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How To Pick A Video Camera

By | 14/10/2022

With the development of mirrorless photographic camera technology, the distinction betwixt photo-taking devices and video cameras has get farther blurred. Today, there are enough of mirrorless stills/video cameras available that can shoot footage comparable to the standard of professional person video tools, but at a fraction of the price.

In this guide we’ll be explaining the key technologies and features of today’s hybrid stills/video cameras, to help you make the correct buying decision. To assistance you navigate the jargon-heavy earth of video, we’ve created a glossary of terms which you lot’ll find at the finish of this article.


The most quoted video specification you’ll encounter for a camera is the output resolution, typically 1080p/Full Hd, 4K or even 8K on the latest cameras. Most recent TVs can display 1080p/Full Hard disk drive, and the power to prove 4K video, which has twice the resolution, is becoming increasingly mutual. Shooting 4K footage gives some flexibility during the editing procedure, fifty-fifty if your final output will be 1080, but the files tend to be a lot larger and require more storage and a more powerful automobile for editing.

The aforementioned is truthful to an even greater degree with 8K capture: it affords you lot some artistic flexibility (in terms of cropping or stabilizing your footage) if you’re outputting a 4K video, simply the storage and processing requirements are even greater. About people will notice good quality 4K more useful than 8K footage, most of the fourth dimension.

UHD 4K is iv times the resolution of 1080/Full Hard disk drive. UHD 8K is four times the resolution again.

1080/Total HD, 4K, 8K explained:

These are the most common resolutions used in video. Total HD (High Definition), also called ‘1080’ is 1920 ten 1080 pixels. 4K tin refer to DCI (4096 ten 2160 pixels) or the more than mutual UHD (3840 ten 2160 pixels), 8K also has DCI and UHD versions, which double the resolution in each dimension to 8192 x 4320 pixels and 7680 × 4320 pixels respectively.

An important consideration beyond the quoted output resolution is how the footage is captured: the best cameras capture greater-than-4K resolution and downscale to give highly detailed 4K output, but other models have to sub-sample (merely capturing some lines of their sensor, or lumping pixels together) which gives a less-detailed result that is more decumbent to glitches. Finally, some cameras have to crop in and use a small area of their sensor, which lowers quality (especially in low lighting conditions), and ways your footage is more ‘zoomed-in’ than in your camera’s photograph way, making it harder to become a wide-angle view. This is a detail near manufacturers don’t publish, so you’ll need to learn the lingo and read reviews to be certain.

The final gene to consider is rolling shutter: the wobbly, Jello-similar distortion of subjects that move quickly past the photographic camera. This is caused because cameras capture their video one line at a time, scanning down the sensor: on a camera where this is slow, there’south more of a risk of your field of study moving and being in a different position by the time the photographic camera is capturing the bottom of each frame. Generally, cameras with smaller sensors are quicker to read-out, so are less prone to this problem.

Frame Rate

Most video is shot at approximately 24 frames per second or 30 frames per 2d (with 25 fps being the standard for Boob tube broadcast outside North America). But many cameras offer faster frame rates, which tin can be used in a number of ways. 60p footage can exercise a meliorate job of representing motion, so can be a good fashion of capturing bursts of action. The alternative is to capture 60p or faster and so slow it down to 24 or 30p, to requite a ho-hum-move upshot. Most cameras can’t offer fast frame rates at their highest resolution, but 1080 capture at 120 fps or faster is not uncommon, which tin be great if your project doesn’t take to be 4K.

Recording limits

Another detail to cheque is whether a camera has whatever recording restrictions. Some models tin merely record for 29 minutes and 59 seconds (an erstwhile brake that related to import duty), but virtually end up being limited simply considering high-resolution video capture generates a lot of heat.

The processing needed to capture video generates heat and nearly stills/video cameras aren’t very effective at dissipating this rut, eventually requiring them to shut down to cool off. Pro video cameras have cooling fans but nearly stills/video hybrids just endeavor to transfer this heat to the camera’s body panels, where it tin escape into the environment. The best of these designs can go along shooting for extended periods, while other models let you disable their overheat limits (or, at least, make them less stringent). This is rarely a problem if you plan to shoot lots of short clips to edit together but will foreclose you leaving the camera running at something like a school recital, peculiarly if you try to shoot in 4K or higher. Fast frame rates can cause similar headaches in terms of estrus and storage.


In one case you’ve found a camera that shoots adept footage at the resolution you desire, a key thing to consider is sound. Most audiences are more forgiving of poor-looking footage than they are of bad-sounding video, and it’s a factor easily overlooked if most of your experience is photographic.

A microphone input socket is a must: the internal microphones in cameras tend to be simple affairs that volition pick up always movement of the operators easily or clothes moving nearby, so yous’ll desire to exist able to attach an external microphone. The next most valuable feature is a headphone socket and so that you can cheque the volume level and monitor for distracting background sounds: the human brain is great at filtering-out the audio of a machine passing or an airplane flying overhead but y’all won’t be able to remove it from your audio recording, when you watch the footage back.

More video-focused models let y’all attach sound modules for attaching and controlling high-end microphones with XLR connectors.


