As of late, I’ve caught random tidbits online and other places about riders/filmers being partial to certain video cameras over others, and thought that this was an interesting topic to explore.
With that said, I have emailed a few (of the many) dudes who are constantly filming bikes with one simple question:
What is your video camera of choice and why?
Click below to check out some answers. Thanks to everyone who made this post possible.
I run two cameras these days. Anyone who knows anything about video or follows it all knows that DSLRs are a game changer. So I run a 7D for specific projects and beauty shots. I have several lenses, a wide zoom 11mm-20mm, long zoom 75mm-200mm, 16mm fish, and a fairly stock 28mm-75mm. I also have a glide cam, tripod, and shoulder support to keep it all steady. Slowly but surely it’s becoming my go-to cam, but there still are some disadvantages that keeps my Panasonic HMC-150 my work horse. That camera uses the small cheap memory card and gives excellent results which made it a much better choice over a P2 model. I’ve used it for tons of web, DVD, and broadcast projects and have had no complaints or problems. Also if I fill a card and have no time to dump it, finding blank media at a decent price has been easy. The Canon 7D gives an amazing picture, but when it comes to quick, easy set up, and shoot on the fly, I’ll roll with HMC. If I have time to play with, I’ll set up the 7D.
–GLENN PP MILLIGAN
My camera of choice is the Panasonic HPX170. Before I bought that I had a Panasonic DVX100A, then the DVX100B and also the Panasonic HVX200, as I’ve been a fan of Panasonic cameras for a fair while now. I guess I should say that I have recently been trying out the Canon 5D Mk II, and for me personally, it just couldn’t compete with a purpose built video camera. I’m just spoilt with so many awesome features on the HPX that it basically couldn’t compare. For some people I guess it’s what they’re after, and I’ve seen some really great results achieved with DSLR, but for my personal style of filming, it just wasn’t the tool for the job. Plus, I’m a bit of a purist, and I like shooting video on a video camera and taking photographs on a camera. But yeah, that’s just me.
The main features that lead me to go for the HPX170 are as follows:
I love the depth of colour and contrast in the HPX170, and the fact that I can alter the whole look of the shot through the user definable Scene File settings whilst I’m actually on location. I’m a big fan of the Panasonic sensors, and I like how the footage looks, even before CC.
The stock Leica lens on the HPX170 is one of the widest available, which means that when shooting long I can get nice and close to the action, and when I use the Century Extreme Fisheye on this camera, it’s one of the widest if not the widest configuration available right now to me, which makes for some great fisheye stuff.
The HPX shoots to P2 card and has no tape deck, which makes the overall weight of the camera far lighter than the HVX200, and also means that there are less moving parts within the camera for me to break! Plus the HPX170 has a great ‘Delete Last Clip’ function which comes in very useful when filming BMX if something is taking a lot of attempts.
It also has a quick LCD flip function and the focus ring can be switched to iris control, which makes it very easy to use with a 35mm lens adapter, should I want to get on the whole shallow D.O.F gig whilst I’m filming.
The variable framerates are also a useful feature, giving me a wide range of options to film with, whether I want to go 24P, 30P, 60P, interlaced, overcranked or undercranked etc etc. the camera is basically very versatile. It also features a waveform monitor and vectorscope on the LCD which means I have an instant breakdown of the exposure and different colour saturations at a glance.
The HPX170 is basically a high quality, well balanced camera that is a pleasure to use, and is almost purpose built for my job. I especially like using this style of video camera on a Glidecam. I feel that the weight and size of it means that I can really sprint around, jump over stuff and go up and down stairs with a good amount of stability. The flip out LCD obviously makes it nice and easy to use inverted with the Glidecam too so I can get nice low fisheye shots, which is a technique I use a lot.
I’ve tried out a lot of cameras in the past, and so far I’m yet to find anything that I enjoy using as much as my own personal setup. It’s just a great, solid video camera with a fantastic lens that’s perfect for shooting action, and if I feel like really messing with shots, there’s always a whole load of options I can play with to make my shots turn out as I want them.
