How can award-winning multimedia journalist Tracey Shelton upgrade her 7D kit on a tight budget?

By site editor Dan Chung:

Tracey's battered Canon EOS 7D kit

Tracey’s battered Canon EOS 7D kit

What kit should an award-winning multimedia journalist buy when it is time to upgrade? Tracey Shelton has been using the same Canon EOS 7D and “beaten up old lenses” since she started filming in Syria. They’ve helped her to win the the prestigious George Polk Award for Video Reporting and also a POYI award of excellence for her video from the warzone (recognising her work for the Global Post website), but she finally has a chance to buy new gear – and she needs advice.

She’s just back from Aleppo and says she needs to pack light and small, working for “anything up to a month in Syria… My full kit, laptop and clothes need to fit into a bag light enough to run away from bullets with.“

For that reason she is insistent on having just one camera that shoots both stills and video. “It’s also easier to have the one camera than juggling two…The 7D has been fine, could be better of course, but it’s done ok until now.”

Tracey Shelton working with her 7D

Tracey Shelton working with her 7D

Her current kit consists of the 7D with Canon 28-105mm and a Canon 100-300mm but she says “the lenses I have need to go in the bin”.

Her budget is very tight – $2000 US. Her options are to keep the 7D body and buy new lenses or buy a whole new kit. She says she can’t afford two L series Canon lenses, and even if she could she worries they would be too heavy for “frontline gear”. She wonders if there is “a cheaper option that will give me close to the same quality – preferably a little lighter although I know that means less quality”.

She would also like to add a fast prime lens to the outfit and is prepared to consider used gear if it means she can stay in her budget.

The most logical camera that fits the bill is the photojournalist’s favourite, the Canon 5D mkIII, but on Tracey’s budget that is clearly ruled out.

Nikon D600

A cheaper full-frame body such as the Nikon D600 would be ideal but would require more budget

My advice to Tracey has been to try and extend her budget to afford one of the cheaper full-frame DSLRs – either the Nikon D600 or Canon 6D – or find a good deal on a used 5D mkII. All these cameras should have better video quality than the 7D, and better stills too.

A move to Nikon would mean additional cost for batteries and other accessories, but would mean she could monitor audio with headphones – an option sadly lacking in cheaper Canons.

Any new camera body would leave very little for lenses so I would suggest going for a used Tokina AT-X 28-70 f2.8 (good for video but slow AF for stills) or another Canon 24-105mm f4L (assuming she stays with Canon).

For a Canon long lens I would go for a used 70-200mm f4L which is both sharp and lightweight, or maybe a newer 70-300 f4-5.6 L IS if extra money could be found. Nikon options are more limited but inexpensive, high quality yet light weight zooms – especially ones with fast AF for stills. The logical lens is the new Nikon 70-200 f4 VR but it’s out of Tracey’s price range, so I would probably get a newer Tamron 70-300 stabilised lens.

An inexpensive Canon 50mm f1.8 (ideally a used MKI version) or Nikon 50mm f1.8 would be an option for adding a fast prime for full frame cameras. If Tracey stays with the 7D then the outgoing version of the Sigma 30mm f1.4 lens would seem like a good candidate as it is highly discounted right now.

panasonic gh3

The Panasonic GH3 would be a more radical option for Tracey

There is also the more radical option of going for a micro 4/3 system instead. The Panasonic GH3 and GH2 would be possibilities. The GH3 in particular has a reasonable video image and headphone monitoring. Lenses and cameras are very compact and well suited to running around. Shallow depth of field looks are harder to achieve but for war video this may not be essential.

The major downside of the GH cameras for Tracey would be their stills capabilities. They can’t compete with Canon or Nikon for shallow depth of field look and low light performance (at least not without expensive glass). The electronic viewfinders, while much better than before, are not as good as a reflex finder in an action situation. I think it would be worth Tracey considering whether she could live with these compromises for the sake of gaining a lighter weight camera system.

If you have any better suggestions or experience with any of the kit we are discussing please chime in.

You can see more of Tracey’s award-winning work from Syria and a discussion with her about witnessing the deaths of rebel fighters here.

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Posted on March 17th, 2013 by admin | Category: Canon EOS 5D MkIII, Canon EOS 6D, Canon Eos7D, Journalism, Panasonic GH2, Panasonic GH3 |

36 responses to "How can award-winning multimedia journalist Tracey Shelton upgrade her 7D kit on a tight budget?"

