Choosing the camera(s) you're going to use is one of the most important decisions to make. Almost anyone can now afford to buy full HD cameras - they're that inexpensive. The main difference in ability will be how the camera reacts in low light performances or its ability to capture fast motion. In this section, we try to cover a few good cameras across a range of prices.
- HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) - video output port often found on consumer cameras
- SDI (Serial digital interface) - often found on professional-level cameras.
Live video is very different to recording to disk. For the live video signal to reach the encoder, the camera you buy must support live video output. On consumer cameras, this often means they will have a mini or micro HDMI output.
We've used a number of cameras in our live streams over the years, but we keep coming back to two types. GoPros (or similar 'action cameras') offer superb quality for relatively low cost and are great for running full HD streams. However, GoPros have mini HDMI output so you'll need an external capture card to use them for streaming.
When we're not needing to run streams with GoPros and capture cards, we'll often revert to using a good old USB webcam. You can often get two HD USB webcams for the price of a single capture card (and not then need a capture card because you're using USB!) so if you're looking for a camera to stream with, you can't go wrong with a USB webcam. We love the Logitech C920 (or other Logitech cams) and the Microsoft Lifecam - both are HD and easy to use!
Low Light Performance
If you're filming events in low light, you'll need to make sure the camera is up to the job. Usually cameras with larger sensors are better suited to low light - because there is a larger surface area on the sensor meaning the camera is able to capture what light is available.
The best way to test low light performance is to try your camera in a dimly lit room. Watch the recording back - poor low light performance will show up as graininess in the black areas of the image, as well as a lack of clarity or detail in the image. You can always use additional lighting instead of upgrading your camera!
For events with fast motion, the most important thing is often being able to capture the movement in shot. In this use case, the desired quality of the camera is its motion capture ability.
To demo this feature in-store or while testing a camera, see how much the image distorts while quickly panning the shot.