 16mm f/2.8 lens (That takes auxiliary ultrawide and fisheye adapter lenses).

And, probably most important of all, the NEX 5 gives you the option of going AVCHD or MPEG4. True the latter produces a slightly smaller file size than the AVCHD, but it is a lifesaver in terms of ease of use.

The super compact size of the NEX 5 allows me to use it on  a very lightweight stabilizer (Ebay’s famous Indie Systems $60 stabilizer) and also on a small slider on a very lightweight tripod (the Slik HD Travel Pro). Because it’s a large chip, it gives pretty decent results in low light . Plus, it looks so innocuous that nobody ever stops you from shooting/filming. You look like a total tyro using this cam, and I love that.

So, my dream of an APS sized chip camcorder is still unfulfilled, but I’ve got a nice little system using the Nikon D7000 for the serious stuff and the NEX 5 for the grab stuff.

Next up…can the D5100 replace the D7000 as your main vid-cam? (Oy, will this stuff never end?????). Stay tuned.


This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Hey Bob,
    long time reader, first time commenter
    So my company is sending me to india to film a documentary. We have a dedicated Video Camerawoman, shooting HDV. I will be shooting Photos and providing b-roll with my fisheyes and timelapses and whatnot.
    My question is if you could provide more info/alink about that stabilizer you mentioned. im having trouble looking it up.
    Also, if you could explain further how you have U1/U2 set up to make the photo video switch more efficient.
    thanks alot

  2. Bob, I noticed in your previous posts that weight is an issue for you as it is for all traveling photogs, did you notice a major difference in weight between the two cameras including accessories?

    I have a D300s with a Zoom H4n for audio and find it to be quite bearable when compared to the Sony cams I used in my production classes.

    1. Hi Cory: You’re right about weight being a concern…the heavier I get, the lighter I want my cameras to be….

      You’ve got a big setup there. Right now, I’m using the D5100 with the Olympus LS10 recorder and a Sennheiser MKE 400 mini-shotgun, and I’m willing to bet that it’s about half the weight of the setup you describe (although you didn’t mention a mic with yours).

      But you are right that a camcorder will be lighter and better designed. If somebody would offer a hack for the Sony NEX VG 10 that would make it record in MP4 or .MOV instead of AVCHD, you’d have to pry the camera out of my hands….It’s lovely to work with (although the tripod mount is flimsy).

      But I hate the AVCHD more than I love the camera’s ergonomics.

      Your results, and preferences, may vary though.

  3. I can handle a few extra pounds for now. I was used to carrying the giant camcorders and tripods that went along with my production classes.

    I use a variety of mics depending on the shoot. My first mic is an Audio-Technica shotgun mic which weighs practically nothing, but I will use a full sized hand held condenser mic for interviews and what not. The Zoom’s phantom power gives me a bigger arsenal to choose from when it comes to mics.

    I like the balanced audio from the XLR input. Its less prone to interference. Well worth the extra weight.

    I agree with you on the AVCHD, just another format that goes in the pile of ones I don’t use. Perhaps there will be a program someday that can edit it efficiently.

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