I know this forum is for photography, but I decided to post here anyway being a StackOverflow user. I'm going to shoot my first short film. I need suggestions on buying a camera. Here are the things I'm looking for:

  • Ability to shoot telephoto and wide-angle shots
  • Ability to shoot for slow-motion (If fps can be configured, then great!)
  • Hard-disk storage with good storage memory
  • Long battery life
  • Ability to attach an external mic
  • 720p HD is fine if not full HD
  • Ability to export videos to MP4 or other standard formats
  • Budget: $500 +/- $100, but I can afford more if it's really worth it

I have no knowledge when it comes to shooting videos or taking pictures. Some of the things I mentioned may not be even possible - like, I think I need separate lenses for telephoto and wide-angle shots.

Thanks for your suggestions!

  • \$\begingroup\$ I wanted to add these tags to my questions, 'camcorder hd short-film low-budget', but I wasn't allowed to since I have less than 150 reps. Can someone please delete hdr tag and add these? Thanks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Srikanth
    Oct 6, 2010 at 16:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Done. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Oct 6, 2010 at 16:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you looking for a still camera that can shoot video, or a video camera that may or may not take stills? \$\endgroup\$
    – D. Lambert
    Oct 6, 2010 at 17:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmm, IMO this is off-topic given the current community decision: meta.photo.stackexchange.com/questions/28/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Reid
    Oct 6, 2010 at 23:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @jrista: Thanks. @D. Lambert: I'm looking for a video camera that may not take stills. @Reid: Thanks for that. I hope that Q&A site comes out soon. \$\endgroup\$
    – Srikanth
    Oct 8, 2010 at 18:04

5 Answers 5


On the cheap, the Olymnpus PEN E-PL1 can be an option:

  1. Ability to shoot telephoto and wide-angle shots - YES

  2. Ability to shoot for slow-motion (If fps can be configured, then great!) - NO (But I have a Casio EX-FH100 and the slowmo at 400 fps is mind boggling) However, shooting this camera with the Diorama art filter on gives the video a stop motion/time lapse look

  3. Hard-disk storage with good storage memory - SOMEWHAT (Support up to 32 GB SDHC)

  4. Long battery life - NO (Extra OEM batteries are cheap at 5 bucks a pop at Amazon)

  5. Ability to attach an external mic - YES (Get the SEMA-1 Adapter; hooked mine to a Senheiser mic)

  6. 720p HD is fine if not full HD - YES

  7. Ability to export videos to MP4 or other standard formats - YES

  8. Budget: $500 +/- $100, but I can afford more if it's really worth it - WITHIN

Olympus shot the ad for that camera using the camera itself. If they can shoot an ad using it, it's probably good enough for you. Talk about eating your own dog food. Check out their ad:


  • \$\begingroup\$ This camera looks great for my requirements, except for one thing that bothers me: max. HD recording time is just 7 minutes (because of 2GB AVI format's limit). What I couldn't find out from the specifications is if that's the limit for a single file or for the entire camera? I guess it's just for a single file. So let's say if I have 16 GB of memory free on the camera, does that mean I can shoot 8 videos each of 7 minutes in length? Thanks a lot for the suggestion, it is very helpful. \$\endgroup\$
    – Srikanth
    Oct 8, 2010 at 19:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @artknish It's a single file limitation. You can shoot multiple 2 GB files on a single card; space permitting. Up to 16 takes of 7 minutes each (112 mins. total) if you have a 32 GB card. Anyway, most movies, even professional ones, are shot in short takes; 2-3 minutes max. A seven minute take is considered exceptional. I doubt you'll reach that length. Small takes are also easier to post process. \$\endgroup\$
    – GeneQ
    Oct 9, 2010 at 8:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ BTW, the following is an example what you can do with in slightly more than 6 minutes without any cuts (one continuos take); talent permitting of course: youtube.com/watch?v=MnSIp76CvUI \$\endgroup\$
    – GeneQ
    Oct 9, 2010 at 8:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for confirming that. Most probably, I'm going with this camera. Love that 6+ minutes continuous take; fantastic location, too. It reminded me of this fight scene from Oldboy: youtube.com/watch?v=Wha0brbb_44 (starts after 30 seconds - warning: it's a bit violent). \$\endgroup\$
    – Srikanth
    Oct 9, 2010 at 9:40

At the risk of being controversial, I'd suggest a good quality stills camera, that offers HD video capability; something like the Canon T2i (in the US) which appears to be a bit above your budget at around 750 USD. With the larger sensor in a DSLR, you'll be able to get more of a cinematic effect with wide apertures, and the associated shallow depth of field. Don't forget that there have been a number of high profile shows filmed along similar principles.

