camcorder help


macrumors 68020
Original poster
Mar 14, 2004
Chicago, IL
I am helping my moms work buy a camcorder but have no idea where to start. I have never bought a camcorder before.

Her work got a $1200 grant to get a camcorder. This money needs to include every thing, camera, bag, accessories, DVD burner (none of their Macs have one right now :( ) and media. The plan is they will use the camera to film parents interacting with their children and then play it back to them on the spot and later compile a DVD to give to the family.

What we need:
SIMPLICITY! That is the number one concern. They will not use manual settings, period. So the automatic ones need to be good. If they have to do any more than point and shoot, assume they can't handle it. Needs to be able to to indoor well. Needs to connect to a computer as well as to a TV/VCR for instant playback. Rugged, going to be carried around a lot and will be near very your children.

What we have:
Me to help them set up. $1200. Two Mac minis with 512Mb ram, 40Gb HDs and Combo drives running 10.4 and iLife '05. A good normal digital camera for taking stills. Educational discounts.

Anybody have any recommendations/advice/tips?

Thanks so much and sorry for the long post.

Note: This is grant money and the end of the school year so it must be spent in the next week. Also, they have limited places where they can buy stuff due to spending rules. Then can buy from Apple stores, Walmart, and I think Best buy and MacMall, but I am not sure. Basically, things need to be readily available to increase the chance of being able to buy the particular item.

EDIT: Update on cost, we have about $1200.


macrumors regular
Not my area of expertese...

A friend of mine got a Sony a few years ago and is really happy with it... I'd start there. I'd do a search for DV Camcorder reviews. I'd try MacAddict and MacWorld for reliable reviews first

Sorry I couldn't be more specific.


Might have been better to call the thread Camcorder Purchasing Help so people knew you were trying to buy one and not that you were having trouble using one. As it is I can see that there have been very few views of the thread... you might try re-posting


macrumors 6502
Apr 12, 2005
you can get one of those sony's that record directly to DVD, if you don't want to do editing that should do it.


macrumors newbie
Feb 28, 2005
Most MiniDV camcorders should allow you to edit videos. The prices for some of them have gone down to almost $300.00. I would stick with Sony, Canon, or Panasonic. I have personally used the Sony DCR-HC32 (about $500) and the Canon ZR-200 (about $400) Both have automatic modes, and are fairly easy to use. (point and shoot style camcorder) I liked the Sony DCR-H32 because it came with a docking station for recharging batteries and connecting cables to the computer. Both have plugs to connect to the computer and to a TV. (You probably need to buy the cables separately)

At this price range, you won't get the greatest quality video, but the Canon has a really nice signal processing unit, where as the Sony has a really nice lens. With the money leftover, you definitely should buy a light for your camcorder. Make sure you get a light powerful enough with a strong battery life or one that powers from the Camcorder battery. Even with a really expensive camera, low light can change everything. Also, if you need to connect an external microphone, you really should look into that as well.

An external DVD burner from LaCie starts around $130.00.

You can probably get a nice bag for the camcorder for about $20. Buy MiniDV tapes in multiple packs rather than single tapes because its much much cheaper this way. Also, if you are going to be travelling, make sure you buy those tapes at a major store because local camera shops will sell those tape for twice as much!

Finally, make sure you don't buy camcorders that are called VHS-C, Hi8 or Digital8. These are old technology that you should stay away from. Also you may see camcorders that are MPEG4 or MiniDVD. Footage taken on these cameras make it very difficult to edit on iMovie or Final Cut. I would stick with a MiniDV camera.