Video Camera

Jan 10, 2012

My department has just been approved to purchase a video camera. What would be a good recommendation for a camera under the price of $200?

Are the Flip cameras still a great camcorder for the price and can you connect an external microphone to it?

25 Replies
Stella Lee
Stella Lee

One thing I love about the Flip is how easy it is to connect to my laptop. And the built-in software is handy too. Although I usually use iMovie for the editing.

This review is a bit old, but I find it useful:

Adam Truckenmiller

Thanks Stella for all of the information! As i'm reading a little more I noticed Cisco announced they are leaving the Flip business and support will end December 31, 2013:

Have you had any problems with the camera causing you to contact them for support?

Also, I cannot seem to find what file format the videos are created on the flip, do you know right off hand or have a link showing the different formats it is capable of producing? I use a PC at work and we are looking at purchasing one of the Sony Vegas editing suites. One of my colleagues recommended for the price, it is a pretty powerful application for what we are needing to do.

Oooo I wish I could just bring in my MacBook Pro into work and use all of the gadgets on that instead of going through all of this :(

Stella Lee

Hi Adam,

yes, I heard! But I never had any issues with my Flip so I didn't have to contact them for support. I love that I dropped the camera a couple of times, travel the world with it and still works fine.

Vegas is a really powerful software, as far as PC editing goes. We are PC house here too :-(((( I just get the freedom to work at home sometimes especially when i need to do any video/audio stuff.

Have you try Final Cut Express or Final Cut Pro? For Mac, it is an awesome product to use for video editing.

Adam Truckenmiller

I have played around with Final Cut Pro before on a MAC a few years ago back in college. I remember it being  very robust; I do need to play around with it again but on my MacBook Pro I  currently use Adobe Premiere CS5.

Hmmm sounds like I should have been part of your faculty at the time so I got a Flip! :P

Thank you for all of the links that you have provided for me!

Adam Truckenmiller

Just curious what model of the Flip camera did you decide to go with and do you know what the big difference between the models of the Flip are?

They seem to range in price $120-$200. I notice the $120 model, UltraHD, is a 720p resolution but is that really the only difference between the lower priced camera to expensive model?

Adam Truckenmiller

Hi Eric, not sure why but I am unable to open your .xml files even after extracting the folder.

Ok my budget for a video camera is $200 or less :( sooo with what I have to work with and from what I have read the 3 options that I have come up with is....

One of the Flip cameras

This Canon F20:;%5bobject%20HTMLCollection

Then this Samsung H200:;subnav

During my research, my issues have came across that not many HD camcorders are under the $200 mark. For now, our dept. foresees us using video in our online training and in our classrooms so I am thinking that maybe the Canon F20 or a Flip would be suffice then once we show the company what we are capable of doing maybe they will allow us to purchase a better camera to allow us to move forward with.

Adam Truckenmiller

Does anyone have the Kodak PlayTouch? I believe it is last years model. I just went to Best Buy to check it out and for the price, $100, it looks like a good deal for what it can do but there is also a mixed batch of user reviews.

eric mongrain

Adam the kodak playtouch is the one we are using.  here is everything that i purchases it seems to be working good so far.  i had to purchase an adaptot mono female end and stereo male end to help boost the volume for the wireless mic into the camera.  i am going to test it today to see if it works.  we have shot two different videos with it so far and it worked.  i have also used both a wired and wireless mic at the same time by attaching a splitter to the camera.  attached are the items i purchased.

Rich Johnstun

The biggest piece of advice I can give is that if you are going to be using the audio on the video (vs. doing a voice over), you want to really focus on the audio quality of the camera. Audio is more than half of video. What I mean by that is people who are just getting into doing video work really focus on the image quality and angles, yet can neglect the quality and importance of audio. People will tolerate marginal video quality, but they will not tolerate marginal quality audio.

To illustrate my point I usually tell people to try watching TV with it on mute. Then try watching TV with the audio on and your eyes closed. It's quickly apparent how much weight audio carries. 

If you are looking for something to use long term, you will absolutely want something with an external mic input. $200 is a really slim budget, but hopefully you'll prove the effectiveness and they will be willing to invest more. 

Best of luck! 

