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Old May 29th, 2021, 10:59 AM   #1
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Best 4K wildlife camcorder under $7,000

Hi everybody,

What's the best 4K camcorder for wildlife that is under $7,000 or at least not super expensive? My main experience with fancy wildlife camcorders was with the Canon XL series years ago.

Ideally, I would want something that has image quality at least as good as the Sony FDR-AX100 and can zoom a lot farther than the Zeiss lens on the FDR-AX100 (either on its own or in conjunction with my Canon EF lenses or other lenses). Is this a realistic preference? I'm not sure what's out there. I think the FDR-AX100 is great, but I really want to zoom closer to some animals.

I'm making a natural history production about a lava flow close to my family's land in northern California, and I want the quality of my footage to hold up for awhile as I might not be done for a few more years.

From roughly 2004-2009, I enjoyed getting lots of wildlife footage with Canon XL1S and Canon XLH1 camcorders. I used Canon EF 100-400 and 28-300 mm lenses with the XL adapter and was able to get super close shots. I made three documentaries that were broadcast on local PBS stations.

In 2017, I finally tried 4K and got a used Sony FDR-AX100. I'm really happy with its performance and image quality and have gotten lots of wildlife footage with it, but I've hardly researched 4K camcorders, and I'm not sure what's out there and what my best options would be.

Thank you,
Tristan
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Old May 29th, 2021, 02:30 PM   #2
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Re: Best 4K wildlife camcorder under $7,000

I am a nature videographer for going on 20 years. Have owned lots of cameras. My current rig that I am very happy with is the Panasonic GH5 and the Olympus 75-300 (150-600 effective). It is well under your 7K amount. More like 2K. There is no gear out there that I would rather have.
This was shot with it.
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Old May 29th, 2021, 04:25 PM   #3
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Re: Best 4K wildlife camcorder under $7,000

Hi Mark,

Thank you for the quick reply. I looked up the GH5, and the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5S looks like a good option that is supposed to be more tailored to video than other versions. The Olympus 75-300 mm lens seems pretty affordable, which is great. Are there any other accessories you would recommend? I already have pretty good tripods and heads and will want to get at least one extra battery.

Nice shots of the great blue heron. Wetland wildlife will be a major focus of my efforts.

Thanks,
Tristan
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Old May 29th, 2021, 04:34 PM   #4
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Re: Best 4K wildlife camcorder under $7,000

My full kit is the GH5, Panasonic 12-60, Olympus 60mm macro, Olympus 75-300 and Benro tripod. That covers all the bases for me and is pretty light for hiking. Got rid of my jib and slider. They produced some cool shots but setup and transport was more trouble than it was worth. The only thing I might add is one of the smaller drones that shoot 4k. Here is a recent video shot in 4K and slow zooms done in post.


Last edited by Mark Williams; May 29th, 2021 at 06:33 PM.
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Old May 29th, 2021, 06:48 PM   #5
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Re: Best 4K wildlife camcorder under $7,000

Great image quality on those videos. The lenses look like they would have you covered for scenery, close things, and far things. Yeah, it's nice to be able to travel quite a bit with a kit. My old XL setups got pretty cumbersome, which limited where I went. Any recommendations on drones? I have a GoPro Hero 7, which I thought would be a good drone camera.

I'm sold on the GH5S, but now, I need to figure out my telephoto lens choices.

What would be the best options for a lens on the GH5 that is more powerful (e.g., 400 mm or greater) than the Olympus 75-300 mm? That lens seems great, but I'm willing to pay for more zoom power. I could get a Canon EF adapter (for about $650) and probably mount my EF 28-300 mm f/3.5-5.6 L USM and EF 100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM lenses on the GH5S, but I'm not sure how that image quality would compare to getting a powerful lens that does not need an adapter (e.g., Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4-6.3). Also, if the adapter route is preferable, then I'm guessing I would have a lot more options and research to do.

With my Canon XL cameras and the EF adapter XL, I was able to get 7.2x magnification for my EF lenses, which was great for bighorns, distant grizzlies, etc. Is something like that achievable with the GH5 while retaining good image quality?

The Metabones T Speed Booster Ultra 0.71x Adapter for Canon Full-Frame EF-Mount Lens to Micro Four Thirds-Mount Camera looks like it might do a similar thing but not zoom quite so far. With the 35 mm conversion for the GH5 and this adapter, I think I would be getting a 2.71x magnification of whatever the mm range is for the lens I'm using (i.e., 203-813 mm for a 75-300 mm lens). I also have a 1.4x extender that works with my Canon 100-400 mm lens, but I rarely use it as the zoom boost isn't huge, and the light isn't as good with it.

I dug into the stats for my FDR-AX100, and it looks like its zoom is equivalent to 29-348 mm for a 35 mm still camera, so all options I mentioned would be magnification boosters.

Thanks for the feedback. It's exciting to learn there are now some very high quality wildlife cameras that are much more affordable than things were 15 years ago.
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Old May 29th, 2021, 09:18 PM   #6
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Re: Best 4K wildlife camcorder under $7,000

Consider the Olympus 100-400. It is about $1499. But you are going to be giving up the compact size of the 75-300 and it will weigh more than twice as much. Image quality will be better than the 75-300. Keep in mind that it will be 200-800 effective and you can punch in more with "ETC" which only slightly affects IQ. If you need more there is a dedicated 1.4x and 2.0x Olympus converter.
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Old May 31st, 2021, 01:16 PM   #7
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Re: Best 4K wildlife camcorder under $7,000

I'm leaning toward getting a Metabones Canon EF Lens to Micro Four Thirds T Smart Adapter initially (can be around $300 used; don't need the booster version and read it would actually decrease zoom), so I can utilize the Canon lenses I already have with the GH5S, but after looking into the Olympus 100-400, I think that lens with a teleconverter may be one of the best clarity/zoom power combos available for the GH5S.

Anybody have any other suggestions on camcorders? What I've read about the GH5S makes it seem like a great wildlife option, but I'm wondering what a good equivalent camcorder (not a DSLR) would be. The GH5S might work great for me, but I tried the DSLR video route with the Canon 70D and was not happy with it. The video quality was poor, and I had to mess with the settings a lot for best results (which I'm not great at doing). I like having something with a good auto mode that enables me to shoot immediately with acceptable to great results. For me, this has been the case with the old Canon XL cameras and the Sony FDR-AX100.
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Old June 1st, 2021, 11:11 AM   #8
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Re: Best 4K wildlife camcorder under $7,000

This with a GH5 and a Olympus 100-400 plus 1.4x TC. Straight off the SD card more or less. 4K provided one doesn't watch via Apple Safari (GRRRRR!).

I'd have a shorter zoom lens as well if going down this route which far better than the one I was on with my old XLH1 (still have it if anyone interested).

Need, of course, appropriate computer hard and software for 4K.


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Old June 1st, 2021, 12:46 PM   #9
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Re: Best 4K wildlife camcorder under $7,000

Amazed at the depth of field you are getting with the lens and the 1.4x converter.
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