yes, it is another digital camera question
November 29, 2010 4:06 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend a starter camera that takes decent video and can accommodate other lenses.

My kids skateboard and have been filming with my little point-and-shoot, but for xmas I want to get them something they can add a fisheye lens to & other things if they get more into it. I'm getting them a stabilizer too.

Since I don't know how far they will take filming and because they are teenagers who are pretty hard on their possessions, my absolute max is $200, so I'm really just looking for a starter if that makes sense. But the key is for them to be able to use other lenses with it. Thanks for any thoughts you might have!
posted by headnsouth to Technology (7 answers total)
Given the budget, you're going to need to look at the secondhand market. But even then, I don't think you're going to find much with an interchangeable lens system and decent video at that price point.

At first blush I was going to recommend the NEX-3 or NEX-5. It is a newish system, but has substantial commitment from Sony as their entry into the EVIL market. I have the NEX-5 with the 16mm (24mm eq in 35mm standards) as a street shooting camera. I've just begun a series of video captures using it as well. So far, very good in low light and I love the focal length. There are two other lenses, both zooms the longer of which is not easy to get ahold of, in the new system and a multitude of adaptors to make use of older lenses.
posted by michswiss at 5:00 AM on November 29, 2010

I suspect that they'd like a GoPro.

Otherwise, your price range is going to be tough on your criteria, and you may end up with a camera that does a lot of things poorly.

Be warned that stabilizers like the one you linked to depend heavily on the weight of the camera they're attached to. A small point&shoot won't be heavy enough to actually give any "spring" to the device, and it becomes a glorified camera handle.
posted by schmod at 6:54 AM on November 29, 2010

$200 and video on an interchangeable lens system seem mutually exclusive.
Most second-hand DSLRs will not yet have video-capabilities.

The cheapest EVIL you'll be able to find will be the Olympus E-P1, E-PL1 or Samsung NX100. Even without any lens, $200 will not suffice.

For fish-eye you do not need auto-focus (the short focal length makes everything from ~1meter till infinity sharp). So a recent cheap DSLR or EVIL combined with a simple manual focus fish-eye could do. A manual focus Samyang 8mm fish-eye will set you back ~$300.

As you do not use the limited depth-of-field that a big-sensor DSLR or EVIL provides when using a fish-eye lens, a compact with a wide angle lens and a fish-eye converter in front of its lens could be a cheaper alternative.

For a combination of fast action (skateboarding) and other focal lengths, fast AF could certainly be useful. Do have a look at the Sony SLT-A33, unlike DSLRs and EVILs it allows fast phase-detect AF during filming.
posted by Akeem at 9:27 AM on November 29, 2010

The GoPro is a great camera, everybody loves it and they have mounting systems for helmets and vehicles and what have you. They use it extensively on Mythbusters, for what it's worth. If your budget is $200, that's what I'd get. If your P&S shoots HD video (720 or 1080) they should inter-cut well. If your P&S doesn't, that might be a good next upgrade, many point and shoots these days shoot decent HD video (I just got a Canon PowerShot S95 and it's great). The guy off the board gets the P&S, the guy on the board gets the GoPro.
posted by jeffkramer at 10:53 AM on November 29, 2010

Response by poster: Wow, you guys are great. I'd never heard of the GoPro cameras and they look great. If my computers wouldn't do HD editing (4-year-old macbook & low-end PC laptop), and my TV is not HD, do I need to get the HD camera? The Wide Hero is standard definition but seems to be positively reviewed as well. It does take AAs rather than the battery pack, but is that really the only strike against it? (It's a significant strike IMO.) It would be great to be able to buy extra memory etc. as well rather than spend the full budget on the camera.
posted by headnsouth at 12:41 PM on November 29, 2010

I wouldn't recommend anyone get a non-HD camera these days, everything has been moving in that direction for years. When you go back in a few years and want to re-splice some footage you'll be glad for the extra resolution.
posted by jeffkramer at 2:33 PM on November 29, 2010

I also wouldn't recommend a non-HD camera. The GoPro 960 does HD-ish video, and has a rechargeable battery.

The downsides to the 960 are the slower frame rate (bad if you want to do slow-mo shots, which as skateboarders they might...), and lower resolution (not as huge of a deal -- 960p30 is "pretty good" in terms of resolution)

A 16gb SD card costs ~$25 at Amazon. That's good for 4.5 hours of video.

If you're set on the SD version, get some rechargeable AA batteries. These days, they're pretty cheap. You can get a set of 4 Eneloop batteries and a charger for less than $20 on Amazon. (And honestly, this would be a *selling* point of the camera for me. Being able to carry around a bag full of extra batteries is a nice feature. Most camera batteries cost an arm and a leg.)
posted by schmod at 10:43 AM on November 30, 2010

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