Why Not Shoot Property Video With A CamCorder?

July 28th, 2015

CanonG30HDJR recently ask the following:

Background: I worked for 20 years in television, and my weapon was a Betacam. That said, I’m no stranger to SLR/DSLR photography, having done it since I was a kid.

I’m considering getting a ‘prosumer’ camcorder–thinking hard about Canon’s HF-G30 and a wide-angle adapter–to shoot RE video. I say prosumer, since I really don’t need XLR inputs and so forth.

Having used a Betacam for so many years, the functionality of a camcorder just works for me. To my beloved 70D: “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Here comes the question: In terms of real-world outcomes, what will I lose by switching to a camcorder?

What DSLR video contributes is the ability to shoot video with a device where you can use high-quality interchangeable lenses. Specifically for shooting video of interiors you can put a top quality lens like the Canon 10-22mm on the 70D That means you can shoot video with a 16 mm effective focal length… using a wide angle lens between 16 mm and 24 mm is essential for creating quality interior video and you CAN’T do that with a Canon HF-G30. The specs for the HF-30 say the lens is 35mm equivalent 26.8 mm to 576 mm. You mention that you are going to also use a wide-angle adapter, but be careful, my experience with wide-angle adapters is negative. Most wide-angle adapters are very low-quality junk!

Also, I see that the sensor in the HF-30 is 2.91 megapixels compared to 20 megapixels on your 70D. So the low light sensitivity and dynamic range (something you really need when shooting inside without lights) of the HF-30 is awful compared to the 70D. There’s probably a camcorder style video camera that would create as high-quality video as your 70D with a 10-22 mm lens, but you are going to have to spend many times what an HF-30 or 70D with a 10-22mm lens costs.

All this is why everyone uses DSLRs to shoot property video!

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9 Responses to “Why Not Shoot Property Video With A CamCorder?”

  • The most highly regarded DSLR for video is the Panasonic Lumix GH4, which I’ve used since it was introduced. I started with the GH1 and 7-14 (14-28) lens and have used the lens since, also with a GH2 and GH3.

    The GH4 has more dynamic range than the Canon 70D. If I were starting fresh I’d buy the Olympus 7-14, f2.8. The GH4 has the advantage of shooting 4K and adapters make a wide range of lenses available.

    The GH4 is one of the cameras Fred Light uses. I’d be interested in hearing his take on it, and the take of anyone else who uses the GH4 for video.

  • Joe: I found the GH4 a bit too noisy for many interiors (so many people live in caves with little or no light or daylight!). Because it’s micro four thirds, it’s also a bit more difficult to get a decent wide lens for it as it is a 2X crop factor. I do love the output however and use it for exteriors a lot along with my C100. It’s a great little package for sure. For interiors I use a Sony A7S and the Sony 16-35mm lens. A traditional camcorder would be a huge mistake I think unless it accepts quality interchangeable lenses.

    Pedro Martinez was just inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame last weekend. I shot his house NINE years ago with a camcorder and wide angle adapter. Just for fun, I pulled it up on YouTube the other day when he was all over the news…..and almost gagged – it’s that bad!) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLvgq8Ktn1I)

    The quality was so abysmal it’s embarrassing and unwatchable, along with the curvature of the junk wide angle “adapter” that I bought with my camcorder at the time. It was a recent reminder to me of the quality of camcorder footage and how technology has changed greatly in the ten years since I started doing this! (that was a $1500 HD Canon Camcorder – the first high definition camcorder that was ever sold).

  • Hmm. I mainly shoot stills and have no video background or training. But I have been using a 4 year old +/- Canon camcorder for journalistic purposes. So for my RE video that I am just phasing in, I shoot the interiors with my Canon still camera and the exteriors as well. But my lenses have really, really lousy zoom capabilities. So when I need a smooth zoom, I fall back on my camcorder. In a good editing software I find the two will combine well enough when reduced for the small file size for internet streaming. And that I think is an important point. If you are shooting for high end publishing and display you need high end gear. But all my uses are for uploading to Tourbuzz.net and YouTube although if it is needed on Youtube, I tend to output my Tourbuzz tour as a video and put that up. This diminishes the overall quality greatly. In fact those lovely low flyovers where the garden details are so delightful or the hay field crisp and delicious from my quadcopter become a tangled of pixilated and blotchy soup of mush when reduced for internet streaming. Fine detail when passing past the lens is not only lost but positively nauseating.

