Question

What camcorder would you suggest?

Mar 3, 2018 11:30AM PST

Hi friends! I’m Emiliano. I’m new here and I joined because I’m looking for a new camcorder and I need your help.
I've been reading about several brands and models and I still can't decide.

My idea is to do some local news coverage, an amateur coverage. Some public events, documentary and nature film and stuff like these. I won’t be doing this everyday, it’s not my job. I won’t do weddings.
But, I got a budget and I want something a bit more professional than a common consumer camcorder.
I believe, at least in my case, this would be a camcorder I'll be using for several years. I’m not a professional videomaker or journalist but I want something a step beyond the consumer camcorders. So, I'm not going to be selling it and buying another camcorder so frecuently.
This is an expensive product, at least in my country, and I don’t think I would have the chance to buy something else like this in the near future, either ’cause I didn’t like the image or I don’t feel comfortable with the rings location or the lack of three rings or something else.
I have to use very well my budget.

What am I looking for?
Well, the first concept I learn about was: “entry-level”. So, I could say that's what I want (wanted? - I still can't find a good “entry-level” camcorder yet), an “entry-level” camcorder. Since I have JVC Everio GZ-HM30BU, a 2012 costumer camcorder, I'd say any current handycam would be better than this. But, I want something a bit more semi-professional than a common handycam.
I want something which allows me to handle the exposition, focus, gain, white balance. Also something with a direct mic connection like XRL connection, so I can receive a more direct audio and not an ambient audio, for example, when doing an interview.

That's why I started looking for a camcorder in accordance with my needs, but without going that far. So, I put a limit to my budget.
The limit is 2600-2800 USD. It would be nice if I could find something nice for that price, but until now I'm not finding anything. So, I my new limit, in case I need to get this far, is the Sony HXR-NX5R (USD 3400 here in Argentina).

So, now I've explained about my budget I'll tell you about the models and brands I was reading about for the last 3 month (yes, is not easy, much money and most of the concepts I've found are new for me).

Keeping always in mind the "entry-level" concept, the first model I saw or my first option was the Panasonic AG-AC90, but I was told the AC90 is really old now and although it was quite good for its time is really rather outdated now. I also was told that Panasonic camcorders don't have a good performance in low light conditions, so I could say I dismissed Panasonic.
My second option was the Sony HXR-NX5R and I think it was a very good option, still is. I didn't read any negative comment about it yet. In fact, I've read it has a very good performance in low light conditions despite of its three 1/2.8 sensors (I used to think bigger sensors, like 1" sensors, had a better performance in low light but it doesn't seem to be like this). The only complaining I read was about it's not a 4K camcorder.
Due to the NX5R price (USD 3400 here in Argentina) I went to the Sony HXR-NX100 (USD 2600). I must say I thought I have found it. I was almost convinced to buy it, but I read the negative comments:
- Iris doesn't open
- E:62:10 code error
- Focusing issues
- Bad performance in low light

So, I dismissed the NX100. I was advised not to take the risk.

What was my next option?
The HXR-NX80. Small, lots of professional settings, I thought this was going to be my new camcorder, until I read the negative comments. I couldn't believe it! Negative comments about a 4-5 month old camcorder?

Well, I could go for the PXW-Z90V, haven't read any negative comments yet.
But, something I never liked about these camcorders was the touch screen (tends to fail in the NX80) and the removable XLR handle unit. Don't know about you, but it seems it's going to break anytime. So, dismissed the Z90? Not yet, but it doesn't convinces me.

So, which one is still in my list as possible acquisition? The NX5R.
Basically, I'm looking for a camcorder with more controls than a consumer camcorder, with a decent (good) performance in low light and with no negative comments about failures.
I didn't research about other brands, like JVC or Canon.