  1. VanWeddings Says:
    March 17th, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    i have both canon and m4/3 bodies and lenses. since tracey says her lenses are not reusable and she needs to replace those first, and if possible, the body as well, and that she’d trade a bit of quality for smaller size, i would vote for the gh3 and lumix 12-35 f2.8. the video quality is superior for reportage purposes, and having usable video auto focus is extremely valuable in war zones.

    for stills, the gh3 is the equal of the olympus omd em-5 which has converted many professional photographers. since tracey is shooting video primarily, and pulls stills from video, the higher resolving video of gh3 (plus 1080p 60fps capability) is much more valuable.

    the weaknesses listed are not always weaknesses. deeper DOF is probably more useful, and the evf works better in dark situations than optical. size and weight savings are substantial, and the only downside really is servo focus for stills. again the benefits outweigh the drawback in my opinion.

  2. mark london Says:
    March 17th, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    Should we just do an indiegogo thing and just buy her some kit? I’d put in $50 for her to have better gear. Her work is terrific. Either a 5D3 or D800. Just an idea.
    Used 5D2 and a cheap 35mm prime and an F4 zoom seem like a great choice otherwise.
    I’ve found GH3’s a bit fiddly in the field. But that could be my big dumb hands.

  3. tipnring48 Says:
    March 18th, 2013 at 12:49 am

    My 2 cents: If 2 lenses work for everything she does then stick with what works. She is used to the crop sensor. Keep the 7D. I imagine the majority of her work is done on the 24-105 f4L. Replace that which is about $1200 new. Her work is beautifully proven with that combo. Then, either put the remaining $800 toward a new camera further down the road, or pick up a point&shoot like the G15. That way you have 2 camera setups.

  4. alexB Says:
    March 18th, 2013 at 1:12 am

    GET THE 70-200mm 2.8!!
    she should invest into a Canon 70-200mm 2.8 IS. Its a lot of bulk to carry but in her hands it will produce the most amazing Photographs people have seen.

  5. Vlachbild Says:
    March 18th, 2013 at 1:33 am

    What about Sony a77 & 16-50 2.8. (around 1450$)
    Additionaly Minolta Beercan 70-210 f/4 (250$) and a fast prime, either Minolta 50mm 1.4/1.7 (100-200$) or Sony 35mm 1.8 or 85mm 2.8 (around 250$)
    Easily fits budget, when bought used even quite some money left, and awesome for video and high-speed for stills.

  6. Tim Says:
    March 18th, 2013 at 3:24 am

    I use a 5DMK2 and a GH2.
    If I was in her situation, I would pickup the GH3 and 12-35mm f2.8 IS combo and use ETC for long lens work. It’s weather sealed, extremely light and easy to hide. Image stabilisation is a bonus. A second hand Panasonic 20mm f1.7 would be all she needs for low light work.
    As for stills-
    I actually find face recognition on m4/3 far better than the Canon diamond shape focus zone. I can actually nail a shot and never have to crop to get the composition right later. Face recognition rarely fails to get an eyeball in sharp focus. I find playing around with focus points on the Canon clumsy and I often miss THE shot.
    Hope she finds what she needs!

  7. Tim Says:
    March 18th, 2013 at 3:30 am

    One more thought. In a war zone – shallow depth of field isn’t always what one needs. And when one needs it – for instance when shooting interviews – it’s there in spades because the interviewee has to be reasonably close to the camera. Keeping sharp focus in low light wide open can be next to impossible on full frame – but in fact it is twice as easy with m4/3 at the same aperture.

  8. David OSullivan Says:
    March 18th, 2013 at 3:50 am

    Canon f4 L series lenses. They are so much lighter and compact than the 2.8 equivillant and just as good quality. I have the 17-40 + 70-200 non IS. they fit really well in a compact backpack. throw in the 40 2.8 pancake for good measure. without shopping around these come to 1522 on B&H and you still have $500 to put towards a 2nd hand 5dii or 6d a few months down the track with lenses that will make the FF sing.

  9. mdrewpix Says:
    March 18th, 2013 at 6:15 am

    I’ll second that vote for the 17-40 and 70-200 f4!! As a news photographer – though obviously not in a war zone – I use both of them daily for stills and video and they are superb. They can both be found lightly used and I’d guess that with a little shopping around she could find the pair of them for a little over $1000. I would also say to keep the 7D and maybe add a 60D – or 70D if it is available in time. A great, underrated camera especially with the Magic Lantern hack. The flip-out screen alone makes it worth having. She should end up with a few bucks left over even getting all three items.

