March 29, 2016

5 Tips on Finding a Video Camera to Make Killer Marketing Videos

And to make sure your videos don't suck

By Ryan M. Pierson In Tips and How To's

A good video camera will make it easier to create good, compelling video content.

It gets out of your way and lets you focus on what really matters: your content.

When companies dip their toes into the world of video, the sheer mass of options out there is often overwhelming.

There are literally thousands of ways to equip your company to create compelling video content, and just as many methods of executing its creation.

Before we get into this guide – which will help you choose the best video camera for content marketing – we should address one of the biggest misconceptions out there:

… the equipment you use matters very little.

Make no mistake, the cassette-loaded JVC camcorder that has been gathering dust in your closet for the last 15 years is not going to produce great video by today’s standards.

You need something that can record high-definition (HD) video reliably, and that exports it in a format that is easy for you to handle.

In this guide, we will focus on the questions you should ask yourself when you are choosing a new video camera for your business.

What is your budget?

Your budget should the first thing you determine.

It will quickly eliminate a lot of options you don’t have the resources to afford in the first place. This budget will not only help you filter out your options, but also to help you determine the type of video content you will be producing.

Remember that your camera is only part of the video production kit you will be assembling.

Things like lighting, the set you will shoot videos at, and audio will take a chunk out of your budget.

We’ve covered in the past that you can create a great video production setup for under $200, so you can do quite a lot with very little allocated to this part of the production.

What type of video camera do you need?

Do you want to walk around with the camera?

Are you going to be shooting in well-lit area?

Are you comfortable with video cameras or do you want something that is as automatic as possible?

These are important questions to ask before diving in to the type of video camera you would need.

The ability to mount an accessory such as a shotgun microphone, as well as an audio jack to plug it in, are important factors, as well.

In general, you are going to want something that shoots in at least 1080p at 30 frames per second.

There are plenty of cameras out there that shoot at 4K and/or 60 frames per second, but these are overkill for the purposes of content marketing unless you really need that fluidity that comes from higher frame rates.

Here is a quick look at some of the most popular video camera types, the typical price for a decent-quality model, and features found in most products in the category:

Camera Type Price Image Stabilization Works in Dim Lighting Beginner Friendly Shoe Mount
Smartphone $200-800 No No Yes No
Handheld Camcorder $200-600 Yes Maybe Yes Maybe
Pocket Camera $150-400 Maybe No Yes No
Bridge DSLR $480-1300 Yes Maybe Maybe Maybe
DSLR $600-3000 Yes (Lens) Yes No Yes
  • Smartphone: This includes pretty much any smartphone or tablet. These devices are great for pushing quick, amateur-style content to social media networks like Vine, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook. They’re not great with quality production but they are the platform of choice for run-and-gun quick storytelling.
  • Handheld Camcorder: A handheld camcorder today is much cheaper and more powerful than one you would have purchased even five years ago. A good handheld camcorder includes integrated video stabilization, an easy recording mode, and support for accessories such as an external microphone and/or attached lighting.
  • Pocket Camera: Pocket cameras are a popular choice for video bloggers that want to shoot video on something with a bit better quality than their smartphone, possibly a better microphone, and do so on the move. Like smartphones, they are prone to sensor wobble when jostled around too much, but they are very user friendly and often have decent zoom and quality in well-lit areas.
  • Bridge DSLR: It looks like a DSLR, but it has a fixed lens. Bridge cameras are quickly becoming a popular choice for video content in part because of their impressive DSLR-class quality and high-end optics at a reasonable price. They’re less expensive than DSLRs, but you sacrifice interchangeable lenses and often a bigger sensor because of it.
  • DSLR: DSLRs are big point-and-shoot cameras with interchangeable lenses. In recent years, they have gained a lot of attention from the video world as they have become popular choices for video production. With the right lens, your video can feature extreme depth-of-field, stunning clarity, and a look that stands out against traditional camcorders. The downside here is the high price tag of not only the camera, but of the lenses you’ll need to get the job done. Image stabilization depends on the lens, and while most DSLRs come with a kit lens that does include optical image stabilization, a high-quality lens can cost a pretty penny.

What are some great video camera options?

Once you have decided on what type of camera you want, you will want to find out what the best options are in that category within your budget.

Here, I’ve listed my choices for the best video cameras out there right now to use for content marketing:

1. Smartphone

  • iPhone 6S Plus: Great camera, plenty of apps, and even some great lens-expanding accessories that give it more of a DSLR-style shooting capability. It even has 4K quality and optical image stabilization, which is a huge plus.
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+: Like the iPhone 6S Plus, this phone features 4K quality video and optical image stabilization, as well as superb video quality.

2. Handheld Camcorder

  • Canon XA10: The XA10 has been around for a while, but it is a great entry-level professional camcorder that more than meets the needs of small to mid-size companies. It features an excellent lens, a shotgun microphone mount, and tons of on-board settings for audio and video.
  • Sony Handycam FDR–AX100/B: This is one of Sony’s most impressive video-capable cameras available. At $1,700, it’s an investment, but what you get in return in no slouch. It’s a 4K camcorder with a quality Zeiss lens boasting an 18x zoom at 4k and 24x at 1080p.

3. Pocket Camera

  • Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III: The RX100 is among the most popular compact cameras out there for video. It has an impressive 1-inch sensor which isn’t common for compact cameras, and a quality Zeiss lens. For a little extra money, you can step up to the newer RX100 IV which has great 4k video capability.
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100: This is a great overall compact camera that is 4k capable, though with minor artifacts. Its Leica lens is among the best in its price class.

4. Bridge SLR

  • Sony Cyber-shot RX10 II: Like its compact counterpart, this camera features a sizable 1-inch sensor capable of capturing video at up to 4k resolution. It also features a big, bright Zeiss lens that maintains a crisp 2.8f aperture throughout its entire 24-200mm zoom. It has a full-size hot shoe and 3.5mm audio-in jack perfect for mounted shotgun microphones such as the Rode VideoMic Pro.

5. DSLR

  • Canon EOS Rebel T6i: Canon is renowned for the video quality produced by its DSLRs with the 5D Mark II being the first real candidate for commercial video production among DSLR cameras. The T6i is born to produce video content, and Canon agrees. For $799, you can purchase an all-in-one kit for video production including the T6i, an 18-55mm lens that includes quiet zoom and focus as well as integrated stabilization, a Rode shotgun microphone, and a 32GB SDHC card for storing your video.
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III: At $2,500, this is not a cheap camera. However, it is the go-to DSLR of choice for many professional video content creators due to its cinema-class capabilities. From wedding videographers to blockbuster movie producers, the 5D Mark III boasts superior low-light capability, an extensive line of lenses (sold separately), and a full-frame sensor that ensures you aren’t getting a cropped image.

These are just a handful of the many choices out there for video content creation.

Keep in mind a lot of this equipment can be rented as opposed to being purchased outright, making price less of a factor for companies that want to shoot video content during specific times rather than having something on-hand for spur-of-the-moment shooting.

In the end, the camera you choose only gives you a set of tools to work with.

It won’t magically improve your content or its quality, but it will help you to overcome obstacles set by less-capable hardware.

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