Dear 80s’ Baby, I Want To Buy My Grandson His 1st Camera

Dear 80s’s Baby,

I read your blog every week and I really enjoy it. You give very good advice so I thought I would see if you could help me. One of your blogs was about a man who wanted to make movies and you told him to purchase an inexpensive camera. Well, my grandson is 15 and loves to make home movies. Ever since he got one of those smart phones for his birthday last year all he does is record video on it. He complained to me the other day about it not having enough memory for his movies and how he wants a real camera to shoot with. I want to surprise him with a camera for his birthday next month but I have no clue what kind of camera should I buy. I was browsing in the store last weekend and I didn’t know where to start. I don’t want to spend a lot of money so can you tell me what features I should be looking for? How much should I expect to spend? I will take all the help I can get.

Kathy J.

Chicago, IL

Hey Kathy,

Thanks for reading my blog. I am glad you enjoy it. I would be more than happy to advise you on buying a camera. First thing, I know you said he loves making movies but is he really serious about it or is this just a phase? Be absolutely sure because price and quality will mean nothing if  three months after you buy him a camera it ends up crammed in the back of his closet under three year old gym shoes. Another thing before you consider buying him a camera, how does he treat his belongings? Does he break them often? Is he always leaving them behind somewhere? Do you notice if he really appreciates the value of what he owns? Pay close attention to that because you want to make sure he will take care of the camera.

In the age of YouTube, everyone is a filmmaker. Buying the right camera makes all the difference in the world. Now don’t expect your first camera to be perfect but you just want to make sure if you are going to invest in something it will be right for you. The price of a video camera can range from $99 to 1000 and up. A reasonable price for your grandson’s first camera is between $150-250. As his skill and finances grows, he can upgrade to more advanced cameras if he chooses.

Whenever I am looking to buy any electronic I turn to the Internet first. I like to compare models and prices to narrow down my choices. I also like to read reviews from both buyers and critics. Once I find a few that I like online I try to find them in the stores. It’s very rare to find a camera that both critics and buyers can agree on. There is no such thing as a “one-camera-fits-all” model but there are four things you must pay attention to: design, video quality, features and performance.

Design is of course how it looks and is subject to your taste level, or specifically your grandson’s taste level. If he does a lot of shooting on the go then he might appreciate a compact camera. What you really want to focus on is where everything is on the camera. Are the buttons easily accessible or will you have to play Twister with your hands to operate it? I would recommend holding the camera yourself and locate all of the physical features on it to find out how comfortable it is for you.

Video quality. This is very important. You want to pay attention to the chip in the camera. You want to look for a 3CCD chip. In cameras, CCD is an acronym for charge-couple device, which is a silicon chip that converts light into a digital signal. Basically it will affect the color depth of the image. Don’t worry about megapixels, which tell you how many pixels the camera uses to produce an image. They are not as important as the manufacture wants you to believe. Most cameras have sufficient megapixels and that really only matter when taking still photos.

Features you want in a camera include zoom, memory, high and/or standard definition, recording format and Wi-Fi.

When comparing zoom, ignore the digital zoom and focus on optical zoom. Digital zoom is the measure of the camera’s ability to magnify pixels in an image but optical zoom measures the camera’s ability to magnify an image to give you great looking close up shots. Basically digital zoom just blows up the image but doesn’t insure the quality of the image where optical zoom does. A good optical zoom would be 10x.

Memory or storage refers to how much footage the camera will hold. You have four options to choose from; flash memory, hard drive memory removable memory, and tape or DVD. Some models require external memory and others have internal memory with the option to add external memory. Any of the first three memory varieties are good options. However the forth options are practically obsolete these days so I would not recommend any of those.

When it comes to high definition (HD) vs. standard definition (SD) of course HD is always going to be better than SD. Look for no less that 720p but 1080p is ideal for HD quality.

The recording format is simply what type of video file(s) will the footage be in. It can be an avi file, a mpeg or flv file or whatever. avi file is the easiest to edit with but mpeg and flv are one of the smallest types.

Wi-Fi capabilities do not come standard on camcorders. The only purpose it has is to share your footage instantly to your social media sites. To be honest that is a feature you can do without. Your grandson can use his smart phone for that.

Now the last thing you want to be concerned about is performance. A very important performance aspect is battery life. A good battery life is anything more that 2 hours but the average battery life may be just more than an hour. You may want to consider buying an extra battery. You also want to see how fast the camera is. Sometimes a camera can have so many powerful features that it can affect the response time of the camera. Those features can also drain the battery as well.

Also, how does the camera produce video in low light settings? Some cameras have a light on it and some are built to still produce good video in low light settings. Again this is information that can be found in reviews posted online by critics and buyers.

Audio is another critical area to consider when looking at performance. Take note of where the camera microphone is located. Front facing microphones tend to pick up better audio than top facing microphones. A lot of the higher end models will have the option to connect a handheld microphone or some other external audio source. Again, that is something your grandson can upgrade to as his skill and finances advance.

Well I hope that I have been helpful and not scared you off from buying a video camera. Believe me I haven’t even come close to explaining all the things to look for when buying a video camera. These were just some of the basic on the fly information. If you are an online shopper it will be easier for you to compare models and prices but if not then you still have the option of going to you local electronic store and browse there selection. Whatever you choose, check out the return policy just in case you don’t make the right choice the first time.

Good luck to you and your grandson,

The 80s’ Baby


About The 80s' Baby Network

I am what you would call a Multi-Media Specialist. I do all things media. Media is my life. My blog will be a source for your Media needs including but not limited to video production, editing, graphic design as well as Current Events, Entertainment & Tech news. You want it? The 80s' Baby got it...."Bring Your Vision To Life"

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