Camcorders for chasing: 2019 edition

Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
St. Louis
Bill, I have the same issue on my JVC HM170, infinity is not the same through the zoom range. You can be at infinity with the lens at the wide end, then zoom in just a little, and the picture goes out of focus. On mine, for some unknown reason setting the focus ring at 100m and then keeping it on manual will maintain focus for just about anything in the zoom range except very distant objects. Obviously this isn't an ideal solution though, especially for storms. I have many ruined tornado shots on this camera due to the picture going out of focus when zooming in.

I am ready to replace this camera with something that doesn't have these problems, so will be doing some research in the coming weeks. Will post findings here.
Aug 9, 2012
Galesburg, IL
I have the AX100 and the AX53, the AX100 is my go-to camcorder for weather events. I just purchased an A7RIII and waiting on it to arrive, so curious to see how this stacks up against my AX100. I usually leave the 100 on manual focus though, the auto-focus is good, but I like to have control over my focus and not trust the auto-focus. My only advice is to get an external microphone, the on-board mic is decent, but I've noticed an external microphone makes a huge difference in audio quality. I don't use the AX53 that much, the image stabilization I've noticed is better on the AX53 than the 100, that is really my only observation on that.

James K

Mar 26, 2019
I too would like to find a decent camcorder, one that:
* Is not expensive (I do not need a bunch of features, mainly a decent optical zoom, auto-focus, and an infinity lock)
* Is not a massive beast - I searched a couple of the models mentioned here on eBay, and they looked like the beasts news-guys have .lol.
* Will actually work reasonably for night videoing,
* And (very important) doesn't take pic's/videos like the attached cell-phone image, if it encounters a 'real' light. (I believe this is the same issue that causes problems with lightning videoing?)
* Oh and 4k is not important to me, although I have a 4k TV, I have nothing computer/software wize that can handle it. So HD 1080P is what I'd be looking for

I currently have a Panasonic HC-V180. I picked this one because of its 50x optical zoom, Stereo microphones (a requirement), price ($200, this is the range I'm looking for), and it had decent reviews.
For its daytime performance, I'm satisfied (same for audio). But for night I'm pretty disappointed, autofocus doesn't work, and manual focus is very difficult on the small screen it has (doesn't have an infinity-focus option), I found 2 somewhat solutions, depending on what I plan to video...
* I can while its light out auto-focus on what I want to video, go to manual focus & lock it at setting which it will remember even when turned off. Then go back at night, and video -- this works when for example I want to do Christmas lights during Holiday season.
* It has a HDMI port, so I can attach an external screen, (though the little USB-powered screen I got isn't great-not the camera's fault) -- this works _ok_ if I want to try recording lightning when I can't pre-set a manual focus... If I can get it focused, lightning seems to turn out ok - atleast for storms in the distance.

Warren Faidley said:
With peaking, a blue (or other selected color) haze or highlight glows around the subject when it's in focus. This makes it easy to focus though the rear screen without looking though the viewfinder.
Interesting. The camera mentioned above that I have does sometimes do a blue spotty thing around subjects when I was trying to manually focus. I thought it was some some sort of weird bug. I'm going to have to take it outside sometime & do some tests...


I'm still using the Canon HF R70 that I picked up a few years ago for pretty cheap after the following year models came out. It's done fine for me as far as video quality, I just don't like how horribly light it is weight wise. It gets rocked on the tripod too easily (actually had a close call with it falling over at Minneola in May), and when shooting handheld I have trouble keeping something that light steady. So I'll be looking for something that has a little more mass to it (such as the XF100 that @Adam R Davis uses and has gotten some great shots on), and relegate the HF R70 to dash cam duty.
To resurrect this a little bit,

@Bill Hark, Mac users can still import via Firewire to Thunderbolt adapter pretty easily. iMovie and Final Cut Pro still maintain support for importing this way. A lot of the newer PC laptops will have a Thunderbolt port as well, although I'm not sure how well the FireWire to Thunderbolt setup works on the PC end, as I do not have a laptop new enough to have a Thunderbolt port (mine from 2013/14ish still has a half size ExpressCard slot). And with that said, I believe you have to pay for the Premiere Pro yearly subscription to be able to import from DV; I don't think that Premiere Elements (which I have on my machine) supports that anymore. Yet another reason why I want to find a used Mac for editing purposes, aside from the fact that I prefer FCP to start with. I'm not a fan of paying a yearly subscription for a program; I'd rather pay a larger amount once and be done with it.

With all that said, I have considered one of those older models that you alluded to in your first post. I'm not sure if or when I'll ever need to be able to shoot in 4k, and I'm also a bit leery of spending a grand on a camcorder only to find out, like you said, that something is just "off" about the shots that it takes. I am kind of curious about the HF G50 that came out this year, but I just can't make myself spend that kind of money for something that may or may not shoot well in low light. I'll stick with the HD that I've been shooting in for the time being.