Best digital camcorder for under $500?

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by p0intblank, Jun 4, 2006.

  1. p0intblank macrumors 68030

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    #1
    Hi, I am trying to get into video editing again. I originally made a few short movies with my digital camera and its video recording mode, but that obviously isn't cutting it anymore. I recently upgraded to iLife '06, so iMovie HD 6 really got me wanting more. I've decided I want a digital camcorder, but nothing too expensive. I am looking to spend less than $500; the less the better. However, I want something that will produce high quality footage. Also I need to be able to edit it on my Mac.

    I'll be honest... I know next to nothing about the latest digital camcorders, so I am not sure what to look for. Does anyone have any good recommendations? Remember it needs to have a good price as well as high quality capabilities. I don't need the best there is, though. I'll also be using it for the occassional video recordings on holidays and such.

    So any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thanks! :D
     
  2. hotwire132002 macrumors 65816

    hotwire132002

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    #2
    Try camcorderinfo.com -- they have great reviews.

    For the 2005 Best Camcorder awards, they rated Panasonic's PV-GS19 the best camcorder under $400, and the PV-GS150 the best under $600.

    That said, I would probably suggest the PV-GS180 (newer version of the GS150) for you. It goes for $499 at bhphotovideo.com (a very reputable store; many production companies (mine included) by all their equipment through them) and has 3 CCDs -- meaning a much better overall picture than cheaper 1 CCD cameras.

    Also, the GS180 has a microphone input -- a feature often not found in consumer cameras these days. Trust me, if you don't use the mic input immediately, you'll want it later on.

    Anyway -- hope this helps! :)
     
  3. p0intblank thread starter macrumors 68030

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    #3
    Great, thanks for all the info! I read a little about the PV-GS180 on camcorderinfo.com and so far I like what I see, except for the fact that the LCD screen is not widescreen, but is that really a big deal? Also it says there is no wired remote, but could I always add one later? What are the advantages of having a remote? I never even knew camcorders used them. Can you tell how long I've been out of the loop? ;)
     
  4. hotwire132002 macrumors 65816

    hotwire132002

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    #4
    No problem! :)

    I wouldn't worry about not having a widescreen LCD. Heck, some of the pro HD Cameras (that only shoot 16:9) only have 4:3 displays! As to the remote... a few of the camcorders I've worked with have included 'em, and I have never once used them. In other words, don't worry about that one either.

    Hope this helps!
     
  5. Applespider macrumors G4

    Applespider

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    #5
    One thing to consider when working out your budget is factoring in the cost of a spare high capacity battery, your first batch of tapes and a case to carry it in.

    camcorderinfo seem slightly biased towards Panasonic when I was researching last year. I found the lower end ones quite plasticky feeling when I handled them in a store. They're also not keen on Sonys because of the touchscreen LCD but, I ended up with a Sony and I like that aspect. I don't use it often enough to remember where all the buttons are at the touch of a finger (without shaking the image) - clicking on the LCD makes life much easier!

    I can't imagine using a remote either - but a widescreen LCD is useful unless you've got a great eye for what's being missed either side using it 4:3 or can cope with it showing letterboxed on the LCD and being smaller.

    Last thing is not to get too caught up in the zoom factors. If you're planning on filming stuff handheld (rather than on a tripod), you're not going to be able to keep it steady at much more than 10x. Many advertise up to 20x (optical) but it's likely to make it harder to use rather than easier.
     
  6. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem

    GoCubsGo

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    #6
    Personally, I'd go for the JVC Everio. It is a hard drive based cam. I was looking for myself and basically fell in love with this for many reasons not including the hard drive. The first question that I asked was about file sizes and recording time. I love it when they say (and they did) that you can record for 24 hours...as though that is a selling point (and it is). But when you get it home you get like 2 hours of video that is halfway decent for a dvd.

    Here are some specs:
    The 30 gig hdd model: 7 hours record time in DVD movie Ultra mode @ 9mbps. 10.5 hours in fine DVD mode @ 6 mbps. TV mode 14 hours @ 4.5mbps. And 37 hours on eco (internet) mode @ 1.7mbps.

    the 20 gig hdd model: Ultra DVD 4.5 hours @ 9 mbps. Fine DVD 7 hours same mbps as above. 9 hours on tv mode and 25 hours on eco mode...mbps does not change.

