The first thing to say is dollar for dollar, any current camera is better than the 5 year old one you may be using now. I’m not going to provide an exhaustive list of features, just a few things that could trip up.
My basic premise is you want a camera that the average academic can use to record an event in a lecture theatre. Best quality for the minimum effort.
- Good in low light – The lighting in lecture theatres is a problem. They are often not that bright, and depending on your positioning, there is often back light from the data projector. If you are shooting from the back of the room using the zoom, your image can get very grainy. I often have to run video through Gamma and Sharpen filters to tidy them up. You don’t want to do this.
This will knock some low end cameras off your list
(Be aware cameras are frequently updated and lists like often contain units that have been superseded)
If you want a simple overview of what to look for, this is worth a read.
- Records in MP4 format – Staff should be able to put a compressed file straight into Moodle or YouTube with out doing any conversion. Most cameras do this, but not all, and some of their formats don’t work well in some programs e.g. Camtasia is finicky about audio codecs (AC3) and Windows Movie Maker can’t handle the High Definition format MTS used in most major brands.
- Fold out view finder that turns 180 degrees so people ca see themselves – this is pretty much standard now but check for it anyway
- Has a physical remote control – This removes the need to clip the start and finish of your recording. Staff can sit down, get their hair right, and take a deep breath before pushing the record button. It turns out this is probably the main thing that will limit your options. Many cameras now use OS and Android apps, which is fine if you are lending out a smart phone with each camera, and providing instructions on how to sync up the devices.
And don’t forget a tripod. You don’t need a top of the range item, but don’t go too cheap. Aluminum tripods are fairly rugged and cheap. Personally I prefer having a mid level spreader for more stability. Make sure the head doesn’t make any noise when you move it around.
If you have you own tips, let me know.
Audio is also important but I’ll deal with that later.