A professional cameraman may laugh at this, but I like using camcorders for my filming in news and documentary. Over the last three years of filming, I have used the Sony HDR-CX390 and HDR-CX625 and it has saved my life countless of times.
Whenever I get asked about a starter camera I tend to recommend them from here;
So why do I use this for my filming work? What are the merits and demerits?
１）It turns on immediately and begin recording in a second.
When you only have one chance to film, this camera can become handy. Big cameras, DSLRs, Osmos etc can take much longer to prepare itself for recording. That is when you usually miss the moment to film. For a solution, you can have the camera turned on all the time, but it will drain the battery.
With these camcorders the moment you flip the screen open, you are ready to record.
It helped me in situations like waiting for someone`s arrival, or a sudden incident that unfolds in front of me.
２）The stabilizer is amazing. It makes your image look like a pro.
Even the video editor was impressed how steady the shots looked. A non cameraman journalist recorded an event and it was totally usable.
I usually use PXW-X180 XDCAM for my shoots. It`s stabilizing function is not as good as the camcorder. It shows the difference especially when you zoom in.
I used it while filming a driving shot. I would not want to use a big camera inside a car. The stabilization helps too. (It`s small as well, so you don`t get tired)
３）Its auto focus is great. You can zoom in very closely to an object and it will be in focus.
It`s very accurate. With other cameras I have to twist the focus ring accurately to get the shots in focus. It`s sometimes very hard because slight fail in the focus makes the shot unusable.
It`s a camera designed for a person with no camera experience.
This function saved me, when I had to extend my arm in the air and zoom in far at an event. I did not really have to worry about the focus.
Of course, you might say the color is not as good as other types of camera, but a lot of the times, it`s about being able to get a picture in focus in a moment`s notice.
４）It`s small enough for you to be mobile.
Using your feet to explore a location for filming is extremely important. You have to be brave to wonder around to find a better alternative shot. It could be going around a building, climbing up the stairs to film from above etc. You have to have the mentality of an explorer and be different compared to other cameraman who gather in the same position.
This camera, because it is so small and light, will encourage you to do that. If you use this in combination of that mindset, you will have shots that other cameraman would not.
Another thing about having a small camera. Sometimes you don`t want to draw too much attention to yourself. For example, you can get away by looking like a tourist, if you want to film in an area where you need permission to film. This camera is extremely useful for that kind of filming.
５）Excellent as a backup camera. The footage is usable for documentaries and news purposes.
You can have somebody else carry this as a back up camera. It means that person can go to another location and film from another angle. If your main camera is from the same brand, in my case Sony PXW X180, you can combine the footage in the edit, although a little bit of color correction is required.
Now that we have covered the merits, let`s look at the demerits.
1) It`s terrible in dark places
The camera will add so much gain on the image that it will make your picture look rough.
Really!? This is terrible. Sometimes that`s how I feel when I look back at the footage.
2) You have no control over lighting and focus
The big merit of using big cameras is you have the control over focus and light. When it comes to camcorders, you have to let and trust it to do the work for you. It sometimes struggles to get the focus right if you have an object in front of the camera dominating the frame and you want to get the background in focus. It`s a rare case, but this is worth mentioning.
The above two are my main concern.
My conclusion is that it`s a great camera to invest, to have it with you.
What do you think? Do you own these cameras and use it? Leave a comment!
I am a documentary/News cameraman based in London.