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Camcorder VS DSLR

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Oliver SmithCamcorder VS DSLR
by on May 18, 2016 at 11:27:51 am

I am just wondering what people generally use, a DSLR or a Camcorder? or do you vary it on what type of event you are filming, I often see people using DSLR'S to film on yet wonder why?

I myself looked at the difference when a friend showed me the footage he recorded on his and the differences I saw was my zooms were smoother, my focusing was better and I could record longer clips etc, yet the picture quality of his seemed a lot better in terms of colors and HD quality.

He has a Canon EOS 7D
Mine is SONY PXW-Z100

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walter biscardiRe: Camcorder VS DSLR
by on May 18, 2016 at 11:44:33 am

Big part of any camera is the lens itself. I gave up on cheaper camcorders like HDV cameras and smaller P2 cameras probably 4 years ago or so. Only shoot with the Panasonic GH4 and the Blackmagic 4k Cinema Camera now. But the most important aspect are the lenses. A set of 4 cinema lenses from Rokinon and Sigma that are more like prime lenses. The GH4 also has a Metabones speedbooster.

Put those lenses together with those cameras and I can create incredible images. If we use a camcorder it'll be a higher end camera that shoots HD or 4k ProRes. I also have the Blackmagic pocket camera which is a fun camera as well.

For sound I record via the Zoom H6 recorder. The camera / sound recorder combo has been rock solid for years.

Heck I went out on a cruise recently and shot with my iPhone and an iOgrapher. I was blown away by the quality and how steady I could make the shots. And that was with the camera still in auto-iris (which I hate) and the phone was set to 720p not 1080. Put a shotgun mic on there and I'm ready to start shooting real projects with that combo. I even wrote about it.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
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Biscardi Creative Media

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Oliver SmithRe: Camcorder VS DSLR
by on May 19, 2016 at 9:10:57 am

Good article, thank you.

I did wonder about the sound and the I've heard about the H6 before myself. I think alot of it comes down to personal choice in someway.

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Ned MillerRe: Camcorder VS DSLR
by on May 19, 2016 at 12:28:13 pm

Hi Oliver,

To answer your question I'd need to ask: What do you want to do with the camera? If you are going to use it as I do, to make a living, before buying a model and then looking for paying clients you need to analyze who will hire you and which camera will service the MOST amount of paying clients.

Let's say your main business is educational, such as filming a professor at the front of a class pacing back and forth, perhaps live events or legal videos, the servo zoom on your SONY PXW-Z100 is better than shooting with still lenses. It takes a high level of experience to keep someone in focus and composed on a still lens. I have both: a camera for stylized work (Canon C100) which will give a shallow depth-of-field plus a small chip ENG camera (Panasonic HPX300) with the all important servo zoom. If you make videos for local manufacturers they tend to want the world in focus so your Sony is useful. As a freelancer I tend to rent other models quite often so if you plan to freelance as a videographer you may be best off investing in good lights, support gear, glass, audio and van.These cameras change in popularity every two years now.

What you need to do to satisfy your most clients will determine what you own. Plus, don't buy any gear until you find paying clients. Since you already own the SONY PXW-Z100 perhaps keep that and prospect for clients who can use that look. Buy something that will allow a more stylized look such as a used C100 which is more user friendly (XLR inputs, NDs, etc) and will give you a similar look but ONLY when you have clients that appreciate and need that look.

Coming this fall is the answer to my prayers, a servo zoom for our shallow focus cameras, but it costs $5800:

So in sum, if you plan to put food on the table with your main camera, land some clients first. If you're Hell Bent on going DSLR I can tell you from the requests I get the Sony A7S is now the camera du jour.

Good luck,


Ned Miller
Chicago Videographer

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Nick GriffinRe: Camcorder VS DSLR
by on May 19, 2016 at 9:25:49 pm

Thanks, Ned. Like I need help finding new things to buy to feed my video habit. In all seriousity this servo lens seems like a great addition to the Canon line. My biggest problem putting it on our C-100 is the fact that it costs more than the camera itself is currently worth. Guess I'll have to get a C-300 MkII. Oh, wait! There I go again.