As for resolution, well, I wasn't looking for a 4K camcorder. Although, I was told everything now is tending to 4K and I should consider a 4K camcorder even if I'm not going to edit in 4K.
Truth is I'm not going edit 4K videos, I should upgrade my Pc in order to do that and I don't have in mind upgrading my Pc right now. But, this was only an advise, you know: Is better to have it and no to need it than to need it and not to have it.

But, I found 4K camcorders (e.g. NX80), at least Sony's, didn't offer me the controls that others did (e.g. NX5R).
So, I found the PXW-Z150. But, again, disappointed by the negative comments about it.

So, where do I find myself now?
In the middle of nowhere. With new concepts, with things I believed I understood but I realize I don't (e.g. 1/2.8 sensors with better image quality and performance in low light than a 1" sensor).
And of all the camcorders I've been researching about only one it's still in my list: NX5R.

I know this is technology. Nothing is perfect. But, I'm trying to find the camcorder that fit for me, always within my budget. There's no perfect cam, but I need to feel comfortable and convinced. And most important, I wouldn't like to waste my money, once it's done there's no going back.

So I hope you can help me and guide me. I would like to read your opinion, your point of view about whether or not I'm in the right way, about the models I've been reading about, about its failures. Tell me about your experience with this kind of camcorders or suggest other brands or models.
Any help you could give me will be welcome.

Thanks in advance!

Emiliano.

Post was last edited on March 3, 2018 11:51 AM PST

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Comments
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Answer
Look at other manufacturers
Mar 4, 2018 12:03AM PST

My experience (a long time ago) is that Sony try to force you to buy Sony accessories to upgrade their cameras (as generic accessories will not always work with Sony cameras)
I suggest you also look at Canon and Panasonic, both make a good range of prosumer cams. I use a Panasonic consumer cam (HV-V750) and find it very flexible. It performs well in all conditions especially in low light. Options like white balance, focus, gain and an external mic input are all there on my consumer cam.
Both these manufacturers do make cams that compare well with Sony and you may find their models are more flexible.

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Answer
I own and use Sony PXW-Z150 and HDR-AX2000
Mar 7, 2018 11:29AM PST

Prior to this, I had a NEX-EA50UH, HDR-FX1 and HDR-HC1... before that a coupe of miniDV tape based standard definition camcorders from Canon and Panasonic and started dabbling with video using a huge full-sized VHS-tape (not VHS-C) based RCA shoulder-mount camcorder. Video is a hobby and I have a normal day-job working for a telecom infrastructure systems provider. I've shot funerals (for some local dignitaries as requested by their families), horse shows, product spots, music videos (live performances and scripted), soccer matches, scripted and non-scripted activities that could be considered "documentaries", middle and high school dramatic, comedic and musical performances, graduations, provided local law enforcement with video support for incident recreation for use in court, training, 1 wedding (requested by my son) and lots more.

There is a noticeable, visible, difference between the Z150's highest resolution 4k and the AX2000's highest resolution 1080p - especially under good (sunlight) lighting conditions. I actually find the Z150's low light performance fairly decent at 4k, but the AX2000 does better when both camcorders are at 1080. The AX2000 is no longer available; the Z150 uses only a single imaging chip (the AX2000's 3-chip system is closer to the HDR-FX1) and has a smaller lens diameter (the Z150's is 67mm and the AX2000 and FX1 are 72mm), but for what it can do, the Z150 is a good camcorder. In my opinion, it is an "entry level" professional grade camcorder. Better low-light = larger lens diameter + large 3-sensor imaging system.

Accessories:
Audio Technica AT875R shotgun mic
Audio Technica AT8004L ENG handheld dynamic mic
Sennheiser G3 wireless base station + body pack for lavaliere mic and module for handheld mic
Sure SM58 handheld dynamic mics
(all mics use XLR connectors to the camcorders; the shotgun mics use WindTech mic muffs)
Delvecam 7" camera-mountable monitors
Davis & Sanford tripods
Lexar XCSD 150 mbps 1000x memory cards
Steadicam Solo stabilizer system with vest and articulated/counterbalanced arm
Zoom H5 field audio recorder
Targus and Sony LANC (wired remote controls)
Vidpro on-camera LED lights
Audio Technica and Sennheiser noise cancelling headphones
Pelican cases
Porta-Brace rain slicker
This is more than enough to make my point - I promise, I am getting there...

