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-Z280 is the successor to a perennial favorite—the PXW-X200. It records up to 4K video at 60p 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, 24-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 1/2" Exmor CMOS sensors and a fast maximum aperture (f/1.9 on a 17x optical zoom lens) will thrill you with the exceptional video you can capture under the chandeliers, in dimly lit reception halls. Weighing only 6.6 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-Z190 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-Z280, its 25x Sony G zoom lens offers more reach than the PXW-Z280. The PXW-Z190 offers 4:2:2 recording in a variety of codecs, with up to 3840 x 2160 at 59.94p available in the XAVC Long GOP codec. Another useful feature is the camcorder’s Wi-Fi remote capability, which 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.
The GY-HM650SC ProHD Sports Coaching Camera adds sports coaching-specific functionality to JVC's GY-HM650, and it is designed to interface with the XOS Thunder HD Platform for reduced upload time for practice and game footage. The camera features superb low-light performance, a lightweight and user-friendly design, and exceptional advanced features, providing capacity for fast, efficient, and high-quality mobile newsgathering. The camera records 4:2:0 but has a live output of 4:2:2.
Sony’s HXR-NX5R is another solid performer. Its versatility in capturing different formats may fit nicely into your profile, as well. Able to record 1920 x 1080p video at 23.98/29.97/59.94 at 50 Mb/s in XAVC S and at 17 to 28 Mb/s in AVCHD, as well as 1920 x 1080i video at 59.94 also in AVCHD. For legacy production compatibility, the camera can also record DV resolution video at 59/94i. This camera is versatile and easy to operate. The zoom range gets extremely high marks (20x G-Lens, optimized for advanced image processing with 40x Digital Zoom) and you can choose to record on Memory Stick PRO Duo Hybrid Card or SDXC cards.
If you are looking for a camera that supports both NTSC and PAL standards, Panasonic has built a camera for you to consider: The AG-UX180 4K Premium Professional 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-UX180 captures video at a variety of 50 and 60 Hz based frame rates. Featuring a 1"-type MOS sensor and capturing at 8-bit 4:2:0 the AG-UX180 also can capture at variable frame rates up to 120 fps. Another camera that shoots in 50 and 60 Hz frame rates is the Sony PXW-Z150 4K XDCAM Camcorder, which features a form similar to the HXR-NX100 Full HD Camcorder, but shoots in 4K. It utilizes Sony’s XVAC 4:2:0 8-bit intra-frame recording format, as well as supporting MPEG2 and AVCHD for HD recording to match legacy products. Of course, you can also record 1080p video if your workflow isn’t ready for 4K file sizes. Read a hands-on review of the PXW-Z150, to see 4K video taken at 24 (23.98) fps and HD video at 120 fps.
Entry-Level and Intermediate Camcorders
For some, it may be hard to think of an HD camcorder as an entry-level camcorder, but that is about where we are today. Read on for entry-level and intermediate camcorders that will produce High Definition video and provide professional-quality audio, as well.
The variety of options in this class are surprisingly good. Beginning with Panasonic’s well-balanced and impressive AG-AC30 Full HD Camcorder with Touch Panel LCD Screen & Built-in LED Light. The AG-AC30 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 Hybrid optical image stabilization, which makes for smoother handheld videos.
Featuring a 1"-type sensor, yet sporting roughly the same form factor as 1/3"-type sensor camcorders, the Sony PXW-X70 is a powerful little HD camcorder. It shoots Full HD at either 50 or 60 Hz frame rates, has select variable frame rates of 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30, 60 in 60 Hz mode and 1, 2,3, 5, 12, 25, 50 in 50 Hz mode. It features an integrated 12x optical zoom, and mounting the included XLR handle unit with microphone holder adds two XLR inputs for recording professional audio. A paid upgrade enables the PXW-X70 to record in 4K, which makes it an excellent choice if you aren’t quite ready to start shooting in 4K, but don’t want to buy a whole new camera when you do.
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.
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 or AVCHD, or up to 720p in 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.
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, you can also visit us on the Internet for a live chat, or contact us by phone at 1-800-606-6969.