What Is The Best Camera For Video Recording (Based on Your Video Needs)

What is the best camera for video recording? Now, it might sound kind of weird to say video recording. Don't you mean YouTube video production, videography, filmmaking and whatnot. Well, the reason why I'm saying video recording is because I'm not talking in this video about any specific use case. I am talking about how to look at the broad view of all the types of video cameras out there, and how to look at them in such a way where it can help you figure out, what's the right camera for your use case. Or if you need to upgrade to a new camera, what's going to work for how you use video, and how you shoot video, and how you produce video? There are a ton of different types of video cameras out there. Back in the film day, there were very few types of film cameras.

So many video cameras to choose from. How do you narrow down the field for your video needs?

But with video, I don't even know how many there are total, but there are a lot. Now, that's a good thing because we have choices. But it also means making that choice can be a little bit more difficult. 

Low End: Camcorders

Camcorders still exist and though they’re on the low price end, they still have their uses.

Camcorders still exist and though they’re on the low price end, they still have their uses.

Let’s start at the low end. And that is camcorders. They're still useful today. There are some clients that given their budget that's what we actually recommended. The thing with camcorders is very limited on the type of audio you can input, and also the lenses are locked in, and some of them it's a bit tough to even figure out how to get them into manual mode. So most camcorders today do have HDMI out. So they can be pretty good for streaming. Manu uses a bunch of camcorders and a custom rig he built that fits over pinball machines, and he uses it for his Twitch stream where he plays on a custom table that he built. And also for competitions that he covers at times. Pinball. Yeah. It's a thing.

Manu’s live twitch stream using multiple camcorders.

Manu’s custom rig for using multiple camcorders to record a pinball match. A camera on the player, playfield, and backglass as well as a microphone for audio.

Manu’s custom rig for using multiple camcorders to record a pinball match. A camera on the player, playfield, and backglass as well as a microphone for audio.

High End: Hollywood Cameras

Motion Picture Cameras.jpg

On the other end of the spectrum, and when I say spectrum, I'm talking price at this point, is we have the motion picture cameras, I'm going to call them. The Arri Alexa. These cameras I'm going to push out of our discussion. They're obviously amazing, but they're super expensive. Just renting an Arri Alexa for a week and you could buy a DSLR camera. And hey, I'm not saying don't go for it. I have friends who have rented them for their own productions, their short films and all that. And I would love to play with an Arri Alexa. That would be awesome. 

In the Middle: DSLR’s

DSLR video cameras.jpg

For our viewers, we're going to stick to what's in the center. The first are DSLR, so that's digital single lens reflex. So basically DSLRs are still cameras that record video. Canon started this back in 2005 and it definitely revolutionized videography. Because now you have the form factor of a still camera that you can use to shoot video with. They're lightweight. You can run and gun to a certain degree with them, and actually get shots where people don't know that you're actually shooting video.

If you're sneaking shots on the subway and certain other places where you want to not draw attention, or have people looking at you because you're a film crew. They fit on handheld gyro gimbals, which is fantastic, which means you can walk around and get basically an amazing steady cam shot with a camera the size of a still camera. For some people their lightweight and shape is actually a bit of a detriment. If you're going handheld, you're not using a stabilizer. You pretty much need to get a cage to put it in so that you can hold it that way the way you would a traditional video camera. They're also limited to only shooting 30 minutes at a time. Now, if you're doing filmmaking and certain types of content creation, why would you need to shoot that long? But for other uses, you definitely need to, like shooting at a conference. Where most of the sessions are going to be at least an hour long, right? If you're doing corporate gigs like that.

Or shooting documentaries and you've got an interview, and it's going, and it's going, and you're getting gold out of it. You're not going to stop all of a sudden at 30 minutes. Another thing about most DSLRs, not all, but their ISO, their native ISO usually falls around 200 it seems. 200 ISO. Which means they're not always going to be great in low light levels. But I mean, we have a Canon 5D, we have 70D's as well. But the 5D is full frame camera, and it's fantastic, and it works with all of our lenses. 

In the MIddle: Live “Run-&-Gun” Cameras

So now we're in the realm of the professional video cameras. And I break these up into two categories, live and studio. So, what do I mean by that? Live is cameras like the C100, for example. Or C300, or the Sony SF7 where when you buy them they're pretty much ready to go. You don't have to buy a ton of accessories. With a tripod, monopod, shotgun microphone, wireless mics, you're ready to go out and shoot whatever you need to. Corporate videos, news and whatnot. There was a thing we called ENG back in the day.

