There are four basic camera types that are used for online video: Web cams, consumer video cameras, prosumer videocameras, and pro cameras. Before you buy, consider the look you want for your video and, naturally, the budget you have to work with.
If it sounds crazy to shoot a video with a lowly Web cam, consider that some videos aren't supposed to look professional.
One person who's used a lot of Web cams for online video is Joe Matsushima, minister of propaganda for viral video specialists The Viral Factory. Matsushima is an expert at creating the user-generated look, and he's tested many Web cams to see how they differ.
Even if you're going for an a naturally compressed, pixilated, amateur look, don't go for the cheapest Web cam around, Matsushima says. Inexpensive cams produce results that are too grainy. Worse, the camera's auto iris will produce inconsistent results.
Plan to spend between $50 and $100 for a good quality Web cam. Matsushima likes the models from Logitech, and says "the Apple iSight rocks." Models from Creative and Philips are also good choices, he says.
Consumer Video Cameras
As you begin to look at video cameras, you'll need to ask your self questions about how you want to shoot and how you'll distribute your work, says Dan Rayburn, executive vice president of StreamingMedia.com and industry consultant.
Ask yourself who your target audience is, what your distribution mechanism will be, and how comfortable you are with the workings of a camera, Rayburn says.
If you only plan to show your videos on sharing sites like YouTube, which will degrade your work to make it stream faster, you might choose to work with a lower-cost camera. On the other hand, if you're going to need to use high-end lenses or mics, or if you'll need to wrap the camera in special suits to film in different environments, look at the pro models.
Most people working in online use prosumer cameras, which fit between the consumer and professional spaces. But there are reasons to use a consumer camera that costs $1,000 or less. If you simply don't feel comfortable with high-end features and you want something as easy as possible, go for a consumer camera. If you're a small business and spending anything more would be impossible, a consumer camera can be a good first step.
Not everyone feels, that way, though. We spoke with Steve Subit, the pro video camera expert at B&H, New York's camera superstore, and he couldn't recommend anything in the $1,000 market, saying they just don't have the light sensitivity for professional work. Stretch your budget a little more, he says, and get something in the $2,000 range, such as the Canon GL2 or the Sony DCR-VX2100. Both, he said, fall short in light sensitivity, but will otherwise produce good results.
Click on the next page link to see our recommendations for prosumer and professional cameras.
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