Digital Video Cameras
Which video camera is best for you?
Digital video cameras come in all shapes and sizes and are everywhere these days:
The sheer choice of video cameras available is becoming greater all the time. How do you know which will do the job effectively for you?
Do you want to film your antics on the ski slopes of southern France? Maybe record your wild days skydiving with mates from 14,000 feet? Perhaps you want to create your own "how to" video for YouTube or to sell to the public? Maybe you simply want a high resolution, 4K video camera to record forever your wonderful, growing family as time goes by!
Whatever you need a video camera for, buy the right one that works 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 did no-one notice my love for photo and video 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. Here I am in 1985 on the day of Live Aid. I was filming my grandparent's golden wedding anniversary from the roof. However, that footage was lost when my father taped over it with a western movie!!!
The digital video cameras I currently own include everything from the smallest helmet camera to a professional grade, High Definition Handycam.
My current list of video cameras
All of these camera suit me for different purposes except for my very old ones (not listed). Those are now
book ends ornaments in my office!
As at 2021, the top 2 are the ones I use the most. The amazing Panasonic S1H for up to 6K RAW video and some stills. My aging but still more than lovely Panasonic GH5 for superb 400mbps 10-bit 4K video. The drones are all good for 4K video and high quality stills.
Below are some of my favourite aerial clips using my now dead DJI Inspire 1. The poor thing died at sea whilst filming an advert in December 2020:
Sample, and More Recent Panasonic S1H Footage
One early, overcast morning I was inspired by a photo my wife took of some wheat in our garden. I grabbed the Panny with 105mm macro lens and spent an hour filming it...
Dedicated Digital Video Cameras
Let's start at the higher end. These are the cameras that are broadcast quality. The types that are used for Netflix and BBC programmes. Sadly, they come in at premium prices too. Take the beautiful PMW-FX9 for example...
Priced at nearly around £10k body only, it is a lot of money. However, you get a lot of bang for your buck including:
The reason I say "like my S1H or Panny's above is this. The GH5 and S1H are significantly cheaper than the Sony above. There are obviously other differences but for the average Joe wanting to shoot amazing quality video, you don't need to break the bank!
Anyway, this isn't a review page so I will leave it there. I'll just say that you should only look at these pro cameras if you work needs it. To be honest, there are way smaller cameras at much lower prices that come close to this quality.
DSLR vs Mirrorless
If you could see on a 4K monitor, the footage from the Panasonic GH5, 400mbps, 10-bit, 4K, or the S1H, you would be amazed. I can almost guarantee that most people couldn't tell the difference between that and the FX9 above. Especially when using Canon's L glass like I do. However, the Lumix S1H costs around £3000 and the GH5 comes in at less than £1200 right now (2021)! Still a GREAT buy.
Panasonic broke the mold with the GH4/5 as they produce stunning 4K footage for a very reasonable price. I absolutely love my GH5 and use it a lot (still and video).
Canon on the other hand just can't seem to get it right. I own the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV but only for stills and the occasional video. It's 4K video is great quality but a pain to work with. The worst thing for me though is the rolling shutter. It can make clips 100% unusable and the file sizes are huge and heavy going to work with.
Only recently (2018), they released their first 4K mirrorless camera, the M50, and to be honest it is a bit of a let down. It has some nice features including a fully articulating screen but I can't help feeling it is a bit behind the times already.
I don't think it is anywhere near the quality of other 4K video cameras in this bracket. However, it is priced at around $800 so not all bad.
At the higher end, the Sony A9 ($4,400) and recently released Sony A7 III ($2,000) are stunning. Too much to go into here but I can see myself migrating to Sony in the future. It is so tough out there kids!
Canon Can (2021)!
Since writing this, Canon have release the mirrorless Canon EOS R5 (just under £4k). A veritable beast of a camera shooting
- 45MP full-frame Dual Pixel CMOS sensor
- 8K video, with option for Raw or 10-bit 4:2:2 C-log or HDR PQ
- Up to 4K/120p
Stunning and well worth a look if you are serious about shooting video.
Digital Video Cameras and You
So, what video camera is good for you? There are new cameras being released all the time with more and more advanced features. Sony seem to be taking the video world by storm with their amazing sensors but don't be put off. Don't wait for the next best camera. Try not to be dazzled by all this tech. Simply work out what you need and find the right camera to suit those needs. Failing that, just work with what you already have!
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.