Select your camera

This guide covers the hardware that you will need (some required and some optional) to create high quality videos are home that star - you! It includes video camera options at various price points and some gear that will help improve your video quality. While this guide does make recommendations, you should test out any hardware you have first - you do not necessarily need to purchase new items for good video quality.

Grabbing a dedicated video camera separate from your webcam to record course content is a great option for upping your video quality. It allows you to record from multiple angles if you have more than one camera and generally achieve greater visual clarity and detail. In many cases, you can even use the video camera to replace your webcam.

After you've selected your camera, you will also want to think about your microphone and your other recording accessories.

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What is the difference between the hardware for self-recording your screen and for self-filming? 

For self-recording (or screen capturing), you're likely not using a camera at all! Usually, it's capturing just your digital display and your voice, so you are free to use headphones, a microphone connected to your computer, etc. because the equipment that you use is likely not going to be captured on the recording. You are also less likely to be moving around. The set up can be a bit "messier" since no one will see it. For more about self-recording, see the ETO's overview of how to self-capture (and share) course content.

For self-filming, you'll be on camera! You might be speaking to the camera or perhaps filming a demonstration or other activity. You're going to want different equipment, like a wireless microphone, a remote to control your display, and perhaps lighting, in order to ensure a high quality recording. If you're planning to be on camera, it increases the complexity of the recording - remember to leave yourself time to test out your set up!

During COVID-19, many items are being sold for much more than their original price (especially by resellers). Please use your due diligence to investigate the seller before purchase - if it seems too good to be true, it probably is (see How to avoid fake and scammy Amazon sellers).

1. Entry-level Video Cameras

While these cameras might be labeled as ‘entry level’, they are still great options for recording videos, and the lower price point doesn’t necessarily mean worse video quality. Often these cameras are lacking in features that higher-end cameras have. On the flipside, this makes these cameras great for a beginner who is just looking to shoot a quick video, or doesn’t want to learn about some of the technical aspects of videography.

1.1. Phone Camera (free!)

Modern phone cameras have come a long way, and in many cases, are good enough to record high quality videos! However, be wary of microphone quality as they will often pick up ambient noise. The best thing would be to shoot a test video and see how it turns out!

The Pros (Upsides) The Cons (Downsides)
  • Simple set up
  • You probably already have one
  • Compact and portable
  • Easy to learn
  • Lots of accessories available
  • Limited customizability for shot settings
  • Video files can eat up a lot of storage space
  • Battery life suffers shooting video

1.2. Canon Vixia HF R800

The Canon Vixia HF R800 ($299.99) is a great, entry level camcorder with amazing battery life for long video shoots.

The Pros (Upsides) The Cons (Downsides)
  • Simple set up
  • Reasonably compact
  • amazing battery life
  • affordable price
  • limited features
  • limited shot customizability
  • limited to 1080p footage

2. Mid Range Video Cameras

These cameras are great for someone who is looking to up their videography, or is interested in making videos and wants to delve a little deeper into higher fidelity video content. These cameras will often feature more customizability and options than lower-end cameras.

2.1. GoPro Hero 8 Black

The GoPro Hero 8 ($529.99) is the latest camera from GoPro’s action camera lineup, featuring improved microphones and greater first party accessories. If you are looking for something slightly more cost effective, the last generation GoPro Hero 7 Black ($449.99) loses some quality of life features of the Hero 8, but retains great image quality and has a lot of the same technology.

The Pros (Upsides) The Cons (Downsides)
  • Simple set up
  • Super compact
  • amazing image stabilization
  • waterproof
  • tons of accessories available
  • strong integrated microphones
  • Wi-Fi connectivity
  • records up to 4K
  • limited features for shot customizability
  • accessories are pricey
  • microphone adapter needed to add an external microphone
  • okay battery life

2.2. Panasonic HC-V770K

The Panasonic HC-V770K camcorder ($599.99) is a great camcorder for someone looking for a simple recording experience, but with a little more customizability than a simple point and shoot interface found in some of the lower end cameras.  

The Pros (Upsides) The Cons (Downsides)
  • Reasonably compact 
  • Strong optical image stabilization 
  • Wi-Fi connectivity 
  • Comprehensive manual settings 
  • Limited shot settings with the lack of lens rings 
  • Limited to 1080p footage 

2.3. Canon EOS Rebel T7i

The Canon EOS lineup of cameras ($869.99) is a great starting point for anyone looking to get into stills photography or videography. An updated and higher end version of the very popular Rebel T2i, the Canon Rebel T7i is feature rich, and the ability to attach different lenses gives you many options for composition and image control. There are other options to the T7i, from the likes of Nikon, Sony or Panasonic, but this is a good starting point for people looking into DSLRs. 

The Pros (Upsides) The Cons (Downsides)
  • WI-Fibluetooth, and NFC connectivity 
  • Lots of manual adjustability 
  • Interchangeable lenses means unlimited customizability 
  • Able to be used as a webcam 
  • Okay battery life when recording videos 
  • Limited to 1080p footage 
  • No image stabilization 
  • Large feature set can be overwhelming 

3. High-End Video Cameras

These are for the people really interested in videography or are looking for a high end video experience. These cameras are feature rich, and provide superior photo and video quality to lower end gear. There are always much more expensive cameras you can buy, but we aren’t going to recommend any, as they are for the seasoned veteran, and it is outside the scope of this guide. 

3.1. Sony ZV-1

Aimed at content creators, Sony ZV-1 ($999.99) is a pocketable camera that is great for recording video with its shallow depth of field, and snappy autofocus. 

The Pros (Upsides) The Cons (Downsides)
  • Up to 4K movie recording 
  • Included mic with windscreen 
  • Extremely fast autofocus 
  • Button for quick shallow depth of field 
  • Point and shoot interface 
  • Easy to learn 
  • Strong image stabilization 
  • Okay battery life 
  • Lack of interchangeable lenses means less easily accessible manual customization 

3.2. Panasonic Lumix GH5

The Panasonic Lumix GH5 ($1999.99) is a ‘video-focused’ DSLR capable of recording up to 4K video footage with impressive battery life and image stabilization. 

The Pros (Upsides) The Cons (Downsides)
  • Up to 4K movie recording 
  • Great image stabilization 
  • High quality video and image 
  • Rugged construction 
  • Great battery life 
  • Unrestricted maximum clip length 
  • Expensive 
  • Menus can be hard to navigate 
  • Large feature set can be overwhelming 

3.3. Canon XA11

The Canon XA11 ($1599.99) is a professional grade camcorder with great zoom performance and professional grade audio inputs. 

The Pros (Upsides) The Cons (Downsides)
  • Great zoom performance 
  • High quality sensor with good low light performance  
  • Full manual control 
  • Good image stabilization 
  • 3.5mm and XLR mic inputs 
  • No Wi-Fi connectivity 
  • Only records 1080p 
  • Large feature set can be overwhelming 

After you've selected your camera, you will also want to think about your microphone and your other recording accessories.