I’m curently reviewing available “prosummer” camcorders. On the lower end side, there is always a problem in the area of manual controls and audio support.

The latest panasonic model provide a multiusage lens ring. Some provide a knob that can be used for one manual feature at a time (sony). Some only provide a touche screen or confusing menus. That’s not how it works in either a pro or amateur scenario. The controls are either there and accessible or they are not used or usable in a live situation.

However, there is a simple solution to that problem, and I suspect manufacturer are not doing this because they know their lower end products are “good enough” for some pro usage image quality wise.

Here is my take on this problem. Engineers, please listen.

– always provide a lens ring for the critical manual focus (especialy in HD)
– provide three knobs on the camcorder, and allow users to define what they are used for in the menus. Some will use knob 1 for apperture, knob 2 for gain, knob 3 for zoom speed, wathever. Some other will use knob 1 for left audio channel, knob 2 for right, etc…
– Provide sane default for those knobs : aperture, audio level (both channels at the same time), shutter speed (this is only an example)
– provide audio LINE input if you only provide a jack input. Allow the user to choose in the menu either mic in with AGC and line input without AGC. This way users will be able to use an xlr apapter for professional audio and won’t have problem of AGC or mic level input ruining the connection. There is also lot less interferences using line level signals.

The latest panasonic camcorders (those with lens ring) with those additional knobs, line audio input and a beachtek or juicedlink xlr adaptor would be a killer combination for prossumer use, at a fraction of the cost of other solutions.

We can always dream, isn’t it ?