Beginner – One good camera, or 2 decent cameras

Videomaker – Learn video production and editing, camera reviews Forums General Video and Film Discussion Beginner – One good camera, or 2 decent cameras

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    • #49269

      Hey all,

      I run a small recording studio on the side and am looking to get into video production. I have the eye and am confident I can learn the software with the right guides and mentors, and I’d be shooting mostly small videos for folks websites, interviews, conferences (so low level light is ideal, but not a huge deal at my level [ie price point]. I’m having trouble deciding which way to go with this question:

      I have a budget of $1500 for the camera only. Should I get one good one with multiple sensors, etc, or 2 decent one’s that won’t have the bells and whistles, but will do for the low-budget work I’d be doing?

      I do want to put out quality work, but am not worried about being professional movie quality.. still I don’t want to look cheap at all either.

      The last question is, if you were just getting into it right now, which camera or cameras would you get with this budget. Key Phrase: this budget. πŸ™‚

      Thanks all!

    • #201729

      For the kind of work you’re describing, one camera is probably enough. If you were shooting weddings and stage productions I’d recommend two, but only occasionally will you run into an interview or conference situation in which two cameras are essential.Moreover, clients often don’t want to pay for a second camera or for the extra editing time a second camera introduces.

      As to which camera to buy, I can’t address this, not having purchased a camera recently. However, there are certain features that are a must, regardless of which camera you choose. These include the ability for you to use headphones and an external mic. The camera should have manual controls for white balance, iris, gain, audio levels, focus and neutral density filters and should have steady shot capability.

      Given what you plan to shoot, I’d reserve some of that money to purchase a good wireless microphone system, too, as you’ll need this for interviews and conference recording.

    • #201730

      I would suggest going to the B&H website and narrow it down to a few cameras in your price range. When you get to that point post back with what you are considering and maybe someone withexperiencewith the camera can provide you a users perspective on what it does well and not so well. Just my 2 cents worth. You could also consider the HDSLR.

    • #201731

      Speaking in generalities: My overall awareness of the current range of HD production units from totally low end to way above MY pay grade, and my assessment of their advantages/disadvantages within this range, IMHO $1,500 is the absolute bottom end of a budget that would acquire anything NEAR a “good one with multiple sensors” although there might be some hope in getting TWO at $700 each that could be regarded as “decent” … again IMHO. I am most CERTAINLY not attempting to be arrogant, indict or ridicule here.

      Cville’s suggestion to include consideration of HDSLR/DSLR units is certainly worth consideration, depending on the starting base for your acquisition cost wise, and what you’ll wind up spending when all is said and done. Much of the effectiveness and creative ability behind these units, again IMHO, is based on other lenses and equipment essential to expanding the range and potential of them.

      In studying currently available units “out there” old and new (old OR new) I still think the Panasonic HMC 150 (possibly the 40 and 80 et al) has a lot going for it but at nearly double your stated budget it’s out of the question.

      The Canon units in the HV20, 30, 40 series, as well as the newer series of HFS 20, 200 etc. hit all around your stated top end budget. These are well-respected among amateurs, hobbyists and professionals alike, although most professionals incorporate them as secondary and 2nd or 3rd POV units.

      Then there’s the currently all-popular (well, popular with a LOT of guys doing run-and-gun, sports … extreme or less extreme πŸ˜‰ GoPro HD Hero series with its unique and creative applications and options.

      Even the discontinued Flip MinoHD ultra-compact units and their various cousins, nieces and nephews from Sanyo, Kodak and others offer cheap, affordable options for more than simple video capture, so long as ANY of these categories also include or have available audio recording options that fit your production needs.

      If not (audio) then of course there’s the standalone digital recorders of which the Zoom series that started with the H2 and now has a number of levels/iterations is a good beginning. Also, there are wireless systems and more that can contribute to your production package to give you a level and quality that will stand up to your anticipated website video, interview and seminar or conference recording focus.

    • #201732

      Like Earl said, it is above your budget but I simply love my Panasonic HMC-150.

    • #201733

      Thanks for all the feedback. I’ll shop around and see, I’m open to used gear too, so that widens my range.

      I’ve noticed that many auctions show the amount of hours on the camera. Any feedback on how many hours a camera is good for, or what that is all about.

      I’m truly a noob with this stuff.

    • #201734

      I like the Canon XA 10, or the Sony Handycam Nex VG10

      Any one use these? Likes or dislikes? What do either of these lack that I might want in the future?


    • #201735

      Shaun, as Earl stated, your budget just aboutrules out 3 sensor new cams but you might be able to find something used that will fit the bill. You didn’t mention whether you wanted to shoot in HD or SD. There are a lot of great SD (3 sensor)cams in your budget range used, look at some of the past posts for recommendations. I don’t have any experience with these. I think Jack gave some good qualities for your cam pick to have.As far as low light shooting, most of the situations that you mention could be handled with a cam (with less low light capabilities) if you incorporate adequateadd-on lighting. This can be done relatively inexpensively with a DIY kit. You can find lots of suggestions of how this can be done in these forums. If you shop for a good used cam with single sensor, IMHO you should have at least a 1/3″ sensor. I use the Sony HDR-SR11, it fits most of the suggestions that people have given and can be found used well below $1000, you might even be able to get 2 for your budget. Of course, there are many other cams used that are like the SR-11, which will give you great results for what you are trying to do. Another reason for starting out with a good used cam is that you are just learning video and a smaller investment would seem to make more sense and as you skills increase you will have a better idea of the features that you want in your next, more expensive cam. Start shooting.

