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Help me find my ideal digital camcorder!

Discussion in 'Photography and Video' started by SirNim, Nov 15, 2003.

  1. SirNim

    SirNim Well-Known Member

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    OK Guys… I need some help… :)

    For Christmas this year, my two major gifts are going to be a digital still camera and a digital motion camcorder. As you can see, I made two threads, one for each of these things, because I need specific help for each. I also know that they make camcorders that have built-in still photo functions… But I want them separate because I have specific needs/wants for each of them…

    This thread is about digital camcorders.

    Our family has a camcorder. It’s a nice camcorder. It’s also a VHS analog camcorder. This new camcorder I get will replace it.

    I am in the process of trying to “update” our house. We just got our first “real” DVD player (besides my computer’s DVD drives). I’d like to get a new digital camcorder so that we can make DVDs and have overall better video quality.

    There are many types of digital camcorders, if I am correct. There’s MiniDV and Digital 8 and a whole bunch of them. What format would be best for around $500-$700?

    I am looking for a digital camcorder with a digital recording format that would retail around $500. $600 might be plausible… $700 might be cutting it close, and $800 would be right on the brink of the cut-off point. Basically, around $500 (US).

    I believe my computer has an IEEE 1394 (firewire) port, so therefore, I am looking for a camcorder that has IEEE 1394 (firewire) capabilities.

    I want a good-quality camcorder, with a good ‘n high resolution. I’d prefer one with a built-in light, though nowadays I’m not too sure if built-in lights are the standard anymore.

    I want to be able to record firework shows and actually be able to see it. Some sort of stabilization system would be nice too, so my video doesn’t shake too much when we watch it. What else, what else? An LCD panel (though those are pretty much the standard now).

    I do not need a built-in still photograph system. If it comes with the perfect model, then so bet it, but since I am buying a separate digital still camera, I do not need the capability of a built-in one in my camcorder.

    What brand is best? What format is best, what brand is best?

    I’m not looking to shoot an Oscar®-winning feature film, just some home movies (from WDW and such) and put them on DVD and have reasonable quality in both picture image and in audio.

    Anybody have any ideas or suggestions for what might be my ideal camcorder? Please post them here!

    And thanks again for helping!
    :D
     
  2. SirNim

    SirNim Well-Known Member Original Poster

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    Can anybody offer any suggestions or personal experiences and preferences? :)
     
  3. no2apprentice

    no2apprentice Well-Known Member

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    Ok, I'll give it a shot. I have a Sony digital camcorder, and have been very happy with it. As far as your questions, I'll pass along what I'm aware of (this could be inaccurate, I haven't been keeping up with the camcorder market).

    Resolution - as far as I know, when recording on digital media, be it Digital8 or MiniDV, the resolution is about the same, doesn't matter which brand you get (again, this may have changed in the past couple of years - not sure).

    Size - MiniDV cameras tend to run smaller than Digital8. Depends on what you want. But, it's been my experience that the lighter and smaller the camera, the harder it is to keep it still (at least in my hands).

    Computer - It is really great to download your video to the computer, do your editing, titles, sound, etc., and then put it back on tape. But, there's two very important things you need to know. 1 - it is not a fast process. The tape plays back at normal speed while it is downloaded on the computer. Depending on your software for editing, it is either downloading the full resolution or a small resolution just to do editing. Then you hook up your camera again, run your edit and the software stores the finished product in full resolution on the hard drive, ready for transfer to a clean tape or saving it to a windows media format (or whatever format your software supports).

    Which brings us to the 2nd thing you need to know. Processor, memory, and hard drive space. These three are critical to make your editing experience as enjoyable as possible. Working with digital video on the computer eats up A LOT, BUNCHES and BUNCHES of hard drive space. Be warned.

    My advice is the following: check for reviews on the internet. Go to Circuit City, Best Buy, or some other electronics store, and handle some of the cameras. Check out the feature buttons. Some of these cameras have some really nice features, but I think they have contests to see how many buttons they can hide and how many features one button can have. It's like being in a 747 cockpit. Sure, you can learn where everything is and what it does, but it's gonna take awhile.

    One other thing. Keeping the heads clean is important. The digital format is harder on the heads than a standard tape format. Of course, it costs more to get the heads serviced on a digital camcorder than a standard camcorder.

