(This is the second article in a series of three - parts one and three here)

Setting up video on a budget of up to £300

If a mobile phone or stills camera seems a bit limiting and you have some money to spare then you could take a trip to your local electrical retailer and buy a camcorder.

The camera

There are two things to consider when you buy a camcorder. What does it record on to and how are you going to get it on to your computer?

Tape: Over the last year or so the tape-based camcorder has been replaced by versions that record to DVD or digital media (hard disc or removable cards).

As a result prices have been driven down and you can now pick up a decent MiniDV tape based camcorder for less than £150. Tape may seem like an old fashioned way of working but it does give you a ready-made archive. If you want to save the footage, just put the tape away.

If you decide to go MiniDV then be sure to pick up a camera that has a 'DV Out' so that you can connect it to your computer.

DVD: I would avoid the DVD versions of camcorders. Not that they aren't very good. The problem is they rarely come with the ability to connect directly to your computer. If you do copy content from the camera it tends to be via some bespoke software. This may make things too time consuming in a newsroom.

SD card: A number of manufacturers make camcorders that record to SD card (the same kind of card you will find in a compact stills camera.) The Sanyo Xacti range is worth a look as they offer a waterproof version for those tougher assignments. The small, compact nature of these camcorders may appeal and transferring the files to your computer is pretty simple.

However, with prices averaging £150 for a good SD camcorder, you may be just as well off buying a decent compact stills camera.

HDD: Hard disk drive camcorders are fast becoming a popular choice for newsrooms, as they don't constantly need the tapes that can make a tidy hole in the consumables budget.

The downside is that when the disk is full you need to either delete the footage or store it on your computer. Some models come with both hard disk and SD storage options to ease the load but eventually you will need to spend money on more storage for archiving.

The other downside is that you'll get very little very little change from £400 for something at the bottom of the range.


The free Windows Movie Maker/iMovie option will still serve you well at this level but you could splash out on something more flexible. Adobe's Premiere Elements would be my first choice on a PC and Apple's Final Cut Express for the Mac. Both retail for less than £100 and will keep 99.9 per cent of non-broadcast newsrooms happy.


Again, a tripod is a vital accessory. A decent photography tripod will do the job and not take up too much space. But be prepared to spend at least £30 if you want something that will last. You could try a Monopod as an alternative (£20-30 for a good one).


Like the nearly free option, audio is always going to be a problem at this level. Many manufacturers have a range of microphone accessories but you should be looking for a camcorder that has a socket to let you plug in your own. The Canon MD101 at around £180 is worth a look.

Then you need to buy a microphone. The most flexible type will be a tie-clip microphone. I'd pay at £20 pounds for one to ensure at least some quality.

Andy’s pick: 

Canon MD101

Velbon Monopod or similar price

Hama M-09 tie clip or something similar

FinalCut express (but only because I use Mac)

Andy Dickinson teaches digital and online journalism and is course leader for the BA Digital Journalism Production at the University of Central Lancashire.

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