Experiences with 4K Camcorders 2017 recommendations

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by Bill Hark, Jun 20, 2017.

  1. Bill Hark

    Bill Hark EF5

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    Now that the majority of the 2017 storm chase season is over, I was curious about everyone's chase experience who used 4K camcorders. I am looking to upgrade my old set up (Sony Z1 and Canon HV20). Any favorites 4K camcorders (not counting cell phones, DSLRs or action cams)? Any major issues especially focusing or low light?

    Bill Hark
     
  2. Ben Holcomb

    Ben Holcomb Digital Janitor
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    I didn't use a 4k, but used my new Sony CX900 HD and was very happy with the quality. I see no need to go to 4k yet. Low light on the 1" sony sensors is pretty amazing.
     
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  3. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
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    I can't speak for other models, but I haven't been very happy with my JVC HM170. The form factor is its only real plus. Well-lit, in-focus daylight picture is great, as you'd expect, but low light is worse than any other HD camera I've used. Its main problem is focusing. Autofocus is terrible. It is constantly seeking and locking on to the wrong objects. During snow it just goes haywire. It is very difficult to focus manually. Infinity lock is useless, as infinity changes throughout the zoom range (if you are infinity at full wide and then zoom in even slightly, the picture will go out of focus and require re-focusing). The expanded focus function is too grainy, and virtually useless for setting the focus manually. I will probably replace this camera before next season. I have not captured much useful footage with it.
     
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  4. Tony Laubach

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    I shot with the following cameras this year, all 4K..

    Sony AX100
    Sony AX53
    (2) Campark ACT74 Action Cameras

    Obviously no news network or ENG is using 4K to invest in it for anyone in news, but I have thoroughly enjoyed shooting on them.

    • Quality is terrific, and I love being able to pull such great stills from the video. Very printable, high quality images, which has been great.
    • Cropping video; I shoot for a station that broadcasts in 720p, so having 4K files gives me two zooms to use, the down-converted 4K file to 720, and a cropped version for tighter shots. That's been kinda handy for them. My two Sonys also shoot dual, one in 720p and the other in the 4K, which makes for quick turn around for my station in very small files, meaning I can turn a video for them very quickly.
    • The Sony AX100 has a focus ring, which offsets how slowly the autofocus is. It holds infinity pretty well, but it takes forever for it to get a grasp on the focus. The time from turn-on to record is also a bit slower than I like, so that's a pain. But the sound without an external mic is great, can hook up a good microphone to it and do even better. The quality of the video is terrific, I cannot wait to get a 4K TV to see the stuff I've shot!
    • The Sony AX53 is a terrific camera, again, can focus manually quite easily, and its autofocus is a hair faster. It is my primary dashcam, and I like it because it is a wider angle than other cameras, so it shoots a lot. Again, can crop files in HD to get zoom meaning I can stay wide.
    • Neither Sony camera is as good in low light as my Sony XR500; that still to this day is the best low-light camera I have ever shot with.
    • The Camparks were $50/each and are in-vehicle mounted, both did well for the most part. Good quality for the price. I'll load up on a couple more of these for other activities in the future.
    Bottom line for me; price for 4K is almost the same as good HDs, so it was a no-brainer when I went for upgrades. The still image quality is amazing, the ability to crop into HD is also super handy! But again, the big point was the price; you can get a great quality 4K for close to the same as HD.
     
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  5. Larry Bell

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    If you stream, you can't stream using the Sony's while it is set up to record in 4K.....fyi

    Sent from my SM-N920V using Stormtrack mobile app
     
  6. Bill Hark

    Bill Hark EF5

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    Ben, how is the video quality on the CX900 with maximal stabilization? I heard someplace that with ?active stabilization, there is some decrease in video quality.
     
  7. Ben Holcomb

    Ben Holcomb Digital Janitor
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    I don't have much to compare it to other than it performs the same as the PXW-X70 did as well. I *try* to hold it steady. not always possible sadly.
     
  8. James Wilson

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    I bought the Sony AX100 a month again and only had a couple chase chances with it but it has amazing quality.

    What Tony said in his review is spot on however … the startup time is a bit slower than I would like especially if you stop to shoot on the side of the road on one of these there and gone 2017 birdfarts. But once it gets going it does very good video.

    The focus is very good on infinity but the manual ring is a must when zooming in on a tornado or what have you. I am still learning to do that quickly.

    I tried to pull one screenshot of lightning during the day and this is what I got. Note I am an amateur on day lightning so the camcorder can do better I am sure.

    Good luck!
    19221433_10156148242568368_3225365126207494936_o.jpg
     
  9. Bill Hark

    Bill Hark EF5

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  10. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
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    Bill, thanks for the update. I hope we can get some nice low-light sample footage from those.

    I feel that the camcorder manufacturers really need to step up their game and provide some significant improvements for the money spent. They have not been keeping far enough ahead of the capabilities of cell phones. The gap between a prosumer camera and the average smartphone is getting smaller all the time. Phones can do 4K, 120fps and even faster fps slow-mo. A phone will never have the optical zoom capabilties and controls that a camcorder does, but honestly, these days when virtually every single person on the planet has a 4K recording device on them 24/7, there needs to be some big leaps in the capabilities of a camcorder to make it worth the expense. So far I've been disappointed in the offerings.

