Camcorder Or DSLR with Video

Choosing a Camcorder or DLSR with Video

Video and still photography are converging. No need for me to tell you that. Just a few years ago, purist were denoucing Nikon when they decided a DSLR have video capabilities. Now, it seems video in DSLR are the big thing. Not only do you find video capabilities in low end DSLR, even the professionals want them in their top end cameras.

Enough of history, let us get down to choosing which one to buy. If you are like me, I was in the same situation as you. Should I get a camcorder that can take decent still photos or a DSLR that can take video?

Things to consider.

Ergonomics

While you can shoot video with a DSLR, it is almost impossible to hold it with a heavy lens attached. After a few minutes, your arms are going to fall off. All the stuff you read about semi-professionals using DSLR have a rig with tripods and sometimes even dolleys to shoot short films. If you want to video a birthday or wedding or your children playing in the park, get a camcorder instead,

View finder

Most DSLR don't have an articulated view finder although some have them today. Without such a view finder, you will find holding a camera in front of you will be a burden very soon. See point above. Most camcorders have articulated view finder and more importantly, live view.

Limited manual control

Manual controls on a DSLR is limited. It is beginning to change but there are still limitations. A half decent camcorder will allow you to adjust the iris(aperture) and shutter speed as well as gain (ISO). Most DSLR have limited or no manual control on these.

Autofocus

A camcorder will autofocus. Most DSLR while on video won't. They can autofocus before they start recording but once they start to record, you will have to focus manually. The problem is that most lens made for DSLR today are not built for manual focussing. The focussing ring is small and sometimes right in the front section of the lens.

Audio

A half decent camcorder usually has stereo mics in front under the lens to capture audio. The reason it is placed there is to reduce noise from the camera. Usually the mics can "focus" as you zoom the lens to have better audio quality.

Most audio on DSLRs are only okay with mono microphone. The way the microphone is positioned, it will pick up all sorts of camera noise. More expensive DSLR will have a jack to plug in an external microphone. Lower end models don't have a jack to do so. You need to spend more money to get the microphone and your DSLR now not looks like a frankenstein, you'll need a heavy tripod to support everything.

Recording Limits

On a camcorder, you can record for 45 minutes or more in a single shot without stopping the video. Most DSLR can record only for between 5 to 10 minutes or so. So to record a whole wedding ceremony without breaks is impossible. 

Cost

DSLR and lenses combination cost more than a decent camcorder. While a DSLR have a wider choice of lenses, the range of zoom is often more limited unless you switch lens. A camcorder built in lens usually have a large range. It can go from wide to telephoto (25x or more zoom).

HD Camcorder
HD Camcorder | Source

Final Note

A camcorder is made to shoot video. Still photographs from a camcorder will usually be lower quality. That said, I shot a few photographs with a HD video camera and they came out decent enough to see on the monitor.

If you want to make some Youtube videos, video of the family and other occasions to remember them a camcorder is the better choice. Prices of HD camcorders have dropped a lot and there is not reason not to get one.

If you are serious about making films, then a DSLR might be the way to go. It allows you to shoot video with existing light due to their low light capability.

One final thought.

Before deciding to get a camcorder or a DSLR, under low light conditions, a camcorder is usually able to capture better video compared to an entry level DSLR with the kit lens. This might come as a surprise. The reason is kit lens aperture usually are around f/3.5 there abouts especially if is is a budget zoom. While on a camcorder, due to the small sensor resolution (number of megapixels) the pixels are bigger. Together with a brighter lens (aperture for such lens might start at f/1.8 or f/2) a camcorder will give better low light videos.

Still photo taken with a $300 HD camcorder
Still photo taken with a $300 HD camcorder | Source

The photo above was taken with a Panasonic HD camcorder. You can check it out on Amazon below

Comments 10 comments

TrahnTheMan profile image

TrahnTheMan 4 years ago from Asia, Oceania & between

Informative review Jamezwoo. Kitting out a DSLR for serious video production can easily see you spending over $5000, at which point you really want to consider your options--you can get a video camera that will give gorgeous images but is designed for video so it has real audio, can record long takes and all the points you make above. As at February 2011 there are some great options out there like the Sony F100. If you have the cash A Red Scarlet is an amazing camera, but it is admittedly in another league.


jamezwoo 4 years ago Author

Thanks for stopping by & leaving a comment ThahnTheMan.

What you said is absolutely true. I think taking a dslr to make videos is kind of hard what with the mods and necessary attachments. Yes, the Sony is a very nice video camera to have.