  10. wallbobbyc Says:
    March 18th, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Perhaps we could all contribute something to allow Tracey to get a 5DmIII (and maybe a good all rounder lens) and continue her great work.

    As far as fast primes, there are tons of old manual ones that will be just a few dollars and work just fine. I use a m42 50mm 1.4 that I bought for $12, and then added a $7 adaptor to all the time – very useful for interviews.

  11. Messerjocke Says:
    March 18th, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Consider the new Nikon D5100 (very lightweight) or D7100. Compared to the 7D both deliver a huge step up in video quality (very close to the 5D3). Both will easily fit to the budget and leave headroom for some fine lenses.

  12. Messerjocke Says:
    March 18th, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Sorry, it’s the D5200, Not the older D5100.

  13. petruk Says:
    March 18th, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    Tell her to get herself a gopro, useful in a lot of circumstances.
    Tell her to get herself over to indiegogo, or get herself a tip jar. I and many others would be glad to contribute.

  14. Says:
    March 19th, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Another vote for the Canon f/4 L lenses.
    The Sigma 17-50 2.8 IS is fantastic for the price as well, and cheaper than the Canon 17-40L (although not FF compatible)

    If she really needs a new body, sell the 7D and pick up a 60D and install magic lantern on it.

  15. beekeeperstories Says:
    March 19th, 2013 at 10:56 am

    I just find it extremely sad that pro of her level can’t afford to buy decent equipment. It shows sad state of our profession. BKS

  16. stproducer Says:
    March 19th, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    GH3 has wonderful video and solid audio. the X lenses are terrific, quite well stabilized, but pricey.

    More to the point, and echoing beekeeper, Tracey you should start a kickstarter campaign. If you do I’m in for a not-insignificant-amount, because your work is terrific.

  17. PKent Says:
    March 20th, 2013 at 6:30 am

    WOW, I was using her exact same setup for quite a while doing run and gun event coverage.

    I loved those lenses, especially with the 7D for their light weight and range (I could even keep the 28-105 in my jacket pocket lol) but I always had one extra lens that to this day is my ABSOLUTE favorite; the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8

    First off, the 7D is still great and I recommend keeping it and spending the money on lenes and accessories.

    1. Keep the 7D (Free!)
    2. Keep the 28-105 (Free!)
    3. Sell the 100-300 for a EF 70-300 DO IS ($1300)
    4. Get the EF 85mm f/1.8 ($385 new)
    5. Get the Kenko “DGX” Pro 300 1.4x or the 2x teleconverter ($260 or $270)
    6. Get more LP-E6 batteries($60 ea.)
    7. Get a few “Calumet Quick-release Video Head Adapter”($27)
    8. Get a BlackRapid strap or something like it($50)

    I think the 7D is still her best choice, the only other camera I might recommend is the 5D3 but it’s already stated that it’s out of the question. The 5D2 and 6D have a slower AF system and FPS burst for photos, also Full Frame in general is slower to manual focus due to the shallower depth of field for video. Those will slow down operation (especially if you’re used to APS-C) so I assume they will just get in the way “on the front lines”. The only other route I would consider is the GH3 but then you need all new (wider angle) lenses and accessories.

    Keep the 28-105 lens; I got the 28-135 IS with my 7D which I actually found very nice and useful (especially the image stabilizing) but in the end it was too big to fit in my pocket so even though I always brought it with me it usually ended up back in the car or bag in case I needed it (unlike the 28-105 that was always in my pocket). There is also the EF-S 18-135 IS, which is a better range but lower quality and bigger lens

    The 100-300 was great but with it’s low light transmission, bigger lens body and long range I would recommend the 70-300mm DO IS over it. This was made for her situation, it’s a better range and includes IS but it’s about as small and light as the 28-105. Cost too much to be popular but it sounds like she needs it.

    I would not recommend the 50mm f/1.8 for this use, the mark II is plastic with a horrible focus ring and the mark I (when you can find one) is still nothing great compared to the 85mm f/1.8 which is one of the fastest auto focusing lenses ever made and on APS-C is a great 135mm FoV without the extra foreshortening so it won’t flatten out faces in portait shots and when stopped down to 2.8 is perfect in every way.