I of the biggest distinctions in modern cameras is how reliably their autofocus works when capturing video. Unlike stills shooting, video captures all of the camera’s attempts to focus, as well as the moments it’s in focus, so you’ll need a camera that’due south decisive and undecayed if you’re hoping to trust it to autofocus while yous’re recording.

The best performers are able to reliably rails subjects you’ve chosen (particularly human being subjects), and let you determine whether they should re-focus rapidly (to keep a moving subject in focus), or slowly and smoothly, for when you desire to draw attention from one subject to some other. Autofocus depends on both the photographic camera and the design of the lens you utilise, so information technology’s worth doing a degree of research (and, perhaps, testing), earlier you decide to rely heavily on autofocus.

That little AF/MF switch in the centre of the image represents the classic dilemma of video: put faith in autofocus or accept control yourself. The most modern cameras make autofocus much more dependable.

Focus peaking and Zebras

The alternative to autofocus is, as y’all might expect, to focus manually. This is the mode a lot of professional video is even so shot. About modern cameras let you use autofocus to gear up your initial focus position, before yous start recording, so provide a ‘focus peaking’ function that highlights the edges of the in-focus points in your scene. When used with an appropriate lens (ideally one with linear focus response, where the focus always changes by the same amount equally yous plow the focus band) and a bit of practice, manual focus is pretty workable, just a lot of subjects can be arranged so that y’all don’t need to re-focus very often.

Focus peaking has added a ruby-red highlight to the highest-contrast (sharpest focused) parts of this image, making information technology easy to see what you’re doing if yous manual focus a shot.

Besides as focus peaking, nigh cameras let yous ‘punch-in’ to the video: giving a magnified view of part of the scene to check disquisitional focus. Whereas nearly all cameras will punch-in before you lot start recording, simply some volition permit you zoom-in to double-check your focus while you’re recording, which is a useful choice to accept.

The other useful video tool worth checking for, when researching a video photographic camera is the pick of overlay a Zebra pattern onto the screen, indicating a specified brightness. It’s a useful tool for judging exposure, and can exist adjusted to check for over-exposed regions or to check yous’re exposing skin-tones correctly (getting exposure right in video is much more critical than in stills, where you can shoot Raw to preserve some latitude for adjustment).

Settings acquit-over

1 detail that won’t be mentioned on a camera makers’ website is whether exposure and other settings are carried over from stills to video shooting. The ideal photograph settings are often drastically dissimilar from the ideal video settings, and so nosotros prefer when exposure, white remainder and focus modes are kept separate.

Fifty-fifty with split (or separable) settings for stills and video, it’south not uncommon to accept to add darkening (neutral density) filters to your lens when jumping from stills to video capture, but not having to constantly adjust your settings can help brand switching back and along a lot simpler.

Image stabilization

Stabilization is an essential part of video. At its most bones this can mean the apply of a tripod with a head designed to move smoothly for video. Cameras with in-trunk stabilization can allow greater liberty of motion, letting yous add some dynamism to your projects. Most image-stabilized cameras have modes designed to
out shake (letting you go steady shots without a tripod) and modes that
shine things out
equally you lot intentionally motion the camera (these modes often ingather-in to the footage to permit some digital stabilization). In that location’southward some variation in terms of performance, with some cameras smoothly responding to intentional move and others initially trying to fight confronting it.

The final type of stabilization worth considering is a gimbal: an external device that that provides a greater degree of motion smoothing than a photographic camera tin give on its ain. Gimbals are becoming more affordable and easier to apply, and can requite the production values of your project a major boost.

High Dynamic Range capture

Unhelpfully, the term ‘High Dynamic Range’ is used to refer to two things: modes that try to squeeze a wide range of bright and dark tones into standard footage, and modes that capture a broad range of brilliant and dark tones for playback on HDR TVs that can properly display them as brilliant and dark.

HDR TVs tin can properly display a wider range of bright and nighttime tones, and can arguably have more than of an bear on on the viewer than the bound from Full Hd to 4K

This second arroyo can arguably take more of an touch on the viewer than the jump from Full Hard disk resolution to 4K. The well-nigh common system for doing this is Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG), a system developed for circulate Television set, designed to evidence wider dynamic range on the latest TVs simply even so look good on older sets. The other choice is called ‘PQ,’ which is a more than sophisticated system, simply doesn’t necessarily offer a dramatic difference to HLG. Both systems are supported by YouTube, which will likewise generate a standard DR (SDR) version for viewers without HDR TVs.

Near HDR standards require 10-fleck capture (which has sufficient infinite to encode the boosted color and tonal range that HDR footage needs).

Log capture

Log footage (left) looks very flat and washed-out, but retains a lot of information well-nigh the scene being shot, assuasive more flexibility to achieve a specific ‘look’ and retaining a wider range of brilliant and dark tones.

The other blazon of video that benefits from x-bit capture is Log recording: a way of capturing and retaining more data about the original scene, to provide greater flexibility when y’all come to edit the footage.

