Use the right tools for the job. While you could use a sharp knife to cut your hair, using a pair of scissors is the more efficient choice. We can say the same thing about the type of camera you choose. Unlike DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, designed to leverage both video and still image shooting, camcorders are explicitly for recording video. While there are many DSLRs and mirrorless cameras capable of capturing high-quality video, there are many jobs and situations where a camcorder is simply the better choice. For example, camcorders are the clear choice for electronic news gathering (ENG) when shooting for news broadcasts. They’re also the best choice for documentarians looking to capture the story as it unfolds.
When it comes down to it, the primary reason why so many professions choose camcorders over DSLRs and mirrorless cameras comes down to simplicity and flexibility. Camcorders come with the features professional videographers need without any unnecessary accessories. They’re ready to record immediately and their external controls give them loads of flexibility.
Professional camcorder users
Let’s take a closer look at professionals working in the broadcast news field. Most of the time, camcorders are their tool of choice for those working in the news industry. These types of professionals (electronic news gather, journalist, photog, etc.) are always following the story as it happens. They need to be ready to shoot at a moment’s notice, regardless of the subject matter or the location. In turn, they need camcorders that are ready as well. Camcorders with long battery lives are a must for these professionals. Flexible storage and a constant workflow are vital as well. People rely on these professionals to accurately inform them about what’s happening around them and quickly deliver that information before it becomes obsolete. The efficiency camcorders offer ensures the transition of video, from the on-site location to the news station, is smooth and fast.
Informing the public is an ENG shooter’s primary goal. A typical day for an ENG could have them at the edge of the community, working on a strict deadline to bring back a story for the next news broadcast. Camcorder’s ability to shoot quality video at a moment’s notice enables news shooters to be ready to capture fleeting moments. That’s why the camcorder is the right tool for these professionals.
Camcorders are an excellent choice for documentarians as well. Since they’re usually tracking down and capturing stories, camcorders give them the speed and flexibility to do their job efficiently. Documentarians differ from the news gathers in that they are typically creating longer-form content. A documentarian shooting in cinéma vérité (a style of documentary filmmaking that aims to capture realism, truth and authenticity) uses observational cinema to explore a subject. This observation tells the documentarian what story they’re telling, helps them decide how to follow the story and informs them about what equipment they need. Documentarians need to be ready to shoot at all times, so the equipment they bring is essential. The weight and size of the gear they choose play a significant role in how long they can shoot. Endurance is important and camcorders eliminate the need to bring extra lenses, sparing them the extra pounds in their equipment bag. Documentarians also need to have easy access to their camera’s controls. Camcorders have everything available on their side so that shooters can adjust settings on the fly. There’s no need to dig through a menu.
Event videographers also often find themselves in unpredictable shooting situations, such as performances, speeches or ceremonies. They need to be nimble to capture events as they happen as well. To do this, they need a camera with long record times because any interruption can ruin the moment. When shooting an event, changes in light (like going indoors to outdoors) can be hard to deal with. Having the ability to quickly change the exposure or white balance without negatively affecting the shot is critical in these situations. Event videographers also need to capture strong audio and input. Sometimes, event videographers have to use the audio output from a PA or sound system at the event. This can be for many reasons. For example, this would be the best route if an event videographer wants to capture the nuptials at a wedding or a live concert.
Students are also a huge camcorder user demographic. Camcorders are an excellent tool for people wanting to capture a great image while they learn. Exposure control on a camcorder is much easier than on a DSLR or mirrorless camera. Ultimately, camcorders empower students to focus more on the story they’re telling than operating the camera.
Leave the lenses at home — Camcorders can zoom
Camcorders have a lot of strengths, but their zooming capabilities are their overall best quality. The reach of most professional camcorder zooms is typically longer than what you would find in a detachable single zoom lens, like what you would find on an interchangeable lens camera like a DSLR or mirrorless camera. The optical zoom range of a camcorder is in a multiplier. Take the Canon XF605 with a 15X zoom, which gives the camera the equivalence of 25.5mm to 382.5mm.
On top of their incredible zoom length, they’re fantastic to operate too. If you have ever tried to zoom a still photo lens, you will find that getting a smooth zoom is difficult. Yet, with a camcorder, not only does it have smooth zoom, but you can also control its speed. A camcorder has zoom rockers for pressure-sensitive zoom speed control. But you can also set it to a given speed, ensuring the shot is the same every time. If that’s not enough, camcorders, like the Canon XF605, have three different controls for operating the zoom. There is a zoom rocker near the grip, one near the handle and a dedicated zoom ring on the lens barrel.
