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In the ever-changing, innovative world of video production, making a new camcorder-purchasing decision requires up-to-date knowledge of the latest features available, along with an understanding of tried-and-true technology. Even seasoned professionals will need to take some time to research the myriad choices offered, then carefully determine which camera fits their needs. The specific requirements of wedding videography add another dimension to the process.
Reliability, exceptional video in low-light conditions, and high optical zoom range are some of the more important features you should be looking for when selecting a video camera suitable for wedding coverage. In addition, consider media format, audio inputs and the size and “look” of the camera. A handheld camera might shoot HD video, but will you stand out as a "professional" videographer without a decent-sized camera on your shoulder, or a solid tripod?
As you look over the wide range of cameras, you will, no doubt, be taking your clientele into account. Will you be covering high-end weddings with multiple cameras, are you currently at the entry level or perhaps shooting your very first wedding for a family member? Do you want all the bells and whistles or are you a purist who prefers sticking to the basics and keeping life simple? Ultimately, your list of preferences is unique to your work style and ergonomic requirements. In order to assist you with your decision, we have reviewed a variety of models selected specifically for capturing a couple's wedding-day memories.
Advanced and Intermediate-Level Camcorders
The Sony PXW-X200 is the successor to a perennial favorite—the PMW-200. It records up to 1080p60 video using the efficient XAVC Intra and Long GOP codecs with 4:2:2 10-bit sampling. To fit into existing workflows, MPEG HD422, HD420, and DV recording options are available. Dual SxS memory card slots are provided, while simultaneous recording to two cards is possible for instant data redundancy and backup copies of your files. With 4 channels of high-quality, 48 kHz, 16-bit LPCM, you will have all the audio capabilities needed to cover every element of a wedding weekend. Shooting in low light is no problem with this camcorder. Three Full HD 1/2" Exmor CMOS sensors and a fast maximum aperture (f/1.9 on a Fujinon 17x optical zoom lens) will thrill you with the exceptional video you can capture under the chandeliers, in dimly lit reception halls. Weighing slightly more than five pounds, this camera is heavy enough for stability, yet won’t wear you out during hours of shooting. For a semi-shoulder mounted solution, the Sony PMW-300K1 is also worth considering.
Sony’s PXW-X180 Full HD XDCAM Camcorder features three 1/3" Exmor CMOS sensors. While it won’t reach the low-light capabilities of the larger 1/2" sensors of the PXW-X200, its 25x Sony G zoom lens offers more reach than the PXW-X200. It offers 10-bit 4:2:2 recording in a variety of codecs, with up to 1080p60 available in the XAVC Long GOP codec. Another useful feature is the camcorder’s Wi-Fi remote capability, when paired with the optional Wi-Fi adapter. This is invaluable for the “one-person band” shooting with two or more cameras, as it will let you monitor and control setting remotely using your smartphone or tablet.
JVC produces the GY-HM600 ProHD Camera, another worthy professional-class camera to consider. The HM600 can record up to 1080/59.41i HD video in MOV: H.264, MP4 and AVCHD. The Fujinon zoom lens features an impressive 23x optical zoom ratio. Standard sensitivity is rated for f/11 at 2000 lux for exceptional quality in low light. Two channels of 48 kHz 16-bit audio recording with 2 XLR inputs and a 3.5mm mini jack round out this advanced package.
The GY-HM650 ProHD Mobile News Camera offers the same features as the HM600, but with the addition of Wi-Fi connectivity and FTP server support. This compact camera allows you to record and automatically transmit footage to your home or office, a nifty feature if your editor is standing by for a “day of” presentation at the reception that evening. Like the HM600, the HM650 weighs 5.3 lb, giving you stability on the shoulder without being the heaviest camcorder in this roundup.
Sony’s HXR-NX5U is another solid performer. Its versatility in capturing different formats may fit nicely into your profile as well. Able to record 720/60p video in addition to 60i, 30p and 24p, this camera is versatile and easy to operate. The zoom range gets extremely high marks (20x G-Lens, optimized for advanced image processing) and you can choose to record on Memory Stick or SDHC cards.
If you are looking for a camera that supports both NTSC and PAL standards, Panasonic has built a camera for you to consider: AG-AC160A AVCCAM HD Handheld Camcorder. In today’s marketplace, worldwide compatibility might be an important enough factor to give this camera a closer look. Like many of the other cameras in this category, the AG-AC160A captures video at a variety of frame rates. This capacity allows you to create your own unique “look.” Shooting in 60p and playing back in 24p, for instance, gives you a very smooth slow-motion effect to incorporate into your final product.
