Do you think camcorders make no sense in 2019? While today you can record videos with a simple camera or even with your cell phone, these teams that had their little glory in the 90's still offer us some advantages. In this guide we tell you what camcorder to buy, its most common uses and what you should look for to be right in your choice.
The 90's was a great decade for the production of videos. In 1995, the digital video (DV) standard was introduced, which gave life to a unified format for consumers and professionals. The reduced version MiniDV allowed to develop smaller recording equipment, and at the beginning of 2000 there was a variety of economical digital video cameras, with powerful zooms and an (until then) incredible image quality.
The digital video changed everything. The quality was better than the analog, you could re-record several times on the same tape, take the material directly to your computer through Firewire and edit it in the Hollywood style in your home. Amazing.
Defining a camcorder is more complex today. Its functionality has been incorporated into everything from digital SLR cameras (DSLRS) and without a mirror to mobile phones, reducing the need for consumers to have an exclusive camcorder. In the high range, movie cameras are becoming more affordable, giving a better option for independent filmmakers or students, who in the past would have worked on video cameras.
Advantages of a camcorder
Video cameras can now be a niche product, but there are reasons why they exist and companies continue to produce new models. Below we explain why you could consider them and what camcorder to buy.
The first reason is the lens. They tend to use very small sensors than digital or mirrorless SLR cameras, and sometimes even phones. Although they have lower performance in low light, they have much longer zoom. Today, a camcorder can have a zoom of 20X or more, something that cameras with larger sensors do not have. This Panasonic model has a 50X zoom, and only costs $ 200 dollars.
Although you can obtain similar levels using multiple lenses on a digital or mirrorless SLR camera, a camcorder offers another advantage: variable speed and power zoom control. With the rocker switch, you can generate slow approaches to enter a location, or fast movements to highlight the action. Doing it with the same precision in a digital SLR camera is much more difficult.
To avoid taxes, many manufacturers will limit the video recording time of their cameras to 29 minutes and 59 seconds (Panasonic is an exception). If a device records 30 minutes, it is classified as a camcorder and is subject to higher import taxes in some markets. This gives an advantage to the camcorders, since to record events such as weddings, live presentations, sports or you need an uninterrupted take longer than 30 minutes.
Camcorders generally also allow the original battery to be exchanged for a larger one, as they are designed with an open back.
Even if an extended battery does not give you enough time, the camcorders can be powered directly from a wall outlet and continue to operate. This is useful for interviews, especially for teams (or a single person) who cannot monitor the battery life during recording.
Microphone inputs are common to all camcorders, but most digital mid-range and higher-level SLRs and mirrorless cameras also offer 3.5mm microphone jacks.
If professional quality sound is important to you, high-end camcorders feature advanced audio features that are not available in the hybrids, such as XLR inputs for recording balanced audio, mounting points for connecting microphones, and dedicated dials for Adjust volume levels.
Professionals vs. massive models
The camcorders cover a wide range of prices, from a couple of hundreds to a few thousand dollars. To know which camcorder to buy, if you must choose between a professional model or an input model, you have to consider its features, functionalities and its image quality.
If you are concerned about low-light performance to decide which camcorder to buy, the most important specifications are the sensor size and the lens aperture index. High-end models generally have larger sensors, which make them more sensitive to light and tend to improve overall image quality. Unlike DSLR and mirrorless cameras, there are no formats named "full frame" or "APS-C." Rather, they are identified by their diagonal measurement: 1/2 inch, 1/4 inch, etc.
When it comes to lenses, apertures are also measured in fractions, but a little different: f / 1.8, f / 3.5, etc. The "f" is the focal length of the lens, but we tend to ignore it and look only at the number, which can lead you to think that 3.5 is greater than 1.8. In fact, it is the other way around. So remember that the smaller number is better.
Professional models can also offer higher quality codecs; that is, the type of file and the compression of the video. This is measured in bit rate, so a camera that announces 25 megabits per second (Mbps) records less data than one of 100 Mbps. For informal use, the difference may be imperceptible, but if you want more flexibility in postproduction , a higher bit rate is more useful.
However, consumption models have an advantage: the zoom range. Since they tend to use smaller sensors, the lenses may lengthen. And generally this makes a team that is much smaller than professional models.
For approximately $ 1,300 dollars, the Canon XA11 offers a 1 / 2.8-inch sensor, XLR audio inputs, a microphone stand and much more, but only a 20X zoom. The $ 200 Panasonic HC-V180K offers a 50X zoom, a smaller 1 / 5.8 inch sensor and does not include microphone mounts, XLR inputs or additional direct access control.
Digital Trends uses a pair of Sony PXW Z150 for our daily live broadcast, which offers considerably larger 1-inch sensors, but a relatively modest 12x optical zoom.
Should you buy a camcorder?
To decide which camcorder to buy and if you require one, you must be clear about its specific needs. Although they have improved tremendously over the years, they are no longer the personal video recording solution. Other devices, from phones to action cameras, fulfill that role. You should buy a camcorder if you really need it.
Although it is not an exhaustive list, here are some reasons to have a camcorder:
- You have children and you need to record their parties, recitals or theatrical performances.
- You are a comedian and you need to record your presentations.
- You record documentaries and you need to record interviews.
- You produce a podcast or live broadcast and you need to stream for a long time.
If you do not have one of these needs, it is likely that you can continue with your phone, action camera or digital SLR.