Video, and how I shoot it

Between Jenn and myself, we’ve had a few folks ask us about video cameras lately. Apparently, many folks we know are ready to upgrade/replace/buy. Since I play around with this stuff a fair amount, I thought I’d just write my thoughts down here and let anyone argue with me if they want.

First off, I have four different devices that can capture video right now. Yes, four. I know it’s a little ridiculous.

  • Canon PowerShot SD880 IS, a point and shoot still camera that captures video. [sample]
  • Flip Mino HD, a pocket sized HD camera. [sample]
  • Sony HDR-SR7, an HD camera from Sony that can take stills, but is fundamentally a video camera. No, it doesn’t cost what Amazon says it does… it’s been replaced by something newer and cheaper. Perhaps this is a collectors’ edition price. [sample]
  • Canon T1i DSLR with video. This is our primary camera for taking “beautiful pictures”, and it’s also capable of taking high definition video. No sample here, because I haven’t done recorded any yet because it has a fatal flaw.

So, if you’re thinking about buying a video camera, you have to decide what you want it to do! I’ll run through what I have pointing out pros and cons.

  • Canon SD880IS
    • Pros
      • Small package (fits in my pocket)
      • Decent video
      • <$300 (so I’m a bit more cavalier with where I’ll take it)
      • Also takes pictures!
    • Cons
      • Video is not HD
      • Zoom and low light performance are somewhat limited
  • Flip Mino HD
    • Pros
      • HD video
      • Small
      • Simple
      • <$200
    • Cons
      • Video is just OK for HD
      • Shake can be a problem
      • Complete zoom failure
      • Simply doesn’t function for recording children’s performances, one of my important tasks
  • Sony
    • Pros
      • Beautiful video
      • Zoom and low light performance
    • Cons
      • It’s pretty big… like, it needs a bag
      • It’s a separate device, so you have to decide to take it somewhere, which doesn’t happen a lot.
      • Cost
  • SLR
    • Pros
      • Cool concept
      • You can use lenses
      • It’s biggish, but in some sense it’s small, cause it’s part of a camera you should have with you anyhow.
    • Cons
      • AUTO FOCUS FAILURE. It basically doesn’t autofocus other than for one moment. This is a complete failure in my mind. Fortunately I love this camera for what it does with stills, but the video is lame.
      • Cost

Questions I would ask you…

  • Do you know how you’re going to “deal” with the video?
  • Will you post it straight to youtube? Will you edit it?
  • Do you know what high def is? Especially when it’s on the web?
  • Do you need to zoom? Or are you part of the “scene” anyhow?

What I would probably tell you to buy, without having any idea who you are…

I think I’d suggest either the Flip Mino HD or the old school Flip Mino (assuming you can’t do what you need to with your existing point and shoot camera). These cameras come in at really reasonable prices and would allow you to see if you’re the kind of person who will actually do video. Even as techy and into my girls as I am, I have to make myself do it! This will serve as a test.

If you know that shows recorded from distance are important to you, or you love high quality video, then you get into a different set of camcorders… something along the lines of my Sony. At that point, I would definitely be thinking HD, and I would go with SD based memory instead of the hard drive I have. Memory is so cheap and you can have plenty of it along (although your battery is almost always your limiting factor).

Another telling piece of information… if I could have but one of these devices, it would be the DSLR camera, even though video on it stinks. I wouldn’t even use the video then, choosing instead to take beautiful stills. If I could have one expensive device and one cheap one, I would go with the expensive SLR and the cheap video, again, because the stills have to be beautiful. Any two devices? The SLR and the nice video camera… these days, I’m feeling like if I’m going to bother with video, it better be worth watching… hence the fact that the last 4 posted videos are all from the Sony.

Lastly, if you have questions, ask them. Obviously I’ve played with a bunch of options here. If you see me and you want to mess with something, just ask. I’m happy to show you how it works and let you know what I think.

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