If I was a buying a new camcorder today, what would I get?

Australian Videocamera has been going for 15 years and over that time, as well as in the preceding years when I was the Managing Editor of Videocamera magazine, I have road tested many, many camcorders and cameras.

Some were memorable such as the Canon XHA1, Panasonic HC-WFX1M and the Sony Z1, others not so and they will remain nameless.

But let’s use the Sony Z1 as a sort of benchmark here. I choose the Z1 as, for me at least, it was a ground breaker at the time in terms of the jump from SD to HD, and also allowing DVCAM.

It was also Sony’s first attempt at making a pro level camcorder that appealed to the consumer. “New” features at the time offered a 3CCD system giving 30, 25 and 24fps and there was a special CineFrame mode that “replicated the look of film production” according to Sony.

Recording was to the venerable MiniDV cassette which meant you needed a Firewire (IEEE1394 or iLink) port on your computer to ingest footage, but back then, circa 2005, this was not an issue and indeed, on many Macs it was standard.

Sure it had a fixed lens and cost over $7K in Australia, but nothing else even came close on the market at the time.

I never owned a Z1 although I did use one on one of my many east-west-west driving crossings of Australia at the time. But I knew a lot of people who bought Z1s and some like Australian Videocamera’s senior writer Dr David Smith still use theirs as they were then, and still are now, that good.

It took a while to dig out the specs of the Z1 (mainly because there were two versions, the Z1U and Z1E for USA and “Europe”), but if you are interested, I found them, and a review here.

So the question I wanted to ponder– and in fact answer – is what camcorder I would get today that I consider at the top of its game, the same way the Z1 was in 2005?

As I say in the opening paragraph, over the years I have been privileged to review many, many camcorders and cameras. The only major manufacturer no longer represented here in Australia is JVC, more the pity as they made some fine camcorders in my opinion, but we do have of course Sony, Canon and Panasonic as the staples with Red on the sidelines as a more niche manufacturer.

Blurring the lines though is the fact most dSLRs and mirrorless cameras from the likes of Fujitsu, Nikon etc operate quite nicely as camcorders with inbuilt 4K capability.

So you’d think I’d pick one of these? Well no.

My pick having had an extensive play with it over the last 6 months or so is a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro (BPCC6K)

As the BPCC6K has a standard EF mount I can use my 70-200mm zoom and nifty 50mm from my Canon 5DS and of course, there is a HUGE range of EF mount lenses from a number of manufacturers, not just Canon.

And the bang for buck you get from the BPCC6K for your $4K is enormous.

Firstly there is a Super 35 high resolution sensor giving an image up to 6144 x 3456, dual native ISO and whilst you can record to either SD or Compact Flash cards, with one of the recommended units, you can record direct to portable SSD drives (I use a Sandisk Extreme Pro Portable 1TB.

You get an adjustable 1500 nits HDR touchscreen, built in ND filters, 13 stops of dynamic range and a monstrous number of shooting resolutions along with associated metadata such as project, scene number, take and special notes. A 3D LUT can also be embedded in metadata of Blackmagic RAW files.

Another feature I love is the ability to control the camera from my Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro and the associated software.

Ergonomically everything is in the right place and easily accessible. I found the whole camera easy to come to grips with and if there is something that stumps you, the 150-odd page manual covers every aspect in detail.

If there was one thing that is a minor negative, it is that the “pocket” part of the model’s name is a little misleading. Unless you have a bloody big pocket. And this camera is not light at 1.2Kg (without lens) as I discovered shooting fireworks on Australia Day.

But everything else to my mind ticks every box in what makes a great camcorder and I suggest if you are in the market for one, go and have a look and a play if you can.

If the 4K price tag is just beyond reach, there is also the “standard” 6K version for a tad over $3K or the 2K model for $2K, so all bases are covered.

Oh and did you know that Blackmagic Design is an Australian company? That also accounts for something in my book.

You can get all the info and specs etc at https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/au/products/blackmagicpocketcinemacamera

Kayell Australia invites filmmakers to ‘illuminate’ their creativity

Aspiring filmmakers have the opportunity to unleash their creativity by producing a short film encompassing the theme ‘illuminate’ for the chance to win part of a prize pool valued at more than $50,000.

The Illuminate Filmmaking Challenge 2021 is a new initiative by Kayell Australia that invites entrants of all levels to produce a short film between one and four minutes with at least 70 percent of the footage shot on a DSLR, Mirrorless or higher quality camera. This allows film entries to incorporate up to 30 percent footage from smaller compact cameras, smartphones or drones if desired.

In addition to their feature film, entrants also need to provide a separate Behind the Scenes (BTS) video comprising up to five minutes of footage.

Event organiser, Robert Gatto – Managing Director, Kayell Australia, said the Illuminate Filmmaking Challenge aims to encourage enthusiasts of all levels to enter – from passionate amateurs to industry veterans.

