Need recommendations for a video camera

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by pukifloyd, Jan 21, 2015.

  1. pukifloyd macrumors 6502a


    Jun 25, 2008
    hello people! I hope this is the right forum for this!

    A friend of mine wants a video camera, and asked me to help her. She wants to shoot both indoors and outdoors, and have clear video with high level of detail. She wants to upload the videos on YouTube, so I think 4K will be pretty much useless as most of the world doesn't use it. The audio recording needs to be good too.

    Her budget is about $500 for everything.

    Any recommendations? I saw a couple of highly rated cameras on BestBuy for less than $300, but I don't know what to look for in a video camera. Any help would be appreciated.

    Thanks :)
  2. bookwormsy macrumors 6502

    Jul 7, 2010
    What does she want to record? Off the top of my head, I would either go with a DSLR that does video, or a GoPro. A DSLR can only record around a half hour continuously before the sensor gets hot, but you have the advantages of a DSLR, namely the interchangeable lenses. This is what I use (Sony A57), because I only shoot short clips (<5 min a clip). Speeches, or clips for a music video is what i record. If she wants to record an event, she'd want a dedicated camcorder.

    A GoPro is nice because it's in her price range and has a bunch of accessories for different occasions. Doesn't necessarily have to be action-y. The issue is that it's a wideangle lense. No zooming, and it'll have a fisheye look unless she changes the settings to a narrow FOV. A GoPro 4 Silver would probably be her best bet in this case (comes with an LCD screen built in).

    I don't have any recommendations for a dedicated camcorder, unfortunately.
  3. handsome pete macrumors 68000

    Aug 15, 2008
    I wouldn't recommend either of those to someone looking for a video camera. Granted, we need to hear more about how this person intends to use it, but I'm willing to guess that a dedicated video camera is a safe bet. And this is coming from someone that shoots a lot of video with a DSLR and GoPro.
  4. bookwormsy macrumors 6502

    Jul 7, 2010

    Why do you say that?
  5. handsome pete macrumors 68000

    Aug 15, 2008
    Again, I'm looking at this as if it's for someone requesting info for a dedicated video camera. Unless we're provided with more info that changes that assumption.

    The GoPro is a great little camera. I own one and I own a chunk of stock in the company, so I'm hardly against it by any means. But as a dedicated video camera it's just not comparable to your standard camcorder type camera. Where it excels is at being the tiny little sport camera that you can slip in your pocket, attach to countless mounts, objects, etc., submerge underwater and so on. Simply put, it's a great action camera. But that's what it's designed for. Where it comes up short in the "video camera" department is that you're set with a fixed wide angle lens, no viewfinder (although the new silver has an LCD), small sensor which means poor low light performance, poor audio, limited menu system, and so on.

    DSLRs have also been a great boon for the filmmaking community and I've been shooting with them for the past 4 or 5 years now. But despite how much they've improved as video cameras, they still pale in comparison to dedicated video cameras. After all, their primary function remains as a still camera. The ergonomics are still off, poor on board sound, requires more skill to grab focus and keep still, the kit lenses are often poor for video, and so on. So you can reasonably enter the DSLR for video market for $500, but you should easily expect that figure to increase to really make it useable for video use. However with the big sensor, and a good low aperture lens they're hard to beat in the low light category. And they do capture some stunning video when done right.

    When it comes down to it, if someone is asking for recommendations for a video camera, it's hard to beat what you can find in the packages an actual video camera offers. So unless the specialty use that the options above provide are what is actually needed, then I'd look elsewhere.
  6. boch82 macrumors 6502

    Apr 14, 2008

    I've been saying this for a long time now. Each type of camera has a place, but for true video nothing beats a dedicated camera.
  7. bookwormsy macrumors 6502

    Jul 7, 2010

    What would you recommend?
  8. boch82 macrumors 6502

    Apr 14, 2008
    I primary shoot with a Sony EX-3. Its been my go to camera for about 5 years now. But its probably way out of the OPs price range.