    I indulge myself in all this purely because I think the level of equipment needs to be set against the level of reproductive and viewing quality of the final production. I have a big wish list of equipment from the DJI Ronin 3-Axis Brushless Gimbal Stabilizer to a decent slider. But the business reality of that is that in my market, no one expects to pay more for the added video. They expect it to be included in the still photography price and that clearly is not an economic model that will work. So if I do it for selected clients, I can’t run out and buy more expensive equipment, I have to use what I already have.

  • If you wanted a quality video camera and you like your Canon lenses, you should look at the C100. They are very competitively priced right now. They have a full frame sensor, XLR inputs, proper monitor outputs. All the advantages of a video camera, plus interchangeable lenses. I see that they are offering $1,000 discounts on these cameras. They are quite a bit more than the camera you were looking at, but probably worth the extra investment. Dave.

  • Like Peter, I come from a stills background. Over the past year have practiced video techniques and include naturally occurring movement – doors and/or community gates opening, pool fountains etc – in Tourbuzz clips and to my knowledge the only one in the area that includes stills, pano and video in a tour. Set tripod with video head and slider or jib footage OK but skill with a glidecam severely lacking and wouldn’t want my name associated with it. Let’s just say my glidecam skill has improved as I went from drunken sailor on shore leave to mildly intoxicated. Last week I got a Ronin-m and huge difference. Still practicing after a week, but actually shocked two Realtors as my typical front door opening transition from exterior to interior that they were use to, suddenly included footage of walking through the door and into the main part of the house. Still see areas I need to improve, but getting there.

    Currently shoot with a Nikon D610, and seriously looking at switching to Sony with the a7s (or unannounced next generation a7sII) the ‘backup camera” for either the a7II or the a7RII which will be released next week for stills (and video). No, I don’t have it on pre-order. That way I can have lens (FE in this case) centered around one system, but that is not that critical as pro level camcorders with interchangeable lens from Canon, Sony, Red, Blackmagic and Panasonic, even those with a native cinema mount, accept other brand lens, including Nikon, with an adapter. The bigger issue is professional ethics, where if you are accepting money you need a backup camera. Yes, you can take stills with a high end camcorder as backup, but a DSLR such as the a7S (or retaining the D610) would be a better option. The other issue is sensor size where everything DSLR is full frame while the ‘affordable’ professional camcorders are Super 35 (crop sensor) so would have to get additional lens at the wide end as the 16-35 has a FOV of 24-55 on a crop sensor.

    Now back to practicing for both skill development and software workflow. And yes, Peter is right about the unwillingness to spend, but with my also being a Realtor, I seek to turn that to an advantage but that is a whole different subject. Today, I am going after an expired $800k listing on the market for 264 days with DIY photography, no video, and the tour is the free on that MLS provides locally to all realtors that is very low quality (small frame and repeats first 5 photos with Ken Burns effect). Your clients should be doing the same, and if they can throw true video in their quiver, so much the better.

  • I started out shooting with a sony prosumer camcorder but quickly switched to the Canon C100 due to lens limitations (and to look more professional). 6 months ago I dumped the c100 for the Sony A7s to take advantage of the smaller size and better high ISO performance. Overall I like the flexibility of the A7s but it’s not nearly as intuitive to film with compared to the c100. But because of how light it is, I’m able to fly around the whole house on my MOVI without taking a break.

    A quick note though – higher megapixels for video is actually a detriment to both dynamic range and low light capabilities. This is why the C100 has such a great image but is only 8.3mp, and the A7s is a beast in low light because it is only 12.4mp. I snipped the below from an article:

    “….the reason why the A7s has 12 megapixels is because of two things. Better low light and dynamic range. By having 12 megapixels across a full frame sensor, it allows the megapixels to be bigger. The bigger these megapixels are, the better they are at capturing light.”

  • The c100 isn’t a full frame sensor. It’s a super 35 with a crop factor around 1.4.

