Best Camera choice for amateur filmmaker

Anonymous (not verified)

I recently decided that as long as I spend so many hours on my couch watching movies, I should get up and try making some. I'm a sophmore in High School, so my budget is pretty low. I'm looking for a solid camera for 500, at most 600 dollars, so any advice on that would be awesome

Here's the thing though, there's so many different formats and choices like - mp4 or avi - HDD or miniDV - that i'm completely overwhelmed! If someone could outline or suggest a camera and why, thatd be awesome. I want the footage to be able to be edited, and though i know nothing about editing or software i'm willing to study hard to learn so editing difficulty is not an issue. I'm looking for video quality, and editing capabilities first and foremost.

hmueller's picture
Last seen: 3 years 1 month ago
Joined: 07/03/2009 - 6:12pm

Making your movies is certainly more exciting than spending hours on the couch!

I would like to suggest a dual approach:
1) Don't spend your all your money on the camcorder at this point. Get experience first. I would suggest getting the Canon ZR960. It is a miniDV camcorder which will allow you to easily upload and edit your video on MovieMaker (PC) or iMovie on Apple. The ZR960 also allows you to use an external microphone, one of the few at that price that do.

2) Spend $20 and buy "The Little Digital Video Book"

This will give you an excellent start, and leave some money for pizza while you are out shooting video - also very important.

H. Wolfgang Porter's picture
Last seen: 1 year 9 months ago
Joined: 12/11/2008 - 7:54pm
Plus Member Moderator


The point of what the others are describing to you is the skills acquired using the equipment you choose will be where your 'professional look' will come from. I've used consumer grade cameras for professional projects and only an expert could tell I didn't use a high-end camera. I am able to do that because I have mastered the basic of shooting. Focus, exposure, composition, framing and camera movements are the basic skills any shooter must acquire to create good looking images suitable for editing. Your camera is merely a tool and all of the filmmakers whose films you've watched from your couch have mastered these skills... no exceptions.

Save your money and get something cheap that will allow you to inexpensively learn how all of this stuff works without a great deal of hassle. You say you want HD, why? Are you planning to sell your videos to the Discovery Channel? If not, Standard Def DV is just fine. You can learn to shoot, edit and then post your videos on the 'Tube, Vimeo and other sites. HD is just a selling point. If you aren't using it professionally, you don't really need it. HD TV's can play DV footage with no prob. Just shoot your videos in wide format and the TV will do the rest. If it looks like crap, that's more than likely you haven't mastered those skills I mentioned.

On top of shooting, there's editing and that's a whole other monster to deal with. Even with editing, the same rules apply, when you're learning keep it simple and keep it cheap. Nobody's going to sweat you because you don't have a 'pro look' when you're learning. You get a professional look when you've gained professional skills. No exceptions.

H.Wolfgang Porter, Composite Media Producer Dreaded Enterprises Unlimited, Inc.

b-radcole's picture
Last seen: 5 years 2 months ago
Joined: 10/26/2012 - 5:33am

You seem extremely knowledgeable on this topic. I am looking for a camera for my husband who is interested in getting into film making. He has no real experience and would like to learn from the basics. I would like to purchase a camera for him, and I am looking for something cheap. Something that he can BEGIN with and grow from there. I would also need a suggestion for editing software as wel? I have absolutely no idea where to begin...



trobi19's picture
Last seen: 3 years 11 months ago
Joined: 01/05/2010 - 11:18pm

I am also an amateur filmmaker with lots of dedication to my work.

I need some advice when it comes to my current equipment. The only things I have are my

laptop with Pinnacle Studio 12 ultimate, and an 8mm analog Canon camcorder. Im currently in college, and can't affort any new equipment at the moment. I always have trouble capturing my video, dropping frames, etc.

My question is can I still create great looking videos with what I have? Or is it time for upgrades?

