Buying a Semi-Pro Video Camera

By Staff Published on .

When you’re in the market for a semi-pro video camera, you have myriad options to consider. Below are some tips for finding a camera that will give you the most mileage and flexibility and result in some great, professional-quality film.

Image Sensors
When it comes to CCDs, the components that translate light coming through the lens into electronic signals, size matters. Bigger is better. Most prosumer cameras use 1/4-inch CCDs, although a few models use larger, 1/3-inch CCDs. Standard definition cameras should have at least 3 CCD chips (one each for red, green and blue light). HD cameras are even better.

Frame Rates
A good prosumer camera should be capable of shooting various frame rates, such as 60i and 24p. It’s great to have 24p (progressive), which offers a film look without all of the costs associated with film production.

Sound Inputs
You must have XLR inputs because they are necessary for connecting professional microphones. Some cameras have 2 inputs.

A rear battery well can accommodate batteries of varying capacities and support a variety of filming needs and environments.

Changeable pedestals allow accurate brightness level control for better quality video.

A good prosumer camera is capable of producing video in very low light conditions.

Aspect Ratios
You should be able to shoot 16:9 as well as 4:3 content—check to make sure the camera you’re purchasing allows for this. Many DV cameras offer menu options that take a 4:3 image and convert it to 16:9. Some cameras (including HD) are native 16:9.

Consider the availability of lenses and filters for the specific camera. Some cameras have changeable lenses, others offer fixed lenses, but changeable is the best bet.

A good viewfinder is vital. The best ones give you control over the brightness and contrast.

Marc Prager, VP Creative Services and Strategy at TurnHere, has nearly 20 years of experience creating compelling content for broadcast, cable, film, corporate video and the Internet. Before joining TurnHere, Marc Prager was a producer on two History Channel TV series, “Man Moment Machine” and “Tactical To Practical.” Previously, he worked at Pixar Animation Studios, where he managed the editorial department on the Academy Award-winning film “Finding Nemo.” He has also worked in network news as a producer for NBC News Specials and for ABC News PrimeTime Live and World News Tonight. His international media experience includes high-profile television projects in Russia, Sri Lanka, Macedonia and Afghanistan. Marc received an MS from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and a BA from the University of California, Berkeley. TurnHere is a digital media company that produces professional digital videos, accessible on the Internet. TurnHere uses established videographers to create content, and applies rigorous production and technical standards to create the finished product.

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