I get it. Funds are tight.
It’s hard pulling the trigger on that big technology purchase — especially when you know as soon as you cut the tape on the box, a newer, cooler, cheaper unit comes to market. So what’s the solution? It starts with asking the right questions.
How will you be using this camera? Are you streaming your services to the world? Are you editing your meeting and delivering content for broadcast on the local cable channel? Do you have the next Steven Spielberg in your youth group producing mini-documentaries? Who will be operating this camera?
(Volunteers have a wide range of skill sets.)
Based on your answers to these questions, here are some features to look for…
1. EXTERNAL AUDIO INPUTS
Those built-in mics are usually the pits! Look for a camera that has the option for XLR (three-prong) audio inputs. You can wire up a standard mic and cable for news-like reports or you can fold in a wireless system for documentary style stuff. You can even get a mixed feed from your house audio board.
2. ND FILTER
Neutral Density Filters cut the bright sunlight so you can open up your aperture and get better images without blowing it away. This is good if you think you’ll be doing a lot of outside shooting.
If you’re shooting in a low-light situation, you’ll want to boost the light coming into the sensors. This is similar to a still camera or DSLR “ISO” setting. Warning: too much gain will make your video grainy.
I suggest staying away from proprietary media. Get a unit that takes SD cards or other media that can be purchased from stores like Walmart. Dual card slots are good because usually when one fills up, the recording will seamlessly continue on the next card – allowing for a hot-swappable situation.
5. HAND-HELD or SHOULDER MOUNT
This comes down to the ability of the user to get a nice smooth image. Many cameras have image stabilization options — but they will only go so far. Shoulder-mount cameras tend to lean toward the professional side of the prosumer market. DSLR users often have to add on shoulder rigs to get their shots smooth. (Yes, anything can be mastered eventually, but it’s something to consider.)
Shooters have a saying: “It’s all in the glass.” That means you could have the fanciest camera body around but if you have a shoddy lens, it’s wasted money. Get a good lens. Canon makes excellent lenses. Carl Zeiss is a name you’ll see a lot. JVC’s ship with Fujinon lenses … these are all good lenses. If you’re in manual mode (which you probably should be) is the focus ring easy to find and intuitive? What about the IRIS? Does the lens zoom in far enough to get nice shots from the back of the worship center?
This can really get confusing. You’ll see lots of weird fractions and wonder what it means. The bottom line: the larger the sensor, the more visual data it can receive (and often the more expensive the camera will be). In this case, bigger usually is better.
Many prosumer cameras do not include an on-board (shotgun) mic. Some expect you to purchase your lens separately. How long will your batteries hold up? These are important questions to answer before you get to the check-out line.
9. BELLS and WHISTLES
Do you want Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology? Maybe you need some of these clever editing helps that many manufacturers are developing. I mention this LAST because while it can be the most alluring of all the features, it is likely the LEAST important.
It sure would stink to ask all these questions and not offer any possible answers. So, here’s a list of five cameras in the $1500 – $2000 range that I could make a compelling case are good solutions for most ministries. I like B&H Photo, so check out these links … or find used equipment or better deals elsewhere.
Jon’s Camera Recommendations
If I can help in any further way, please connect with me. Have I forgotten anything? What thoughts do you have? Please submit your comments below. Jon Graham is currently creating the website ChurchVideoGuy.com