Things are moving fast with video cameras, which is one reason I try not to recommend anything too specific. By the time you’ve found one, it’s usually out-of-date.
For a long time my standing advice has been (a.) to use your mobile phone, stills camera, or whatever else you already have, (b.) to buy a miniDV camera with a microphone jack, and (c.) that you get get what you pay for, more-or-less.
However, I think we’re approaching some sort of transition, and I’m not sure I can fully recommend tape any more. My current picks are:
- Flip Video Ultra, ~£100. Small, trivially simple, not great, but surprisingly good for what it is.
- Canon FS100/10/11 range, ~£220-£350. Not unlike the Flip, but has a microphone jack.
Both these cameras record to flash memory, so they’re much quicker to work with than tape cameras. Long-term archiving is an issue, but hard drives are now around the same price as tape.
Neither the Flip nor the FS100/10/11 will be much good in poor light, neither shoots very high-resolution, and neither gives you much if anything in the way of manual controls. But they’re quick, simple, and relatively cheap. I’ll be reviewing the Flip properly, alongside its closest competitor the Busbi Video Plus, shortly. I’m also sorely tempted to buy myself an FS100, but there’s a review here.
For further reference, here’s a handy list of cameras supported by the current version of iMovie. Still worth a look even if you’re a Windows user, since these tend to be the cameras that do things ‘by the book,’ so you may find you have a smoother time with them than others.