Considerations when buying a camera
“What camera should I buy for filming rugby/football/hockey/basketball/hurling/sports?”
There are numerous aspects to consider when buying a camera for sports analysis. This article will take you through some of those considerations and some suggestions for purchasing at the end.
As well, if you are based in Ireland, we provide sports filming services which you can hear more about by contacting us.
This article was first written in 2019 and has been updated since.
Budget is typically a primary consideration when buying and I have discussed this in the last paragraph if you want to skip straight to there.
How Long should it last?
An 80 minute rugby match typically lasts 1 hour and 45 minutes from the blowing of the first whistle to the last. Ideally, you want to record the game, the whole way through. We’ve all experienced the game where someone forgot to press record while starting and stopping and missing the best play of the game.
Also, if you ever get to the stage of wanting to put 2 angles together, it is much easier to sync them both up once instead of multiple times.
Standard batteries and what drains them
Typically a standard issue battery with a video camera lasts about 2 hours. When recording sports, your camera will likely be zooming in and out a lot which reduces battery. After time, similar to a phone, the battery diminishes. You could also record 2 games back to back or on a day long competition which will require more battery.
Solutions to batteries dying too early
I am a big fan of extended batteries, the logistics are the exact same as they normally are and just alleviates the sweats you get as the battery turns red while filming.
Another option is having access to a power source and charge the camera while filming, which of course is a good and potentially cheaper solution. A downside, at an away game you are relying on having a power source available which depends on the locations you play at.
Extended batteries are specific to the camera they are for, so check this on the specs of the camera before you buy.
Camera Image Outputs
1080 vs 720. Lots of cameras output in both. 1080 with all else equal, records a higher quality of picture. The primary downside for recording in 1080 is that is the file size increases.
For a sports match that is 100 minutes long (including half time), cameras outputting 1080 gives a 8-10GB file and 720 gives a 2-4GB file.
1080 can often output in AVCHD which makes it more difficult post use, particularly saved in different files. You have to access the video file with AVCHD and save it to your laptop. We did an article and video on combining multiple AVCHD files on Mac easily.
With a DCIM (iframe), you get .mp4 files which can view on your SD card as you do any folder in your laptop and allows you to stitch the files together straight away.
If you google camcorder image quality, it is quite difficult to come up with an answer as to what effects it.
The sensor, is the element with the biggest effect on image quality.
Unfortunately, similarily to computer processers, you can’t put a number on the quality as sensors are made by name.
Typically for sports analysts, CMOS is the most advanced sensor in use. There are different levels such as Full HD CMOS or Pro CMOS of the sensor which vary in quality. You’ll find you have to go into the advanced specifications to find information on the sensor used as it is not easily marketable for retailers.
Depending on your sport, you could be zooming in and out a lot with your camera. Typically in a sport on larger fields, where the ball moves a lot, you would typically zoom in and out more; hurling and Australian rules football for example. With sports such as Volleyball, you can typically pan to each side of the court so it is less important.
If you do zoom in and out a lot, or zoom longer distances, then it would be appropriate to consider the zoom magnification. Digital zoom is basically the sensors zooming in on the image, as you would on a computer. This is very much effected by the pixel size and the sensor as to how much the footage retains the quality.
Optical zoom is where the lens within the camera moves forward and therefore has less reduction in quality while zooming in.
There are lots of other elements dictating image quality such as image stabilsers and also zoom controls but typically, the more you pay the better image quality you get.
Simply, it is recommended that you purchase a camera with a SD card slot, 99%+ video cameras will do. This is the easiest and quickest method for you to transfer video from the camera onto laptop/desktop.
Another note on SD cards is to get faster ones, typically 10mb/sec or higher (also known as class 10). This will just save you a lot of time and is well worth the minimal price increase.
As well as the SD card for post production, there is other inputs and outputs for your camera that can allow you to do things such as bring in audio for an external microphone or to record the game live into your latop. Don’t worry about this too much if you have no intention of doing live analysis or taking in audio from a different source than directly from the camera.
AV output is for inserting a microphone for sound into your footage or for transferring video with sound out of the footage live.
The types of microphones you might want here include a ref mic, a handheld mic for a presenter or a shotgun microphone for capturing the sound on the field better rather than the sound around the camera.
A standard definition cable is the most common cable analysts receive from TV companies at fixtures, you can also get it on your camera.
