Camera Reviews

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the camera most people recommend for beginnersis the canon t3i, t6i, t(something)i. but when i was first getting started, eventhat was way outside of my budget once you add lenses, a tripod, microphones, lights. so, i want to test out some really cheap camerasto see if they’re as bad as the price tag suggests. let’s choose our cameras:(expensive, expensive, expensive, expensive) this is the cheapest video camera in the shop,and it claims to shoot full hd video. this point and shoot costs four times more,i wanna see if it’s four times better. we’ll compare those to this camcorder i boughtfive years ago, and a one and a half year

old smartphone, it’s not the latest model. but hang on, isn’t that still pretty expensive? well ,yes but if you’re watching this video,then there’s a fairly good chance that you already have a smartphone with a camera, inwhich case, it doesn’t cost you anything to use it. so we’re gonna test out these cameras, andby the end of it, i’m gonna choose one of them to use for my next short film. #1 bright light so for this first test, i’ve set up a reallydifficult scene for these cameras.

what we’ve got is a light on this side, pointinginto this scene here, and you can see there are lots of bright reflections, and that iswhat this cheap old camera is really struggling with. we’ve got a decent exposure on the violinhere, but the camera just can’t handle these bright reflections – they’re just solidwhite. but we can fix that with the manual exposuresettings, darkening the image until those white spots are basically gone. the cheap vivitar camcorder is very similar,starts off looking really bad, but then once you use the manual exposure, you can stillget a decent image out of it.

although i did notice there i kind of weirdflicker happening, dunno what that’s about. but let’s look at the sony point and shoot,because the automatic settings have definitely made it too bright, but these buttons don’tdo anything in video mode, so i can’t make it darker. and finally we have the year old smartphone(samsung galaxy s6) which i’ve got on this gorillapod mount, and if i hit record, thenice thing about this one is that i can actually tap to change the exposure, to make sure thatwe’re holding on to all of that information. so i’m gonna bring it down, and then keepgoing up until it’s as bright as possible without losing detail, there we go.

and by the way, this video is not sponsored,i haven’t had any contact with any of these camera manufacturers. #2 detail & color so i set up this image quality test, but thecheapest camera, this one, for some reason just had this problem like it was corruptingthe file or something. i’ve seen enough, this one is out. looking at the old jvc footage, it’s ona wide shot like this where you can really tell that it’s not hd, there really isn’tvery much detail. the sony on the other hand does well, decentsharpness and the automatic exposure did get

it right this time. the smartphone here definitely has the sharpestpicture, but you can see that the camera couldn’t quite handle how bright the sky was withoutdarkening the trees quite a lot. here’s a side by side, i think i preferthe sony. but for me, the most important part of imagequality is how it handles people. so here we have the jvc, in a kind of vloggingshot, and you’ll notice that the skintones look pretty decent, it’s got a nice levelof contrast, i’m quite happy with this image, even though there isn’t the most detail. the sony did fairly well in this situation,i’m not a huge fan of the skin tones, but

the autoexposure did work pretty well, theone thing that it did have trouble with was when i was spinning around so much, it didlose that autofocus, and it was focusing behind me, so that’s definitely something you’vegot to watch out for with these cheap point and shoot cameras. and then we have the smart phone (samsunggalaxy), and i think this performs really well, both as far as color and general quality. #3 sound quality so for this next test, i wanted to see howgood the built in microphone is, and i definitely noticed that this one, (the jvc) probablyhas the worst microphone, it’s quite tinny

you might notice. the more expensive sony definitely soundsbetter with the built in microphones, but do bear in mind that the camera is quite close,it’s only an arms length away, so it’s gonna sound pretty good, we’re also indoors andit’s quite quiet so this is like the best case scenario. and finally, we have the smartphone, now phonesusually have quite good microphones, but the extra good feature of these is that they havea headphone jack. these other cheap cameras have nowhere toplug in a microphone, so we would have to use external sound, we would have to recordthe sound separately, but it is nice that

we can plug in a microphone, for example thisone, from rode, which is fairly cheap, you can just plug it straight into the headphonejack, and it’ll now record with a much larger, better microphone. and of course there are plenty of other differentkinds of microphone, you have the ones that clip to your shirt, there are plenty of optionswhen you have a mic input. but the real question is, does it sound anybetter? this is recording using the rode microphone,and right now i’ll take it off, this is the built-in microphone. this is the extra microphone.

and this is back on the built-in microphone. can you hear the difference? so as far as sound goes, the smartphone isdefinitely the best option, but it’s all irrelevant if you decide to record the audio separately,which of course is what you’re supposed to do to get the best results. and if you do that, then if doesn’t matterwhich camera you’re using, you’ll get good sound from all of them. #4 battery life so over here, we have the cheapest camcorderout of the bunch, this is the jvc, and the

battery is five years old, and yet after twohours almost of using to record and basically just not turning it off, it’s currently gotzero minutes remaining on the battery, but it’s still trucking on. on the other hand, over here, the sony seemsto be doing very well, still on three out of four bars after two hours. that is a brand new camera though. and then over here we have the samsung, whichis i believe, about a year and half old, and it’s sitting at 5%, and i know how quicklythat last five percent disappears. it has been two hours and two minutes, andthe jvc has finally gone.

and there goes the samsung, it has been twohours and five minutes, and the sony… goes on. #5 low light the old jvc surprised me actually, there’sa bit of noise, but i think it handled it pretty well. next up it is the sony, which of course ismuch more expensive, but really you can hardly see any noise, especially by the time it getson youtube, i don’t think any will be showing up. and it’s the same situation with the smartphone,as long as it’s a fairly well lit room, these

cameras can handle it just fine. but if we go in a room that is much more dimlylit, then we can really start to see the problems. the jvc tends to get quite mushy, definitelylosing detail in the shadows, and it kind of tends to just all become this weird orangecolor. the sony definitely has some noise problemshere, if you look at the yellow walls, there’s lots of grain, it’s that kind of colourfulblocky grain that really doesn’t look too good. the smartphone on the other hand, has a finergrain, i think i prefer it. then i turned off even more lights, and youcan see that the jvc gets very mushy.

and the sony was very grainy, plus i had toreally mess with the colors to try and fix the skintones. and then also i noticed that the autofocuswas really having a lot of trouble even though this was just a staticscene, it kept readjusting, so it’s not ideal for low light. and finally the samsung smartphone reallyfalls apart when it’s this dark, just lots of noise and really weird color artefacts:theshadows went all blue, and i tried to correct it but really, the image was just too fargone. conclusion

so which camera am i going to use for my nextshort film? well, we’ve seen that none of the cameraswork that well in low light, the samsung seems to be the best for sound, and the sony seemsto have the best battery, but the camera’s always stuck in automatic exposure mode. if i wanted something simple & compact, i’dprobably go for the sony. but if i really cared about quality, thena smartphone is probably gonna be better than all of the cheapest cameras. so with that in mind, the camera that i’mgonna be using for my next short film, is the jvc.

and here’s why: when i was doing these tests, i was so focusedon dynamic range and resolution, you know, technical stuff, that to be honest, i wasn’teven really thinking about what i was actually filming – one of them was literally just thesky and some trees, right. it’s like, i know that what’s happeningin the film is more important than how well the camera shoots in low light, but when istart watching tech videos you know, like this one, it puts me in this mindset, i getdistracted from storytelling, and i starting thinking scientifically. so i wanna turn that on its head, and justfilm with a really bad camera.

i’ll have no choice but to put all my effortinto telling the best story that i can, because i won’t be able to rely making it look pretty. so stay tuned for that, and i’ll see younext week.

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