What Video Camera Should You Buy?

Published on June 6, 2011

I usually don’t make recommendations for specific video cameras, but this time I thought I’d make an exception.

It’s definitely the most common question I get:

What camera should I buy?

Why do I rarely answer it?

  • I get the question so often, I don’t have time to answer it over and over and over.
  • I don’t stay up-to-date on all the latest camera releases, so the only cameras I know intimately are the ones I own.
  • I need a detailed understanding of how you’ll be using a camera before I can recommend one.

Most of the time if I make a recommendation at all, it’s general things to look for -- instead of a specific camera.

Well, the other day I received a question similar to this:

Can you recommend a specific camera and microphone for me? I have a budget of about $2,000, and I’ll be using the camera to shoot various interviews with people at a conference I’ll be attending.

That was a good start. I knew the budget and I knew the general purpose of the camera, but I still had a few more questions. I wrote back and asked them:

  • How long do you expect each interview to last?
  • What is the final output medium (I’m assuming the web.)?
  • Do you have a fluid-head tripod? Or will someone be holding the camera?
  • Will the interviews be sit-down interviews or “run and gun”?

He answered:

The video clips will vary from a few minutes to several hours when I’m recording seminars. I’ll be delivering via the web. I have a cheap tripod. And I’ll be doing a lot of sit-down interviews, so that’s the priority. Run and gun are secondary.

Already I’m picturing how I’d shoot these types of interviews, because they’re such common things we do as video shooters.

But with a total budget of only $2,000, and a total crew of one person, I’m thinking the priority should be one camera, and two microphones: one lavalier microphone for the sit-down interviews, and one handheld microphone for the run and gun interviews.

Lights in this situation (crew of one, tiny budget) would be a challenging addition.

Best Video Camera for the Job

So what camera?

I recommended he purchase something like the Canon HF S200 (which has been discontinued, so the updated model is the Canon HF S30). I own the predecessor to this video camera and like it a lot. It’s a consumer-level camcorder, but for the price, it creates excellent images.

And it’s high definition, records to SD cards (allowing for the long record times), and has an external microphone input (mini jack).

Also, because it’s a small camera, it shouldn’t be a problem to mount it on the “cheap” tripod. (Big cameras don’t do well on small tripods. I’ve learned this the hard way.)

The camera’s price is roughly $1,000. That leaves about $1,000 for the microphones.

Recommended Audio System

He could probably make a single handheld microphone work for both the run and gun interviews and the sit-down interviews, but it would be better to have a lavalier (lapel mic) for the sit-downs.

Also, for fast set ups, wireless systems are big time-savers.

So I decided to recommend a specific Sennheiser G3 wireless package which comes with a body-pack transmitter, receiver, lavalier microphone, and a transmitter you can attach to handheld microphones (important for the run and gun times).

Also, it has the mini jack option which is great because the camcorder I recommended doesn’t have XLR microphone inputs.

The price for the microphone system is about $800. That leaves about $200 for a handheld microphone.

Recommended Handheld Microphone

There are a lot of great options in this price range, but the one I personally own and love is the Electrovoice RE50b. It looks sharp and captures great audio.

I use it whenever we’re shooting video of trade shows.

And the price is a little under $200.

The Complete Package

So there it is: a camera, wireless audio, lavalier microphone, and handheld microphone, all for around $2,000.

And I think they’ll serve his specific purposes well.

Would this recommendation work for you too? It might if you’ll be doing the same kind of shooting.

Are there other options for cameras and microphones that would also work? Of course there are.

These are all recommendations for equipment that I personally own and like, so there are zillions of other options that I don’t own, or that I’m not aware of.

If you know something awesome that you’d substitute for one of my recommendations, please feel free to post it in the comments.

* Links to products are affiliate links.

This article was last updated on March 28, 2019


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