I need a camera for indoor instructional videos.

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by robabram, Sep 22, 2020.

  1. I have a YouTube channel that is growing, and I think I need to upgrade my camera. My channel is about rock collecting and lapidary arts (polishing rocks and making things from rocks). Some of my videos are done in my basement shop where I demonstrate how to use various equipment or I just show some polished rocks. I use two cameras at the same time and then alternate between a wide shot and close ups in my finished video.

    My current set up is a demonstration table where I stand and show rocks. I have a GoPro set up right in front of me on a tripod to get a wide shot. it's not the perfect camera for this, but I'm happy with it for now. To get close ups of my hands, I have a Sony Cyber-shot
    DSC-HX200V mounted behind the GoPro on the ceiling. The Sony camera is zoomed in to show a close up of my hands. When I originally set this up, I was having trouble zooming with the camera so close. I was told by someone that my camera has to be two meters from the subject in order to zoom in without being blurry. I would love to know what specification to look for to find that length. I would like a new camera that is cabable of being closer and is still be able to zoom in. I'm not happy with having to climb on top of a table every time I want to use this camera, and the picture is still not great.

    Another thing that I do with this camera is set it up just a few inches (3-6 inches) from my table and show rocks one at a time. When I do this, the camera sometimes has trouble focusing as I set one rock down and pick up another. I also have a problem with white balance (I think that's what it is). My hands change colors throughout the video.

    Finally, I want a camera with microphone input.

    Photography is not my hobby. Rocks are my hobby. I need a decent camera to be able to get good video quality that will keep my YouTube viewers happy. I don't want to spend a fortune on a camera, but I do have some Youtube income that I am willing to spend.

    I'm hoping someone here can help me pick out a new or used camera that will help me improve my videos. Thanks for your help.
  2. Fixed lens cameras are usually a bit poor at close or fast focussing, and getting something to focus at 3 to 6 inches reliably is asking a bit much unless you have a dedicated macro lens ($$$$$!).

    By fixed lens, I mean a camera where you can't remove the lens and replace it with another. I think an interchangeable lens camera is what you need, and there are dozens, if not hundreds to choose from. The camera body then becomes less important than the lens you attach to it.
    The way round this is to turn off autofocus and set the focus of the lens manually. Your existing camera may already allow this.

    The other thing is lighting. Do you have dedicated lights for your videos, or are you relying on domestic lighting? Domestic lighting is usually too dim and inconsistent for video, or any sort of photography with any pretence to looking 'professional'. So I suggest you set some budget aside for lighting if you haven't already thought about this.

    Decent and even lighting would allow you to set a fixed exposure and colour balance, thereby avoiding distracting changes. Better lighting would also allow the AF system of almost any camera to work more reliably.

    I'm not going to recommend a specific camera since there's just too much choice out there. All I'll say is that a mirrorless (not DSLR) type camera will probably be most suitable for your needs.

    From your description it sounds as if you're shooting 'blind' and relying heavily on camera automation. Therefore having a big clear viewfinder doesn't sound like a priority. Maybe having an LCD screen with a good range of swivel angle is more use?

    WRT sound recording. If you're editing the footage from two cameras, why not use a separate recorder - a little 'Zoom' for example. You can then place it wherever you like and you're not having to stretch your camera budget for one with a decent pre-amp stage. Because no camera is going to supply phantom power for a good-quality condenser mic.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2020
  3. Thank you, Joe, for taking the time to give me some advice.

    I guess I forgot to mention that I have decent lights. I have two Yongnuo YN600L Pro LED video lights with soft box diffusers that I have set up on either side of my camera. I don't think I can set the white balance on my camera in video mode. Would most mirrorless cameras allow me to set white balance in video mode?

    I have thought about a separate sound recorder, but they always seemed pretty expensive. I'll take a look at the Zoom you suggested.

    I still have the problem of getting my camera to zoom in from a close distance. As I mentioned, my camera has to be at least two meters away to be able to zoom in. This is important to me. I would like to be able to have it a little closer. I don't know what to look for in the specs to find that number. Someone else on a forum told me what it was for my camera, but I still can't find it. Do you know what that distance is called?

    Thanks again for your help, I really appreciate it.

  4. Indeed. That's a common issue with fixed lens 'bridge' or compact style cameras. They only focus close at the wide-angle end of their zoom range, which usually results in a horribly distorted view. Putting them into 'macro' mode limits their zoom range considerably.