Log footage tends to look very low contrast and desaturated, to foreclose color or tonal data clipping and becoming harder to edit. The downsides are that Log capture usually encourages lower exposure levels, which capture more than highlight data but risk other parts of your footage looking noisier. The other disadvantage is that you’ll definitely need to edit and color-grade your footage. This tin can be equally unproblematic as applying a colour preset (called a LUT), merely it’s an actress step you’ll have to go through.

On the subject of LUTs, near cameras that shoot Log permit y’all apply some kind of correction to their screen or viewfinder to let you lot preview what the processed footage might look similar. so you lot’re not looking at grey, done-out footage.

Raw output

Raw video output is becoming increasingly mutual, but oftentimes requires an external recording device and some more piece of work when editing the footage.

Some cameras can capture or output Raw footage, often requiring an external recorder to encode the results into a quasi-standard format. In principle this gives a level of control over the brightness and white balance of the footage, beyond what’s possible with well-shot Log footage. However, because the Raw output doesn’t accept the camera’s processing, sharpening and noise reduction practical, it requires more piece of work to make it look good. And, at present, almost editing software has been designed to work with regular compressed footage or Log-encoded video, so the workflow isn’t as smooth equally it could be.

Getting the most out of your video camera

Whatever photographic camera you choose, the ability to shoot and edit high resolution video tin can be an exciting artistic adventure. There’s a lot to learn, even if you lot’re familiar with photography, but the satisfaction of capturing and creating video footage can be immense. There are extensive resources on the internet to help you equally you learn, and with the latest models, it won’t be your equipment holding you dorsum.


Sensor sampling
– The method used to derive video resolution (eg 4K) from a sensor that may well take more capture pixels than needed. The almost common methods are: native (1:1) sampling, line skipping, pixel binning and oversampling.

Native (i:1) sampling
– Utilizes the aforementioned number of capture pixels every bit the output video resolution. This oftentimes means cropping-in to use a central portion of the sensor. Gives detailed video but the crop results in a narrower field of view, making it hard to reach wide-angle shooting, and impacts image quality (particularly in low light).

Line skipping
– Merely uses data from select horizontal rows of pixels, skipping the ones in-between. Gives fast readout just increases risk of moire, lowers paradigm quality as the whole sensor isn’t being used. Common on high-res sensors.

Pixel binning
– Combines data from neighboring pixels, to create larger effective pixels. Boosts readout speed and tin requite particular levels comparable to native sampling, but using more of the sensor and then less noisy.

– Captures more than pixels than are needed, processes them so downsizes the footage. Gives more detail than native sampling can with good racket performance and reduced risk of moire. Challenging for the camera in terms of speed and temperature build-upward.

– The typical amount of data generated by each second of footage. Bigger numbers aren’t automatically ameliorate: every bit different codecs can vary in terms the algorithm they apply and how much information is retained about each frame. But more often than not higher bitrates are improve at conveying subtle motility and item.

Bit depth
– The number of data values used to describe each pixel. Most cameras (and displays) are 8-bit, but 10-chip capture preserves more information about the original scene, so is preferable for HDR TV footage with a broad range of tones, and for Log capture, where y’all’re likely to brand large adjustments

– Shorthand for ‘coder-decoder’, this indicates the method a camera uses to compress video for storage. The nearly mutual codecs are H.264 and the newer H.265 (sometimes called HEVC). H.265 is about twice every bit efficient, meaning that information technology can record the same quality as H.264 at half the chip rate or higher quality at the same bitrate. H.265 is usually more than challenging for computers to edit, though.

Frame charge per unit (eg 23.97p)
– The number of frames of video that will be played each 2d. Movie theater tends to employ 24p, Idiot box usually uses 30p (in N America, often 25p elsewhere) and 60p tin be used for sports and fast motion. Most phones and monitors volition happily show any of these, then it becomes a creative selection that helps define the ‘wait’ of your footage.

– Brusk for Look-upwardly-table, a LUT is a serial of values used to take footage shot with ane color and contrast ‘look’ and translate information technology to a give a different ‘expect.’ About ordinarily used to brand flat, depression-contrast Log footage look more like regular footage.

– More correctly called
in near instances, it’due south a visual mistake in video footage caused by trying to capture finer detail than the sensor tin correctly capture. Moiré is normally seen as bands of imitation color or ‘dancing’ patterns in fine textural detail.

– 1080/Total HD, 4K and 8K are the most common resolutions used in video. Full HD is also called 1080, and is 1920 ten 1080 pixels. 4K can refer to DCI (4096 x 2160 pixels) or the more mutual UHD (3840 10 2160 pixels), 8K too has DCI and UHD versions, which double the resolution in each dimension. DCI footage is in the wider ane:one.79 attribute ratio, whereas UHD is the same 16:9 shape as near TVs.

Rolling shutter / Jello effect
– A blazon of move baloney caused when your subject moves while each video frame is still being captured, causing warped vertical lines and a disconcerting ‘wobble’ to the footage. Information technology’south less noticeable on cameras with fast sensor readout.

Source: https://www.dpreview.com/articles/5481327930/buying-guide-beginners-guide-to-buying-a-camera-for-video