“Australia has a flourishing filmmaking community and this is an opportunity for them to showcase their exceptional talents and abilities by capturing a visual story that incorporates the ‘illuminate’ theme.”

Mr Gatto said the judging criteria will focus on originality and creativity, quality of the cinematography, BTS film quality, and the products used to shoot the films.

Submissions for the Illuminate Filmmaking Challenge must have been completed after 1 January 2021

All participating films need to be produced as an MP4 file in no less than full HD resolution at widescreen 16:9 ratio with Stereo sound.

No credits, names or production company details are permitted in the films to enable judges to base their decisions independently on talent, creativity and ability.

Platinum sponsors for the event are Nikon, Aputure, SmallHD, Teradek, Wooden Camera, and Lacie. Gold sponsors for the event are Inovativ, Core SWX, Eizo, Deity and Sekonic.

  • 1st Prize ($30,000 value) Nikon camera + lenses ($10,000) Lacie storage devices ($10,000) Teradek, SmallHD & Wooden Camera equipment ($5,000) Aputure LED lighting equipment & Deity microphones ($5,000)
  • 2nd Prize ($10,000 value) Inovativ cart & accessories ($5,500) Core SWX batteries & chargers ($2,500) Sekonic cine colour meters ($2,000)
  • 3rd Prize ($3,000 value) Eizo ColorEdge 4K monitor ($3,000) Social media viewers will also have the opportunity to be part of a prize pool valued at $7,000.

Entrants must be over the age of 18 years and be an Australian permanent resident for at least one year prior to the Illuminate Filmmaking Challenge closing date on 1 August 2021.

Full entry details + Terms and Conditions for the Illuminate Filmmaking Challenge 2021 can be found at: https://www.theportraitco.com.au/illuminate/

Our Pick: What’s in the perfect shooter’s kit?

Over the Christmas and New Year break we are normally still flat out catching up on website updates, getting paperwork in order and planning the stories and campaigns for the coming year. But we do usually get a bit of time to ruminate the year past and have a think about the multitude of products – and sometimes services – we have been lucky enough to play with.

(And make no bones about it. We consider it a privilege that vendors allow us to play with their stuff, sometimes before release and even in pre-production or beta mode).

Out of that rumination, it is fun to but together a sort of “Best Of” list and share it.

The problem with that is in this biz, there is no real “Best Of”, as everyone’s needs, and workflow are different.

One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor as Paul Simon said.

Having said that, what I do like to do is be a bit selfish and suggest out of all the products we have played with for the year, which ones especially struck me, and would go into making the perfect shooting kit given funds were no barrier.

This means that some stuff was not actually released last year of course as we don’t always get product within a reasonable time frame sadly. But all products ARE current on vendor’s price lists at time of writing.

So here goes:

Best Medium Camcorder

The number of models we have seen this year has been abysmally small sadly, so the field to choose from is not that extensive. Out of the ones we have played with though, the Panasonic HC-PV100 stands out. Both myself and Steve Turner have used the PV-100 this year and what we think is best summed up by Steve’s comment:

Panasonic HC-PV100

Value for money does not come much better than this! At around $1800 the PV100 is stupidly cheap and I’d suggest you get one before Panasonic realise they’ve made a big mistake!

Excellent in low light, has dual XLR ports, light enough as a run and gun and as long as you don’t need 4K – and many still don’t – the Panasonic HC-PV100 is very, very hard to beat in value for money.

Second choice goes to the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K for its technical brilliance and world-leading qualities. And it’s Aussie so there’s a REALLY good excuse to boot!

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K

Best Action Camera

Tough one this. Whilst the field is dominated by GoPro and DJI there are some sleepers as well including Sony. The new Insta360 we talked of yesterday we have discounted at this stage due to a) we haven’t yet seen it in the flesh and b) it doesn’t qualify as a 2019 (or before) release.

I like the DJI OSMO Action Cam very much and said so in the review. But the GoPro Hero 8 was such a step forward over previous models, incorporating features that in a way should have been there from the start (especially the built-in mounting points) it gets the nod – but only just.

A special commendation does go to the DJI Pocket Gimbal camera which is an ingenious little device that should have more fans (and sales) than retailers tell me it does.

GoPro Hero 8 (with Accessories)

dSLR / Mirrorless

I confess we haven’t seen too many of these this year for review. The major players are Panasonic, Sony, Olympus, FUJI, Canon and Nikon and out of these, we have only REALLY seen Panasonic and Canon models.

We are trying to get models for review from FUJI (and are very hopeful here) and have doubled efforts with Nikon and Sony. Olympus don’t even bother to get back to us by the way …

So, the decision is probably not quite a fair one, but as these are all we have to go on, I am picking the Panasonic G9. Well priced and versatile, it is equally at home in the hands of the enthusiast and makes an excellent secondary camera (perhaps for the Panasonic SH1) for the professional. Me, I’d use it as an adjunct to the PV100 without hesitation.

