Why a 4K camcorder is (way) better than a phone
09 Jan 2020

Why a 4K camcorder is (way) better than a phone

At a recent conference, one of the delegates drew my attention to a new BBC Academy training video on using smartphones for journalism.

I was particularly interested because I’d just bought myself a smartphone with a decent stills camera. My wife is really pleased about this because now when we go on holiday, or walk up the rugged Wolstonbury Hill near my home, I can carry my share of water, dog treats, snacks etc. because I’m not carrying five lenses and my DSLR in a backpack the size of a parachute.

My new smartphone is great at taking stills. It can even create a fake shallow depth of field that looks spookily similar to my 50mm F1.4 lens (which is now gathering more dust than the Dyson). It can deliver a respectable 3x zoom using its 2x ‘telephoto’ lens. The clever tricks my smartphone performs in the background to produce photos are possible because of computational photography. A tiny sensor coupled with a clever smartphone brain are doing a ton of calculations to make up for optical shortcomings and the laws of physics.

Now this is great for stills photography, but because that processing takes time, it’s much less suitable for capturing high quality 4K video.

The camcorder is mightier than the smartphone

It will be quite a few years before smartphones can compete on video terms with current camcorder technology and based on Panasonic’s new CES 2020 camcorder releases, quite a few more before they compete with the next generation.

Panasonic have just announced 3 new small form factor camcorders that fit a backpack’s worth of features into something the size of a small water bottle. The Panasonic HC-X1500, HC-X2000 and top of the line AG-CX10 all feature a huge 24x zoom range which takes you from the equivalent of 25mm wide angle to 600mm telephoto using high-quality Leica approved optics. They have 10 bit 4:2:2 4K recording to SDXC cards, auto or full manual controls and built in ND filters. Internal Wi-Fi allows streaming straight to the usual web portals like Facebook and YouTube, and they all have gimbal like image stabilisation too.

The top 2 models even have a 3G-SDI output and XLR inputs (optional Top Handle is available for HC-X1500). The exciting AG-CX10 will have broadcast P2 codecs and can be upgraded to output NDI HX video over IP for the ultimate in live multicamera production.

So, although the BBC and other news networks are happy to promote smartphone production, they do understand that even the best mobile can deliver little more than difficult-to-edit, social-media-ready content (as long as you remember to leave enough space free on your phone). These phenomenal new Panasonic camcorders will be some of the most versatile devices in our portfolio, ready for use in news, documentary, social media, live events, natural history and even remote production.

Richard Payne Head of Technology at Holdan

Article by Richard Payne
Head of Technology at Holdan

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