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Our ''old-fashioned'' videocamera that we purchased right before our daughter's birth, finally gave up decent sound and vision. It seems time now to go digital and my husband is lost in a research jungle of features and possibilities. We are looking for a good quality digital camcorder, hopefully not to exceed $500, that is compatible with a Mac. It would be nice to capture still pictures from the tapings and print them - but it is not a necessary feature. Sony, Canon, Panasonic? What do you have at home that produces good picture quality and is easy to use and that you would recommend? What should we be watching out for in our search? Don't want to miss any more precious filming moments - got to move this forward and get some direction. hhh
I don't know anything about cameras, but a friend of mine is an expert, and here's what he told me to consider:
The first thing is to consider how to edit the video once you shoot it. Do you have a Mac? If so, problem solved. If not, think about getting a Mac. I'm bitter about all of the time I spent trying to get a PC to edit video!
Okay, in terms of cameras, there are two important factors to me, the quality of the media you're storing it to, and the quality of the imaging hardware in the camera. There's a lot of price variance between cameras for things like user interface and bells and whistles like Night Shot or Image Stabilization, but they aren't as important as the other two factors I mentioned.
Media: There's a big buzz these days about buying video cameras that can store the video onto flash memory or microdrives, but I think at this point, buying one of those would be a mistake. The prices are way too high, and the media is too volatile. Like a friend used to say, ''Drop one of those microdrives on the ground and it's toast.'' Another knock is that those camera have to compress the video as it travels from your CCD array to the storage media. In my opinion, tape-based media is still the way to go. Digital tapes, specifically the mini-DV format, are rugged and cheap. And they are easy to archive. And in terms of compression, the video is written to tape uncompressed (well, almost--color is an issue), so you make the compression decisions when you edit.
Imaging: Here's where you should sink the money into the camera. Most cameras that you see at Best Buy or whereever have a one-CCD array, a quarter-inch chip that handles all of the imaging work and sends it on the processor. If you work your way to the high-end cameras at Best Buy or Frys or whereever, you'll see some cameras with a ''3 CCD'' mark on the side. These are the camera with three CCD arrays, and they're more expensive, but I think they are worth it. The image is on a 1-CCD or 3-CCD array is about the same in terms of image resolution and contrast, but the color is more vibrant on a 3-CCD camera. They seem to handle poor shooting conditions better, too, maybe because more CCDs can pull in more light. I don't know.
In terms of purchasing one, once you figure out the specs, you need to find one that fits the price and feels good to you. It's important to get a camera that feels good in your hand and has an interface you like. A lot of people tend to buy cameras that are tiny, but I prefer cameras with some weight. It's easier to keep the camera stable if it's heavy, so your shot looks better. In terms of brands, I definitely favor Sony and Canon over JVC and Panasonic, but if you're on a tight budget, you may have to settle for the latter.
If you can spend $1500 or up, I think you can get a good three-CCD camera. If not, I'd recommend getting a one-CCD camera from Canon. If you can spend the $1500, I think you could either look at low-end professional cameras at B H photo, or at Amazon.com.
Amazon has a good selection of cameras. I wouldn't recommend buying a camera used, especially not from a pro video shop. Unless you can find a dentist or someone who has barely used their camera, you're going to be buying from someone who has worn out the tape motors on their camera, and that's an expensive repair. Like buying a Honda at 95,000 miles that hasn't had its belts changed. Steve
After our camcorder broke several years ago - we never replaced it. We now feel like we're missing out on recording the ''special moments'' in our family and want to try again. We're ''technically challenged'', but interested in those newer camcorders that record on DVDs that you can simply insert and play in your DVD player. Anyone have any experience with that type? I believe SONY and HITACHI make them. Thanks! Techno-Fools
I found this website very helpful. They have all kinds of reviews and forums for different kinds of digital camcorders. Good Luck! Laurey
We purchased a Sony digital video recorder when our babies were newborns; they are now 1 year old and we have 8 hours of tape to edit before the winter holidays. Can anyone recommend a good, easy-to-use editing software for Windows XP? Your candor is appreciated! Thanks, Rachel
Just last week I purchased a digital camcorder in preparation for our first born that's due any day now. I did extensive research online and in stores, and purchased a Canon ZR45 at Best Buy in Emeryville (camera itself was about $500+, but with all the accessories such as a bag, extra batteries, DV tapes, media card, firewire cable, etc, it all came out to about $1,000). Most importantly, it has all the features that I wanted yet it was affordable (I'm an art director/graphic designer so I consider myself picky about this kind of stuff). It takes great stills -18x optical zoom (basically higher the better), is digital, compact, and easy to use. It is also PC and Mac compatible and I've been playing around with iMovie (basic video editing software) because I use a Mac, but the guy at the store highly recommended Pinnacle Studio DV for PC users (about $98) for ease of editing and affordability. If I could afford to spend a couple hundred dollars more, I would have purchased the Canon Elura 40MC for its compactness, though the one I purchased is compact and lightweight too, and I am very happy with it.
Some key features to look out for when shopping for a digital camcorder:
- video storage format (the most popular Mini DV, Digital 8, or Micro MV) - optical zoom vs. digital zoom (look out for at least 10x optical zoom for magnifying quality, as opposed to digital zoom which simply takes a portion of an image and enlarges it, resulting in a loss of quality) - LCD and viewfinder (most come with at least a 2.5-inch color LCD display which lets you view and playback the video/images you've captured) - digital still photo capture (most camcorders now come with this capability - you can store them on the tape or directly into a flash memory card.) Other features to consider: - image stabilization - video outputs - night mode - lighting options - digital effectsHope this helps! Good luck. Miki
1. Is it in stock? Do not believe bargin places when they say it will be in stock in a week or so. 2. Is it the US version? 3. Is it new? 4. Is it the full retail package? If not, you could be buying only the camera, and not the battery, AC adapter, strap, etc.It is not necessary to buy from an authorized Sony retailer. The only difference is that if you buy from an authorized dealer, you can return it to the place you bought it for warranty repair. Otherwise, you have to send it to Sony. PN
First, make sure there is a Firewire plug on the camera. I don't think they make digital video cameras without them anymore but check anyway :).
Manual focus is important. Your child will eventually be able to move faster than the camera can autofocus. If you have manual focus, you can use autofocus to set your focus then turn autofocus off. As your child moves around (s)he will be a little out of focus but this looks much better than the camera trying to find the correct focus.
Canon has (or used to have) a setting called Flexizone in which autofocus and autoexposure are set using a target square area that you can move. If you use Felxizone you don't have to center your child every time you frame a shot.
I really appreciate having a color viewfinder, LCD screen, image stabilization and a plug for an external microphone. Consider buying extra batteries.
Also, try really hard to avoid getting a camera that this too small for 2 reasons. First, the smaller the camera the harder it is to hold still. (I highly recommend getting a tripod or monopod!) Second, in small cameras the on-camera microphone is very close to the motors that move the tape through the camera. So you always hear those motors when recording and sometime they drowned out softer noises.
I haven't been camera shopping for awhile so I don't have any specific models to recommend but if you have any further questions feel free to email me, firstname.lastname@example.org. Give me a few days to reply. School is ending soon :). Have fun shopping!! BTW, Camerworld or B&H Photo are places to get good prices but not much customer service help. All the best! Kristin
Does anyone have recommendations for where to buy a moderately priced, good-quality digital video camera (stores, Web sites, etc.)? Also, suggestions for best and worst brand names as well as good and bad features, would be greatly appreciated. Thanks! Kira
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