Panasonic G9

360° Camera

Still an evolving market we feel, with the later emphasis being less on the obvious VR usage of the footage to more “extraction of selected shots from the whole” as these cameras grab everything in the vicinity due to the technology. Additionally, software has now caught up letting 360° footage be converted back to standard aspect ratios without loss.

The number of models available has grown remarkably as has the number of vendors involved. GoPro, Kandao, Ricoh, HumanEyes, 360Fly, Garmin, Kodak, Yi, Samsung and Insta360 all make 360° / 180° (panoramic) camera / camcorders.

Some come with dedicated software, with some of that really good and some not so good. ALL of the ones we tested come with a major fault in it being very hard to detect what mode they are in – still image or video – due to impossibly small or hard to see in sunlight indicators. Even if using a smartphone app, this too can be hard to detect in sunlight, so we strongly suggest ALL manufacturers take that on board.

My pick is the QooCam from Kandao due to its versatility and software. It’s not conventional with its “twist” design to turn it into a panoramic shooter, but it works, is pocketable and the imagery is very good.

QooCam from Kandao

Best Audio Product

We have only reviewed mics this year (if you discount software that is) so a bit tricky this one. I decided on going for value for money and technical all-round cleverness, and therefore chose the Sennheiser XS Wireless Digital Lav. I am using one to make a vide- based tutorial series and found the sound quality to be brilliant (using it connected to a Pany HC-PV100), easy to use and with excellent battery life.

Sennheiser XS Wireless

A special commendation goes to the RØDE Wireless Go that a number of acquaintances swear by.

What Else Would We Add To Our Kit?

We haven’t tested any tripods at all this year.

Miller? Velbon? Manfrotto?  Hellooooo…!!

I can only base what tripod I would pick then on what I know, and my trusty Manfrotto MV351B2 and 503HDV head continues to soldier on without missing a beat.

For a field monitor, there is a lot of noise about ATOMOS models about the place, but despite regular requests to the company over literally YEARS, again, we have NEVER had the courtesy of even a reply, let alone a “sod off”. Perhaps they are one and the same in their eyes …

Blacmagic Design VideoAssist

Of course, Blackmagic has to be there with its Video Assist 12G HDR and at the price that is where we’d go. An honourable mention to OSEE with the G7 7” Field Monitor which is only let down by the lack of supplied battery and Australian power supply. The unit itself is excellent.

Camera cases / bags are another we haven’t looked at this year, and again, not for lack of trying. I am still using a combo of aluminium cases from JayCar and an old Turtle 039 MID, so barring a ripper of a waterproof decent size backpack, I’ll stay there for the moment.

For on-camera lighting we like the Apuiture range and I use an inexpensive $80 AL-M9 for the majority of the stuff I do.

Aputure AL-M9

Finally for external mounts, dollies, small cranes etc, we still have not been able to go past CameraGrip for all our needs. They are relatively inexpensive, have a HUGE range and built to last with quality components. The fact they are UK based is a bit o an issue, but they do deliver without the exorbitant costs that are associated with sourcing from the US thankfully.

Cameragrip K2WS Junior JIb With Stand

Next, I’ll look at what goes into our editing suite, including computer hardware, software and ancillary stuff.

While we have you, on our “Donate” page we have four options: $5, $10, $20 and $50 donation buttons via PayPal (which also allows payment via VISA and Mastercard etc. These are in US$ by the way).

If you decide we are worth a small ONE-OFF donation via this method, we would greatly appreciate it and will allow us to continue at the same professional level we have strived for for almost 14 years now!

More information as to WHY we have added this option is on the Donate page.

New Nikon Mirrorless FX Format Camera

Nikon Corporation (Nikon) has announced the development of a full-frame, Nikon FX-format, mirrorless camera and NIKKOR lenses that features a new mount.

The mirrorless camera and NIKKOR lenses that are in development have enabled the pursuit of a new dimension in optical performance, with the adoption of a new mount. The mirrorless camera is the result of Nikon’s advanced optical and manufacturing capabilities gained through over a century of heritage, as well as superior image processing technology. The expertise built up through the development of Nikon’s digital-SLR cameras has also critically contributed to this development.

With this new mirrorless camera and NIKKOR lenses, we are committed to providing photographers with the ability to capture images that are richer and more vivid than ever before.

Additionally, a new mount adapter is being developed for the new mirrorless camera. This will work with the F-Mount NIKKOR lenses that are part of the Nikon digital-SLR system, adding to the variety of choices for photographers.

Nikon will continue to lead imaging culture with the launch of the new mirrorless camera, as well as with the continued development of Nikon digital-SLR cameras, providing consumers with the choices to enjoy the unique values of either system.

Special imaging content relating to this product is available for viewing at the URL below. Stay tuned for more content to come.

Nikon says that further details, including the release date and suggested retail price, will be shared at a later date. We’ll keep you posted.