What device to make video? Camcorder? Hybrid? DSLR?

The first question people often ask about broadcasting videos: “What kind of video camera should I use?”

For the little anecdote, I made my first short films from 2003 to 2005 with a Sony DCR-PC8E. Mini DV camcorder that I kept because it’s with it that I shot my first films. It still works and I use it today to digitize a lot of tapes.

Yes, it dates…Now we’re in the era of HD and even “Ultra HD”. My penultimate short film was shot with a NEX VG10 coupled with a wide aperture f1.7 lens and my last one was shot with a Sony Alpha 57 and a 35mm fixed focal length F1.8 lens. Now I own an A6300 which I use with many accessories and fixed focal length lenses.

Those who saw the first images of the montage asked me what I was shooting with…Why a Sony SLR? Because Sony is for me the specialist brand for video. Their SLRs make very beautiful photos but above all produce superb videos.

It all depends on the lens they use, of course. But even with an average lens, the result is there thanks to the quality of their sensor. Sensors that equip many of their competitors…The second brand I recommend for video is Panasonic. I made one of my short films with it and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a reference brand among videographers, because it’s often an initiator in terms of new features and technology.

What use and what budget?

  • The first question to ask yourself when you want to invest in a video equipment is ″pour what use is it for?″
  • The second question is ″quel is my budget ?″
  • The third, but who can go with the first: What resolution and what maximum frame rate?

It all depends on whether you want to film your next holiday, your family, a show, a sport. Or if you want to make a short film, a music video, or a documentary. If you want to give a particular “style” to the image or not, if you want to play with depth of field. If you want to play with colorimetry or not. Etc.
I’m only giving my opinion here, and I invite you to give yours in the comments.
The camcorders.

For holidays or trips, so you don’t get bored. To quickly draw your gun and film the moment on the spot without bothering yourself. Without having any particular settings to make, I recommend the camcorder. The first prices in Full HD start at around 190€ on the internet. I think it’s a market that’s being cannibalized by hybrids and is probably destined to disappear in a few years. It would be a shame because they have a lot of advantages.

The advantages and disadvantages of a consumer camcorder for me.

 The advantages

  • the affordable price
  • high frame rate
  • the small size
  • zoom at your fingertips
  • responsiveness
  • Full HD or 4K
  • Integrated optical stabilizer

Disadvantages

  • Small sensor (except high-end)
  • Often poor photo quality
  • Almost impossible to play with depth of field

What about 4K (UHD)?

For someone who has a 4K (UHD) TV, yes it might be worthwhile to get a 4K camcorder. Indeed 4K (UHD) is slowly starting to take hold. Camcorders and hybrids offering this definition are becoming available. Homes are starting to equip themselves with UHD screens (falsely called 4K) while others are waiting for the 8K that arrives in stores… For example, computer monitors are often in Full HD in homes. Blu-ray 4K (often upscaled) is coming to the market.

Moreover, one should not forget the computer configuration that is needed to edit in 4K. Even worse if you want to add effects with After Effect for example…(minimum Octo-Core processor, SSD or SSHD hard drive, 16Gb ram minimum, graphics card with a good chip and 4Gb memory minimum…) it’s VERY greedy in disk space as in resources!

For me the beauty of a video is essentially in the framing, camera movements, light, depth of field that gives a “cinematic” cachet. But also the colorimetry, the contrast and not mainly at the level of the definition of the image which will be “sharper”. Unless, of course, you want to cropping (cropping within the image) and then integrate it into a Full HD editing. Or even “downscale” the 4K to Full HD in your editing, in which case you will obtain a finer and more detailed image than a native Full HD. 

The camcorders I recommend for quality videos (in order of price):

Sony CX240 (Full HD)

Sony CX240
SONY CX240

Essential characteristics

  • Sony at affordable prices
  • Quick Activation
  • Full HD up to 50 fps (50 fps)
  • Good autonomy
  • Zeiss Optics
  • Integrated stabilization
  • Ease of use

Sony PJ410 (Full HD)

Sony PJ410

Essential characteristics:

  • NFC and Wifi
  • AVCHD or XAVC-S format
  • Video projector up to 13 lumens
  • Full HD up to 50 fps
  • Easy to use

Panasonic HC VXF990 (4K)

