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DSLR vs Video cameras: Part 1

08:30 2nd December 2010 by Billy Thackray

What is the camera of choice for the modern videographer? Is everybody using new DSLRs like the Canon 7D or are they using dedicated video cameras? Or both? Anybody still using a Super 8?

In part one of this feature we ask a selection of videographers who shoot for the internet and DVD what set up they like to film with, DSLR or video camera and also what platform they edit with.


John Lawlor

My current set up is:

Camera: Sony PMW EX1.

Microphone: Sony ECM 674 Shotgun.

Battery: 2x BP-U60 (4 hours life) 1x BP-U30 (2 hours life)

Lens: Century Optics HD Fisheye Adapter .55x.

I started using this camera at the start of the 2009 season primarily because of its solid state recording abilities. It makes life just a little bit easier when you don’t have to deal with tapes and dirty heads and moving parts. Having said that, the camera is sometimes temperamental and tends to shit itself the odd time, but overall it’s a sick camera and I love using it. I’ve not had a chance to get my hands on a DSLR camera yet as I have my hands full with the EX1. I definitely think that the DSLR cameras are here to stay as the footage from them is truly amazing.

During the race season I shoot for the web with team videos being edited after each World Cup race. Now in the off season I’m working with Clay Porter on our film project ’3 MINUTE GAPS’. The film will be available on both DVD and Blu Ray at the end of April 2011.

I do all my editing on a Mac, using Final Cut Pro. I first got a Mac at the start of 2006 when I started my ‘Last Chance” films. I was using iMovie then, so I guess the next progression was to move onto FCP as I was already on a Mac.


Stu Thomson-MTBCut

I shoot on a Sony EX1r, a Canon 5D mkII and a bit of GoPro action too.  I’ve had the EX1r for a while and other Sony video cameras before that and they certainly out-perform a DSLR for shooting downhill riding, the combination of the zoom and the fact that the eyepiece allows 3 points of contact when operating freehand makes for a much tighter shot and a lot more variation in types of shot.

DSLR’s don’t allow for the variety or close up shots when shooting a rider at speed; however I do love my 5d and its big sensor!  It is the perfect secondary camera for shooting downhill and for scenic shots, interviews and for timelapse-it can produce stunning images!

I also shoot a lot of non DH work these days, both in other sports, xc/Enduro riding and also recently some tourism promo’s, the 5d is perfect for capturing those big backdrops.

I shoot far more projects for web, although a lot of the videos are also put on to DVD by clients and I edit on a Mac in Final Cut Pro. The software is great and is known as the industry leader, however to be honest I’ve always edited on a Mac so don’t know anything different other than a dabble in iMovie.


Jacob Gibbins

My current set up is: Nikon D300s and Nikon D90 and soon to be GoPro as well

The D300 takes amazing still shots which is important as I’m also a photographer, and the Nikon gives the whole DLSR look to the footage which I like. It’s also small, light and easy to take around etc.

I edit on a PC using Sony Vegas as I haven’t saved up for a Mac yet.

Vegas has a very easy to use interface which can do everything I need plus it’s quite a small program so it runs nice and fast on my really slow laptop.


Tom Grundy

I use a Panasonic HMC-151, It’s a much needed recent upgrade from a little Sony I used to use, it’s lightweight for a big camera, and records AVCHD straight to SD card, so its quick and painless to get the shots into the editing system and SD cards are cheap and easy to come by.

I shoot for the internet mainly, Web series and Webisodes are my speciality, I wouldn’t mind getting into DVD, but I would want to spend a few years making the film and come up with an original idea before doing so.

I edit on a PC and Vegas 9.0 Pro. I know how to use Final Cut and Premiere, but Vegas is so much faster to edit with. I can shoot a BDS national downhill weekend, and have an edit online later that night. That’s not saying I wouldn’t like a fully spec’d Mac and Final Cut.


Andy Yoong

I use a Canon 7D.  There are a few different options in terms of DSLR cameras.  I choose the 7d over others because of its superior weather proofing and stills capability.  Other cameras like the 550d and 60d will shoot video just as well.  The 5D mk2 would have been nice but it was out of my budget at the time.

My whole reasoning behind shooting on one of these types of cameras is to get the ‘film look’.  It’s definitely a different style of shooting and requires more skill than with a traditional video camera set-up, but in my opinion it offers better results.  I’m using Canon stills lenses and it’s quite difficult to focus with them.  There are other lenses out there more suited to video but again it’s all extra money.

