Choosing a camera or camcorder can be pretty time consuming and I would suggest that you base your decision on a few key facts, budget probably being the main one. I have loved owning a Nikon camera D5100 and it suited my needs for stock photography with shutterstock, but it was not long before I was hankering after something a little lighter to record film footage for my blogs and youtube video. I also did not want the burden of always carrying a tripod stand.
If you are thinking of upgrading your equipment I would consider the following questions.
What will you be filming? Are you looking for aerial shots, night time, adventure, sport, wildlife or general everyday use. Once you have worked out what the camcorder will primarily be used for, it is easier to narrow your search. Do not be caught up with gadgets that you will never use.
Both camcorders offer infra red for night recordings and have at least 20 optical zoom . The Canon XA11 is classified as a professional camera and would be well suited to filming at conferences, weddings, concerts, interviews, documentaries, etc. The Panasonic VX980 is so small that it fits into your coat pocket. Great for capturing family events, school performances & everyday use.
Other tools: I also like reading reviews from Digital camera world, Tech radar and places like amazon, John Lewis and Jessops. It does take some time, but really if your spending up to £1000 on equipment, then make sure it serves your purpose. The SD cards for the camcorders rarely come supplied and there are hidden extra. The Canon XA11 does not come with a microphone and most people who are keen on videography like to buy a back up battery. More additional costs.
Canon & Panasonic.
I started making videos to keep up with my children in this new digital era and after many, many mistakes I started making youtube videos of my travels which is great fun. I then realised that people need video stock clips and I decided to attempt to make some cash from stock videography.
I started with the Panasonic 4K HC-VX980 which is a little gem. Easy to fit into a hand bag, no worries about taking abroad as it is so light, it won’t tip you over your hand luggage allowance weighing in at 350g.
The battery life is reasonable, just under the 2 hours, easy to recharge and has an LCD-(liquid crystal display) flip out touch screen. It has both camera and camcorder mode and is pretty robust. The Panasonic also has intelligent automode, (iA) which will stabilise the image, correct ISO, do the autofocus and scene detection. It also has WIFI assist and interval slow motion. It is a 4k Ultra HD camcorder. 18.91 mega pixels. more spec details at end of blog.
The Leica Dicomar lens and the 2O Optical zoom suited my needs. I especially like the way the lens screen opens automatically when you want to start filming unlike the Canon which you have to flip open manually. Both camcorders have tiny buttons on the side which is easy for me but could potentially be a nightmare for men with big hands.
As I mentioned earlier the Panasonic suited my needs initially but after uploading several short clips to iStock, an online video agency, I realised that the colours on my video clips compared to others were not as rich.
Upgrading was my next option and price was my biggest factor. It is easy to go mad with these things but set a budget and work to it. The Canon XA11 is lightweight and has excellent zoom and clarity. For serious film makers it has a double mic point and carrying handle. Easy to record and photograph with, giving you the option of complete manual control. I don’t think that it is big enough to warrant a shoulder support but the 5 axis stabilisation is very impressive. See video footage below. It also has a tracking system if you are recording during sport matches.
Canon XA11 Dimensions:5.2″ x 7.1″ x 9.1″ (1.6 pounds w/ battery).
Full HD Recording Modes: 1080p @ 30fps, 1080p @ 24fps, 1080p @ 60fps, 24p, 30p, 60i, 60p
Camcorder 20x Lens: 35mm equivalent: 26.8mm-576mm f/1.8-2.8, filter 58mm
Dual SD slots. Wide DR and Highlight Priority Modes. You can remove the handle which makes it much easier to fit in a bag. A little heavier than the Panasonic this weighs 745g before the attachments. (MIC handle & Mic holder).
128GB SD Card:MP4: up to 8 Hours (50P @35Mbps)
AVCHD up to 10 hours 10 Minutes (5p @28Mbps).
Canon XA11 – beware your microphone is not too big and enters your frame. Check out best mics online. (RodeNTG3). The Canon XA11 has no built in memory.
The main fault that I find with the Canon is that if you are in a hurry to capture a scene and switch it one etc, get the settings and off you go. Check the LCD screen as the Canon will record with the shutter down and not alert you! On the plus side the Canon XA11 will pre record before and after you start filming. It does have a HDMI output which you will be able to connect for Live Streaming.
The Canon XA11 Off button is also wedged between the media and cinematic and you may think that you have switched it off but it’s not. Check the green light goes out or your battery will run down. The Canon XA11 will also only film in HD and not 4K, which could be a game changer for you. Many platform now compress 4K in the the new VP9 Codec (youtube) which yields better results on playback.
To summarise, with both camcorders, there is not much difference in size, the Canon is obviously heavier and has some serious tools but as I said, it really depends on why you need or want a camcorder. I bought my camcorder online and I would recommend that you shop around for the best price. If you are moving up to semi professional video then the Canon XA11 is the obvious choice, easy to use camcorder that you can take anywhere without being too precious, then its the Panasonic.
The Canon is almost double the price of the Panasonic but you will see that the richness of colours and tones and stabilisation make this a superior piece of recording equipment. To watch my film comparison of raw footage of zoom, stabilisation and slow motion click here.
I hope you have fun with whatever equipment you have. I filmed the Worlds Pipe band championship in Glasgow on the VX980 using the inbuilt mic for the bagpipes and drums. I have discovered that the Canon attracts a lot of attention. People stop and stare and actively stand in your line of vision. Most annoying. The Panasonic is very discreet.
Click here to see the Worlds Pipe band championship 2019. Enjoy your equipment whatever you choose and keep your precious moments alive.
Thanks for reading, I appreciate your time.
Panasonic VX980 – Recording Image Size
Still Image [16:9] 25.9megapixels (6784 x 3816), 14 megapixels (4992 x 2808), 2.1 megapixels (1920 x 1080) [3:2] 20 megapixels (5472 x 3648), 10.6 megapixels (3984 x 2656), 2.0 megapixels (1728 x 1152) [4:3] 20.4 megapixels (5216 x 3912), 10.9 megapixels (3808 x 2856), 0.3 megapixels (640 x 480)
Simultaneous Recording 4K MP4: [16:9] 20.4 megapixels (6016 x 3384), 8.3 megapixels (3840 x 2160) Other than 4K MP4: [16:9] 14.0 megapixels (4992 x 2808), 2.1 megapixels (1920 x 1080).
LENS FOR MAIN CAMERA – F Value F1.8 (WIDE) / F3.6 (TELE)
Optical Zoom 20x -Focal Length 4.08 – 81.6 mm
35 mm Film Camera Equivalent [Motion Image (16:9)] 4K: 30.8 – 626 mm (Level Shot Function OFF), Full-HD: 37.0 – 752 mm (Level Shot Function OFF or Normal)
35 mm Film Camera Equivalent [Still Image] 34.5 – 690.3 mm [3:2] 30.8 – 626 mm [16:9] 37.6 – 752.8 mm [4:3]
Filter Diameter 49 mm
Lens Brand Leica Dicomar Lens
RGB primary color filter, GPS ready, Wide Dynamic Range (WDR), Pre-Rec function, digital tele-converter, built-in IR illuminator, fast motion recording, simultaneous multi-format recording, slow motion recording, night vision infrared imaging
Low Lux / Night ModeGPS ready, Pre-Rec function, RGB primary color filter, Wide Dynamic Range (WDR), built-in IR illuminator, digital tele-converter, fast motion recording, night vision infrared imaging, simultaneous multi-format recording, slow motion recording.