What they do well: Thanks to large image sensors and quality lenses, digital cameras—even $600 advanced point-and-shoots—allow you to snare very good video indoors and out, day or night, even under candlelight. That’s why the pros reach for DSLRs when shooting weddings and corporate events. “They’re more difficult to use,” Clawson says. “But they give you a cinematic look and quality. It’s like viewing a movie trailer.” Certain models offer swiveling displays for composing hard-to-reach shots, most can accommodate memory cards with capacities as large as 512GB, and interchangeable-lens cameras can be outfitted with a variety of lenses that create shallow depth of field, panoramic views, or a zoom powerful enough to capture the craters on the moon.
Where they struggle: Many have a 30-minute recording limit. And the bulkier they are, the more difficult they can be to hold without subjecting your videos to shaky-hand syndrome. Long lenses, especially, can amplify the effect of shivers, so these cameras often have some form of optical or mechanical image stabilization.
Cutting-edge features: Sony’s RX100 Mark V point-and-shoot has a very wide-aperture, f/1.8-2.8 lens that lets you capture video with a shallow depth of field—a visual effect once confined to high-end camcorders.
Pro tip: According to Jeff Berlin, a Los Angeles photographer who does film work for various entertainment companies, a camera’s swiveling LCD screen is a great way to resolve the shakes problem. With the screen flipped open, you hold the camera firmly at waist level, lock your elbows against your body, and look down at the LCD to frame the footage. “With this technique,” he says, “people will think you were shooting on a tripod or a stabilizer.”
Cool accessory: Rode VideoMicro Compact On-Camera Microphone, $60. If you want high-quality audio to accompany your video, try this shotgun microphone, which slides into the silver hot shoe mount on top of a DSLR. It records the voices and sounds in front of the rig while reducing the impact of chatter, laughs, and other commotion on the periphery.
A note on 4K: The people who make cameras love to promote their ability to shoot 4K video. But ultra high-definition is not for everyone. “Unless you have a really good 4K TV to display the work,” Clawson says, “the average consumer is not going to see the difference.” Who will? Those who want the extra pixels to crop and edit their work using computer software.