I edit on a Mac using Final Cut Pro.  I’ve been using FCP since its earlier versions so I am used to it, and can cut quickly with it when I need to.  It’s definitely due a big overhaul, but from what I’ve heard other people say it’s still better than Premier/Vegas etc.  I think Premier can edit H.264 files that many of the cameras shoot on today.  With FCP you have to convert the files first.  Most of the people i know use FCP as well so it’s handy to be able to swap project files if I need to hand the job over to someone else.


Scott Marshal-Speed Kings

This Season I’ve been shooting with a Sony V1e. I’ve used Sony cameras on a lot of projects. Ergonomically I always like the way the cameras felt. They come equipped with clear, sharp viewfinders and a fast acting auto-focus which all helps capture that important shot when you’re scrambling down a mountainside!

Shooting with a DSLR is something I do want to do. It’s purely down to cost I haven’t got round to it. SLR’s are brilliant for interviews, portraits and scenic shots but when it comes to shooting action you can’t beat a proper video camera. I wanted to capture really good riding shots over the season so I opted to go for my Sony Camera instead.

For editing I work on a Mac using Final cut. I made the switch from PC a couple of years ago. The Mac and Final Cut combo is a really efficient platform to work on. With final cut now a massive industry standard it made sense to be working and learning the software most major production companies are now using.

  1. Paco

    Great subject for an article – cheers.

  2. Dominic

    This was actually really useful to read! Its great to know what everyone uses and they opinions on the different kits!

    Thanks Guys!

  3. s. s-berg

    I use the camera in my phone and edit with the start/stop button

  4. Jeron

    Interesting read, think im going down the 7D route..

  5. jon gregory

    IF anybody is in the market for a 7D let me know as I’m selling mine in mint condition. Canon 7d +15-85mm kit, Eos 50mm Macro lens, 8GB memory card and Lowepro Fastback250 bag… send me a mail: jon@dirtmag.co.uk

  6. matt

    zooming would be an essential part of filming mountain biking, so I would opt out of the DSLRs

  7. gert b frobe

    zoom while video is available on the entry level nikon now, give it a bit of time and it’ll no doubt be everywhere.

    still think the next big step will be live feeds from the camera itself, no idea if the technology will allow for this any time soon but it sounds cool.

  8. Noah

    Recently started using the T2i (550 overseas), been a big learning curve. Love it for photos, but video has been hit and miss. Still prefer my Vixia for now. Anyone tried a Sony NEX-VG10?

  9. mat

    I just downloaded imovie for iphone and I must say, it’s perfect for all I need :D can’t complain about the 5mpixel cam either

  10. Paul

    DSLR’s are so much better than video cameras well most of them, the 7d is good but the 1.6 crop sensor can not hold as much info as a full size sensor like a 5dmk2, the depth of field os so much better no miles better they dont even come close, unless you have a sony ex1 with interchangable lenese or the new panasonic 4 3rd’s camera that is due out.

    I started off with a sony v1p and thought i was killing it until i upgraded the still camera and got a 5dmk2 and discovered the footage was mind blowing. The sad thing about it is its all about milking the consumer, big companies already know what they will bring out in 5 years time which sucks as we all know there are medium format sensors lurking around that will be mind blowing.

    The new cheaper RED camera is not to be over looked thou so keep your eyes peeled.

  11. the walrus

    Have-a-go Harrys, encouraging more have-a-go Harrys with advice from people who mostly dont really know what they’re talking about is bringing the industry I work into the ground.

    Dont get me wrong, I think its great for people to go out and make films and put them out there to other riders (and understand that technology is becoming more and more affordable and acessible), but articles like this glamorises these people and gives them false sense of professionalism. This can transfer into false confidence and inevitably they manage to get small corporate or commercial jobs,charge next to nothing because they have no idea of industry rates, value of work etc etc, then clients eventualy start demanding something for nothing and ‘actual’ professionals have to drive their rates down and reduce their income. Luckily, I’m not freelance anymore (because of this), but a lot of friends are, and they are all in a constant financial struggle because of this very problem.

    Please stop going so deep into these mountain bike / BMX vids and constantly pushing up the production values. Lets just get back to the good old days of wapping out the camorder, having a laugh with yer mates, and bodging it all together somehow, and leave the rest to the professionals who’s livelyhood is being threatend.