    On top of those I would also grab a Kenko Pro 300 DGX TelePlus 1.4x (or 2x) teleconverter. The Kenkos (unlike the Canons) will still work on lenses under 100mm (anything over a 50mm I think) and will be like adding another lens or two without adding the bulk. I noticed she using a tripod, well of course in any run and gun situation speed is everything so I would say you need a quick release system. Calumet makes a great quick release that is cheaply priced, well built and is compatible with Manfrotto plates. For the run part of “run and gun” I think you should look into the BlackRapid strap (or something like it), it may seem silly and unworthy of a second look but it’s actually really really nice to use and much faster to use then the traditional neck strap, seriously it is!

    Apart from that she could also save some weight and space with other gear like the 13.3″ i5 MacBook Air or the Manfrotto fluid video monopod or the Benro carbon fiber travel tripod. Either way, wish her good luck on winning more awards!

  18. Svein Wisnaes Says:
    March 20th, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    I am just starting to get to know the Nikon D5200 and I love it! I dropped the kit lens and went for the 18-200 VRII and it works for me.

    What I would like to have in addition to this is a compact audio adapter. But I have not found the ideal on yet. It should have:

    2 XLR input with phantom power
    Peak meters
    1kHz tone so I can set the level going to the camera correct. This way I can forget about monitoring on the camera, just need to have reliable meters on the box.
    A limiter – not a compressor.

    This would be the perfect companion to any DSLR and I think she should have that.

  19. PKent Says:
    March 21st, 2013 at 12:16 am


    You may want to checkout the JuicedLink Riggy Assist RA222($400), seems to have what you’re looking for; Phantom powered XLR, Peaking meters, AGC disabler and has some very favorable reviews claiming it provides a cleaner signal than the Zoom H4n. Too bad about that big orange logo though… lol

  20. TShelton Says:
    March 23rd, 2013 at 12:55 am

    Thank you so much everyone for your comments and especially to DSLR informer for the blog. My apologies for not replying sooner. I was in the Syrian Kurdish region of Afrin without a connection until today. I managed to take a quick glance but will be going through all your advice properly today. Very very much appreciated!! Tracey

  21. TShelton Says:
    March 23rd, 2013 at 5:59 am

    Tim and VanWeddings – thanks for your info on the GH3. I am tempted with the points you made but as important as weight and size are I would prefer to upgrade in video and still quality if I can.
    It is a great option as a second camera though if go down that road later on.

    I think for the zoom, whatever model I go with, an f4 is good advice considering the weight saving. I can then get a prime with a wide aperture for low light shooting and interviews.

    PKent, thanks for the extensive write-up. Really helpful advice.
    And to everyone who suggested upping my budget with indiegogo or kickstarter I will definitely look into it in the next few days.

    At the moment, if I can get enough together to afford it, I’m thinking of making the big change to Nikon. It seems I can get much higher quality in a much lighter kit at cheaper price. The D600 is leading so far.

  22. andre Says:
    March 23rd, 2013 at 11:14 am

    I have to admit that I have never tested a D600 myself, but from what I heard I don’t think that the D600 is the best choice when it comes to video. From what I heard it has a strong tendency for colorful moiré artifacts and there is no audio level control during recordings. Maybe you should wait for the Nikon D7100. In my opinion it sounds promising.

    By the way, I own both, a Canon 7D and a Panasonic GH3 and when it comes to video I prefer the GH3. I feel that the GH3’s video image quality is better…

  23. PKent Says:
    March 24th, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    Hi Tracy,

    Thanks for the replies :D, love your work and hope to see more, I also thought very seriously about the D600 when I sold my 7D but found some issues in “ergonomics” that would be too troublesome for my run and gun work (and probably even more so for you).

    1. No Liveview exposure simulation. (to meter you have to do it with the meters, you also only get exposure meters in liveview when shooting in full manual mode, which includes no auto iso too)

    2. No Aperture adjustments in Liveview/D-Movie mode (If using electronic aperture lenses this feature is locked out once entering “Movie mode”, not an issue if you stick to older manual aperture Nikkor Lenses though)

    3. Low bit-rate video codec and “Clean” HDMI out still has a letterbox and pillar bars. (Not a big deal to me; but internal bit-rates are variable IPB with a max of 24Mbps which I believe is below most broadcast standards. You will need to scale to about 105.5% in post and use an external recorder if you want higher quality)

    4. The APS-C crop mode seems to only work in photo mode (I’m not sure about this but I couldn’t activate it for video mode, which I really really wanted! lol)

    5. Supposedly the LCD on the D600 isn’t accurate to what you get; it has a slight green color tint making it hard to judge white balance and excessive moire making it hard to judge focus. (I haven’t noticed this myself though)

    6. The AF points are all crowded near the center of the frame and the cross-types are only in the center (this is only an issue if you like action photos to be focused in the sides or corners of the frame and don’t have time to focus and recompose)

    Those were the main issues I had with the D600, they’re mostly issues with the a “Run and Gun” video style shooters but it’s still a perfect Photo camera! You may be able to put up with these issues if you really want Full Frame Photos and Video on a budget but unfortunately the only Full Frame DSLR I enjoyed using for Video and Photos so far is the 5D MarkIII but for Sports photo coverage I still prefer the 7D for its better image buffer. I also think the 6D would be decent for video but I wouldn’t rely on it for Photos in every situation.

