There are hundreds of camera options out there these days. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the options and their pros and cons. We’ve compiled a list of three of the best options (in our opinion) at three different price points.
In order to keep this article a reasonable length, we considered a number of criteria while deciding on our recommendations:
- Ease of operation
- Suitable for streaming (clean video output via NDI, SDI or HDMI)
- Professional audio connectors (XLR or similar)
- Versatility (useful for other applications. This means that PTZ cameras are excluded)
The type of camera you use will also depend on your streaming infrastructure. Are you using NDI software switching (like VMix or Wirecast) or are you using a hardware switcher (Like a BlackMagic Design ATEM).
Canon XA30 – $
The Canon XA series have long been staples in the videography industry and videojournalism. They offer simple controls, fantastic image quality, and most importantly reliability.
The XA30 is their entry level model, with a CMOS sensor and 20x optical lens. It performs reasonably well in low light, and offers professional level manual control if you require it. As with most Canon cameras, the autofocus is extremely good, with face tracking features to ensure your subject is always in focus.
Panasonic AG-CX350 – $$
Panasonic released the AG-CX350 last year, as the first camcorder with NDI built in. If you don’t know what NDI is, in a nutshell, it’s a method of routing your video signals through a network instead of via hardware routers and similar technologies.
If you’re looking into streaming, you’ve probably come across software like Vmix and Wirecast. These are software switchers that can utilise NDI video sources.
The Panasonic AG-CX350 allows you to connect your camera directly to your network, and have it appear as an NDI source without having to purchase any additional hardware.
NDI is a fantastic option for Churches looking for an affordable and versatile solution for switching multi-camera live streams, and the Panasonic AG-CX350 is (at the time of writing) the only option for a camcorder with NDI built-in.
It’s also capable of 4k recording, includes a 20x optical zoom lens, and additional lossless digital zoom, making it perfect for most church contexts.
Panasonic’s professional grade cameras are very well built and have a reputation for lasting an extremely long time. They’re also incredibly easy to use, with external
Canon XF705 – $$$
The Canon XF705 (and its predecessors) have been commonplace in live video production for a long time, just like the XA series have been in video journalism.
The image quality, ease of use and reliability they offer is second to none, and the XF705 is no exception. It shoots in full broadcast quality (4:2:2 10 bit colour), and has 12G SDI and genlock for use with SDI hardware switchers.
Additionally, built in ND filters, and Canon’s DPAF means you get a production ready camera that will patch right in to any live broadcast setup, and still hold its own against cinema cameras in recorded productions.
Why no interchangeable lens cameras?
Interchangeable lens cameras (often also called cinema cameras) are fantastic when you need a cinematic look. Where they dont excel is in live productions.
With skilled operators and adequate support equipment, they certainly produce a much more pleasing image. However, as churches, we rarely have the budget, time or volunteers to make proper use of the image quality cinema cameras have to offer.
As a result, we rarely recommend them for churches. Traditional camcorders are easier to use, and are far more forgiving than interchangeable lens cameras like Sony’s FS series, or the Canon Cinema series.
Additionally, by the time you’ve purchased lenses suitable for live production (like Canon’s cine zooms) you’re spending an additional 5-10 thousand on each camera. A prohibitive cost for most churches.
Hopefully you’ve found this helpful. We only like to recommend equipment we’ve actually used, and all of the cameras we’ve recommended above are cameras we have had personal experience with in the context of a Church. There are any number of fantastic options though, so make sure to do your research before committing to a particular camera platform.
What do you think? Did we miss any other options?