Nowadays I’m really only recommending standard definition (SD) cameras for web-only projects. If there’s a chance you’ll play your content on a t.v. — even an old SD t.v. — you should master in high-definition (HD). See the HD Cameras Comparison for more on HD cameras, including the cheaper but increasingly obsolete HDV format.

That said, a lot of great equipment that has been used to make indie movies in the past is now available for cheap. Add a 35mm lens adapter and you can make web content that looks like it was shot on film. Here is an incomplete list of DV cameras that have prosumer features like better lenses and audio support…

Canon XL-1
The industry standard for a long time, circa 2000 it was very popular with reality t.v. The camera is big enough to balance on a shoulder (for steady handheld work) and allows for interchangable lenses. A short film I wrote, called “The Watch,” was shot with it, and I was impressed with the range of shots and speed of setup that the skilled d.p. (and camera owner) was able to achieve.

Canon XL-2
This upgrade to the XL-1 includes Canon’s 24F feature, which simulates the 24fps look of film.

Canon GL-1
I bought one of these back in the late ’90’s and have been very happy with it. The GL-1 delivers most of the features of the XL-1, but has a more compact body and lacks many lens features, although the lens it has is UV coated with a built-in ND filter and other qualities that set it above consumer level. I recommend getting a Beachtek XLR adaper for your sound.

Placeholder. No information on the camera at this time.

Panasonic DVX100a & DVX100b
For low-budget filmmakers, Panasonic’s DVX series of cameras were a godsend. Offering 24p capabilities and good low-light response, they got people’s imaginations going, and great content is still made every day with them, although thanks to the lowering of HD camera prices, they are mostly being used for direct-to-web or DVD filmmaking. (Sundance 2006 did feature Moonshine, a vampire flick shot with a DVX100a — see below.) DVXs still have high re-sell values, so finding a deal on a used one can be tough.

Sony VX-1000

Sony VX-2000
SEE ALSO: David Reuther’s review

Sony PD-150
This is the DV-Cam version of the VX2000. Morgan Spurlock shot most of Supersize Me with this handy-dandy camera. The pro audio input options, especially, made this camera attractive to documentary filmmakers.

Sony DSR-200


Making a DV movie?  Check out these DV cameras and see how digital goes to film. Sony HDV FX1 vs. DVX100a vs. Canon XL2. Great article. Found via [HD for Indies].

DV SUCCESS STORY: The maker of Sundance 2006’s Moonshine praises his Panasonic AG-DVX100A and has tips for ultra-low-budget DV filmmaking.