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View Full Version : buying a Digital Video Camera. help me out?


cb911
Jul 18, 2004, 03:19 AM
hi,

i'm looking for a Digital Video Camera and i just need some advice from people in the know. i'm going to be studying Animation & Special FX this semester so i need a camera that will give me really good picture quality and colour accuracy, without making me bankrupt.

i've had a look at some of the 3 CCD cameras, and they seem to be really good, but that's way too far out of the price range i'm looking at.

also, the more manual features the better, like manual focus of course, and manual exposure if possible in the price range i'm looking at, which is probalby up to AU$3000, but under that is better. :) BTW, can you get manual exposure as a analogue control on the camera, or do you have to change it from the menu on the camera?

also, could someone explain MiniDV and MicroMV? which one has the better quicture quality? or are they both the same? i read somewhere that MicroMV cameras record the footage as MPEG2? is that true, or can you get DV quality footage out of a MircoMV camera?

i'm leaning towards Sony at the moment as well, they've been recommended to me as having good picture quality. but if anyone can suggest other models that'd be great as well.

oh, and does a camer with a single 2 MegaPixel CCD have a noticable picture quality difference over a single 1 MegaPixel CCD? i'm guess it would have twice as good picture quality?

well, thanks for taking the time to read. if anyone could post their recommended cameras, and different models/brands that would help me out alot.

thanks. :)

edit>> i also just thought that i'd mention i'm probably going to get a external microphone, tripod, and larger battery.

edit again>>> i've been having a look around... the Sony DCRPC330 (http://www.sony.com.au/dis/catalog/product.jsp?id=DCRPC330) is looking very good.

Sol
Jul 18, 2004, 08:27 AM
Forget about Micro MV cameras; I do not think that they are mac compatible, unlike every Mini DV camera with a FireWire port.

Good luck with your studies.

Solafaa
Jul 18, 2004, 09:02 AM
I have little knowlage in video cameras, i own a sony digital camcorder. It works fine for my home movies and teh editing i do. The best advice i can give you is to go to the store and try them.

jsw
Jul 18, 2004, 09:15 AM
Although I'm pretty sure every digital camcorder out there now can do this, please be sure that whatever you buy can act as an analog->DV converter. In other words, you should be able to plug in an analog signal (like from a VCR) and use the camcorder to convert it to a DV (Firewire) signal, which your Mac can then input.

Nice feature, on most or all camcorders, and easy enough to verify!

pimentoLoaf
Jul 18, 2004, 09:18 AM
MacAddict's most recent issue recommended this from Sony:

http://www.digitalliquidators.com/detail.asp?id=sndcrhc20

Personally, I prefer JVC products, like these:

http://www.digitalliquidators.com/detail.asp?id=jvgrd90

http://www.digitalliquidators.com/detail.asp?id=jvgrdx300

The JVC GRDV4000 (http://www.digitalliquidators.com/detail.asp?id=jvgrdv4000&itemname=JVC%20GR-DV2000%20Digital%20Camcorder%20%20&discontinued=1) is one I particularly like, if I were buying new.

jcook793
Jul 18, 2004, 09:40 AM
I'd look for a used Sony DCR-TRV900. It's not as tiny as the newest camcorders, and it doesn't have some of the bells and whistles, but it is still a very respected 3CCD camera with good color and manual controls. You could probably pick one up for $800-$900 USD if you look hard enough.

This site has a lot of good info about it:
http://www.bealecorner.com/trv900/

I bought my first miniDV cam last year, these sites were helpful in picking one:
http://www.camcorderinfo.com/
http://www.dvspot.com/ (though it was pretty new then)

Good luck making up your mind... there are a lot of models to choose from and it can get confusing. If you're going with ultra-low-budget, it's hard to beat the low end Sony cams... but now that I re-read your post, you seem to have an OK budget, so maybe you should also look at the new Sony HC1000.

