Need advice on a good beginner's camera

Anonymous (not verified)

Hi gang!

I am a reporter/journalist and I am looking to learn how to start shooting my own stories. I need advice on a good camera for a beginner to buy. I want the best camera for a beginner but at the same time it could be useful for someone who is more advanced. I would prefer one that is not too heavy. Price doesn't matter, I want the best one I can get. Any suggestions? Also, what would you recommend for accessories... tripod, bag, mic, etc.

Thanks so much!!

birdcat's picture
Last seen: 5 years 8 months ago
Joined: 10/21/2005 - 10:09am

Hi Desiree -

Welcome to the forums.

You say price does not matter but do you really mean that? If you look at the Red One and some lenses/accessories, you will go well into six figures!

If price is not an object, there is the Sony PMW-EX3 system - Not too heavy (semi shoulder mount), interchangeable lenses, good in low light - You could probably put a system together (including decent tripod & fluid head, mic's & windscreens, lenses, batteries, case, etc...) for under $30k but could spend much more - upwards of $50K.

If price is an object - I suggest you make three lists of features - Must have, like to have, doesn't matter. Then find a camera that has all the must have's and as many of the like to have's that comes in under your top price. Once you have identified that camera, research it as best you can (online reviews - both professional and user) and if you purchase it, get as familiar with it as best and fast as you can.

Bruce Paul 7Squared Productions

CraftersOfLight's picture
Last seen: 1 month 4 days ago
Joined: 02/17/2009 - 5:42am
Plus Member


Something to think about as well when looking into the gear. Are you going to do your own editing? Or are you going to deliver the raw information to your news/broadcast agency?

If you are delivering raw data to an agency, you might want to find out what formats (what video codecs) they are willing to accept. This may put a limitation on what camera to get as well.

If you are going to do your own editing before delivery then there is the additional costs of editing software, a computer system that can run the software easily (you will want something better then the minimum specs called out on the software or editing can become somewhat painful), additional hardware/software for creating the deliverable media (video files for electronic delivery, DVD/BRD for direct delivery, etc.) that you may want to factor in. The format your camera records in may have an impact on the editing software you choose as well.

Life is not a guided tour nor a destination. It is a journey. Take the time to enjoy your family, friends and surroundings. Build memories. Share experiences. Travel at sight speed not light speed. (C)

EarlC's picture
Last seen: 4 years 1 month ago
Joined: 10/15/2008 - 1:15am

Some models worth considering that range from mid $1K to mid $4K include the Panasonic models HMC40 and HMC150, the JVC GY-HM100 and a host of $1K or less consumer models in the Sony, JVC, Canon and Panasonic arena.

My personal choices are the JVC GY-HM100 and/or Panasonic HMC150. I currently use the Canon GL2 and XL1 - both tape-based using MiniDV stock, and requiring digitizing the footage into my computer editing system before I can begin editing - a process that takes as long as the amount of tape I shot, give or take.

The new models I intend to purchase this year are SDHC based and use CCD sensors which, IMHO are currently preferable to the CMOS sensors that are swamping the market. There are "issues" regarding these, and a host of information about these on this and other forums. Doing a search on Google for these models will also get you a lot of input for making an informed choice.

One of my blog articles at E.C. Come, E.C. Go (a video production and marketing blog) focuses a bit on start-up costs for video production entry-level business. Check it out, if you've a mind to.

hmueller's picture
Last seen: 3 years 5 months ago
Joined: 07/03/2009 - 6:12pm

Hi Desiree

I can't afford that kind of camera. Here is a list of middle of the range cameras:

Personally I can't afford those either although I am working towards that. Currently I use a Canon HV40 which gives me HDV and has an input for an external microphone (a must) and so far I have been happy with the results. It costs about $1000 here in Canada but I think you can get it for much less in the US.


birdcat's picture
Last seen: 5 years 8 months ago
Joined: 10/21/2005 - 10:09am

Hi Desiree -

I'm sorry if I came of flip or haughty, that was not my intention (I re-read my post to you and thought it could be misunderstood).

For a beginner with aspirations of growing, I would suggest you look at the following features:

1) Go HD - You have options in the HDV and AVCHD area to keep prices real. HDV requires a real time capture before editing using IEEE 1394 (Firewire/iLink) connection; makes sacrifices when it comes to sound; and uses an anamorphic pixel ratio (something like CinemaScope). AVCHD used to be thought of as consumer only but has moved into the prosumer world; needs a workhorse machine to edit natively - there are programs which transcode the MTS format into others that are easier to edit; can be copied via USB direct from the camera to your PC; has better audio; uses 1:1 pixel ratio.

2) Get a camera that has a manual focus available - If not on the lens itself, than at least in an easy to use jog-wheel (my Sony SR11 has this for example).

3) Get one with a microphone jack - Even if it's only a 1/8" mini jack, there are options (like BeachTek) for using better, external mics later.

4) Make sure it has a headphone jack, so you can monitor how it sounds while recording.

5) If you can afford it, go with three chips (CCD or CMOS) - There are sub $1000 cameras that have these, but at the cost of other features you may want.

6) A nice feature is LanC (or something similar) - This allows you to control the camera (start/stop, zoom) from a remote control like device (wired) so you can work it from the arm of a tripod or when the camera is out of your physical reach (like on a tripod).

7) Invest in a good tripod with a fluid head and quick-connect plate.

8) Get extra batteries - even if they're generic (which I don't usually recommend) - and always have them fully charged.

These are a start - As I said in my prior message - make the lists of features and see what you can get under your budget that has them - It's how I always buy all things from cameras to TV's to washing machines!

Bruce Paul 7Squared Productions