Editing is done on Apple Macintosh computers using Final Cut Pro and other non-Sony utilities. The available apps Sony provides for certain remote control functions are available for Android and iOS - they work OK, but I don't use them much.

I purchased a few Sony-branded high capacity camcorder batteries as I found the inexpensive third-party versions were not as robust. They are the only other Sony-specific products - other than the camcorders - that I use. This makes things convenient - the same batteries used in the Sony camcorders can be used by the field video monitors and the camera mounted LED lights. I continue to use the same batteries with the Z150 and AX2000 that I used with the EA50UH and FX1. Many of these accessory manufacturers have battery mount options for Panasonic and Canon battery systems, too - just pay attention to what you are ordering.

The reason I provided all this information is to point out that use of CURRENT Sony camcorders does not require Sony-proprietary accessories. This has been the case since the HDR-HC1 days (I got mine in late 2005 and for XLR mic connectivity used a BeachTek XLR adapter. Firewire/i.Link IEEE1394 connectivity to firewire-equipped computers for miniDV tape importing to a computer video editor is/was standards based and easy).

When I was looking for a replacement to the NEX-EA50UH, I considered the FDR-AX1 (it is the "4k version" of the 1080 HDR-AX2000 - the 72mm diameter lens lets LOTS more light into the camcorder for the imaging sensor to work with). Ultimately, I went with the Z150 based on price. If my budget could have withstood the AX1, I would have gotten that - though I get more nods from pros when they see the XDCAM logo rather than HDR or FDR.

If you are investigating these sorts of camcorders, the small, handheld, consumer grade cams will not provide what you want. Most of the useful manual controls are buried in a menu and not easy to reach quickly.

For Canon, the XC10. My son uses an XC15 in his line of work - it is much more "dSLR-like" - and really needs to be used under fairly well controlled, good, lighting which you don't always get when "reporting around town". The GX10 is Canon's "me too" 4k consumer camcorder in response to Sony's consumer 4k camcorder line. The GX10's imaging chip and lens diameter are consumer grade and XLR mic connectivity will need an XLR adapter (suggest BeachTek). Other than the XLR adapter and use of CompactFlash memory cards, the same accessories I use with the Z150 will work with the XC10.

For Panasonic, the AG-DVX200 looks to be in the ball park of the Sony HDR-AX1 and the HC-X1 is closer to the Sony PXW-Z150. The same accessories I use with the Sony HDR-Z150 (and NEX-EA50UH, HDR-AX2000 and HDR-FX1) can be used with the DVX200 and HC-X1.

To hint that current-day Sony camcorders require Sony proprietary accessories today or suggest this long-ago issue is somehow relevant in an attempt to cause FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) with today's products is nonsense.

I hope you enjoy doing video as much as I have over the years. Generally, I watch what the pros use (in Northern California) and shop in that direction when I've saved enough to buy... bhphotovideo.com may be a useful source for you.

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Price difference vs "age"
Mar 13, 2018 6:04AM PDT

Thanks for replying with such a detail.
I've been suggested to go for the Z90.
Most of the suggestions were based on the new 4K resolution. But, there's something I don't understand.
I've told not to choose the NX5R due to the time it's been in the market, I mean, the time it's pased since its lauch date. Other people told me it's still a great camcorder and it worth going for it.
So, my doubt is, why the NX5R, an almost 1 year and half old camcorder, is more expensive than the Z90, a 5-6 month old camcorder?
The prices I got them from Sony's webpage:
NX5R (Launched September 2016) - 3249 USD
Z90 (Launched December 2017) - 2799 USD

If this difference is correct, then, there must be something the NX5R offers and the Z90 doesn't.

