From Fieldworkguide


[edit] Video Cameras

Much of the technology for digital video parallels that of the digital still cameras. Once again, the important considerations are the lens and the processor. For a video camera the big step up is to what are called 3-chip cameras, because they have an independent processor for each of the three colors that make visible light. You can get a really good 3 CCD video camera for $600-700 (although the cost has been steadily coming down), but for a truly professional quality camera you are going to have to spend at least $2,000. Many of the newer cameras also boast being able to record in HD (high definition). Until HD TVs become common I don’t see this being particularly important. However, I am not sure how quickly the HD format will catch on and in the near future this might be something worth considering. Most video cameras now use a mini-DV tape, although some companies, most notably Sony also employ disc (DVD type) formats in some of their cameras.

That said, some of the budget camcorders on the market can deliver remarkably good video quality at less than $500 (sometimes much less). The three things to watch out for from budget cameras are, 1) image noise, cheaper processors sometimes produce noticeable distortion in the image, 2) sound noise, the microphone (usually due to placement) on cheaper cameras will sometimes pick up machine noise from the camcorder itself and 3) low light shooting. If you never have to shoot in low light, you can save a lot of money, but this is the main area you will be able to see that you get what you pay for.

Quick Recommendations:

Single Chip: The Cannon Optura and Elura lines are both consistently well regarded and I have met ethnomusicologists that swear by their under $400 Cannon digital video cameras. If you are shooting in relatively good light (e.g. bright stage lighting or outdoor daytime festivals) these can be wonderful cameras.

3CCD: If you are interested in the 3 CCD cameras, the Sony VX series or the Cannon GL line are both highly regarded (some independent films shown in theatres have been shot using nothing but these), however the technology in these cameras is a few years old and some of the newer low end Panasonic 3 CCD cameras are much cheaper and compare quite favorably. The entry level Panasonic 3 CCD cameras are currently less than $500.

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