ESSENTIAL GEAR is a regular feature produced in collaboration with StudioDaily’s exclusive retail partner, Adorama. 

They’re not quite as sexy as high-end cinema cameras, but affordable 4K/UHD camcorders are the industry’s workhorses these days, capturing plenty of footage while helping keep a wide array of different production styles and genres on schedule and under budget. Here are two leaders in the category that can be had in the $3,000 range — a steal! — plus a more expensive upgrade option from Sony that’s been embraced by a lot of documentary-style shooters.

Canon XF405

Canon’s XF405, reviewed here in September, delivers 4K 60p UHD images with a 15x zoom, great low-light performance and HD-SDI output. Targeted at shooters who need to acquire high-quality UHD footage on a budget, and are willing to navigate a bit of a learning curve to figure out the camera’s many buttons and switches, the XF405 is a mid-priced option with a lot of flexibility for different kinds of jobs. The next step up, the just-released XF705, adds a lot of features but, at twice the price, shows what a good deal the XF405 really is.

Learn more about the Canon XF405 camcorder at Adorama | SHOP NOW

Panasonic AG-UX180

Panasonic AG-UX180 camcorder

The Panasonic AG-UX180, reviewed here, is a workhorse for documentary and event shooters. It can capture 4K at up to 24p and UHD at up to 60p, with an option to capture full HD at up to 120fps for slow motion and HD-SDI output. With a solid 20x zoom lens, built-in ND filtering and excellent focus assist, it can get the right perspective on a subject while keeping it in focus, and it’s well balanced to reduce operator fatigue.

Learn more about the Panasonic AG-UX180 camcorder at Adorama | SHOP NOW


Sony FS5 II camcorder

Sony updated a modern classic this year (we reviewed the original FS5 here) with a sequel: the PXW-FS5 II. Building on the base of the original PS5, which our reviewer called “a pro-style camcorder that’s as easy to operate as a Handycam,” the updated version comes with some more refined color science, additional high-frame-rate shooting modes — up to 240fps of cache recording (eight seconds) in full HD — and Sony’s Instant HDR workflow for live HLG production.

Learn more about the Sony PXW-FS5 II camcorder at Adorama | SHOP NOW