I think the bottom line is that I just enjoy using this camera, which is the most important thing for me. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s perfectly suited to my style of filming.
Colin Mackay Photo
VX1 MK1 Lens
I’ve always been a fan of the Sony VX1000 and VX2100. You cant beat the crunchy real color look of a VX-1 on a nice sunny day. The VX 2100 comes through as well with a little different colors and better low light performance. The Mk1 lens is the best fisheye out there in my opinion and looks really good on either of these cameras. I’m into HD stuff as well for more of a serious feel or mixed in for lifestyles and second angles here and there. But for me, it’s the classic/real feel that a VX puts out that’s got me keeping one in the bag.
George Marshall Photo
I love the 5d mkII, full frame, manual audio, but if I can only pick one cam I gotta say my cam of choice is the Canon 550D (T2i).
It’s small, it’s light, it’s in my hands, it’s on my lap, it’s on the streets, it’s round my neck, it’s on the dash, it’s on my seat, it’s on the roof, it’s on my bike, it’s on the plane, it’s in the park, it’s pointed at him, it’s pointed at her, it’s pointed at that? it’s pointed at you, it’s discrete and with me everywhere I go!
The 550 never leaves my side. Being predominantly a stills camera it provokes reactions from people that are different to what you would get when filming with regular camcorders (in a good way), arguably more natural. What I love about it is it doesn’t draw the attention that the bigger (Pro) bodies do, so it’s good for filming security/police incidents or anything like that, due to being in the form of a “stills” camera.
Better still, with the 550 there’s less annoying small talk with “budding enthusiasts”. Sounds bad but whip out the 5D or 7D and people will small talk your ear off about them for hours. I guess it’s because the 550 is seen as an amateur cam compared with 7D and 5D MkII, and I like that. The image results you can get from this cam are outstanding and I love it.
Over and out!
– MATTY LAMBERT
My camera set up of choice is the Sony VX 1000 and Century Mark 1 lens. I’m very into the classic skateboard video style of filming and have been for years now. The VX 1 has a huge cult following and rightfully so: it’s one of the best non HD daytime camera you can find, plain and simple. Ask Will Stroud or Navaz, they both work with HD but neither could deny how crispy the VX 1000 looks when it is set up properly…. And for the record, I am not anti HD by any means, I love the look of HD as well but I’m still leaning towards the VX1 as my favorite video camera…. I’m well aware that it’s not the end all be all of cameras, but it’s my preference.
Nathan Beddows photo/Ride UK
For me this is a complicated question. In 1999 I bought my first professional camera which was a Sony VX-1000. That camera is great and it helped me learn the basics of filming. I ran about 300 tapes through that thing and retired it to my closet in 2002 when I got a TRV-900. Again, another solid camera that I put tons of miles on and used up until 2006 when I got a VX-2100. I used that camera for about a year before investing in my first HD camera which was the Panasonic HVX-200. Four years later I’m still using the HVX-200 for most of my filming projects. I also bought the Canon 7d about a year ago and use it as a secondary B-Roll camera for some lifestyle, timelapses and artsy stuff. About a month ago I was watching some old skate vids from the 90’s and it got me inspired to get my VX-1000 back out of the closet. I dusted it off and sent it to this place called Video Electronics near Boston that specializes in repairing VX-1000s. In about a week’s time and $300 later my VX-1000 is ready for more action. I haven’t shot anything with it yet since it’s repair but I’m excited to take it on my next trip with me. It’s crazy that I’ve had this camera for 11 years now but it almost feels like it’s new again.
Aside from video cameras, I have also done a lot of work on 16mm film cameras. I went to film school from 1999 – 2003 and invested in an Arri SB 16mm & a Bolex 16mm camera. I love the look of film but cost and time is a major factor in why I rarely shoot film any more. My friend from college just gave me about 1500 feet of 16mm raw stock so maybe I’ll shoot some 16mm for my next DVD project?