Panasonic HC VXF990
Panasonic HC VXF990

Essential characteristics:

  • HDR video
  • 5-axis stabilization
  • Wifi and NFC
  • Headphone and microphone jacks
  • Large opening (F1.8)

Sony FDR AX33 (4K)

Sony FDR AX33

Essential characteristics:

  • XAVC-S 100Mbs
  • Wifi and NFC
  • Touch Screen
  • Dolby Sound 5.1
  • Double video recording

Sony FDR AX53 (4K)

Sony FDR AX53

Essential characteristics:

  • 5-axis stabilization
  • Wifi and NFC
  • Dolby 5.1 Audio
  • Full HD 120 fps (!!)
  • Many manual settings

Sony FDR AX100 (4K)

Sony FDR AX100

Essential characteristics:

  • Exmor R CMOS sensor type 1.0″
  • Wifi and NFC
  • Numerous manual settings
  • Touch Screen
  • The equivalent of the CX900 in 4K
  • 4K XAVC S: 3840 × 2160 / 24 or 25 fps

[New] Sony FDR AX700 (4K HDR)

Sony FDR AX700

Essential characteristics:

  • Super slow up to 960i/s
  • Numerous manual settings
  • Touch Screen
  • 4K HDR (first consumer model to be offered)
  • 4K XAVC S: 3840 × 2160 / 24 or 25 fp
  • Exmor R CMOS sensor type 1.0″

DJI’s innovation

The Osmo Pocket is a portable camera with a 3-axis stabilized pod. Like the Osmo first of the name, but much smaller. It is surprising that a manufacturer like Sony, Panasonic or Canon, experts in video, did not think of creating such a camera. It offers so many possibilities and facilities for filming!

The Osmo Pocket

I would have loved to have such a camera when I started in video with my short films! This small object can even hurt action cameras in some situations. When the action cams have an optical stabilization, the osmo pocket offers a mechanical one on 3 axes! Accessories for underwater filming up to 60m are also available.

Compact (12cm long), light (116g !!), good autonomy (140min) it offers up to 4K at 60fps, with the bonus of the D-Cinelike profile facilitating post-production calibration.

It is the ideal camera for many situations. The selfie mode is also part of the game for bloggers.

Its 2 only drawbacks for me are the size of its sensor (1/2,3″) and the audio quality which doesn’t match that of some SLRs. So it’s difficult to play with the depth of field or to shoot in low light.

The small detail that makes the difference for the experienced videographer is the possibility to set the aperture, isos and shutter speed manually via the touch screen or the MIMO application on his smartphone.

For this price and with all these functions, there’s no need to hesitate depending on what you want to shoot. It can be used as a first camera for video training, as a travel camera but also as a backup camera for some videographers.

Camcorders with interchangeable lenses

As far as I know, only Sony is in this market today. And for good reason, they invented the concept with the NEX VG10. Indeed the goal was to offer the qualities of an SLR with the ergonomics of a camera. Bet won.

NEX VG10

SLRs are mainly intended for those who mainly like to take pictures and film in a second time. Here it’s the opposite. Moreover these cameras do not have a mirror in front of the sensor as on the reflex cameras. I won’t go into technical details but the main advantage is the gain of light that goes directly to the sensor.

The gain of light means better sensitivity (no need to go up in ISO) and therefore sharper image and less “noise”. And above all, more possibility to play with the depth of field and get closer to this “cinematic” aspect.  Easier to shoot in low light too. This type of camera is mainly aimed at videographers who want to shoot short films or clips.

You can also film your holidays with it, or a show. But it’s not always easy when you find yourself filming an unexpected event and have to change lenses because the subject is either too close or too far away and you have a fixed focal length lens on the camera. This has happened to me before, so that’s why I’m talking about it…

Few models

Today there are two models in this product range, the Nex VG30 with a 23.4×15.6mm APS-C sensor, released in 2013, but which remains a reference (many expect its 4K successor from Sony, the Nex VG40?) and the Nex VG900 which is the “top of the range” model with a full 35mm CMOS sensor Exmor™.

Sony Nex VG30

NEX VG10

In fact the main difference is the size of the sensor…and therefore the price. The advice I give you if you go on one of these two models is to buy it “naked”, without lens. And then to equip it with a better quality lens than the one provided (better aperture for example and better optics), even if they are sometimes already of quality.

