Which Video Camera is Best For You and the Task at Hand?
Digital video cameras come in all shapes and sizes and are everywhere these days:
- Mobile Phones
- Pro Digital Video Cameras
- Helmet Mounted
- Portable “Attach Anywhere”
- Spy Video Cameras
- Even in car bumpers!
With the sheer choice of video cameras available becoming greater all the time, how do you know which will do the job affectively for you?
Do you want to film your antics on the ski slopes of southern France or maybe record your wild days skydiving with mates from 14,000 feet? Maybe you want to create your own “how to” video for YouTube or to sell to the public? Maybe you simply want a high resolution, HD video camera to record forever your wonderful, growing family as time goes by!
Whatever you need a video camera for, it is important to buy the right one that will do the right job for you.
I personally love video, I always have ever since my photography tutor (at the age of thirteen) took our class to the local television studios in South East Kent.
We were allowed to use the TV cameras including headphones and then play with the mixing desk…I was in heaven but why oh why did no-one notice my love for all things visual back then in the early 1980’s! : (
Since then, I have always had some way of recording family events whether it be a stills camera or cine/video camera. I still have all that footage and all those photos to hopefully look at and reminisce over in years to come.
The digital video cameras I currently own include everything from the smallest helmet camera to a professional grade, High Definition Handycam:
- Contour HD Helmet Camera – HD 720p
- Panasonic Lumix FZ-38 – HD 720p
- Panasonic GH4 (4K Video)
- Sony HDR SR1 Handycam – HD 1080i (Interlaced)
- 2 x Canon EOS 5D Mark II – Up to HD 1080p
- Sony PMW EX1 – Up to 1080p
- 3 x Go Pro HD Hero’s
All of these camera suit me for different purposes.
For example, the Contour HD was absolutely perfect for my Enduro Africa trip back in 2009 where I had this strapped to my crash helmet for the duration (alongside the Panny FZ-38 which I also took), The Contour HD has a remarkably simple user interface with a single slider for switching video on and off.
Battery life is pretty good and it takes the micro SD cards which can now hold up to 8 hours of HD footage. It has a lot of accessories that will allow it to be placed on your crash helmet, bike handlebars, car window…anywhere and as I found, it is pretty tough and robust!
I also used it for various “artistic” shots at a wedding where I may strap it to the bouquet before it is thrown.
Panasonic Lumix FZ-38
The Panasonic Lumix FZ-38 is now old but great for family occasions as it is so small and easy to operate. The footage is surprisingly good and the sound quality is amazing considering the size and cost of this camera. Check out some footage taken at the Roger Waters “The Wall” concert below:
This camera has now been upgraded to the cool Panasonic FZ
Apple iPod Touch 4G
Who would have thought years ago, that an MP3 player would be capable of producing High Definition video? Crazy!
The stills camera in the (now ageing) iPod Touch 4G is awful at best but the video actually produces pretty good and acceptable footage. Great for taking to a gig or party where you need something that will simply slip into your pocket or handbag. With later models, the quality has improved substantially.
Sony HDR SR1
The Sony HDR SR1 has been my family’s camera of choice for over 7 years and has performed flawlessly in all that time. I have an underwater housing for it and the quality is good enough to be sold as stock (many clips sold to date). It was groundbreaking at the time of release as it used new compression codec’s that meant the footage took up a lot less hard disk space. It also had a built in hard drive and instant Blu Ray burn button.
On top of that, the manual ring on the lens allowed me to manually control exposure and focus and it had the ability to accept external microphones…all essential for me to get the best from this camera.
You can see some sample clips from this cool Handycam here (best viewed in HD):
Canon EOS 7D
The second of my DSLR’s (now sold) to have video functionality was the Canon EOS 7D. Whilst the footage didn’t live up to its older sibling, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, it was still pretty good. I used the 7D at 720p at 60 frames per second for shooting wedding footage. This allowed me to slow the footage down to 24fps when rendering which gave it a smooth, slow motion effect which is great to use in the slideshows.
On top of this, the camera is also a very nice DSLR in its own right. You can see some footage samples below:
Canon EOS 5D Mark II
The Canon 5D Mark II was one of the most ground breaking and amazing camera made when released and I don’t think Canon realised what they had produced when they made this camera! Its video features were used on many high profile television shows, series and movies both in the UK and the USA including Iron Man 2!
It’s small size, amazingly clear, low light HD quality and stunning Bokeh (quality of blur at large apertures or shallow depth of field) made it a winner for many DOP’s (Directors of Photography).
I simply love the footage from this camera and again, have produced and sold clips from this camera as stock through various online stock agencies. You can see a few sample clips below (again, best in HD):
Sony PMW EX1
Finally, my beloved Sony PMW EX1!
I still love this camera. It was originally bought to film the Wedding Photography Blueprint DVD’s but I now use it for all my tutorial videos as well as shooting stock footage.
Again, on its release, it was a groundbreaking HD video camera in that it housed exceptional quality controls producing exceptional footage (good enough for broadcast by the likes of National Geographic) from such a small, fixed lens camera.
I won’t go into too much detail about this digital video cameras features but let’s just say it has a lot! One of my favourites being the time lapse feature where I can take a photo every 1, 2, 3, 5, 99 or whatever seconds for as long as I want and then play it back at normal speed instantly through the camera.
The low light and normal quality is very high end and the accessories it will take make it perfect for what I need. This camera has also been used as a B-Roll camera on many a movie and TV production.
Below you can see some sample footage from both this camera and the Canon EOS 5D Mark II…very similar in quality but the Canon EOS 5D cost around £1600 whereas the Sony PMW EX1 came in at over £5,000!
Lastly, my latest acquisition is the amazing Panasonic GH4 which shoots 4k video at variable frame rates and the lovely Go Pro HD Hero 4 which also shoots 4k. More on this soon…
So, what is good for you?
I hope the above helps you to firstly make the choice about which “style” of camera you need and then you can set about choosing one of many digital video cameras within your budget that will satisfy your needs. Check out the reviews at Amazon for the various cameras below as a good place to start.