In response to Oliver's original post we use several cameras for different tasks. The big rig for the past 8 years (I know a lifetime in camera/dog years) is a Sony XDCAM. Because of the industrial stuff we do we have an ultra-wide lens that's now worth more on the used market than the camera is, but I love both the camera and the lens. My fingers know right where they're supposed to be to get what I want.

Because our Canon still camera was aging I figured that a new 5D MkIII could do double duty for both stills and video. The problem is without a shutter I simply didn't like the "look" of video out of it, especially motion which is the majority of what we shoot in addition to talking heads. I also REALLY hated the options for recording synch-sound with the 5D and that made it all the more difficult to use.

So I bought a used C-100 from a nearby COW buddy. The audio is like a real camera (XLR, phantom powering, limiters (or not). Then Canon came out with the dual pixel upgrade and that opened new worlds of auto-focusing, some good, some not so good. But it's a HUGE improvement over trying to get a DSLR to do what I want it to do.

Oh, and I almost forgot, the GoPro is an amazing tool for special situations. It's perfect for getting unique perspectives, especially dangerous ones where you could lose the camera. We've put ours through operating machinery. What's the risk $300? Worth it for the shots!!! The bad thing about the GoPro, at least the 3rd generation one we have, is that it records what it does very well, but try to grade the footage and you quickly learn that it's set up to get what it gets and when you try to shift that you quickly run to the edge of what it can do. Simple adjustments tend to posterize. (Gee, Ned. Do you think I should look into the new mini-Arri cameras? Thanks for the suggestion.)

So this has been a rambling monologue on my view on cameras. Perhaps it contributes something to the conversation or not.

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Ned MillerRe: Camcorder VS DSLR
by on May 20, 2016 at 12:40:50 am
Last Edited By Ned Miller on May 20, 2016 at 12:51:10 am

Hey Nick,

Hope your house is getting better.

This will be of interest to the OP. Ever since the move towards using still photography lenses for a shallow depth-of-field, I have hated, hated, hated shooting that way unless it was an easy, slow day. I specialize in servicing clients that need me to move fast, usually documentary style, keeping up with reality or they always try to fit three days into two, two days into one, etc. This Canon servo zoom is what I really need and although it’s $6K w/tax, I would then be able to sell my servo zoom HPX300 for perhaps $4K, so for gigs where I need to smoothly follow and zoom, and avoid constant swapping of lenses I think of the zoom costing $2K. I only keep the 300 for gigs where I need to zoom which may be 35-50% I always do the interviews with shallow DoF cameras but in about half the b-roll segments I do servo zoom cameras, I can give the editors so many more b-roll shots because I can change focal length instantly.

For instance, today I shot a corporate video and they wanted me to show their app in use, outside which makes it tougher. I had a 11-16 for the wide shot, then swap to the 24-105 for the obligatory over-the-shoulder and face shot, then the 70-200 for the screen. Ugh! If I had a zoom it would have been so much easier!

I am two years away from retiring so I have been trying not to throw money down the gear hole and I have to curb my usual lusting, but something happened today that made me very happy with my new gizmo: I shot for the first time professionally with my new Osmo X3!!!!

I was going to start a thread on this but after practicing a week I worked out all the bugs and I got some great b-roll today! It’s like a mini Glidecam using the camera and gimbal system of DJI’s drones and fits in your hand. There’s a swirling controversy that DJI released it before it was ready for pro usage, but it is really a toy for the masses that we can adapt. There is a higher level X5 for pros but I’m waiting for all the bugs to be ironed out. It cost $650 but with all the accessories it is $900 all in. I highly recommend it, anyone can use it. I was teaching the producer to use it so he could grab smooth shots while I do other stuff when the folks who we were to film came in the room to do a faux big meeting.

