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5 Best Buys

The Gear To Get You Filming Fast By JG Harding
Published February 2011

New to the world of video production and unsure what gear to buy? Our guide to the five best options in three categories will get you started.

Entry‑level Non‑linear Editors

These NLEs have certain features limited, but still provide a great solution for the aspiring videographer. They're good for those on a budget or keen to edit quickly, but be sure to check compatibility with your camera's shooting format.

  • 5 Best Buys1. Adobe Premiere Elements 9 (£78$99): Windows only. Easy entry into video editing with simplified, clean workflow. No window for trimming footage; no 24P support; less native codec support than Premiere Pro; no batch capturing.
  • 5 Best Buys2. Apple Final Cut Express 4 (£99$199): Supports DV, HDV and AVCHD; interface similar to Final Cut Pro. AVCHD must be transcoded; no timecode or batch capture; shorter Undo list.
  • 5 Best Buys3. Avid Pinnacle Studio 14 HD (from £40$49): Consumer software. Supports HDV, DV and AVCHD editing. Editing layout is simplified when compared to Media Composer, but can create a decent edit.
  • 5 Best Buys4. Edius Neo 3 (from £182$199): Similar to full version; handles many formats including AVCHD. Most omissions, such as 2K and 4K editing, relate to pro-level production.
  • 5 Best Buys5. Sony Vegas Movie Studio 10 (from £43$39): Provides an editing environment close to that of a professional NLE, yet feels very DAW‑like in operation. Limitations include only four video tracks and two audio tracks.

SEMI-Professional CAMERAS

Each camera has pros and cons depending on what you want to capture. Bodies with interchangeable lenses give more creative options, but are less convenient than fixed-lens models. Prices are list, but some of these are well established and can be bought for less, or hired for short shoots.

  • 5 Best Buys1. Canon 550D (£779$799, body only): Lowest-cost DSLR for capturing 1080p video. Many interchangeable lenses are available and shallow depth of field is easily created. Be sure to research useful accessories.
  • 5 Best Buys2. Canon XF100 (£2799$2999): A fixed-lens camcorder recording to a broadcast-quality 4:2:2 MPEG2 codec, the XF100 is small but very powerful.
  • 5 Best Buys3. JVC GY HM100 (£2299$3995): The diminutive HM100 is a great option for Apple Final Cut users: it records in a .mov file container ready for editing.
  • 5 Best Buys4. Panasonic AG HMC40 (£2011$3195): Panasonic's little AG HMC40 records 1080p footage directly to SD cards in AVCHD format, sharper than HDV. Lightweight, three-sensor cam.
  • 5 Best Buys5. Sony NEX VG10 (£2000$1,999): Shoots progressive 1920 x 1080 HD footage in interlaced files. Compact camcorder with large, DSLR-style APS-C sensor and interchangeable lenses.


Camcorders and DSLRs aren't the only way to capture digital video. Here are five portable video devices that will slip into your pocket and let you capture footage out and about. These are ideal for those wanting an easy way to shoot with no need to learn menus and settings.

  • 5 Best Buys1. Aiptek ActionHD GVS (£169$249): Mini camcorder from the US with flip‑out screen and 5X optical zoom, shooting 1440 x 1080p and 720p to SDHC card. Records 30fps only, but a low price for the features.
  • 5 Best Buys2. Flip Mino HD (£89$229): Popular pocket‑sized 720p video recorder, runs for around two hours on a fixed internal battery. Recording at 30fps, shooting to 8GB internal memory only. There's a handy USB connector built in.
  • 5 Best Buys3. GoPro HD Hero (from £199$269): Unique action camera shooting at up to 1080p, 30fps. Comes in kits to attach it to helmets, cars and surfboards! Waterproof casing and wide‑angle view make it a versatile piece of gear, shooting to SDHC card.
  • 5 Best Buys4. Kodak Zi6 (£99$159): Kodak's portable recorder shoots 720p footage and sports a large 2.5‑inch screen. Shoots at up to 60 frames per second to SDHC, allowing for sharp slow‑motion video.
  • 5 Best Buys5. Zoom Q3 HD (from £199$199): The only portable video recorder with a clear focus on audio quality, offering stereo 24‑bit WAV recording at 48kHz, at SPLs up to 130dB. HD version offers 1080p/30 video.