In the past, video lived exclusively in the realm of filmmakers and professional news organizations. But now, anyone can shoot, edit, and share video with a relatively small investment of time and money.
But choosing the right camera is not simple. The most expensive gear may not be right for your lifestyle, let alone your budget.
So here's a guide to the types of video cameras on the market.
Sharing video with these cameras is dead simple: You use the built-in USB jack on the camera and plug it into the computer. It looks like a hard drive to your computer, so you just drag the files off the camera and open them in QuickTime or Windows Media Player. You can edit videos on the computer or just upload them to the Web. The Flip Mino HD is $169, the Kodak Zi8 is $179.
The best thing about the Kodak is that it has a microphone jack. If you want to record people telling stories, you really should use an external stick microphone or lavaliere microphone.
The limitations of these cameras come down to audio, zoom and the video quality in certain situations. If you are the videographer for a sport where zooming into action is important and you need the ability to process intense motion, you need a more expensive camera.
If you aspire to create serious video (a college student who wants to get into documentaries), or you want to record the stories in your family or you want to get good sound bites from people in a noisy crowd, you should invest in a more expensive camera, primarily for its ability to handle more sophisticated audio.
A great upside of today's technology is the inclusion of video cameras in cell phones and now music players. Apple has built a camera into its new Nano and kept the price of the device at $149. The Nano video camera is not HD and it's a first-generation product for the iPod company, so it's a little quirky (the lens is located in a spot that is really awkward; I have a ton of videos with my finger in the shot), but it's great to have video capability on the go, and it has to be the thinnest video camera on the shoot-and-share market.
The two-for-one benefits are true for cell phones too: So many phones now let you record video. We tried Motorola's Adventure V750 to see how good the video was and how easy it was to share it. The video quality is not as good as the Flip cam or Kodak camera, but you always have your cell phone with you, so it's great for capturing on-the-spot moments.