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Good Camcorders for Documentary


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We feel for documentary filming we need excellent support for audio, zoom-lenses and auto-focus all in a compact form factor. Often we dont have the time to change lenses while shooting so a good zoom is essential. Recording audio in-camera reduces crew size, keeps costs affordable and editing faster with no time lost for syncing.


The Panasonic 4K Professional Camcorder HC-X1E is thus an excellent choice.

    24mm Wide-Angle / 20x optical zoom

1.0-type (inch) 4K Sensor
    4K24p, UHD 60p/50p, FHD 60p/50p recording

Professional Functions
    Triple manual rings / XLR audio input



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The JVC LS300 is another fantastic camera. Listed here.

The only bummer here is the lack of lenses. A set of PL mount lenses will cost a fortune.


Compact, convenient, and ultra high definition! The GY-LS300 is equipped with a 4K Super 35 CMOS sensor and accommodates a wide range of cinema and photographic lenses and adapters for dazzling cinematic effects. Create hours of pristine recordings on SDHC/SDXC media in a variety of image formats including 4K Ultra HD, Full HD with 4:2:2 sampling, SD and web friendly proxy formats. Conventional DSLR cameras simply can't match the high reliability, long recording time and ergonomics provided by JVC's GY-LS300. Its dual codec design allows you to make 2 copies of your program simultaneously. You can even stream live HD over the internet to content delivery networks such as USTREAM while recording full HD. No other removable lens video camera offers this much flexibility in such a compact, easy-to-handle form factor.


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Sony PXW Z150 Ready for any shooting scenario, Sony’s PXW-Z150 handy professional camcorder delivers stunning 4K image quality, 120fps HFR Full-HD slow-motion and built-in advanced networking for live streaming and wireless workflow.


The Z150 is the world’s first professional camcorder to feature a 1.0 type stacked CMOS image sensor. This breakthrough in sensor integration delivers a 2x increase in read-out speed compared to a conventional 1.0 sensor for stunning 120fps slow motion in Full HD and spectacular 4K recording. Full pixel read-out helps realise the full potential of the big 1.0 type sensor - there’s no need for pixel binning or line skipping which can result in moiré effects.

The large 1.0 type sensor is also brighter, has higher resolution and offers more bokeh with a shallow depth of field, allowing you to create beautiful, cinematic images that will inspire you and delight your clients.

The Z150 transforms expectations of what’s possible with a handy camcorder so you can be confident using it for almost any application. This includes up to 120 frames per second (fps) High Frame Rate continuous recording in Full HD quality, delivering beautiful 5x slow motion. Stunning 4K picture performance is supported with 4K XAVC Long GOP at 100Mbps, while integration with established broadcast workflows is simplified with Full HD recording in XAVC Long GOP(4:2:2/10bit 50Mbps) and MPEG-2 HD (50Mbps/35Mbps). You can even use AVCHD to further expand workflow flexibility. However you want to shoot, the Z150 delivers. The lens is a 12X Optical Servo Zoom.




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  • 1 month later...

Panasonic GH-UX180

4K 60p/50p*1 Camcorder featuring the Industry's Widest Angle 24mm*2, 20x Optical Zoom and 1.0-type*3 MOS Sensor


4K Professional UX series

* The microphone shown in the photo is an optional accessory.

4K 60p/50p*1 Camcorder featuring the Industry's Widest Angle 24mm*2, 20x Optical Zoom and 1.0-type*3 MOS Sensor

Memory Card Camera Recorder


Shift Your Video Production to Professional 4K Images. The 4K Premium Camcorder with Wide-Angle 24mm*2 and 20x Optical Zoom.