    • #201736

      Ok, so I’ve decided that I need to get a middle of the road camera first, and then hopefully end up getting one of the ones I mentioned above… so I’d put my budget to about $600 for the camera to get off the ground, I’d go used as well.

      Here’s what I’d like it to have ideally:

      3″ LCD

      1/3″ sensor

      XLR input

      HD 1080i – 72p recording

      10X Zoom

      Flash memory (ideally 2 slots)

      Good optics

      Anyone use a camera in this price range ($600), new or used? Would love some suggestions.


    • #201737

      So here’s a few I sorta like, anyone have or use these: (I will be shooting in some low light too, so any that stand out as being good in those areas will be helpful)

    • #201738

      If you want a good camera, that can do the work and at the same time makes you looks like a pro in a low budget, I recomend you the Panasonic AG-AC7 ( This is an AVCHD (full HD) camera, with good optics in low light, manual controls, and is around $1175.

      On the other hand, in a more low budget, as you say around $600, there are a lot of good DSLR cameras to choose from, like the Canon Eos Rebel T series (T1i, T2i, T3i), The Sony Alpha series (a33, a55), or Nikon D series (D3100, D5100), any of this DSLRs will doit very well, even more than the Vixias youre considering

    • #201739

      really? I have a Canon T1i. I do like the video but the ability to focus it is absurd, unless I’m doing it wrong. It might work for an interview I’m guessing, but there’s no audio in on the t1i (only the t2i), and though the audio is decent, it’s not that good at all, comparatively.

      I was actually thinking of using that as my 2nd camera until I can get a 2nd good Video camera.

      What do you think the DSLR’s do better than the vixia’s?

    • #201740

      depends on if you want to shoot a lot of short clips or need to record and hour or two worth of video…

      d-slrs heat up, and got restrictions on how long you can record…..

    • #201741

      “d-slrs heat up, and got restrictions on how long you can record…”

      While that’s true for some DSLRs, it doesn’t apply globally (e.g. the Panasonic GF/GH series are only limited by the size of your card and don’t seem to be subject to overheating- you can also focus while shooting, which is a plus).  I really like Canon’s HV series (in 2008, my first HD camera after shooting with a DVC30 for a while), but to get the most out of it takes thoughtful lighting design and some care with set-up.

    • #201742

      @Kenkyusha… I am aware of the micro 4/3 interchangeable lens cameras and you are correct about everything except one little detail…. they are not d-slrs… I was answering the question posed by the previous post…. by Shaun.

      even the new sony’s with pelicile mirrors are not d-slrs…

      Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras have an optical through the lens viewing system, usually with a glass or plastic pentaprism mirror viewfinder.

    • #201743

       Yes, I was using ‘DSLR’ colloquially here, but absolutely correct, the M4/3 cameras are mirrorless.

    • #201744

      Yea, I don’t know about DSLRs. Here’s why:

      1. There’s a limit to 4GB of video length in the Canon line of DSLR’s for video and that’s what I’d be using since I have the t1i,
      2. The focus ability is not as smooth or intuitive as camcorders are

      3. I’m concerned about low light with so many megapixels, seems like the mid level sony and canon camcorders are much better since they have less megapixels.

      Am I mistaken in any of these points?

    • #201745

      As a hobbyist, I shoot wedding videos for friends and a lot of church services.  The church has a Canon GL2, but I prefer the video from my Sony HDR-CX7 camcorders.  These older models use MSPRO memory sticks, but Sony has finally caved and gone with SD cards on the newer models.

      I find that the quality is really good (1080p), especially considering that the creative edge comes in the editing process. I use a Zoom recorder to capture the audio track.  One drawback to this type of equipment can be in the syncing of audio and video from several cameras.

      Don’t forget you will need editing software*, memory cards, tripods and microphones, and maybe some lighting equipment.

      I suggest you start lower end on the cameras (get two so you can capture two angles) and see how you like the editing task.  If you change your mind your investment is minimal.  If you like this new work, you can always buy a nice camcorder (with your profits) and use the low-ends for additonal angles.

      * lots of free trials out there, I still use AVS4You for most of my small projects

    • #201746

       @Shaun- 3. I’m concerned about low light with so many megapixels, seems like the mid level sony and canon camcorders are much better since they have less megapixels.

      This isn’t necessarily so- the larger the chip, the more light that can be let in.  With mid-level cams, you are probably looking at a maximum size well under 1/3″.  This is one place that hybrid stills/video cameras do well, due to the sensor size… the trade-offs are, of course that shooting video with a body designed to shoot stills isn’t ideal.

    • #201747


      I think one difference b/w the dslr and the camcorder is how much tweaking you have to do to compensate for bad lighting, while being zoomed in etc… The camcorder allows more freedom to just “shoot” rather than worrying about the the other variables. I have a dslr, a canon t2i, and I am actually going to buy a panasonic gh1 next week. My website is if you want to see what i’ve been able to come up with. For interviews, stick with your canon, get an omnidirection mic lavalier, with a recorder like the olympus ws-700 or the rode video mic. For recording longer than 4gb at a time you can get a firmware update called “magiclantern”, which will allow for recording times of up to 20 mins. If you need help finding the download for it I can send it to you, also tutorials are all over youtube for it. It turns your canon into a beast allowing you do “follow focus” and turn off the auto gain feature on the camera. The only let down is that it doesnt have the flip out screen. Hope this helps, hit me up anwar.s.allen@gmail if you need help or clarifications.

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