28 January 2022
Camcorder or DSLR:
Which Is Better for the Perfect Video?
Entire episodes of hit TV series like "House" were shot with a digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR). So why is it important that video camcorders still exist? Let's compare both.
The DSLR was not designed for the purpose of filming. Even the least expensive camcorder from the electronics store on the corner wins in this category. It's clear that the focus of DSLR manufacturers lies on photography, and even though they are integrating an increasing number of video features, they haven't changed the basic design.
Additional equipment is necessary for operating a DSLR by hand, namely a tripod and shoulder mount kit (or "rig"). Cost: Starting from €150. Shifting the weight of a camera to the shoulder is the easiest way to keep a camera steady. Image stabilization can help, but they aren't integrated into every lens.
Video camcorders not only come with image stabilization systems by default, they are usually lighter than DSLRs and easy to move smoothly without any extra hardware thanks to the top handle they often have.
1:0 for the camcorder.
The second win for the camcorder: DSLRs have a hard time following a moving subject, even when equipped with an excellent lens. As a result, the camera struggles to keep in focus and pumps the auto focus, which makes a shot unusable. In order to avoid this, it's recommended to adjust the focus manually. Holding the lens while recording is not a good idea, however, because camera shake is inevitable. Additional hardware can help. In addition to the shoulder rig, a "follow focus" is necessary for crisp recordings.
By attaching this to the lens and the rig, it's possible to follow the subject in focus smoothly with one hand. But while it may sound easy, this requires some practice – a steady hand and a feeling for setting the proper focus doesn't come naturally.
Cost: Starting from around €100. There are also rigs with integrated follow focus starting at around €300.
2:0 for the camcorder.
3. Image Quality
Because DSLRs have larger image sensors and the lenses are interchangeable, it's much easier to produce noise-free, light-intense images with them. DSLRs also have the advantage that cinematic shots are possible without any problems, i.e. the subject in focus is sharp and the background is blurred. This is something that only professional video camcorders can do, and they are considerably more expensive than semi-professional DSLRs.
A clear victory for the SLR camera. Score: 2:1 for the camcorder.
4. The Sound
In addition to picture quality, good audio is crucial for any video. SLR cameras in the lower to mid-range price segment are not very convincing in this regard: Some only record in mono and others lack an audio input. This means that an external microphone is a must-have. If this isn't an option because there is no input, the only option is to record audio separately. This is often the preferable solution, because the noise caused by operating the DSLR is much more audible in footage than that of a camcorder. A win for the camcorder.
Current score: 3:1.
When it comes to post-production, there is no difference between footage from video camcorders and DSLRs. There is one mini-advantage of DSLRs in that they typically record at a higher data rate. This gives them a bit more room in post-production, for example, when adjusting brightness or color values.
A point for both. 4:2 for the camcorder.
If we start with a mid-range DSLR priced at about €650, this investment quickly becomes expensive since there are some added costs for the additional hardware, e.g. for extra lenses, a high-quality microphone, a shoulder rig, a follow focus system, and a tripod. It's not uncommon to spend between €1,000 and €2,000. You can, alternatively, get a top camcorder for this price. Ultimately, the intended use should be the deciding factor:
A camcorder is the hardware of choice for live recordings, for example, of conferences, interviews, tutorial videos, travel, and events. The SLR camera is more suitable for short films with cinematic appeal, video features, or high-quality footage in low-light conditions. That's because the DSLRs can make up this 4:2 deficit with extra hardware.
EXTRA: Find out how Wolfgang K. – a Movie Studio user since 2001 from Rheine – shot a cinematic short film with a DSLR for the first time. At a mystery theater dinner. "A Thrilling Self-Experiment", original title: "Ein spannender Selbstversuch".