by Tom Barrance | Updated March 2022
This page includes affiliate links.
These cameras have better image and sound quality than consumer camcorders. They give you more creative control, and you’ll get better results in low light. They’re also easier to use than SLRs for filmmaking: some have ‘top handles’ for low angle shots, and they have buttons giving quick access to many of the features. Their sensors are relatively small, so they aren’t as good as SLRs in low light and you can’t get as creative with shallow focus – though they’re easier to keep in focus. Images look sharp and ‘video-like’ rather than cinematic.
Most prosumer cameras let you connect microphones and headphones, and some have XLR inputs for professional microphones. But they don’t have all the features of a professional video camera and can’t record ‘broadcast quality’ footage.
The Canon XA11 (top) and XA40 are popular for news gathering, documentary and corporate video. I used an older version, the XA20, on several education projects: they’re well-designed and easy to use.
The XA11 shoots 1080p HD (with a slow motion option) but not 4K.
The XA40 can shoot 4K, and 1080p with a slow motion option. It has a slightly larger sensor and better low light performance than the XA11.
The Sony AX700 has a larger one-inch sensor for better performance in low light. It can film in ‘log’ format (useful for contrasty subjects and colour correction). It has fast autofocus and can also shoot in super slow motion, but it doesn’t have a top handle and XLR inputs like the XA11/XA40.
- Good image and sound quality
- Fairly easy to use
- Better handling than DSLRs
- Bigger and more complicated than basic camcorders
- Image quality may not be as good as system still cameras
- Image quality may not be accepted by broadcasters
- News, documentaries and events on a budget
- Videos for online use