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  1. #1
    Web Ho - Design B!tch ~Michelle's Avatar
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    Question New Camcorder Opinions Please
    A friend of mine is looking at buy a new camcorder and they called me this morning to see if I could find out a bit more about the 3 choices that they have found. I am hoping someone here can help me out.

    They want something that holds way more than 1/2 hour of video.

    They want it to be easy to transfer from the camcorder to the tv for viewing.

    They want to be able to transfer video to their computer without a bunch of hoops to jump through. They want the quality to be good once on the computer, but not compressed down so much that they have issues editing it if they so choose.

    Of course they want good sound and picture.

    They will be using it for family stuff, vacations, kids activites, etc.

    Below are the types they have looked at.

    > Mini DV - which uses tapes and Firewire

    > They looked at a model that has a 20 GB hard drive built into it

    > Finally a Mini DVD style that uses the mini dvds, but those only hold 30 minutes and are only good for one use.

    Taking into consideration their desires above, does anyone know which of these would be the best type for them to buy?
    ~Michelle
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  2. #2
    Pimp Duck popdawg's Avatar
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    We have a Sony mini dvd one and are really happy with it. We ended up with a sony because they didn't have the Canon we wanted yet and the features vs price were enough to make us try it.
    Good picture quality, sound and one of the best night modes (for candlelit shows by the kids, etc) of all the ones we tried. Top quality zoom, it's a 3.1 mp(I think) still camera as well. One beef is you can't change any of the photo options, like shutter speed, etc. Canon had more options on the one we wanted but we have a couple of decent digital cams so that wasn't a huge issue for us. Battery lasts pretty well although we always pick up an extra longlife battery just in case. I found it's very stable so you don't get a lot of shake in the pictures even with the stabilizer option off and the mic can really pick up sound.
    DVDs are only 30 minutes but you can get the re-usable ones. We have 4 DVD-RW discs we use and transfer everything to a computer with one cable.
    Once the software is installed, it automatically detects the camcorder and it's one or two clicks until it's on your system. I have used the canon software package a few times and like it a little better, but for price we paid/quality I like very much the Sony.
    One of our friends bought a JVC miniDV and took it back to get the Sony we had. They weren't happy with the picture quality, but they bought a lower end model.
    The model we have is the DVD403 which is just over a year old now.
    I would definitely look at another Sony if we had to buy another one, although from past experience I will always check the Canons as well due to the fact they make some nice cams.
    As for the miniDV vs MiniDVD question, I like burning right to disk and being able to dump the disc to my server, play it direct on the DVD player (Newer one, the older one doesn't seem to like the small disk) or dump it via cable to my laptop.
    When the girl has friends over, they sometimes make music videos and can go off with the DVD and stick it right in the player to watch themselves on the big screen. No transferring or converting required.
    Everyone has their own preference though. My preference is for the gaggle of giggling girls to be as self sufficient and far away from me as possible.
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  3. #3
    AM Navigator Geno Prussakov's Avatar
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    I've purchased a JVC with a 30 GB HDD and a 2 megapixel camera (not that I ever use it, but it's good that it's there) not so long ago. Love it!!

    Geno

  4. #4
    ABW Ambassador meadowmufn's Avatar
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    Geno,

    What model? I've been looking for a camcorder too, so I'm interested to see everyone's recommendations. I have a JVC, but it's over 8 years old and time to get a new one!
    -Don't criticize anyone til you've walked a mile in their shoes. Then when you do criticize them, you'll be a mile away and have their shoes.
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  5. #5
    AM Navigator Geno Prussakov's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by meadowmufn
    Geno,

    What model?
    GZ-MG77E.

    Fits 7 Hours of "Ultra Fine" (outstanding quality, suitable for viewing on a huge plazma or LCD TV) video easily!!

    Geno

  6. #6
    ABW Ambassador meadowmufn's Avatar
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    Have you had the chance to test it in low light? If so, how'd it do?
    -Don't criticize anyone til you've walked a mile in their shoes. Then when you do criticize them, you'll be a mile away and have their shoes.
    - Silence is golden. Duct Tape is silver.

  7. #7
    AM Navigator Geno Prussakov's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by meadowmufn
    Have you had the chance to test it in low light? If so, how'd it do?
    I have. Honestly, this is a very good question (and I would love to hear from other camcorder owners on how other small camcorders work in low light).

    Mine: video-wise -- quite poorly, digital-camera-wise -- perfect.