Panasonic introduces the 4K camcorder UX series to meet professional 4K video production needs. The AG-UX180 is the premium model with professional functions and specifications for high-end users.
This model is equipped with a newly designed compact lens featuring a wide 24mm angle and 20x optical zoom as well as a 1.0-type (effective size) high-sensitivity MOS sensor. Its evolved Optical Image Stabilizer (O.I.S.) and intelligent AF function suitable for professional camera work.
The AG-UX180 supports 4K 24p, UHD 60p/50p, FHD 60p/50p multi-format recording and HD super slow-motion. Two SD memory card slots*4 are provided to enable relay/simultaneous/ backup recording for enhanced reliability, and also support UHD/FHD*5 dual codec recording for a more efficient workflow. The controls of the AG-UX180, such as the manual three rings and user button, as well as interfaces, such as 3G-SDI/HDMI and XLR input, are engineered to meet the needs of professional video recording. Offering the same level of agility and mobility as the conventional HD handheld camcorder, the AG-UX180 provides powerful support for high-image-quality 4K video production.
Newly Developed, Industry's Widest Angle24mm*2 and 20x Optical Zoom Lens

    The 4-Drive Lens System achieved a up to wide 24mm angle and 20x optical zoom in the handheld camcorder with 1.0-type (effective size) sensor.
    The Optical Image Stabilizer (O.I.S.) with a correction range expansion of approximately 900%*6 enables stable handheld shooting.
    The Micro Drive Focus Unit offers a high-speed auto focus function with excellent tracking performance and improved stability in 4K recording.

1.0-Type (Effective Size) MOS Sensor for High-
Precision, High-Speed 4K 60p/50p*7 Recording

    The 1.0-type (effective size) MOS (approx. 9,460,000 pixels in 4K 24p*8, and approx. 8,790,000 pixels in UHD/FHD) offers an outstanding depth of field and excellent balance between image quality and sensitivity.
    4K 24p, UHD 60p/50p, FHD 60p/50p multi-format and HD 120 fps (59.94 Hz) /100 fps (50 Hz) super slow-motion recording are available.

Professional Functions and Design, Including 3G-SDI and XLR Audio Input

    The manual three rings, user button and other controls are specially designed to satisfy professional users.
    Equipped with professional interfaces such as 3G-SDI output, XLR input, TC synchro input/output and wired remote control.


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Sony's latest announcement is the PXW Z90.

excellent low light sensor, fast auto focus, instant HDR, High FPS (120, 240, 480, 960 at specific resolutions), broadcast quality 4k, WiFi Networked, 12X Optical Zoom, LED Display, Dual XLR Inputs, Remote Operation, Dual Media Slots,



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Canon announces four professional camcorders including cutting edge 4K 50P models
London, UK, 12 September, 2017 – Canon Europe today announces the expansion of its professional camcorder range with the launch of four new camcorders – the 4K 50P capable XF405 and XF400 and the Full HD XA15 and XA11. Delivering first class optics, powerful sensors and a range of versatile features, these compact and lightweight camcorders are perfect for a broad range of professional video productions.

XF405/0 key features:
4K UHD/50P recording on SD cards with high frame rates
High-quality 4K lens with 15x zoom
Dual Pixel CMOS AF for high-speed, precise autofocus
Network capability with FTP transfer and remote control
Compact and lightweight body, professional operability

XA15/11 key features:
High optical performance
Stunning Full HD image quality
Professional recording options
Professional interfaces
Easy operability and compact design


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Sony's PXW-Z280 can shoot 4k 4:2:2 10 bit and has 17x Optical Zoom.

World's first 1/2-type 3CMOS Sensor for broadcast 4K

The Z280’s all-new Exmor R™ imager is custom-designed for broadcast 4K acquisition. Its three 1/2-type Exmor R™ CMOS deliver a deep depth of field with superb image quality. Red, blue, and green light are independently captured by separate image sensors, contributing to high resolution, high sensitivity of F12 (59.94p) and wide dynamic range. An advanced LSI (featuring intelligent noise reduction, enhanced detail reproduction and distortion correction technologies) delivers remarkably lifelike 4K 4:2:2 10-bit images. Even if you’re delivering in HD, your recordings will capture detail and image texture that HD sensors simply cannot see.


17x professional HD zoom lens with three independent rings with end-stop and large focal length

The PXW-Z280 is equipped with a 17x professional zoom lens able to zoom from 30.3mm to 515mm (35mm equivalent). The 1/2-inch type lens has three independent control rings with end-stop, which allows manual control of focus, zoom and iris, making for better and faster adjustment.