Since I wrote this article, the gap is getting closer for the DSLR for video shooting. DSLR still don't have the right ergonomics for video, their sensors overheat up but for those serious to make movies, which involves lots of short takes joined together, they can be an option.

Also for the person who is more into still photography but want to shoot a shot video now and then, I think DSLRs have come a long way.


TrahnTheMan profile image

TrahnTheMan 4 years ago from Asia, Oceania & between

Yeah jamezwoo I agree. I only recently got a Canon 600D and am still very green with it but have a background shooting with Red Ones, so applying what I know from there to the Canon is helpful, but I am a long way from intimacy with Magic Lantern! It's a really good point that having a great still image device/camera that can also shoot great video (within its limitations) is a good way to view it, I think anyway.

BTW what to you think the 2 mics in the pic you've used were doing? One looks like a Schoeps...


jamezwoo 4 years ago Author

The photos are not mine. I got it off from flickr. The person who posted the photo mentioned that they are "The mics are the Sennheiser MKH-50 and ME64," with powered Link CX231

You can click on the link at the bottom of the photo. It takes you to the flickr page. It also explains other stuff you need to get the 5DII working with the mics.

An alternative will be to get a mp3 recorder working independently from the video. However, that entails an added step to sync the audio and video properly. Since you worked with a RED camera, I'm sure you know all this already but for the benefit of others visiting here.


TrahnTheMan profile image

TrahnTheMan 4 years ago from Asia, Oceania & between

Thanks jamezwoo- that's helpful detail for me and the readers-- which is just what HubPages is all about. I look forward to more hubs from you. I'm a follower and voting this article up!


Aussie 4 years ago

Thanks for taking the time to right this down, the info is the best I've seen and just what i needed to read to turn my mind... i was sold at the audio info... all the best keep up the good work...


Bruce 4 years ago

Most of this information is now wrong. Consider the Nikon D5100 with 18-55 kit lens and a Rode Videomike Pro

http://www.flickr.com/photos/andyramdin/5966707619...

The professional quality mike weights 85g. This mike is mono, but the input jack allows stereo. But the pro mike gives audio far superior than any camcorder mike. The camera+lens are hardly heavy and have a swing out live view. Tripod is not needed especially with image stabilisation (VR). It will autofocus in video mode and has better low ligt performance than all but top end video. It allows 20 min recording at a time.

Differences remain - autofocus tends to hunt a little - still not as good as camcorders. Zoom range is still less - even an 18-200 mm Nikkor will only give an 11 times range. And manual exposure control remains rudimentary - it's better on Canon, but they don't have AF.

If you want quality vido and stills on the one device, a DSLR with movie mode is the ONLY choice. If you just want video, buy a camcorder.


TrahnTheMan profile image

TrahnTheMan 4 years ago from Asia, Oceania & between

Nice addition Bruce. Of course with any article on technology, it's going to date pretty quickly, that's to be expected. THe Rode mic is great- remarkably quality for the price (like all Rode mics). I'd still favor a Canon 600D over the Nikon 5100. Nikon have really dropped the ball in the lower-end DSLR video market. The D800 is getting some pretty good reviews however it's a lot more expensive...


jamezwoo 4 years ago Author

Bruce,

I don't think most of the information is wrong however I do agree that the 2 technology is converging. Video times for the D5100 is 20 minutes now per clip, a bit higher if the camera is hacked. A lot more but still can't compare to a proper video camera.

The D5100 is a relatively light DSLR with the 18 55mm kit lens but will weigh more with longer lenses.

Like I mentioned, it depends on what your video is for. For example, if you want to record a performance or a talk of some sort, a video camera set on a tripod & you are good to go for an hour or 2. A dslr, would work but then will cost more. You probably won't have the zoom range if you are set up behind the room.

Due to compression technology, there are known problems with memory cards that are not top notch for dslr video. Also 4GB card will give you about 30min of recording time.

I reckon a stronger contender for video with dslr style cameras will be micro 4/3.


TrahnTheMan profile image

TrahnTheMan 4 years ago from Asia, Oceania & between

All good points James. Bruce- in my experience, long single takes and real audio (inputs and monitoring) are two commonly used reasons for preferring a video camera over a DSLR. Of course both have pros and cons, and there are times where one will be much more appropriate than the other, depending on the nature of the shoot. Diving into it deeper, video cameras generally don't compress the footage to the same degree as DSLRs, which almost all produce h264 files. Even the old HDV codec in 10 year old video cameras has a higher bit rate, meaning there's more information in the file to draw upon in post production for processes like color grading. WHen DSLRs can produce video files in RAW (can the new Nikon D800??) then they become a much more serious contender from that perspective. Happy shooting :-)

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working