I am selling a house to buy a camera. Well, a second house I built with my friends in New Hampshire. I work way too much to enjoy it and find myself camping out under the stars more than under a roof!

My clients are demanding gear and I am tired of renting a camera for a specific job. I own the PMW-EX1 and that gets used quite a bit, but it is not a true broadcast camera. High end clients want high end cameras, even though I can fool many people by shooting with inexpensive gear.

Television is my life and I finally have enough contacts and work to justify this investment. I just need to figure out what type of camera system I want to purchase. The problem is, I work in broadcast television, use broadcast cameras but I don’t necessarily want a $60,000 broadcast camera.

I must decide, art or commerce? Experimental or a sure bet? A new direction or the same one?

sony pdw-f800

Buying a Sony PDW-F800 would be a great camera for what I do. But, I do not necessarily want to keep shooting sports or sports features. I have the Letus Ultimate and b4 relay, so I could mount any prime lens to the XDCAM for the shallow depth of field. I would buy a Canon 21x lens and a Canon 4.5 wide angle lens. I would use Anton Bauer batteries and the super sweet Sony HDVF-20a high resolution viewfinder. I would try to push my gear and my talents to work on documentary or high end feature work with the Sony F800. This makes most sense to me. Plus, as far as I am concerned, the F800 is a real shoulder mounted camera.

red one

Buying a RED ONE would be exciting. I have shot on RED and it is a futuristic, specialized creative tool that has a workflow that actually works for me. I like the free RED software for dealing with the r3d files. I shot a few things at 120 FPS and that alone was the reason I wanted to buy the camera. I could get into a different side of commercial television. The RED camera is only $17,500. However, to get it all fitted for my preferences, like shoulder mounted with bomb viewfinder and a full compliment of high end glass, would put me up to my budget cap. Plus, this camera purchase would be a stepping stone to the EPIC.

phantom HD gold

Finally, I could try something totally drastic and buy into a Phantom. This would require a business loan and all of my budget to get this to happen. There are very few people shooting at high frame rates with a Phantom camera in the Boston area and I could bite into the market.

I wanted to know what the people on Twitter who follow my tweet stream thought about my potential camera purchase. I posted this on twitter a few hours ago: “Tweet your opinions now on: RED ONE, SONY F800, PHANTOM & be part of future blog debate on my site.” I had many people respond and I will post the tweets below.

Twitter

Many people on twitter are pushing for the RED. Adam makes a good point about how the camera system can cost more than you think when you start buying high end glass and accessories. Also, a friend of mine owns the RED and he has been going though firmware updates since the day he bought the camera. Good or bad? I do not know, but if I buy a Sony F800, it will just work right out of the box and has been proven to be a workhouse in the field.

Twitter

I have shot on HDCAM for many years. The format that the TV station I work for uses is 1080i. The HDW-730s shoots great looking HDCAM at 135mbps, but you need a deck to play it back and this is a weak point with all the moving parts. They are now moving over to master everything on 1080p and they are using all XDCAM optical disk. I was recently very surprised to find a HDW-730s HDCAM on eBay without a lens selling for under $16k! This tape-based camera a few years ago cost $70k!

Christian, XDCAM 422 is here to stay, in my opinion. It is not a tape format, nor is it solid state. XDCAM optical disks are cheap and a great way to have the “videotape” in hand to store on a shelf. The format is very robust and has been accepted as a primary acquisition HD format by many television stations and networks. The workflow for XDCAM 50mbps 422 is wonderful and does not tax an edit system or storage because of the increased compression. But, even with this compression, the stuff looks great. In fact, a guy that works at the same television station I mentioned above thinks that XDCAM 50mpbs 422 looks better than HDCAM! I agree with him after shooting with the PDW-700 a few weeks ago and looking at the source footy.

Rob, the RED footy looks much better than the 5dmk2 because of the color space and the aliasing issues found in current DLSR cmos chips. Plus, you can shoot at over 4k on a RED ONE and have much more creative control in post to manipulate the images.

I hear, “it depends on your use” a lot when I post the question, “what camera should I buy?” I agree with this. But for me, that is a very difficult question because I am not certain what I want to do with the camera! I want to do it all, but cannot have it all.

Tom, I know you shoot with the RED ONE on a regular basis. How have you dealt with the firmware updates? Have they put you out of work while the camera had to be serviced? Have you found any bugs in the system that caused you problems when in the field? How happy are you with the accessories and making the camera fit for your needs?

As far as being obsolete in a year, I just look at the cameras we use at work today to cover professional sports in Boston. They were manufactured in 2002 and they are high definition. They are all Sony cameras and they have held their own over the years and worked though the abuse of field use.

And yes, I have played with all three of these camera systems. I really love the F800 because it is what I know best. I can control it the best and feel the most comfortable with it. But it can’t shoot 4k or at high frame rates!

Twitter

Chris is right, it is a matter of art vs. commerce. I really want to take the plunge and spend all my money to start shooting at high frames rates. But for all that cash, using a camera that is so new and constantly improved (low light, more fps, less noise) I need to be sure that I can trade up if I buy in.

Lots of people say go RED, but will this camera open up new doors for me or will I struggle to get clients who will let me experiment and shoot outside the box. I do really want to experiment.

Twitter

The thought of using a NANOflash is a interesting one. I could buy an inexpensive camera and capture high bit rates with the nanoflash for clients who want more picture info for stuff like green screen.

Yes, the most important thing is what will bring in the most income. But a close second would be “what camera will stoke the fire in me to get out and shoot for fun?” I love shooting on my days off and experimenting with ideas.

Buying a RED ONE now, will help me get into very interesting digital cinema technology down the road.

Twitter

If I buy the Sony F800, I am all set to accept the workflow and edit the footy. Final Cut Pro works with XDCAM files nativity and easily. I have the Sony PDW-U1 USB deck and it is a great tool for the money. You can even write-back to an XDCAM disk and use for data archiving.

The F800 is a beautiful camera for broadcast television. I shot with the 700 a few weeks ago with the Boston Celtics and was blown away by the sharpness, color and image.

I mostly do run-and-gun, but high end commercial work could be in my future as well. Plus, television stations I work for latched onto the 35mm lens adapter “film-look.” I have made a lot of money with the Sony PMW-EX1 and the Letus Ultimate. I still make money with the camera system. These same clients would be willing to hire me to shoot specialized footy for promos and features at high frame rate and in insane resolution. The creative services departments would have a field day!

I can always rent whatever I don’t buy for those specific jobs. But my biggest fear will be buying into a camera that will not pay off and will turn into a dead format. I am staying away from videotape, so I should be ok!

I will be spending sixty plus thousand dollars in the next few months on a camera system. I will probably wait until NAB this spring to chat with Sony and look for some sort of a show deal.

Thank you for all your help. The information in your comments are tweets are helping me to decide what to buy. These are three totally different cameras. I must find the balance between art and income. Please post more comments below to further the debate.

As of right now, I want a full sized PDW-F800 XDCAM. But then I see footy shot at night with the new updated Mysterium X sensor and my swing back over to RED! What would you buy?