Camcorders for chasing: 2019 edition

Oct 26, 2007
222
82
11
Topeka, Kansas
I just recently made the decision to switch from camcorder to DLSR video. The low end Sony Handycam digital I have been using Isn't any better quality than my old VHS Panasonic that I used to used back in the '90s. One advantage of the camcorders for me has been mounting it on the dash. I have a pair of Nikon D3300s, with a variety of lenses. The D3300 is new enough that it converts to 1080dpi video with one flip of a switch. I made the decision recently when I was photographing bald eagles at Loess hills Wildlife Refuge, NW of St Joseph, Mo. It changed my mind, although it might be slightly less convenient setting it up.
 
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Reactions: Ethan Schisler
Aug 9, 2012
525
1,146
21
Macomb, IL
stormoptics.smugmug.com
I will be sticking with my A7SIII this season again. I sold my AX100 back earlier last spring in favor of this camera. While it is superior in many many ways, I do miss the AX100 for just being able to zoom with the touch of a button. I can do the same on my A7SIII, but it is more dependent on what lens I'm using (so there is more flexibility there), but as far as complicated factors go, it is a lot more complicated setup. I'm still working on an in car mount. Recently bought the converter for the Gripper 115 to turn it into the XL version and so far its holding my camera up, I haven't traveled extensively with it though. My main worry is the suction cup falling and damaging the camera or lens. Seems to hold pretty good in cold weather, it is hot weather I worry about though.

I should note the EVF on the A7SIII is absolutely beautiful, so I guess one downside is that it makes me want to take photos while I'm shooting footage. You can get pretty good screen caps of 4k video that you can edit in photoshop and they will turn out to be usable photos. However even the 12.9mp sensor is good enough to blow prints up on your wall. I have a 12mp photo blown up into a 24X36 canvas on my living room wall as a matter fact.
 
Jul 5, 2009
1,337
1,371
21
Newtown, Pennsylvania
Jim, Do you know what model of Nikon DLSR you were using? I'm looking into those now. Thanks!
Hi Mark,

Its the D5300. Quite a number of years ago that I bought it, I’m sure there are much better versions/technologies now, even on the used market.

My thinking has changed somewhat since my post that you quoted, where I said I wouldn’t want to go with just an iPhone. That’s still literally true, I wouldn’t want to have *only* an iPhone, but when I chased alone for the first time in 2021 I realized how valuable it is to be able to video one-handed with the iPhone. Taking video with the DLSR is a cumbersome, 2-handed exercise. I am hoping to get one of the newer iPhones and will probably weigh camera/video functionality much more than in previous iPhone upgrades that were primarily business-driven decisions.
 
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Reactions: Mark Stephens
Jan 7, 2006
593
819
21
USA
www.skyinmotion.com
So, the thread still getting bumped three years after I started it really says something about how bleak the market is! Figure I should give a quick update, since I caved last spring and chose what I determined to be my least bad option for 4K/modern video.

This is going to sound comically dumb to mirrorless gurus, but I ended up with:
What's really dumb about this: the lens is for APS-C (aka 1.5x crop) and does not take advantage of the full-frame sensor. So why did I end up with the A7r ii? Well, it was about the same price as newer Sony crop bodies that shared the A7r's in-body stabilization, which I really wanted for video. (To be clear, the A7r series features "Super 35" mode for video, where only the APS-C subset of the sensor is used).

This setup ran me about the same as the mid-range Sony 4K camcorders, but it gives me substantially better low light performance... at the expense of ergonomics and size. I was attracted to the 18-105 because of its wide focal range and its power zoom feature, which at least allows me to zoom smoothly during video like a camcorder if needed.

Using it last spring was a learning experience, and I totally flubbed focus for portions of every tornado I saw. Still, I think I'm reasonably happy with it... I just need to practice focusing more before next season arrives. A couple samples shot with this setup:

Vernon storm:

Sudan/Earth storm:

In theory, I could get a Nikon F adaptor and use the lens lineup I'm already using for stills on the A7r ii, but I haven't messed with that yet. Honestly, I'm now stuck with the same paralysis about where to go next with my gear for stills as I was with video a couple years ago... but that's for another thread.
 
