Choosing a camera 6.0

Sometimes you live long enough to wade through changes you saw or never saw coming. Shifts in the reality of getting your job done. Film to tape I saw coming…and the shift to digital (much further along the timeline than I expected frankly). And more recently (on my personal timeline) the shift from a recognized body type to another…the traditional run and gun with full manual control with good zoom lens to acceptance of the traditional still camera style.

I touched on this in a past blog…and today will continue with a look at the latest gear available. To keep things simple I use this site to winnow down choices. Use your own favorite online or other store if you wish…this one works for me.

If you want to review past posts, here they are.

Didn’t expect you to wade through all of these, but if you did (even a few) you’ll see there are certain common expectations. Manual controls are one – and a microphone input. Manual controls allow you to override change in your environment (light, noises) that auto settings might ruin. And clear audio is a must for interviews and getting good NATS.

First let’s look at possible formats.

Traditional “run and gun”, meaning the camera was designed solely for shooting video.

Still camera, whether DSLR, Micro-4/3. A still camera that also shoots video.

Specialty includes action camera (GoPro and its ilk), 360 cameras and more

Smart Phones…self-explanatory.

As usual, all camera searches need to begin with a budget…and that budget needs to include not only the camera but other “stuff” you need to do the job, such as media, mikes, lights (optional for now), tripod and even protective filters for your lens. Keep these requirements in the back of your head as you look around.

So for budget I’ll go three ways – %500, $1,000, and $2500. Assuming if your budget is anything above the latter you already know what you’re doing and don’t need help/advice.


First, the process of winnowing down.  Realize that technology and camera models will change over time, so what you see on your search may not match what is in this post.

On the website choose “Video Camera” and we’ll begin with consumer cameras.  I always choose mike input and select a price range, in this case $100-$500.  That takes us from 48 models down to 13.  Don’t be influenced by brand names…at this point you’ll just be comparing features.

Now I select pricing from low to high in order to get a handle on features from the bottom to the upper end of my budget.  The first two models up are under $200 refurbished Canon Vixias (and yes, you can purchase used/refurbished gear safely on reputable sites…but that’s another post).

New camcorders begin with the Canon Vixia HF R800 at around $250 and go up to the Panasonic HC-V770K at $448.  What’s the difference?  Here’s the comparison breakdown…and I’ve included the mid-range Canon Vixia HF R80.

First – the 770 has a larger sensor than either of the other two models, which means better picture quality and the ability to create shallow depth of field easier.

Next the 770 has a shorter zoom range than the mid-priced and low end cameras.  But I’m willing to bet it has higher quality elements that result in a clearer picture.  (Something I’d research before making a final choice though.)

All of the cameras use pretty much the same media (SD/SDHC/SDXC) and can shoot 1080/HD at 60fps, 30fps, and 24fps (higher shutter speed in case you want to go slo-mo, regular speed and what is considered cinematic film speed) as well as 720 (good for faster posting online).  Again, the 770 has twice the options for files, including AVCHD (a compressed format) and different bit rates (check out this article to understand Mbps).

And it is at this point I warn you that, as a professional acquaintance says, beware going down the rabbit hole…technology is a big part of video production and with every question comes a myriad of answers, leading to more questions and even more answers…leading you further down into the ground until you lose sight of day.

Final note of fps…the 770 also shoots at 120fps for even better slo-mo.

All three cameras have a manual option so you can control iris/aperture (how much light goes through the lens to the sensor) and white balance and all three have (mini-jack) mike and headphone ports.

In looking you’ll see a whole lot more specs that are similar or different – I’ve just reviews the basics.  And this is where I leave you to your own devices in making a final selection…your budget and preferences will drive you to a certain camera choice.

Oh – and you may be wondering why the $100 difference between the low end and mid-range Canons.  The $350 model has built-in memory as well as the ability to use cards.  Handy if you need that extra back-up.

Now that the process has been explained, here’s a quick review of the other format options.


Repeat your search with a $500 to $1000 budget, keeping the mike input selected.  This time only nine models pop up, ranging from the Sony HDR CX675 at $598 to the Panasonic HC-X920 at $1,000.

Again I’ll select the low end, mid-range, and high cost models and compare.

Once again, the larger the sensor, the better the image…and the mid-range Sony AX33 and high end Panasonic X920 have 1/2.3  inch sensors compared to the low end Sony CX675 1/5.8 sensor.

Again the low end model has a better zMedddoom range (from wide to tele) than the mid-range and high end options, but research whether the optics in the pricier models is better before deciding.

Media – here’s where proprietary media comes into play.  The SD/SDHC/SDXC are commonly used and reasonably priced media.  Sony has their own version of media called a Memory Stick…which means you have to purchase their media to use in their cameras.  I’m leaving that rabbit hole for you to research:  is it worth it to choose a camera that can only use proprietary media…what are the benefits?

Skimming along not much else stands out until we get to Display Type.  Up until now the cameras seem to use only LCD screens – flip out monitors to see what you’re shooting.  Viewfinders, while small, are much more effective in shooting in bright light and also help you brace the camera for steadier shooting.  The mid-range AX44 and high end HC-X920 both have LCDs and viewfinders.

