Camcorder vs DSLR: Determining the Differences for Award-Winning Video

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With the emergence of digital streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, and the constant advancements of our devices (cellphones, computers, tablets and televisions), creating and watching digital videos has never been easier. The only question is what camera should you use? Camcorder vs DSLR? If you are a filmmaker, an online content creator, or just someone interested in capturing precious moments in high definition, then read on!

​Comparison Table

Camcorder Vs DSLR: What Is The Difference?


The main difference in the camcorder vs DSLR debate is functionality. The Camcorder, tailored for shooting video, captures images in a series of digital frames and stores them directly onto a hard drive or flash memory. From there, the digital video can be imported onto your computer for editing, uploading and sharing.

On the other side of the spectrum, the DSLR, (Digital Single Lens Reflex), originally designed for still photography, uses a mirror mechanism to reflect light and capture an image. In recent years, to meet the growing demand for video capabilities, the DSLR adopted similar video features as the camcorder and now also functions as a video camera.

Product Specs

lens

image source: Pexels

It is easy to note the physical differences between the cameras; a camcorder has a built-in zoom lenses whilst DSLRs use interchangeable lenses. However, there are 3 main variables to consider when working through the camcorder vs DSLR question for yourself:

 

1. Sensor Size

The biggest difference between a camcorder vs DSLR, is that DSLRs have much larger sensors. You can purchase camcorders with larger sensors, but these are the high-end models that are more expensive. In terms of video, there are two big advantages of shooting with a larger sensor: depth of field and low light.

 

Depth of field relates to how much of the image is in focus, so a larger sensor provides more scope of information and you can adjust focus between your subjects and the background. Similarly, a larger sensor also collects more light, which reduces the chance of 'noise' in your video when you are shooting in low light.

 

In terms of Product Specs, the camcorder vs DSLR debate favors the DSLR.

 

2. Recording Time

Similar to a computer, the power of a camera's processor dictates its speed and how long it can film for. As camcorders are designed to record video, their processor enables them to record for up to an hour or more in a single recording whilst DSLRs have shorter maximum record times; often only 30 minutes. This timing may be reduced further if you are filming in 4K ultra high definition.

 

In terms of Recording Time, the camcorder vs DSLR debate favors the camcorder.

 

3. Filters

When you film in bright or direct light, a camera requires a neutral density filter (ND Filters) to control the amount of light the lens takes in and protect the video from being over-exposed or 'blown-out'. In terms of the camcorder vs DSLR debate, a camcorder has built-in ND Filters but DSLRs require you to purchase an additional 'ND Filter Kit' if you plan to film overly bright videos.

 

In terms of Filters, the camcorder vs DSLR debate favors the camcorder.

Pricing


Prices for technology consistently fluctuate with each update, varying from brand to brand depending on their features, specs and accessories. You can peruse the virtual marketplace (Amazon, eBay, Bonanza, Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic) or visit your local Best Buy or Walmart for the most competitive prices, but the general price range for a Camcorder is between $​ to $​$ and a DSLR is $​ - $​$$.

How It Compares - Camcorder ​Vs DSLR

hanging camera

image source: Pexels

With a vast spread of affordable and high-end digital cameras available on the market, it is difficult to know which option is right for you. So, we have selected a few similar products to see how they compare:

  • Panasonic Full HD Camcorder HC-V770 
  • Nikon D3400 DSLR 
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark IV 
  • Sony AX700 4K Camcorder

1. Panasonic Full HD Camcorder HC-V770

Panasonic Full HD Video Camera Camcorder HC-V770, 20X Optical Zoom,...
  • 20X Optical Zoom: Long 20X zoom draws in the scene from far away; Compatible with Remote Pan Tilt Cradle (optional). The...
  • HDR Movie Feature: Exclusive high-dynamic range feature suppresses blown highlights and blocked shadows for crisper and...
  • Wireless Twin Camera: Wirelessly connect your smartphone's video camera as a sub-camera for a picture-in-picture video...

With a vast spread of affordable and high-end digital cameras available on the market, it is difficult to know which option is right for you. So, we have selected a few similar products to see how they compare:

Price $$

Ease of Use [4 Stars]

Panasonic's HC-V770 Camcorder is a cylindrical, light-weight camera which offers a 35mm-equivalent focal length that can capture Full High-density, ultra-smooth video at 1920x1080 at 60 frames per second. The camcorder boasts a 3-inch touchscreen LCD, manual setting options for focus, aperture and white balance, and user-friendly storage with SD, SDHC and SDXC memory card slots.