Feb 2, 2021
11
27
1
Philadelphia PA
Hi Mark,

Its the D5300. Quite a number of years ago that I bought it, I’m sure there are much better versions/technologies now, even on the used market.

My thinking has changed somewhat since my post that you quoted, where I said I wouldn’t want to go with just an iPhone. That’s still literally true, I wouldn’t want to have *only* an iPhone, but when I chased alone for the first time in 2021 I realized how valuable it is to be able to video one-handed with the iPhone. Taking video with the DLSR is a cumbersome, 2-handed exercise. I am hoping to get one of the newer iPhones and will probably weigh camera/video functionality much more than in previous iPhone upgrades that were primarily business-driven decisions.
Thanks for the updated advice, Jim. This was the latest thread I could find on camcorders!

Being someone whose primary purpose of storm chasing is not the photography aspect, I am okay with not having state of the art equipment. My feeling has typically been my iPhone 11 would be sufficient, however whenever I go back to look at my pictures/videos I feel slightly disappointed. To my understanding the iPhone is not great for long distance.

Your updates here are quite helpful thought given that I am more often than not chasing solo. It also does not help that I have no real experience filming anything other than with my iPhone! Maybe I'll just stick with the basics for another year, and stop overthinking it.
 
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Reactions: JamesCaruso
Aug 9, 2012
525
1,146
21
Macomb, IL
stormoptics.smugmug.com
So, the thread still getting bumped three years after I started it really says something about how bleak the market is! Figure I should give a quick update, since I caved last spring and chose what I determined to be my least bad option for 4K/modern video.

This is going to sound comically dumb to mirrorless gurus, but I ended up with:
What's really dumb about this: the lens is for APS-C (aka 1.5x crop) and does not take advantage of the full-frame sensor. So why did I end up with the A7r ii? Well, it was about the same price as newer Sony crop bodies that shared the A7r's in-body stabilization, which I really wanted for video. (To be clear, the A7r series features "Super 35" mode for video, where only the APS-C subset of the sensor is used).

This setup ran me about the same as the mid-range Sony 4K camcorders, but it gives me substantially better low light performance... at the expense of ergonomics and size. I was attracted to the 18-105 because of its wide focal range and its power zoom feature, which at least allows me to zoom smoothly during video like a camcorder if needed.

Using it last spring was a learning experience, and I totally flubbed focus for portions of every tornado I saw. Still, I think I'm reasonably happy with it... I just need to practice focusing more before next season arrives. A couple samples shot with this setup:

Vernon storm:

Sudan/Earth storm:

In theory, I could get a Nikon F adaptor and use the lens lineup I'm already using for stills on the A7r ii, but I haven't messed with that yet. Honestly, I'm now stuck with the same paralysis about where to go next with my gear for stills as I was with video a couple years ago... but that's for another thread.
I have the A7RIII and even with my A7SIII, I notice I have to pay attention to the view finder and histogram if I'm in auto-focus vs manual focus mode. I was out a couple days ago doing some high speed videography of eagles and basically screwed up the whole shot because the foreground was too light and it caused my subject to be way out of focus (the ice in the background was crystal clear though!). I find this is mostly a problem on longer focal lengths, so I usually do a manual focus over-ride and just play it manual there lol. I haven't had to shoot many tornadoes at 600mm yet though, just one at 400 and the photo still turned out like crap, because it was like 20+ miles from us. But I do agree it is nice having that APS-C feature and still getting a 4k readout, having the clear image zoom as well, is also very nice. Allows you to effectively double your lenses focal length in zoom without giving up any quality. This should be located in the setup menu under zoom, you change optical to clear image. Note: This is only available for video and JPEG images, not RAW, unless you have the Alpha 1, it does RAW with CIZ enabled, but that's another story.