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Looking for a camcorder to shoot your next
documentary, web video or independent film?
What are the key features to look for when choosing a camcorder?
It’s easy to get caught up (and confused!!) with all the specs and techno jargon when trying to find the best camcorder.
The choices can be mind boggling!
What tends to make things complicated when choosing a camcorder is that it's not a one-size-fits-all. So let's try to keep things simple and help you narrow in on the factors that will be most helpful in finding the best camcorder choice for YOU.
Since this website is about documentary filmmaking, we'll gear our questions and answers toward that angle
Below is a quick reference guide for some of the best camcorders offered in the various price ranges. We researched across the web (industry review sites, surveys, forums, etc) and narrowed down the choices below.
For documentary filmmaking, if at all possible, you want a camcorder with an audio input (XLR input is best) to record professional audio. Otherwise, if you're using an iPhone, DSLR or low-budget camcorder, you need an external recording device such as the Zoom H1 to capture professional audio.
For super high-end documentary filmmaking ($10,000+ cameras), check out our interview with filmmaker and two time Emmy award winning cinematographer Jeffrey Farrell.
Do YOU have a favorite camcorder? Got camcorder advice or experiences you'd like to share?
Click here to jump to the bottom of the page and submit a comment.
When choosing a camcorder, decide which features are important for YOUR situation.
Yes, do your research. But at some point, you’ve got to move forward and pick a camera.
If you’re a documentary filmmaker, the best camera is the one in your hand. If all you can afford is a FREE hand-me-down VHS camcorder from your uncle, then use it! You can always transfer the footage to a digital format later. But at least you’re shooting and you can brag later how you produced a documentary with your uncle’s crappy camcorder. You could even make that part of the story. "Look at me, shooting this movie with a crappy 1980's camcorder!"
Remember, it’s the STORYTELLING that matters.
Of course, beautiful footage helps and it’s certainly more convenient to be able to plug your camera straight into your computer to edit. But in documentary filmmaking, creativity RULES. Never, EVER say.. “If only I had a better video camera, I could make an amazing documentary.” The questions is, “What do I have available to me so that I can start making a documentary?”
Maybe your local high school will let you borrow equipment?
Maybe a friend of a friend will let you borrow their camera.
Even if you had to scrape pennies for 5-months to buy a $150 el-cheapo camcorder, at least it gets you shooting!
There are also amazing opportunities right now with iPhone movies.
Believe it or not, making documentaries is all about problem solving. I promise, figuring out which camera to buy is just your first of a thousand problems you will have to solve before you have a finished film. If you are easily discouraged, don’t waste your money or time choosing a camcorder. But then again, a shiny new video camera sure would be cool.. and could in fact be just the thing you need to get you started. Only you can say for sure.
Had good or bad experiences with a camcorder? Let others know what you've learned. Share!...
Click below to see what others have written..
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