I'm looking to buy a camera for my son to use for stop-motion animation. He has been using an old web cam, but he wants to step up in quality now. What features, eg. live view, resolution, etc, should I be looking for? I've looked at the Hue cameras but I'm not sure these will give the better results we're looking for. Of course, there's a budget, as he is just a teenager – I'd guess we wouldn't want to spend over about £100 at this stage.
SMP is a PC application that controls the camera and gives you a live preview in your computer monitor. With this software you can shoot your animation from your computer, preview the animation as you are shooting it, see real-time onion skinning, review previous pictures and retake the ones that did not come out right, and much much more.
If your son isn't using Stop Motion Pro or similar yet, then you may want to evaluate if it makes more sense to give him the software and keep your webcam for a while. The visual quality will not improve much, but he'll have a lot of options to improve the quality of his animation, all skills that he'll be able to transfer to an upgraded camera in the future.
You will get best results with the following features:
Additionally, things to consider:
If your son is already using a webcam for stop-motion he is probably already using a certain software for doing so? If so maybe the software can control the webcam in focus and exposure. Then maybe getting a better webcam will be best. My webcam has very good quality and exposure and focus can be externally controlled.
In this answer here: http://photo.stackexchange.com/a/25178/7718 the suggestion was made to get good software first. I understand as a gift a tangible camera is nicer than intangible software. Also the software linked costs from $70. However, I am sure there are open source solutions for this (although I couldn't find one that allows manual focus).
Having had a look at stop motion pro Action HD ($140) and a Microsoft Lifecam HD Cinema ($???) or a Logitech C910 (I paid £60 through ebay 2 years ago) or C920, this solution would give good results on a low budget. In both cameras you can control exposure, focus and (Logitech only?) zoom from the software.
Do you need a need a better camera?
However, in all technical problems you can best improve things if you analyse what the greatest weakness is in your current solution. Without knowing the results you get I can only speculate:
What you would want is a camera that has manual settings for ISO and exposure.
As the exposure time is not critical, you would want to set it to the lowest ISO setting to get the best image quality.
You would want to use the manual exposure setting so that you can take all the images in a sequence using the same exposure, so that you don't get a flicker when you put them together. Set the aperture (f-stop) to the value where the lens gives the best image, and let the exposure time be as long as needed.