T Nation

Digital Camcorders: Let's Talk


#1

Okay, guys!

I'm getting into the World of Camcorders, and as I was with Digital Cameras, I am TOTALLY ignorant! So let's start a thread.

My understanding (as limited as it is), is that Camcorders have finally started to come out that record on memory cards/hard drives, thus giving you 1) a LOT more memory and 2) eliminating the need for 2 to 3 steps to get images to your computer?

So:

1) Is this correct?

2) What are the pluses and minues of this "new generation" vs the "old" tapes/etc?

3) What are some of you guys experience?

4) With the Internet now FULL of movies and clips, what are the Pro's using for computer images and computer transfer? (By the way, guys; its been said that the multi-Billion dollar Porn industry probably has the most and best experience at movie and image transfer to Computer).

5) Is there a good Website for Camcorder Reviews like there are with cameras?

6) Definintely talk about some specific products.

I hope this thread gets a lot of discussion!

Thanks, guys!

Mufasa


#2

Yo friend! I was in the same situation as you recently. Deciding between the tape based and the hard disk/flash card based cameras.

My decision was the JVC everio series HDD based 20 or 30 gig version. NO REGRETS so far. The video quality is a bit lower but you cant tell on the web/computer. The price is a bit higher (maybe 100-200 bucks more) but the conveneince is infinitely more. NO TAPES!

I did a short mini review on my blog here

http://captnj.blogspot.com/2006/06/equipment-review-jvc-gz-mg20-everio.html

regds
Jonathan


#3

Im pretty sure that not many camcorders use memory sitcks. They are either mini dvds, tapes, or hard drives.

I would definentely go with the JVC hard drive camcorder. The 20gb would be plenty. Its a little pricy but it will definently save you money in the long run. Its very easy to put the videos on your computer and you should get around 20-25 hrs before you fill it up. Once it is filled just transfer your movies onto your computer or onto a dvd. No tapes or dvds and everything you film will be right there in the camera.


#4

Great start, guys!

Questions:

1)"SD" Cards?

2) How do you overcome the battery issue? Are they easily replacable and chargable so you can charge one while using another?

3)JVC; are they sort of the industry leader in the Digital Cams at this point?

Mufasa


#5

Another term:

"Memory Sticks"?

Mufasa


#6

They have cams that will record directly to a disc. Thats probably the way to go if you want it on your pc, or play it on your dvd player. The biggest memory card Ive seen is only 4gb. From what ive seen, 4gb only gets you about a minute of recording at a decent bit rate.


#7

I bought the sony dcr hc42 (mini dv) about 8 months ago and love it. In response to your question I think Sony is the industry leader not JVC. Some products i think sony is overpriced, ok most, but I think sony makes a better camcorder. Maybe the hard drive is a better way to go though, yet the mini dv hasn't been too inconviencing to me...


#8

the 20 gb version is 9.5 hours at good quality, and 25 hours at economy (good enuf for web... but not dvd) I have never used 6 DV tapes in 1 session so recoeding length will not be a problem. battery life is not that great, but batteries are not expensive exp the 3rd party ones. One more advantage is that the hdd cam is smaller by fat than the dvd ones so that will make it more conveneint to carry.

If you are looking for SD/flash based ones i think the SHAPRT Xacti is not bad:)

regds
Jonathan


#9

Mufasa,

www.cnet.com has some good reviews on camcorders and other technology, etc.

My wife and I bought a Sony DVD Handycam and we like it a lot. It records right to DVD, but the only thing... it doesn't support a direct upload to the computer (no USB cable support built in)... which I would recommend for easier video editing. If the computer doesn't have a DVD drive, we can't upload our family video's, etc.

It was our first direct to DVD recorder and we purchased it at Circuit City. It's a lot of fun to use for recording family events, etc. We haven't used the still picture feature yet, but no real need to either.

I would spend a lot of time looking at the various reviews and play with the machines at the stores. Personally, I think my wife and I rushed into it as it was something "new". More research would have been better.

Good luck,

~V


#10

Cool stuff.

So...correct me; there are 3 major choices at this point:

1) DVD (it records on a disc that is then put in a DVD drive/player for viewing).

2) Hard Drive (gives you the capability of direct download to your computer).

3) mini-DVD.

(I warned you guys that I'm REALLY just beginning this; so the questions will be real basic!).

Mufasa


#11

I just bought a Canon Elura 100 on Ebay. I went for the Mini DV system for ease of use. We use these for our college teams. Most of the teams use this method for quality and ease of use.

We have found that they upload/download to our computers easily and reproducing in DVD or VHS format is quite simple. We chose not to go with DVD based camcorders for this reason.

As for the HDD type cameras, technology was fairly new, cameras fairly pricey and I personally hate, that's HATE, JVC.


