Pro vs Consumer Cameras

Lenses

Consumer cams have a built-in lens whereas pro cams have interchangeable lenses {wide-angle, telephoto, etc). For filming drama, cameras may use fixed focal-length lenses because the action is controlled; for unpredictable sports events, meanwhile, cam ops select lenses that allow them to respond to varying conditions.

Pro lenses are larger and more expensive because they’re precision-made from thick, scratch-resistant glass assembled in a dust-free environment.

Zoom

Consumer cams usually measure zoom as 4X, 8x and so on, because it’s easier to understand.

Pro cameras, in contrast, have stronger and more precise zoom lenses, measured in millimeters.

Pro CamerasChip

Consumer cams often have just one CCD (charge-coupled device): the silicon chip which converts light to digital signals.

A professional camera will have a minimum of three CCDs – one each for red, blue and green light. This extra information means a clearer picture capable of good resolution at larger sizes. Some pro cams use CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) chips, another method of capturing data which requires less off-chip circuitry to process the data than a CCD.

Presets

Consumer cams don’t usually have the option to create their own presets for different conditions.

Pro cams allow the operator to construct and save settings for different conditions, which in the future can be accessed at the touch of a button.

Versatility

Consumer CamerasConsumer cams usually have just one method of recording, while pro cams are adjustable.

Professional cameras can record in PAL (UK format, 25 frames per second) or NTSC (USA format, 30 frames per second); all the settings can be manually varied and the data-rate can be altered too. Pro cams can produce super-clear slow-motion playback with a frame rate of 50 fps, or even 100 fps.

HD and 3D

These new developments require cameras to capture more information. Standard definition (SD; ie 704×480 pixels) has now been replaced by high definition (ie 1,920 x 1,080 pixels} in all pro cams and most consumer cams. You need an HD-compatible television or computer in order to play HD video, otherwise it’s compressed to SD.

Pro cams are now available with a super-high definition of over 4,000 pixels. Why bother with these new formats? They are especially good for sports viewing – the extra-fine resolution of HD means viewers can identify fast-moving players in wide shots, and 3D images communicate every detail of the action such as the distance between finishers in a sprint or the length of a javelin throw.