Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor

Canon, JVC, Sony, Panasonic and the illusive Black Magic camera, 15 video cameras in one year, from Super 35mm large sensor to one third inch CMOS camcorders.

This isn’t a review of the year…that comes later but more of a round up from a camera operators perspective.

What you choose depends on who or what you film, if it’s mainly broadcast from news to documentaries you will be more interested in the 50Mbps range of camcorders though 35Mbps is now acceptable for news.

If you film drama and commercials you will probably be filming with a Super 35mm camcorder from 2K to 4K.

Lastly wedding and event videographers will be filming with anything from a one third inch camcorder to a large sensor camcorder.

The big question is what camcorders out of 15 produced this year would make a good all round piece of kit and how many of these cameras do we need in reality.

As an all round camcorder the last camera you need is a Super 35mm camera, changing lenses let alone no servo zoom makes the large sensor camera a no, no.

What about the Sony EA50 with it’s 18-200mm servo zoom…at f3.5-6.3 it does not lend itself to low light without increasing the gain, gain on an APS-C sensor that is known to deliver moire and aliasing, not good for that fine mesh seen on most wedding veils.

Panasonic, JVC and Sony all produced 1/3″ camcorders this year with the Panasonic AC90, the JVC GY HM600/650 and the Sony PMW150. Out of the three manufacturers I have personally used the JVC GY-HM600 and was very impressed.

This is JVC’s first step into CMOS sensors and I take my hat off to JVC, I was expecting a noisy average 1/3″ camcorder and was very pleasantly surprised when I first saw the pictures in the edit suite.

With a 23x zoom, 29 to 667mm (35mm conversion) f1.6-3, this lens packs a punch and has been improved since I had the camcorder.

The JVC GY-HM600 is one of the main contenders for a good all round camcorder, especially for run and gun.

Sadly I have not seen the Sony PMW-150 nor have I used a Panasonic AC90 so I cannot comment on them.

If you are working for broadcast one of the few camcorders produced this year fits the bill, the Panasonic HPX600, with a 2/3″ lens mount, SN of 59dB and AVC-Intra100/50, DVCPRO HD, DVCPRO50, DVCPRO and DV format, this camcorder is not lacking.

The downside is the P2 format which is fantastic and very robust but has not taken off in the broadcast market in fact I only know of Sky TV who still use P2 with the BBC now using Sony’s SxS.

There is no reason why the BBC should not accept P2 footage but all my colleagues working for the BBC have kited themselves out with Sony PMW-500’s.

Drama and commercials now have a wide choice of camcorders to choose from, the Canon C500 films 4K to external recorder, the new Sony F5/55 shoot 2 & 4K though the F55 can shoot 4K internally without needing an external recorder.

As much as I use a Canon C300 myself and I love the camera to bits I suspect Sony have the edge over Canon C500 with the sheer specifications of the PMW-F55 not to mention it’s ability to record 2 & 4K internally, the global shutter is a very useful feature taking away any hint of a jello effect when panning the camera.

2 or even 3 camcorders…

Like me you may need two camcorders for varying types of work, one for interviews and one for general use, the large sensor camcorders are fantastic for interview, tripod work, for a tight budget the Canon C100 would fit the bill as you can run a Ninja off the back of the C100 and get the exact same pictures as a C300.

If money is no option then the Sony PMW-F55 is the camera to choose some of the early footage seen on Vimeo is very impressive.

As yet I can’t see past the JVC GY-HM600 for general use and at just under £3500 is a steal, it’s a cracking camcorder that has a team of engineers in Japan working to improve it even further as I write, JVC as a company have really impressed me and you can be assured if it’s at all possible they will be working to bring out that 1080 50p codec that will set the heather alight and bring a lot more cameramen and women over to JVC.

At the price you may even want to invest in two GY-HM600 camcorders if you produce two camera shoots like theatre productions, the HD-SDI sockets are also very welcome for vision mixer work.

Once again, money no option the Panasonic AG-HPX600 would be a fantastic all rounder, P2 is less of a problem for independant producers and smaller operators who are less restricted by older NLE software often seen in broadcast environments.


Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

One thought on “2012 “A year of Camcorders”

  1. your review of the jvc gyhm600 whetted my appetite. it looks like a great option for run and gun. i couldn’t assess the picture quality, esp for talking heads. i need to decide between the gyhm600 and a c100 with 24-105 lens and a ninja2. c100 is good for talking heads but bit of a pain (no servo zoom, changing lenses on the go) the jvc looks great for getting all shots needed quickly for cutting but small chip means poor picture quality.? . i do all manner of corp shoots around the world. i need to get shots as one man band, and clients need to feel they’re getting high production values but in little time!!!!

    what in yr view is the best investment?

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