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Which Digital Video Camcorder?
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Mar 15, 2005, 09:13 #1
slejhamer Posting Freak *****
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We've had a few threads on video, but haven't really discussed brands and recommendations. I have a Sony Hi-8 camcorder but want to take the plunge into digital video. Anyone with opinions on lower-end mini-DV camcorders (priced under US$400)?

It seems that Sony, Canon, Panasonic and JVC are the biggest players. Are there any significant differences between brands? What about the software that comes with them, if any? And what's up with all the recording formats - Digital8, MiniDV, MiniDVD, etc ... ?

I don't need any fancy digital effects, but want basic control over white balance and exposure settings. Image stabilization is also a must - I've compared my Sony vids with and without, and the difference is remarkable.

Thoughts?


Mar 15, 2005, 10:18 #2
Rufus Posting Freak *****
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:x :x :x :x :x :x

I had a Sony Hi-8. Sold it on Evilbay for about £150.
Bought a JVC cheapo mini DV 500 lines! Image stabilised! Twisty LCD! Night shot! Snapshot!

Piece of cr*p. (Sorry)

Hi-8 was better. No doubt about it.
This thing STINKS.

Dont go there without £1000 :x :x :x :x :x

Mar 15, 2005, 15:44 #3
shuttertalk Shuttertalker *******
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I have an old JVC - basically one of the first minidv models to come out by JVC. It was good for its time, but seems like a dinosaur nowadays compared to the tiny ones out there. Pretty happy with it, but compared to my cousin's panasonic, quality seems a bit lacking.

Panasonics seem to be the cheapest these days, although If I were to buy again, I'd probably buy Canon or Sony... why? *shrug* coz of the brand... Big Grin

Regarding formats - I guess try and look long term. MiniDV was pretty much a standard say about a year ago. Nowadays you got some that use memory cards as storage... that's what another cousin of mine got.

Mar 15, 2005, 15:59 #4
slejhamer Posting Freak *****
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Doing some research ... seems the biggest drawback to the low-end models is performance in low light. No surprise I guess ... If we stick an f/4 lens on a digital still camera, it's not going to do very well indoors without substantial additional lighting, and most of these camcorders get close to f/4 at the tele end of their zoom range.

Unfortunately I think Rufus might be right about the price point for good quality... but a bunch of new models came out recently, and I'm browsing the reviews.

Mar 15, 2005, 19:21 #5
jericho Posting Freak *****
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Let me know what you get the scoop on Mitch. I am taking the mini dv plunge soon myself.

Jerry

Mar 16, 2005, 03:33 #6
slejhamer Posting Freak *****
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Jer, you might want to browse around this site:
http://www.camcorderinfo.com/

It's the most informative and objective one I've found so far.

Interestingly, JVC's recent low-end models were rated well for their low-light performance, but in the new models for 2005 they removed the noise reduction feature so now they are just "okay." Dumb!


Mar 29, 2005, 09:03 #7
slejhamer Posting Freak *****
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Good news and bad:

The good news is that I won't be spending $1,000 on a digital video camcorder.

The bad news is that I won't be getting a digital video camcorder.

From what I could tell, quality in the under-$500 category is just not there yet unless you're going to set up a bunch of video lights in your living room.

While these cams have lenses rated at f/1.8, the low-light performance is very poor. Autofocus is hit-or-miss, and the image itself is weak. They work very well in good light, but I'm not replacing my 60watt tungsten lamps with 150watt floods!

I played with Canon, JVC, Sony and Panasonic models. The $1200 (sale price!) Sony was quite nice. I would have like to have played with a Canon GL2 but there was not one available.

So I'm sticking with Hi-8 for the foreseeable future, and will get a video capture device to convert my tapes to digital on the computer.

( But NOT from Dazzle or Pinnacle! They have gotten horrible reviews! I've picked the Plextor PVR model, http://www.plextor.com/english/products/TV402U.htm, which will not only convert analog camcorder signals to digital on my computer, but will also function as a Tivo-like television recorder! With no subscription necessary! Whoo! )

Mar 29, 2005, 09:50 #8
Rufus Posting Freak *****
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Big Grin Now, I'm not one to say "I told you so" ......... BUT...... :/ :| Rolleyes Big Grin Big Grin

I TOLD YOU SO!! lol: Big Grin Big Grin

Mar 29, 2005, 09:52 #9
slejhamer Posting Freak *****
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( For Jerry: )

If I did buy a lower-end DV camcorder, it would most likely be the Sony HC32. A friend of mine has this (he did a bit of research, too) and it's got decent overall functionality. Slightly higher priced than my original budget, but not too much over.

From what we've both seen and heard, Canon fares worst for low-light performance.

Mar 29, 2005, 09:54 #10
slejhamer Posting Freak *****
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Rufus Wrote:Now, I'm not one to say "I told you so" .........


Yes, but you're a dog! Big Grin

Mar 29, 2005, 11:20 #11
Rufus Posting Freak *****
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True.