Didn’t get into Lux in the first round of cameras but will now.  Lux simplified is the ability of the camera to shoot in low light conditions.  The lower the lux number, the better the camera should be in recording an image in low light, with allowance for different shutter speeds (60fps and 30fps).  The mid-range and high end cameras show better numbers for low light.

All three models have mike and headphone inputs.  Again you’re on your own in making a final selection.


We now move out of consumer camcorders into professional models ranging from $1000 to $2500.

Twenty-five models pop up in this range.  I’ll again select the low end Panasonic AG-AC8PJ at $1175, the mid-range JVC GY-HM200 at $1800, and the high end XF105 at $2500.  (Can’t do a direct comparison as with consumer models so will be looking at each model separately.)

AC8 – Sensor 1/4.5, Lux 1.0, zoom range 28:729, LCD & viewfinder, mini-jack mike and headset inputs, two card slots (SD/SDHC/SDXC), and camera weight around 5 pounds.

HM200 – Sensor 1/2.33, Gain (another way of measuring light) 0 through 24db), zoom range 24-354, this camera also shoots in 4K, 2 x SDHC/SDXC slots, a mini-jack headphone input and two XLR (professional format) audio inputs, weighing in at 3.4 pounds.  Oh – and you can also do live streaming (check to see what extras you might need to purchase).

XF105 – Sensor 1/3, zoom range 30-304, Lux 1.6-4.5 (or 1/60 shutter speed @ +24 gain to 1/4 shutter speed @ +33 gain), monitor and viewfinder, CF/compact flash cards for shooting video, mini-jack headphone and two XLR mike inputs, weighing in at 2.4 pounds.


This time we’ll move over to the Digital Still Camera section, so choose Photography and then Digital Still Camera.  1166 choices in the first round.  I’ll leave your personal budget up to you this time but I’ll go with a range of $500 to $2000, cutting choices to 575.  The two best categories are DSLR and Mirrorless (let’s leave Point and Shoot out).

DSLR – 216 cameras and need to narrow it down, so choosing lens kit (18-135mm) and mike input, tilt/swivel LCD and 100% optical viewfinder, getting it down to a more manageable 12 cameras.  Tilt/swivel LCD chosen because if you need to shoot low or high you need to orient your viewfinder/LCD so you can see what you’re shooting.  Optical viewfinder lets you see what your camera sees while you’re shooting.

Interestingly there are really only three models here now – the Pentax K-70 and KP models plus Canon EOS 80D.  All of the rest of the selections are various kits that include these cameras.  To keep it simple we’ll compare just the K70 and 80D.

Similarities – they both have APS-C sensors (not full frame but still good), both 24mp still images, both use SD/SDHC/SDXC cards, offer manual shutter speed/ISO/aperture, and both have built-in mikes and mike inputs (mini-jack) and viewfinders/LCD monitors.

Here are the differences.

K70 price is around $850. ISO (light sensitivity) auto, 100-204800, records up to 26 minutes of video at a time.

80D runs $1500. ISO auto, 100-16000 (Extended Mode: 100-25600), offers more options for recording video, records up to 30 minutes of video at a time.

You’ll note there are limits on length of clips you can record with still cameras – this is part of a taxation situation call VAT/Value Added Tax which taxes video cameras at higher rates than still cameras.  To get the lower rate there are limits on how much video a camera can record.

MIRRORLESS – 353 choices initially.  Apply the selection of price range ($500-$2000) cuts it down to 240, selecting mike input and swivel/tilt LCD cuts it down to 105 and selecting the zoom lens kit gets us down to 54 with prices ranging from around $600 to $2000.

Note:  Mirrorless means you shoot directly to the sensor and not using a mirror that reflects the image to the viewfinder which raises up to let light through to the sensor.  There are more choices here in sensor size, which also (another rabbit hole) means that lenses will crop or show more depending on the crop factor (zoom).  Have fun researching.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 – $600, Micro 4/3 (2x crop), 30 minute record limit, ISO 200-25,600.

Canon EOS M5 – $1250, APS-C (1.6 crop), 30 minute record limit, ISO 100-25,600.

Sony Alpha z6500 – $2000, APS-C (1.5 crop), 30 minute record limit, ISO 100-51,200 extended mode.

And yes, slowing down and leaving more of the research up to you.  (This has got to be my longest post ever.)


These are cameras used for action shooting (GoPro) and 360 (VR) and others.  Another day, another post.


With smart phones it’s all about the apps that allow you to control your phone camera and record video.  Again…getting tired so just posting a link to give you some idea of the complexity.  You want to be able to control aperture, shutter speed, and maybe even white balance.  You should purchase a microphone and accessories that allow you to attach your phone to a tripod (even a selfie-stick will work here).

CONCLUSION:  A lot of verbiage above and good for you for wading through it.  Just keep in mind I wanted to show you how to search and what might appear on a search.  I heartily recommend taking it a step further and looking at the reviews for each camera and dong comparisons through other sites/searches before making a decision.  Talk to friends, try out their gear…and if possible please support your local photography store by buying there (if you still have one) if the price is right.  Remember to include shipping and any other costs when making that final choice of where to buy.

Always think for yourself and don’t follow the herd.



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