Choosing a Video Camera

Especially at the beginning of the school year, I'm often asked for a recommendation on video cameras. Students sometimes want to purchase their own for use in my class, or teachers want to buy cameras for their classes. I always begin by recommending to both that they figure out how much they want to spend and then look for the best camera in that price range. To this end, both Amazon and CamcorderReview.Com are useful resources. Amazon is a bit easier to navigate, and I find customer reviews often more insightful and practical than professional reviews. Camcorder Review.Com organizes its cameras buy price, brand, and media- a fantastic way of breaking down your various options. That being said, here are my personal choices for consumer camcorders, by price.

Low End: $100-$400 range
Mid Range: $400-800 range
High End: $800-1200 range

Low End: Sanyo's Xacti
Forget the Flip.

Sanyo's Xacti camera has three things going for it that make it a better buy:
1) Removable storage: With the flip you're locked into 120 minutes. Although that's more than enough for most people, with the Xacti you can swap out SD cards.
2) The Xacti goes under water. It works up to 5 feet under water, great for swimming pools or snorkeling. Word of caution though- if you use it in salt water, you must clean it by soaking it in fresh water or the salt will corrode the insides. Found that out from a friend who will be a reader of manuals from now on, I suspect.
3) Its ergonomic. I have been waiting for a camera that actually fits comfortably in your hand for years. I don't know why this is such a difficult concept for camera manufacturers, but I long for the sort of handle that I had on my old 8mm and 16 mm camera. It just feels better in your hand. For a simple carry-around camera, its a great choice.

The drawback for this camera is that there is no external mic, and the mic that is included, like almost every other consumer camcorder, isn't that great. If you're teaching a video class, you'll probably want a camera with a mic jack. That brings us to:

Low End: Canon ZR Series

I'm including the Canon ZR series in this, although their cheaper models seem to have disappeared, but you can still get them refurbished or used on Amazon. These cameras are not great. Not by a long shot. They have terrible sound (with an audible buzz) and they are horrific in low light. So why am I recommending them? It comes down to this- with these cameras, your students have to be conscious of sound and light. They need to use an external microphone and plan our their lighting. Otherwise, their videos will look terrible. If you're teaching video and want to emphasize the importance of lighting and sound, this could be a useful little tool, especially if you're on a budget.

However, if you really want good sound and good light and have a little more money, take a look at...

Mid Range: Panasonic HDC-HS9

STOP. Before you take my recommendation for this camera, heed the following warning. I used to recommend the mid-range Panasonic cameras because they were a great deal for a 3 CCD camera. A short explanation; most consumer camcorders have one CCD that receives all the light, 3CCDs break the light up into red, blue, and green and give you a much better image. However, for one reason or another, they've dropped their external microphone jack. This is a deal-breaker for me, as I want my students to have good audio, and no on-camera mic will do. However, I haven't so far seen another camera in this price range with as good an image quality. The newer models also shoot at 24 frames per second which give the footage a filmic feel - that's a great addition, but not enough of an incentive for me to forget the whole missing mic jack thing. Camera prices have dropped recently though, so I'm not sure if I'd even recommend these anymore when you can spend just a little bit more and get a much better camera, like...

High End: Canon Vixia

With proper lighting, the kind of image you can get with the Canon HV Series looks nothing short of fantastic. These cameras have the 24 frames per second mode, HD, and an external mic jack. In addition a manual focus ring allows you to pull focus and grab some control over your depth of field. This is hands down the best consumer camcorder I've worked with.

It does occur to me that most of us put our orders in at the end of the year. I'll repost this with updates later in the year.

1 Comment:

  1. MTTC test said...
    Go to the shop match your requirements and features of camera. You will get the best one which you needed.

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