    I wouldn’t tell a ‘pro’ rider how to ride, as I ‘know’ I’m an ‘amature’ rider.

  12. the eggman

    @the walrus

    Wow, that was bitter.
    Sounds like you’re not doing enough to show your clients the difference between what a ‘pro’ and an ‘amature’ has to offer in terms of production quality. Anyway, how are these guys going to improve if they’re not allowed to aspire to your ‘professionalism.’

  13. Paul

    Your right to be bitter, im not a videographer (i have done a bit) im a freelance photographer over here in Australia. Im in a completely different industry and i have (and always are) getting turned down by companies as joe blogs who has rocked up takes a photo and has sold it (given it away) for product. I and people in the industry have set rates and even these people with there rates are having to undercut them selfs as there is always someone who is will to take product or nothing at all just so they can show there friends in school there name is in a magazine. Its going down hill fast ( no pun intended) and if it keeps happening im going to have to try elsewhere or even leave the photographer industry. The companies are to blame too as they would rather publish something very average for no money than fork out a fair price for a quality product.

  14. Jerry Hazard


    Well, there’s some truth to what you say, but when you get down to it, it will separate the men from the boys. The same arguments were being made when digital SLRs first became affordable. Most top pros are still working and still successful.

    There is nobody to blame here – except maybe you. If you are aware that the tech to produce videos is coming more and more available to the untrained, average joe – YOU need to recognize that, and adjust your system accordingly. You have a head start on the people that will be purchasing video cameras in coming months/years – this is your chance to up your game. Can’t figure out how to up your game? Then wait and be swallowed up by the masses. But don’t blame them, or others for putting forth useful information.

    Sorry, don’t mean to sound harsh – just my two…

  15. Pete

    Both valid points here. Bottom line is there is a lot of shitty work been used by some sketchy companies in both in video and photo. And by some companies who should know better. Customers and fans need to vote with their wallet and not support companies like that. And magazines and websites need to maintain their high standards and not host or run shitty quality work just for the sake of content.

    Quality content photo or video isn’t just a product of technology or expensive equipment. Thank god their are still people committed to the craft that bring us work we like to see. As for the the guys undercutting and giving away the work for free you wont see them all around the world when it comes time to pay for air tickets and accommodation and travel. And if they are there they better watch out for their knee caps.

  16. MINT

    You guys should discuss this at the forums.

  17. DaFerg

    At the end of the day ALL the money comes from the end viewer, the customer, us. If they are happy with the quality of stuff produced/printed/published then it will continue because the companies doing it will see a return on it. The market may jump around a bit when there are major leaps in tech but it will always settle where the customer is happy.
    “The Walrus” makes it sound a little like a ‘media cartel’ getting together and setting their prices! What you are experiencing is called ‘competiton’ and it is always good for the end user as it sorts the wheat from the chaff. Who are you to say any of the ‘have-a-go-harrys’ aren’t the next Anthill or whoever and just need a break??
    If you are good enough and have that spark of something different you will be recognised and survive, if not then you won’t.
    In the mean time if Joe Bloggs can make good looking vids/pics with his mates and inspire us all to ride more then its got to be good. The more we ride the more money goes back into the industry for companies to pay for things like films/photos etc!
    OK thats just my 2p’s worth. Good on you ‘Mr Keen Amature’, keep brightening up our computer screens!

  18. iron bike tyson


  19. Malcolm

    I’ve a feeling that technique, technical knowledge and having the means in terms of equipment are being used as valid reasons for being a professional filmmaker. The idea is king in my book. If you get that right you are 90 percent of the way there already. In terms of the Walrus comment – it stinks in my view….just because you’re pro gives you no right whatsoever. You sound spoilt to me.

    Just beacause you are not a professional writer does not mean that you cannot write an award winning novel.

  20. jonty

    @Wallrus: Am I being naive in thinking that you’re asking us to stop producing downhill videos that are watched and loved by thousands of people so that you can carry on coasting? Pull your socks up.

  21. james

    @Walrus. Can I just ask what it is that classifies you as a pro and the rest of us as have-a-go harries. Because clearly the work from the likes of these filmers is being favoured over yours, so yours obviously isn’t up to the standard that your charging. I think you need to get off the internet and up your game

  22. The Wallrus

    Calm down Calm down! I was a tad pissed when I wrote this last night so probably doesn’t come across very well, but my point stills stands. But Spoilt! @Malcolm I definitely am not! I’ve worked years of long fucking unpaid hours when I was younger to get where I am today (@James which is an FCP/Avid editor, currently in the position of Senior Editor at a large post house, working on TV and Film stuff).