  • \$\begingroup\$ A video enabled DSLR plus wide angle and telephoto lenses, large capacity memory card would be hard ot come by for $600. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matt Grum
    Oct 6, 2010 at 19:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Matt well, there was the "I can afford more if it's really worth it" bit \$\endgroup\$ Oct 6, 2010 at 19:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's actually $850 (on Amazon) + I guess there will be tax on top of that. I don't know much about the lenses except at very high level on what they do; for what I know, they're pretty costly, too. I guess it may all come around $1200. Also, I need to buy a Tripod, an external Mic, and I don't know what else for the short that I'm planning. Hmm.. Tough but I need to learn and know more about this camera to appreciate it and convince myself to buy it. Otherwise, I may just go with GeneQ's suggestion: Olympus PEN E-PL1. Thanks for your suggestion! \$\endgroup\$
    – Srikanth
    Oct 8, 2010 at 18:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @artknish I'm sure the link I'd linked to had them for closer to 750 USD? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 8, 2010 at 19:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, yes, now I see it. When I first clicked the link here, I quickly scrolled down and went to Amazon and stayed there for a long time reading the user reviews. The price over there was around $850. \$\endgroup\$
    – Srikanth
    Oct 8, 2010 at 20:54

Assuming that you are, in fact, looking for a still camera that can shoot video, this is a tough combination of requirements. I'm not sure if you're going to find one camera that does all these things. The just-announced Nikon D3100 may be one of the best fits out there, though it's a little North of your budget. There are a few other options that are well North of your budget.

Here are some thoughts on specific requirements:

  • For slow-motion, you might want to look at Casio - they've got some cameras that are supposed to be able to do this (though they're not DSLR's).
  • Not too many cameras have external mic jacks yet. Canon's 5D, 7D, and T2i, plus Nikon's D3100 (and probably a few more) have mic jacks. This feature is just starting to work its way down into entry-level cameras.
  • Still cameras write to flash cards, not HDD's. At one point, there were mini HDD's (Microdrives) that fit the form factor of a Compact Flash type II card, but I believe these have fallen off in popularity as "native" CF memory became more affordable.
  • \$\begingroup\$ @D. Lamber: I was looking for a video camera that need not shoot still pictures. Thanks for the Nikon D3100 suggestion. I will see if that works for me. \$\endgroup\$
    – Srikanth
    Oct 8, 2010 at 19:16

Sticking with the stills camera the shoots video (I'm afraid that's probably all you'll get from us lot)...

The Casio Exilim EX-FH25 is the only camera I know of to do proper slow motion, albeit at at lower than HD. It ticks a lot of the boxes, only really falls down on mic jack:

  • Ability to shoot telephoto and wide-angle shots Yes 20x zoom 26-520mm equiv.
  • Ability to shoot for slow-motion (If fps can be configured, then great!) Yes configurable up to 120fps at 640x480 up to 1000fps at 224x64
  • Hard-disk storage with good storage memory No, but high capacity SDHC cards are available)
  • Long battery life Yes (takes AA batteries)
  • Ability to attach an external mic No, may be a deal breaker
  • 720p HD is fine if not full HD Yes
  • Ability to export videos to MP4 or other standard formats Motion JPEG, will need converting
  • Budget: $500 +/- $100, but I can afford more if it's really worth it Yes $350
  • \$\begingroup\$ I concur. The Exilims are fantastic at slow-mo. Love my EX-FH100 and EX-FH20 before that. But what you're suggesting is heretical to CaNikon folks. What a Casio, isn't that a toy? LOL. Did a short martial arts training vid with Olympus PEN + EX-FH100 + Senheiser Mic + Homemade Steadicam mount + Final Cut = Priceless \$\endgroup\$
    – GeneQ
    Oct 7, 2010 at 16:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ A lot of the amatuer shorts that I've seen had fantastic video but really bad audio. In my opinion, having good audio quality is more important than great video quality for a movie if there's a compromise between the two. This, too, is an alien territory for me, but I guess having an external mic may get me started towards the route of audio quality. \$\endgroup\$
    – Srikanth
    Oct 8, 2010 at 19:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GeneQ: Do you have your martial video uploaded for public viewing somewhere? I would be interested to see it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Srikanth
    Oct 8, 2010 at 19:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's not ideal but you could record the audio separately and sync it in post. For me as a photographer visuals are more important to me, having said that very few of the DSLR videos I've seen have live audio, it's mostly soundtracks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matt Grum
    Oct 8, 2010 at 20:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @artknish Sorry, I don't own the copyright to do that. Did it for a local martial arts school. However, some Japanese ladies have posted something similar to what I did : youtube.com/watch?v=uMh_qhosrg8&feature=related \$\endgroup\$
    – GeneQ
    Oct 9, 2010 at 8:45

If you go with a Canon DLSR, you can use Magic Lantern to extend the shooting time due to a 4GB (4, not 2), and auto restart when it hits the limit. A used 60D is just in your budget (but without lenses), and I have shot a bit of Video on one that you can see on this playlist (everything by me up to not including Nov 2014). You can see how the quality improved over time, giving you an idea od how hard it is to just pick up. (The white balance improvement in Nov 2014 is not specific to the different camera; the 60D also has the identical custom-WB ability.)

More generally, some less than highest-end DLSR bodies have a 4GB limit, which is bettwr than 2GB, and how much time that records in which resolution will vary as well. Any DLSR will have a hard limit of 30 minutes, regardless of its ability to write large streams.

You can rent lenses specific to your project's needs, and save money over buying. If you don't plan to keep using it, you can resell the body too and your cost is only the depreciation, not the sticker price, in the end.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.