DSLR vs Camcorder

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    • #49548

      What is this fascination for DSLR’s? OOOO! Prime lense capability? Ooooo! Shallow depth of field? oooOO! Larger imager and more pixels? ummm . . . Less intimidating cuz it doesn’t “look “like a camcorder?

      1) & 2) Well, I suppose if one is shooting a dramatic production a ” film look ” would be desirable; but a ” film look ” is not impossible with a good camcorder with a good lense. What is the cost and weight ( to carry around ) 3 or 4 really good prime lenses? What is the cost and weight of a really good zoom lense for a DSLR?

      3) Larger imager and more pixels equate to sharper and more detailed images, right? For stills, perhaps, but all that picture quality gets severelycompressed by some codec in order to be able to storeall thatvideo on SDHC memory cards, right?

      4) A DSLR may look more like a still camera . . . until one hangs all the necessarystuff on it in order to approach the functionality of a decent camcorder . .

      OR, is this mania simply an attempt to be what is perceived to be ” bleeding edge “; keeping up with the Joneses? It seems to me that there are two ways to approach videography: 1) thinking, composing, telling compelling stories via moving pictures and then accumulating the gear that will support that goal, or 2) vice versa, accumulating a pile of cool hardware and then trying to figure out what to do with it.

      It seems to me that there is a loose comparison between the evolution in sound recording hardware and video hardware. Once upon a time, a professional recording engineer had to invest tens of thousands of dollars ( of real money back then )into equipment and microphones in order to reliably and consistently deliver a commercially viable product. Within two or three decades, ” semi-professional ” and consumer grade gear hit the market which, to the un-initiated, could be purchased for far less dollars, and which seemingly was capable of making recordings every bit as good as the high-priced professional grade stuff . . . . and now the majority listen to their music in a compressed format, unworthy of the skill, craft, artistry,and hardware from a few decades ago.Same thing happened in the ” professional photography ” biz soon after the Nikon SLR cameras broke the price barrier and newer and cheaper 35mm cameras ” empowered ” a greater number of folks to take what they deemed to be high quality photographs for themselves.

      One thing to bear in mind: The retail market for consumer goods is vastly greater than it is for professional equipment. In the transition from 16mm film at 11:00 to video news acquisition, the early adopters had large, heavy video cameras which wereconnected to larger and heavier 1″ reel-to-reel video recorders strapped to somebody’s back. Nothing could compete with that video quality . . . . until the Beta cameras hit the market . . . which of course would NEVER be used for program production . . . until they were. Many TV stations began using SVHS camcorders for news acquisition . . . but it would NEVER be good enough for program production . . . and so forth. Today we have video cell phones and tiny, cheap,pocket video recorders providing images from around the world which would nototherwise be available. Reality TV productions use dozens of the tiny camcorders to cover the unscripted action and intercut it with footage fromwhat are now deemed professional camcorders.

      The story is still king. Skilled visionaries will figure out some way to tell a compelling story regardless of theequipment at hand. Gearheads will struggle, trying to find/tell a story, regardless of their bleeding edge, state-of-the-art arsenal.

      Rick Crampton

    • #202814

      Good post. I couldn’t agree more. Although, it is nice to have all the fancy equipment for skilled storyteller

    • #202815

      Another thing to consider is what your client’s want. Most these days want ‘film quality’ not understanding that digital cameras can do things film can’t for a lot less money and post time. Many potential clients want the ‘ooooh factor’ of having their project shot on RED. Forget what it’s going to cost to store the footage, properly monitor it, have it graded and lastly what it will ultimately be distributed on.

      Even when it comes to what footage is shot on now can be an issue. I just had a client balk because I shoot on tape with a harddrive pass through. They were set on SD cards inspite of my being able to turn over a harddrive with uncompressed footage they could go straight into the editing bay without downloading anything and have a tape back up. Whatever.

      Bottom line is; you just have to be able to roll with what the client wants. Offer them alternative economical suggestions which will still bring in a quality product. But if they still want to roll with the ‘ooooh factor’, then make sure their checks clear first!

      If you’re shooting your own projects, then you take a lesson from the above client. Use the best gear you can get your hands on to tell the best story you can. I’ve seen great stories shot on not-so-hot gear that I still remember and not-so-hot ones shot on great gear I can’t bother to….

    • #202816

      I agree that what you shoot with matters a lot less than what you shoot, but I use a large sensor interchangeable lens camera that takes high resolution stills as well as video because:

      – I only want to carry one camera

      – It is a lot easier (at least for me) to shoot ‘deep DoF’ with a large sensor than ‘shallow DoF’ with a small sensor

      – I want to give clients/customers/audiences the option of high quality RAW stills on every shoot.

      If a camcorder-only approach works best for some folks, that’s great. I want a camera that produces pro quality stills and video in one package. Some clients do too. As usual, YMMV.



