Mini DV Camcorder Advice

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by Matt Phoenix, Aug 29, 2006.

  1. Matt Phoenix macrumors regular

    Feb 6, 2006
    For some time, I've really wanted to pick up a Mini DV Camcorder to film short movies or whatnot, but I couldn't justify the expense to myself. Just now, I started a Broadcast Video class and the big semester project is to make a 10 minute movie. So, now I think I may be able to justify buying one. So, for those of you who have one or have looked into them, do you have any recommendations for me? My price range is $300 or less. Also, I should mention that I'm not interested in a Sony camcorder, as everything I've owned by Sony has fallen apart (except for the PS2...).
  2. spicyapple macrumors 68000


    Jul 20, 2006
    Doubtful you'll find a mini-DV camcorder for $300 or less, unless it's stolen or someone is selling you a broken one. And btw, when it comes to mini-DV camcorder build quality, Sony is considered the best. (well, at least their prosumer and professional broadcast models. :))
  3. Super Macho Man macrumors 6502a

    Super Macho Man

    Jul 24, 2006
    Hollywood, CA
    You can find lots of older models (a few years) under $300 on eBay. That's where I would look first. Statistically speaking there is nothing wrong with Sony ones (your experience is not a representative sample of Sony reliability).
  4. balamw Moderator


    Staff Member

    Aug 16, 2005
    New England
    FWIW I've occasionally seen new miniDV camcorders (Canon, Panasonic, no Sony) for $299 at Costco, though right now they've only got one at $349 at

  5. Mac the knife macrumors member

    Jul 6, 2006
    As was said it may be hard to find at $300. It can be done if you look a bit. It can be very confusing trying to decide on the options. For me an external microphone input and A/V input and outputs were important. I ended up buying the Canon Elura 100. Ultimate Electronics had it on sale for $379.00. One thing I did not think about at the time but that is nice about the Canon is the ability to use filters and lenses on it. Some cameras are not threaded.
  6. Matt Phoenix thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 6, 2006
  7. MacBoobsPro macrumors 603


    Jan 10, 2006
    Hehe... I was just talking about that to my Dad. EVERYTHING I have ever had from Sony has broken. TV caught fire (still worked mind you but the flame was a bit off putting). All 3 PSones, 2 PS2s, music centres and walkmans. All poo! Sorry to stray away from the post I just thought I would share. :D

    I have a Canon MV500i (i think) and it works great. I use it to convert analogue TV to Digital so I can then edit out ads from footy matches etc and then burn them using idvd with my own themes etc. plus you can video with it! :D

    Very small, light and well built. Firewire and cheap too. Infact i think there is a newer model out.
  8. jaxstate macrumors 6502a

    Apr 13, 2006

    they all have Mini DV camcorders for less or right at 300 bucks. They might not be top of the line, but there are good cameras.

    Also, visit a actual circuitcity store and ask about the display model. They are sold at a discount.
  9. Matt Phoenix thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 6, 2006
    So, I'm really liking this one and the price isn't too bad ($354 here). And it comes with a mic jack, so that's a huge plus.

    The only thing is that Amazon only offer's a warranty through some third party company with crappy reviews. I've looked around at many other sites which offer warranties and the product is either sold out, totally overpriced, or doesn't offer any kind of warranty (beyond the one year limited).

    But I ask those of you who have cameras in the $300-400 range: do you think the warranty is worth it (about $70 for 2 year coverage at some places)? Do you buy it with yours? And if you have and it did break, did the warranty cover it?
  10. Alpinism macrumors regular

    Oct 28, 2005
    I have shot with that camcorder and it produces very nice image.

    Ditto with the mic jack. Sound is extremely important in film or video. Next time when you are watching a DVD or TV, turn off or turn down the sound and you can experience that video/film is not the same with inadequate or bad audio.

    I think that cam would do you good. Also you can go to and shop and compare.
  11. Matt Phoenix thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 6, 2006
    Awesome, it's good to know that someone who has used it had a good experience.
  12. Matt Phoenix thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 6, 2006
    ARRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH! Now that I've looked further into this, I realize that every website is sold out of it...except for Amazon, which lists it as shipping in 9-13 days (I've had items from there that were supposed to do that, but they never shipped). So I guess I'm SOL on that camera. Maybe I'll wind up with the ZR500, which also has a mic jack. Although it doesn't have analog inputs. Any other ideas for $300-400 cameras with mic and analog inputs?
  13. Rickay726 macrumors 6502


    Dec 29, 2005
    New Jersey
    thers nothing wrong with sony handycams. they work great i have a DCR Hc 32.

    works fine, you mine as well use a crappy digitalcamera in movie mode if your not gonna spend over 300 dollars. lol.
  14. aloofman macrumors 68020


    Dec 17, 2002
    Four thoughts, coming from a video professional with over a decade of experience:

    1) Your bias against Sony is pretty irrational. I've had just as many Canons and Panasonics break as Sonys. Anecdotal evidence isn't really evidence at all, just experience.