    I just put together a package for a colleague with a canon vixia. Decent camera for the price and with the cold show bracket you can add lights and external mics. For the price you cant beat it. But in the end you get what you pay for.
  9. bookwormsy macrumors 6502

    Jul 7, 2010
    See, that's why I'm advocating for the DSLR. I have a Sony A57. It came with a 18-55 kit lens. Not the greatest lens, but it works quite well for both video and photo. The onboard mic is decent, and you have the hot shoe adapted for LEDs or a shotgun mic. You also have the flexibility to buy lenses for whatever. I bought an old Minolta 50mm f/1.4 for about $50 a few years ago. Works great. It really does have great quality.
  10. rodedwards macrumors member

    Jul 7, 2010
    iPhone 6 !

    The iPhone 6 actually has amazing video ... :D

    It can record 3k (using MoviePro app), has cinematic stabilization, exposure control, fast autofocus and would be a great introduction to the whole process of video. You can even make phone calls with it ! ;)

    A dslr is fine, but you don't have much budget to play with and without stabilization or tripod you'll be disappointed with the results.
  11. handsome pete macrumors 68000

    Aug 15, 2008
    Much like the GoPro, you're saddled with a fixed focal length, smaller sensor (ie. bad for low light), and poor audio. Great to have with you on your phone, but not that great for someone specifically looking for shooting in low light situations and wants decent audio.
  12. bookwormsy macrumors 6502

    Jul 7, 2010
    All the recent DSLRs I I've seen have OIS built in.
  13. handsome pete macrumors 68000

    Aug 15, 2008
    Is that IS on the lens or body? I haven't been paying attention to the entry level models, but IS on DSLRs is usually a lens feature. If it's a body feature, does it work in video mode?

    IS aside, the ergonomics of DSLRs are still poor for video shooting without some sort of support to help steady the image.
  14. Apple fanboy macrumors Nehalem

    Apple fanboy

    Feb 21, 2012
    Behind the Lens, UK
    Don't Cannons have the IS on the body, and Nikons have it on the lens?
  15. v3rlon macrumors 6502a

    Sep 19, 2014
    Earth (usually)
    Would help to know more about what she was trying to film.

    Events (recitals, baseball games, weddings) where a long run time figures in may rule out some options.

    Canon Vixia series or Panasonic TMCs both are pretty good in low light, but that $500 price limit will test that. You may want to look for a good used one, especially if she is just starting out. Get as much manual control as you can.

    For more flexibility lens side, consider a Sony Nex5/6/7, but that will limit record times. You can get OIS lenses for the camcorders that use the same mounts, but they will get pricy fast. Get the 50mm/F1.8 and "zoom with your feet" for some pretty decent low-ish light work. Indoors, I use that lens on my VG-20 more than the 18-200 zoom.

    Audio on all camcorders sucks. All of them. Even $5000 ones. The camcorder is generally a rotten place to have a microphone. Invest in an Audio recorder like the Zoom H2 or Olympus OM11 or equivalent. Get even a $15 lapel mike and drop the audio recorder in a pocket.

    I have a Sony Nex VG-20 and a Nikon 7000 with a rode video mic. The best audio I get is off a lapel mike on the talent, and just use the audio from the camcorder to sync it up (which FCP X will do very easily for you most of the time).

    So -
    $15 lapel microphone (get a better one later as needed, plenty on amazon)
    $80 personal audio recorder
    ( ) I haven't used this one, but it should work.

    Pretty much leaves her $400 for a camera since you said she wanted decent audio.

    Now how much trouble does she want? The NEX 5 with a decent lens might squeeze under that budget in the used market, but will not be as easy as a Canon or Panasonic (at her price point, I like them better than JVC/Sony/anyone else).

    She could get a Vixa RF5x. The sensor is kind of small, and few manual controls, but long record times. Then shoot b-roll with iphone 6 or similar to give her two angles once she uses a tripod or trains a sidekick.


    I do not think Optical Image stabilization is in the body. I believe it has to be in the lens because of how it works. I know the sell IS lenses, so not all canon's have it.

