A digital camera which can shoot video or a standard HD camcorder will do what you need if you just want to reminisce over your holidays every once in a while or record your baby’s first words and steps. So why would anybody shell out more for a professional grade video camera? The important part is the word “professional.” If you want to make some serious money and potentially a business from your video efforts, you’ll need the characteristics only a professional video camera has to give.
Let’s look at a few of the advanced features that set a professional camcorder apart from the herd.
For amateur home video, you can always use autofocus, scene modes and other pre-sets to help get a clear image, even if you’re not the next Orson Welles. For a professional shoot, you’ll want to have direct manual control of each setting, so you can indulge your creativity and make the shot look exactly the way you imagined it.
In a professional setting, the camera will often be connected to an outboard monitor and one or more microphones. Pro cameras are set up to make secure video connections via SDI (serial digital interface) or the next best thing, HDMI. For sound, XLR connections are the gold standard.
Consumer video and audio are typically compressed so that we can store a lot of files in one place. For a professional shoot, quality trumps convenience, so you’ll want to make sure your camera uses a high-quality recording format.
Professional video cameras typically record in the AVCHD and MP4 formats. AVCHD is the higher-quality format that offers Blu-ray quality HD video. The more compressed MP4 format is commonly used for posting video on the web. MP4 is still fairly high quality, but it takes up less memory space on a hard drive or website. Cameras with dual memory card slots often record both codecs simultaneously.
A larger image sensor allows for higher resolution and more detail. That’s why professional video often looks more sharp and clear than amateur footage.
However, the sensor on a professional DSLR camera is frequently larger than the one on a pro video camera, so in some cases video experts prefer to shoot with the DSLR when possible. The larger sensor and easy access to interchangeable lenses allows a filmmaker to create a more “film-like” look on a budget. A DSLR may not handle fast panning as well as a professional video camera, and it definitely lacks the higher-end audio connections, but it’s a tempting option for someone who’s just getting started.
Sure, you’re shooting moving images, but not all movement is good. A professional camera will be able to record a steady, clear image even when the camera operator is in motion.
4k video is the next big thing
If you want to shoot video that will look spectacular on the next generation of screens, you’ll need a camera that can record in ultra-high resolution. It’s not a common feature yet, and editing 4K footage is daunting, but a few high-end cameras are getting ahead of the curve.