DSLR Design

I love DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) cameras and have used many of them for many different projects. But, there are some major limitations because they were not ultimately designed to handle the wide applications of video production. Here are a few reasons I believe DSLR cameras are ill-suited for recording your church service.

1. Lens Issues

Most DSLR cameras ship with a subpar lens or no lens at all. Maybe you got a nice, inexpensive 50mm lens at f2.0. This will be awesome for getting that shallow depth of field for your stills and artistic videos, but it will reek havoc on your ability to keep Pastor Happy Feet in focus as he roams about the stage. The other lens issue has to do with distance. Most likely, you will be filming the sermon from the back of the auditorium, possibly from a balcony. Unless you sunk some bucks into a 200mm lens or more, your lens just won’t cut it unless you want your pastor to look like the ringleader of a flea circus on screen. Ideally, a lens with a 20x optical zoom will fit most church service video needs.

2. Audio Issues

For the most part, a DSLR is a still camera with the ability to create video. I love the video created with a nice DSLR camera, but it cannot be all things to all people. There are shortcomings to any camera. The last area you want your camera to be deficient in is audio, especially when a sermon is primarily an auditory medium. Great video with poor audio equals crappy video. DSLR cameras accept external audio inputs but you will need additional hardware to convert it from the soundboard to your tiny little 3.5mm external mic input. The audio adjustments are very limited inside the camera because someone was ultimately designing it to be a still camera and stills don’t make sounds. If you record your audio on a separate device, you add an unnecessary step to your post production process. Choosing a camera that does not have automatic gain control and flexible audio options is a must.

3. Recording Issues

While the major thrust of this issue has changed recently, many DSLR cameras still limit the recording time per clip. Some older DSLR cameras would limit the clip to 4GB or around 10-12 minutes. This is not ideal for a sermon that could last 30-40 minutes. I have been in the middle of along take when the camera has stopped. Fortunately, I caught it and was able to start the recording before missing too much, but is that a chance we really want to take? Many newer DSLRs have fixed this by automatically beginning a new clip in the camera without stopping the recording. But for the most part this is still limited to 30 minutes. And Pastor Longwinded may just be getting started at that point. You may try to get around this by connecting the DSLR to an external recorder but watch out, the camera may go to sleep after a few minutes and then you are in trouble. Being able to take long uninterrupted takes is paramount in recording a sermon or church service.

What To Do?

Every camera is designed for a purpose. When we understand what a camera is best designed to do, we can put it in the right application. To record a sermon, we want a camera with a good zoom lens. Something that can get the pastor at a waist to head medium shot. We want a camera that accepts XLR inputs and has a fair amount of audio options built in. And, find a camera that is designed to be a camcorder and allows for long takes. You will save time and headaches in the end. Here are several options that could serve as DSLR alternatives:

Canon Vixia GH20*

Sony FDR-AX53*

Canon XA30

Sony HXR-NX3/1

Sony PXW-FS5

*XLR Camcorder Adapter

What camera do you use to record your church’s sermons and how is it currently working for you?