    Other issues that are scaring me away from Nikon are:
    1. Supposedly there was an issue with oil squirting from the shutter mechanism onto the sensor after about 4,000 clicks with the early models (not sure how common this really is, I’ve only heard it as horror stories around the came fire lol)

    2. Supposedly there are light leak issues in liveview mode (not sure on this, only heard one claim that this affects the D600 and D800)

    if you have any other questions you can email me at petermkent@gmail Good luck :)

  24. Tim Says:
    March 25th, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    It’s true that APS-C stills can have a slight advantage over m4/3 – but that’s sometimes only lens dependent. My GH2 with the 20mm 1.7 out resolves my 50D with the well regarded 17-55mm 2.8.
    m4/3 primes are generally sharper wide open across the frame than APS-C /FF lenses. As for video – the GH3 kills every flapping mirror camera out there. Not only that, but you gain an EVF. I’ve tested the GH3 against my 5DMK2 and the 5D looks like mush in comparison.
    Overall, the best kit will be the most simple kit.
    All the best with your work!

  25. TShelton Says:
    March 26th, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    Thanks guys. That’s really helpful. Everyone seems to be pretty down on the D600. I don’t know much about Nikon but was attracted by the full frame in a much lighter weight body than Canon and cheaper kit all round.
    I’m intrigued by the GH3. Everyone says great things! I’m worried about photo quality though. I have been concentrating more on video lately but that is partly because I lost the joy in photography due to a kit I don’t like. I think if I had some nice new lenses I’d really get back into the photography side of things. ..and does the video quality of the GH3 really compete with Canon or Nikon?

  26. Tim Says:
    March 27th, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    For stills – the GH2 with 12-35mm f2.8 scores higher at than the 7D coupled with the highly regarded EF-S 17-55mm 2.8.
    If you shoot stills for online or newspaper consumption then the GH3 quality would be more than enough. If you want to show very large prints of your work in a gallery then stick with Canon or Nikon.
    I use old (inexpensive) Canon FD prime lenses on my GH2 and it’s really changed the way I shoot stills for the better.
    For Video – when shooting subjects at close range the Canon and Nikon DSLR’s looks pretty sharp with good resolution. But when shooting wide shots focused on the horizon – details look pretty unsharp. The GH2 and GH3 easily out resolve my 5DMK2. I tested my 5D against my GH2 (without hack) and was shocked at the difference. Add to that the swivel screen and very usable viewfinder and I don’t use my 5D for video anymore.
    I sometimes shoot my GH2 for broadcast work as the client asks for 50i. Canon can’t do that.
    For low light work – the GH3 shutter goes down below 1/30sec. I’ve shot night stuff with the GH2 with a 1/10 second or slower shutter which is a huge advantage. Canon’s can’t do that.
    The built in mic on the GH2 is extremely good. I use a velcro fluffy and the sound is so much better than the built in mic on the Canon cameras. Imagine shooting B-roll in a very sensitive situation without a mic on the hot shoe – knowing you’re getting usable ambient audio.
    The lens doubler works wonders as well. Check out –

    Extreme close ups like the shot of the moon was shot with ETC which is an almost lossless lens doubler.
    The list of advantages on.
    I really believe GH3 is seriously worth a look.
    All the best with your work,

  27. Andres Says:
    March 28th, 2013 at 6:47 am

    I am in similar situation for an upgrade, I have shoot video with the gh1 and gh2 and they are wonderful cameras, they are more video cameras than photo cameras, I would like to have a headphone jack and am looking for a better image. I personally am keen towards the nikon d7100, has no moire nice dynamic range and clean hdmi in pal mode. Superb stils is a plus. For lenses I already have a vintage leica set that can be adapted to canon or nikon. So I plan to get the camera with the angenieux design tokina 28-70 2.8 as a general zoom. The only sad thing is the swivel screen and the evf that I love so much from the GH cameras. If Audio is important I would recommend the GH3 for your field of work. the lightweight and the evf give you more freedom, the problem would be a general zoom, if depth of field is not a problem I would think about the lumix 14-140, you would not need to change lenses in dust situations and can cover a wide range of situations, For fixed objective I would recommend manual nikkor ais that work with canon, nikon and lumix.

    good luck

  28. Tim Says:
    March 28th, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    This may help you decide when it comes to video image quality- Top 3 highest scoring DSLR’s compared and rated for video.

