There are so many cameras out there. You can buy a $100 Flip camera all the way up to $100,000+ for a camera. So buying a camera can at many times be confusing. Some SD cameras cost more than some HD cameras. How do you find the best deal and get what you need.
The first thing to understand is the different classes of Cameras:
- Consumer: any camera under $1500
- Prosumer: usually in the $1,500 to $10,000. Usually have 3 CCD or CMOS chips. They have a higher quality than consumer cameras and are close to professional quality.
- Industrial: Broadcast quality cameras made for both ENG and EFP production. Made to be portable and used for many different situations. Very configurable for any type of situations or need, Very good quality. Usually listed as Dockable cameras as the backs can be swapped out for decks, studio configs and more.
- Broadcast/ Professional: Made for Studio operation, best quality and made durable but only for studio and EFP configurations. There are both Hard cameras and portable Studio cameras. Hard cameras can only be on a tripod where portable studio cameras are for Hand held operation.
Now there are three different uses for cameras, ENG, EFP and studio.
- ENG: ENG stands for Electronic News Gathering. Basically anytime you use a camera to shoot video to be played back later, and most of the time edited before airing is considered ENG.
- EFP: EFP stands for Electronic Field Production. Any time there is a multiple camera shoot directed live, it is considered EFP.
- Studio: Made for studio. Again this is a multi-camera situation but in a controlled environment.
There are many different manufactures out there, all of them have their strengths and weaknesses, for the sake of staying mostly neutral on this blog, I will list them so you know the camera manufactures but I won’t rank them. The major camera manufactures are: Ikegami, Grass Valley, Hitachi, Sony, Panasonic, and JVC.
Now that you know the classes and different uses for cameras here is what you need to know:
These days manufactures are tying to blur the lines in both the classes and uses of cameras. Every camera is claimed to be able to “do it all” at a cheap price. But know that a camera was first designed to fit into one of these classes and for one of these purposes. It is important to know what you need and how these cameras will react in your situations.
Here are a couple of other things to understand:
- Chip size: There are two different types of chips CCD’s and CMOS. Most Prosumer cameras and bigger are 3 chip cameras. Chips sizes are ¼, 1/3, ½ and 2/3 inch. The bigger the chip size the better color response and quality the camera. I recommend 1/3 as the smallest you should ever go. 1/3 looks great outdoors and in controlled lighting situations. ½ and 2/3” chips are better in low-light and theatrical situations where there is a lot of color. Industrial and Broadcast cameras will be always have 2/3″ chips in them.
- Lenses: most prosumer cameras have fixed lenses, in that they are not interchangeable. Cameras with interchangeable lenses have what is called a bayonet size. The size of the bayonet directly corresponds to the size of the chips. Most lenses are made for a 2/3” bayonet so any camera that has a smaller bayonet size has to be adapted. The bigger the lens bayonet size, the more light it lets through for a better image. Your distances and the type of shots you want to get determine choosing the right lens for the job. The main two lens manufactures are Canon and Fujinon.
- Cabling: There are a few different ways to tie a camera into a live system. A studio configured camera when connected has these features: Power from the CCU, video from the camera, genlock, return video, tally, Com, Audio from the camera, Camera controls, White Balancing, Black balancing and iris control. A studio configured camera should allow all these features no matter what cabling it uses, here are a few different cabling options:
o Multi-core: A 26 pin connector that transports all signals from CCU to and from the camera. Not very durable but works fine in a fixed install. The technology is cheap but cable repair is difficult and expensive.
o Triax: A form of copper cable that multiplexes the signal to and from a camera to the CCU. Very durable, and very high quality
o Camplex: A universal multiplex system that can be used for a wide variety of systems using a simple coax cable. Can be very finicky and lower quality but very flexible.
o Fiber: Another form of high quality transportation. Not the most durable but used for the highest quality camera transmission.
o Proprietary systems: Different camera manufactures have different proprietary send and receive systems for many different situations. They can be low profile or very bulky.
o Tie: The final way to get a camera is to use the camera in/ outs to connect it to a system. Usually a simple output and a genlock in is all that is needed. You do not get any of the studio features this way. All white balancing and irising has to be done on the camera itself and there is no return video or tally lights available. If you need the signal to go multiple places it has to go through a DA rather than using multiple outs on a camera. Power has to also be done locally.
When you start to look at purchasing a camera know that the cost of the camera itself is just the beginning. You have to purchase the CCU’s, viewfinders, lenses, lens controls, tripods, tripod plates, and cabling. So when picking out a camera, especially for a form of studio operation it is important to know what your needs are and to understand the different options and types of cameras out there. This way you can pick out the best camera for the job.
For most church IMAG applications I recommend using EFP cameras and have should shoot for either an industrial or Broadcast camera. Most of us doing IMAG are using theatrical lighting and need those bigger chips and the ability to control the cameras in the control roms, EFP because we are switching a live show and the cameras need to work well in a live system.