I told the producer I needed 5 minutes to do some Osmo work and started doing circles, swirls, figure 8s, faux slider moves and the producer was on my left side watching the monitor (my Droid phone!) and he actually said this was better, more authentic than us doing “the usual” so we don’t need further footage. But I felt that since this was my maiden voyage with the Osmo we better do the usual coverage just in case. I could have done it in 4K but chose to match the previous 1080 shooting.

Then we needed to do exterior establishing shots and I hung out the window and stood up in the sun roof for corp HQ drive byes and wow, no bumps. In the foliage I did faux slider moves. The pressure of being on a real shoot makes all the difference, even though I throw it in as a freebie to pimp up shots. If you have little kids it will be great for home movies. So check it out at:

And then I promise, after the zoom lens purchase, I will not buy anything else!



Ned Miller
Chicago Videographer

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Todd TerryRe: Camcorder VS DSLR
by on May 20, 2016 at 1:31:07 am

Straight from the "Nobody asked me, but..." department...

Just a few observations about that lens. It is interesting. I'd be interested in playing with it, but some immediate pros and cons pop out to me...


Price. It's really quite inexpensive. It's about the price of a single fairly good cine prime, and about half the price of a really really great cine prime. Pricewise it fares even better compared to real cine zooms, where it's a fraction of the price you'd usually see.

Coatings. Sounds like it will match well with other Canon glass.

Size. It's very small, comparatively.


Price. It's really quite inexpensive. Why is that a bad thing? It might not be, but with glass you tend to get what you pay for. Of course there is such a thing as finding a really great lens that is also inexpensive, but it's not necessarily the norm. Maybe it is great, time will tell. Consider this though, Canon's existing "real" cine zooms are in the low-20s on the bottom end up to the mid-40s on the upper end. This lens is probably not going to be comparable to Canon's lens that is almost $40,000 more than this one.

Speed. At T4.4, this lens is sloooow as molasses. If you are shooting with much faster lenses, this will definitely change the way you think about lighting shots, and your DoF needs. Not so much for exteriors, but indoors it will be a huge difference.

Range. This lens is fairly short on the high end. Someone use to, say, the classic Angenieux 12-120 zoom range might find it a bit limiting. 18mm is probably fine, but I'm betting a lot of users will find the 80mm on the other end to be a bit short. So while 18-80 is a good general-purpose range, it would likely not replace every lens in your case... you'd probably want to travel with some longer glass as well.

Just my random thoughts....


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Todd TerryRe: Camcorder VS DSLR
by on May 20, 2016 at 2:12:09 am

I just realized I intended to respond to the original question (DSLR or camcorder), and didn't...

I use both. I use a DSLR when I shoot stills, and a cine camera when I'm shooting footage. Just as the Good Lord intended.

A DSLR and a camcorder or cine camera are both great tools. But one's a wrench and one's a screwdriver. It just depends on what job you are doing and what tool you need.

I personally am well known for never having drank of the DSLR Kool-Aid. Many people have used them for shooting motion footage with great results, but I still contend they are rarely if ever the best tool for that job.

But that's just me.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Craig SeemanRe: Camcorder VS DSLR
by on May 20, 2016 at 8:01:25 pm

Cameras have gotten so affordable there's no need for one size fits all unless you're on a really tight budget.
I use Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera with Speedbooster when Depth of field control is important.
For run & gun I use a Sony X70. If possible, use the best camera for the job and different jobs may better suited for different cameras.
If I felt my business warranted it I'd have no problem going to a Blackmagic Ursa Mini or Sony FS5.

Personally, codec "malleability" is important which is why I like ProRes of XAVC 10 bit 4:2:2. But in proper hands well shot 4:2:0 delivers professionally.

My caution would be not to over spend on the camera (what over spend is depends on your business model and client base).

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Oliver SmithRe: Camcorder VS DSLR
by on May 24, 2016 at 1:22:51 pm

Thanks all,

My main business at present is talking head videos, I think as many of you have said, it's down to using the right tools for the job which deliver the best results.

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