If 1080p isn’t enough resolution for you and you’re ready to enter the world of 4K Ultra HD recording, then you may be interested in the Sony PXW-Z100. In today’s marketplace, the ability to record high-resolution images can do wonders for your business. It also makes for a good investment as the industry makes the transition to 4K. The PXW-Z100 utilizes Sony’s XVAC 4:2:2 10-bit intra frame recording format, which is the same found in their digital cinema PMW-F55 CineAlta camera. It can record true 4K (4096x2160) resolution video at up to 50 and 60fps – perfect for capturing those special moments. Of course, you can also record 1080p video if you’re workflow isn’t ready for 4K file sizes. Rounding out the camcorder is a G lens with 20x optical zoom and three control rings, dual XQD memory card slots, and 4K HDMI and 3G/HD-SDI interfaces.
Intermediate and Entry-Level Camcorders
There are a number of camcorders at the entry (and slightly above entry) level that will produce High Definition video and provide professional-quality audio as well.
Beginning with Panasonic’s well-balanced and impressive AG-AC90 AVCCAM Handheld Camcorder, the variety of options in this class is surprisingly good. The AG-AC90 looks much like the cameras in the advanced category, yet weighs only 3.3 lb. Since it shoots HD 1080p /1080i and boasts two XLR inputs, this camera does provide you with excellent pictures and sound, especially in optimal conditions. It also features Five-Axis optical image stabilization, which makes for smoother handheld videos.
Innovation is the key word to use when describing Sony’s combination camcorder / projector: the 96GB HXR-NX30 Palm Size NXCAM HD Camcorder with Projector. In addition to the built-in projector, Balanced Optical SteadyShot is the standout feature here. This image-stabilization system isolates the entire optical block from the rest of the camera body for exception results. The built-in projector could be that special standout element you bring to the table. Projecting raw footage on a wall during the reception is just one of the many possibilities you might consider. The HXR-NX30 also has XLR inputs and a 10x optical, 17x extended Carl Zeiss Lens. It has a single 1/2” ExmorR CMOS sensor and an internal 96GB flash memory capacity.
If you are looking for an easy-to-use, entry-level camcorder with a professional look, Sony’s HXR-MC2500 Shoulder Mount AVCHD Camcorder is an excellent choice. It weighs a hefty 6.2 lb, sports a nifty flip-up LCD above the color viewfinder, and has an ergonomic handle with Record button and zoom control for those essential low-angle shots. It has a single 1/4" Exmor R CMOS sensor and is equipped with a built-in LED light to assist in lower-light situations. There is a 3.5mm mini-jack input and a built-in 2-channel stereo shotgun microphone.
The HDR-PJ810V High Definition Handycam Camcorder with Projector is also a versatile and handy little camera/projector. With full HD 1920 x 1080 60p recording capability and a built-in video light, the PJ810V would be an ideal second or third camera to have for covering a wedding, in part because it is so easy to use and complements your package with a very capable projector. It also takes 20 megapixel still pictures (32GB flash storage included). The HDR-PJ710V features a Sony G lens with 12x optical zoom and Balanced Optical SteadyShot image stabilization. Sony’s Tracking Focus function and Intelligent Auto give you the ability to multitask while the camera does the work. The Dolby Digital 5.1 Channel Surround Mic will surprise you with its clarity. In addition, there is a mic input for your wireless unit, and the accessory shoe will hold a small receiver.
As with the advanced and intermediate level options, Sony also offers a 4K consumer camcorder with their FDR-AX100. The 1" Emxor R CMOS sensor is large – approximately 8x larger than typical camcorders. This lets you get some cinematic shots with a pleasing shallow depth of field. What makes the camcorder truly versatile is its recording options, letting you capture 4K Ultra HD 3840x2160 video at 24 and 30 fps, as well as Full HD 1920x1080 video in XAVC S, AVCHD, or web-optimized MP4. Like the HDR-PJ810V, it also features a 12x optical zoom lens and Optical SteadyShot image stabilization. Built-in Wi-Fi with NFC support even lets you use your smartphone or tablet. If you don’t need 4K recording, then consider the nearly identical HDR-CX900 instead.
As you can see from this diverse sampling of excellent camcorders, the variety of file formats, lenses and audio packages can be quite a bit to digest. You will likely see one or two cameras that pique your interest and will serve your clients’ needs as well as your own. When you reach that point, come into our NYC SuperStore, visit us on the Internet for a live chat, or contact us by phone at 1-800-606-6969.