The image can be enlarged without any picture degradation in HD mode and 34x times zoom equivalent image is captured with sensor cropping extender.

Spectacular HDR performance
Demand for HDR content is increasing and Z280 offers you a choice of two powerful workflows.

S-Log3 is the proven choice for premium applications where you wish to capture as much data as possible for the ultimate flexibility in grading

Instant HDR Workflow is all about speed. Shoot, edit and view content in Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) to deliver content quickly without compromising on imaging expression and quality of content

Details here.


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  • 3 months later...

The Canon XF705 is another strong contender here.

4k 4:2:2 10 bits. 15X Zoom.

The XF705 Professional Camcorder offers an outstanding combination of 4K UHD image quality, features and functionality in a compact, portable design ideally suited for news gathering, outdoor events, sports and documentary production.

Featuring a 1.0-inch 4K UHD CMOS image sensor and dual DIGIC DV 6 Image Processors, the XF705 can record 4K UHD video up to 60p, as well as slow motion recording up to 120fps in Full HD. The XF705 is also the first Canon camcorder to adopt the H.265/HEVC codec, which improves the efficiency of 4K data handling. The XF705 supports the Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) and Perceptual Quantization (PQ) HDR formats, which offer a much greater range from black to pure white, and an HLG/PQ shooting assist mode helps users record HDR video using their usual shooting methods. A 15x optical zoom lens incorporates a 5-axis optical image stabilization system and maintains 4K UHD quality throughout the entire zoom range, while the camcorder's Dual Pixel CMOS AF helps facilitate fast and accurate autofocus.

The XF705 includes an HDMI 2.0 terminal with 4K UHD output support, two XLR terminals with independent audio level control and a 12G-SDI output - which features four times the transmission speed of 3G-SDI - helping to facilitate seamless integration into professional 4K UHD workflows. An adjustable 4.0-inch touch panel LCD monitor and a built-in 0.46-inch electronic viewfinder enhance usability, helping you to shoot in a variety of shooting situations. Canon Log 3 provides post-production flexibility while Live IP Streaming capability furthers broadcast possibilities. Designed to meet the needs of professionals, the XF705 offers a wide range of recording opportunities.

Further details here.





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A new camcorder released by Panasonic joins the ranks. 

The Panasonic AG-CX10 4K.

1/2.5 Inch MOS Sensor.
Shoots and records 4k 10bit 422 internally.
(3840 x 2160p at 23.98/25/29.97 fps (150 Mb/s VBR) 
Best part is, the camcorder has built-in LED, great for shooting interviews.

24X Optical Zoom.
Official website is here.

The bummer is, it cannot shoot higher fps.

 The Panasonic AG-CX350 4K also shoots 4k 10bit 422 internally, but at a higher bit rate of 400Mb/s. Its zoom range is shorter at 20X.


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The XF705 Professional Camcorder offers an outstanding combination of 4K UHD image quality, features and functionality in a compact, portable design ideally suited for news gathering, outdoor events, sports and documentary production.

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In 2021, the best cameras for documentary filmmaking are: Canon Vixia HF G40, Panasonic Lumix GH5, Sony DSC-RX10 IV, Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6k (and 4k), Canon EOS C100 MK II, Panasonic Lumix DC-S1H, Sony PXW-FS7 II 4K XDCAM, Canon C300 MK II (vs Canon C500 MK II), and the Sony PXW-FX9.

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  • 3 months later...
On 5/18/2021 at 5:39 PM, paulrishabh31 said:

For a very long time, the C300 series of cameras from Canon has been the de facto standard for broadcast documentary work, and the C300 III has carried on with that tradition. Just like the FX6, it contains everything the run-and-gun documentary shooter needs in an all-in-one design. vidmate download instasave

The reason I am not including cameras like C300 is they don't have lenses built in. Carrying and buying lenses becomes very expensive for a small document crew, though with big budgets one can always rent an Arri SXT as well. Add to that the shallow depth of field of large sensor cameras, making capturing precise moments ion documentary very challenging, and in the experience of many filmmakers, frustrating.

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