H. Wolfgang Porter's picture
Last seen: 1 year 9 months ago
Joined: 12/11/2008 - 7:54pm
Plus Member Moderator


An 8mm huh? Yeah, you can still get some good looking video far as your shots go. The rules I mentioned in my previous post still apply. However, far as 'eyecandy' shots go a newer cam DV or HDV will beat out analog 8mm. Still though, as I said the rules still apply. You'll have to have a handle on shootin' with ol' paint before you should seriously think about upgrading. Particularly when your broke.

After I left the production house I used to work for all I had was a consumer Hi8 camera. But, I learned how to best light scenes for it get the best possible focus and toughest of all was learning to accept its limitations. Try that after working with high-end broadcast video and film cameras! I ended up getting some lens adapters for it and other accessories and was able to turn out some pretty good stuff despite it not being a pro cam.

These days with the quality of many of the consumer cams under $1k, with some skills you can shoot some amazing looking stuff. Now concerning your dropping frames, that's always been a problem with 8mm and Hi8 analog converting to digital. You might want to look into a firewire based analog to digital converter. I always keep one around for when I dig up old analog footage or a client wants some footage converted.

Normally I would say upgrade, but if you're broke.... However, there are some workable consumer rigs for under $400 in HD that might work for you. Just remember; the cheaper the cam, the less controls you'll have and the more limitations you'll have. Your footage will look better than the 8mm, but if you don't shoot it well it's going to suck no matter what you shoot it with.

Here's a link with some HD cam's under $300. Be advised, though the cam's are cheap, they all use the AVCHD codec. You'll need a system and software to deal with it. If you dig around, there are still some inexpensive DV and HDV tape based cam's that will work just fine for what you're trying to do for now.

H.Wolfgang Porter, Composite Media Producer Dreaded Enterprises Unlimited, Inc.

km.videomaker's picture
Last seen: 2 years 9 months ago
Joined: 04/19/2015 - 1:26am

get a dslr camera like the cannon eos 700d or the 7d, so you will be able to do hd video and photos.

buy adobe premier or start a 30 day free trial (leave this out if not enough money)

get a good tripod

a 18-85mm is stm lens and a 70-300mm is II


Jerry Mayor's picture
Last seen: 2 years 2 months ago
Joined: 08/23/2015 - 2:07pm

I'm really glad I found this site. I would like to start learning about video as I have written a short screen play I would like to shoot. It only involves 2 characters, and will be shot in the country with one of the characters barely visible behind foliage. The problem is, I would have to learn a lot more just to become "Ignert". I went to the site Mr. Wolfgang Porter suggested, and saw some cameras I could afford. (I've only got $500) If Mr. Porter would suggest a model within my price range that I could start with, I would be greatfull. Thank Ya'll for your forum.
The Mayor

Vernon's picture
Last seen: 2 years 2 months ago
Joined: 08/27/2015 - 5:07pm

So I'm moving to South Africa for a year in Dec. My wife and I will be producing training videos. I need to take everything with me. We will be pretty much isolated. I'm brand spanking new at this. I'm looking at the JVC-GY-HMISOU ProHD. Will be shooting mostly small sets for teaching video. What I need help from you guys for is the accessories..... Mic,lights,remotes,and any other that you could suggest. I'll only get one shot at this.

I will be doing some shoots outside. After all it's Africa!!!

Thanks for all your help

XYZ XYZ's picture
Last seen: 7 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 12/26/2013 - 2:49am

Leave the "pro look" aside in the beginning and focus on improving your skills first. Have a look in other threads in this Videomaker forum and you will even see some people commented that SD videos shot by pros look better than an amateur's HD video. The creative aspect of the art of videography matters more. Afterall, the more money you spend on a high-spec camera would also mean you need to spend more on a high-spec computer to edit the footage. If you are not a full fledged pro yet, nobody actually cares what equipment you use as long as you produce great videos that your audience will enjoy watching.

Jimbo215's picture
Last seen: 11 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 02/05/2017 - 7:40am

I started an fpv vlog where the audience lives through me and my footage without ever meeting me, but i am instead the vessel through which the video is captured. Im using the xventure video glasses. These are like just emerging into decent filming equipment from previously being spyware gimmicky kind of stuff. I wear these babies and i just party and surf by the beach. Loving it so far