    Compusa had the 30 and 20 on sale for $599, I know you said sub $500, but what's another $100? :)
     
  7. p0intblank thread starter macrumors 68030

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    #7
    I just skimmed through a user's review of this camera on ZDnet and it was positive for the most part. He emphasized how not having OIS is bad:

    LAck of OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) really is a pain. I have tested EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization) which is inferior to OIS but it works fine in most of the situation in this camera but only in 4:3 mode. This is bad. EIS doesn't work in 16:9 mode which makes it manadatory to have a tripod when zooming in 16:9 mode to get a steady shot. But then see the price tag... you can't expect whole world for this price tag..can you??

    However, I don't think this is a big deal for me. If I know I need a steady image, then I'll put the camera on a tripod. Other than that, this user really praised how Panasonic squeezed a 3CCD sensor in such a compact design. He also said that the mic in jack, like you mentioned before, is a big plus. Even though he said the onboard mic is great as it is, it's always a plus to have the option.

    I still have a lot of research to do, but I will definitely put this model in my list to look at in the end. This may sound stupid, but does this camera have an onboard light? I looked around on it, but couldn't see one visible.

    Edit: I just read the previous two replies. Thanks for the advice; I'll keep it all in mind. As for a hard drive camcorder, I don't know if can trust one enough to use it extensively. What if I have to run with the camera in hand? Wouldn't that increase the chance of having severe problems? I like the thought of using a hard drive, but has anyone here had any problems with it? Also a touchscreen LCD would be great. I didn't even think of that.
     
  8. Caitlyn macrumors 6502a

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    #8
    Maybe check out the Sony HandyCam DVD-105. Not sure on the price, but it is around your range. I think $499 or $599? Not sure though. Anyway, great camera from what I've read. :)
     
  9. LethalWolfe macrumors G3

    LethalWolfe

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    #9
    Stay way from anything that isn't MiniDV. Cameras in your price range that record to memory sticks, miniDVDs, or an internal HDD will have inferior quality to MiniDV cameras and will be a pain to edit w/because, AFAIK, you'll have to transcode the movies into a format iMovie can handle.


    Lethal
     
  10. hotwire132002 macrumors 65816

    hotwire132002

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    #10
    Beat me to it!
     
  11. p0intblank thread starter macrumors 68030

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    #11
    Yeah, I actually learned that at the SoHo Apple Store. I was very fortunate to hear this important tip from the workshop instructor. She said it's very important to go with miniDV if you are interested in editing your content, while with DVD you cannot... or it's very difficult to do so; one of those.

    This is kind of a random question, but does it matter whether the camcorder's form is vertical or horizontal? The vertical models kind of look cooler, but how is the handling? I notice most models are horizontal. It's not a big deal... just more of a curiousity kind of thing.
     
  12. hotwire132002 macrumors 65816

    hotwire132002

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    #12
    Well, being in video production, I prefer a nice big shoulder mount for good handling when shooting handheld... ;)

    It's all a matter of personal preference. I would probably suggest going more by picture quality than form factor when making a decision, though.
     
  13. p0intblank thread starter macrumors 68030

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    #13
    Picture quality is definitely a higher priority for me. Whether it's horizontal or vertical in the end, it doesn't matter. I was just curious as to how different they feel.

    As for the model you suggested before... I asked if it had an onboard light, but no one ever answered me. I realize it's probably an obvious answer, but I cannot seem to find it in the pictures.

    Thanks again!
     
  14. hotwire132002 macrumors 65816

    hotwire132002

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    #14
    Not a problem!

    About the onboard light -- I don't believe it has one. I don't know how many consumer camcorders have onboard lights (since I mostly deal with pro equipment) but I never recall it being a very common feature... then again, it's been five years or so since I've personally worked with consumer camcorders, so maybe things have changed...
     
  15. p0intblank thread starter macrumors 68030

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    #15
    Hmm, that could be a problem. I know I'll have some instances where I will want to record in low-light conditions. However, I really like the PV-GS180 and what it has to offer.

    Anyone have any similar models with a similar price tag? I would really like one with a 3CCD sensor. I'll look around some more.
     
  16. p0intblank thread starter macrumors 68030

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    #16
    I'm really liking this Panasonic model. It has OIS which was missing from the other model you recommended. It also appears to have an onboard light, as well as support for an external mic. However, the optical zoom is only 10X. Do you think that matters much, though?

