Okay, so I'm a young A/V tech, and I'm looking into picking up some equipment for video recording. The guy who is mentoring me said that for the kind of work I do, which is primarily speaking events indoors, with varied lighting, I want a camera with at least ½" sensor.

The Canon XA20 Professional Camcorder seemed to be the best choice for the money, but then I got thinking, phones have come a long way, so when I looked it up, the Samsung Galaxy S6 has a ½" sensor and is capable of shooting 2160p@30fps or 1080p@60fps video, which compared to the camcorders 1080 @ 59.94p seems like it's pretty good, minus the fact that you can't get the same zoom on the phone.

So for the same price of the camcorder, I could pick up two S6s plus accessories and ask for roughly the same price or less that the camcorder with no accessories.

Am I missing anything here? Would love to hear what I'm missing being an amateur and all. If anyone would have a better suggestion on how to maximise our invest my money, I'd love to hear them. Thanks in advance.

Edit 1: Okay, so to add some clarity, I was just asking about video. My experience is almost completely in audio, and I always use separate equipment for that. Also, when I'm talking about speaking events, I'm currently only dealing with small groups under 75 people, so I can get the cameras pretty close to the speakers without intruding on the group's attention. My only major issue to date is lack of lighting.

2 Answers 2


There are a few things you are missing, and a few more you just aren't fully appreciating how much of a difference the things you mentioned make.

First, the S6 sensor is not over 1/2 inch, it is 1/2.6 inch, which is substantially smaller than a 1/2 inch sensor, particularly since sensors are measured diagonally.

Second, lenses matter a lot more than the sensor. The inability to zoom optically is a deal breaker for what you are trying to do with covering speaking events. Typically, video is a secondary concern to a live audience and camera positions will be far off to avoid impacting visibility. Without strong optics, you will not be able to get the footage you need.

Third, most (all?) cellphones do not use a global shutter, while most camcorders do. Global shutters ensure that an entire frame is captured at the same time instead of scanning line by line while the frame is exposing. The lack of a global shutter results in the "jello" effect that you can see when you pan a camera quickly. Global shutter is a bit less of a concern for fixed camera position shooting at a relatively static target, but it is still work mentioning.

Forth, reliability. Smartphones are more likely to crash than a stand alone video camera, they are subject to recording length limits that may interfere with your recordings. They will have lower battery life while shooting which may also cause issues and the S6 in particular does not have a replaceable battery at all, so when you are out of juice, you are done unless you have an external battery pack that can keep up with sufficient juice. Even then, it's a disadvantage to the much more compact battery placement directly on a camcorder.

Fifth, stability. While you can get tripod mounts for a smartphone, camcorders are built from the ground up to support tripod mounting in a secure way. You can work around that on the smart phone with complicated cases and mounting systems, but those also drive up the cost. When shooting off a tripod, camcorders also still have a stability advantage. You can hold them up to your eye and form a 3 point support that is easily held steady. Accomplishing the same with a phone would require expensive rigging running up in to hundreds or possibly over $1000 unless you want to try to do custom fabrication yourself.

There are probably a few other things I'm missing too as I've just been writing these from what has come to mind as I go. Smartphones are up to the point where they can make a pretty decent (though less durable and more expensive) alternative to a go pro, but they are really not an alternative for a camcorder by any stretch of the imagination.

  • Okay, thanks. Following up on that, what exactly is the difference between ½" and 1/2.6"? I should know this, but my mind is drawing a blank. Commented Jul 11, 2015 at 18:27
  • .3846 inches diagonally instead of .5, and actually, it sounds like the article I read may have been wrong. Other sources are saying it is only a 1/3 inch sensor, which means it's only .3333 inches diagonally. This chart gives length and width measurements. As you can see, the area of a 1/2 inch sensor is 30.72 square mm. Comparatively, a 1/3 inch sensor only is 17.28 square centimeters, so it is almost half the size.
    – AJ Henderson
    Commented Jul 11, 2015 at 21:05
  • Okay, well I saw some even more expensive professional camcorders for the same price or more and they only had ⅓" sensor. So an I still losing out going with a phone, assuming I can get rid of the power issue? Commented Jul 11, 2015 at 21:34
  • Yes. The rest of my post goes over quite a few reasons. Not the least of which is optics. Don't use a phone, just don't. It isn't suited to the task at all.
    – AJ Henderson
    Commented Jul 11, 2015 at 23:11

Apart from all the reasons mentioned already by Henderson, the sound quality from the mobile phone will be awful compared to a professional video camera.

Attempting to record speaking events with a mobile phone is a very difficult decision.

You can get for about 500 dollars a tripod, a camcorder and a lavalier microphone which is ok for a speaking event.

  • 1
    Ehh, in either case you really want to do your audio recording separately for best results, so I wouldn't really define the audio as a significant drawback, though you are right that the built in audio on a camera will be better. It's just a bit like saying a car that lets you go 5 miles an hour is better than having to crawl everywhere, neither really gets the job done well.
    – AJ Henderson
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 16:49
  • True, but the original poster mentioned nothing about separate audio, so I think that it is important to mention it as well.
    – kazanaki
    Commented Jul 11, 2015 at 16:20
  • Yeah, certainly worth mentioning, it just wouldn't be a deciding factor for me personally, just because neither would produce an acceptable result for my tastes, but I agree it is still worth pointing out.
    – AJ Henderson
    Commented Jul 11, 2015 at 16:44
  • The iPhone has 3 microphones, but only uses 1 for audio recording. Yes, *mono audio!.*
    – neverMind9
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 12:06

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