    Geno

  8. #8
    Web Ho - Design B!tch ~Michelle's Avatar
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    Thanks for the input so far.

    Right now they are leaning towards the hard drive model.

    Geno, have you tried to edit some of the video taken with that camera on your computer? If so, was it hard to do and how was the quality?
    ~Michelle
    "All I ask is a chance to prove that money can't make me happy."
    "Work to become, not to acquire." -- Confucius

  9. #9
    AM Navigator Geno Prussakov's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ~Michelle
    Geno, have you tried to edit some of the video taken with that camera on your computer? If so, was it hard to do and how was the quality?
    Michelle, haven't tried this yet, but it has a very promising intro to it...

    G.

  10. #10
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    Have you checked out the panasonic nv-GS series camcorders yet?

    The lenses on these are pro-quality 3CCD ( fantastic for colour saturation and low light, such as anything shot indoors), whereas the lenses on competing SONY DVD and JVC hard disk recorders are just regular, consumer grade 1CCD lenses. They're probably ok, but if the family like to record events inside or at night, the footage will be disappointing compared with a 3CCD lens.

    Also, I'd be a little concerened about editing options for mpeg-2 (and 4) format footage. The footage would have to be edited using the camera manufacturers software (usually very limited). I would personally feel restricted by this, as i like to use other software for my editing and adding effects, sound etc. In order to do this with Mpeg-2, the footage would have to be re-encoded, which would also bother me.

    The quality of stills and encoding on these cameras is lower than DV-quality footage recorded on the panasonic camcorders, i've noticed

    Anyway, I do think they're all pretty impressive camcorders, but I'd personally
    recommend the higher quality panasonic NV-GS series camcorders.

  11. #11
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    We changed our whole way of thinking about camcorders.

    We used to tape hours of stuff (on old VHS camcorders and then a mini-DV one), but we almost never watched it. Plus, it was hard to get onto the computer.

    The last two digital cameras we've bought had a really good video recording option, 640x480 at 30fps. It sucks up the memory card (can only fit about 15 minutes on a 2GB card), but that works for what we've started doing.

    Instead of recording 30 minutes or an hour, which we'll never watch, we record just little snipets anywhere from 15 seconds to several minutes, of cute things the kids do, etc. Then, we sort through them periodically and add the best of the new ones to a DVD compilation, which we burn and send out to family periodically. It just takes a few minutes to add new clips, clip the start and end, add a text overlay with the date to the beginning of the clip, name the clip, etc. Since they're short clips and are the "best" of the clips and have a DVD menu, we find that they're much more "watchable".
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  12. #12
    Web Ho - Design B!tch ~Michelle's Avatar
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    Thanks guys!
    ~Michelle
    "All I ask is a chance to prove that money can't make me happy."
    "Work to become, not to acquire." -- Confucius

  13. #13
    Web Ho - Design B!tch ~Michelle's Avatar
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    Ok, I think they have narrowed it down to two.

    The deciding factor will be the answer to this question.

    Which of these, as far as the lens, would be better?

    F2.0 Lens, 680K CCD, 32x Optical Zoom, 800x Digital Zoom
    (JVC Everio GZMG21 20GB HDD Digital Media Camcorder with 32x Optical Zoom)

    Or

    F1.2 lens, 2.2-megapixel CCD, 10x optical zoom, 800x digital zoom
    (JVC Everio GZMG77 2.0MP CCD 30GB HDD Camcorder with 10x Optical Zoom)

    Basically they want to know if the 32X Optical Zoom is better than the 10X and why.

    A little more help is appreciated....
    ~Michelle
    "All I ask is a chance to prove that money can't make me happy."
    "Work to become, not to acquire." -- Confucius

  14. #14
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    It depends on what you're wanting to do with it. If you're wanting to capture things very far away (wildlife, etc.), a larger zoom can be better. On the other hand, the CCD on the other has considerably better resolution.

    With either (10X or 32X), I would suggest image stabilization. Without it, at the higher zoom levels, the blur and shake is awful. Both probably have it, but it's worth confirming.
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  15. #15
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    Yes, 32 X optical zoom is better that 10 X optical zoom. But like Michael said, it depends if they plan to use the zoom function (though I cannot imagine why not?)

    Optical zooming uses the actual lens to translate and record the close up image. Most modern camcorders will optically zoom to a certain point, and then offer additional zooming digitally (called digital zoom).