Maybe they still use that term today, electronic news gathering, where you run, and you shoot, and it goes up to broadcast that day. The C300 and the Sony, they both output the exact specs that are standard for broadcast. So it's just ready to go. Nothing else you really need to do to it. So, these are also great cameras for documentaries, run and gun shooting. You're running around shooting a lot of B roll. For instance, when I do a gigs for some corporate clients where they're at a conference, I've got my monopod, my shotgun mic, my wireless on them, and I'm following them around shooting their sessions, shooting B roll, and I'm getting everything I need. And on the C100 I've got two SD cards that each can record probably, I believe it's over 10 hours each. So, you can just do a lot with these cameras. And you can be, if you need to, a one man band. Now they can also do narrative and other stuff.

Film Riot shoot a lot, I think they used to do a C100, I think they're using a 300 now, but they do really beautiful cinematic looking type work. I mean, and if you don't watch Film Riot, definitely watch them. They're just amazing YouTube channel.

Built-in ND filters mean you can roll in ND filters behind the lens quickly for run and gun shooting.

These cameras also have a lot of extra bells and whistles that from a professional standpoint really make a difference. Built in ND filters. So instead of having to screw on filters, if I'm running and gunning, and I'm going from inside to outside on a bright sunny day, I can just dial in ND filters that are right behind the lens and make all of my adjustments very quickly. Different types of audio inputs. With the C100 on the handle, I have two XLR inputs in those channels. It's got built in mics as well. So this allows me to use that shotgun in one channel, and also use a wireless that I have on my client or whoever planted somewhere, coming into the camera. And it's all recorded together with the video.

Two XLR audio inputs built into the Canon C100 handle.

A Rode shotgun mic and Rodelink wireless lav mic receiver attached to the top of our Canon C100.

They also have multiple buttons that are either pre-programmed are you program yourself to do various things you need to do when you're again, shooting on the fly. To be able to quickly make adjustments to white balance, to use features like peaking that allow you to be able to see the range of focus you have in the image. Some of the cons is, compared to say the DSLRs is, these guys are a little heavier. Enough so that I can't fit the C100 on a handheld. I've been on shoots where we'll use the C100 as our A camera, but then when we need to get close shots that are moving, we'll use the 5D, or we'll even use the GH5 on a handheld gimbal to just fly across the products or whatever it is that we're shooting that day. We find that having a DSLR, that format, and having a live camera, that C100 on set at the same time were super helpful. Another great thing about these cameras is their native ISO is pretty high. For the C100 it's 850. Right there that's two stops higher than most of the DSLR cameras.

These cameras are great for shooting in low light situations, conferences, showrooms, whatnot where there may not be a lot of light and you're not able to bring in and augment any of it. And they have a great dynamic rage. We find it's really hard with well exposed footage to crush those blacks. 

In the Middle: Studio Cameras

The next step up from these cameras are what we refer to as the studio cameras. And we call them that because these cameras like the Red Epic and the Ursa Mini Pro, these are cameras that right out of the box aren't really ready to go. You need to get sets of accessories that sort of fit your use case. And it adds a bit more to the price, but it's worth it for these types of cameras if these are ones that you need. They're great for narrative work, for studio work. You're not going to run and gun with these kinds of cameras. You can try, it's going to be a bit crazy. These cameras are recording raw or pro res 422 10 bit.

So, you're getting tons of data that you can do almost anything with in post. So these are really great for commercials, narrative work, work where you really want to have the best image that you can get. They're shooting 4K, 5K natively. I mean, they can shoot lower, but that's what they shoot at. And that also high ISOs. The C100 for example is recording NPEG. It's not 10 bit. It's not 422. It works great for our uses, but if we were doing special effects shots, or really high end shot, I would bring in a Red or the Ursa. Or other cameras in this category. So, live camera ready to go out of the box. Studio, more money, more time, more effort, going to take longer to get shots. You're talking about two different types of use cases. 

Which Camera Fits your Needs?

Now, this way of looking at cameras, compartmentalizing them, it's not the right way, or the only way to look at them. It's just a way that happens to be based on price and also on certain distinct things about these sets of cameras. The C100 and 300 are distinct from the Red Epic and the Ursa Mini.

And so, there's no right or wrong use for these cameras. It's what's going to work once the rubber meets the road. That is you're on set, on location, you're shooting, and you need to get certain types of shots in a certain amount of time. 

There are cameras that bridge these gaps. I mean, the Panasonic GH5 shoots 4K in a DSLR format. It's an amazing camera. A lot of people love it. I'm not going into all of these specific cameras and their specs. I'm just giving you these broad views of these types in this way to look at it, so you can now dig in a little bit deeper and research the cameras in that area, based on your use. Are you going to be doing live? Are going to be doing more narrative, filmmaking studio, commercial type stuff? Are you going to be more playing around with DSLR cameras, where you're going to do all kinds of different things, or you're going to want to have a combination of all of them. Whatever works for the types of video recording you're going to do.

Film Riot https://www.youtube.com/user/filmriot

Manu’s Twitch Stream
The Mystery Pinball Theater 3000 https://www.twitch.tv/mpt3k

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