I’m looking to buy a camcorder for YM, a youth organization. Can you recommend some?
My requirements are; it has to be HD and it has to have input or boom microphone. What are some suggestions if our budget was; $300, $1000, and no budget restriction.
Speaking from a marketing perspective, this is a tough question to answer for someone else, especially with the wide budget range you’ve given me for a couple reasons.
Cameras are a means to an end
Your organization has specific business goals. I can give recommendations within the context of your goals, but I don’t know what what your organization’s goals are.
Take into consideration technical ability and capacity
It’s difficult to recommend a camera without knowing the technical ability and capacity of the organization or individual(s) who are responsible for producing content. With regards to technical capacity, I’m not just talking about knowing how to use the camera. In addition to the production process, you also have to keep in mind the editing process. More sophisticated cameras may require more sophisticated editing systems.
The simple answer
For the purposes of answering your question with simplicity, I’ll provide for you a framework of options.
I see cameras in one of three categories:
- Consumer grade “point and shoot” – between $250 and $900
- Semi-pro HD-DSLR – between $900 and $10,000
- Professional digital cinema – between $10,000 and $50,000
For the purposes of answering your question, I’m going to assume that you don’t have the budget nor the technical ability to use the professional digital cinema cameras. Therefor I’ll keep to only the first two categories.
Consumer Grade “point and shoot”
In my professional opinion, the cameras that fit in this category are pretty much all the same. Nowadays they’re all 1080i/p HD, have similar image quality, and are pretty bad when it comes to low-light.
Assuming you’re objective is to record lectures and events for the purposes of archiving content or sharing it with your audience, It doesn’t really matter what camera you get from this category, just make sure that if you’re getting more than one, get the same make and model for image consistency.
If you want to know what’s the best camera to get from this category, then simply head over to CamcorderInfo.com and scroll over to the “Top Lab Tested Camcorders,” see which ones have a mic input and look for a per-owned one and you’ll be good to go.
From my personal experience, I’d recommend the following models:
For sub $1000 range
Get two Canon HF S100 from eBay. They’re not bad in low-light situations, have plenty of manual controls if you want to feel like a professional, and it has a mic input.
For sub $300 range
Look for the Canon HG10. You can find them for real cheap between $200 and $400. I personally have two of these and they’re still good. If your budget allows it, get two or three of these for event recordings of multiple angles and easy editing.
These cameras are really bad when it comes to low light
If you have some lights with you or if you’re outside during daytime, you won’t be able to tell the difference in image quality between these and the Canon HF S100. Below are some examples of what footage from these two cameras looks like.
Just a note, the low-light footage from the HG10 had to be heavily processed using a “noise reduction” plugin to smooth out all the digital artifacts. The time it took to render was just too long. Personally, if I had to choose between the two cameras, I’d choose the HF S100 because of it’s better low-light capability, saving time in the render.
These are basically still photo digital SLR cameras that also happen to do video. What that means is that they’re primary function is NOT video. Knowing how to use these requires some technical skill. If you’re new at this, you’ll probably won’t know what most of the features on these cameras are for.
The benefit of these cameras is their ability to capture images in low-light situations without much image quality loss. They also have the ability to capture footage with various different sets of lenses, allowing you to capture near cinema quality footage – assuming your cinematography skills are up to par.
Sub $1000 range
If you’re first starting off in this area, I recommend you get yourself the Canon T2i with the kit lens. You can probably get it for between $600 and $750 online.
If you have the resources, get yourself a Canon 5D Mark 2 or Mark 3 and do some research on what lens would be right for you. Generally if you want a wide angle shot, get yourself (rent or buy) a lens between 14mm and 24mm. For a portrait shot, get a lens between 35mm and 50mm.
To be smart, if I were you, I’d only purchase one of these with the kit lens. When it comes to a particular event or project where you’d need more than one of these cameras, simply rent an additional two or three of these for a week or a weekend for around $100 each plus the cost of the lens rental which is less than $50 each.
HD-DLSRs are not ideal for a lecture situation
These cameras only record footage up to 30 minutes in lengths. Some are even less than that. If you want to produce an event or lecture video with one of these (because the image quality is so good), you’ll have to plan it out accordingly with multiple cameras that record at different times, tripods, lighting, etc.
Outside of lecture situations, I believe these are get options for everything else – if you’re willing to get technical. Here’s an example from Mustafa Davis and Usama Canon of the Ta’leef Collective on the type of quality the image an HD-DSLR can capture in a lecture setting.
HD-DSLRs have the ability to capture beautiful time-lapse footage
This beautiful video was captured by Preston Kanak
If you want to know more about HD-DSLR cameras, click below to watch the Emmy nominated 3-part web series “The Great Camera Shootout 2010.” This is episode 2 of 3 where they demonstrate the low-light capabilities of these cameras.