#12

Here is a direct link to pcworld.com reviews DV Camcorders.
http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/article/0,aid,126166,00.asp

The review is from June 2006. I would recommend reading the top 3 choices, then asking specific questions. Also you may want to inform us as to what computer background you have, and also what type of machine you have at home. This can greatly impact your purchase options. Example: Old non upgrade PC/Laptop, lower then 256Mbs RAM, 50Gb HDD (Hard Disk Drive), etc... Would limit your options. The small HDD, lack of RAM, and processor ability would make having a MiniDV, or a HDD based Camcorder an exercise in patients. It would possible crash your computer, or just cause it to freeze for hours and not complete the project, or it could just sit there for 24 hours completing the project, but tying up 100% of the CPU so the PC couldn't function on any other task.

Everyone has already given excellent advice. But to help facilitate you in your new endeavor please proved more specifics.

I bought the Sony HC42 MiniDV 1+ years ago and I love it (review: http://reviews.cnet.com/Sony_DCR_HC42/4505-6500_7-31272714.html). Small (almost too small since I have larger then average hands), and the price of blank MiniDV's is excellent. I work off of my laptop, 2.13mhz, 60Gig 7200rpm internal HDD, 1 Gig RAM, 256Mb Video, and a 300Gig external HDD. My internal HDD is too small to handle a full MiniDV type at highest quality (due to other saved projects, files, etc...) so I have to use my external HDD. I can work on other things while downloading the video from the Cam via Firewire. Performance is impacted but not to the extant that I can not complete other tasks.
Your PC will impact your choice more then you may have considered. This isn't even taking into consideration any film editing software you may be thinking about...

Just so you know that I am not talking completely out my ass, I am not a Professional Camera Guy, but I have been working in the computer industry for 10 years now, and own my own MiniDV camera.


#13

Here is a direct link to pcworld.com reviews DV Camcorders.
http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/article/0,aid,126166,00.asp

The review is from June 2006. I would recommend reading the top 3 choices, then asking specific questions. Also you may want to inform us as to what computer background you have, and also what type of machine you have at home. This can greatly impact your purchase options. Example: Old non upgrade PC/Laptop, lower then 256Mbs RAM, 50Gb HDD (Hard Disk Drive), etc... Would limit your options. The small HDD, lack of RAM, and processor ability would make having a MiniDV, or a HDD based Camcorder an exercise in patients. It would possible crash your computer, or just cause it to freeze for hours and not complete the project, or it could just sit there for 24 hours completing the project, but tying up 100% of the CPU so the PC couldn't function on any other task.

Everyone has already given excellent advice. But to help facilitate you in your new endeavor please proved more specifics.

I bought the Sony HC42 MiniDV 1+ years ago and I love it (review: http://reviews.cnet.com/Sony_DCR_HC42/4505-6500_7-31272714.html). Small (almost too small since I have larger then average hands), and the price of blank MiniDV's is excellent. I work off of my laptop, 2.13mhz, 60Gig 7200rpm internal HDD, 1 Gig RAM, 256Mb Video, and a 300Gig external HDD. My internal HDD is too small to handle a full MiniDV type at highest quality (due to other saved projects, files, etc...) so I have to use my external HDD. I can work on other things while downloading the video from the Cam via Firewire. Performance is impacted but not to the extant that I can not complete other tasks.
Your PC will impact your choice more then you may have considered. This isn't even taking into consideration any film editing software you may be thinking about...

Just so you know that I am not talking completely out my ass, I am not a Professional Camera Guy, but I have been working in the computer industry for 10 years now, and own my own MiniDV camera.


#14

What do you want to use the camera for?

That should always be the first question. This tells you what level of performance you really need. If you know a lot about photography or videography then you may want manual exposure options, and, strangely, that costs more. I bought an older Panasonic MX2500 - a Japanese only model - in Taiwan and it's great, despite the fact that I have to decipher the menus.
The JVC card system sounds great but they aren't really known for optics or anything else. Canon, Sony, and Panasonic all put out professional level equipment and are generally more highly regarded.

If you want crisp resolution and bright colors go for a triple chip model - this has one recording system for each of the three colors used in images - Red, Green and Blue. This costs more, but the lower Panasonic 3chip is pretty reasonable, I believe and Sony has one,too. Canon, I am not sure of.

At this point you may want to ask if you are going to be upgrading to and HDTV system and, if so, you may want a camera that can do that. That is expensive but will come down soon.

Really, though, it depends on what you want to do. I shot an entire feature on an old Sony Hi-8 prosumer camera (sound separately recorded) that has been screened off of Beta masters. The DV tape systems are convenient and cheap and most software will drive the new cameras - meaning the computer will control the camera while inputting and stuff. And the time to transfer a 10gig file versus the time to input from a mini-DV tape is not going to be that different, and the tape is probably more reliable. The mini-DVD recorders might be fine, but bigger, and really, the tape is a rugged system.

