Picking a Camera

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the January, 2009, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]


I get a lot of questions similar to Jon Preston’s:

I’m looking to replace my trusty old PD-150. Modest prices are important; after examining Panasonic & Sony’s mid-priced cameras, my choice is the Panasonic HMC-150. The problem is the AVCCAM format; I have been informed that FCP can’t edit natively and my G5 can’t transcode it to prores (only intel processors?!). Have you heard of workarounds? Intensity card and HDMI capture seems to negate the solid state speed advantages. Any hope, or should I resign myself to an HDV camera? I can only upgrade one item, camera or computer, but, I need HD now.


I wish to thank you for your wonderful newsletters; I can’t tell you how many stumbling blocks have been averted or problems solved.

Larry replies: Jon, this is a great question — some of which I can answer, some I can’t.

For me, the criteria I use in buying a camera are:

  1. The quality of the lens – removable lenses are much preferred. Nothing improves an HD picture like a high-quality lens.
  2. The size of the camera sensor chip – bigger is better.
  3. The video codec it shoots.

The price of the camera is not as important as you think. If you buy a cheap camera that saves you a ton of bucks, but none of your clients like your images, you really haven’t saved any money. You’ll spend all the money you saved renting the right gear.

Which is my first point: unless you are shooting a LOT, rent a camera, don’t buy it. Camera technology is changing too quickly. Especially, if you are thinking of buying, rent the camera first to see if you REAlLY like it. Then, buy the one you like.

From a technical point of view, no one does a better job evaluating cameras than Adam Wilt. You can visit his website here: www.adamwilt.com.

Currently, Final Cut can not edit AVCCAM video natively. However, it converts it to ProRes, which is an excellent intermediate format. The only disadvantage to this is that ProRes can’t be created on a G-5.

Blackmagic gear requires Intel/Macs to create ProRes. However, the AJA IO-HD can create ProRes and feed it to a G-5.


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