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Thread: Best cheap camcorder/dslr for talking heads, vox pops etc.? Budget 300-500

  1. #1

    Default Best cheap camcorder/dslr for talking heads, vox pops etc.? Budget 300-500

    A friend of mine makes videos for the community charity he works for and has asked me to recommend a camera. His current videos have had audio issues and I'm loathe to recommend him a dslr as he would likely need an external mic. He said he has 300 but he can make a case for more if need be. I suspect he can't stretch beyond 500 which is less than a 550d and a lens, let alone an external mic.

    The camera guy at work said we use canon hf-m32 for stuff like that, but at 800, that's too dear. Would there be something a little cheaper someone could suggest? He doesn't need 1080p or anything fancy. The videos are mostly for internal presentations and youtube.

    A directional mic and face detection would probably be big plusses, however.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Surrey, UK
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    Whatever he gets, he'll want an external mic. Built in is not suitable for anything except ambient sound or sysncing up sound which was recorded separately. If the interviewees are amenable and he can get them to speak one at a time, by far the cheapest solution, for much, much, much better results than the built-in camera mic, is a lavalier (tie clip) mic. An Audio Technical ATR35s will cost about 17. Of course the camera needs a mic input.

    A "directional" mic is all very well (even if you could afford cam + mic) but still needs to be held as close to the source as possible.

    Have you considered spending the money on an external digital audio recorder. The Zoom H1 and H2 have excellent (compared to on-board) mics and you could always plug in an external one if you need. A bit of work in post to sync the sounds up, but no big deal.

    Assuming the video part of his camera is OK, this is the way I would go - and this kit will still be useful later if he upgrades the cam.

  3. #3


    Many thanks for your response, Tim.

    Yeah I looked into those zoom H1's and they're a real winner but as it would have to be me syncing the audio and video in post and we have a quick turnaround, that's not ideal. Maybe, I should have been more specific, so here goes.

    The plan is to get vox pops of people attending various community events from monday to thursday and then I will edit the video on the friday for us to present at a final event on friday evening. Video/audio syncing, clapperboards etc are probably overkill given the timescale I've got. The tie clip will also not be practical since he's really just snatching quick soundbytes of people's reactions. His last camera has altogether broken anyways, I think. I don't think he really minded the sound quality but a dslr would likely be a step-down in that regard and that's definitely the biggest letdown with the similar stuff he's filmed so far, so I thought best to get a newer camera with external mic/directional sound.

    I have been unable to find any camcorders with onboard directional mics. There is the "zoom mic" but that only works when you zoom in, so its not the same as a conventional bullet mic. As far as cheap camcorders with an external mic input go, I'm currently looking at:

    Panasonic SD90 for HD 380-ish
    Canon FS200 for SD 180-ish

    and leaving the HD/SD decision up to him. I'm sure there are HD ones that are better value and SD ones that are better quality, but I've only just narrowed it down to a camcorder with an external mic after deciding a d3100 or sony alpha nex-3 won't be as easy to hold.

    I am sure the directional mic via 3.5mm jack will be an acceptable trade-off for the simplicity of having audio/video baked into one file.

    I am tempted by a zoom H1 for my 550d but that's a different story.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Surrey, UK
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    OK. Gotcha.
    After event sound bites sounds like a potentially noisey environment, so really you'd want a hand held mic to get closer to the source than the camera might be. This then introduces the problem of handling noise - and I woudn't know what to suggest anyway. Something like the Rode Videomic might work, if you're careful, though I'm not a fan of the sound of it. All the interviews in this were recorded using one held just outside (and occasionally creeping into!) shot. I simply used a 3.5mm jack/jack extension cable.

    Whilst there's some background noise (people talking etc) no one is really in close proximity to the the interviewee so this isn't a true picture of what your mate might achieve, but it hopefully gives you some idea of the benefirs and limitations of a 70 mic.

  5. #5


    Cheers, Tim.

    That sounds vastly better than what we'd ever hope for. I think I will either buy one of those for myself and then lend it to him or get a cheapo Hama equivalent (35 quid on amazon) and hold it out rather than shoe-mount it.

    Thanks for all your help and suggestions.

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