Why are camcorder cameras less expensive than SLR cameras?

Hello everyone,
I currently use my smartphone to make videos. I don’t plan on buying a dedicated camera anytime sone, but I was looking around Amazon and I noticed that camcorders are about half the price of SLR cameras. I thought it would take more technology to create a video camera than a photo camera. At this point I think the SLR camera has become the jack of all trades, but should camcorders be at the same price range because camcorders seem to have become a jack of all trades too.

I guess one of the reasons is that a DSLR his a more complex device.
For example, it includes a mechanical shutter which camcorders don’t have.

DSLRs have much larger sensors than camcorders of similar price. In limited light, a larger sensor collects more light than a smaller one. With the larger sensor of a DSLR, it’s easier to get low light images without needing a video light. Cameras with larger sensors tend to produce less noise when shooting at the higher ISOs needed when lighting is limited as well.

You can change lenses on DSLRs e.g. to shoot telescopic, or macro. DSLRs in general produce much better still photos than you can get from a camcorder.

Depth of field is how much of the image is in focus—you’ll often see portraits with a very blurred background, for example. That blurred background is much easier to do with a DSLR because of the larger sensor. (One other factor? A lens with a wide aperture, like f/1.8 or f/2.8). The biggest reason some videographers choose to use a DSLR is to get that creamy bokeh and out-of-focus background.

While you can pick up a consumer camcorder for a few hundred bucks, you can’t get the larger sensors and advanced features in a dedicated camcorder for the same price as a DSLR. Compared to professional camcorders, DSLRs are much more affordable.


To elaborate on what @Elusien said, the larger sensors found in cameras often provide more megapixels as well.

A consumer-level camcorder will max out at 4K, which is only an 8 megapixel image (3840 * 2160 ~= 8 MP). Meanwhile, entry-level Micro Four Thirds cameras start at 20 MP, and it’s possible to get 100 MP from Fuji GFX.

When the megapixel count climbs, the resolving power of the lenses must increase with it, or else we get a high-definition capture of a blurry image circle. Quality glass costs big money right away.

Next, let’s consider a Fuji GFX camera trying to shoot video. When 100 MP of data is read from the sensor 30 times per second, it takes a massive amount of on-board processing power to crunch that data, apply tone curves, downsample it, and encode it as video. So there is monetary cost to include much faster processors compared to what camcorders need at only 8 MP.

Then, faster processors lead to the problem of intense heat generation, which is much higher than a camcorder will produce and therefore requires a more robust and clever cooling system. A significant reason that the Panasonic GH-series cameras are so legendary is that they can do unlimited recording without overheating even in extreme climate conditions. This is something very few DSLR or mirrorless cameras can claim. Many cameras overheat between 20-30 minutes of recording at normal usage.

Speaking of extreme conditions, many modern mirrorless cameras are also weather-sealed against rain and dust, and Panasonic/Olympus cameras are also freezeproof should you plan a trip to the Arctic. In particular, the freezeproof lenses are designed such that the contracting lens barrel and the stiffening of the lubricants will not cause any rotational elements to seize up. I don’t know of any cheap consumer camcorders that can claim such ruggedness.

Also, cameras have the circuitry necessary to do flash sync and trigger external lighting. Flash photography is obviously not something that camcorders do, so that’s extra parts and programming as well, especially if TTL metering or high-speed sync are supported.

Lastly, many cameras include a thing called IBIS, which is In-Body Image Stabilization. It means the sensor floats in a magnetic field that can be shifted by the camera to counteract any shake caused by unsteady hands, which is a lot like having a baby gimbal inside the camera. Some consumer camcorders include this feature. Many do not. An IBIS socket is expensive to do well.

There are other reasons, but those come to mind as the bigger ones. Also, not trying to be pedantic here lol, but there is a difference between DSLR and mirrorless. DSLR technically means the camera has an optical viewfinder and a flappy mirror. Mirrorless, as the name suggests, does not need a mirror because it has an electronic viewfinder. The DSLR body style is essentially dead, with the exception of photography niches that value an optical viewfinder or superior battery life. For everything else, mirrorless does it better than DSLR and the market is going that direction. I just wanted to make the distinction clear in case you decided to buy a camera after all, so you could make an informed choice between DSLR and mirrorless based on your needs. (You might like Pentax after all!) Just be aware that Canon and Nikon do not have plans to make any new DSLR bodies, and all their R&D is going to mirrorless.

A couple of sources about DSLRs ceasing production:


Thanks, I found this bit of info important since I currently shoot really long 4K videos.

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