What do you think?

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High level comparison...
Mar 14, 2018 10:39AM PDT

You are comparing very different camcorders. *** denotes "better" in the category. Generally, the "pro" line from Sony includes more codecs, different compression and larger selection of frame rates and resolutions.

Highest available resolution:
NXR5R: 1080p (similar to the consumer HDR-AX2000)
*** PXW-Z90: 4K (similar to the consumer FDR-AX100 or maybe the FDR-AX700; with an added lens hood)

Lens diameter:
*** NXR5R: 72mm
PXW-Z90: 62mm

Imaging chip size:
*** NXR5R: 3 x 1/2.8" Exmor CMOS (similar to the HDR-AX2000)
PXW-Z90: one 1" Exmor RS CMOS Sensor (same as the PXW-Z150)

Optical zoom:
*** NXR5R: 20x
PXW-Z90: 12x optical zoom ("18x clear image zoom" is digital zoom)

XLR audio connections are available in both. It is more of an "add-on" on the Z90, which is why it is removable.

It is difficult to recommend between these two camcorders because they are so different. For $50 more, the Z150 does 4K in the body of the NXR5R... but you wanted to understand what the differences are between the NXR and Z90. Basically, the older, lower video resolution, NX5R has larger glass, larger imaging chip, integrated XLR audio and LOTS more useful manual controls on the outside of the camcorder. The Panny HC-X1 continues to be a contender to the PXW-Z150.

It is a bit like trying to compare a decent feature phone designed and manufactured this year to a smartphone designed and manufactured 5 years ago...

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Answer
Memory Cards
Mar 15, 2018 6:50AM PDT

Hi! I was looking at the NX5R specifications on its manual and I see the following thing:
In order to record using the XAVC S HD codec I need a SDXC card.
Now, the slot A accepts “Memory Stick PRO Duo” and SD cards, while the slot B accepts SD card only.

A SDXC card, is a SD card? I mean, will slot B accepts a SDXC card?
So, if it does, it will be able to record in XAVC S HD using both card slot, right?

Thanks!

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Time to read the manual
Mar 15, 2018 8:05AM PDT

Link to Sony's pro site:
https://pro.sony/ue_US/support/manuals/1237495124211
I picked the third one. Refer to page 29. You are correct, Slot A accepts either Memory Stick Pro Duo or SD cards; Slot B accepts SD cards only. (Lower right corner).

Defining SD cards:
There are four types of "Secure Digital" (SD) flash memory cards indicated in this article:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secure_Digital
The short version includes the write speed, single file size and data capacity each can provide. Digital video, especially high definition (720 and 1080 resolution) and ultra-high definition (4k and up) uses LOTS of data. The electronics of the camcorder and the ability of the flash memory card to write (store) that data quickly is very important. Also, video files can get really large... for these reasons, SDXC cards are preferred. They have fast write speeds (Class 10) and are made in capacities that can provide for a much longer record time/larger files than SDHC.

You can record in XAVC S HD to SDXC cards, Class 10, in both slots. I've used Lexar and Sony SDXC cards in the AX2000 and Lexar UHS II, SDXC memory cards in the Z150.

Unrelated, but related. We have not talked about what you plan to edit the video with and on... specifically, the computer hardware and software you plan to use. Video is an extreme computer resource hog for both CPU and hard drive space... 8 gig RAM minimum (16 is better). External drives connected to the computer using USB3, SATA or Thunderbolt for the video project files (not the internal start-up drive). CPU should be a relatively recent (4 years or newer?) multi-core system. Windows OS running Sony Vegas Pro is fine. Adobe Premier is good, but I don't like the subscription process they use. As previously posted, I prefer editing on Macs using Final Cut Pro. My current iMac is from late 2012 and has a 2.9 GHz 4-core CPU. It can deal with the 4K video from the Z150, too. After editing, the video, you render the completed project and that rendering takes a while because of the older CPU...

