I've taken pictures with a HD broadcast camcorder and a DSLR at the same event. When I get the still pics from camcorder footage, the image appears to be more professional/outstanding feeling than the DSLR's. That makes me almost give up on shooting still pics with a DSLR.

Why does the picture quality from the HD broadcast camcorder beat out DSLR? Even if the total pixel count is less?

(notice: broadcast camcorder means XDCAM HD or better)

  • I don't think you've really given us enough information. What DSLR and what HD broadcasting camcorder are you referring to? Aug 16, 2014 at 17:07
  • HD broadcasting camcorder: Sony XDCAM HD PDW-700 and DSLR: Nikon D300s Aug 17, 2014 at 2:21
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    Can you show us the images. Also, what lens and settingd were you using. I can by a low quality $50 EF mounting lens, stick it on a RED epic and say, look! my camcorder looks sharper than that. furthermore, your DSLR image might have been damaged/compressed/shrunken somewhere in its life... Aug 17, 2014 at 17:49
  • This could very much be considered a subjective question. Without being able to compare the images that you draw your conclusion from, there isn't really a way that we can help.
    – Cal McLean
    Aug 18, 2014 at 0:51
  • I agree with GiantCowFilms, the lens can honestly be a bigger factor than the body when it comes to image quality. I can get a "better" image with an entry-level DSLR and a high-end lens than a pro-level DSLR with a cheap, low-quality lens. Aug 18, 2014 at 3:39

1 Answer 1


My guess, what you are seeing is most likely the result of the better color detection and processing with the sensor and image data and the better depth of field provided by a high quality professional lens.

There is far, FAR more to image quality than simple resolution. The color accuracy of the sensor, the dynamic range, shadow detail, vibrancy and contrast of the processed image, the reduced amount of aberrations as a result of better optics, the better quality of out of focus parts of the image due to better aperture designs, the extra background blur as a result of wider open apertures, etc, etc, all impact the image quality substantially, especially for viewing on a screen.

Unless you are printing the image or zooming in on it, a 1080p HD camera has the same resolution as a DSLR when you are displaying it on a computer screen (since the computer screen itself likely doesn't display much more than 1080p, possibly even less). So for looking on a screen, the other factors are the only thing that matter and any professional camera will far outweigh it.

Also note that a good DSLR will beat the pants off even a high end video camera in terms of image quality for still images, but you need to have a good quality DSLR and a good quality lens to beat a professional quality video camera (at the 1080p kind of resolution).

You shouldn't expect the image quality to be better on a camera which costs, in total, less than some of the batteries for the massively more expensive video camera, but I'd put the still image quality of my 5D Mark iii and 24-70 f/2.8 II optics ($6,000 total) up against any $100,000 camcorder you want to bring out. Even for video, Arri cams will beat it, but shooting RAW footage, it's only a slightly noticeable difference to a professional eye between the RAW video that the 5D Mark iii ($3,500) can shoot versus footage from the $50,000 ARRI camera.

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