It is also important to know that you can glue any lens of any brand on the nose via adapter rings. That’s what I did for one of my short films.

I had put a Canon f1.4 lens from my father’s old silver lens on the NEX VG10. I enjoyed playing with the depth of field and the bokeh was beautiful. The only concern is that you lose the automatism of focusing on this kind of lens. It’s a bad for a good, what a great image quality in return!

The advantages

  • Camera ergonomics
  • Images of beauty
  • Huge choice of objectives
  • Sound in 5.1

Disadvantages

  • Sometimes loss of autofocus
  • DSLRs and hybrids

If you like to take a lot of pictures and make pretty stylish videos, this is the best choice today. It’s versatility for me. Personally I almost took over a NEX VG model. But I realized that I was taking a lot of pictures. And that for the video it was enough to equip oneself with some accessories and to apply the rules that one fixes oneself in photo. That is to say to put everything in manual (Iso, Diaphragm, shutter speed, white balance) to couple it with a good lens with a large aperture and you could obtain magnificent videos.

For your information, Sony reflex cameras have an optical stabilizer. So no need to invest in a stabilized lens. The main advantage with an SLR is that it’s harmless but I’ve seen it when shooting in public places, you can shoot in crowded places without people turning on you for fear of being on the video like when you shoot with a traditional camera.

It may seem trivial but it always makes it better to see a video where people don’t turn around every 5 seconds to see if you’re filming them. I’m talking about a visit to a museum for example or an exhibition centre with a lot of people. The image seems much more “natural” as a result.

The small disadvantages

The disadvantage of the DSLR in video is its limitation to filming continuously more than 30 minutes. 29 minutes and 59 seconds exactly. It can be annoying for some videographers. This limitation comes from a European law.  It basically stipulates that beyond 30 minutes of continuous recording, the camera falls into the category of camcorder/camera. So, BIM, a tax on top of that. If your device offers to switch from PAL to NTSC mode, the European limitation jumps and you can shoot at 24, 30 and 60fps instead of the standard PAL 25/50fps.

The other reason for this is also the overheating of the sensor. As the unit has a safety mode, it will stop recording before the 30 minutes to preserve the sensor.

Some firmware allows this limitation to be overridden on some Canon models. On the Sony A6300 and A6500 there are also firmwares to remove this limitation. But isn’t it taking the risk of damaging the sensor?

Another flaw I find is that you can’t take pictures while filming. On some other models yes, but is the quality of the picture good?

The last defect that we can find in this range as in the hybrids, is their poor autonomy. With the exception of the latest Sony A7 III and its new long life battery, you’ll have to think about investing in additional batteries.

APS-C sensor, 4/3 mic or Full Frame?

Concerning the differences in sensors, quite sincerely, I have seen videos shot with a Canon 5D Mark ll full frame at 3000€ the box and I didn’t see any notable differences with the videos I shot with my 800€ APS-C box equipped with a good lens. Because yes the quality of the lens is essential.

The differences

The main differences between a medium sensor and a large sensor are the sensitivity in low light, the degree of “bokeh” when the lens has a large aperture. And also of the focal length which is longer on a smaller sensor with an equivalent lens.

There are many professional cameras designed for fiction filming that do not have a full-format sensor but a “Super 35” sensor, i.e. about the size of an APS-C. Also some models that are references among videographers have a 4/3 micro sensor, even smaller than an APS-C (Panasonic GH5 or GH5-S for example).

And if I’m often asked which model I shot my films with, I think it’s because it confirms what I said.

My opinion about the full frame is that if you do professional photography on the side, yes this format is interesting because it’s more adapted to the photo format. If you’re going to do mostly video, it’s much less interesting.

I know some video artists who were lulled by the marketing sirens, who tried full frame after aps-c, and who finally came back to aps-c. Also think that on an aps-c you can stick a full frame lens. This will change its focal length.

But on the other hand you can’t stick an aps-c lens on a full frame. Well, you can, but you will have a black circle all around your image. And there are VERY GOOD wide-aperture aps-c lenses available today, often more accessible than full frame lenses.

Hybrids with interchangeable lenses have the advantage of being small in size but still have the sensor of an SLR. They are mirrorless (no mirror between the lens and the sensor) like the range mentioned just above and therefore have all the advantages. In my opinion and considering the marketing orientation that the different manufacturers are taking, the traditional SLR will tend to disappear in a few years…but this is only my opinion.

