While not as "cinematic" as their counterparts with interchangeable lenses and large sensors, camcorders are still a useful tool for many creatives. But how, and for what?
You'd think with how popular DSLRs and mirrorless cameras have become that the camcorder has already disappeared into the black void of forgotten technology, right next to HD DVDs, a zip drive, and the fabled LaserDisc. But you would be wrong.
Camcorders are not only still in use today, but at times also find themselves a better fit for a myriad of different workflows. Be it documentary filmmakers, church directors, skateboarders, or even the Jackass crew. We're not sure if you saw Jackass Forever, but the infamous cameraman Lance Bangs still shot a lot of sequences on a camcorder. Right next to cinema and high-speed cameras.
Camcorders come ready to shoot out of the box. With a solid zoom lens and a very usable microphone, along with a viewfinder and articulating screen, all you need is to pop in some media and you're off to the races. Things like internal NDs, optical image stabilization, and high-frame-rate recording were all pioneered in camcorders. Most treat those features as standard. When you need to shoot ASAP, then a camcorder might be the solution.
We put together three camcorders from three brands for our Deals of the Week to get you up to speed on what's out in the market.
Featuring a large 1" type 4K sensor, the HC-X1 is capable of recording video in DCI (4096 x 2160) as well as UHD (3840 x 2160) 4K resolutions. You can also record 1080p in VFR (variable frame rate) in 10 increments from 2 to 60 fps, as well as record HD video in a super-slow-motion mode at a frame rate up to 120 fps. Whether producing event or ENG-style videos, or even a short film, the 20x optical zoom lens starts from a wide 24mm equivalent FOV and extends out to 480mm equivalent FOV. This will get you into tight spots or let you grab impressive establishing shots, and let you punch in on far-away subjects.
The HC-X1 also features optical image stabilization and when shooting in HD, a 5-Axis Hybrid O.I.S. for further stabilization. The 1"-Type MOS Sensor provides solid 4K resolution footage, while the Leica Dicomar 20x zooms lens maintains sharp images throughout the zoom range. This Panasonic packs a punch in a compact, handheld form factor without sacrificing versatility.
An upgraded follow-up to the XC10, the Canon XC15 4K Professional Camcorder is enhanced for more professional use. It features a 1" 12MP CMOS sensor capable of capturing up to UHD 4K resolution at up to 29.97 fps and 1080p at up to 59.94 fps. It has an integrated 8.9 to 89mm zoom lens with an f/2.8 to f/5.6 aperture. The lens has a 35mm equivalent focal length of 27.3 to 273mm in video mode and offers separate focus and zoom rings, as well as auto and manual focus controls. 4K video is recorded to CFast cards in an MXF wrapper at up to 305 Mb/s in an H.264-based, IntraFrame, 4:2:2, 8-bit codec, with 1080p video being recorded to SD cards at up to 50 Mb/s in an H.264-based, Long-GOP, 4:2:2, 8-bit codec.
The XC15 comes with the MA-400 microphone adapter, which was originally designed for the C300 Mk II and is geared toward single-user applications such as run-and-gun newsgathering. It's shoe-mountable from two different positions and offers an external mic holder. This Canon camcorder may not be as ergonomically friendly as the Panasonic, but it offers a highly compact form factor than any other camcorder in its category.
The JVC GY-HM620 ProHD features a lightweight-user-friendly design providing capacity for fast, efficient mobile newsgathering. The three 1/3" 12-bit CMOS sensors record in a 1920 x 1080 resolution in NTSC broadcast compatible frame rates up to 59.94p in AVCHD. An integrated 23x Fujinon autofocus zoom lens with manual focus and zoom capability has built-in ND filters with a 35mm equivalent focal range of 29 to 667mm. The aperture opens to a nice f/1.6 at the widest end while the optical image stabilizer keeps your handheld footage nice and steady.
What makes the JVC stand out is the pre-record feature, which continually records up to 15 seconds in cache memory before the record button is even pressed. This allows documentarians and reporters to catch important moments even before the camera is rolling.