    The digital zoom reproduces the close up picture by kind of guessing where pixels should go and filling in the image with digitally created pixels. Its regarded as inferior to the optical zoom, which makes sense because digital zooms are making up information, rather than recording what is actually there.

    I use a SONY D8 camcorder at the moment, which has a 20 X optical zoom, and a 320 X digital zoom. Where possible, i turn the digital zoom off. Its not horrible or anything, but I do notice things like color bleed and certain lack of crispness when zoomed right in on, say, a bird using the digital zoom.

    I alos have a couple of lenses that i just screw on for wide angle and telephoto pics, to enhance the camcorders abilities.

    Hope that helps!

  16. #16
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    ....oh BUT, I re-read your post and I noticed that the JVC camcorder with the 10 X optical zoom has a 2.2 Mega pixel lens, versus the 680 K pixel lense on the camcorder with the 20 X optical lens.

    Theres quite a difference in resolution between the two!. I'd be more swayed by the 2.2 mega pixels than the zoom funtion.

    Also, does the 2.2 mega pixel camcorder take lenses? If so, you can get around the 10 X optical zoom limitation.

  17. #17
    Web Ho - Design B!tch ~Michelle's Avatar
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    The description does not say that it takes lenses, so I would assume not.

    They plan on using for family stuff and vacations, so my assumption would be that they won't need a zoom that is any more powerful than possibly being able to zoom in on a child across the width of a standard gymnasium.
    ~Michelle
    "All I ask is a chance to prove that money can't make me happy."
    "Work to become, not to acquire." -- Confucius

  18. #18
    ABW Ambassador Paul_Ward's Avatar
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    I'm thinking of buying a camcorder myself and what I've learned so far is this:

    Mini DV - best quality. Tapes have more quality than can currently be readily handled by many import programmes. So keep the tape and you have a high quality original that can be referred to in the future. Downside - needs firewire which may mean buying a card, but once on your hard drive handles like the rest. Cheapest for what they deliver, extra cost of other formats goes to the format and not the ccd / lens quality.

    DVD's - cost premium over Mini DV, directly playable in computer DVD drive. No "full up" issues, on vacation use a new blank DVD.

    Hard drive - more convenient than DVD, but needs download ability or it gets full, extra cost premium over DVD.

    Zooms - you very quickly reach the point where a tripod is needed, 4 x or above cannot be hand-held.

    Resolution is usually in the 1.3MP range which is fine in video for most viewing resolutions. Stills resolution irrelevant for me (maybe you too) 3MP is less than most current digital cameras. If you want to take a still, you have to stop - tell the camera what you're going to do - and take the still - then switch back to video.

    If you have a still digital camera, this is far better at its job than a video camera is.

  19. #19
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    Thats pretty much spot on Paul! DV most definately is the higher quality, most flexible, and reliable consumer format at the moment. The following types of consumer camcorders are capable of encoding DV quality footage:

    1. Mini DV
    2. DV- CAM
    3. Digital 8
    4. H-DV

    For those looking at buying a DV camcorder, its worth noting that the most current incarnation of the DV format is called `HDV', which records 1080i or 1080p High definition video on regular mini-DV tape, versus 480i which is the resolution of Standard definition mini DV (most DV pre-2005 camcorders) .

    SONY and CANON have several consumer quality HDV camcorders on the market worth looking at.

    Some of these can record 5.1 surround sound either onboard, or via a microphone attachment, .

  20. #20
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    Hell all,
    My camcorder is 4 year old digital 8 from Sony. Works great in low light, brilliant nigh scenes in the city. Here's what I think.

    A hard drive can fill up, get damaged, and can not be swapped out by the user.
    A mini DVD is limited in storage capacity, and can skip. Reusable will only last a limited number of times. (have you tried CD or DVD RW? they die )
    A mini DV or D8 tape holds up to a couple of hours, and so does D8. Digital 8 camcorders are backward compatible with high 8, and simple video 8. Tape doesn't skip, lasts for ages (I have some V8 tapes from 20 years ago, and they are fine)

    The CCD size/resolution is very important. With the size of TVs we use, the graininess shows up more and more. So bigger CCD=higher resolution. 3 CCD cameras are just making prosumer, and they use a separate CCD censor for each of primary colors (RGB), then put those images together. These are better in low light, and generally have higher resolution.

    Even with 10X zoom, you have to hold the camera very-very steady, and are best to use a tripod (not many family videographers do). In my opinion, 32x optical is a bit excessive, and 800 digital (I too never use it) is just a gimmick.
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