ChrisFromCanada
Jul 18, 2004, 11:06 AM
Sony cameras are great and seriously have great picture quality even for a 1 CCD. I have the DCR-PC105 and it is awsome and there is absolutely nothing i dislike about it. And yes it does A->D conversion so you can watch TV on your Mac with it and use iChat with it and convert VHS tapes to DVD with it. I'm sure the DCR-PC330 has all the same features and probably much more. I have had only one problem with this camera and that was after it got a little wet it wouldn't turn on and all I did was leave it open and let it dry out for a couple hours. Sony camreas are very good!

cb911
Jul 18, 2004, 06:41 PM
thanks heaps for the replies, very very helpful.

i also found this link for anyone wanting to find out more about the MicroMV format: http://www.manifest-tech.com/media_pc/micromv.htm

i had a look at the DCR-HC1000, that seems very good, but if it's anywhere near the price of the DCRTRV950 (AU$4999) that's probably a bit out of the price range i'm looking at. also the HC1000 is only going to be available in Europe in September, i really can't wait at all, i need a camera now so i can get to working with it.

and thanks for those links, i've got alot of reading to do now. i've also seen in most reviews references to '3000 lux' and '60 lux'? i gather that refers to light levels? but how exactly do those measurements work?

i'll have a look around for some second-hand cameras, like the TRV900, but i'm always a bit hesitant about buying 2nd hand electronic goods. if i'm looking for a TRV900 will i be able to tell if it's been treated badly? ie scartches etc on the body? or is there more internal damage that's hard to detect?

i've just read more about the HC1000, it seems like there is a August release reported by some sites, and the camera is already down to the price of US$1100 in Japan now. if it's coming to Australia soon i'd probably wait for it... i'm also leaning towards a 3 CCD camera now, might also look around for places selling 'old' models cheaper when the new cameras come in.

well thanks for the feedback, and please keep it coming. :)

jcook793
Jul 18, 2004, 09:23 PM
The camcorder manufacturers use lux pretty loosely. In general, the lower the lux rating, the better it performs in low light. Keep in mind, though, that digital camcorders love a lot of light. You can shoot in a typical living room in the evening, but it might be grainy. If you'll mainly use it for student projects, I wouldn't imagine this will be a huge deal since you'll be doing lighting.

3,000 and 60 lux levels seem pretty high, but then again I'm not a professional or anything.

If you do go for the used camcorder, I'd just pack along a few miniDV tapes and ask to play with it a bit. You should be able to tell if it functions properly. One thing I forgot to mention, though, is that some folks seem to think that once you pick a brand of tape you need to stick with it for the life of the camcorder. Something about 2 types of manufacturing processes and the residues conflicting... I never did see any official word on it but it did seem to be a popular thing to talk about a couple of years ago.

I know where you're coming from concerning the used electronics. In general I'm not too squeamish about it, but a camcorder is somewhat delicate and hard to fix.

Oh, I remember now that I was also seriously considering the 3CCD Panasonic PV-DV953 (NV-MX5000 for you Aussies I think) when I got my camcorder - a Canon Optura Xi. I think the reason I chose the Canon over the Panasonic was the better 16:9 handling... I think. Who can remember? :)

scottwat
Jul 18, 2004, 11:23 PM
I was just looking to ask someone about these camcorders.
I personally was looking at the sony DCR-HC65. It has the video pass through. Though from what I have read it has a somewhat smaller ccd chip. But it also has USB streaming that I know you can use it as a webcam on windows, but I don't much care for windows. SO my question, while I know I am going to be spending a about 600 to 800 dollars it still would be nice to use this in ichat or or other chat program. Preferably ichat.This way I don't need to put down 100 and some for an isight just yet. Also any other help would be much appreciated.
Thanks

cb911
Jul 19, 2004, 12:51 AM
okay, i'm not going to worry about all of those lux ratings too much....

about the DCR-HC65, i'd say you can use if as a webcam.

USB Streaming The DCR-HC65 can be hooked up to your computer through the USB jack and used as a web cam through the USB Streaming feature.
from here. (http://www.camcorderinfo.com/content/sony-dcr-hc65-fi-camcorder-revuew.htm) it doesn't specifically mention Windows or Macs, so i'd say it'd be compatible with any USB connection, PC or Mac. you could always ask or try it out in the store.

i've also been reading about Canon cameras, a couple of sites say that they've got better picture quality because of a superior quality lens? but is that true, or is a high(er)-end Sony and Canon comparible as having similar picture quality? for example the Canon GL2 and the Sony DCRTRV950? are they even at the same level, competing with each other?

i've also seen and heard some bad things about Canon cameras... a friend has a Canon MiniDV camcorder and it's out of warranty now, and it chews tapes sometimes when you try to rewind the tapes in the camera (but not if you rewind while playing). he's also had the same problem as described in the last comment on this (http://www.antivirusworld.com/cgi-bin/store/store.pl/item_id/B00006FXHQ/search_type/AsinSearch/locale/us) page. is that typical to Canons? or just a couple of isolated incidents?

well i'm leaning towards the Sony DCRTRV950 now, i've found quite a good price for it here in Aus, i know the DCR-HC1000 is replacing it, but it gets here in September and i can't wait that long.

jcook793
Jul 19, 2004, 09:21 AM
This guy didn't like the TRV950 as much as the TRV900:
http://www.bealecorner.com/trv900/trv950/trv950.html

But nothing he had to say seemed particularly damning. One thing he mentioned was that it had a much faster zoom control and he didn't like that. I agree with that notion. Now that I've had my camera for a while, I realize that you never ever need a fast zoom, it looks crappy on playback.

