Question: If you had to work on a budget, what things could you skimp on and what things would you pay the extra money for with your set-up?
If you are working on a very tight budget, we have just added a camera that is for you, Canon VIXIA HFR-300 for $299. The nice thing about this camera is that it films in HD to SD cards. You will get a 32x optical zoom (320 yards out the camera will bring in to 10 yards). This will get you started filming your hunt. The nice thing about this camera is that you can add an external microphone to upgrade you audio capabilities. I would recommend upgrading your audio when you have the budget for it. You can get a Audio Technica Pro24CM Shotgun Microphone for $99. There will be a mount available to mount this microphone to the Canon HFR-300 within the next month.
If you are looking for a budget-friendly entry level into a 3 sensor camera than I would recommend the Panasonic HDC-TM900 video camera. This small handycam will give you the 3 sensors needed as a main camera for production level for $849.99. This camera also has the availability to add filters and external lenses to the camera. I would recommend a UV Filter for any camera if it has that ability. The UV Filter will act as a protector against your lens. It is a lot cheaper and easier to replace a UV Filter than a lens if you get scratches on it. UV Filters are based on the Filter Size on each camera and range from $9.99-$24.99.
If I had to narrow it down to the things that are a must and that you shouldn't skimp on it would be:
1) UV Filter - Protect the lens
2) Shotgun Microphone - Upgrade your audio
3) Extra Battery - Batteries included with camera tend to last 1-3hrs, in the winter time battery life drains a lot faster
4) Windscreen - To place on your Shotgun Microphone to block out the wind noise that can ruin audio.
5) Support System - A tree arm if you are filming from a tree; a tripod, monopod, or shoulder mount if filming from the ground or a blind; a boat pod if filming on a boat. This will give you solid and stable footage. No one likes shaky footage!
6) Recovery Light - Most recoveries take place during very low light or in the dark, the light will allow you to film these.
7) Headphones- Any set of headphones will work with most cameras, as long as they have a headphone jack. So take your iPod headphones at minimal and use that to monitor the audio levels being recorded.
The nice thing about most of the cameras that we offer is that you have the ability to add to them, either when you purchase them or come back when you can afford to upgrade your camera.