But, I'm a clever dog!!! Smile



Sometimes. Sad


Mar 29, 2005, 12:13 #12
jericho Posting Freak *****
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Thanks Mitch. I have been suffering the same dilemma as you. However, in my case I have no alternative to fall back on. I will look deeper into the HC32.

Drats!

I was hoping it would be easier than this......... I should have known better. Big Grin

Mar 29, 2005, 15:12 #13
shuttertalk Shuttertalker *******
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Hm... do the Hi-8's have firewire connectivity to transfer movies across to your PC?

Only problem I see is that being an analog format, the quality will degrade over time...

Mar 29, 2005, 16:37 #14
slejhamer Posting Freak *****
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ST, no they do not have a firewire output (at least mine doesn't.) But with the ConvertX you can easily get them into the PC for editing, storage, burning to disc, etc.

Mar 30, 2005, 03:05 #15
shuttertalk Shuttertalker *******
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Oooo, I just got some junk mail catalogues in the postbox... don't you just love looking at the electronics ones? Big Grin

Anyway, they're advertising a new model for Panasonic MiniDV camcorder with 3CCDs, 10x optical zoom Leica Dicomar lens and 2.3 megapixel still shots (onto SD card), for $1499 (AUD). Sounds interesting! - I think it's the PV-GS150 model.

I haven't kept up with the camcorder scene, but when I was looking a couple of years ago, 3CCD models (especially Canon) were king, and cost about 10 grand each.

Mar 30, 2005, 03:44 #16
slejhamer Posting Freak *****
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It has received good reviews and seems to be a relatively good value in the next pricing tier.

Personally, I'm not about to spend that kind of money though (US$600-700.) If (when!) the prices fall another 40% or so, then a 3CCD Panasonic is worth looking into. Another 2 years, maybe.

BTW, I don't think this model has analog input ports, so for someone interested in converting old tapes to mini-DV, they are out of luck.

And low-light performance (50 lux, or just under "normal" indoor illumination) remains so-so.

Size could also be a factor for some - this one actually looks like a camcorder, whereas the more compact models are wallet sized and more portable. Something to consider.

Big Panny GS150:
[Image: Panasonic-PV-GS150-Vanity.jpg]

Little Sony HC32, the size of your hand:
[Image: Sony-DCR-HC32_vanity.jpg]

My fat Sony Hi-8:
[Image: ccdtrv66.gif]


Mar 30, 2005, 03:53 #17
shuttertalk Shuttertalker *******
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Which one do you prefer? Heheh... some like them big like DSLRs Smile

Personally I prefer small and inconspicuous / portable.

Apr 1, 2005, 21:59 #18
shuttertalk Shuttertalker *******
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Hey Mitch, more info on the Panasonic GS150:

http://www.jakeludington.com/gadget_envy...gs150.html

I found it on one of our advertiser's sites. Big Grin

Also a comparison between 1CCD and 3CCD cameras:
http://www.jakeludington.com/project_stu...otout.html

Apr 1, 2005, 22:58 #19
Rufus Posting Freak *****
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And low-light performance (50 lux, or just under "normal" indoor illumination) remains so-so.


50 lux? Did you mean 50??? That's terrible!!

Apr 1, 2005, 23:47 #20
loopy Member ***
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Hi Slej,

Sorry it took so long to write - I wrote something here a few days ago, but we had a blackout halfway through and I forgot to write back Rolleyes

I've played with a fair few video cameras - Sony, Panasonic, Canon and JVC, both single and triple chip, as well as Hi8. If all you are interested in is saving a few videos here and there of the kids, or maybe to send away clips to friends or relatives, the single chip cameras will do you fine. If you're at all interested in production work though, you'll need a 3CCD camera. It's comparible to the difference between say a Canon A80 (single chip) and the EOS-1Ds (triple chip) - yeah you can produce similar results on the A80, but the SLR shots will generally be better.

In terms of brands, I'd have to disagree with the stats. One of my mates back in the Eastern states does some professional underwater videography with a 3CCD Sony, while another mate has a single chip Panasonic. We tested them both out under very low light conditions, and the Panasonic came out way on top. In general, the Pansonic was also easier to use, and still had a decent picture quality (we agreed that it was better than a single chip Sony that we got our hands on, but they sort of thing is purely speculative - you may have a different opinion if you saw both at work). My mate is pretty annoyed that he has so much money invested in Sony - the replacement costs for a new camera/housing/lighting system would be horific.

Saying that, I think the best advice anyone can offer is to try them both out for yourself - get into somewhere like Hardly Normal (they generally have most normal cameras in stock) and have a play around. Ask if you can try it in a dark room and see for yourself.

Cheers,


Brad

Apr 2, 2005, 04:05 #21
slejhamer Posting Freak *****
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Thanks for sharing the hands-on experience, Brad. I generally agree with you (and ST) that Panasonic seems to offer the best bang-for-the-buck.

The problem I've got is budgetary - originally I wanted something under US$300, then after looking at the available options I stretched my limit to $400 max. Still no viable option, in my opinion, though the little Sony comes closest to giving me what I want.

Sadly, I have a friend whose hubby works for Panasonic, but they can't get any discounts - even for themselves. She bought a Sony! And a Canon still camera! Big Grin







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