Cameras Made Simple - What's Best For My Videos?

There are so many different cameras out there... So many ways to film videos... from mobile phones, handycams, procams, Ipads and DSLRS. It can be very confusing, especially if you're starting out in video production and video marketing.

I've seen this issue come up so often in Facebook groups, forums, networking meeting and marketing events. The most common solution I hear is...

"Just get started, make a video, use whatever camera you have it doesn't matter, the important thing is to just START".

But that isn't really answering the question...! So let's weigh up the options in more detail..

So where do you start? Let me try to simplify it.

I recommended 4 different camera types for video marketing:

1. DSLRs (what was once used for still photos)

2. Camcorders for beginners (what you used to take on holiday)

3. Semi-pro camcorders (what videographers use)

4. Mobile phone cameras (what we all use)

These are the best types of cameras you can use for business video creation. Now for slightly more detail on which might be best for you.

I go into more detail in this PDF sheet I created that you can download here but if you want a quick fix here is a summary of the key points:

1. DSLRs - these have evolved from the classic still photography 35mm SLR cameras. The first digital models during the early 2000s used to offer short clips of video recording. The novelty caught on fire and now they offer full digital video capabilities and they are great to use. They're extremely popular on Youtube and have a number of key advantages, primarily price, size and quality.

The footage from this camera looks amazingly cinematic which makes it definitely ideal for product videos but it can also work for interviews and tip videos. You can easily blur the background to get that film look but you'll need to understand basic depth of field concepts. The images in the foreground tend to really stick out of the frame and when done correctly and it just looks super professional.

The basic model comes with a a basic 18-55mm lens which is good for beginners and you can do quite a lot with it. You can also purchase lenses to match your look and feel at an additional cost e.g. prime lens or zoom lens. Most of these models are (relatively) lightweight and compact so great to travel with.

The cons for this camera... well you'll need to constantly change batteries if you are filming for a long time as there isn't a mains lead to plug the camera into the wall. Hand held is super shaky unless you have a shoulder rig. Even with a stabiliser it can still be shaky so best use a tripod when possible. The other issue with this camera is that because it wasn't initially designed for video there may be some professional functions missing on the cheaper models e.g. external sound recording/monitoring, clip recording time limitations and so on.

There are a range of DSLR camera models to choose from, from the basic Canon 650 to the Canon 5D mark iii. Canon are probably the most popular DSLR brand being used by videographers although there are other brands offering these types of camera. Entry model prices (for video) start at around £450 including the lens - the quality of video you receive at this low end is still excellent. The higher end camera offers better quality and more functionality. For those that are technophobic there are options to make all the functions automatic but they are are not intuitive (e.g. like mobile video functions) and you will have to learn some camera operation basics. This camera is designed for people that like to 'work' with cameras hence you have lots of control over the image output, however it can still offer great results and is commonly used by beginners. You just need to watch a few YouTube videos and accept a short learning curve.

What can you use it for?

  • Testimonials/case studies - YES

  • Product video and reviews - Recommended

  • General business videos - YES

  • Vlog - yes but you'll need to keep charging batteries or buy an add-on to plug into mains, can be shaky when hand-held.

  • Event filming - Not recommended unless you have a shoulder rig and use a tripod. There is also a limit on the clip duration length, sometimes around 12 minutes so you can't film continuously.

2. The Camcorder (The family cam) - these are commonly marketed mostly for family holidays but can also be used for video marketing, especially if they're HD models (most are nowadays). The problem with these cameras is that you tend to have no control over the various lighting functions and that does impose some limitations on your video image. For example if you film indoors and the light coming from a window changes due to a cloud, the camera automatically compensates and changes the settings. The result is that your video image might suddenly look different due to the camera changing the exposure. This also happens with mobile phone cameras but there are apps that can prevent this.

Some camcorder models allow you to create semi-professional videos by letting you have control over the settings but it tends to be the higher end models and the newer ones. For example if you can't plug an external neck mic into your camera then you are at the mercy of your built-in camera mic. Your videos will always sound amateurish.

I have seen some good videos shot with these cameras, so as long as you have the high end models and steer away from the in-camera 'special effects' you should be fine. The quality is generally good but might feel a little 'home video' even in 'cinematic' mode (if you have that function). If you're just starting out these cameras can be a good choice and an excellent intro to video production as long as you stick to the more expensive models.

For the technophobic videographer these are ideal and super easy-to-use which is a big advantage.

The prices range from £250 - £600. Important: check you can connect an external mic!

What can you use it for?

  • Testimonials/case studies - YES

  • Product video and reviews - YES

  • General business videos - YES

  • Vlog - YES

  • Event filming - YES, most can record for hours and have stabalisers.