      Hybrid Camera Revolution

    • #202817

      Ok I am a somewhat amateur at this – I taught myself video editing skills for use in my pre/k kindergarten- I made movies with them from stories they created- using a somewhat cheap camera with video mode- came out pretty good and i have green screens and suits – parents help and it is fun- now that camera died and I am looking to invest in a camera for the occasion that will do a much better job- was thinking about a dslr – Have a canon t-70 I don’t use anymore – camera stores showed me a Sony A-55 that shoots 10 frames/second and I am sort of sold on that – my funds are limited- but then I have an older Sony Digital Hi 8 camcorder – and I am wondering if a camcorder is better because they shoot more frames per second- like above 24- I don’t know if the frames per second for dslr vs camcorder mean different things- seems if a dslr is shooting video at 10 frames /sec – that isn’t good enough- i supply parents with copies of this and venturing into a business where i get grants and go to schools and do this rather than work directly for school systems. It will be a big investment and i need to consider as much as possible before I decide

      Thanks for your wisdom


    • #202818

      Also – not sure what you mean about HD cards – do camcorders come with hd cards- the hi-8 camera was a pain waiting and waiting for it to play all the video- that was when i was taking video of my own children and playing with video editing- are the mini tapes a better quality or are there camcorders that have storage systems to download instead of playing each tapes by itself

      Currently have windows 7 and a quad core processor- but am going to be upgrading- severely for this venture – saw the computer they recommended on this website- my son builds computers so I am going to use that as a model for whatever he comes up with

      thanks again

    • #202819

      neelix – I think that things might make a little more sense if someone helps you to clear up the confusion in a couple of places where I think you’re a little off track.

      First, the A55 the salesman showed you shoots 10 still frames a second. In video mode, it shoots 30 progressive frames a second or 60 interlaced frames a second. Quality of the video is fine for your purposes, but be careful, this camera has a tendency to overheat. See this article from Popular Photography:http://www.popphoto.com/gear/2010/09/tested-sony-a33-and-a55-video-overheating-issue

      Second, the still and video storage media for most modern camcorders and DSLRs is the SD card (not the “HD” card). In fact the A55 that you saw at the store uses SD cards for storage. These cards have replaced tape in most modern cameras. In all likelihood, your quad core Windows 7 machine has an SD card slot. With the right editing program, you can take the SD card out of the camera, and put it straight into your computer for editing. No more tapes.

      I hope this is helpful,


      Hybrid Camera Revolution

    • #202820

      yes thaks for clearing that up it was very helpful- especially the over heating part- they haver an A 57 that is coming out in april

    • #202821

      Regarding overheating I use my Canon T2i for long video shoots with only a few seconds between takes. The heat warning symbol comes on after about 45 minutes of shooting but the only time it shut down was when I was shooting outside on a hot day and the sunshade failed to shield the camera from the sun.

    • #202822

      Speaking as an experienced photographer who has recently become interested in getting a little more serious about shooting video it was not a hard choice for me as to which to use, dslr or camcorder. I already own three dslr cameras and a couple of dozen lenses plus a pile of filters and extras. A couple of points I would like to add to this discussion though.

      Firstly the loss of quality due to compression. Well that depends on the camera and the storage media but if you have a decent camera, like a Canon 5D ii for instance, which uses CF cards not SD, there is no discernible quality loss. Also if you use Adobe’s On Location software, which comes bundled with Premier Pro, you can bypass the camera’s memory card all together and record straight to your hard drive.

      Secondly, the range of lenses alone makes the dslr a very attractive option. I can use an extreme close-up lens like my MP-E65 and fill the screen with a single grain of rice and then with a lens change that takes a few seconds I can be taking close-ups of a bird that’s half a mile away. I am not aware of any camcorder that has that kind of versatility.

      I know that camcorder fans will utter worst case scenarios when talking about dslr’s and vice versa for dslr fans talking down camcorders. The reality of it is that the higher quality models of both will make great videos so long as they are in the hands of a quality film maker.

    • #202823

      I shot a wedding recentlywith my Canon T3i as my #2 camera and had no overheating issues. Ran steady for more than a half hour with only a couple of two second breaks due to file size limitations. It was a very dark room and the video quality beat thecamcorder it was sitting next to.

      Neelix, if you’re shooting kindergartners for fun, don’t worry about spending a bundle.A $250 camcorder using AVCHD and an SD card is more than enough and you’ll get full HD. In fact, a Flip Video camera for $100 would probably do the trick and they’ll both blow that old 8mm tape out of the water. Premiere Elements has presets for Flip Video as I’m sure other modern editing softwares do.

      If you do want to get an HDSLR, remember it’s not the camera but the lenses and accesories that will cost you the most money in the long run. Cameras come and go, lenses are forever (sort of.) And they’re more complicated to use so beware.

      To address the original post, Rick is spot on about storytelling and skill being more important than equipment. Technology does not replace creativity and proper technique.

      The Dogme 95 guys proved that. But to be honest, I have yet to see one of their movies I really liked. So maybe not a great example. Maybe Soderberg would be better…

      Anyway, I remember the good old days of having a video camera on one shoulder, with a thick blue umbilical cord running downmy back to the 3/4″ deck slung over the other shoulder, a 20 pound battery belt wrapped aroundmy waist for the ‘sun gun’ mounted on top ofthe camera and the wooden tripod that doubled as a battering ram. I also have the bursitis in my right should to show for it.

