Why I Deliberately Downgraded My Video Gear
About a year and a half ago I purchased a Canon T3i to shoot video. After quite a bit of research I had determined in was a good low price point starting camera to do more serious video work. With Magic Lantern software I could even shoot raw video. It had interchangeable lenses so there was the option to buy long lenses or short ones as needed. I bought accessories, extra batteries, adapters for some lenses I had happened into. I did use the camera to make several short videos. I used if for shots in my major documentary “The Black Guides of Mammoth Cave” for several of the interviews. I just sold it and all the accessories and lenses on eBay and bought a Fujifilm Point and shoot camera the Fujifilm FinePix SL1000 16.2MP Digital Camera. It has a 52 x zoom lens, macro capabilities and can shoot Full HD movie 1080i/60fps with stereo sound. But clearly the data rate is much lower than the T3i, especially when considering the RAW capability of the T3i. The Fujifilm SL1000 does not have interchangeable lenses or many of the other features of the Canon, so why did I make the change?
In a broader sense why did I sell the T3i and accessories? It has to do with work flow. It has to do with other cameras I have. It has to do with the fact that I thought the camera was a pain in the ass to use for the type of filmmaking I wanted to do. I have been shooting video as a hobby for quite a few years. I started with a b&w video camera that ran on house current and was connected to a large bulky VHS tape deck for the actual recording. At various times I have become more serious with my filmmaking and at times less so. I have always been interested in nature and natural history filmmaking, not exclusively, but a primary interest. I loved my mini-DV Canon GL2 camcorder. It epitomized what I wanted for shooting. It had a long zoom lens and macro capability. It was great for shooting outdoors on the fly, and grabbing shots whenever they occurred.
With the T3i I had excellent capabilities, but they required that I have the lens on the camera that I wanted whenever faced with a particular shot. If the right lens was not on the camera, I had to stop and change lenses to get the focal length needed. Often the shot I wanted was ephemeral and transient in nature and I would not have the chance to change lenses before the shot was gone. It required that I carry my bag of lenses around with me in case I needed them. It was frustrating. I did not like the switch from viewfinder to LCD screen when I went to shoot videos. In the sunlight the image on the screen was often impossible to see. I bought an attachment foldable viewfinder, but it was bulky to use. It was not ideal for still photos. I did not like the idea of switching back and forth.
All of this sounds minor or just whining complaints. Perhaps in some sense these are. Especially when I think of the amazing still photographs taken by the John Wesley Powell expeditions down the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon. These were large heavy wet plate cameras that needed to be processed on site immediately. The resulting photos were remarkable. I look at the efforts of Ansel Adams, and modern photographers like Clyde Butcher who use bulky large format cameras. I empathize with these photographers, but the photographs they produced are not representative of the work I want to do. In a studio setting, or on a movie set, where there is time to get ready for each shot, and it is practical to have all of your lens set with you when you need them, when it is possible to know ahead of time the lens you want to use, then the T3i or Black Magic cameras are an excellent option. I don’t think they are better for run and gun nature video and action video projects.
I do have other equipment. I just purchased a GoPro Hero 4 Black which will greatly improve my action shot capabilities. I have a Canon Vixia HF100 camcorder that works very well, even if it records HD in AVCHD format.
Will I get a newer better camera on down the road? Probably, there are some that have very good specs, but just not quite perfect yet. I expect to eventually get a camcorder model with a long zoom lens and macro capabilities. I can live the depth of field differences between a camcorder and a DSLR. I can live with the lack of interchangeable lenses, and smaller apertures for shots, if it will let me take the shots I need at the second I need them. I couldn’t do that with the Canon T3i. The Fujifilm SL1000 isn’t so much a replacement for the T3i as it is for an older Nikon P80 camera, only with many more pixels in still shots and capable of 1080i HD video. For the filmmaking until I get a big stash of money, and until they have a camera whose specs suit me, I will use the Canon Vixia HF100 camcorder and my ne Go Pro. Shots grabbed by the Fujifilm camera can be used where appropriate.
I decided to sell off some of this older equipment while I could still get some money for them. So I have downgraded my video capabilities, for the moment at least, and I am happy about it.
Edward Forrest Frank