I’m interested in shifting away from specialising solely in electronics, and one area I’ve had a long standing interest in is video production. I’m considering getting into this as a hobby, a means to get out of the house, meet a whole different group of people and hopefully make something more of it going forward. Not necessarily to record videos for YouTube and become famous, but to learn the techniques for shooting and editing video. (Although I could apply those techniques and become famous for it later. Whatever happens, I say.)
I’m looking at cameras. Not necessarily high end cameras. Basic cameras for practice and learning some of the key concepts. I want to find something with decent bang-for-buck results, and a good feature set that allows for room to move as I start to experiment beyond visual technique. Specifically:
- Good Optics
- Good Low-Light performance (within reason, I realise this is a more high-end feature)
- External Microphone connections
- Expandable Storage
Finding a combination of these features is challenging. At least without spending $600-$700 on the camera itself. (Overcoming the cost barrier to some extent is a massive incentive to pursuing this further.)
The consensus so far seems to be that a camcorder may be sufficient as a starting point. Few camcorders have external microphone connections, but one stood out as meeting almost all of the criteria above, and at a reasonable price - the Canon Vixia HF R800.
It has an external microphone connection, decent optics, decent low-light performance and it accepts Class 10 or faster SDXC cards. It supports some interchangeable lenses and it’s available for a reasonable price - around $200 USD new or $150 refurbished from B&H Photo and Video.
But Canon doesn’t sell this camera in Australia. Instead, we get cameras such as the Legria HFR806, which is similar, but more expensive and doesn’t support an external microphone connection. (It does however support these sh*thouse useless functions like “Baby Mode” for registering children in the camera software for recording their early childhood moments. Yay.) On the other hand, the Legria supports both MP4 and AVCHD formats, while the Vixia supports only MP4. Otherwise the specifications are almost identical - same CMOS, (1/4.85-inch), same megapixel count (3.28), same zoom ratio (57x Advanced / 32x Optical) and same focal length (2.8-89.6mm).
But the difference seems to be in frame rate. The Legria records 1920 x 1080 x 50p/50i or 50 frames per second. The Vixia records in 1920 x 1080 x 60p/60i or 60 frames per second. Some discussion forums have tried to make the case that this is the reason I should stick with a locally available cameras in Australia - NTSC vs PAL. But considering the video is being recorded for editing on a computer and exported, does it actually matter? It seems that the higher the frame rate the camera is capable of, the better (when such time comes that recording in that frame rate is desired), and the limitations of using a 60fps/NTSC camera in Australia or a 50fps/PAL camera in America is more applicable in a time when television transmissions and receivers were locked to the frequency of the electrical grid - 60Hz US, 50Hz AU. Perhaps the AV outputs wouldn’t work with some televisions, but it doesn’t matter that much here.
I wonder if I’m missing something, because the Vixia seems like a seriously good deal for what it is, and the reviewers seem to agree. Outside of warranty support from Canon for an imported product, I can’t seem to find a reason to purchase the more expensive Legria over the cheaper but more capable Vixia.
What am I missing?
Of course I could skip this camera altogether. Perhaps it’s not the best option, but I haven’t found anything better so far. Perhaps I need to increase the budget, and so be it, but I still want to be smart about it. (Like setting a cap for the camera and spending the rest on microphones, lighting, etc.) I’m considering taking a wander into the city next weekend and talking to stores like Diamonds Camera, Video and Digital to get their opinion as well, but have a feeling the solution even for an entry-level content creator will be prohibitively expensive.
And for anyone that asks, I’m avoiding using a smartphone because I’d rather start with something a little more versatile, with better connectivity, a bigger lens and sensor, better manual control, expandable storage and less interaction with the mobile OS when syncing or recording.
As for “Why not rent the equipment instead?”, it’s a great solution, but for something I want to mess around with in my own time, not all that practical. The name of the game here is being able to grab it and go.
Anyhow. Anyone involved in video production in the house? Want to tell me what you think, where I’ve gone wrong or where I should be looking next?