As for webcam use, my understanding is that most camcorders can be used in iChat via firewire.

cb911
Jul 20, 2004, 07:35 PM
well i've also been pointed at the Panasonic GS400. it retails for $3000 (AUD) and seems to have all the features of cameras much higher in price.

i've also found a VX2100 for $1400 on eBay, but i've yet to see if it's broken or what.

can anyone comment on the quality of Panasonics' lenses, their Leica Dicomar lenses?

i guess now the two cameras i'm looking at are the TRV950 and the GS400. i'm going to get a Ditgial Video magazine soon and check that out as well, should have done that a while ago actually.

jcook793
Jul 20, 2004, 11:13 PM
Ooohh.. the VX2100 is a very nice camera. I would definitely go that route if possible. But as usual be careful on eBay. Don't wire money, and if you use an escrow service make sure it's one that you choose, not the seller.

My knee-jerk reaction was to say that the 950 was probably better than the GS400, but this informative post says otherwise:
http://www.camcorderinfo.com/bbs/archive/index.php/t-92222.html

cb911
Jul 22, 2004, 07:01 PM
well i've found the GS400 for AU$2499 so i'll probably be going that route...

an article i read mentioned about getting a cheap camera to basically use as a deck, instead of using your good camera to transfer the tape to computer, so it doesnt' wear out the tape transport. i can understand that if you've got a high-end camera, but what about for a GS400? would it last okay, or is that only talking about people who shoot lots of video and have their cameras in constant use?

and what do people here think about using different tape stocks? is it okay to switch and swap different tape brands? or keep using the same tapes, because of the differnet chemicals used in different tapes?

Ajohn
Jul 22, 2004, 08:34 PM
Have you guys got suggestions for a cheaper model, perhaps something in the $300-400 range?

aswitcher
Jul 22, 2004, 09:08 PM
well i've found the GS400 for AU$2499 so i'll probably be going that route...


Where from?


and what do people here think about using different tape stocks? is it okay to switch and swap different tape brands? or keep using the same tapes, because of the differnet chemicals used in different tapes?

Good question. I am getting a Canon MVX25i / Optura 40 (~$1475 AUD for 2 megapixel) as soon as Canon get their act together. I've been told that tapes are much the same but not to reuse them, rather keep your raw footage as a backup on the taps. Buying tapes in bulk means an hour costs about $6-$7.

cb911
Jul 22, 2004, 10:03 PM
aswitcher, the local Aussie video guru? :D wow it'd be helpful having an Aussie who can show me where to get the best deals. i found that price for the GS400 at camerastore.com.au. if you know of any other places, like warehouses or wholesale places where i could get a camera for cheap, please do let me know. :)

i'm also wondering about filters. i'm thinking of getting a polarizing filter, but i can't find much info about them. could someone tell me if they are made for just 'pro' cameras, or is there one out there i could get for the GS400?

and are you serious about the tapes? maybe that's why a friend of mine had his Canon MiniDV cam jamming up on him? so only use the tape for one recording? is that for the sake of the camera, or to preserve the tape? i figure that i'm going to be re-recording over tapes alot once i first get the camera. you know, just the sort of goofy stuff you've got to do first off. :p

Ajohn, are you speaking $3-400 in AUD or USD? quite a big difference. ;) :eek:

aswitcher
Jul 23, 2004, 12:58 AM
aswitcher, the local Aussie video guru? :D wow it'd be helpful having an Aussie who can show me where to get the best deals. i found that price for the GS400 at camerastore.com.au. if you know of any other places, like warehouses or wholesale places where i could get a camera for cheap, please do let me know. :)

If it were a Canon or a Sony I would suggest Citysoftware.com.au

I can't vouch for the rep of the following but when I was pricing a few times earlier this year they did well:

camera888.com.au
digitalcams.com.au
impactpc.com.au



i'm also wondering about filters. i'm thinking of getting a polarizing filter, but i can't find much info about them. could someone tell me if they are made for just 'pro' cameras, or is there one out there i could get for the GS400?

