What Camera Should I Buy?

If I had a dollar for everytime someone asked me what camera they should buy – I could retire.  These days I get a lot of “what video camera should I buy?”  That question is almost impossible to answer without more information.  So I usually reply with my own onslaught of questions “What are you going to be shooting?”, “What editing software will you be using?” , “Are you concerned about getting “natural sound” or will you be using the “video” and not the “audio” from the camera?”.  And of course the big question “What’s your budget?”.

One thing that complicates making a choice in video cameras is that unlike still cameras – video cameras shoot different types of files – mpeg2, native quicktime, HDV, AVCHD.  In addition some shoot to tape, some shoot to cards and some shoot to discs.  Then of course there’s the basic consideration of SD or HD.  And not all HD files are alike.  Sounds confusing and overwhelming doesn’t it?  And it can be so my advice is always to work backwards.

Start by identifying the type of shoots you’ll be doing – corporate interviews or beautiful imagery intended to be shown to a music track.  Where will it be shown?  Broadcast? Web? DVD’s?  And how will you edit it? What platform? What editing software? To help guide you with selecting the right camera for the editing software you have or intend to purchase I have come across some great links to compatablity charts. Adobe Premiere and Final Cut This is a great place to start to see if that reasonably priced prosumer camera that outputs AVCHD files will work with the prosumer version of the editing program you have or will you have to purchase the full pro program.  I have seen lots of posts on listservs with people who need help editing files from the camera they just bought and loosing a lot of time in the process, not to mention the frustration they put themselves through.

There’s all kinds of cool cameras coming on the market everyday and lots of people jumping on the bandwagon as seen in the success of the RED and the hybrid Canon 5D II. http://tiny.cc/KmAOK There’s a lot of great things about both these cameras but before you plunk down the money – ask yourself if it’s the right tool for you.  Unless money is no object, you’ll want to make sure that your investment in a camera will serve your purpose.  There’s a tool for everything.  Here’s another interesting camera that recently debuted.  If you’re an action adventure shooter – it could be the camera for you.  http://tiny.cc/3owdX

My advice is to make a pros and cons list before you even look at cameras.  That way you won’t be overwhelmed by the tools – but will choose the tool that is the right tool and the “means to your end”.

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5 thoughts on “What Camera Should I Buy?

  1. Gail Mooney August 6, 2009 / 12:37 pm

    Not necessarily. It’s not the amount so much as where you apply those dollars. Point being – look at the big picture when buying a camera – not just the camera part of the puzzle.

  2. Tom Kelly August 6, 2009 / 3:50 pm

    Gail – This is a great blog entry that addresses many, many people’s questions on video gear and edit systems. Where do I start?!! I think your logical approach is a spot on thought process to planning one’s course in investing in this medium.

    Of course, the questions you have presented, create even more questions in the reader…. how do I know at this starting point “where will it be shown?” or “what I will be shooting?” Maybe I don’t know that yet either….. This become yet another perspective to think about.

    The links to comparative camera/software charts are great. Maybe someone should do a comparative camera features chart to help answer the question, “so, which gear will do this, but not that….? Thanks!

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