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DSLR vs. Camcorder for Video

Joel Reinke - Thursday, January 05, 2012

Comparing HD Video of DSLR to Camcorders

Being a big DSLR user myself, I see the marketing hype towards using Digital SLRs for HD Video. It is true, they do provide many benefits, but the excitement surrounding this may make you miss the fact that today’s HD Camcorders have a contrasting set of features that may better serve your needs (or not). I hope to address the strengths of each in this article so you can decide what is best for you (or use both in the right applications).

In the past few years there have been many HD Camcorders from entry-level to mid-prosumer that have sullied the name of the quality of HD. This has definitely fueled the push towards DSLRs being looked upon as the go-to for semi-affordable quality HD Video. Issues such as abysmal low-light performance and noise in the video quality have made people think of HD Camcorders as poor substitutes for strength of DSLR’s video.

But in the last year or so, some new Camcorders (in the entry to mid level) have arrived that are leveling the playing field for these issues. So now the real comparison can begin! How does the core aspect of using a DSLR for video compare to using a Camcorder for video?

Using a DSLR for video is more comparable to the experience a film maker would have. It has a more cinematic feel and quality. Depth of Field is more controllable and you are still more likely to be able to have the best low-light performance due to larger sensors. However, you may be stuck with manual focus. A Camcorder will definitely handle better for action, less pre-planned shots, much easier auto-focusing, walking around without bumps (with the right Image Stabilization), easier to zoom in while shooting, and a ton of other convenient features.

[Side Topic: Yah, well doesn’t the Sony A55, A65, and A77 solve those DSLR issues?!?]

Here is a more in depth comparison chart on the pros and cons of each and what scenarios each could be best for: 



HD Camcorder

Controllable Focus, Depth of Field (useful in Cinematic presentation)

A clear winner in this category. Deferent lenses can further enhance this

Not as good. Some have focus rings but not any entry level. Plus smaller sensor size makes the shallowest depth of field impossible. On the flip side, if you like everything in focus then this is the way to go.

Low Light Performance

Used to be the only way to go but now Camcorders are much better and may have even caught up

This used to be a deal breaker but now depending on the unit, many have exceptional low-light


Still a winner, but even some earlier DSLRs with Video have bad/moderate noise.

Much better than ever for Camcorders. Depends on model. Smaller sensor size can cause issue but many models have totally fixed this

Auto Focus

Really bad. You just need to use Manual, except on Sony’s dSLTs but even those have a slight issue. For DSLRs with some Auto Focus in Video - they use Contrast Based Auto Focus which hunts a bit and would be unusable for real video (more below)

Very Good. Even though some use contrast based detection, with the smaller sensor size the focusing can happen quickly and accurately. Many camcorders also have an autofocus sensor by the lens which works great.

Zoom During Video

Depends on your lens. A Quality lens will give a nice smooth zoom ring but a cheap one can have a sticky, plastic feel that makes smooth zooms impossible. Other issue: Focusing while zooming can be a problem, whereas many Camcorders can handle this

Most have a comfortable lever switch. The level of resistance varies and good ones have a slow zoom and fast zoom depending on how far you make the lever go. Also, settings can adjust the speed of the zoom.

Image Stabilization

You may think if your lens has Image Stabilization you’ll be ok for video but Lens Based Image Stabilization wasn’t meant for video, it was meant for making one photo at a time better able to account for hand shake. So if you are walking around doing video and expect it to be free of bumps, you will be disappointed. Sony’s dSLTs are better for this because the I.S. is in the camera but it still is built around being a photo camera. Best get a rigging system or steady cam ($$$)

The best kind of Image Stabilization for Video is built into Camcorders. It can make a video where you are walking around carefully free of bumps. Add a little rigging and it can be extremely smooth.


There can be issues with motion in panning and other fast moving objects, called the Jello Effect, which I won’t get into here.

Sharp, super smooth motion - but some are better than others.

Lens Consideration

DSLRs give you access to a range of lenses that give you flexibility and will help convince you to part with your money J

You better be happy with the lens in your camcorder ‘cause you won’t get another. A major thing to look for is how wide-angle the lens goes (usually quoted in 35mm terms). A 28mm Wide Angle lens in a Camcorder is about as wide as it will go. Many more like 43mm which may not get everything into the picture without excessive panning. One nice advantage of many camcorder lenses is that they have a F1.8 aperture (the lower the larger the hole to let light in). It would be ridiculously expensive to get a DSLR lens with F1.8 and 20 times optical zoom, but affordable in a Camcorder.