I am getting filters for my MVX25i just to protect the lense. Should be some around on the panasonic site for yours...


and are you serious about the tapes? maybe that's why a friend of mine had his Canon MiniDV cam jamming up on him? so only use the tape for one recording? is that for the sake of the camera, or to preserve the tape? i figure that i'm going to be re-recording over tapes alot once i first get the camera. you know, just the sort of goofy stuff you've got to do first off. :p



To preserve the tape...DV takes up HEAPS of HDD so eventually you want to delete your work after you finish the product off but if you ever want to revisit it then you will need the original. Tapes also stretch after time, wear and will likely have less good images.

The GS400 looks sweet but its outside my price range. Just remember that once you get
a) a long life battery
b) filters
c) a decent bag - crumpler
d) a wide angle lense for panaoramic scenery, good indoor pics
e) possibly a battery charger
f) a decent sized memory card for your still shots
g) tapes (not that exy)
h) tripod
you will add a decent chunk to the cost of the camera. I added $550 making it a $2000 all up purchase and will likely want a few other things later...

Ajohn
Jul 23, 2004, 01:05 AM
Ajohn, are you speaking $3-400 in AUD or USD? quite a big difference. ;) :eek:

Oh, definitely USD :)

Rod Rod
Jul 23, 2004, 02:49 AM
cb11, I'd also recommend sticking with one brand of tapes. I've heard stories of people's cameras malfunctioning after mixing brands, and I've heard other stories of people mixing brands and never having any problems. it's better to be on the safe side, and if you ever need to switch brands, run your head cleaning cassette for 10 seconds first.

the cheapest 3-chip camcorder available now is the panasonic gs120, at $699 (US) msrp. it replaced the gs70. these cameras have 1/6" ccds, which is supposed to be not good for low light sensitivity.

if I recall correctly, the trv900 has bigger ccds than its successors, the trv950 and hc1000. that's one reason many recommend the older trv900 over the newer models. the other reason is the elimination of the jog-dial on the newer models with the move to lcd touch-screen controls.

I'm about to buy a camcorder soon also. I just sold my XL1s and I'm trying to decide between a PD150/170, DVX100A, GL2, another XL1s, and a JVC HD1/HD10. it's hard to make up my mind because there are so many factors to consider. at the moment I'm leaning towards the HDV cameras.

cb911
Jul 23, 2004, 11:16 PM
thanks for those links aswitcher. i also did forget about larger battery, tripod etc... well i'll see if i can get a good deal done with all of those extras anyway.

i also see your point about keeping backups of footage on tapes, never thought about the HD space needed, i must be thinking i've got a dynamically expanding HD. :p

Ajohn, i'm not sure about cameras in that price range, buy you could also probably check out some refurbished camera sites. just google it, should find a few. one article i read said to think about refurbished items like this: once a camera comes off the production line, i probably gets checked once before getting packed. a refurbished camera has probably just had a minor part replaced, and is thoroughly checked top to bottom, and you usually get some sort of warranty with it as well. i would like to look for a refurb, but i can't find any refurb sites in Australia... :(

Rod Rod, i'll make sure i get a head cleaning cassete as well, and will follow your advice.

does anyone know if it's worth it to get a tape deck, or just another cheap camera to use to transfer footage to computer? to save wearing out the tape transport? or is that not much of a problem?

Sol
Jul 24, 2004, 12:28 AM
does anyone know if it's worth it to get a tape deck, or just another cheap camera to use to transfer footage to computer? to save wearing out the tape transport? or is that not much of a problem?

Tape decks have reliable tape mechanisms but it might be over-kill for a student, due to their cost. As for the cheap camera, how well it would work depends on what brand it is and what camera the source footage was shot it. In my experience a cheap Panasonic camera does not capture footage shot with a SONY camera very well. A cheap SONY camera can play back the same tapes faultlessly.

cb911
Aug 21, 2004, 01:34 AM
well, i did end up getting the GS400. :D all the other stuff (SD card, tripod, polarizing filter) set me back another $500 roughly, and i still haven't got a larger battery yet... :eek: or any more tapes, only 3 that came with the camera...

just a couple more questions... if i want to watch what i've just shot, is it best to just capture it to your hard drive, then watch it off that? will it cause excessive wear if i watch the footage through the camcorder on the TV?

and anyone in Australia know where a good place to buy bulk Mini DV tapes is? like Fuji, or if you can recommend any other good brands...

thaks. :)