Deciding to buy a video camera – step by step

I decided to buy a video camera. Below my thinking model. Update: and the guide on how not to buy it.

Storyline

I have the following camera since 2007:

You can read my review in Romanian:

In September 2011 I won a camera at a contest:

The new camera, compared to the old model:

  • Was ~30% cheaper;
  • Has lens which may be considered lower quality;
  • Takes better pictures;
  • Makes better videos;
  • Comes with a 2 GB card;
  • Comes with a carrying box;
  • Has digital specifications 4 years better;
So, the new camera is better than the old one at pretty much everything;

Why the need for a new camera?

I thought like this:

  • The new camera costs ~350 lei and is an entry-level compact camera; the videos are not that bad; now – how much better will the videos of a video (so, not photos) camera launched in 2011 be?
  • I actually don’t know technical stuff; I can’t decide if a video made with a digital photos camera are so much poorer than those of a video made with a digital video camera; but, in my opinion, they must be; while this isn’t top notch logic, I can make an intuitive decision;
Why I need a camera?

  • Make better videos;
  • Use it for long years to come;
  • Videos are better engaging than photos and texts;
  • I already have 200+ public videos in my YouTube channel; I’ll keep on doing them;
  • I feel that I’m contributing to the world;
  • I want to film (some) conferences (like Lumea SEO PPC), people and views;
Why I don’t need a camera?
  • It’s an expense in money;
  • It gives me worries (how / where / why?);
  • It drains resources (electricity, hard disk space);
  • It may keep me in front of the computer more;
  • It’s polluting by its very creation;
The main reason for picking things up was this – I already made 200+ videos, and I want to make future videos at a good quality; that’s it; all there is to it;

So, the first options?

First, I wanted to know what do people buy; I headed in two directions:
  • Plan A – Do I need a photo camera that also takes good videos? or
  • Plan B – Do I need a video camera that can also take photos?
Plan A – Do I need a photo camera that also takes good videos?
Plan B – Do I need a video camera that can also take photos?

I used:

Conclusions – after, some reserach, I got into:

How to choose?

  • The price of “Nikon COOLPIX L120” and “Sony DCR-SX85” was similar;
  • They were, both, some of the best cameras in their category (Nikon L120 is one of the best sold photo cameras in Romania, Sony dominated video recording in my research, so I only focused on the price range);
  • The Sony was launched in February 2011, so it was relatively new, modern;
  • I watched YouTube and Vimeo test videos made with the camera;
  • I didn’t went too much technical – waiting for the prize of the contest to get to me, I started reading about the camera; a lot of my expectations proved false;
  • Perhaps I should have gone into a shop and actually see the two products, instead of using logic similar to “Oh, but 1,000 people can’t be wrong”; but I’m looking at my camera of 2007 – I don’t know all that much about photo cameras other than mine, I’m not a tester of cameras, and I like my decision to be rather logical (thinking, than emotional) liking;
  • After some research, I found that they were only good at one thing – Nikon was good with photos, while Sony was good videos; not that great, but when deciding, I chose to use the Sony video camera for filming (I want to make good videos, not necessarily good photos), and use my current digital camera to compensate for photos;
So, my decision was like this – pick a video camera and use the current photo camera to take photos; even an expensive video camera (Sony Handycam HDR-CX350VE) only takes 7MP photos, and it’s almost four times more expensive than the above Sony.
So, right now, I’m focusing on ordering Sony DCR-SX85 Handycam Camcorder (Silver).

Not to buy it?

Update: one day later, a new decision – not buy the camera.
Why?
  • Strange as it may seem, it was hard for me to find the actual resolution of the camera, a lot of web site presenting the camera don’t give you this; it’s not much bigger than 640×480, it’s 720×480 (rather strange, actually);
  • I currently own two photo cameras that film at 640×480; is a video camera an improvement to this? Certainly; is it a huge improvement? Not;
  • The Nikon COOLPIX has a WOW factor attached and is one of the best-sellers in its category; in the video area, things are rather different:
    • For about 800 lei, you get a decent standard quality camera;
    • For about 1,800 lei, you get a starting (but decent) point high definition (HD) camera;
  • I wanted to buy a camera for 1,100 lei, which made it a very good standard quality camera; but still, no HD;
  • An HD camera comes with requirements – I mean, filming one hour of HD video (a conference) would require a lot of space; I film about 3-4 hours per month; so, another expense – hard-drive; upload also;
  • I don’t think that either the Internet (via YouTube videos) and myself (via hard-drive) are ready for HD filming of conferences; I mean, you get 70% of what’s in a conference from a 640×480 pixels video; most of the people would have trouble viewing YouTube videos with 1920×1080 resolution (or even lower);
  • Two years after today, I think HD cameras will be cheaper, HD videos on YouTube more common, Internet speed better and hardware to see HD movies (monitor, video card, computer or even mobile device) will be better;
  • If I bought a 720×480 camera today, in three years time it would be pretty much worthless;
  • A 1,800 lei camera (I won’t mention the extras it comes with – hard drive, for example, and memory space) costs about the average salary in Romania; the question is – will 200 videos I will (potentially) make with it at conferences / concerts worth it 1,800 lei? The current answer is “no”;
  • Aesthetically, a kitten looks better at 1080px than at 480x; it’s great; but a video with a person speaking on a topic for one hour looks a little better on 1080p; most of the time, you look at a conference for ideas & information; HD is nice; but it’s not 1,800 lei-nice;
What was my fault in the above thinking?
  • I didn’t want to be an expert, and wanted to chose fast, without looking at the specifications;
  • I read little reviews from other users (from the ~4 videos on YouTube with tests of the camera, there was even one guy who was upset with his decision of buying the camera; and one guy claimed to have made a 720pixels video; false, it was just faked to be like this, the camera can’t shoot it like this;
  • I expected things from the camera; I mean, by paying 1,100 lei for a camera launched in 2011, Sony, you expect HD, right? I mean, it may have some problems, but still, give me something better than a photo camera for 350 lei (I currently own one which shoots at 640×480 pixels);

Current solution

  • Buy extra space for my current camera (70 lei for 8 GB);
  • Buy extra batteries for my current camera (40 lei for 4 accumulators);
  • Wait for HD to enter the market fully, in hardware, software, Internet;
  • Don’t buy expert Standard Defintion camera, buy a entry-level (medium at most) HD camera, when it’s time will be right;
  • Improve my skills in filming.

I am a Freelancer. My expertise is in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) / UX (user experience) / WordPress. Co-founder of lumeaseoppc.ro (series of events on SEO & PPC) and cetd.ro (Book on branding for MDs). On a personal level, I like self-development - events, sports, healthy living, volunteering, reading. I live in London, and lots of things live in me.

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