Why Use A Camcorder Instead Of A SmartPhone

posted in: Video Production Equipment | 0

Why Use A Camcorder Instead Of A SmartPhone? Well, it depends on the situation.

Smartphone CameraThere is an old saying among photographers that is as true today as it ever was: the best camera is the one you have with you. Magical moments happen spontaneously and often when you least expect them (a baby’s first steps, a rare bird sighting, a meteorite burning across the sky.) By the time you run to grab your full-size camcorder or camera the moment may be gone. But most of us ALWAYS have our smartphone in our pocket and we can whip it out and start recording or taking pictures within mere seconds. Chalk one up for the phone.

Also, many of the newest smartphones now have the ability to record in 4k UHD resolution for the same price as we paid for 1080p HD resolution only a year ago. Professional and Consumer Camcorders that record in 4k typically still cost at least twice as much as their HD forerunners. That’s TWO advantages for smartphones. And that is about where it ends.

Dedicated cameras and camcorders, on the other hand, have a host of advantages. Their larger sensors gather more light per pixel and they typically perform far better in low-light situations than smartphones.

They often have optical zoom lenses which provide much more versatility for framing the shot. Sure, there are digital zooms on most smartphones that bring the action closer but at the expense of quality. The optical zooms found in most camcorders give up NO quality at all and can often zoom in much tighter, allowing you to make an intimate shot even if you are far away from the subject(s).

The tiny microphones built-in to smartphones are woefully inadequate for virtually anything but your own narration – they will barely pick up the voices of distant subjects and if you try to record a loud rock band in concert you will often end up with nothing but a distorted mess. Not that camcorders and cameras are that much better, but many do an amazing job and most give you the ability to easily attach an external mic to an audio jack and vastly improve the sound quality. I don’t care how beautifully shot the video may be if the audio sucks I will NOT continue watching.

Sony HXR-NX5U NXCAM Camcorder
Sony HXR-NX5U NXCAM Camcorder

Handling is another area where traditional dedicated devices excel. Most camcorders have great ergonomics, allowing you to handhold the camera with your fingers laying right across dedicated hardware buttons to control recording and zooming, and your other hand controlling focus. By comparison, most smartphones may have volume buttons that double as zoom control but that is about it – you have to mash a finger on the screen to start and stop the recording, and you are at the mercy of the auto-focus to decide what is important in the scene. Here’s a tip: don’t include a tree or fence in the foreground of your shot as it will likely be in sharp focus while your soccer star child is a soft blur in the background.

Finally, we come to probably the biggest issue of all: storage. Most smartphones will stop recording after a few minutes, typically 11 or 12 minutes is the longest clip you can expect to capture. If you wanted to get that whole band set or entire act of a play you are out of luck. There are a number of reasons for this: sensor overheating protection, SD card file size limits, etc. Camcorders are designed to run non-stop until they run out of storage space, often going for hours at a time.

To be sure, each type of device has its place and I use both of mine extensively for different purposes. But if you really care about what you are recording the choice is clear: use a dedicated camcorder.

Looking for a great deal on a professional-level camcorder? We sell new models and we usually have quite a few slightly used models available at a fraction of their original price. Have a look.