This question came up quite often when talking to new producers and first of all I’ve to say, that with today’s technology, you can get quite good results on a budget. Also I consider the camera one of the less important things, it’s way more important to get the content and the light right (watch out for our next article which will be focused on lighting a video correctly!)
Never the less I’ll try to give you a summary of your options when shopping for a video camera.
1. Consumer Camcorders
The cheapest way to get good video quality are consumer camcorders. Today’s model almost all record FullHD video and deliver good videos. Compared to other options they come pretty cheap too (400-1500 Euro), which makes them perfect for producers just starting out.
Although they’ve some disadvantages of course:
- On most consumer camcorders you cannot manually set shutter speed / arperture (which may cause problems when you don’t have 100% control of the light / especially when shooting outdoors or indoors with natural light coming in)
- Due to the smaller (=cheaper) sensors the image quality is lower
- On most you can’t add external audio recording (= more background noise, lower quality)
2. “Prosumer” / semi-professional camcorders
Semi-professional camcorders is what most serious producers in adult use – ranging from roughly 3000-15000 Euro they deliver better quality and offer a variety of features while they’re still quite easy to operate compared to DSLR video or professional cameras.
On almost all models you’ve complete control over the exposure, aperture, shutter speed, white balance, etc. – resulting in a much more controlled lighting even with difficult light. You can also upgrade almost all of them with external audio recording and some even offer interchangeable lenses.
As the price is quite high this will not be an option for beginners, but it definitely makes sense if you already have some experience and want to get to the next level!
3. Professional cameras
I don’t know of a single adult producer who uses a real professional film camera – as they come with a price tag of minimum 30.000 Euro and are difficult to operate. Just listing them as an option here to have all bases covered and as some companies are working on “cheaper” professional systems at the moment (RED, Canon Cinema EOS, etc.) – we’ll see how that turns out.
4. DSLR for video
DSLR with video features are really shaking up the market at the moment, but it’s definitely not an option for everyone! It makes filming a scene much more work and you’re way less flexible compared to a camcorder – on the other hand the video quality of DSLRs is very high, at least if you’re not getting an entry level one.
To make good videos you definitely need an external microphone and a Rig for your DSLR (with follow-focus system, mounts for external microphone, etc.). Auto focus is more or less un-usable when filming videos so you’ve to go all manual. That takes quite some practice of course and therefore I wouldn’t recommend going with this option as a beginner (I’d rather concentrate on the video’s content, perspective, etc. first – then tweak the video quality).
For beginners I’d recommend a consumer camcorder – it’s the best option if you’re on a budget and today’s camcorder produce good videos. Then, if you’ve some experience and saved some money you can upgrade to either a semi-professional or a DSLR.