What Kind Of Camera Should I Buy?
Over the years, many people have asked me what kind of camera should they buy. It’s never the same answer for everyone. It really depends on a number of factors. I was in their shoes before, so I know what it’s like to want someone to point me in the right direction. This article is for anyone jumping into the world of video making, either professionally or as a hobby and everything in between. It’s for the blogger podcast host, the film school student and aspiring filmmaker who has a specific video making need in mind. If any of the following descriptions below sound like you, then read on.
• The Blogger Podcast host:
Are you a blogger or a video podcast host needing to up your video quality game? You don’t necessarily need a hi-tech fancy camera, rather you just need a camera that will help you look good.
• The Film School or Anti-Film School student:
Maybe you’re coming out of film school or a film and video program frustrated that all you learned was theory. So now you’re ready to get out there and start shooting, but you need to start your gear collection.
• The Aspiring Pro Filmmaker or Video Producer:
You want to start getting paid to make videos. However, you need the right tools to put your image and sound above all the competition out there.
Let’s get to the primary tool: The Camera.
Not All Cameras are Created Equal.
When a camera manufacturer sets out to design a camera, there is a clear purpose and user in mind. You might be thinking, “A camera is a camera right?” Not really. Basically, there are four general different categories of video cameras available.
• Consumer Camcorders
• Prosumer Camcorders
• Large Sensor Cameras
When you’re getting started making videos and you might not have that much experience under your belt, so it’s difficult to know whch category of camera will suite you. It’s difficult to know what type of camera excels at which specific purpose or which camera is appropriate to use under which circumstance. It’s difficult to know why you would even want to get one style of camera verses another?
The Right Tool for the Right Job.
In one sense, you can almost use any camera for any and all situations. However, that doesn’t mean that you should. For example, if you were a house painter and you were hired to paint the exterior of a huge mansion. You wouldn’t simply use a small brush to paint the entire house. You’d use rollers or some kind of spraying device. The same applies to the world of video cameras. Video and filmmakers find themselves having to shoot in many kinds of scenarios. Just know that there are reasons why certain cameras have been designed with certain specifications. Camera manufacturers generally design cameras based on user feedback and common video shooting scenarios. This also doesn’t mean you should set out to buy 3 or 4 cameras. In reality, you probably can only afford one camera and you only want one camera anyway.
One thing is for certain, it all starts with the camera. It’s the primary tool for video and filmmaking. Video and filmmaking is a visual medium first and foremost. There are so many choices when it comes to cameras. New models of cameras are always coming out every few months. The price ranges can vary vastly. The reality is, every camera has its strengths and weaknesses.
If you’re just starting out you may not know what are the strong or weak points of each type of camera. A friend may have told you “Hey you HAVE to buy a DSLR to shoot your videos.” Your friend may not have explained what the downsides are. Worse yet if you mainly need to create multiple hour-long web lectures, the last thing you need is the DSLR. The highly recommended DSLR may end up being the totally wrong tool for your needs.
A producer was telling me they had a shoot that required a camera that could make stunning images, but they also had to shoot all day where they’d capture tons of footage. What they needed was a large sensor camcorder that could record for long periods of time. The producer told me the videographer they worked with brought a camera that has notoriously huge video file sizes and short record times. It slowed them down to off load tons of footage onto a laptop, constantly putting a halt to their shooting schedule. On top of that the camera is an ergonomic nightmare. Which also slowed the shooter down when it came to constantly changing setups.The camera did in the end produce stunning images, but at the cost of being inefficient.
I’ve been in this situation too as the person who brought the wrong camera for the job. It not only cost me time, money and energy, it negatively impacted the whole shoot experience and the relationship with the client. My point is that there IS really such a thing as having the right tool for the right job. Besides gaining experience, how else can you make educated decisions about an upcoming camera purchase?
How do you figure out what type of camera you need?
This is my opinion on what one needs to consider.
• Identify what you mostly shoot. What do you need the camera for?
• Identify your budget. Anticipate additional costs for media and other accessories.
• Pick the best camera that fulfills as many of your criteria as possible.
• Choose the right audio solution based on your camera choice. It may be a combination of mic plus a recorder or a mixer unit.
• Choose the right tripod based on your camera choice. The weight of your camera dictates the size of your tripod.
• Choose lighting if you need it. This is largely based on your shooting needs.
Starting in this order will help you narrow down the camera and all necessary supplemental equipment. Again, it all starts with your choice of camera. From then on the audio/mics, tripod and to some extent the lights will be informed by your choice of camera.
Given the nature of technology and new products refreshing every year, I suggest, whatever camera you decide upon, you should intend to use it for at least two years or more.
Also you should determine what is a want verses a need. Buying electronic gadgets is emotional. Discern the emotional wants versus actual needs and meet halfway. You don’t want to be stuck with a camera that only fulfills your needs but not a future desire.
Example 1: You get a cheap camcorder for shooting your kids soccer games but your goal is to make beautiful cinematic films to enter into film festivals in the future. The cheap camcorder works for your needs but then you don’t have the right camera to bring your goals into fruition.
Example 2: The opposite of example one. You get a fancy DSLR, but you really need a pocket camcorder. Next thing you know, you’re dropping extra money on additional lenses and other accessories just to get the DSLR to shoot videos. If you first got the camcorder, you’d be ready to start shooting out of the box.
Now let’s get more specific about getting started making professional quality videos.
Tips for Getting Started:
Learn About the Craft of Video Making
• Gain experience, whether it’s shooting video or editing.
• Learn the workflow of shooting video, ingesting footage, editing and exporting the final video.
• Learn the camera inside out until it’s second nature to you. When you master one cameras’ controls and menu layout, it’ll be easier to learn the rest. For example, how to control light by adjusting the ISO or Gain, Aperture, or Shutter Speed.
• “ABSE” Always Be Shooting and Editing. Get in a workflow groove. Do it for fun.
• Learn the art of storytelling. This mostly comes from editing. If you get better at editing you get better at shooting.
• Learn the lingo: Aperture, Exposure, Shutter Speed, Zebras, ISO or Gain.
• Study videos, films and commercials. The more you watch and dissect the more you understand about lighting shooting and editing.
• Get a camera and just start making videos. If the phone is all you have that’s fine too. The smart phone is proving to be an impressive evolving tool.
Getting Started as a Professional Video Maker.
• Build your Demo Reel ASAP
• Shoot for fun and shoot for the love of it. Try not to think about earning money with it at first. Get really good at the craft where shooting and setting up lights for for various situations becomes second nature.
• Clients are more important than gear. Find clients and volunteer to do free work for organizations and causes you believe in.
• Just start somewhere. That’s the key. Cameras are affordable and it’s the primary tool for the craft so start there. If you want to do it professionally, you have to pick up a camera and learn the workflow. No excuses.
• Get some other necessities like tripods, extra batteries, a slider, to improve the overall quality.
• Most Importantly: Appreciate the opportunity to make any video. That appreciation will lead to a greater happiness and sense of fulfillment. This becomes especially important when you get into video production professionally.
The Conclusion: Just Get Started
Lastly, don’t get overwhelmed or over think it. Don’t get caught up with the mentality of “I’ll never need a camera because someday I just want to direct, so I’ll just hire a camera man.” Truthfully with YouTube being the second largest search engine in the world, learning to make your own video will be a desirable skill set for quite a while. Just determine that you will start making videos, choose a camera and go for it.
If you need some advice just contact me directly at http://www.provideomakingtools.info. I’ll do my best to answer any video gear questions you have.