Best Uses

-Photos in Motion

-Cinematic Clips where shallow depth of field is a priority

-Action Video

-Everyday Video (don’t miss your kids first…)

-Sharp, Crispy Videos where everything’s in focus

More about Auto Focus - Why can’t DSLRs just autofocus? Its because they use the mirror inside to focus using Phase Detection for photos. When they shoot video, the mirror locks up to constantly let the sensor “see things“, so the regular autofocus can’t work. Newer models use the sensor and contrast based auto-detection, but I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work very well. So why don’t they fix that? My idea is they should add a sensor like camcorders have for autofocus as a plug-in attachment to sit on the end of the lens for Canon or Nikon DSLRs (or make Translucent Mirror cameras like Sony).
Another point - I’ve heard the argument that: Just use Manual Focus like they do in the movies… Ok, in the movies they have a guy called a Focus Puller and all he does is focus on the subject and they usually preplan all shots taking measurements for reference. Does that sound realistic for everyday shots? Years ago Nikon lost the format war to Canon when Canon introduced quality AutoFocus lenses and Nikon sat back for some years. This is video, not photo, but its possible something like this could happen with Sony now. We will see. Using Sony’s Digital SLT cameras, the auto focus is very good, the only issue is that the focus happens so quickly that it is quite an abrupt change in video to see focus shift from one subject to another this way (kind of jerky).

Contrastingly, Camcorders have nice, fast auto focus built in and it is very easy to use. Some high-end models have a focus ring which allows some creative techniques that may give their videos a cinematic quality. Even more have touch screens that allow you to touch what you want to be in focus - which may be a better option still.

In Summary: for most Video purposes, HD Camcorders seem to be the winner. New improvements in the technology in the past year have made the old objections to Camcorders a thing of the past. However, DSLRs can be better for cinematic work, artistic work, and photos in motion. The best option is to have one of each to cover all applications, but HD Camcorders can cover the bulk of your video needs.

[ There are definitely still a lot of bad camcorders out there. I’m not saying they’re all good. Find out the few, the proud that changed the game in my opinion HERE]



How to make a website - Step 1

joel reinke - Monday, January 24, 2011

Web Design Step 1: Planning Stage

Intended Audience: Anyone looking for advice on setting up a website, with basic internet skills

This is a very broad topic, but I will focus on helping you get things ready to build a successful website from the ground up.  This blog post will be about the planning stage, future posts will continue to the next steps.

Requirements: For this post to be of value, I will focus on writing to people with a basic internet skill set.  No super technical skills are required, but you should have familiarity with using email, uploading picture files to the web, using facebook or other social networks (not absolutely required), and using a digital camera device of any sort (cellphone camera, point and shoot, or anything that takes pictures) (taking photos will be in a later step)

We'll start with a checklist of logical items to get you from idea to online:

  1. Come up with a web address and some alternatives in case it is taken
  2. Sketch out a very rough sketch of what you want your home page to look like
  3. Maybe the rest of your pages are layed out like your home page or maybe they have a different design, if different, sketch this out too
  4. Do you already have a logo or a "text-logo"? If so, get the graphic file accessible and ready to use.  If not, design one or hire someone to design one
  5. Decide on which pages you want to have on your web site. Examples: Home Page, Blog, About Us, Products, Services, etc. Do you want an online store? Do you want to start your own Social Network? etc...
  6. Build a team of people in your company, organization, group, or hire a team, for dealing with the many parts of keeping your website updated
  7. Decide on what important images you want on your website.  Will you photograph these things or hire out? Do you have a style you want to go for? 
  8. Also, if you want video clips, animation, audio, or other media: Define what you want 
  9. Start thinking about how people will find you on the internet. What search phrases would you want to come up for?
  10. Define a budget for the project.