  29. PKent Says:
    March 29th, 2013 at 2:14 am

    @Tracy, I actually also like the GH3 though I think you would be better off sticking to Canon rather then the cost of switching systems. That being said I just sold my 7D and all me lenses a few months back to buy a 5D3 or GH3. I got the 5D3 (for now) but still thinking about switching to GH3.

    The only things holding me back are:
    1. No Phase-Detect Auto Focus.(heard their CDAF is good though)
    2. Hard to find fast wide angles.(2x crop means 25mm is a “normal” FoV)
    3. Mediocre low light performance.(about as good as the 7D)
    4. No “smart” adapter for Canon EF glass.(can’t control apertures, no IS and no AF)
    5. Rumors that Panasonic will have a new higher-end GH model in the 5D3/BMCC price range at NAB.

    but here’s why I may still switch:
    1. Much sharper details in video.
    2. Metabones SpeedBooster is coming to m4/3 mount.
    3. Much smaller, lighter and cheaper rig.
    4. Equal feature set to the 5D3. (IMHO)
    5. Deeper depth of field. (for filming action)

    @Andres, good plan! I in fact I sold my 7D and lenses to get a 5D3 and the Tokina Angenieux! A word of caution though, Tokina made about 4 versions of the 28-70/2.8, only the first two I believe are based on the Angenieux 28-70/2.6. Version 1 and 2 of the Tokina labels the aperture as f/2.6-2.8, version 2 is the one I got which has “improved” glass coating and a bayonet snap on lens hood rather then the screw on hood and “older” coatings of the version 1. I really like the lens, although I expected a par-focal zoom which I don’t seem to have but what I do have is a smooth as slik zoom in this “standard range” thanks to the internal zooming design. I looked a very long time for a smooth zoom 35mm photo lens that did not extend and this is the only one I’ve ever found! I also de-clicked and aperture ring and found after the process it needed no dampening (unlike my vintage Nikkors which after being de-clicked flops the aperture around during whip pans) I also noticed quite a different look with this glass compared to Canon L glass and Samyang primes, images from this lens definitely had a warmer creamy tone, especially when shooting outdoors, I’d describe it as a golden flare look but maybe I got an bad or damaged copy. I’m really interested to hear about yours when it comes in. Email me at

  30. Mayeta Says:
    March 29th, 2013 at 6:10 am

    Hi All, A friend and I saw this post and decided to set up an Indiegogo campaign for Tracey – with her permission, of course. Here’s the link Any donations and/or spreading the word, very much appreciated!

  31. Tim Says:
    March 29th, 2013 at 11:26 am

    A few more unsolicited thoughts on shooting stills and video with m4/3 cameras-
    I find auto focus for stills with Panasonic and Olympus lenses on my GH2 more accurate than EF lenses my 5DMK2 at their largest apertures. My keeper rate is far higher. However for fast action and sport – Canon and Nikon DSLR’s track moving subjects more accurately than m4/3 cameras. m4/3 has a fantastic collection of fast prime and zoom lenses from wide to portrait – 12mm f2, 17mm f1.8, 20mm f1.7, 45mm f1.8, 75mm f1.8.
    The advantage these primes have over Canon and Nikon lenses is that they appear (to me at least) sharper across the frame and with better contrast at their largest aperture. Olympus lenses are at least as fast to focus on static subjects as a DSLR kit. Also, there is no need to prefocus and reframe or muck around with focus points as I do with my Canon. Since using a camera with face recognition, I spend 90% less time in post recomposing my photographs simply because I can concentrate on my desired composition knowing that face recognition magically focuses on the eyeball. Extraordinary technology.
    Canon can’t do that.
    And of course m4/3 lenses are extremely small and light. My GH2 and 20mm 1.7 is always with me – can’t say that for my 5DMK2 even with the 40mm f2.8 pancake.
    As for video- the GH2 and from what I’ve seen the GH3 has far nicer organic grain at higher ISO’s than my 5DMK2.
    Overall the GH3 produces very slightly better image quality to the GH2 in video and stills modes. The GH2 has a sharper and brighter viewfinder.

