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What is a good (inexpensive) camera for video?

Video newb looking for first camera



8:40 pm on Dec 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I'd like to start using video on my site, and given that it is gift receiving time, I was thinking of adding a camera to my wish list.
So, what do you recommend for a first video camera?


11:27 pm on Dec 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Define inexpensive.


11:59 pm on Dec 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Under $500


6:51 pm on Dec 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jtara is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Make sure it records in the DV format. You can find plenty of under-$500 DV cameras. Avoid ones that record in Mpeg4 format. These can be convenient, as most record to a memory card rather than to a tape, but they don't offer the same quality, nor the same ease of editing.

Then use an editor that can work in the DV format. Once you have edited, convert from the DV master to your online format.

Image stabilization is a nice feature, if you are going to shoot hand-held. Not sure if you can get that for $500, but you might just squeeze it in.


10:19 pm on Dec 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Check out some the Canon offerings, consumer DV cams are pretty cheap starting at about $200 and will produce some very good video. Add $200 or $300 to that $500 and you can start looking at the low end prosumer models. Look for larger 3ccd sensors and how well it performs in low light conditions in the DV format, generally if it performs well in low light it will perform very well under most circumstances.

Note that when you refer to a "camera" that is in reference to a still camera. For video its referred to as a cam. The capabilities of either a still cam or DVD cam are no match for a DV cam with tape.

[edited by: tedster at 10:16 pm (utc) on Jan. 22, 2008]


1:34 am on Dec 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

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lots of people are using "The Flip"
the latest model is a hundred and fifty bucks


12:38 am on Dec 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

That's really not suitable for anything more than a gadget IMO, I wouldn't even use the to record family video.

From the specs it uses 640X480 encoded using a very compressed MPEG4. This is suitable for video you want to save to and view on your computer wothout any further alterations, it is really not suitable for anything else including making DVD's. Highly compressed video like that is a pain to edit especially if you don't have the right tools, it will have to be further compressed for use on the web and recompressing already compressed video generally results in poor results.

The standard for most professionals doing this is mini-DV which is then compressed and/or scaled into a suitable web format which will produce outstanding results if done properly, at least as far as web video goes.


2:38 pm on Dec 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thank you very much for the suggestions/education.
And just in the nick of time - I was about to reconsider The Flip after already having dismissed it.
MiniDv...so this records on an internal hard drive?


7:20 pm on Dec 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

No mini-DV records to tape, sounds backwards but that $3 tape can hold 14GB's of data for one hour of video. It's an industry standard even for pro's using cams that cost as much as a house... really no kidding.

Those smaller cams that record to flash card, DVD cams or hard drive cams have a very limited storage capacity so they have to compress the video quite a bit. If you're a consumer and just want to record your video and watch it they may be an alternative but they are not suitable for anything more than that.


8:47 pm on Dec 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

thanks coalman. i'm now looking at Canon models and finding some good deals.


1:27 am on Dec 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

i don't know squat about video but i do know some folks use "the flip" to produce you tube videos and they look ok to me

i have "the flip" on order but would have not ordered it had i seen The Coalmans advice.

I still have one of the older RCA mini tape camcorders that makes ok looking movies but i wouldn't know how to edit and load them to youtube - but i guess i could learn

i guess i really need to update technology if i want to do it right and do it easily

thanks for the tips Coalman - better to learn late than never


3:54 am on Dec 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I'm not trying to say it can't be used, for a straight conversion it's probably fine. However if you want the best results possible, and want to leave all the options on the table such as editing or want to put it on DVD mini-DV is the way to go.

One other benefit of mini-DV is practically every application for video will support it.


11:03 am on Dec 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jetteroheller is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Canon Powershot S5

You have both in one, digital camera and video camera

For the web, You do not produce a 2 hours video

16 minutes in 640x480 30 frames per second have place on a 2 GB card.


11:55 am on Dec 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

The time constraints are something to consider too but again that's not really the issue. Let me put it to you this way, if you recorded the same scene using the cheapest mini-DV and a very expensive still camera with video capabilities. Then edited and encoded that video for the web, the video where mini-DV was the source is going to look a lot better.

While on the topic the reverse is true for still photos, I have a $2k Canon GL2 which produces outstanding video. It has the ability to make stills but they are lackluster to say the least, probably equivalent to what you would expect from a $50 camera.


5:33 pm on Dec 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jtara is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Actually, the Powershot S5 is not as horrible a choice as it first appears.