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Equipment
Mar 15, 2018 9:49AM PDT

Thanks! And you are right, I should've something about the Pc I'm working with. First of all, I must clear I'm not a filmmaker, I'm a music composer. The Pc I have right now works perfectly for the softwares I use to write music. I use softwares like Sonar X3 and I load a lot of VST instruments on it, huge symphonic orchestras libraries that take several Gb RAM, normally more than 8 Gb.

The Pc has an Intel I3 and 16 Gb RAM. Can't remember the year I bought it, may be 2012 or 2013. I use external drives only for backup not for working.
For video editing I use Sony Vegas Pro 9.
So far, the Pc I've got and the software I use work fine for my video editions. I believe it will work fine with Full HD edition, a bit slower, but fine.

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Looks like you should be good
Mar 15, 2018 11:11AM PDT

on the computer front. My Macs are running i5 Intel cores at 2.9 GHz from late 2012 with 8GB RAM. Editing is fine. It takes a little longer than I would like when importing and rendering (exporting) the final project, but everything works even with 4K video. I'm saving for computer replacement(s).

I am not a "filmmaker", either... At one point in my career, I was the IT manager supporting a dozen offices throughout California.

Assuming your computer uses a traditional electro-mechanical start-up hard drive and not SSD, the reasons to use an external drive for the project files are related to the way the operating system uses virtual memory, its impact on "response time" and computer behavior. Lots of RAM helps a lot. With the operating system using hard drive space for virtual memory (even if there is lots of RAM) and activity with the operating system, applications (including the video editor) and various utilities running in the background, the start-up drive gets really busy. Reading/writing video (or audio) project information at the start-up drive is much slower and there is hard drive contention because the internal drive has to do everything.

By offloading the project files to external drives, the read/write activity to get the project files from the external drive to RAM is removed from the start-up drive... Use of a fast buss (SATA, USB3, Thunderbolt) helps with response time during the import/export and render activities. CPU clock speed is a another huge driver to get the work done quickly. Use of 7,200 RPM, 10,000 RPM or SSD external drives are suggested (not 5,400 RPM drives commonly used in laptops and certain desktop computers not using SSD internal drives).

The external case I use for project file storage has an acronym nickname supplied by the IT industry: JBOD, "Just a Bunch of Drives". In my case, it can hold up to four 3.5 inch hard drives and each bay has a 4TB drive. There are different drive capacity JBODs available. Mine connects to the computer using USB3 (and also has eSTA and Firewire800 connections). The fan is a little noisy and I've had it a few years... but it does the job. Back-ups are made to a Buffalo Network Attached Storage or the drive is put in a case and copied to another drive for long-term, off-site, storage...

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Answer
Sensor size: smaller is best?
Mar 26, 2018 12:36PM PDT

Taking a look at what you considered best in a previous post I noticed you considered the NX5R 3 x 1/2.8" Exmor CMOS better than the Z90 1" Exmor RS CMOS.
So, three small sensors are better than one big sensor?

I still can't make up my mind: NX5R or Z90? As far as I can see the only advantages the Z90 has is the new sensor and lens among other things. Most people recomend it based only in its 4K resolution. It looks nice but there is somethings about it (like the XLR removable unit and the need to remove it if you want to use the MI Shoe connection).

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Not exactly. They are different.
Mar 26, 2018 12:57PM PDT

In a single sensor configuration, the one imaging chip processes the three primary colors (Red, Green, Blue).

In a 3-chip configuration, 1 chip does 1 color.

When my lighting is good, then the Z150 and 4K all the way. When my lighting is poor, The AX2000 does a better job.

I would like to get a 3-sensor 4K cam with a 72mm diameter lens (to replace the AX2000), but my budget can't afford for now.