    I hope some of this info helps you in your quest. As far as features, my Sony has the still shot feature, but I don't care for it. I can get a far better image with a digital camera. I seldom use the fold out LCD screen, it eats battery life big time. Hard to see it it bright sunlight, too. I have yet to use the title features, since I can put nice titles in on the computer. I always keep the auto-stable feature on. I had no idea how much it helped until I turned it off. What a difference! I think most cameras will have this feature, since it is such a strong selling point.

    If I can think of anything else, I'll let you know.
     
  4. mkt

    mkt Awesome Premium Member

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    Mini DV..

    I'd go with a Canon Opture 20, ZR65MC, or ZR70MC. All of them are packed with usable features, good optical zoom, and are reasonably priced. For Sony, the only one I'd consider is the DCR-TRV38.

    Also... Canons are the ones we see the least returns on at work (we have 1 single Canon in... an Elura 50, and at least 5 Sonys in our "returns" section).

    I would also shy away from the Sony DVD Camcorders... the image quality is actually inferior to a Mini DV/Digital 8 tape
     
  5. antoinebusby

    antoinebusby New Member

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    I personally like the Sharp VL-Z5U. That is the one that I am getting for Christmas. I like that one because it is sooo small and it only weighs 1.05 lbs. I know you want to keep your motion and still camera's seperate, but this little baby (like most digital camcorders I believe) has the option to transfer a frame from your video directly to your still camera memory card. With that feature, you can get some great pictures directly from the video that you shoot while you are in Disney. That way, you won't have to worry about trying to capture every waking thing on still digital picture format. Just record everything that you want, and while you are watching your video, if you see something that you like...just press pause...then the photo button...and you now have your still photo of that "awesome" video scene...

    Just my two cents!
     
  6. dizneykev

    dizneykev Member

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    Ok, as a techno geek sort of a guy I guess I will chime in. I personally replace my camcorder about every 2 years or so. My latest choice is a Canon Optura 20 (like MKT recommended) and I cannot say enought good things about it. I previously had a Sony Digital 8 camcorder and switched to this one during the summer. The picture quality is night and day. The canon is a little above your $500 target (in fact it nears your ceiling) and it is a bit bigger than most of the MiniDV formats, but I think it is perfect. This camcorder is almost bullet shaped so it gives you something to hold on to and it weighted just about perfect. It is thin enough that both my wife and I can comfortably hold onto it also.

    The biggest selling point for me was the OPTICAL zoom on this camera. It is much greater than any of the other camcorders out there and it sure makes it nice for zoom ins and close ups. The only downfall that I have seen to this camera is that it does not have a really good wide angle ability. I purchased an add on lens which would give me a better wide angle if I need it. I really haven't used it yet though, I just stand farther away.

    This camera has a built in LED bright white light for taping in low or no light (much nicer than the green nightvision on sony camcorders) although the shutter speed gets really slow for this and seems kind of weird to watch. With the price of external lights being so low ($50 or less), I would not base my purchase on whether the camera had one of these built in or not. I have rarely been in a position when I even thought it would be nice to have. The LUX rating on camcorders is so low these days, you really don't need the overpowering bright light to get nice video.

    There is the function for taking still pictures on a built in SD memory card, pictures are so-so at best. What is REALLY nice though is recording directly to the memory stick for video. Certainly you will need a bigger memory card for this, but it is really easy to take a video and put it on your pc. Hope this helps. I am sure you will enjoy whatever you choose.

    Dizneykev
     
  7. mkt

    mkt Awesome Premium Member

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    yup.. well those pics are either 2/3mp or 1mp at best (yes.. two thirds). The only camera that can do then both equally well is the Samsung Duocam, and that's a $1000 camera. For that price, you can pick up 2 seperate devices that will do the same job and better.
     
  8. mkt

    mkt Awesome Premium Member

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    look what I found yesterday... shame it was a Typo
     

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  9. antoinebusby

    antoinebusby New Member

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    Hey now...aren't they supposed to honor whatever price they put on their merchandise? When I worked at Sears, that was the policy. Sears had an awesome "honor thy customer" policy. After all, it is not the customer's fault that the wrong price was put on the merchandise.
     
  10. mkt

    mkt Awesome Premium Member

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    not if it never made it to the sales floor..
     

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