    As said above, with an interchangeable lens camera the lens itself will govern how close you can focus, and the zoom range. Not the camera. So I suggest you look through lens catalogues to find a lens that'll do what you want, and buy a camera that'll take that lens.

    In most cases the closest focus will be available throughout the zoom range, but this isn't always so.

    Your sticking point is going to be focussing as close as 3 to 6 inches, while having a zoom ability. Macro lenses generally aren't zooms. However, with a lens that focusses to, say, 18" but has a longer focal length, that might not be an issue.

    The figure to look for is the maximum magnification of the lens, usually given as a ratio. E.g. 1:3. This would mean that the subject - your rocks - would appear on the camera sensor at 1/3rd their actual size. So a rock 3" across would be imaged 1" across in the camera, and would fill the long side of an APS camera frame (16mm x 24mm). Smaller rocks correspondingly reduced of course.
    In short, yes. But video mode facilities do vary, so check that you have control over this feature. Some cameras switch to auto-everything in video mode. More expensive ones generally offer more control.

    Another regular poster here, Ed Ingold, has a lot more experience with video than me. Hopefully he might have some suggestions for affordable video-capable cameras.
    mikemorrell likes this.
  5. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    Robabram, could you post a link to one of your Youtubes? I would like to see what you have done so far..
  6. I often use a Tascam DR-05 for my sound recording. Decent quality audio and not too expensive. I think they have the same grey market issues as cameras; try to get a legal version for wherever you live. I've only done one proper video to date with my Z6 and it turned out well. That's probably more than you want to spend, but there should be lots of mirrorless cameras suited to your needs. As said above, the trick is the lens. Depending on what you're doing, a zoom may not be necessary, but decent autofocus almost certainly is. White balance can probably be fixed in post, but it's way better to do it in the camera.
  7. Sure James, but you're probably going to find this video very boring. Some people like this stuff. This video has a good mix of all the types of shots I make. At the beginning, I think I had the lights too bright or something. The wide shot of me standing behind the table is at the lower end of the quality that I get for that type of shot. The wide shot is from a GoPro and the close ups at the beginning are from the Sony camera mounted two meters away on the ceiling.

    At 5:33 the Sony camera is moved very close to the table.

    At 10:30, you'll see a different sort of shot that I do. I have mounting areas around my shop so I can show my work at various machines. A small amount of mist is in the air with rock dust in it. For this reason, I don't want to spend a fortune on a camera.

    From about 10:53 to 11:00, you'll see my hands change color.
  8. Ok, you guys have convinced me to buy a sound recorder. I thought they were more expensive, but the two recommended so far are both very reasonably priced. I'm looking at the Zoom H1n and the Tascam DR-05x. Is one a better brand or recorder than the other? I will do my own research, but just in case there's a clearly better option, I thought I'd ask.

    By the way, I answer tons of beginner rock tumbling questions every day, so I know how time consuming it is and I appreciate all the help I'm getting here.

  9. What exactly is your budget? If you can share a price range with us, I can recommend the most suitable devices for you.
  10. I'd like to keep it below $500. I'd be willing to go higher if necessary. Thanks for responding!
  11. I have equipment from both brands, and my leaning would be towards Zoom for a simple recorder.

    The Tascam 'Pocket Studio' that I own uses a proprietary recording format, for no good reason I can think of. This makes transfer of files between devices a long-winded process. OTOH, the Zoom H2N allows the choice of industry-standard file formats that can be simply plugged into another device.

    The sound quality from both is equally good.
  12. Thanks Joe. I just ordered a Rode Videomic Pro yesterday. I’m going to try plugging it into my GoPro to see if that works. If not, I’ll order the Zoom recorder. I have done some more reading and decided that was the better option. I didn’t know about the different recording format, so that makes me feel better about my decision.
  13. Good luck with the Rode.

    Purely anecdotal: I bought a Rode NT1a condenser mic kit, purely on price and Rode's reputation. It's possibly one of the worst condenser mics I've ever heard - downright tinny, and apparently with a permanent 80Hz bass cut built in.
    An Audio Technica AT2035 mic, bought for around the same price, is audibly superior in almost every way, and has a switchable -10dB pad and lo-cut filter built in. Would I touch a budget Rode mic again? No! No way! Never!
    Just my one-off experience with Rode. I sincerely hope you fare better.

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