Where to research to buy a new camcorder?

Discussion in 'Video' started by greglyon, Jun 24, 2006.

  1. Hi, I'm a long time photographer, but quite a camcorder novice. It's time to buy one and I've been researching a bit but thought I could use some help.
    Couple questions:
    1. What websites do you use to research camcorders?
    2. What features would you consider important?
    My #1 use for the camcorder will be family stuff, but I'd like some creative/fun control as well.
    I've used Consumerreports.org (with a grain of salt), and found EasyCamcorders.com, but there doesn't seem to be a lot out there...or maybe I'm not searching correctly!
    The models I've been interested in so far range from US ~330 to 580. I think I'd like MiniDV, right? so I've limited myself to that. I was most interested in the JVC GR-DF550 (at least in part due to stop motion and intervalometer) and the 3ccd Panasonic PV-GS150.
    Any advice or suggestions you can offer would be greatly appreciated!
  2. A 3-CCD camera worth considering will be well outside of your stated budget. These cameras have significantly better resolution and resistance to smearing and blooming. The good ones are large and on the heavy side. I'm partial to the Canon XL2 or JVC DVR500 (which takes standard DV 2 hour tapes).

    Editing and effects are often promoted but of little use in practice. Plan to shoot everything and edit off-line. Magazines such as "Consumer's Report" help you with the vocabulary, but usually over-emphasize features and effects.

    There is hardly any difference in image quality or build quality in between models in this price range. I suggest you look for the shortest zoom range you think you can live with - optical quality drops off and price increases as the zoom range grows. Digital zoom is useless - disregard it completely. An extremely useful feature is optical stabilization. Canon is the leader in this field. With minimal care, your shots will be nearly as steady as on a tripod.

    Input/Output connections are also important. A FireWire port is essential - you need it to transcribe tape to hard drive, and to use the DVCam as an analog-to-digital converter for older minicams. AFIK, nearly all DVCams have a FireWire port. Most have ports for external microphones and video in/out. Some have Super-VHS ports (useful?). I require good sound, so I selected a camera which has an external sound port which can run WITHOUT automatic level control.

    MiniDV is the most useful format at present, although several hard drive units look interesting. MiniDV quality is 11GB/hour, so most consumer HD units convert to MPEG2 on the fly (2GB/hr to 4.5GB/hr). You can edit MPEG2 files, but it is a lossy process. It is nearly impossible to recover and edit files in DVD format with acceptible quality.

    I have a Canon Optura 50 for personal use. In addition to good glass, it has a manual mode. It is good enough to cut in as a 2nd camera with the JVC cited above. A wide-angle auxillary lens is probably the most useful accessory after an external fast-charger and a couple of big batteries. MiniDV Cam lenses are on the long side, and the wide angle (0.7x) is very useful for family pictures indoors.
  3. You can't do anything creative (such focus racking) for $400, so you might as well get something you can carry easily. If you are going to to any editing, be sure to get miniDV rather than MPEG-2.
  4. Well...I'm close to buying the Canon Optura 50, thanks guys for your input. Other candidates are Panasonic PV-GS150, JVC GR-DF550. I've only been able to handle the Optura in a store. It felt quite nice!

    I like the theory of the hard drive camcorders, but they're still out of my price range. I'm not interested in the DVD recorders both because of quality and compatibility issues.

    Any other advice out there??? Thanks Edward, Emre!


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