Ergonomics

Ergonomics are changing, I have an A6300 and frankly you don’t need big hands to hold it. To make a clean shoot you will need to be equipped with accessories (steadycam or gimbal, monitor screen, follow focus…etc). The hybrids can accommodate any lens via adapter rings.

There are many models with an APS-C sensor on the market. Sony has then marketed models with a full-format sensor with its Alpha 7 range.

The latest models in this range are the Alpha 7 III, the Alpha 7r III , the Alpha 7S II and the Alpha 9 in a completely different budget. Sony has been alone in this segment of the market for 2-3 years. Panasonic with the S1 and Nikon with the Z6 have recently followed suit. Canon may be waking up in this field by mentioning the EOS R5 (and its 8K video) which is in development. The EOS R was not convincing in video.

Small revolution in the field because this kind of camera did not exist a few years ago. For video, the Alpha 7s Mark II from Sony has proved its worth (the 7S III is much awaited by many videographers…) or the Alpha 7 III which offers a plethora of functions for the demanding videographer. 5-axis stabilization, 4K HDR, dust and drip proofing, several S-Log profiles for calibration, impressive eye tracking of the filmed subject, etc… It’s full-featured technology packed for around 2000€..At this price and in this range there’s simply no better anywhere else.

Fujifilm comes back in force

Fujifilm, a brand mainly known as a film manufacturer, risks hurting Sony and Panasonic in the field of hybrids dedicated to video. Its latest hybrid models are indeed aimed at the demanding videographer and also confirm my comments about the size of the sensor in video. Mechanical stabilization of the sensor (APS-C), 4K Cinema (4 096 x 2 160) that can go up to 60fps (for the X-T3), 200Mbs encoding, F-Log (for calibration), Eterna mode to emulate a film rendering known in the film world, and so on… If I wasn’t already equipped with my Sony and the Sigma lenses (16mm and 30mm) that come with it and that delight me, I would have fallen for the X-T3 or the X-H1.

Nikon’s awakening

With its Z6 and Z7 models, Nikon is entering the full-format hybrid market, but unfortunately with a bit of shyness about the video functions. At the top for photography, they don’t lack much to be so in video. At least what I was able to test on their first firmware (which has been updated since but I haven’t tested it). Just a few features that the experienced videographer would like to find…Read more.

The advantages

  • Sensor size and quality
  • The small size
  • Choice of objectives
  • Wifi on some models

Disadvantages

  • Ergonomics for filming
  • Case sometimes not stabilized
  • Sensor heating

The hybrids I recommend for making quality video:

The hottest thing in APS-C:

Fujifilm X-H1

Fujifilm X-H1
  • 4k DCI, F-Log
  • Eterna film mode for a cinema-like appearance
  • 200Mbs encoding
  • 5-axis stabilization of the sensor

Fujifilm X-T3

Fujifilm X-T3
  • 4K DCI ( 4096x 2160) up to 60fps for 20 minutes
  • 10-bit 4:2:0 colour depths recorded internally and 4:2:2 via HDMI output
  • H264 or H265
  • All it needs is to stabilize the sensor…

Sony A6400

Sony A6400

The vlog dedicated device packed with technology. Its focus and processor are the same as the A9.

Moreover it offers tracking and object recognition based on artificial intelligence.

Sony A6600

Sony A6600

The successor to the A6500 with the addition of some new features. But a bit skinny for my taste. It lacks the 4K at 60FPS for example.

  • Impressive detection and tracking of the eyes of the filmed subject
  • HDR
  • Recording possible in S-Log 2 or 3
  • Microphone + headset jack

But also these models:

  • Sony Alpha 6500 (APS-C / 4K sensor) Built-in 5-axis stabilisation and touch screen. Its price has dropped significantly since the release of the last A6600.
  • Sony A5100 (APS-C sensor / Full HD) The Sony A5100 (APS-C sensor / Full HD) is still the best value for HD video at an affordable price.
  • Sony Alpha 7S II (Full Frame / 4K sensor) Also ideal for night-time video.
  • Sony Alpha 7 III The latest full-format jewel from Sony.
  • Panasonic S1 The full format hybrid by Panasonic.
  • Sony Alpha 6300 (APS-C / 4K sensor)
  • Panasonic GH4
  • Panasonic GH5 (the darling of many videographers, the S version offers a more sensitive sensor (Sony), useful in low light conditions. But less than an A6500 for example…
  • Panasonic G7

A camera in the shape of a hybrid?

