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Shooting video: Camcorder vs. DSLR and iPhone

Shooting video: Camcorder vs. DSLR and iPhone

I miss the good old days when a camera just took still photographs and a video camera shot video. The choices were simple. On the other hand, with video and still photos blurring the line across most cameras today, you get the best of both worlds seamlessly blending together.

The question would seem to be: Why did I just buy a new video camcorder for my birthday? Everyone I know is on the DSLR (digital single-lens-reflex) camera video or cellphone video bandwagon. I don’t know anyone who has recently purchased a camcorder.

I have access to a variety of video cameras: my DSLR, iPhone and compact point-and-shoot, but they just don’t have the versatility of a conventional video camcorder.

I needed to upgrade to a video camcorder that uses flash memory instead of the old-school DVC mini tapes. Technology was calling; it always does. Video editing has become so much easier and less expensive using software such as Premiere, iMovie, or Final Cut Pro.

My pick was the reasonably priced Canon VIXIA HF M50 camcorder, which has a list price of $599. Because it had a nice $200 rebate available at the time, I decided to snap it up. I just needed an excuse to plunk down my credit card. Also, my birthday was just around the corner.

The main feature I gained was the combination zoom lens and auto focus. This is really important for capturing your kids’ sports (mine play hockey). It’s a tough to capture the action with an iPhone or heavy DSLR  and non-auto focus lens. The camcorder is perfect for capturing the action from surfing to soccer without giving it much thought.

Also, it’s much easier to use for those shots from across the table, to get the closeup of someone blowing out the candles at a birthday celebration and then to pull back to get a wide view of everyone singing. It’s such an easy way to add variety to events such as graduations, school plays and vacations.

I’m not a fan of carrying around a heavy tripod everywhere I go, so my new camcorder has stabilization and I’m fine with hand-holding it most of time.

But remember, using a tripod is better if you’re looking for more professional-looking video. I’m willing to compromise for my family videos.

I also plan to use the camcorder for some of my video work for my Framework posts. The camera features a headphone jack to monitor the audio — a feature usually only available on the more expensive DSLR cameras and not an option with my iPhone. Audio can often be an overlooked aspect, so it’s an important feature for making better video. My new camcorder has a built-in stereo microphone plus an advanced mini-shoe on top to attach a high-quality microphone and an audio jack input.

The rotatable 3.5 LCD touch-video screen makes it possible to monitor while you’re shooting at a variety of angles.

Though this camcorder might be a little tough to carry in a pocket, it weighs in at only 12.9 ounces and is pretty small. I have really missed using a video camcorder on special occasions, so the purchase should get me back on track.

Lets take a look at the pros and cons:



Moderate price
Auto-focus and manual focus
Built-in 10X optical zoom lens
Manual audio controls
Headphone audio monitor jack
Small profile
Rotating video 3.0-inch touch LCD monitor
8GB of internal memory
SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card slot
Image stabilization
Wi-Fi for wireless video transfer


No interchangeable lens for super-wide angle or long telephoto shallow depth-of-field
No eye-level viewfinder
Additional wide-angle and telephoto attachments for purchase



Small size, easy to carry
Most people always carry their phone
Simple point-and-shoot


No optical zoom lens
No manual controls



High-quality image
Interchangeable lens
High-quality shooting in low light with fast lens
Variable depth-of-field


Need to use a tripod for serious video
Only the more expensive cameras have a headphone jack for monitoring audio
Most of the cameras are manual focus

Even though it means another battery to keep charged, a few more memory cards to buy, and one more instruction manual to contend with, it’s really nice to have the option. I have been shooting video for about 26 years, starting with my first JVC VHS-C tape camera. I’ve made the adjustment from 4-3 to 16-9 aspect ratio, and now I will be moving from tape to flash memory. This will make transferring the footage to the computer much faster.

Which reminds me, I still need to transfer so many of my vintage tapes to digital and get them all organized.

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Read more reviews and photography tips by Robert Lachman


  1. January 25, 2013, 8:48 am

    Loved the article working on similar for myself my book, I agree with the " you get the best of both worlds seamlessly blending together". My background is video production and media, with dslr video you get an interesting hybrid that makes the best of both worlds. But allows the freedom to explore and experiement freeling with both. Just think of shooting a timelapse a series to still images animated in a video timeline, how else could you share this easily once uploaded to Youtube or Vimeo.

    By: DSLR Video Studio
  2. January 25, 2013, 8:10 pm

    Robert, in order to get the best stills and video in one camera, you need to switch brands.

    The Panasonic GH3 will autofocus while you're shooting video, has a headphone jack, microphone jack and manually adjusted audio. It truly is the best of both worlds. I love being able to carry just one camera for my photography needs. I am using the GH3 professionally shooting video for corporate clients. I also use it as a still camera for my clients. Like HDSLR's I can change lenses, have access to fast lenses, and it is lightweight compared to the other cameras. It has a 3 inch swiveling screen just like the camcorder. It also has an electronic viewfinder so I can shoot it without any rig. it is not as moderately priced as the standalone camcorder but does a lot more. And I don't have to buy another camera. It meets all my needs.

    By: halfmac
  3. January 29, 2013, 4:15 pm

    Yes, exactly what halfmac said. Heck, except for the headphone jack the same can be true for the GH2 and GH1 before it. I have two GH1's that I use professionally and I would never go back to a camcorder. I will inevitably get a GH3 at some point.

    By: Mike
  4. February 2, 2013, 4:21 pm

    You will love it.

    By: halfmac
  5. September 28, 2013, 1:04 pm

    They do have a external lens for the iPhone 4!

    By: astbnboy
  6. June 16, 2015, 4:53 am

    Iphone images are good but cannot be considered as professional. Yes, it does have specs but it cannot beat a professional camera ever.

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