Camcorder vs. DSLR (with sample footage) or Should I get a dslr for video?

Not sure if you should upgrade to a DSLR or a camcorder?

Good. Let’s not waste time:



  • Amazing picture/sensor on camera. Stunning 1080p and it doesn’t even try hard
  • Incredible in low light, handles lens flairs, different color temperatures, and all lighting situations WONDERFULLY
  • Super affordable – T3i is only $400-ish nowadays (find one on craigslist)
  • Cinematic properties – Uses depth of field, actual lenses, F-stop, ISO, color profiles, etc.
  • Takes you in the right direction if you want to go into narrative film or high-budget creative work
  • Stunning photos… I mean, that’s what it was built for, but that let’s you do ACTUAL TIMELAPSE not the hokey stuff you always see
  • Fits inside of all kinds of small places and you can have lenses for everything (fish-eye, super far away, etc)


  • Expect to only film for 12 minutes at a time (Unless you have Magic Lantern installed ((firmware hack for camera))
  • Absolutely god-awful, I mean god FREAKING awful at audio. BUT again, big budget productions record audio and video separately, so you want to get in the habit of doing that anyway
  • Tiny and hard to hand-hold. Don’t. Film. Hand-held
  • You’re effectively going to save money off the get go, but have to spend more later getting an audio recorder and other stuff listed below.




  • Press record and forget about it if you’re filming something really long and boring like a speech.
  • Usually records decent audio and with bigger models you can plug in XLR directly to the camera (no syncing in post)
  • Really cool looking ones make your clients excited when you pull them out
  • Full Auto mode means you can be stupid as crap and still do a good job (sometimes)
  • One lens to rule them all (so long as its inside the cameras range)


  • No depth of field. Let’s be real, it doesn’t exist.
  • Stunningly sucky low-light. Really weird looking colors and blurs when trying to compensate with gain (eww)
  • Flat colors on the best of days. Really incredibly dry, boring looking images. You film a shoe and it looks like a shoe. Do that with a DSLR and it turns into a small unicorn.
  • You can probably pull off hand-held if its heavy enough without it being all wobbly. Most of them have built-in image stabilizer too.
  • One lens to rule them all (can also be a draw-back)


Here’s some broad daylight footage from a JVC hm100u:

jvc hm100u outdoor footage

Broad daylight from a Canon T3i:

dslr footage outdoor broad daylight canon t3i

Night footage from a JVC hm100u:

Camcorder footage low-light Benassi concert

Same concert from a Canon T3i:

Low-light dslr footage filmed by Canon T3i – same concert




Canon T3i -$250 (find it on ebay/craigslist)
Audio – Zoom H4n – $200
Stabilizer – This Thing (trust me) – $55
Lens – Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 – $500 (ebay or craigslist)
Tripod: Fluid Head Ravelli – $90 bucks – but I hate it, and STRONGLY STRONGLY recommend putting down the money for Manfrotto Heads and Legs – one of the best decisions I sucked it up and made to this day
Extra batteries, like 8 bucks each or something? idk


$900 ballpark



That really bad JVC hm100u I showed you earlier

$1500 for camera alone



Get it – you are going to love every shot you ever film with this thing. It can turn poop into gold. Okay not really but it will give you a big cinematic boost in your productions just from the depth of field alone. You can see in my video below. And who doesn’t love those still photos anyways?


It depends what type of work you’re doing. After having filmed with a JVC hm100u and dumped it for a t3i, my vote? Go with a DSLR. The only exception to this would be if 90% of your work is event footage–you’re expected to turn over 2 straight hours of a presentation at a conference to be viewed later. Otherwise, most anything else can be filmed with a DSLR as long as you break it up into segments and use seperate equipment for the audio. This is annoying when its a 20 second interview and incredibly handy when you need a dedicated audio recorder that sits away from the camera, plugs into the audio guys sound board, or you want someone to be able to walk around with it in their pocket without having to be nearby.


You by your wife’s stuff through Video Production:

If this is the case, than you already know about this puppy. My absolute favorite camera of all time:

The Canon c100, forged through the war-flames of DSLR fans and Camcorder veterans. Crafted by Canon to exploit the massive market demand for a cinematic-style picture that is also as easy to use and handy as a standard camcorder. Bigger than a DSLR, higher dynamic range (ability to balance bright stuff with dark stuff) than a Camcorder, heavier, feels right, built in ND filters… it’s perfect – Except for 60fps, it doesn’t do that 🙁

In Summary: I think the DSLR is a great GREAT step in the right direction for anyone if you do any creative work or your stuff is short form. It teaches you a lot, things you’ll NEED TO KNOW if you ever want to work on bigger budget projects. Don’t be a bitter old man and cling to the weak camcorder sensors like dead wood at sea. If you don’t believe me, try a dslr just for a day, and you’ll know yourself.

More technical info on my video RIGHT HERE:

But be warned it is from like 3 years ago 

And check my Videography Blog for more groovy info and handouts:



This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Adam

    Thanks a bunch for this entry. I’m somewhere between hobbyist and semi-pro and have been for several years. Armed with this information, I have a renewed energy and am considering the leap to full-fledged semi-pro!

  2. JeffO

    Thank you very much for posting this entry–I’m sure you get a lot of traffic, since you were high on Google’s list of results for “camcorder vs DSLR”.

    I think I’m going with a T5i or maybe the T6i (still waiting for reviews on it).

    Cheers, and thanks again for sharing your experience.


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