  32. ziggydustmite Says:
    March 30th, 2013 at 12:09 am

    I was quite surprised to read the sort of options being touted. From reading your request, it’s pretty clear you don’t have to sort of money to go splashing out on top-of-the-line L lenses etc. So I thought I’d offer a (hopefully) more realistic alternative.

    Here’s my short piece of advice on each bit of kit.

    Your 7D is fine.
    Though I’m shooting nowadays mainly with a 5Dmrk3, I’ve shot numerous docos and hundreds of commercial projects with a 7D and they are well up to the task for a number of reasons.

    1. Compared to a lot of the other cameras being suggested, the 7D is an indestructible beast. I don’t have to dodge bullets or debris in my line of work, but if I did, I’d want one of these over any the other options.
    2. More value for money with regards to lenses (compared to full frame). Your 100-300mm may need to “go in the bin”, but with a crop sensor that turns into an extraordinary range – equal to a 160-480mm on a full frame body. One of the reasons why even pro wildlife photographers choose to shoot with crop sensors over full-frame in certain situations. They, like you, realise that the most important thing first of all is simply being able to GET THE SHOT.
    Need a wide-angle lens for walking around with? Again you’ve got some nice cheaper options.

    3. A little more depth of field and (sometimes) less corner softness. Not a huge difference, but it is sometimes handy to have in a doco shooting situation. I know the indy guys love their shallow look, but in a real life shooting situation, having a little more latitude in that area is actually a nice thing.

    4. Continuous burst mode. Pretty obvious why this would be important to you for stills work.

    OK, so there are some disadvantages to your 7D. Low-light they aren’t up to the performance of the 5Dmark3 or 6D. So shooting at night or in dim alleyways is going to be where those more expensive cameras shine. But, then again, get a nice fast lens (e.g F1.2) and you’ll still do better than shooting with what you’ve been presently using.

    So, that’s my advice re:camera. Keep the 7D. Given how cheap the bodies are now for those cameras, some people might even consider getting a second 7D body and sharing your lenses between them. Quickly switching from wide-angle to tele without swapping lenses (just cameras) could be handy.

    I do carry L series glass around with me, but again, all is not lost if you’d don’t have the money for this, and there are still great options out there.
    TELE- Someone here suggested a 70-200mm canon L. Great lens of course, but very very pricey. Both Tamron and Sigma offer great options in this range and I’ve shot with all these lenses with great results – the Tamron is every bit as sharp and detailed. And, as I said before, on a 7D crop sensor your 200mm turns into a virtual 320mm focal length, which (I imagine) is great for shooting tanks from a distance!
    The only consideration is shooting with video – make sure you get something with stabilisation.
    The editor’s choices for long lenses are ok, but the Tamron and Sigma are both 2.8 through the whole range, which I think gives them an edge. The Tamron 70-300mm is possibly a good choice if you need that kind of extra range.

    WIDE – The lenses you mentioned aren’t particularly wide for a crop sensor. The Tokina 11-16mm has long been a favourite for crop sensor owners, and it’s pretty easy to see why. Rugged construction and great image quality – superior to most of Canon’s wide offerings and reasonably priced. Should you get a full frame camera at a later date, it can be fitted on that camera as well (at 16mm focal length). I use one on both my 5dmrk3 and 7D, and it’s great. F2.8, so reasonably fast as well. If I was having to dart through dimwit streets hand-held, I’d definitely strap on a lens like this.

    PRIMES etc – If you’ve got any money left over, you can’t go too wrong with a few cheap primes. When you’re shooting interviews in dark locations for example, having a fast prime lens can be a lifesaver. I’ve had situations where, even though I’ve had a bag of other (expensive) lenses, I’ve whacked on a cheap Samyang 85mm F1.4 (less than $300) instead. It looks great for both interviews or other human activity. Yes there are far more expensive primes out there, but I’m talking about cheaper options that still look good.
    The editor’s choice (Sigma 30mm 1.4) is quite reasonable. All depends on the focal length you prefer. The Canon 85mm 1.8 suggested by PKent is another good choice.