In this range, but entirely thought for video (so not hybrid since they don’t take pictures), there are also models from the Blackmagic Design brand. They are well known in the calibration world thanks to their super software Da Vinci Resolve. Not necessarily well known by the general public, their cameras are real little gems. As on the Sony Alpha Nex models there are adapters for Canon, Nikon, Pentax or even Panavision lenses. By default you can stick a Micro 4/3 Panasonic or Olympus lens for example.

BlackMagic Cinema Camera

The BlackMagic Cinema Camera is ideal for shooting short films or music videos for around 1000€.

BlackMagic Cinema Camera

There is also a 4K version (Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K) with a lot of advantages for a little more than 1000€. Support for several memory card formats, HDR video, 4k at 60FPS, integrated XLR socket for sound, USB-C port for external live recording, large touch screen, and I forget some… On paper and for this price, it makes you dream!

Bridges

For me, bridge is a clever mix of SLR and camcorder. The handling of a reflex with the possibility to touch the manual settings.  The advantage of a powerful and quality optical zoom without changing the lens and keeping a suitable aperture. Fast focusing. As well as the latest video formats in some cameras.

In short, a lot of assets in these cameras…Some models have a good size sensor allowing even to play with the depth of field. I’ll even go as far as to say that some of the latest models offer video functions that make some SLR’s fade…This is the category I recommend if you want to make quality videos with the ease of use of a camcorder and with the advantage of making nice pictures without necessarily breaking your head by wondering what focal length you’re going to use.

The models I recommend for quality video on your budget:

1. Sony RX10 IV

Sony RX10 IV

Top of the top right now. If you’ve got the budget, crack on. This model has no competition at the time of writing. I won’t mention all of her assets because she has so many. His flaw? Its price… excessive but without competition…

  • Tropicalized
  • Sensor from 1″
  • Full HD 120P
  • Zoom from 24 to 600mm at F2.4-4 (!!!)
  • HFR (High Frame Rate) mode up to 1000 fps (!!!!)

2. Panasonic FZ2000

Panasonic FZ2000

One could say of this device that it’s the GH4 disguised as a bridge because of its video capabilities. More accessible than the model above and with many functions dedicated to video.

  • 4K and UHD video
  • Zoom 24-480 mm F2.8-4.5 5-axis stabilized
  • Sensor from 1″
  • Touch screen and swivel-mounted swivel-mounted screen

3. Sony HX400V

Sony HX400V

A model that is much more accessible and that has serious assets in video. Ideal if you want to get nice videos without necessarily breaking the piggy bank.

  • Reactive focus even when zooming
  • accessible manual modes (PASM)
  • Full HD up to 50fps
  • optics 24-1200 mm f/2.8 -6.3 stabilized

Let’s not forget the compacts

Because we often forget them to make video, but the latest models offered by the manufacturers offer nice features and sometimes even advanced manual settings.

Their big advantage is their compactness and therefore their discretion. A few years ago, these devices were offering decent videos, but nothing more. But today, equipped with very good sensors and good video processing, the rendering will bluff more than one. So some models could even make some hybrid owners jealous…

The 2 compact models that I recommend for quality videos:

  • The Sony DSC-RX100
  • The Canon G7 X
  • And the sports cameras

Conclusion

Don’t forget something important when choosing your camera: a good camera (SLR, hybrid or compact) may not necessarily produce good movies. Mainly because of the processing of the video, the encoding algorithm that is done by the camera. Because each brand and each model has its own specificities (treatment of colors, contrast, framerate, etc…). I’ve seen very good SLRs in photography offering mediocre videos…Rather than an A7 SIII, I hope one day that Sony will release a “NEX VG40” with all the features they offer in their latest hybrids, but with the ergonomics of a camera…

I hope that my advice and opinions will have been able to help you in the choice of your future emotion sensor Do not hesitate to share this article, to give your opinion in the comments or to ask questions, I will be pleased to answer them. See you soon!

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