    IMO to compete with phones and produce a high-end product, one really needs something on the level of a Red camera or BlackMagic cinema rig. For as long as cameras like the Reds have been around, I would have hoped that we would start seeing Red-like features in sub-$2k prosumer cameras by now (5-6k recording, true slow-motion fps, etc), but no such luck from the manufacturers. It's to the point that someone with a phone is going to have equal-quality video to a 2 thousand dollar camcorder. I just feel like we're not getting our money's worth when spending more than a grand on a camera. Especially now when it's harder than ever to generate the revenue to pay off a multi-grand camera.
     
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    #10 Dan Robinson, Sep 30, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2017
  11. Adam R Davis

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    Ditto on this camera. I don't own them, but I have access to a fleet of them at the university. It's not just that they're poor in low light, but they drop off significantly in even normal indoor light. Shadow detail gets lost very quickly and gets very muddy. The 4k is also extremely noisy and prone to artifacts even in low motion scenes. It's an excellent camera for daylight shooting and carefully lit studio shoots in HD mode. My phone does better 4k video.
     
  12. Warren Faidley

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    In the voice of Homer Simpson..... "4K?..... boring." Sounds insane but 4k is actually a speed bump for the real deal, 8k. There are already 8k cameras on the market, but of course they are insanely expensive just like 4k was several years ago. That won't last long.

    Lumix should have a pro / consumer (?) model out before 2020 and others are rushing to beat that deadline including Canon. I believe Nikon already has a camera that can do 8k. Maybe others? The new ones will also likely incorporate a global shutter instead of the current rolling shutter that kills high end lightning photography. You can already see computer and digital storage interests preparing for 8k.

    It's not that I plan to shoot a lot of 8k footage and edit it as 8k, but a single frame will be able to deliver a 32mb still file. The dream of having a single camera to shoot both video and still images will finally come true after 30 years of dreaming about it. Now all I need is a handheld vertical wind profiler. :)

    32mb x 24fps = 760mb per second = 5.7gb per minute = 342gb per hour, so although the files are really big, they are not impossible to manage with careful in-camera editing. SanDisk already has 512gb card and they will soon release a 1T SD Extreme Pro card. I plan to use the actual SD cards for storing the original footage as I do now with big 4k files. It's still cheaper than external disk space. Most computers will be able to convert 8k to HD just like I can do now with 4k via Quicktime Pro. The Godzilla problem will be with editing any type of 8k footage beyond simple conversions. If you plan to edit the footage as an 8k project, good luck without a super computer and software that does not yet exist.

    Here is an interesting article about all this: https://www.redsharknews.com/production/item/3593-8k-will-be-the-new-still-photography
     
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    #12 Warren Faidley, Sep 30, 2017
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  13. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
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    Warren, agreed RE 8k. The REDs are already there (sans a global shutter). I was always surprised the the RED camera progress didn't force some of the big manufacturers to speed up the evolution of their product lines.

    So far, 4K has not busted my storage capacity both home and on the road too much. I have two 64GB cards in my camera, and have only filled one of them up during an event/trip once. I can see 8K being like HD was when I first got into it in 2005. Back then, the camera could export a widescreen SD version of the footage for editing. My computers at the time couldn't handle the HD files at all, either playback or editing. Mostly I exported the full HD files and then used Cineform to create SD files for editing. Most of the new cams offer simultaneous HD file recording so you'll always have an editable file in the field. I'd expect most of us that can/do go 8K will need to do that.

    The problem in the interim is that with the internet being the only practical distribution medium for 4k/8k and Youtube being my bigger revenue source now (for the time being, at least), the first version of a video that I upload to my channel from the field really needs to be in full 4K, so I have had to trudge along with editing the files on my regular laptop on the road.
     
  14. Bill Hark

    Bill Hark EF5

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    Dan, you are right about the decent quality of cellphone video and the lack of a big leap ahead with most video cameras. I've seen some very amazing cellphone video of tornadoes. See the link below. I often supplement my storm chase video and stills using my cellphone and when I get down to editing and distribution, I sometimes prefer my cellphone pics/video. The biggest drawback with cellphone video/stills is poor light and when one needs to zoom. With storms, I often prefer the wider view and that's not an issue. I am sure, there will be continued improvement with cellphone video. I even heard RED is working on a cellphone! Warren, thanks for the insight into 8K. I also would love to have one camera for all including stills. I do that already with HD and have some stills on my office wall that look pretty good. Unfortunately, significant enlargement can't be done. 4K and eventually 8K should allow for more cropping an enlargement. Someday...

    Tony, thanks for the info on the two Sony camcorders as I have been looking at them or their updated versions. With the new Sony AX700, it only does 4K to 30 fps. Apparently the more expensive Canon along with many phones and action cameras will to 4K up to 60 fps but I don't know if 60 fps is necessary for chase video.

    Nice 4K tornado video below shot on an iphone 6S. This is their raw video and they were shooting tripodded camcorder video but darn, that 4K iphone video is pretty good though this is under decent lighting.

     

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