    2) Your $300 price ceiling creates a lot of limitations. This will be a cheap camera and you'll really need to stretch your creativity to get great images out of it. (On the other hand, this is great experience for a beginner. And better to spend less if you don't end up pursuing this field.) For example, the audio circuitry in DV cameras is weak, even in expensive prosumer models. At work I regularly use a $3000 camera, but record audio separately because the audio is not completely reliable. The external mic jacks in consumer cameras will be unbalanced, which undoes much of your careful mic work.

    3) Regardless of what camera you buy (and especially at this price point), you're going to be very dependent on other things to add production value. A cheap camera will have trouble with low light, for example, so make sure you know your lighting. Get your hands on a decent tripod because that stable shot does more to say "professional" than much of the price difference on a camera.

    4) I think it's critical to play around with it in the store to test out the menu and get a feel for where all the buttons are, how it feels in your hand, if the weight is balanced. Especially with small cameras, it's harder to hold them steady, so how you hold it is important. I realize this might not be possible with an older used camera, but try to find one first if you can. You'd hate to buy a camera sight unseen, then find out it doesn't fit your hand very well, or that the menu system is crappy. This can be a pretty subjective thing, so none of us can really tell you if a camera will feel right for you, even if it meets your technical needs.
  15. Matt Phoenix thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 6, 2006
    I went with the Elura 100. It's a nice camera (even though the audio isn't the greatest). This is definitely a beginner camera to me. I just wanted something cheap to mess around with for a while and practice with. Directing/writing is something I've always wanted to do. However, I didn't want to buy an expensive camera and find that I never use it and the thing goes to waste. If I do like it (which I do so far), then sometime next year, I'll probably sell it and buy a more expensive and higher quality camera.
  16. mkaake macrumors 65816

    Apr 10, 2003
    I picked up a Canon ZR500 back towards the start of this year, for about $240. As long as you've got light, it'll give you a good picture.

    Why the ZR500? I was on a very tight budget, and it has a mic input, which was lacking on some other budget models I looked at. A quick look on pricegrabber shows that it can be had for 223 + shipping right now (Look here). Pretty good deal - especially considering if you get yourself really hooked on video, you'll want to replace *any* $300 cam you buy right now down the line ;)

    It fared pretty well against the other budget cams in it's price group, scoring high marks for resolution, and better-than-the-rest for video performance.

    I was worried about buying it, especially after their comments about the wrist strap and bottom loading. However, in use, it's never really been an issue - the strap is sufficient for how small the camcorder is, and it's not too often that I find myself taping an event that needs more than 60 minutes of tape. If I did more often, well, I'd probably have use for a more expensive camcorder.

    I've enjoyed it, but use it as a consumer... so my view on it doesn't take in to account manual controls or other goodies that prosumers/pros would want/need. But feed it light, and it can produce some decent footage, IMHO.

    <edit> Oh, and the standard battery (which suprised me with how small/light it was) lasts longer than a tape... which is convinient. If you need to change tapes, you know you can get a battery change in there as well w/o the camcorder dying first...
  17. rjphoto macrumors 6502a


    Mar 7, 2005
    Don't forget the headphone jack as well as the mic jack.

    I bought a the Sony HC30 the night before shooting a friends wedding because it had the mic jack and I could plug in a wireless mic. I didn't find out until an hour before the wedding that there was not headphone jack.

    How can you monitor your audio without a headphone jack?

    Traded it in the next week for a TRV-22 with both jacks. Almost as small but not as rounded. Images in low light seem to be better than the HC30, too.
  18. OldCorpse macrumors 65816


    Dec 7, 2005
    compost heap
    Well, that pricepoint is tough. If however, you can stretch financially, I'd recommend the panasonic dvx100b as a starter camera. You can shoot 24p for a more film-like experience plus you can get really good sound (a lot of connectors!). Before folks rip me to shreds for suggesting something seemingly absurd in view of the $300 limit, hear me out.

    I understand perfectly wanting to spend as little as possible. However, I'll just give you one piece of advice I received, that changed how I think about these things.

    A long time ago, practically another lifetime, I had wanted to learn to play the saxophone. So, I was talking to a sax teacher, and I mentioned that I wanted to buy one of those cheap saxes for now, and upgrade once I got good enough so it would actually make a difference to have a good sax. He said (paraphrase): "No. Get a good sax now. In fact, it is more important for a beginner to play on a good sax than a pro. Because the last thing you want, as you are struggling to learn to play, is to also struggle against your sax. A pro will know how to compensate and work around the limitations and flaws of a bad sax. You will be just overwhelmed and learn bad habits to boot. Same with anything really. If you are learning to ski, would you want to ski on crappy skis? It would be neither safe nor wise. A pro skier may be able to overcome the flaws of a bad pair of skis, but it could be dangerous for a beginner."

    So my thinking is the same here.

    In the end it is all about content, not the tool. The reason to get a decent tool, is so that you can concentrate on content, not struggling against your tool.

    That's why I recommend something outside of your budget.

    Just another perspective :).

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