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Naturally, you’re going to need a video camera. The makes and models of camcorders will change more often than I can update this guide, so I want to give you a good idea of what to look for when you’re in the market for a camera. As of this writing, you can get a camera with all of the essential features for less than $300.

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By far the highest quality/lowest price cameras available use a kind of tape called Mini-DV. I use and recommend Mini-DV camcorders, which capture video digitally on miniature tapes that cost about $3 each. It is generally not a good idea to re-use tapes, so you’ll want to stock up when they’re on sale (recently as low as 3 for $4.99).

When shopping for a Mini-DV camcorder, you want to make sure that it has a microphone input. All camcorders have a built-in microphone, which is fine for recording videos in ideal conditions—but you will rarely have ideal conditions if you are videoblogging political events. Invariably the crowd will be too loud, the speaker not loud enough, and someone will insist on carrying on a cellphone conversation right next to your camera.

You may also find that many of the kinds of events that you want to videotape will have lighting situations that are also less than ideal. Because of this, you’ll want to choose a camcorder with a built-in light, or with the ability to add a light. In my opinion, it’s preferable to have a light that is powered separately from the camcorder. For one thing, this preserves precious battery life in the camcorder. For another thing, if the built-in light breaks or burns out, it will cost more to replace than an external light. If the camcorder does not have a built-in light, you want to make sure that it has an accessory shoe, where an external light can be attached. The accessory shoe would be located on top of the camcorder.

That’s it! The two most important things to look for in a Mini-DV camcorder are a microphone input and either a built-in light or the ability to add a light. The other specifications are more or less standard across all Mini-DV camcorders, but provided that you are happy with the way the camera looks and feels, you should feel very comfortable purchasing any Mini-DV camera that has these two important features.