I checked the specs. I thought 2GB was more than a tad on the high side for 16 minutes of Mpeg4 video.

In fact, the S5 stores video as an AVI file using motion-JPEG compression.

Motion JPEG is essentially individual JPEG frames strung together. There's no inter-frame compression. As such, it is eminently suitable for editing. In fact, it used to be (still is?) a common internal format for video editors.

So, if you want to use a still camera for occasional video shoots that will go on the web, this is the camera to use. (Or one like it.)


2:09 pm on Jan 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I would look at the Canon A 640. I saw them on sale for under $200.00 recently. It is a 10 MP camera with video of course. You need to know two things about the video feature -- It cuts off after 9 minutes 30 seconds (or around there and I wish I knew about this before I bought the camera although it's only interfered with a few videos I took) and this model does not have optical image stabilization. When I was shooting video in a loud crowd environment there was some video shake.

I use this type of camera to take pictures and video that I post on the web. The picture quality is great and the video quality is not bad. It's better than an almost top of the line cam corder that is 4 years old.

If I were looking for a camera again, I would look for one with optical image stabilization on the video side or at least digital stabilization. Read the spec sheet to see where the camera cuts off when shooting video. With a camcorder it shoots till you stop it, it runs out of tape, or the batteries die out. Some cameras stop recording video after 30 seconds.

Other cool thing is the camera easily fits in your pants pocket.


12:15 pm on Jan 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I would get a proper $400 - $500 video camera, because they can do good quality high resolution video. While the current standard internet resolution is 320x240, we don't know what it will be in the future, and a good camera will let you do much higher resolutions so your videos are future-proof.

If you film something at higher resolution, you can always scale it down for use on the current internet, but if you film it at low res you cannot scale it up for the future internet. Using a low res camera now will probably mean you have to reshoot video when higher resolutions become standard on the internet, which could be as soon as next year or the year after.

Also, as someone said above, miniDV tape is a good option. It isn't the same kind of tape people used in the 80s, miniDV is a digital format so it has much higher quality and you can fit a lot on a tiny cassette.


3:49 pm on Jan 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

It's better than an almost top of the line cam corder that is 4 years old.

I guess it depends on your perspective but top of the line in my book starts in the prosumer range at about $1000- $3000. The big difference is manual adjustments and the size of the 3ccd sensors. From there you make the leap to pro, the big difference there is detachable lenses. You won't find either of these at your local Best Buy.


5:08 pm on Jan 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

The other thing to keep in mind is how much time do you want to dedicate to editing.

With a regular mini-DV that records to a hard drive you will be able to transfer the data over in a few seconds(yes there is video compression, but I am beginning to wonder how much people care about this). When you record to tape whether standard or HD, you should walk away from the computer because it takes a while to transfer the file over.

I love my HD camera that I recently picked up, but the file sizes are much larger than what I had with my older mini-dv camera and digital camera movies.

You can't compare the picture quality though. I am still trying to figure out what is the best setting so that the movie doesn't take forever to play in the browser and not sacrifice picture quality.

I think people have become too complacent with youtube's quality. I hate it. You can't see people's faces.


9:26 pm on Jan 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jtara is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

With a regular mini-DV that records to a hard drive

There are mini-DV camcorders that record to a hard drive?

News to me - but even if that's true and there are now a few models that do so, that's certainly not a "regular" mini-DV camcorder. A regular mini-DV camcorder records to mini-DV tape.

You're probably thinking of an MPEG4 camera, although those are more likely to record to flash memory than to a hard drive.

There are professional, external hard drives that you can use with a mini-DV camcorder. (They plug in the the mini-DV camera's Firewire port.) They are expensive (as much as a pretty high-end prosumer camera, at least) and you hand them from a strap off your shoulder like a Tricorder. A big, bulky, heavy, Tricorder...

We've already hard a discussion of the plusses and minuses of MPEG4 cameras. The format was not designed for editing. They may be fine for simple projects with simple cut edits where degradation at edit points is acceptable.


1:28 am on Jan 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Both DV or HDV cams record to mini dv tape, they both use a bitrate of 25mbs, the HDV is a compressed MPEG. A single hour comes out to 14gigs of data for both hence the reason you don't see flash or disc drive models available for consumers. Tape simply is a very cheap way to store a lot of video and has stood the test of time for reliability..

I believe there are a few that will record to a hardrive or tape but these are cams AFAIK that only a real professional would buy as they are quite expensive.


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