    I realize this particular model is over $500, but it seems to be worth it. The only thing that makes me unsure is the low optical zoom when compared to other models I have seen.

    Thoughts?
     
  17. hotwire132002 macrumors 65816

    hotwire132002

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    #17
    I would certainly say the GS300 is worth the extra $60. As to the zoom -- the GS300 has the same optical zoom magnification rating (10x) as the GS180. I wouldn't worry too much about the zoom. If you shoot a lot handheld, you won't want to use it (the more you zoom, the shakier the image, when shooting handheld at least). For tripod shots, a longer zoom can be handy on certain occasions, but I'd take the 3 CCDs over a longer zoom lens any day. Based on the reviews, I would say the GS300 is the way to go.

    One other thing -- It doesn't appear that the GS300 actually has an onboard video light. I couldn't find anything about it in the reviews. Have you thought about picking up a video light for the accessory shoe? You can get these for as low as $30, depending on their battery life. How long do you need to be able to shoot using the light?
     
  18. notjustjay macrumors 603

    notjustjay

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    #18
    If you're looking at any kind of serious or semi-serious video work, forget the onboard light, unless you're looking for that Starship Troopers or "I'm reporting to you live from the eye of the hurricane" look.

    I echo what everyone else has said about getting miniDV cameras (instead of HD, DVD, etc). You'll find that things have gotten much easier over the years...
     
  19. p0intblank thread starter macrumors 68030

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    #19
    I wouldn't be using a light that often. It's just one of those things to have just in case. Regarding the GS300, I think I confused the onboard light with the onboard flash. I'm guessing that is a flash, yes? I must have read the review incorrectly. Either way, I always have the option with the coldshoe. I'm pretty set on the GS300, as it seems to be a great deal. It's only $60 more than I planned on spending.

    The review did mention that this model does not include a headphones jack. I don't think this will matter to me much, though. Anyone here use a headphones jack that often?
     
  20. notjustjay macrumors 603

    notjustjay

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    #20
    I wouldn't say 'often', but it's nice to have -- and it's almost essential if you ever intend to use an external microphone. I don't know how many times I've had the gain wrong, a dead battery, or had a crackly cord or only-sound-in-the-left-channel or other issues that I either didn't monitor as it was happening and then was kicking myself in the edit room, or monitored with headphones and realized the problem right away.

    If you're willing to test-record-rewind-playback-review, then you could probably do without.
     
  21. p0intblank thread starter macrumors 68030

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    #21
    It would be nice to have, but in the long run I don't think I will ever really need it. The PV-GS300 seems like the perfect camera for me, especially considering it seems like the best deal I can find. Other models with a similar price tag have their faults. In a lot of customer reviews I have read, it seems as if a lot of PV-GS300 users are very happy with their purchase, especially when compared to a Sony DVD cam of some kind (I forget the model ID).

    Anyway, thanks again for the help! I really appreciate it. :D I'm pretty set on this particular model... unless something else comes up. But I think I will be very happy with it.

    If anyone else has anything else to had, please do so. The more information I can get, the better.
     
  22. baker101 macrumors newbie

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    #22
    i got lucky...i bought the 150 ccd panasonic from best buy a few months ago for 250 believe. it was a unmarked clearance.
     
  23. p0intblank thread starter macrumors 68030

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    #23
    And I'm back!

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16830180039

    This model seems very similar, but is a little more expensive. It supposedly records in PCM Digital Sound. Is this worth the extra money or does the one I have already do this? New Egg doesn't have it listed, so I can't tell. More expensive isn't always a good thing, I know. I'm just not sure... anyone?
     
  24. notjustjay macrumors 603

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    #24
    I think, though I would prefer confirmation, that all DV cameras record in the same sound format.

    Some let you choose to have 2 independent audio channels at lower sampling rates, but unless you have the equipment to take advantage of it, it's not necessary.

    I believe most DV cameras record at 48 kHz 16-bit PCM.
     
  25. p0intblank thread starter macrumors 68030

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    #25
    Not trying to brag, but our house is pretty well equipped in the audio department. Between my dad and I, we love technology and are always playing with new "toys." So I would get some use out of it. Maybe the PV-GS300 does record in PCM and New Egg doesn't mention it... I was really set on this model and then this one comes along. It's barely an increase in price, so I guess I have more reviews to read. :p

    Thanks again.
     

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