Which handheld camcorder is best for very amateur filmmakers?

by Jackie
(Ann Arbor, MI)

Hello- I am making a documentary in which parts of the production will be shot by the subjects themselves. I am giving cameras to my subjects to record their own perception of the topic and then interviewing them to narrate their material.

I will be guiding them on techniques of what and how to shoot, but they will be on their when actually shooting. Because of this, I want to get them cameras that are, (1) easy to use, (2) will still look as professional as possible in quality (look and stabilization), (3) as cheap as possible without losing production value.

I have been considering the Flip or GoPro, Sony Bloggie, and Kodak options. Of these or other options, which would you recommend as the best pick for amateurs to use and getting professional look at the best price?

Thank you in advance for your help!


Desktop Documentaries | Answer

Hi Jackie,

This is a great question and you are definitely on the right track! The answer to your question totally depends on the TYPE of shooting your subjects will be doing.

I actually own a Flip AND a GoPro. I would definitely recommend the Flip over the GoPro for just general (very easy) shooting. I've never used the Bloggie so can't offer an opinion there.

The GoPro is fantastic when you need a "fish eye" perspective and want those unique "hard to get" shots such as jumping out of an airplane or capturing video of super tight spaces. However, the Flip does not have awesome stabilization and could come across amateurish if the camera operator doesn't hold the camera super steady. (By the way, the Flip has been discontinued, which may or may not be an issue as you shop).

On this page is a list of some of the top camcorders, in various prices ranges: Choosing A Camcorder.

Also, did you know that there are filmmakers shooting their films and documentaries with smart phones? Learn about iPhone Movies.

And one last consideration. Is audio important or are your subjects basically capturing b-roll & nat sound? Because with the Flip and GoPro (and any other low cost camcorder), the audio quality is very basic and not awesome for interviews unless the camera is held right up close to the audio source (1-2 feet away).

I hope this helps. If anyone else has additional insights or suggestions, please leave your comment below.

Good luck with your project, Jackie. Please check back with us and let us know what you decide!


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