Obviously it is not high definition but physically, the cable is the most durable with its spin and lock mechanism as opposed to the in-out of other sockets. It does not lose quality with distance as a HDMI can.
Most new cameras now will have either of these outputs. The advantage of this output is obviously the ability to take in higher definition footage.
With both the SDI/BNC and HDMI connections, you will need a capture box such as an Avermedia (HDMI only) or Blackmagic (Outputs to apple) to convert the footage to directly feed it into your laptop. There are many other capture boxes but these are two we have experience with.
XLR is an audio connection that for wireless audio systems is superior to AV. It receives far less interference and therefore produces higher quality audio content with your video. It also allows for a longer length of cable without deterioration of quality compared to AV.
There are a few new alternatives in the market to your traditional cameras such as Drones and Automated cameras such as veo camera’s.
We can’t stress enough that these are not currently suitable for sports analysis work.
Drones have excellent potential but the main limitation is the battery life. It can be useful as a supplementary angle or for filming training at elite levels, but for full match filming, it doesn’t cut the mustard.
VEO cameras are designed better for other sports such as soccer. For rugby, the lack of zoom makes it non useable if you want to do any sort of individual analysis, looking a breakdown or scrums and lineouts on the far side of the pitch is impossible to work out what is happening or how many people are there. The camera also has tendencies to follow other things such as seagulls etc… .
Automated cameras probably are the future of rugby, but they certainly aren’t the present.
An alternative to getting height is the use of video towers. We can strongly recommend VantagePoint video towers here as a reliable, transportable and one handed operation unit, they also move mechanically rather than electronically meaning they break far less often and are more durable in wet weather than it’s counterparts.
Another alternative is the use of IP Cameras. Which are generally installed fixed cameras that can allow filming with a joystick inside. These are fantastic options for filming training and can give an analyst some great scalability in terms of being able to set up indoors and code/tag a training/match simultaneously. IP cameras are a great solution but filming quality will suffer so perhaps for Elite level matches, they are not a great option.
Budget for most sport teams is typically an initial limiter when deciding what camera to get.
There are more or less free options such as recording on your phone but really you should avoid this at all costs.
Budget Rugby Camera Recommendations
A better cheap solution is to invest in a small camera as you dismiss the above disadvantages although you could get a worse picture. These small cameras typically come in at a price point of €100-700 new. I have personally never bought a second hand camera and have heard mixed responses to buying second hand.
An example of this camera would be the Panasonic HC-V180, a handheld camera that will suffice as an inexpensive option. There are not many extra features but it is available at a great price.
Higher Range Rugby Camera Recommendations
Mid Range Rugby Camera Recommendations
To get further improved image quality, getting a camera with a CMOS pro sensor is the next step.
Canon have recently developed the Canon G70 to replace their G25/26 models, which have a CMOS pro sensor.
You have the option to buy an advanced mini shoe which will allow you to have XLR inputs for your camera for microphone input. The hot shoe mount receiver on the top as well can allow for you to use a hot shoe roller ball mount to put a second camera on top and allow you to film a close and wide angle simultaneously with the same cameraman.
Panasonics V875 is the newer version of their old V770 which has been a reliable camera for analysts for about a decade now. It is reasonably priced at around €400.
The advantage you get with the V875 is the increased durability and sturdiness that you get with a heavier camera. If you were coaching a youth team and were conscious about the camera being dropped or mishandled, this camera would give you a little more likelihood to survive that rough and tumble. That’s not to say it won’t break if damaged, just that it will hold a little better than the V180 for example.
With the V875, you’ll also now have optical zoom options giving a cleaner picture when zoom vs the digital zoom of the V180.
If you really want to go all out and get the crème de la crème, the Canon XF305 would be a nice one. It has all the described features such as the HD-SDI for the best quality of live analysis and XLR audio inputs, but the thing that notches up the price is because it has 3 CMOS sensors delivering a seriously high quality image. Also it has manual optical zoom for great long distance shooting. Although I honestly think at this stage you could spend your money more efficiently elsewhere and get a less expensive camera.
Have a camera but don’t know what tripod to get – click here.
Have all the equipment but don’t know how to film – watch this video
I hope this guide gives you a better understanding of what camera you may purchase now or in the future for filming sports. Technology is advancing all the time and I will try to update this article as much as possible. It’s always great to hear of any recommendations of purchases people have made, especially from those with similar needs.
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