Video camera recommendations needed

Hi, my company is working on improving our online courses.  Beyond e-learning courses, we would like to also do webinars that include both screen capture and video recordings of the trainer.  We wouldn't be doing any "acting" or special scenarios that would require a green screen or really fancy equipment.  I have seen lots of great recommendations including software and programs and low cost mics, but the recommendations on video cameras are a bit older and seem to be a much higher cost than we are interested in.

I have two main questions:

1.  Can anyone recommend some decent video cameras that are not extremely costly? (I'm thinking between $500-$1000, but if there are cheaper ones, so much the better!)  Again, we don't need anything very fancy or high end.

2.  It seems that one of the main recommendations is to get a video camera with an option for an external mic (which we plan on purchasing anyway for narrations).  I'm not sure if we can find a decent camera with that option.  Is it really necessary or can you record them independently and splice them together later?

3 Replies
Tim Danner

Ideally, you'd want to get a prosumer camera, but that would be out of your price range. We use a Canon Vixia, which does a decent job, though I found the quality of the AVCHD format to be somewhat lacking. But the camera is now about 4 years old, so that format might produce better results with the newer models. Overall, the camera was easy to use and worked for our shooting environment (small studio and seated talking head). I don't know how well the camera would perform if I had follow the movement of a person. For that, I'd rather use a prosumer camera.

If you're going to use an external mic -- which you'd want to for quality audio -- you'll want a camera with XLR inputs. However, cameras in your price range likely won't have those inputs. But you could would use an XLR adapter (like a Beachtek one) to get around that.

Bob S


Tim  nailed a couple of the most important items...

1) Do not even consider a camera that does not have external mic inputs.  XLRs (ie "balanced") inputs are the best, but at your stated price range you may be able to find twin mini-connectors instead; more likely a single mini stereo mic jack. 

2) AVCHD is a great format, but as Mike points out it can vary depending on the particular brand / model implantation.  Here are some "highly general" guidelines you may wish to consider on camera brands....

--- Sony - Traditionally known for decent low-light performance. Difficult controls.

--- Canon - Traditionally some of the best optics and smooth zoom.

--- Panasonic - Traditionally some of the best video encoding/capture. Sometimes bulkier

We run two Panasonic pro-sumer cameras  in our corporate studio and could shoot an indie film with them!  But you are talking 3k+ price tags.

3)  Finally...  Continue to think through your actual usage and don't be wowed by gizmos.  Most "training videos" will not (and should not) use any of the fancy features found on most of today's consumer level cameras. In fact, you will want to see which of these features you can turn OFF.    The best videos are almost always made in manual modes, so try going into the menus and make sure you can turn off things like Auto Focus, Auto Iris/Exposure,  Auto Backlight, Auto Framing, etc etc.   Seemingly counter-intuitive, the better the camera the more manual you can have it behave.... beware of cameras that do not allow you to turn off their features.  This is often a sign that it "needs" them to produce a respectable image and likely signifies compromises internally (not unlike the AVCHD differences Tim mentioned above).

Hope this helps and good luck!


PS:  Many training types find the vast majority of their vides turn out to be green screen (ie chroma key) shoots eventually. The creative flexibility, convenience of shooting, and ability to tweak/freshen the videos months/years later is hard to resist.  In such cases, true resolution can matter a great deal.... the more detail your camera can actually capture (not simulate electronically), the better chroma key you can pull  (ie cleaner separation from background).