So you want to buy a camera ?
We have never had it so good! Have we?
One of the most common questions on this forum is what to buy, and in some ways we are lucky, there is so much to choose from, but unfortunately the hype, blather and bare faced bullshit has multiplied ever faster than the choices available—it’s a minefield and knowing who or what to take as Gospel, obvious it aint. My own opinionated blather follows.
First piece of advice—Don’t buy a camera. Are you really sure you want / need that bauble of consumer fetishism or is that 600 quid miracle destined to do little more than film every thing you do for a week only to join your George Foreman Grill and foot spa in the back of a cupboard?
Second pearl of wisdom—Don’t get a new camera, seek out people who ignored the advice given above. My last purchase was a ‘pro’ JVC ( £7000 new) with 100 hours on the drum ( think car odometer, typical service interval 1500 hours) and the geezer only used it on full auto, to you John—£1400 .
Third oubliette of truth—REAL cameras use tapes. We are talking cameras that cost less than £4000 new. And here is how…
DVD—Data more compressed, poor shock protection, sometimes fiddly to edit, media fragile.
Hard Drive cameras— Data even more compressed, dam fussy to edit, drives get full and breaks easy.
Sd card cameras— Often just toys, data even more compressed.
Tape is an ultra reliable mature format that just didn't need replacing, all these formats are just daft marketing hype. And as for instant capture? More marketing twaddle innit… you have to watch the dam footage a plethora of times edit it—doh!
Third catchy catechism—Don’t be a pixel whore. Lord Litchfield ( a dead photographer the queen liked) held that you only needed a 2 megapixel camera to take good still pictures, so long as the glass was good. You may want a camera with lots of daft stickers on ( 1080p, HDV, vibrovision, superluxobigcokocam ) but what you really need is a good lens and that will always cost.
Pixels matter jack shit below two grand so don't count them, kick the sticker habit and a dazzling vista of great used deals come your way as mooks with cash and a sticker obsession unload their DV gear for the latest acronym. Do yourself a favour—get a decent used XL1 or PD170, it’ll spank the pants of most sub £1000 new hdv cameras in most filming situations, except still life.
Fourth tragic truism— Lower zoom is BETTER. Long zooms are all but unusable without a very good tripod and good for nothing except looking a naked girls (or boys) through bathroom windows. A 20 times zoom is daft on a consumer camera and a lens that is less ambitious will produce a better picture.
Fifth ranting reality— Specs are irrelevant, ignore them. I am constantly amazed that people buy cameras without trying them out. Would you buy a car without driving it? Course not. How a camera feels is the important thing, not the Mhz of it’s injector manifold. And if some one tells you something about a certain camera the chances are they are wrong unless they own it.