Durability [4 Stars]

The HC-V770 Camcorder has a durable outer casing with a well-protected lens and in built-in light. It has a windshield microphone that uses a damping structure between the mic and its net for crisp sound. This is built to last.

Design Quality [3 Stars]

The HC-V770 Camcorder's focus on HD video is strengthened by three components: its 20x optical zoom, which allows for greater magnification without loss of quality or clarity; the high-dynamic range (HDR) feature, which enables the camcorder to film and merge different exposures, to reduce defects caused by low light/overly bright situations; and the wide-angle lens (29.5mm) that captures a larger frame when you're filming.

Warranty [3 Stars]

Panasonic offers a 1-year manufacturer's warranty for this product.


Pros

  • High-quality images and videos
  • Easy to use manual settings using the control dial
  • Wi-Fi enabled for sharing videos and pictures instantly
  • "Panasonic Image App" lets you use a smartphone or tablet as a remote control
  • Slow motion Full HD
  • Real-Time Broadcast feature enables you to connect your camcorder to Wi-Fi and stream live Full HD videos on the USTREAM website

Cons

  • Sensor is smaller than a standard DSLR camera, so it has a reduced depth of field
  • Unable to film in 4K HD; maximum is Full HD 1080p
  • Battery life can be low, so purchasing additional batteries is required
  • No in-built storage, memory cards are required

2. Nikon D3400DSLR Camera

Nikon D3500 24.2MP DSLR Camera with AF-P 18-55mm VR Lens & 70-300mm...
  • This Certified Refurbished product is refurbished to factory specifications, it shows limited or no wear
  • Includes all original accessories plus a 90 Day Warranty
  • Nikon D3500 24.2MP DSLR Camera w/ AF-P 18-55mm VR Lens & 70-300mm Dual Zoom Lens

Price $$

Ease of Use [3 Stars]

Nikon's D3400 DSLR is a perfect option for beginners or users interested in capturing recreational footage. Similarly to the Panasonic HC-V770 Camcorder, the DSLR captures Full High-density, ultra-smooth video at 1920x1080 at 60 frames per second and features a 3-inch LCD monitor (not touchscreen), with SD, SDHC and SDXC memory card slots.

Durability [4 Stars]

With a composite plastic-like body, the Nikon D3400 is lightweight (13.9 ounces) and fits nicely in the hand. The textured grip and thumb rest offer enough space to ensure stability whilst the optical viewfinder provides a crisp image with no glare.

Design Quality [3 Stars]

What sets the Nikon D3400 DSLR apart from its competition is the EXPEED 4 image processor, which ensures high-quality, full vibrancy color reproduction, low noise and fast operational speeds. Its wide ISO range of 100-25600 and the 3D-Tracking function on autofocus sensor allows a user to lock onto a subject in varying low-light situations.

 

The Nikon D3400 does not have an external microphone port, so when recording footage, the sound captured from the in-built microphone can be affected by background noise.

Warranty [3 Stars] 

Nikon offers a 1-year limited warranty for this product.


Pros

  • SnapBridge Bluetooth Compatibility
  • ISO Range of 100-25600 (Auto);
  • Built in Flash
  • Improved dynamic range over its predecessor
  • Image quality is increased by the lack of an optical low-pass filter.
  • User-friendly controls and menus
  • Outstanding battery life
  • Built-in Bluetooth LE for SnapBridge support (but see related Con)

Cons

  • No external microphone port.
  • Weaker flash and fewer features than its predecessor (Nikon D3300)
  • 11-point AF system isn't good at tracking moving subjects without 3D Tracking function on.
  • No AE bracketing support
  • Underwhelming video performance
  • SnapBridge features and performance are limited because of lack of Wi-Fi

3. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR Body BG-E20 Battery Grip
  • BUNDLE INCLUDES: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR Camera (Body Only) and BG-E20 Battery Grip
  • 30.4MP CMOS SENSOR: The EOS 5D Mark IV camera boasts a full-frame, high-speed CMOS sensor that's ideal for a broad range...
  • DIGIC 6+ IMAGE PROCESSOR: It can transition from taking still photographs to shooting videos in a near instant,...

Price $$$

Ease of Use [5 Stars]

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is a pro-level DSLR, receiving high marks for stills photography and videography. Unlike others in the market, this camera is nimble and responsive with fantastic autofocus, a 3.2 inch LCD touchscreen interface and boasts a top resolution of 4K HD at 30 frames per second. With an increase in image resolution on its predecessor, the 5D Mark III, and Dual Memory Card Slots supporting CF (C-Fast) and SD/SDHC/SDXC, this DSLR is ideal for filming.

