What I look for in a camera

When I look to buy a cheap digicam/digirecorder (NOT a camcorder) these are the video features I first look at, in this specific order:

1. Does it have exposure compensation?
2. Does it have exposure locking?
3. Does it have shutter speed control?
4. Does it have color/gamma settings? (low saturation/contrast/sharpness)?
5. Does it have manual white balance?
6. Does it have focus locking?

The first two are the most important video features one should be looking for. Without them, you can ruin your shots no matter how careful you are. For example, the Flip/Kodak digicam/digirecorders don’t have any of these features. The Panasonic ones only have #1 and #5. The new Canon ones have #1, #2, #4, #5, #6 making them a better buy overall (missing only shutter speed). Of course, a choice between 24, 25 and 30 fps would have been nice too.

Notice that I don’t list gain or aperture control. If I was looking for a still picture camera, aperture control would have been much higher up in the list, but for video, shutter speed is more important — at least for the kind of videos I am shooting. Needless to say that for all of my HV20 videos, none was shot in aperture mode. They were all shot either in shutter speed mode, or Cinemode.

Update: JBQ wrote a similar blog post too, about still cameras.


William Eggington wrote on May 25th, 2009 at 9:55 AM PST:

So if you were to buy a HD camera today, which one would you purchase that satisfies say. . . your top 3 items?

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Eugenia wrote on May 25th, 2009 at 2:09 PM PST:

This blog post is not about camcorders, as more features are taken into account when I am to buy a camcorder, e.g. sensor size.

Right now, I wouldn’t buy anything. I am not happy with any product in the market that adequately upgrades my HV20 to something that’s priced logically for what it offers me, and for what I actually need.

However, if you do NOT already have an HD camera, I would suggest you go with the Canon HF-S100 (costs ~$1000).

chris wrote on May 25th, 2009 at 6:41 PM PST:

If you’re a CONSUMER though, with no desire to learn the ins and outs of video editing/filmmaking, these hard drive camcorders are just causing more and more pain, because most consumers just want to view footage, which they can’t like they used to because computers aren’t up to par with HD technology yet as far as playback.

THIS is why tapes are STILL OK by my book, and not everbody is a technologist..

FYI for CONSUMERS reading this blog with no in depth knowledge of filmmaking.

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Eugenia wrote on May 25th, 2009 at 7:52 PM PST:

I am afraid that most people who would buy a new camera, already have a fast computer. Therefore, a flash camera (almost no one is developing hard drive cameras anymore), is a better and more convenient solution for them. Consumers want convenience, and tapes are not.

William Eggington wrote on May 27th, 2009 at 12:47 AM PST:

I got a little Action HD 1080p camera and it was very disappointing at first. The “wobble” on motion dove me nuts. And it would slip in and out of 30fps and about 15 depending on the complexity of what its pointed at.


Man. . . I use it all the time now. Its so small and the batteries last forever and you can just shoot random things, whip out the SD card, throw it in your puter, upload it to Youtube. . . done. All the friends and relatives are happy, your happy. . . and. . . no one says a damn thing about the quality. 🙂 So it has become my “consumer” camera.

I’d sure love a “smi-pro” camera though. One that would STAY FOCUSED and not wobble or try and “help” me so much.

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