Major Differences between a Consumer and Professional Movie Camera

Many independent artists mix different types of devices or even use only amateur movie cameras for low-budget, artistic projects, instead of a professional movie camera. Nowadays, a great movie can be shot even with a consumer movie camera. However, before choosing the right technique for a project, you should first be aware of the differences between consumer and professional movie cameras.

First of all, you should know that professional movie cameras are generally divided into two main sub-types: high end portable recording cameras and studio cameras, which are fixed on pedestals. The other main differences between consumer and professional movie cameras are as follows.

Size and Weight

Professional cameras are much bigger and heavier and are designed to be supported by the cameraman's shoulder, which is an important feature when very short-distance movements are required. The camera body provides a smoother control and the cameraman's hand is free to control the zoom, where smaller consumer cameras are prone to shakes as it is handheld.

Settings and Adjustment

While consumer movie cameras are designed to adapt to personal skills of the user, professional cameras' automatic adjustments can be completely disabled. When using a professional camera, good skills with lighting, white balance, focus, colors and more, are required, as all these adjustments are made manually. To the contrary, most consumer cameras support a “smart” mode, in which the device sets the settings itself, according to the footage. The lens of the professional camera can be operated remotely only in a studio environment--in all other situations it is accessed manually.

Recording Format

The most spread and standard methods of recording are the Betacam, DVCPRO, Direct-to-disc-recording and flash memory. Flash memory and Direct-to-disc-recording provide you with much higher rates than those used in consumer cameras. This means less compression and, therefore, higher quality.


In professional cameras, a filter wheel is located behind the lens to provide access to neutral density filters. On professional cameras, options like audio, white/black balance and color bar select are hard physical switches. Consumer cameras have all these controls accessible through an interface, stored in menus, in order to gain physical space on the body of the camera, and thus make it smaller. For the user's comfort, regardless of the manufacturer, all professional cameras have the control knobs and switches on the same places on the device body.

Charge-Coupled Devices

A huge advantage of the professional movie cameras is that they use three separate charge-coupled devices (CCDs), instead of one, as it is in consumer cameras. A CC device is meant to respond to a particular primary color. 3CCDs also have a higher quantum efficiency, which means a higher light sensitivity. These three CCDs have interchangeable lenses in professional cameras.