      Anyone remember what it meant to ‘lose a generation’ in the edit bay or have a craggy old news director tell you to bump up your hi-8 to 3/4 so it’d look better? lol.

      Sosome people may sayI’m keeping up with the Jones’ and that’s fine, but I’m loving my littleHDSLR and laptop editing. Plus, I do a lot of still photography. Two birds, one camera.

      The most important thing isthat peopleget out and shoot. Then edit. Then show someone your work. If you’re not getting paid, it doesn’t REALLY matter if you shoot on an iPhone or a RED. Both will tell a story.

      American Idol recently gave their contestants Flip Video cameras and aired the footage on national TV.

      So itdoesn’t matter what you make yourvideo on. Just make video.

    • #202824

      Here’s one potential difference and I think it’s a big difference:

      If you’re a street videographer and you shoot people in the street I tend to think some people you shoot might be a little, or more than a little, annoyed when you focus a DSLR on them because they think, and rightly so, that you’re snapping still images. On the other hand when you point a camcorder at a subject unless the subject has been living under a rock the subject knows darn well that you’re not taking still images but instead capturing video footage. I hope the reader understands what I’m trying to convey if not I’ll expound on it: It’s pretty simple, some subjects might find it more offensive if you point a still camera at them whereas other subjects might tend to go with the flow as opposed to turning into a human bottle rocket that aims to maim. Or decapitate. One reason for them to squelch their anger, I surmise, is the subject knows that they can’t get physical with you (throw a punch, spit in your face, stage a mini riot, etc, etc) because if they do harm you you got it on video for a small claims court, superior court judge, or TMZ audience to watch. These are important things to think about if you shoot in the street, near or on the beach, in the vicinity of a Hells Angels clubhouse, etc, etc. I’m a novice videographer and a pseudo sociologist who shunned the DSLR and instead purchased the Panasonic TM900 camcorder because 1) it has a viewfinder and 2) because I have an interest (or calling) in street videography. I just hope I bought the right camcorder….

    • #202825

      I use both, dslr for pics and camcorder for video, That keeps things simple and sweet. They are designed for their particular duties. Can you use a harley for dirt racing? sure, But they look cooler on the street with a girl behind you! and more functional.

    • #202826

      @Pacific Beach

      I think that anyone who takes acception to being photographed in the street is going to get upset equally when you try to shoot them with a video camera. If your premise were true then surely a dslr, with it’s greater range of telephoto options would be a better choice as you can get your shots from a greater distance therefore negating the possibility of a confrontation. I can get good quality head shots from half a mile away with my dslr, not sure you could make the same claim about your camcorder.

    • #202827

      I don’t know…I’ve done a lot of shooting in the street with a still image DSLR, the Nikon D50. There are a lot of people who are not aware of the law as it pertains to shooting in public. That said, I’m going to give it a try and see what happens when I start using a camcorder. The thing that helps me with the D50 is that I’m a little extroverted when I shoot in the street. Not always, but many times I’ll say something including thanking them for just coming out and being a part of life. There have been only a handful of cases where the subjects became highly agitated. But you’re right, there will be people who object, there always will be. At this point in my “career” I have zero experience with street videography so it can be said that I don’t really know what I’m talking about, I’m basing my opinion solely onmy experience with a still image camera.

    • #202828

      Some while ago I put on my “What’s YOUR Story?” t-shirt and hit the Huntington Beach pier where they were holding a Senior Day event that just happened to occur on the same date as 9-11. I had a monopod, handheld mic, camera, handouts and stood there like a man-on-the-street journalist in an attempt to promote my Video StoryTellers! video business, branding and web program.

      Many, MANY people responded, especially to the highly visible t-shirt billboard, but I NEVER once in several hours there hit a problem with anyone, official or personal, regarding my presence, what I was shooting, or actually responding.

      Managed to gain a respectable number of interviews keying off my “Where were you when…” cue cards and my on-camera AV release cue card, providing me with GREAT stories and memories of where they were on 9-11, and for the older crowd, or not-so-old, when Kennedy was assassinated, the challenger exploded and a few others.

      I’ve participated in numerous such projects over the years and even post 9-11 I haven’t run into any serious “issues” from police activity to public events, to general beach, sidewalk, park, downtown or other endeavors. I’ve used both photography and video gear. Maybe people on the West Coast, generally speaking, are less intense about things when they’re out in public.

      Boils down to NOT SO MUCH the equipment or kind of camera, IMHO, as it is how the person wielding the equipment presents him/herself, how you dress, how “sneaky” you look or act, obnoxious or overly aggressive.

    • #202829

      As Rick so perfectly ended his intro with:
      “The story is still king. Skilled visionaries will figure out some way to tell a compelling story regardless of the equipment at hand. Gearheads will struggle, trying to find/tell a story, regardless of their bleeding edge, state-of-the-art arsenal.”
      I believe the gear comes second if you’re a rue storyteller

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