Picking the Right Camera for Your Needs
Once upon a time, a video camera was that bulky device you bought to capture moving images on video tape. Over the years, the cameras got smaller and tape formats evolved from analog to DV and from HD to 4K, with corresponding increases in the ease-of-use and quality categories. Not only that, but the prices dropped precipitously, which means that you can now buy a decent camera at an affordable price.
The only difference now is that there’s a wider — some might even say “bewil- deringly wide” — selection of cameras. The following list describes the major categories:
» DSLR: The digital single-lens refl camera (digital SLR or DSLR, for short) is a jack-of-all-trades, as seen in Figure 4-1. This camera rightly dominates the
still-photography market, but is also extremely capable of providing excellent high-resolution video (as high as 4K on some makes and models.) That’s a great thing because the image sensor (when compared to conventional camcorders and other digital cameras) is signifi larger, and therefore captures better quality. The camera can take advantage of all lenses that fi its mount, so you can capture movies using a wide range of lenses, from extreme telephoto to ultrawide-angle to anything in between. Many accessories are available to further enhance your camera’s shooting capabilities, from mounting rigs to external microphones to LED lighting. On the downside, the camera controls and handheld ergonomics favor still photography over moviemaking, and the accessories can be expensive.
This Canon DSLR is a versatile
» Point-and-shoot: Though nowhere near as capable or as powerful as a DSLR, point-and-shoot cameras (or compact cameras) are still impressively capable
devices and are extremely popular among many YouTubers. Lighter, simpler to use, and comparatively cheaper, these cameras are a great option for any fi videographer. You do sacrifi some capabilities compared to a DSLR; you don’t have the ability to swap out lenses, because most use an
adjustable, fi lens. Few are capable of capturing video as high-resolution as DSLRs are capable of, though some newer models are making it possible. These cameras also lack many of the fi internal controls that most DSLRs allow you to augment. That being said, whether you’re a professional vlogger or just starting to dip your toes into things, point-and-shoot cameras are extremely impressive and useful.
» Action: You may not have heard of the term, but you have heard of its biggest
player: GoPro. These mini marvels are rugged, waterproof, relatively inexpen- sive, and mountable on just about anything to capture amazing quality from a unique perspective — from skydiver views to the rider’s view on a BMX bike, as shown in Figure 4-2. Boasting features aplenty, these cameras are capable of capturing up to 4K (the new standard for ultra-high-defi television), stabilizing extremely shaky videos, and, on some models, even shooting
360-degree video. On the downside, many action cameras are limited to shooting wide-angle views.
Mounted directly on the bike with a handlebar mount,
the GoPro provides a view that wasn’t possible just a few years ago.
» Smartphone: Just a few short years ago, considering a cellphone as a means of capturing a serious video would earn you an eyeroll because the results
were often dismal. Not any more, because serious works have been captured on a phone, including the Oscar-winning documentary Waiting for Sugarman. And they keep getting better and better. Some phones are now capable of shooting 4K and capturing extremely slow-motion videos. Accessories are becoming more and more prolifi as well, including mountable lenses and stabilizers. And, to top it all off almost everyone has a smartphone now. Why not put it to good use?
» Webcam: A webcam is inexpensive to purchase, on the off chance that you don’t already have one built into your computer. That makes it perfect for
situations where you sit down in front of the computer. Just plop yourself down, check the lighting, and start talking. Because most capture in HD (some are even capable of shooting 4K), you’re good to go. The downside is that you need to stay put or else you might position yourself out of the frame. The audio can sound “thin” if you’re not using an external microphone. And worse than that, if the lighting is too harsh, you can look bad.
» Dedicated camcorder: Once it was the only way to capture video, but now
the trusty dedicated camcorder is becoming increasingly obsolete. Yes, camcorders are designed for shooting videos: They’re comfortable to use and have dedicated features and controls specifi to moviemaking. But most other camera options, DSLR or other, are capable of many of the same features and more. Another dilemma is its monomaniacal devotion to a single task — making movies. That means some users may pass on a camcorder simply because they can’t use it to send a text or make a call.
Purchasing a top-quality model and instantly expecting to make great movies isn’t much different from thinking you can purchase a Gibson Les Paul and become a great guitarist without knowing how to strum a single chord.
Both guitar-playing and videography depend on understanding technique. Gone are the days of haphazardly handholding the camera while randomly shooting a movie on the fly. It will not only lack cohesion but can also make the audience feel like they’re having a seizure. As much as we like talking, thinking, and writing about cool cameras, we want to stress the fact that technique is crucial. That’s why we focus much more on technique in this chapter than on fancy hardware.