That's enough for now. Let's focus on these 10 items to planning a successful web design. (If this sounds too complicated to manage, Contact Us to hire us for this planning stage)

1. Web Address

Wouldn't it be nice if your company name + .com was always available?  Unfortunitely, many good web addresses have been parked on or sat on because of the low cost to set these up and potential high selling cost.  If you can get your name.com, that would be the best, otherwise: time to get creative.  Try to stick to .com and play around with different options for phrasing the shortest permutation of your name or an industry category representation of what you do. Real Important Advice: If you find your name is available, don't wait and come back to it later.  Buy it now! I found a good name once, took a break, came back, and someone parked on it!  So sad. Once you start shopping, be ready to buy. Cause the internet is smart enough to figure out what people are looking for, especially for web addresses.  Some nice web sites to buy domains at are www.bluehost.com and www.godaddy.com - It's usually about $10 per year for each web address (though this could change at any time)

One other Search Engine Optimization aware type tip: You should probably buy your company name + .com if available, but also consider this: if you know your keywords or search phrase you should probably buy a domain name made up of the keywords or phrase separated by hyphens. Like: www.seattle-mice-experts.com if that's what you do. Your search results LONG RUN will thank you for it!

2. Sketch Homepage

You don't have to have any artistic skill to do this! You'll mainly be drawing boxes and labeling them.  Take a sheet of blank paper.  Think up a fun layout that matches the image of your business.  The Homepage sometimes has a more graphic layout than the rest of the pages, but it can be the same format as the rest of the pages too.  Some standard layouts for web pages are: Header with Left Sidebar, Header with Right Sidebar (common for blogs), Left Sidebar Navigation, Header + 3 columns.  All of these usually have a footer as well.
Some other, less standard formats are: Fixed Footer Navigation, 3D Layout, Flexible Size Format, and many more.  Don't feel limited by any of this, just come up with a layout you are happy with.  View my blog on Common Web Site Layouts for more info on this.

3. Other web pages

Like step 2 above.  Just determine if you'd rather have a standard format across all pages, or if you'd like your home page to be different, or if you'd like every page to have its own style.  You should have standard elements across all pages even if you want every page to have a unique style.

4. Logo

If you have a logo already, but its optimized for print (like 1,2,3, or 4 color design), you may want to make it full color for the web. It just might look plain on the web if its not.  If you're starting from scratch you may want to work with a company to develop this professionally for you.  Two prevalent types of logos are: Text Only Logos, and Graphic Logos.
Text Only Logos: These are popular today. Its just the company name in some stylized font or even the text turned into a graphic version of the text.  These logos can be nice if you just want to focus on the company name or its hard to determine a graphic that pairs well with your name.
Graphic Logos: Can be a symbol for your company.  Can be a graphic of some sort either paired with the name of the company or not.  Usually its best if the graphics of the logo are clear and somewhat simple so they can be printed easily as well as look good online. 
Some ideas for how to make a logo:

  • A. Take the first letter of your company name and stylize it into a graphical version of the letter that ties into your company theme or product. Then either continue the name or just use that one 'letter'
  • B. Make a Script Style Logo with the First letter or initials of the company.
  • C. Standardize a Corporate Font that matches your Logo
  • You can sketch out the logo to give your logo designer a head start, but you probably should have a professional make the final graphic design

5. Web Pages and Functionality

To save time when you are in the actual building stage of the web design, it is imperative to have clearly defined web pages, including what functionality the system should have such as online stores, social networks, forms for customer input, etc.  Use a separate piece of paper for each page to jot down your table of contents for your web site.

6. Build a Team

If you are a small company with multiple employees start surveying them for technical skills.  Maybe you'll find one really likes photography.  Maybe you have an author in the making ready to be your blogger.  Delegation of these and other duties is an honor and may add plenty of job satisfaction to the right employee.

7. Images and Photos

This topic will be a whole separate blog post, but for now... How important are the photographic images to your site?  To present your company in the best light, do your product images, store images, staff images, or service images need to be absolutely perfect?  If so, you should hire someone to do your photography.  If not, and your images are only small samples for reference, you could possibly do it yourself.  I hope to publish a blog: photography guide for small businesses, time allowing.  Check back later.

8. Media

Make another 'table of contents' list of what media you want on your site or on YouTube.  This includes Video, Audio, Animation, Specialized Graphics, and Interactive Demonstrations or Interactive Content.

9. Search Phrases

The first goal in Internet presence is to have something worth searching for.  The second goal in Internet presence is to provide search engines a spoon-fed way of finding you.  Think about what your company has to offer, then break it down into short phrases that you believe people on the internet will actually be typing into Google.  Write down a page of these short search phrases on a sheet of paper.  At this point, don't worry about checking to see if these are the actual things people are searching for: we'll talk about that more in later stages.  Again, this will be the source of many more blog posts for me, but right now, this is a good start for you.

