Parents of soccer players ask me this question all the time and while there is never a single answer to a question like this, there are definitely ways to make the answer simple for you.
But before I start offering my opinion, based on years of real world experience, let me first tell you that I’m not an Audio / Video (AV) expert, I don’t hang out in the AV forums, we’re not going to talk about the “lossy” quality of the codecs or the benefits / drawbacks of the various video compression schemes.
If you’re looking for the king of “geek speak”, you’re reading the wrong article.
My focus is 100% on the parent or coach that wants to get really good quality video of their soccer games for coaching analysis, video highlights for college recruiting, and / or video that looks really good when you watch the game at home on your large screen TV.
Issue #1: 4K versus not 4K
In general, avoid all 4K cameras because the current cameras are all recording at 30 frames per second (fps) and you need to record at 60 fps (see issue #2).
Issue #2: Frame rate
There is a lot of action taking place in an average soccer game so unless you’re fixing your camera in one spot i.e. on the goalie… your camera needs to be able to handle the movement of the players, ball and you panning the camera as the action flies by from one side of the field to the other.
Do not buy any camera that does not record at 60 fps.
Issue #3: Size
Bigger is better. This is a generalization but almost always true.
A bigger lens will be able to pull in more light and a larger image processor is better at taking that light and processing it into better quality video.
Under sunny skies, none of this matters much but for night games, games played under overcast skies or in the rain and indoor games it matters a lot.
You will definitely notice a quality drop from bright sunlight versus these other “less bright” conditions and this quality drop will be far more significant with a smaller, generally cheaper, camera.
Issue #4: Storage
Internal flash hard drive or SD cards both work fine.
I personally prefer a camera with SD cards for storage because it means I have no limits and I like the convenience of removing the SD card from the camera and inserting it directly into my computer.
What you store your recording on is insignificant unless you buy cheap SD cards – get only video quality 90 MB/Sec SD cards.
Issue #5: Price
In general, you do get what you pay for with camera gear.
So you can get a $279 camera that appears to have similar specs of the more expensive cameras but they will never be the same… or even close to the same.
Try to stretch your budget into a “prosumer” (cross between a “professional” and “consumer” level product) model to get many of the high end benefits without the dramatic price jump to a full professional model. You will get years of use from this camera so consider this when buying.
My Recommendation: Canon – VIXIA HF G40
Buy it at Best Buy and use their credit card to pay for it over 12-months using their 0% financing offers. They usually will not stock this model but can have it for you in 1 or 2 days.
You can buy it from other sources like Amazon… I just prefer buying from a local retailer and Best Buy will cut you a deal on the memory and other accessories if you buy them at the same time.
Here’s a link to the camera – Camera Link
I’ve owned the G30 for several years and the video quality is excellent. The G40 is an updated version of the G30.
I use (2) 64GB SD cards and have never run out of storage but I did buy a high capacity battery because the standard battery can cut things close at times, especially when 2 games are played back to back without enough time to recharge the battery.