Check out the net. type in Camcorder reviews or videocamera reviews, get to the stores (and go to camera stores, not just big box electronic places), hold the cameras and check them out.
And a last year's model will probably be perfectly fine for you and save you some money to boot.


#15

Okay...some information before I go to work. (You guys are the BEST!)

1) I historically still keep a desktop AND a Laptop. I have home wireless.

2) I am ready to UPGRADE my laptop, so the power, memory issue, etc will not be a problem. I always sit down with the local computer guys, tell them what I want to do, and we figure out the specs that will do the job.

The Big Question: Use

I use my Laptop for "Travel/Media", mostly for personal use. So I need the capability to (as example):

1) Take digital pictures and/or movies at an event or conference I may be attending.

2) Have the ability to of course store those images AND post them on the Internet.

3) Have the ability to TRANFER any of those pics/movies on to my Desktop once I get back home.

There will be no professional movie making, editing etc.; again, mostly personal use.

Since I keep a separate "Travel/Media" Laptop, memory/capacity will not be a Big Issue.

Big mo

1) What external hard drive are you using?

2) Isn't "Firewire" a Mac Standard? (I'm confused on that one).

So...there is my use.

Question

So...if you guys were going TODAY and making the purchase, knowing my use, what would you be looking at?

Thanks!

Mufasa


#16

wenzi:

Any specific Panasonic, Sony or Canon products to look at?

Mufasa


#17

http://www.steves-digicams.com/digvideo.html

Best site for reviewing cameras and camcorders. Has links to other great sites too. Can't recommend highly enough.

I've had video recorders for about 30 years from super 8 to beta vhs digital 8 hi 8 you name it .... cannot get over how small and powerful these things have become. These days however I would recommend just using something like a Canon IS2 STILL camera and recording video on it. It has 12x zoom that can function during recording. For most activities this is adequate.

A pure digital VIDEO camera, is mainly needed for

  • fast action e.g sports, cars, dancing
  • long, looong recordings
  • tapes are good to archive, cheap, reliable, compared to solid state
  • very long zoom is great on some of them

You can hardly go wrong though even at the cheapest end of the scale.

They often don't take terrible photos either, these days. For casual use.


#18


#19

Wish I could say at this point, but it has been about two years and all I look at now are the new 1080i cameras with lust.

Decide your price point, as well. Forgot to mention that. From what you mentioned you just want auto exposure and focus and maybe a remote control. The differences will be with the still imaging. No matter what, however, it will take still photos as well as a digital camera. It's a different process but it will work just fine. I use mine for that when I need a higher zoom. My digitial camera, a sweet Sony W7, takes video but it's not nearly as good. It's always a trade. You may want to make sure that any memory cards are the same if you have any other electronics. Damn Sony!

Smaller isn't always better, especially if you are doing any handholding. Weight counterbalances the shakes. Mine is a medium size but still very portable. You may want to look at the electronic vibration reduction systems available. I think all three have something.

Also, if you are doing conferences and the like, a good tripod is a must. Don't skimp. A shitty tripod is just that. You want the head to pan and tilt smoothly, not jerkily. And a good tripod will last a lifetime. I have had my old Manfrotto ARt 190 for about 20 some years - Bogen in the states - and I can still get parts if I need them.

Arghh.. another long one.

To sum up - decide your budget and what you need then look. The link posted above - Steve's - is great, I used it when looking. Also, there are many user groups out there so type in a seach and check out the forums. Like at T-Nation, you can learn a lot from what regular people have to say, like longer term durability, etc...
Have fun.

Oh, and firewire is the name for IEEE 13 94 which most computers have now or you can always buy a board for your home machine. Also, I think many new ones also use USB 2.0 which is a little faster. You'll see that on the reviews.


#20

Well, guys; my compulsiveness kicked in, and I've done a LOT of study based on all the input you gave me.

THANKS!

Things seem to boil down to this:

So...correct me; there are 3 major choices at this point:

1) DVD (it records on a disc that is then put in a DVD drive/player for viewing).

2) Hard Drive (gives you the capability of direct download to your computer).

3) mini-DVD.

Question:

One of the toughest things that I've found when at a "transition" point in Technology, is to gain a perspective on the "politics" and alliances of Technology.

It SEEMS like the companies are still "pushing" the miniDV as their "Top of the Line" consumer Cams.

Is this because there are not many hard-drive cams out there yet, and the Technology is still being refined; OR is miniDV the Technology that will be the standard for a while? (Somehow its hard to believe the latter with the way this Technology changes).

(By the way; all the review sites were GREAT! Thanks, guys!)

Mufasa