10. Define Budget

How much can you spend on a web design project?  Maybe it is $0 and you'll have to be a Do It Yourself-er.  In that case, good luck, there are a lot of online resources that can help.  In my experience, a lot of my clients started out trying to Do It Yourself and ended up unhappy with the results: So they hired someone.  There are just so many things to know that it's nice to have some help.  There is a long, steep learning curve for the skills required for anything more than utilizing a template and adding your own text.  Adding graphics to a template web design can be moderately easy, but you have to have a good graphics editting program to get the graphics to exactly the right size (in pixels wide by pixels high) and optimized for web (just saving as a JPG can result in a file that's 10 times larger than an optimized image and will slow down load time significantly). Another factor is: How much is your time worth? How many hours are you willing to spend trying to design the perfect website? Would you make more profits if you spent that time doing what you do best, and hiring someone who already knows the ways of the web to make your design?

I'm not trying to discourage you, I'm just hoping to educate, and present a realistic picture of the basics of what is required.  If you are a wizard with the computer but not into web design yet, you could probably manage, just contact me if you run into problems.  I'd be happy to answer some basic questions at no cost or hire out if its more complex.

I've seen many web design firms that their minimum cost for a custom design is $3000 so that's scared off a lot of potential clients and has made people assume that they can't get a custom design for less.  I offer many designs for well under that cost (and not just a template based design) and can even help if you're designing and run into specific problems.

Thanks for reading, I hope to provide many more useful blogs on related topics in the future, so please subscribe to my blog via RSS.

-Joel Reinke

The Energy of Christmas: Photo Gallery

joel reinke - Thursday, December 23, 2010
Merry Christmas from Mountain MultiMedia

Please enjoy this Gallery, an Artist/Photographer's attempt to capture the Energy of Christmas from the light.  Light Painting using Christmas Lights, impressionist perspective, expressed with a buzzing sensation.

"Music's in the Air"

From Leavenworth, WA + a few others. (c)2010 Do not copy illegally

Pom, Bianca - caught off guard

Snow Angels

Art, Plein Air, and Cameras

joel reinke - Friday, March 19, 2010
So I went out and did some Plein Air painting about a week ago and realized some things.
(Plein Air is painting outside in a rather quick manner to capture the light as it is)

I was at Green Lake (Seattle) and had a great time - though I got a bit sunburnt.  It was a nice day. 
NOTE: Painted in Acrylic on Watercolor Paper.

It is nice to get out there and paint rather than working from a photo because the photo has limits.  You can't turn your head a bit and see what's going on around you in a photo.  With plein air you can really pull in the whole environment and work in things that wouldn't fit into a photo and it doesn't look all warped. 

Next, you can be selective, in fact you have to.  Some of the crud that ruins a photo you can just leave out.  This will focus the painting on what you want and creates a great final scene.  Now I'm also getting really into photography so I also really like to work on framing up a shot just right, but that's a different story.

Plein Air is also nice because you can loosen up a bit and go free on the canvas.  More impressionistic.  Relax. :)

OK, so the point that ties into photography is this:

If you are an artist and want to take photos to paint from you need to do this:
Get an ultra-wide lens.
This is a multimedia lesson, coming from someone who is exploring a range of different mediums.
Why do you want an ultra-wide lens?
Because one of the biggest take aways I had from doing Plein Air is that a big benefit is having the ability to look around and see the big picture.

If you don't have the luxury of doing this, then an ultrawide lens is a must.  It is a lens for an SLR or digital SLR camera that allows you to "zoom way out" and take in everything around you.  Then you can use this as reference for your painting.  I still recommend just going outside and doing Plein Air.  It will probably be less expensive and its a different experience.  But working with an Ultra-Wide lens, compared to other lenses (like a telephoto) feels very artistic because you really want to work to find a nice spot where everything is just right and then work with the manual settings to get different effects.  Also, an ultra-wide is great for creating photos with interest because you can create a scene with a striking foreground subject, a mid-ground, and a sprawlingly broad background - all in one photo!

-Get outside to live art
-Utilize Ultra-wide Lenses for great photos

-Joel Reinke