Video-camera:What should I get?

Hey everyone!!

I have read some of the various posts on people’s video-camera’s, but would like to ask this question:

What brand/model of digital video-camera is the best for shooting a unicycling movie? I need something that will be pretty rugged. What are my options for getting a video-camera with a built-in digital camera (still-shots) or for getting one without this feature? Also, I will be receiving a tape from an Australian unicyclist; if a tape conversion is needed, what digital video-camera/equipment would be best to do this? My dad knows a little bit about the different tapes and conversions, but we don’t know what to buy. I have a price range of $300-$500 here. Thanx for any suggestions, pro’s and con’s, or reviews of any digital video-camera’s!!

~Sara Chastain )—(X)


Digital video camera shopping is definitely the sort of thing that can confuse you when you don’t know what you’re getting. I wonder how many cams out there can take a good fall off a unicycle without breaking?.. don’t tell the insurance company what you’re using it for!

Firstly, the “400x digital hyper zoom” labels on the side don’t guarantee that they’re 20 times better than the “20x zoom” models! When it comes to zooming, judge the camera only on the “Optical Zoom” specs. Optical zoom is how far it can zoom without loss of quality.

You shouldn’t have too many problems grabbing stuff off VHS tapes, all you do is hook your new video camera up to your VCRs video out, audio out connections, press play on the VCR and then record on your camera.

Choose carefully what size tapes you want your video camera to take, the 2 main options are “miniDV” and the slightly older but by no means extinct “digital-8”. I guess if you’re doing uni stuff then you’re going to want the smallest camera possible which would probably take miniDVs. Get one with “digital-8” if you want backwards compatibility to 8mm and hi-8 tapes.

Look out though, because the smaller the camera, the more “camera shake” you’re going to experience. Consider using a tripod.

There’s also “micro MV” tapes out there but I haven’t used them, I guess they’re… small.

Other stuff I’d look out for:

  • Flip-out view finder thingy (I think most of them have this)
  • Decent battery life
  • Firewire capable. I use this stuff constantly and it’s handy because it’s fast as hell and lets you control the video camera from your PC when capturing. I think that in the “digital camera world”, they ususally call this kind of thing a “DV port”, or another name for it is “IEEE 1394”.

I wouldn’t worry too much bout special features like built in special fx because you should really be doing all that stuff in the editing studio, not on the camera itself.

Would you want it to have nightvision?

I can’t think of anything else right now,
Have fun


This is true in the US. In the UK, dv cams with a video input are more expensive due to some bizarre law about video recorders.

On Sony’s its called an I-link port I think. Whatever, the shop you buy it from will tell you whether it has firewire support. Pete is right though, you totally want firewire.

You’ll need a firewire card for your computer unless its a newish PC or a Mac.

If the video camera has analog input, you can buy a lipstick camera which is a good way to do filming whilst on the unicycle. This is a tiny little camera that plugs in on a long wire to the analog input of the camera. You can then bung the dv recorder in your rucksack and clip the lipstick camera onto your helmet to get a view from the camera. You might want to save a bit of money on the camera to get one of these.