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The Digital Director Experience: Video Editing Fundamentals

What camera should you buy?

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If there's been one constant in my ten years of running this site, it's been the question, "what's the best camera". (And you can tell we're not as trendy as those DSLR sites, as we rarely get asked what's the best lens.) I can see the logic behind the question. After all, camera's aren't cheap and you'll want to get the best value. But it exposes that age old misconception: you need good gear to get great video.The real question you should be asking isn't what's the best, but "how much should I pay?". And how much you should pay is based on two things how much you can afford, and what group you belong to. It's something I like to describe as your socio-videographic status.It's likely you'll fit into one of the for categories below: enthusiast, prosumer, filmmaker and broadcaster. Knowing your socio-videographic group, will give you a great start to knowing what camera's for you.

  • Enthusiast

You film for fun, whether that's holidays, sports or nature.
You've got limited gear, but what limited you have is well used and probably seen better days.
Hopefully you'll get new gear if you can find the money.
You like to enter contests, but it's a all a bit of fun.

  • Prosumer

You've spend far too much money over the last few years (and earn a lot less from your video work than you spend).
You probably spend almost as much time talking about video than actually filming and your equipment is in pristine condition (some of your gear's only been used a few times).
You've got a Vimeo account, but probably haven't uploaded a video there for at least a year. The last video you uploaded probably had "test" in the title.
You really should put some of your kit on eBay.

  • Filmmaker

You've entered at least one festival in the last year.
You spend a frustrating amount of time with actors.
You've got a showreal and it's upto date.

  • Broadcaster

Video is your main source of income and you're a;ways buying new bits of kit to keep up with tech.
You haven't updated your showreal in years. You think you probably should.

I see myself as an enthusiast, but I've flirted with being a prosumer over the years. It's probably the biggest group, but not very well represented on the web. Prosumer's and Filmmakers have the biggest presence, with a significant number regularly posting on blog, forums, twitter and facebook. The Broadcasters tend to keep themselves to themselves. The number of filmmakers and prosumers on the web is significant: so much is written by these groups, it's hard for us ethusiasts to find a voice or learn what we need. So, what's the best cameras for each group?

Let's start with the enthusiast. It's likely budget will be a big part of the decision, but this shouldn't be a problem. 500 will get you a decent video camera and anything from Panasonic, Sony or Canon at this price point will give you great results. I advise against going for an iphone, Go Pro or similar as these aren't designed for what you need. A proper camcorder will have image stabilisation, optical zoom, automatic focus and great ergonomics. They fit neatly in your hand, are small enough to fit in a coat pocket and simple enough for anyone to use. These are really important aspects for an enthusiast that doesn't want to spend vital minutes setting up the camcorder. It also means you can pass the camcorder to your friends and family for some point and shoot action. For this reason, and unless you're a keen photographer, I recommend you avoid a DSLR.

The semi-pro will start to look at cameras around 1,000 to 2,000. They want full manual controls and will likely have two camcorders: a high end model which is used for their occasional paid work, and either a DSLR or cheaper model for filming family and friends. Although the main camera is unlikely to be a DSLR, they will have a number of lenses but one or two only will be used. Some of these might be antique lenses which they paid more for than a modern lens. The filmmaker will almost certainly own a high end DSLR camera or two cheaper DSLRs. Although the camera is a big part, they'll likely have spent just as much on accessories such as a field monitor, glidetrack and camera housing. The camera was likely second hand. Lenses will also play a big part in their buying decisions, but a lot of these will likely be second hand from eBay or they'll rent when needed. Vintage lenses were likely picked up at bargain prices.

The broadcaster's decision is dictated by what their clients need. There's not really much choice here.

Which one are you?

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Updated 04-27-2013 at 04:04 PM by Marc Peters

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  1. vaservicesph's Avatar
    This is a good information and thanks for sharing.

    If you're into video marketing purposes and not on producing "music video" and other of the same type., then you don't need an expensive camera to produce high quality videos.

    I just wanted to share some good content from James Wedmore about the camera he recommends and here it is: HD Video Camera for Your YouTube Videos - YouTube

    You might also want to browse his video editing tip here: Video Editing (for non-editors) - YouTube

    Hope that helps too! Thank you everyone!

  2.'s Avatar
    Great thoughts from vaservicesph.

    We are actually a professional online video service provider that specializes in making engaging and affordable Animated Explainer Videos, Demo Videos, Whiteboard Animation Videos. So we really don't use fancy and expensive cameras to do the job.

    Have a great day to all of you!!
  3. TonyBR's Avatar
    He he he.... the Prosumer description was made after you spent a few minutes on one of those posh-techy forums perhaps??? :D I love the guys who owns T3s but knows (and barks) all the specs of all RED models!!! :D
  4. zenithcinematography's Avatar
    Thanks for sharing such a valuable information. Explaining use of camera categories-wise and also explain a proper camcorder will have image stabilization, optical zoom, automatic focus and great ergonomics.
  5. Thejigsaw's Avatar
    This article is fantastic. The tips and tactics you have written the article are mind-blowing.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Video Production
    Corporate Film Makers