Steve Flowers

Agree with Rich. Audio quality is super important. I recently bought a Sony NEX-5n. This offers GREAT video quality at 1080p (60fps). But the built in microphone is terrible. I ended up buying a Zoom H4n 4 channel Handy Recorder ($260) and an Azden SGM-2X shotgun mic ($200). This adds quite a bit of cost to the production kit but audio quality is so critical. For audio gear, I'm really scraping the bottom of the threshold. Wish I could have dropped $800 for the microphone, just couldn't justify it.

For lighting (also super important for video quality - but not as important as audio), I ended up skimping just a little bit with a collapsable reflector ($15), a set of inexpensive tripods (targus 50" $15), a couple of clamp style hotshoe swivels ($10), and some battery powered LED lamps (CN-126 $35). Overall, I think I paid around $120 for my lighting kit. It's nice cause it collapses down to a really portable kit and it's fast to assemble.

My goal was to put together a portable video kit that I can setup in less than 10 minutes that also offers handy interview capture and great photos for under $1200. I'm happy with it so far and I think I've hit the budget marker.

Adam Truckenmiller

Thanks Rich for the advice!  I'm leaning towards the Kodak Playtouch because of the price ($100), when playing with it at Best Buy, it seemed to have good resolution but then again wasn't able to see a finished product on a computer and it does allow an external mic. It's just with the memory card, case, mini table tripod that it doesn't leave much wiggle room for an external mic (preferable wireless mic)...Maybe I could manuever some things around claiming the SDHC card, case and tripod are considered accesories so shouldn't be considered part of the $200 budget.

The controls seem to be very user friendly for even the non-tech savy people out there so if one of my coworkers had to travel and i needed to have them shoot a video for me that's always a plus.

Rich Johnstun

Remember that if your videos are going into articulate, the max image size you are going to be able to put in a slide is 720x406 (16:9). Since that is the case, spending the money on 1080p (1920x1080) vs. 720p (1280x720) doesn't make much sense (especially considering your budget). I'm lucky to have access to studio quality video gear and we still shoot most stuff in 720p because we can't really make use of the 1080p resolution anyway and the video files are much smaller and easier to work with. 

If you want to start talking audio and lighting...that is a whole other discussion that we need to start threads for  

Adam Truckenmiller

I plan on using it for more than just articulate courses sooo the 1080p or at least 720p will be great to use on the Kodak.

Now with the mic, i'm not sure what would be a good one 2 look at. I already have a Snowball microphone but that can only be plugged in through my computer. Rich, any ideas on a cheap yet good quality mic for the camera?

Steve Flowers

Cheap is relative For interviews, I'd look at either a shotgun or lapel mic.

Early on in my research, I found a good video review of this mic (scroll to the first review):

It's not cheap at $65 bucks or so, but it's relatively low priced as mics are concerned. Shotguns are supposed to offer a good performance : price ratio. I found some low range lav mics in the $20-35 range. But decided that a shotgun would be more flexible and easier to setup (no worries about lav brushing or investing in a higher cost wireless setup to manage cables).

Rich Johnstun

I agree with Steve on the fact that cheap is very relative and I would use a shotgun mic for interview or as we call them "talking head" videos. The term shotgun refers to the mic being directional so the focus of the pickup is what the mic is pointed at, reducing the pickup of ambient noise in your shooting environment. 

For an entry level shotgun mic, the ATR-6550 that Steve posted is a very solid option. I have no personal experience with the mic, but if you read the A/V boards it's a common entry level shotgun. If you are willing to jump up to $150, I would recommend the Rode VideoMic. I use the Rode on my home/personal setup and I'm very pleased with it's performance...especially for the price tag. 

Here is a sample of the sound quality off of the Rode. This is the Rode, running on my Panasonic HDC-TM900K. This was shot in my basement on my $100 green screen setup. No touch up or cleaning was done on the audio. Warning: the linked video is what happens in my basement when I'm bored and have too much free time

Husband 101 

If you aren't looking for a shotgun mic and want to pick up more of the ambient sound, the Azden SMX-10 can be had for around $75. I have one of these that I use for shooting live events where I I want to pick up the sound in other parts of the room (crowd noise, music in the room and so on). 

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