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What I meant...
Mar 26, 2018 12:59PM PDT

What I meant in the last part is that the Z90 has things I don't like it. Things that don't convince me, like the XLR removable unit and the need to remove it if you want to use the MI Shoe connection. I suppose it was made to last but things that you can put and remove seem it's going to break anytime.

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There are two ways
Apr 6, 2018 8:04AM PDT

to add XLR audio connectors to a camcorder without XLR connectors.

One way is to add the manufacturer-provided "handle/XLR inputs" as an integrated unit as we see with the Z90 and others in the "handheld" classification. This method has some advantages (like over-the-lens mounted shotgun mic) compared the other option...

The other way is to mount the XLR adapter under the camcorder (like certain products from BeachTek or juicedLink). This method has different advantages and the XLR adapter can be used with other equipment if needed - like a computer or field audio recorder with a 3.5mm audio input. The XLR adapter will have a 1/4 x 20 mounting tread hole for tripod mount, so you don't lose that functionality.

Both XLR add-on methods work well - and generally the equipment is robust and won't break easily unless the equipment is mistreated.

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Answer
What do you think about the FDR-AX700?
Mar 30, 2018 1:42PM PDT

Hi friends! One question, in case I consider the NX5R or the Z90 equipments too much advanced for what I'm going to do, what do think about the Sony FDR-AX700?
It's NX80's and Z90's little sister, but I think, as far as I could see in internet (YouTube and stuff like that), it's a great semi-professional camcorder. I think it's a step foward of the common cheap home camcorders. I believe it would be a good intro to manual settings, such as focus, iris and zoom (althought it has only one ring), gain, white balance and stuff like these.
In case I need pro audio I think I can attach one mic to the MI Shoe connector. It has 2 card slots which will allow me to do relay recording or backup recording like the NX5R.
Also, as far as I could see it has a good image stabilization.
And of course, its affordable price would allow me to buy some extra stuff, like mics, battery pack, carry case, etc.

What do you think?

Thanks!

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The FDR-AX700 is
Apr 6, 2018 8:59AM PDT

an updated version of the AX100. The "FDR" prefix means it is part of Sony's "consumer" 4K camcorder line (just as HDR was used for 1080 and DCR was used for standard definition). Arguably, the AX700 is a "prosumer" device. Note that Sony's professional camcorder line uses a different prefix series, located on a separate "Professional" web "micro site" and not usually available at consumer retail outlets (B&H, Adorama, Abe's of Maine and a few others being exceptions). Of course, there's always Amazon...

If you go in this direction and choose to use external mics, then use of a bottom-mounted XLR adapter is worth investigating. I haven't shopped these for a while - Looks like juicedLink is gone (too bad). BeachTek is still going. You'll want the XLR inputs to provide phantom power. The DXA-Cine and DXA-SLR Ultra look interesting. While the DXA-SLR Ultra is "designed for dSLRs", it will work with any camcorder with a 3.5mm stereo audio input (like the AX700).

Keep in mind when you move from the larger format camcorders, you lose lots of useful controls on the outside of the camcorder - like audio gain, zebra, dedicated zoom and focus rings and others - you already know this. For the loss of audio gain control for external mics, that is one of the really nice advantages of the below-camera XLR adapters. The audio gain control knobs are right there, easy to reach/use.

I won't recommend any camcorder for its "stabilization" feature - optical, electronic or otherwise. Humans were not built to be steady. Shooting handheld should be a last resort. If a tripod or other steadying device (rock, chair, shelf, table, slider, railing, vest/arm Steadycam system, etc.) can't be used and there is just no other choice, then handheld, otherwise, just don't do it. Even mounting the camera to a properly balanced handheld stabilizer is lots better than just holding the camcorder in your hand...

The AX700 has a 2.5mm LANC port. Very useful - especially when the camcorder is tripod mounted. Example:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1344164-REG/libec_zfc_l_zoom_focus_control_for.html

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