Key takeaway - check the small print of the camera model before you buy it. See that you can add an external mic and manually change lighting settings.

3a. The Camcorder (semipro) - these are a leap above the family camcorders and are 'semi-professional'. That means in most cases you can decide if you want the automatic functions, more camera control and can configure the settings (e.g lighting, colour, sound levels). The video picture quality is also going to be better (due to sensor size and file compression).

Most of these cameras also enable you to connect professional equipment and are geared towards a video production workflow. There are loads of advantages using these cameras and you'll see me raving about them on the website simply because I think these cameras are ideal for businesses and video marketing. They are extremely versatile and can be used for events, testimonials, blogs and they are small and light. The quality is excellent and they are also great in low lighting. For the technophobic videographer the automatic options are easy and reliable - it's really just aim and shoot. The prices are from around £1100 upwards - most of the big brands (Sony, Canon, Panasonic. JVS) offer these type of cameras. For speaking events like lectures and keynotes these are ideal as some models have dual SD card recording capabilities when it comes to long recordings.

The cons? Well the images doesn't look as cinematic as the DSLR, you can't change lenses but you do have a zoom on most models.

What can you use it for?

  • Testimonials/case studies - YES

  • Product video and reviews - YES

  • General business videos - YES

  • Vlog - YES

  • Event filming - YES

Key Takeaway - the best option for a range of business videos if you have the budget.

4. Mobile phone (smartphone) camera - these tiny cameras have come a long way very quickly. The quality matches some of the semi pro cameras on the market. It's also so easy to film with them that they are by far the best option for live video. These cameras offer good quality (especially the new ones Samsung, iPhone and so on) and you can buy brilliant add-ons from lenses to mics, apps and so on. These apps can really improve the camera's functionalities and capabilities and can result in phone footage that looks super-professional.

However if you're thinking about using them as part of your video creation setup on a regular basis for your business, you might want to look for alternatives as they can slow down your works flow. However if you're using them for live broadcasts... they are by far the best-easiest option.

The cons with mobile camera are:

1. You'll need lots of memory storage if you film on a regular basis.

2. It's a phone! So you can't receive calls while filming.

3. It's clumsy! You'll need a tripod to keep it stable, you can't monitor what your filming easily, battery life runs out very quickly.

4. You need to be clued up on the add ons otherwise your footage looks like it's filmed on a mobile.

Is it for you? Maybe... it really depends on your requirements and preferences. Some people love using their mobile and create great videos (mostly FB live) but some hate it because it's too much of a fiddle to incorporate into a video production workflow.

What can you use it for?

  • Testimonials/case studies - YES best with add-ons (apps, external mic)

  • Product video and reviews - YES

  • General business videos - YES but best with add-ons (apps, external mic)

  • Vlog - YES but you'll need to have ensure you have enough memory.

  • Event filming - can do but not ideal.

Key takeaway - if you have an iPad or something similar it's I'd recommend using one of these for your camera work.

How do you move forward with your decision?

If you want to use a semi pro camera, you can download this PDF here on the Canon AX 20 I have used for some of my productions and love using it.

I've also come up with a few questions that might just guide you in the right direction and help decide which camera is for you.

1. How often do you think you'll use your camera?

If you use your camera often, more than once a week, choosing the right camera is key. Think about your workflow, for example can filming on a DSLR save you more time than on your mobile? How long does it take you to transfer files to your computer to edit? Time is money right? Fast and efficient workflow is important if you are creating content on a regular basis.

2. What kind of filming will you be doing with your camera?

Think about what you will be filming and which of the cameras above can help you get better results. If you can, test the various options to see which feels right for you. For example maybe borrow a DSLR or hire one and see if you like the functionality and footage. How does an interview or product look with that camera, do you like the result? The type of videos you are looking to create can help you decide which camera is best for you. If you are filming events or vox pop street video (hand held videos), a DSLR might be challenging as they are shaky without a shoulder rig. For filming products DSLRs are great.

3. What is your budget?

Well... depending on how much you want to spend can really help you decide which cameras are for you. Keep in mind that if you're using video to generate leads and increase your bottom line a quality camera that enhances your video capabilities and saves you time would be a good investment in the long term.

4. How do you rate your technical competency?

Well all the cameras mentioned above are relatively easy to work. But there is a learning curve and you might have to go on YouTube to figure stuff out. As I've mentioned hiring a camera is always a good option to see if the type of camera you are considering is good for you. There is always a learning curve... even the simple smartphone camera apps take time to figure out. The question is how long you want to spend learning how to use a camera and how long will it take to feel confident using the camera! I can only say from experience, that the last thing you want is to be worrying about camera settings while you're filming to a tight schedule!

#videoscameras #videodiy #videomarketing #DSLRS

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