What camera?

A friend recently asked via Facebook;

Phil! I need help! I want to buy a digital video camera for my YouTube videos.

I want something that will product smooth, clear video, good audio and have a display screen that I can flip over to look at myself while filming.

Do you have any recommendations? Any tips? I really don’t know what to look out for. 😐

My response over a few comments was;

Budget? A GoPro may be your best bet. Depends what you want to do.. what do you want to do? 😀

Smooth video comes from having a tripod, clear comes from having the right lighting (you should understand 3 point lighting, watch this video > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzLrRS_7i9w), good audio comes from using a seperate microphone (I use a Zoom h4n or alternatively a Zoom h1 with a lavalier clip), the ability to look at yourself whilst filming whilst cute is somewhat irrelevant to taking good video, as to look at the screen means you will deviate your eyes from the lens, which will show on camera, though that is just a topical point, most cameras in the $500-1k range have flip side viewers.. my equipment is as follows;

Video equipment I would recommend (mainly via http://Sonystyle.com/ / http://pro.sony.com/);

Sony CX550VE – ½.88” sensor Camcorder with 1080p video recording ($1,200 -/+)
Sony NEX-5 – APS-C sized Digital SLR with 1080p video recording ($800-1,200 dependant on lens kit)

The Nex-5 is really versatile but doesn’t have the image stabilisation or the longevity of the Camcorder format. It’s about budget.. hiring equipment is always a good way to go but personally I’ve found I produce so much content I need equipment around me as the opportunity arises, not shelling out cash and booking each time I have something to do.

Camera wise I have both of the above, additionally I want to get 2 GoPro cameras and then move up to;

Sony NEX-VG10 – APS-C sized Camcorder ($2,000)
Sony HXRN5RURU – Professional ($4-5k)
RED Scarlet ($7.5k)

The following I have to support the two cameras;

http://zoom.co.jp/english/products/h4n/ – Zoom H4n studio recorder (audio)
http://www.millertripods.com/ – Miller Carbon Solo DS10
http://www.manfrotto.com/ – 421B Combi-boom stand + 785B modo
http://www.rotolight.com/ – On-camera lighting
http://lacoloronline.com/ – Comer 1800B and LED Light panels

Editing software (2 x PC and 2 x Mac [I use AVS and Edius)
http://www.avs4you.com/ ($59 )
http://www.grassvalley.com/products/edius_6 ($800 -/+)
http://www.apple.com/finalcutexpress/ ($199)
http://www.apple.com/finalcutstudio/finalcutpro/ ($999)

http://www.videomaker.com/ is required reading if you are starting video in any serious way. If you want to take it to the next level the correspondence Masters in film via http://www.hollywoodcamerawork.us/ is exceptional.


Also windshields for the mics are critical for outdoor use http://www.redheadwindscreens.com/ / any environment where their is any wind. You should also consider an isolation booth for whatever mic you choose (http://www.harlanhogan.com/portaboothArticle.shtml) << You can DIY it by buying a Whitmore cube and associated foam from Amazon for about $30)


Fundamentally understand that good audio is the key, people will watch shit footage with good audio, but not the other way around, our brains are finely tuned to audible variation, whilst we are used to seeing a mish mash of things all at once.


Videomakers Annual 2010 Camera Buyers Guide (from December 2010) > Article http://www.videomaker.com/article/14882/2/ > Direct link > http://www.videomaker.com/content/images/article/14882/pdf14882.pdf



If you have no budget, get a second hand tripod, an iphone 4, this iphone 4 mount ($20USD) http://www.theglif.com/, a zoom h1 ($99) and AVS4You ($56) to mix the Zoom audio with the iphone footage after filming it, plus 2 sets of worklights from Bunnings ($39 each). Drill a hole at an angle through the centre of each worklight and put 1 silver reflector umbrella in front of the lights, then face them backards so the light bounces and you don’t burn your eyes out – http://cgi.ebay.com.au/2-x-33-Studio-Flash-Light-Umbrella-Reflector-Silver-/250790166926? – $16.90 inc delivery from China (♥ Ebay ♥).


If you want to make stuff that shines with a bit of practice, the following I believe is a credible kit to do it with (all US prices aside from Rotolights [pouunds]);

The reasoning behind the camera choice is you can manually ‘rack focus’ (shift the focus within the picture) using the NEX-5 (you turn the lens and it gets shorter or longer, zooming in or out). This means though you need to manually zoom at all times but have better control over the action.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/692507-REG/Sony_NEX5K_B_Alpha_NEX_5_Interchangeable_Lens.html – $699.99
Camera mic (REQUIRED) – http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/712881-REG/Sony_ECMSST1_ECMSST1_MICROPHONE_f_NEX3_5.html – $86.56
Windshield for mic (Zoom h1 fits ECM-SST1) – http://www.redheadwindscreens.com/products/ – $34.95
Memory card (64gb)
http://cgi.ebay.com.au/SanDisk-64GB-Ultra-SDXC-SD-SDHC-Secure-Digital-Card-64G-/230482405620?pt=AU_Electronics_Memory_Cards&hash=item35a9d268f4 – $252.95

Audio (you put this mic on the person, then you film them, then you go into post production and mix the good audio with the camera footage)
Zoom h1 http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/699403-REG/Zoom_H1_H1_Ultra_Portable_Digital_Audio.html – $99

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/481987-REG/Manfrotto_190XPROB_Tripod_with_501HDV.html – $288.17

http://www.planetvideosystems.com/ecom-prodshow/RL48INTERVIEWKIT.html – $241.66 (pounds) – You will need a handle / brace to fit the light to the tripod as well as the camera – this one is pretty good > http://lacoloronline.com/product/?FB1-Universal-Camera-Bracket-with-Accessory-Shoe – $21

(+ when you are ready) Lens for telephoto work – http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/732292-REG/Sony_SEL18200_DT_18_200mm_f_3_5_6_3_Zoom.html – $799.99

As said if you are PC based www.avs4you.com is a fine place to start and cheap as hell.


Also the NEX-VG10 is a beautiful camera if you have $2k – (20x or so times bigger sensor than the CX550).

Earlier I bought a Letusmini 35mm adapter and a set of old Canon FD lenses so I could ‘rack focus’ on the CX550VE, except it requires rail support and makes the whole rig very heavy. The advent of the NEX series means I can use a tiny camera direct to manual lenses and record video.

That said everything on the FestivalCouch Maitreya video was done on the CX550 camcorder using a http://www.cameraworld.com.au/Sony_VCL_DH0758_Wide_Conversion_Lens_p/sonvcldh0758.htm from a pro camera (more ebay ♥), mounted by 3 step rings going from 37mm (front of the CX550VE) to the lens at 58mm. Big bonus is being able to press ‘picture’ whilst recording and take decent stills (for youtube/web, not for billboards 🙂

A good wide lens gets a great effect over the standard CX, its well worth looking at to mess with the flatness of small sensor cameras.

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