You could make a video with a cheap camcorder, an iphone or whatever it is you have with you. Where these devices fail, is audio.

Exclusive Bonus: Download my free cheatsheet (with examples) of the most used focal lengths in film (PDF file optimized for mobiles and tablets).

The cheapest video camera that meets all the minimum requirements for a great web video

The cheapest camera that meets all the requirements for great web video is the Canon T4i (or 650D):

Let’s test it against our requirements to make sure:

  • 1920×1080 with an aspect ratio of 16:9 and pixel aspect ratio of 1:1

    Check

  • Progressive video, with a minimum frame rate of 24 fps

    It does up to 30p

  • Color space: Rec. 709, with a color bit depth per channel of 8

    Check

  • 10 stops of dynamic range, with a film-like gamma curve

    Check, it does 10.5 stops

  • Good in low light, usable ISO of 1600 at least.

    Check.

  • Interchangeable lenses, with the ability to shoot at f/2.8 at least, throughout the entire range of focal lengths.

    Check

  • H.264 codec, in whatever wrapper it comes in, with the best bit rate offered by that camera for this codec. If you need to push your images in post, then opt for an intraframe codec or RAW or uncompressed. No, simple color grading is not a good enough ‘push’.

    Check

  • 16-bit audio sampled at 48 KHz, 2 channels minimum (stereo) at a minimum bit rate of 128 kbps (CD quality or better). Ideally, you’d want to master your audio as uncompressed, which will give you a bit rate of 1,577 kbps.

    Check

The Rebel series is an excellent video tool that is surprisingly good for its price. The more expensive 60D and 7D are near end-of-life, and offer the same video quality, if not slightly worse!

To know more about the best lenses for the Canon T4i (or 650D), click here.

The best compromise or all-round video camera for web videos

The best compromise or all-round camera has a tough challenge to overcome. It must incorporate a lot of the good features found in the Blackmagic Cinema Camera but at a cheaper price point. Is there such a camera?

You bet. The camera I recommend for a serious web video producer, if they can’t afford the BMCC, is the Canon 5D Mark III:

It’s for good reason that I’ve named the Canon 5D Mark III the best DSLR video camera of 2012.

Let’s test it against our requirements to make sure:

  • 1920×1080 with an aspect ratio of 16:9 and pixel aspect ratio of 1:1

    Check

  • Progressive video, with a minimum frame rate of 24 fps

    It does up to 30p

  • Color space: Rec. 709, with a color bit depth per channel of 8

    Check

  • 10 stops of dynamic range, with a film-like gamma curve

    It does 11 stops.

  • Good in low light, usable ISO of 1600 at least.

    Check. It does exceptionally well even at ISO 6400.

  • Interchangeable lenses, with the ability to shoot at f/2.8 at least, throughout the entire range of focal lengths.

    Check. This is the camera every other camera wants to be.

  • H.264 codec, in whatever wrapper it comes in, with the best bit rate offered by that camera for this codec. If you need to push your images in post, then opt for an intraframe codec or RAW or uncompressed. No, simple color grading is not a good enough ‘push’.

    Check. If you like, it also shoots an intraframe codec at 91 Mbps.

  • 16-bit audio sampled at 48 KHz, 2 channels minimum (stereo) at a minimum bit rate of 128 kbps (CD quality or better). Ideally, you’d want to master your audio as uncompressed, which will give you a bit rate of 1,577 kbps.

    Check

Wait a minute! You might be thinking: This camera is the same price as the BMCC. How is it a compromise?

There are a lot of hidden costs on the BMCC that makes it more expensive to run:

  • It uses SSDs, which are more expensive than CF cards.
  • It has an SDI port for external monitoring, while the 5D has an HDMI port. HDMI monitors are cheaper.
  • The internal battery of the BMCC will need to be replaced when its time is up, and there is a cost associated with it.
  • The BMCC doesn’t have a viewfinder.
  • You could use the LCD on the 5D for live monitoring, but it’s tough to use the touchscreen on the BMCC, especially in sunlight.
  • Battery solutions for the BMCC are tougher to set up and rig, and are more expensive generally.
  • The high resolution of the BMCC demands the best lenses, while the 700 line resolution of the 5D will welcome any full frame (FX) lens in that mount.
  • It shoots RAW, which takes additional post processing time and computer power.
  • RAW or Prores will need more hard disk space when compared to the lower bit rate of the 5D.

To know more about the best lenses for the Canon 5D Mark III, click here.

So, if I can do it for cheaper…

A question that should be addressed is: If one can get sufficient quality from a Canon T4i (or 650D) or a Canon 5D Mark III, even, why go for the BMCC?

The answer is simple. Everything that makes a BMCC expensive, as listed above, are its supreme strengths. What you gain is not trifle by any means. The image quality is way better, and the rigging options are on a pro-level. No DSLR can match that.

On the other hand, what about the Canon T4i (or 650D) vs the Canon 5D Mark III? If the video quality is very similar, why spend the extra $2,000?

The Canon 5D Mark III has many advantages over the other, of which I’ll say its low-light ability is paramount. It also has dual card slots and two codec options. The Canon 5D Mark III also has an excellent resale value. How so?

When the 5D Mark II came out in 2008, it was priced at $2,699. Adjusted for a 7% inflation between that period and today, the price was $2,890. Today, you can still buy a new Mark II for $1,799. A used one in good condition can be had for about $1,500. It still holds about 50% of its value four years later.

What about the 550D (T2i)? It was launched in 2010 for about $1,000 (inflation considered), and today it sells new for $699, though why would anyone buy it over the 650D? In the used market, you can have one in good condition for about $400. That’s 40% of its value in only two years. The product has already been discontinued, and by next year it’ll be worth maybe 25% at most.

If you’re running a business, you have to think carefully about your business model before investing in gear. A Canon 5D Mark III will hold its value for far longer than a Rebel series or consumer-grade DSLR. You might want to factor that into your calculations.

Well, here we are: Three cameras that can claim to be the best video camera for web videos. They’ll all ‘get the job done’, if you will. It’s just that the more expensive ones do it in style, and might prove an excellent investment in the long run. Whatever you decide, read the Comprehensive Guide to Rigging ANY Camera to learn how to setup your gear for the best workflow.

Don’t cheap out unnecessarily. When your video or channel hits a million viewers, I’ll be one of those watching.

Exclusive Bonus: Download my free cheatsheet (with examples) of the most used focal lengths in film (PDF file optimized for mobiles and tablets).

Previous: Part Three

6 replies on “The Best Video Camera for Web Videos (Part Four)”

  1. hm, great read. ive been reading dozens of reviews on the 650D, 700D, sony 57 alpha, D5200 and so on. after some time, you just stop remembering whats important and not, the more you read, the harder it gets to choose. so out of those, i will order the 650D. best choice?

    1. PWeritz The 700D and D5200 were announced after this article was written, but all things considered, I’d say the 650D is still my first choice, as far as video is concerned.
      If you add photography to your list of needs, then I’d say D5200.

      1. Sareesh Sudhakaran thanks for the help. by the way ive been stalking your site for days, it´s really great to have a place with sooooo much knowledge and information. i just got into all this movie making stuff, so im very excited.

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