  • A rookie and newbie question about video …
    I shoot stills with a Canon 6D and my back up is a Canon T5i. I use a Canon EF 16-35 2.8 for my 6D. My T5i I use EFS 18-35, but I don’t use it. Again, only back-up, though I have used it a couple of times simply for curiosity sake. I realize that my T5i is a crop sensor camera. Here’s what I am driving at: I’d like to use my 6D for video, but I don’t believe it has an autofocus feature where as the T5i does. I have read that an STM lens might do the trick for the T5i, but not for the 6D. I will soon pull the trigger for a gimbal, but I’d like to see if I can use my existing gear to get some decent video – maybe using my current lenses? I don’t think I intend to conduct complete video walk-thrus a la Fred Light, but maybe some simple panning and cuts to different features of the house. However, I’d like to be able to have options to perform video walk-thrus once my skills are honed. I’m also pulling the trigger for a drone – Phantom III. Thanks.

  • I know this is not really a discussion forum but I do find this theme of great interest since I really do believe that video will be dragging realtor kicking and screaming into this age of movement and I want to be as much at the front of it as possible. But I have limited resources and I don’t want to make a major investment without testing the waters. I have been doing hand held video walkthroughs of hotels and restaurants for about 7 years as part of my high end food and travel stories, now told almost exclusively in video. (YouTube gets to cover the server space instead of my server too). So it was a natural extension to do the same thing for real estate. And I always had some poor sod, usually my long suffering wife open the door as I approached and then disappear into the wood work, not easy for someone who was accustomed to being in front of the camera or on stage most of her life. Then I would have the camera (a small consumer model) float through the house, through flower arrangements, across the dining room table, through fountains and so on bringing a great tactile feeling and providing a 360 coverage of a room and how one room would flow into another. What I did not realize is that there are statistics showing that if you don’t loose 15% of your audience in the first 30 seconds you will loose most of your audience after 2 minutes, maybe a 2.5 minutes and my videos were taking 5-7 minutes just to do an interior. So I had to make a separate one for the exterior. I am not talking about row house but mansions on large properties.

    So videos are no use if no one is sticking around to see your clever work. In having to cut them down, I have to shoot them differently and cut out all the fun things I lived for. But my job is to help sell properties, not crow about my clever antics. This blog has feature many fantastic videos for RE. But I keep wondering how they are being used. How does a realtor actually use a fine video hosted on Vimeo? How do they promote them? The samples I see stop at the end of the video. My videos are mainly uploaded at the front of my still photos on TourBuzz so they have to be especially short. So I have to get into short, snappy clips and fast cuts. So much for my self indulgence that bring me so much pleasure. My point being, its not enough to shoot great video, the editing has to be tailored for the market and the platform where they are going to be seen. And just like stills, you have to shoot for the end result.

    I have a lot in common with Larry above. I am trying to make the equipment I have produce acceptably professional results. So I pan with my T41 with my Sigma 10-20mm lens which begins to make me seasick. I have it on a mono-pod and try to be smooth. Or I rise from a squat and bringing the camera with me and peer over a table or kitchen island with knees cracking and my red face melting the back of the camera. With my Canon Vixio, I can edit the results in iMovie and apply stabilization which smoothing out all the erratic photographer movements but not with video from my Canon T41. And I am not ready to buy a motorized hand held gymbal yet. So have anyone tried the software that is advertized as applying the same sort of stabilization as iMovie as well as correcting barrel distortion, fish eye effect and more: http://www.prodad.com/home/products/actioncam/300582316,l-us.html. For $49 it might get me closer to where I want the results to be if I know it will work. DJI Phantom flyers have recommended it for correcting the fish eye effect on their video from the quadcopters.

    Then there is the sound. I never realized just how much noise we create in our environments today even in the country. Workers dumping iron pipe at 6.30 AM in the morning, others going to work on non silenced motor cycles, radios, cars, airplanes – you name it. I basically have to cut all the sound from my videos, then separately record fountains, birds, waterfalls, pools, spas, horses, crickets for the twilight shots all from the actual location to make the sounds real. And then some “white noise” like the breezes rustling the trees. Then add in some music that will not offend a potential buyer. I hate video that is silent except for some high tech music pulsing away. I want to add the dimension that adds to the story of the property. Like that empty stable with no horses but I add in the sound of horses to make the point. But all this take a hell of a lot of time. Do all you do this? And what then do you charge? The property still has to be covered with stills for MLS, print ads, flyers etc. How can we make such added value result in fees we can charge for our time and expertise?

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