Durability [5 Stars]

Resilient weatherproofing around the strong, magnesium-alloy body, ensures this camera will last, even if the weather doesn't. The DSLR's full-frame body is lighter than the 5D Mark III, weighing only 1.8 pounds, enabling a user to film comfortably for longer.

 

The 5D Mark IV fits comfortably in your hand, with a sturdy grip that provides easy access to the depth of field preview button (next to the lens mount) and shutter release (atop the grip).

Design Quality [5 Stars]

The EOS 5D Mark IV's design ensures smooth and effective use over its features. The transparent LCD viewfinder has 100% coverage and the customizable Quick Control screen allows quick ISO adjustments from 100 to 32000, with expansion up to 102400, down to 50.

 

The Canon's Mirror Vibration Control System and the Dual Pixel CMOS AF (Auto-Focus) work in excellent synchronization to reduce vibration-caused blurring and ensure smooth AF during video or "Live View" filming.

 

Super Speed USB 3.0 connectivity provides high-speed tethering and image/movie transfer. With so many first-rate features in the Canon EOS 5D Mk4, however, there is little room to include in-built ND filters, which have to be purchased separately in addition to lenses.

Warranty [3 Stars]

Canon U.S.A., Inc. and Canon Canada Inc. (collectively "Canon") warrant that the Product will be free from defects in materials and workmanship under normal use and service for a period of one (1) year from the date of original purchase.


Pros

  • Top resolution of 4K HD RAW at 30fps.
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF for responsive and smooth AF during video or "Live View" shooting
  • Excellent high ISO performance for any lighting situation.
  • Superb dynamic range, much improved over its predecessor.
  • Excellent color accuracy.
  • Quick start-up and mode switching on touchscreen LCD
  • Built In GPS
  • Built-in WiFi
  • Time-lapse Movie function

Cons

  • Dual memory card slots use different formats
  • Low-light AF is not always reliable for quality with low-contrast subjects
  • 29:59 continuous video recording limit

4. Sony AX700 4K HDR Camcorder

Sony FDR-AX700 4K HDR Camcorder
  • 1" (1.0-Type) stacked Exmor RS back Illuminated CMOS sensor
  • Incredibly fast, Hybrid AF with 273 points and wide coverage
  • 4K resolution (3840 x 2160) in addition to full HD. Filter Diameter: 62mm. Minimum Focus Distance-...

Price $$$

Ease of Use [3 Stars]

The Sony FDR-AX700 4K HDR build is light, nimble and easy-to-hold, ensuring that any size or type of hand can comfortably fit its overall structure. This design can further aid the user in handling the camcorder for extended periods of time during shooting. The Sony AX700 also has an abundance of high-end features that make it a videographer's dream. So much so, it can take time for a beginner to learn all the manual controls and functions of this camcorder.

Durability [4 Stars]

The structure and build of the Sony AX700 camcorder provides durability in most environments that range in temperatures between 32 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Including a lens hood gives added protection from the elements preventing dust and sun spot damage to the external and internal components of the ZEISS Vario Sonnar T Lens.

Design Quality [5 Stars]

The overall design of the Sony AX700 is impressive. Sporting a ZEISS Vario Sonnar T Lens, this camcorder has a 29mm wide-angle vision that can range from 29mm to 348mm with 12x optical zoom. Combined with the powerful Bionz X image processer, the AX700 allows the user to record in 4K UHD at 30fps or 24fps, and 1080P HD at 24fps, 30fps, 60fps and 120fps with improved battery life.

 

It also has a 273 point phase detection AF (Auto-Focus) system backed up by a Exmor RS CMOS sensor that will give accurate tracking, better low light performance and increased dynamic range. Couple this with dual card slots and an external microphone jack, and the Sony AX700 is a powerful front runner in the world of videography.

Warranty [4 Stars]

Sony Electronics Inc. (for U.S. purchases) warrants this product ("Product") against defects in material or workmanship for two (2) years from original retail purchase when purchased directly from Sony or a Sony Retailer.


Pros

  • 2x SD card slots
  • 4K HDR recording
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Focuses/locks onto subjects quickly
  • Professional-level movie production features

Cons

  • No support for 4K 60 fps
  • Single, fixed lens with limited manual controls

Conclusion


So what's the winner in the camcorder vs DSLR debate? The choice is up to you. Only you can decide which is right for your photography or videography needs. Look carefully at the pros and cons of what we've reviewed here, and then get out there and get shooting!

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