The Top 3 Prosumer HD Camcorders Under $2,500.

Last week I wrote 10 Tips on Buying a Prosumer HD Camcorder.  I promised that this week I would reveal my top 3 picks for a prosumer HD camcorder that fit my needs as a personal historian.

Briefly this is what I was looking for:

  • a price range of between $1,500 and $2,500
  • XLR audio connectors
  • manual controls that include  audio level control
  • low light sensitivity
  • Full HD 1080/60p output
  • LCD screen and electronic viewfinder
  • Recording to SDHC or SDXC cards
  • a menu that’s easily accessible
  • Zebra stripes

It’s not easy getting a camcorder that fits all your requirements. After researching many possibilities, the three I’ve selected aren’t perfect but they’re good choices.

#1. Canon XA10

Canon  released this model in March 2011.  Here are the highlights:

  • 1/3″ CMOS Sensor
  • Native 1920 x 1080
  • 24Mbps AVCHD Recording
  • 60i, PF30, PF24, Native 24p
  • 64GB Internal Flash Drive
  • 10x HD Zoom Lens
  • Dual SD Memory Card Slots
  • 3.5″ Touch Panel LCD Screen
  • Dual XLR Inputs w/Detachable Handle
  • Waveform Monitor, Peaking, Zebra 70/100%

This is a sweet little camera and my top choice. I’ve used Canon camcorders in the past and I’m partial to them. When compared to my #2 choice, the  JVC GY-HM100U  the Canon was ranked higher by the HD – Camcorder Comparison Database. You can read more on the ranking here.

Videomaker says,  “In the pro world of videography it’s hard to take anything this small too seriously. However, the XA10 is larger than life in terms of features, usability, and quality imaging.” You can read the full review here.

I particularly like the XA10′s wide choice of manual controls and its 64GB of internal flash memory which provides 6 hours of recording at its highest quality setting. The camcorder also features a waveform monitor for accurate exposure and detailed analysis of image brightness.

I was also pleased to see that the XA10 can download directly to Final Cut Pro X, the latest release of FCP editing software.

The Canon XA10 is available at B&H for $1,999.

#2 JVC G-HM100U

Released in 2009, there’s much to recommend about this camcorder. Here are the highlights:

  • Selectable data rates up to 35Mbps
  •  Native .MOV format
  •   Edit immediately on Final Cut Pro™ or Premiere™ without conversion or transcoding
  •  Native .MP4 format
  •  Records to dual SDHC memory cards
  • Full HD recording (selectable)
  • Uncompressed LPCM audio (2ch) recording
  •  Manual level controls with audio meter
  •  XLR inputs with phantom power

Videomaker says, “The JVC GY-HM100U HD video camcorder is the sum of many great technologies JVC has introduced in its professional camcorder lineup. They’ve really leveraged the CCD and digital processing capabilities, and mixed in flexible recording (and post-production) workflow, which always is pleasing to see.” You can read the full review here.

For me, the Canon won out over the JVC in a number of categories. I like the Canon’s larger LCD screen, 3.5 inches as compared to the JVC’s 2.8 inch screen.  The Canon also performs better in low light, has better optics, and is  smaller than the JVC.

The JVC G-HM100U is available at B&H for $2,395.

#3 Panasonic AG-HMC40

Released in 20o8 this is a souped up version of the Panasonic HDC-TM300.

Here are the highlights of the AG-HMC40:

  • 3MOS Sensor
  • AVCHD
  • 1080p
  • 24p
  • 12x Leica Lens
  •  Optical Image Stabilization
  •  Optional XLR Input
  • Recording Quality Option(s): PH (21MBps), HA (17Mbps), HG (13Mbps), HE (6Mbps)

My current camcorder is a Panasonic DVC30 so I’m partial to Panasonic.  But when compared to the other 2 camcorders on my list, I’m afraid this Panasonic fell short.

It has no built in flash memory, poor low light sensitivity, and an LCD that’s too small at 2.7 inches. Focus and aperture are the only controls available without using the LCD touch screen. And it comes with just one  SD/SDHC card slot.

CamcorderInfo.com says, “The internal components on the AG-HMC40 aren’t much different than what you’d find on the HDC-TM300. The main difference is the HMC40 records solely to SD/SDHC cards, it offers a higher maximum bitrate of 24Mbps, and it includes a native 24p record mode. We’re disappointed that Panasonic didn’t bother to include an improved lens or larger set of sensors on its professional camcorder.” You can read the full review here.

The Panasonic AG-HMC40 is available at B&H for $1,795.

conclusion

Remember that whatever camcorder you decide upon, it will soon be replaced by a newer model. The best you can do is select a camera that comes closest to fitting your needs. With care and proper maintenance it will provide you with good service for at least 4 or 5 years.

What camcorder would you recommend in the under $2,500 category?

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15 responses to “The Top 3 Prosumer HD Camcorders Under $2,500.

  1. Dan,
    I purchased the Canon XA10 and am very pleased. Being a woman under 5′ I was particularly appreciative of the light weight and ease of use of this nifty camcorder. I attached a Rode NTG-1 shotgun mic and picked up a light weight Sony tripod. I am now able to pack all my accessories (except the tripod) in 1 small bag. Incredibly compact yet has the pro features I was looking for. I highly recommend this camera.

  2. Pingback: So you want to get into event videography, eh?

  3. How does the Cannon 60D or other camera’s that also shoot video compare to these?
    Thanks – interesting article..

  4. JVC now has the GY-HM150U available for $2400 or more (ouch). But, this is the only one that you can find on Apple’s website because of it’s capability to edit immediately in FCPX. I really like the Canon XA10 but I am worried about how to get my video into FCPX. Do you need a conversion program or download anything else or will the XA10 go directly into FCPX as well like the JVC. Thank you much.

  5. I’ve been doing a ton of research to find a camera that kind of matches what you’re describing above: shoulder-mountable, no more then 2 to 3 grand in price, great in low lighting conditions, and takes SD cards as opposed to p2. You recommended the XA10. 5 people on BandH dot com reviewed this camera as “Poor in low light”. Then you recommended the JVC GY-HM100U: 22 people on BandH reviewed this camera as “Poor in low light”. Same with the HMC40: 56 people reviewed this as “Poor in low light.” The HMC40 looks really crappy because if you use the hotshoe at the top of it for the light panel, where the heck do you put the shotgun mic?

  6. I’d almost recommend the HVX200. its a decent camera. you can get a great USED price for it on Amazon. It takes p2 cards. Look at the reviews on BandH’s website. It DOESNT say “poor in low light”. Doesn’t have a lot of CONS either.

  7. I’ve just purchased the XA10 and love it. In some ways I regret not spending a bit more for a heavier JVC that had 3 chips, but I’m a reporter and it was hugely important for me to be a one-bag guy, and this delivers great quality all but weightlessly. so far I’m very happy with it.

  8. How would you compare Sony NEX-VG20EH with Canon XA10.
    Thanks

  9. Does anyone have any experience using the Canon XA10 to record sporting events? I record video for youth hockey games regularly. There is usually a lot of continuous activity being recorded. My consumer camera both struggles to keep up in regards to autofocus, and getting a clean image with all the movement.

  10. What about the Sony NEX-VG20? The vg30 is almost out which i’m guessing is the reason they’ve reduced the price considerably.

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/818267-REG/Sony_NEXVG20H_NEX_VG20H_Interchangeable_Lens_HD.html

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