    GENERAL/MID – I guess you need a “walkaround” lens, which is what your 28-105mm has been doing I gather. Good focal range for a full frame (like my 24-105mm L for the 5D), but perhaps not exactly right for a 7D, depending on what you like to do. Canon actually made a 15-85mm for crop sensors that was very decent – good construction and sharp through the entire range. So you might want to consider that, as 15mm will provide you with a fairly wide perspective on a 7D. I’ve shot with this one before, and it performs very well. Not an “L” lens, but really not all that different, and considerably cheaper.
    Only disadvantage being it can only be used on crop sensor cameras, so if you upgrade to a full-frame, you’ll have to sell it on. All the other lenses I’ve mentioned can be used on full-frame, so there’s a bit of future-proofing there.

    The suggestions from the editor (Tokina 28-70 and Canon 24-105) are perfectly decent lenses for a full frame. Not quite ideal for a crop sensor.

    So with all that you should be able to come well under budget, and possibly consider other aspects of your gear (lighting, audio, tripod head).

    Good luck, and keep up the outstanding work you’re doing. In the end it’s your skill as a filmmaker that makes your work stand out.

  33. francsanka Says:
    March 31st, 2013 at 3:48 am

    I was a photojournalist for 20 years, correspondant in different countries and shooting mostly travel/ industry/sport photography.
    Since I am living in Shanghai (7 years), I switched to video and I am shooting TVC, corporate video and documentary for foreign TV in China.
    I work with lots of camera 5D, 7D, D800, GH2, EX-1, Z7, HVX200, HPX250, AF103. I am going to get a GH3 soon
    In term of video documentaries, to shoot unexpected event on the field, Panasonic GH2 (and later on the GH3) is my favorite choice.
    – GH2 is extremely light and compact.
    – lens range is great with the 7-14mmf4 + 12-35mm f2.8 + 45-175mm f4-5.6 (with motorized zoom). Add to this a manual AIS 50mm f1.4 Nikon with adapter for portrait and you are good.
    – Image sharpness and detail is better than on Nikon or Canon (My gh2 is hacked a bit).
    – Electronic viewfinder is great + to shoot under the sun light while having all the information (histogram) perfectly visible. No need of a specific gear to monitor your image, That make the package even lighter and faster to turn on and use.
    – No heat up problem. No shooting time limit.
    – Sound recorded is as good as on Canon or Nikon with a rode videomic plug in.
    – M4/3 deliver a great advantage in term of depth of field, as you get less chance to get your subject out of focus even fully open at f2.8 or f1.4. Shallow depth of field is not what you are looking for on an emergency scenario.

    The only drawback is the picture side for GH2 (dont know about the GH3), compared to 5D or D800, but I also think that the best picture is the one you can acheive, and a D800 with its lenses is too bulky and heavy for you to carry.
    Who cares about the FX feel of picture if the picture cannot be taken?
    FX sensors are good in a controlled environment (such as commercial and fiction), but they are an handicap on the field (speaking about video here).
    Hope this helps. You can check my video work with GH2 here. Mostly short films and commercial work.

    Good luck to you for your work!

  34. Tim Says:
    March 31st, 2013 at 8:52 am

    I totally back up what francsanka says.
    I’m over flapping mirror cameras for video. I started out shooting film for broadcast news and later video in hostile environments. For me a proper viewfinder is extremely important. I rarely use an LCD especially in sensitive situations. It draws attention and I usually don’t want others to know exactly what I’m shooting. All that means is that I choose to shoot with a GH2. I used to use a Zacuto Z-finder on my 5DMK2 which was excellent, but found that it added bulk and wasn’t up to the rough and tumble of daily travel and shooting.
    The weight argument that franksanca makes is also very important. After using m4/3 cameras it now seems like an absurdity to carry heavier equipment. In fact, the kit is so small and light, it’s easier to carry two bodies and avoid lens changes in the field.
    It’s worth noting that the GH2 is more reliable without the hack and (to my eye) the video quality is certainly still better than Canon or Nikon DSLR’s.

  35. TShelton Says:
    March 31st, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    As a result of this blog, Columbia J School grads Mayeta Clark and Nic Stone began this campaign! It’s only been running a few days but an awesome response so far. Thanks again for all your comments. Still weighing up my options.

  36. TShelton Says:
    April 1st, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    Tim, PKent, Andres, francsanka, ziggydustmite,
    You guys are awesome! You’ve given me so much information here. I’m still trying to process it all. I’m almost sold on the GH3. Still concerned about stills as I was really looking forward to having a decent stills camera again but I’ll have a play in the store tomorrow and see how it feels. I’m off the idea of a D600 now. No one seems to like them. I’ll keep you posted as to what I decide.
    Thanks again to everyone for all the comments.

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