Well I finally did it and got a proper video camera. The Panasonic AG-HMC151 is a full HD solid state video camera and I chose this one because I've used it throughout my time at university. The HMC151 is a few years old but the build quality and the image quality is great. The camera has three CCD sensors instead of a CMOS chip which is what my DSLR uses. The DSLR has a few problems that are not present in video cameras like this one. I realised that I needed a proper video camera to do certain projects. For a start, the weight and size of the video camera means it's easy to keep steady handheld. Handheld DSLR footage is atrocious sometimes and this problem forced me to use a tripod when making films. Also, the shallow depth of field capability found in the DSLR is good for cinematic shots but keeping a moving subject in focus is hard work.
The HMC151 pretty much stays in focus all of the time because of the greater depth of field and auto focus feature. Yeah, the Canon 600d does have auto focus but it's useless for video. I still love my Canon 600d to pieces though and I'll continue to use it for making films because the image quality is fantastic. Thing is, the Canon DSLR's data rate is 42mbps but this Panasonic camera is only 24mbps. This is almost half but it doesn't bother me because the pros outweigh the cons in my opinion. With the Panasonic 151 you get 13x optical zoom, dual XLR input for audio, manual control (no navigating through menus), HDMI output, half a dozen HD formats, zebra pattern and waveform monitor (for checking exposure). I have the zebra pattern feature in my little Panasonic video camera and it's a feature that I found very useful. Unfortunately, my DSLR doesn't have this feature and I struggled for awhile with exposure.
I've done a few tests with the camera already and overall the footage is good. Getting this camera once again reminded me of the importance of having well lit scenes and subjects. With dull afternoon light coming through a curtain, my footage looked flat and average but when I attached my LED light, the camera was able to capture a lot more detail. I'm definitely going to have to invest in some proper lights for future projects. University has taught me a lot but the most important lesson learnt is about lighting. A lot of amateur productions overlook this and suffer in quality as a result. Anyway I'm digressing now so back to the camera.
I've tried mixing footage from this camera with footage from my DSLR (which is currently having a new LCD screen fitted). As I suspected, it's very hard to make a seamless transition between each shot because to the trained eye the differences are blatant. Footage from my DSLR is softer with certain parts of the shot out of focus (shallow depth of field etc) but footage from the Panasonic is sharp and not just the subject but the whole scene including the background. This is the most obvious difference but the colours and contrast (which can be adjusted in software anyway) are also different. Data rate (as previously mentioned) is also different with the Panasonic having half as many megabytes per second than the DSLR.
Despite these differences, I'm confident that I can use footage from both in the same projects. I'm tempted to label the Panasonic my A camera and the Canon DSLR my B camera but for different reasons those labels should be swapped. I would definitely favour the Pansonic for moving shots where there's a lot going on and I need the greater depth of field. Conversely, the Canon DSLR would be better for close ups where the shallow depth of field is needed to blur the background for cinematic effect. Chances are, I will end up doing whole projects with just the Panasonic in the same way that I have done whole projects with just the DSLR.