    Anyway, a DSLR +decent lens would be a tough fit in a $500 budget requiring decent audio.
  16. bookwormsy macrumors 6502

    Jul 7, 2010
    I BELIEVE that Canon and Nikon have IS in the lens. However, I know that Sony has it in the body.
  17. v3rlon macrumors 6502a

    Sep 19, 2014
    Earth (usually)
    Image sensor based stabilization has issue with overheating while shooting video, so I read. Thus was used for stills more than video and appears to be on its way out of Sony. see this thread for example.

    I know I have to by OIS lenses for that feature on my Sony Camcorder.

    Either way, those are still >$500
  18. bookwormsy macrumors 6502

    Jul 7, 2010
    Oh wow. That sucks. I liked buying Minolta lenses for cheap on eBay.
  19. v3rlon macrumors 6502a

    Sep 19, 2014
    Earth (usually)
    Still can, just need to have steady hands, steadicam, or tripod. :)
  20. howardnow macrumors member

    Mar 29, 2004
    I'm a video editor and I use a several year old Panasonic camcorder for my own small projects.

    Unless your friend is a bit of a DLSR camera pro, I feel she will be better off with a dedicated camcorder. I have seen way too much video from DLSR's that look out of focus, have broken video from overheating and numerous sound problems. The footage can look great, but really takes a very good cinematographer with nice lenses using it properly for shorter runtimes.

    I recommend a camcorder with some manual controls (for advanced shots).
    Any camera you buy should include a mic input, headphone output, image stabilization and a shoe to mount a shotgun mic and/or a light. It's nice to have an eye cup type viewfinder, but these have become rare on camcorders (I find I barely ever use mine).

    $500 is a tight budget, but you can get last years model of any high rated camcorder to save money. I just looked it up and the Panasonic HC-V750 (last years model) can be bought online for $480 - $550 including shipping. Always research low cost sales vendor before buying, if you don't recognize their name.

    Last years Panasonic HC-V750 is a top rated camera with a 20x optical zoom lens (not interchangeable) and 5 types of hybrid stabilization. It's specs beat my older camera (which looks pretty good). Low light looks to be decent (youtube has videos) and you can check professional/user reviews. This years model is 4k (high resolution) but costs $800 (an amazing low price for 4k).

    Please note that slowly but surely for any camera you will need extra stuff. A camera case, extra battery, chargers, filters and external microphones (shotgun, etc.) There goes that budget, but you can get these things as needed.

    All the major brands (Sony, Canon, Panasonic) make good cameras and hopefully other people will chip in with their $500 camcorder ideas.
  21. martinX macrumors 6502a


    Aug 11, 2009
    ^^^ Everything Howardnow says, I agree with. I'm also a video editor who shoots small projects (mainly live events). I have an XA20 which cost a lot more than the budget mentioned, but Canon also has the G30 and it only lacks the XLR inputs of the XA20.

    Panasonic makes great small cameras, too. I'd steer clear of dSLRs unless they have a specific need for interchangeable lenses and are able to work around the limitations of the dSLRs.
  22. coldsweat macrumors 6502


    Aug 18, 2009
    Grimsby, UK
    Another in agreement with howardnow, go for a dedicated camcorder.

    DSLR's are great, but not for the casual or inexperienced Videographer - and by the way.....

    Canon/Nikon DSLR's have stabilisation in the lens only
    Sony E Mount cameras have stabilisation in the lens only (except the A7II - In Body)
    Sony A Mount Cameras have stabilisation in the body & only the early SLT models (A33/A55) were prone to overheating when used under normal conditions.
  23. v3rlon macrumors 6502a

    Sep 19, 2014
    Earth (usually)
    But still get a separate audio recorder, if you want good audio.

    This allows you to avoid the long mike wires and XLR inputs most of the time. Just listen to how camcorder audio sounds (even with a great mike) when the microphone is on the camcorder and said camcorder is 10 feet away from the speaker.

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