    I made the move to TV because of the amount of small corporate production companies (which some I worked for) going under, because of this problem.

    What I was trying to get across is that its not ‘competition’ thats the problem, thats definitely a good thing, its people wondering into the industry ‘from’ making bike films but not knowing how to deal with clients/rates etc which brings the value of our craft down in the clients eyes. This is fine if its a hobby and you do a bit of this work on the side, but a lot of people have to make a living out of it and pay mortgages and bills etc, and a lot of people I know and have worked with who are still in the corporate industry are having massive financial problems.

    I’m definitely not saying no-one should make bike films, I think everyone should have a go and have some fun with it now the tech is much more accessible, and there’s some really really good stuff, put on sites like this daily. But bike magazine’s used to be about bikes, and videos were just made by riders with their camcorders whilst out riding. Now theres articles about professional broadcast equipment in bike magazines!

    To be honest I’m starting to forget the point of my rant, I never comment on these things and wish I didn’t sit at the computer when I got back from the bloody pub.

    Just keep on making good bike films, and as you learn more about the shooting/editing process and you feel like you want to take on small corporate/commercial jobs, just have a little thought for people that have been doing this for years, and don’t let clients take you for a ride with their sometimes ridiculous budgets. If everyone did this the whole industry would re-gain the respect it once had.

  23. jonesdirtmag

    Did anyone see The Gadget show on tv that they shot themselves recently with (what seemed to be) pretty budget kit?

  24. Barney

    It’s all well and good to have some consumer kit but you need the eye for it as well.

    Anybody can shoot race footage and tweak the edit to at least make it look ok…making it look good is a skill which only the very few have.

    I just hope all these webishoddy edits make the guys some decent money, cause the sites posting them surely are making some $$$…personally I like to see it all change in a few years when the novelty of having your video posted on these corporate whore websites wears thin…then the video makers might make some $$$.

    Video killed the video star?

  25. DaFerg

    @Walrus, to be fair to you my price cartel comment should have been aimed @Paul.
    But, you need to remember that the clients you talk of are also customers who are looking for the right product at the right price. If they can get something they are happy with for a bargain then they will. There will always be clients who want the best and will pay for it but maybe that is now a small pie trying to be cut into too many pieces? Any given market will only support a certain number of suppliers.

  26. Carlos "SATA"

    Jacob…”I edit on a PC using Sony Vegas as I haven’t saved up for a Mac yet.

    Vegas has a very easy to use interface which can do everything I need plus it’s quite a small program so it runs nice and fast on my really slow laptop..”

    Wow…but which PC you use?!…’cause mine does not run Vegas, I have a Lenovo T400…perhaps not for this kind of work, but certainly can handle it, but still does not work….I currently use CorelStudio13…

  27. Nirwanda

    great article, my friends and i do a lot of MTB filming and photography and this has helped me chose and upgrade for our camera, good work :)

  28. christhomson

    @Walrus, what defines you as a pro? That you kind of studied that stuff? Or that you make a living out of it? Some of these guys earn the money they live of it with making these videos, so for me they are kind of professionals cause they are good enough to get paid for making these stuff.
    There is no other description for being a professional for me. If you dont earn enough money anymore, you have to come with your ass up and try to get new ideas, cause thats the new future.Not filming experience and knowledge, valuable ideas is ja must have.

  29. Jerry Hazard


    I’m on a Lenovo G560 – dual core with 4gb of ram, and use Vegas Movie Studio Platinum HD version 10, with no issues. Maybe its a lighter version of the higher-end Vegas, but no hiccups or anything here.

    (have have to check out that corel stuff sometime…)

  30. Tepid

    @The Walrus….yan i’m not too sure what your point was…. i guess you meant that if you are an amateur and going to give filing a go, don’t sell yourself short?

    I hope so, as i would hate that deep inside you have resentment for a ‘have a go harrys’ who have a passion for film who are at the stage now were you were whenever you started out. Unfortunately if you are just beggining, you might have to sell yourself short initially if there is little interest out there for amateur work. If someone offers you ‘something’ to do a bit of work doing something you enjoy why wouldn’t you do it? Everyoone has to get their foot in the door somehow.

  31. Frankie

    I feel sorry for harry :(


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