How Do I Find a New Camera With Great Video Capabilities?

Digital Camera FAQ: Camera Buying Advice

Nikon 1 J5 review
The Nikon 1 J5 camera offers 4K video recording. Nikon

Q: I have a Sony camera, which I adore. However, it is 5 years old now. I am looking to replace it. One of my main uses is for music festivals, where I like shooting photos and video. My camera is fantastic at picking out the sound of the music on the video. I would like a camera with great video capabilities, as well as a much higher optical zoom. Any advice? ---M.J.

The good news is the digital camera market has evolved in the past few years, bringing great video capabilities to many different models of cameras, so now is a good time for someone with your needs to be looking. In fact nearly all digital cameras now can shoot full HD video at a reasonable price.

You may want to consider some of the "super zoom" style cameras, which are fixed lens cameras that look a little like DSLR cameras. Super zoom cameras usually have optical zoom lenses between 25X and 50X, and most of the newer ones shoot great video. In the early days of digital cameras, the optical zoom lens might not have been fully available when shooting video, but that problem is long gone.

Because of the way the autofocus on the camera works when you're shooting video, you may find that the optical zoom lens moves through its range much more slowly during video recording than it does when you're shooting still images, but you should have full use of the optical zoom range in a modern camera. Most major camera manufacturers offer some sort of super zoom model.

Additionally, some still image digital camera manufacturers are starting to include the 4K video resolution as an option for video recording. Certainly, as the 4K format (also called Ultra HD) becomes more commonplace in the entire consumer electronics market, you'll find more and more digital cameras that are able to record at 4K resolution. Don't be surprised if in the early days that your 4K camera is limited a bit in terms of its frames per second setting though.

Now for the potential problems.

Some digital still cameras limit the frame speed of their video capabilities, but they advertise the maximum measurements, which may not actually work together under real-world conditions. Be certain to dig through the specifications for any camera your considering and make sure it can shoot at both the maximum resolution and frame speed you want.

It's also very difficult to gain a feel for the audio capabilities of a digital still camera. Audio capabilities are not measured and listed in the specifications as are video capabilities. Again, a digital camcorder almost certainly will provide higher quality audio than a digital still camera. Consider looking for a digital still camera that may have the ability to accept an external microphone, either through a port or through the hot shoe, that will provide better audio quality versus the camera's built-in microphone alone. You'll also want to look through the camera's menu to see if there is a "wild filter" setting, which will cause the camera to adjust its audio recording settings to try to cut down on any noise that the wind is causing. Audio quality is one of the weaker aspects of shooting video with a digital camera, unfortunately.

Find more answers to common camera questions on the camera FAQ page.