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I'm looking to buy a single camera to use both as a personal snapshot camera and as a video camera to document my artistic work (mainly kinetic sculptures and light installations). The micro four thirds format is appealing for its compactness, as well as the short flange focal distance which allows potentially broad lens compatibility.

I was all set on buying the Lumix G3 but then I discovered it has no manual controls for video. I want at least aperture priority as the Vimeo shallow depth of field eye candy effect is kind of important in my field... The Lumix GH2 has manual video controls but it's simply too big to be called 'compact'. The Olympus PEN cameras have manual video controls, but seem to get bad reviews for video quality.

What's a good EVIL/CSC alternative? Ideally no bigger than the Lumix G3 but with the video controls and quality of the Lumix GH2. Could I adapt+attach a lens with a manual aperture ring to the G3 (to escape the no-manual-controls problem) and trust the G3's auto ISO + shutter speed to give me acceptable results?

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What's bad about the Olympus video? (I have an Olympus Pen E-PL1; I don't use it much for video but when I have done so then I haven't noticed anything particularly bad about it.) –  Andrew Stacey Jun 19 '11 at 16:16
    
If it has a short flange distance and takes older, different brand lenses, can you not mount an older manual aperture on the camera and change it however you want? –  rfusca Jul 2 '11 at 14:25
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1 Answer

up vote 4 down vote accepted

four thirds will limit the ability to get the "depth of field eye candy effect"

You don't need a small aperture necessarily but the smaller the sensor the harder this is to achieve, the Sony uses an APS-C sensor which will help somewhat in doing what you want. I don't believe the manual control is up to par with your needs however.

Depth of field can be manufactured in post processing if it is a top priority of yours, this would give you more flexibility with camera choices as you can fiddle with it later on and get the image nice and sharp initially.

The Olympus also has some magnificent controls in regards to manual control, I think Andrew has a good point there. I can't say that the times I've used the PEN that the videos have been bad for a four thirds camera.

You can mount pretty much any lens to any camera these days it needs to have both manual aperture and focus rings however. I would really try to avoid any camera that does "auto ISO" or "auto aperture" as the only way to achieve great results is to control all these functions yourself. In decent light that means keeping ISO as low as you can and using your aperture to control the light and depth of field.

In the end the GH2 may not seem like a compact, but as soon as you put big lenses on these cameras, how can any of them be called compact? The only time I find the sony NEX even slightly compact is when it has the 17mm pancake lens on, then you lose your ability for decent depth of field (unless something is at minimum focus distance), any other lens, even primes make them so big that you may as well just get a better camera that is going to perform much better under your needs.

If you want professional results, unfortunately you are going to have to spend more on a camera to get them. In the end I would just get a decent proper DSLR and do things properly the first time.

The Nikon D3100 is one of the first DSLRs out with full time autofocus in Video and the results you will get, along with the lens options at your fingertips without mount adaptors and having to resort to manual lenses is far superior.

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+1, but note that the difference between 4/3rds and APS-C isn't that huge. See this answer for details, but basically a lens like the 25mm f/1.4 has roughly equivalent DoF properties to a 33mm f/1.8 lens on APS-C. If you use the Cosina Voigtländer 25mm f/0.95, that's like an f/1.2 lens on APS-C. –  mattdm Jul 23 '11 at 1:14
    
The D3100 autofocus in video is a joke. Its' slow and very noisy (with no connection for an external mic). For somebody wanting to do real video, it is NOT a selling point. Also, Nikon's have a harder time mounting other brand lenses because of mount distance - don't plan on mounting much non-Nikon with 'mount adaptors'. –  rfusca Jul 23 '11 at 1:40
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