Ergonomics and workflow
Manufacturers design camcorders specifically for shooting video. This means you get more than the standard focus control rings you get with DSLRs or mirrorless cameras. For example, the Canon F605 has iris, focus and zoom rings. Through touch alone, the camera operator can adjust all the key aspects of any given shot. Shooters don’t have to take their eyes off the scene to make adjustments.
The exterior of professional camcorders has many buttons, dials, knobs and switches. All located on their sides, these controls are a mix of assignable buttons and main controls. They include white balance presets, ND control and audio gain. The Canon XF605 has buttons to turn on and off image stabilization, focus peaking and zebras.
The viewfinder on a camcorder gives the shooter a way to see when it’s hard to see a screen. They shade their view and remove outside distractions, giving perfect exposure when the shooting situation is not optimal.
Whenever shooting video outdoors, ND filters are a must. Professional camcorders will have a built-in ND filter. Consider ND filter sunglasses for your lens. They lower the light making it to the image sensor allowing for wide aperture shooting. ND filters let you keep the same exposure during the transition from indoors to outdoors. This makes it much easier to shoot in any situation you come across.
Any professional camera needs professional inputs and outputs. XLR inputs are essential when using professional microphones. This is true regardless of the microphone used. The Canon XF605 has two XLR inputs with external gain control along with a 3.5 mm stereo mini-jack.
One of the most common situations videographers find themselves in is shooting too much and their media storage becomes full. They then have to halt production because they can’t offload their storage to free up space. Another very unfortunate event that’s far too common is when videographers’ media fails. Many camcorders can avoid these situations because they can record to SD cards. Additionally, SD cards are practically available to buy at about every edge of the earth, which is extremely helpful. That’s what makes SD cards the most viable media option because they are everywhere.
One of the highlights of shooting with a camcorder is that it’s everything you need, nothing more. Plus, because they made the lens on a camcorder for the camera. This means you get a long zoom. This all-in-one form factor means no need to carry extra lenses or accessories; you have what you need at all times.
The other aspect that makes a camcorder simple is its ergonomics. Camcorders focus just on shooting video, unlike DSLR and mirrorless cameras which have a form factor for shooting still images. This means they have a handle for shooting low angled shots or when you need a different grip on the camera. Camcorders have a grip designed to keep the camera secured to your hand. You’ll find the record start/stop button and zoom rockers near the grip for easy execution.
Setting a camera on autofocus and auto exposure is not a professional best practice. Yet, if a camera has a dependable auto function, it has a place in some types of shooting. Capturing the moment is more important than the camera settings, and that is why having auto controls are handy to have at the touch of a button. Professionals can’t be stumbling to get their exposure and focus right; otherwise, they may miss an important moment. You can expect to get reliable autofocus on a camcorder. It’s more likely to have better performance than other camera types. You’ll find controls like auto iris and auto gain control alongside the autofocus button.
The next generation camcorder: Canon XF605
The Canon XF605 has a 1″ CMOS sensor that’s capable of capturing 4:2:2 10-Bit internally. It can additionally capture video in H.265 or H.264 MP4 Format or XF-AVC and shoot up to UHD 4K up to 60 frames per second (fps) and 1080p to 120 fps. It has Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus with Eye autofocus. It can capture HDR Recording, Canon Log 3 and Wide DR. Offering both optical and digital image stabilization, the XF605 has a 15x optical and 30x advanced zoom in HD. The camera offers three control rings for discrete focus, iris and zoom control. The XF605 has a built-in independent internal 3 density ND filter for ND 1/4, ND 1/16, ND 1/64 and clear. With two XLR and one stereo 3.5mm audio inputs for four-channel LPCM audio and 12G-SDI and HDMI output.
The XF605 can stream live using IP transmission in H.264/AVC encoding format. See the live stream from the camcorder using the onboard LCD, or it sent to a standalone IP encoder or redirected. This gives the ability to use a monitor for a confidence check and public viewing.
The XF605 has both wired and wireless connectivity built in. This allows for sharing recorded files and transmitting them back to the station. Do this with an FTP for editing or live streaming. The camcorder can also be accessed remotely from a web browser. Use it to control functions like record start and stop, record mode and frame rate. It also controls autofocus and manual switching, focus and zoom settings and white balance. The camera can even transfer in the background and send the video files via FTP links. This enables the latest news images to be distributed quickly over the Internet.
The professional choice
You might not have considered purchasing a camcorder, but they are great tools that will make many shooting situations simpler. This results in a better outcome. If your shooting conditions are not under your control, a camcorder will make capturing the moment easier. That ease of shooting will allow for a deeper connection between the shooter and the subject. It’s because the equipment isn’t getting in the way of telling the story as it happens. This means professional camcorders like the Canon XF605 are the right tool for the job. If you want to learn more about the XF605, or other professional Canon camcorders, click here.