I’d say my pick for all of these cameras that I’ve used would be a combination of the VX-1000, HVX-200 and my Bolex 16mm. A lot of people hate on HD but I think it looks good when shot right (ex: watch anything by Joe Simon or James Cox). I still really love the classic VX-1000 look too though (ex: watch anything from Navaz or Tony Ennis). It really just depends on what look I want to go for and what the project needs are. A lot of times I have used the term “HD” to help sell a project to a corporate client (ex: Levi’s). That’s becoming a harder sell nowadays since everyone and their mother has an HD camera. I have appreciation for anyone who knows how to use their camera gear to achieve a nice look.
– WILL STROUD
My camera the last couple years has been the Panasonic DVX100A. I’m a huge fan of the film-like image and colors the camera produces over the flatter, more video-like picture produced by other pro-sumer cameras like the VX series. The real advantage of the camera is definitely it’s pretty extensive list of built in features; namely the variable frame rate options (24p, 30p, and 60i) and the camera’s ability to store 6 different customized shooting setups at once with a turn of the dial. Compared to every other camera in the DV prosumer league, it really has certain niche kind of quality to it image-wise that no other can match.
Vx1000 mk1 daytime
vx2100 mk1 intermediate night time.
This was my setup up until about 2 years ago and I miss the simplicity of it.
Hoang Tran Photo
VX has paved the way that action sports should be documented (Bmx, Skateboarding, rollerblading, etc.)
There is no better lens then the Century Optics Mark 1 Fisheye.
I am also in the process of purchasing another 2100 and also a VX1000.
The 1000 is the original VX, great for day filming and the Mark 1 was made for the 1000 so the vigs are dialed. The 2100 films better in lower light.
I feel when using the VX you focus on the riding more than you could with an HD camera. Also I despise seeing any clip with a glide cam, just shows laziness and poor skill, good work has come out of glide cam shots but you still should jut get a skateboard or use your bike. I’m not a fan of really anything extra around the VX except for a generator, some lights, bolt cutters and wax. Also I am only speaking about filming BMX. There are many amazing cameras and equipment a lot of my friends use, but when it comes to BMX I’m not into anything but real film from a Sony VX.
Bmx needs to know and stay with it’s roots. VX for life.
–MILES ROGOISH ++
I’ve owned the same Sony Vx-2100 for 6 or 7 years now I think, and it’s gotta be at the top of my list. I know a lot of guys that will swear the 1000 over anything, but to be honest I’ve only used the 1000 a couple of times, so I can’t say it’s my favorite. If you use the 2100 properly, using all manual controls and custom presets, you can get some really crispy footage. Combine the fact that it’s second to none in low light, and I really can’t think of anything bad to say about the camera. Getting my hands on a mk1 Century Fisheye made the camera brand new to me, I usually won’t shoot fish with any other camera. HD is coming in heavy, but I think it’s fun to mix up the raw feel of an SD setup with some properly placed HD shots. As long as Century keeps making glass for the mk1 fisheye, VX’s aren’t going anywhere for a long time.
My video camera of choice is the Sony DCR-VX 2100 because:
I know, standard definition and tapes are sooo 2005, but I’m a creature of habit and I’ve been using this camera almost every day since they came out over 5 years ago, so it’s pretty much like an extension of my right arm. I have two of them and they have definitely seen some serious mileage, using them in just about every project I’ve been involved in, over the last 5 years…. I wouldn’t even know where to start counting how many hours these things have been used. Right now, they look like they have been through a few wars. The microphones are shitting the bed, but I just can’t bring myself to get rid of them. I love the way these things handle, from the way it feels in my hand, to the responsiveness of the zoom rocker, it just feels perfect….maybe it’s because I’m so used to them. I keep telling myself that I’m going to get rid of them once Anthem II is finished, but we’ll see if i actually follow through on that.
What’s that saying… If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it? Besides, who doesn’t love a good tape glitch every now and then?