Need a camcorder recommendation

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by alphaod, Jul 10, 2009.

  1. alphaod macrumors Core

    alphaod

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2008
    Location:
    NYC
    #1
    My parents are going on a once in a lifetime trip they have been planning for years; it's possible they could go again in the future, but they find it very unlikely; they have asked me to buy them a camcorder, preferably one that is portable.

    They considered getting one of those small SD card camcorders, but from my experiences those are absolute crap. They refuse to get the prosumer models because they don't want to carry a heavy unit around.

    I've looked into a few models myself and I find that there are two models that may be good. One is the Panasonic HDC-xxx series and the other a Sony XDR-XRxxx series. I like these two because the former (Panasonic) has rather nice optics while the latter (Sony) has a nice-sized video sensor. Of course I'm really an amateur when it comes to camcorders, so I could only apply simple camera procurement criteria to buying a camcorder (nice optics and/or nice sensor).

    I would appreciate it if someone could shed some light on which one is the better choice? Maybe another model that is even better?

    The camcorder needs to the meet most of these criteria at the very least:
    1) Ease of use
    2) Excellent optics and/or image quality
    3) Quality audio quality
    4) Portable
    5) Ability to work in extreme environments (namely extreme heat and cold, and in altitudes)
    6) Good battery life (last a day of shooting on no more than a spare battery or two)
    7) HDD/SSD as a storage (I don't see my parents swapping out DVDs, memory cards, DV tapes)
    8) Preferred: Chinese language menus
    9) Anything else that's important

    How well it takes pictures does not matter at all; I have a good DSLR for that. Preferably the camcorder can store a lot of video (so at least day of video without deletion). Of course I will be bring external HDDs to back up the video for editing and such later on.

    The price is less of an issue, but it should be reasonable nonetheless (i.e.: I won't buy a camcorder for $2000 if I can do the same thing on something for $1000).

    Anyways, thanks in advance!
     
  2. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #2
    You should consider the Canon HF series of camcorders. They are highly regarded, feature rich, easy to use, produce amazing quality HD video, and are super compact and can transfer video easily using iMovie, FCE, or FCP.
     
  3. spice weasel macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2003
    #3
    Extra batteries! I'm sure you thought of this already, but factor in the cost of a few extra batteries into your budget. Batteries drain especially fast in cold weather or at altitude. Keep the battery and certainly the spare(s) in an inside pocket next to your body whenever possible.

    I second the recommendation for the Canon HF line. I recently bought an HG20, which is a HDD-based model. I got it because it was on sale, but with an internal drive it's not going to be as rugged as a flash-based model. The only downside to the newer types of consumer camcorders (leaving aside the AVCHD issue) is that flash memory, while certainly not outrageously expensive, is more costly than the older mini-DV tapes. But they are a lot smaller and hold a lot more video.
     
  4. bearcatrp macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2008
    Location:
    Boon Docks USA
    #4
    http://www.camcorderinfo.com/ is a good place for reviews. Sony just came out with a new flash based camcorder. Not sure when you need this but the new sony looks even better than the one released earlier this year. Suggest you go to best buy and put a few in your hand to get a feel for them and check out the controls. If you want HD, a strong computer to edit is needed.
     
  5. alphaod thread starter macrumors Core

    alphaod

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2008
    Location:
    NYC
    #5
    I will look into those models; thanks for the recommendation.

    Of course I will buy extra batteries (as per #6 ;)) But again I don't want to carry a tub of spare batteries if the camcorder can last longer.

    I will go check that out as well; no Best Buy here though ;) … And yes I will buy a strong computer as I doubt my MacBook Pro will be sufficient.
     
  6. nyzwerewolf macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2007
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    #6
    MacBook Pro will do the job just fine! can you specify the specs?

    I have a Canon HF11 & I use my MacBook Pro while I am away from home or if I am at work for editing. (C2D 2.4Ghz, 4GB ram, 300GB HDD). I use iMovie if it is something simple - bc iMovie is just super-duper-easy to import, edit, export & share to youtube/facebook etc.

    I also use Final Cut Pro for complicated cuts & i use a firewire 800 1TB disk as a scratch disk, so my internal disk wont blow.

    But back to camcorder: try to get a flash based camcorder. your videos will be much safer and your camera will last longer bc there is no moving parts. anyways, let us know your choice!
     
  7. alphaod thread starter macrumors Core

    alphaod

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2008
    Location:
    NYC
    #7
    I'm looking at the flash based camcorders and they seem pretty nice considering they weigh less than the HDD models in the same line-up; would the battery life be better when recording to flash media oppose to HDDs? I'll be checking them out at the store today.

    And for the computer, it's a recent 2.53GHz unibody with 4GB of RAM. It's barely enough for my basic needs and all the stuff I do at the same time, so I do want a more powerful computer. iMovie is nice for basic editing, but I need something more robust and professional. I will need to get a better editing program; I have FCE, but it confuses me (I don't know if it's the interface or I'm missing something), so I will go back to Premiere.
     
  8. Slovak macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2008
    #8
    +1 on Canon HF line. I've worked with Canon HF100 and it has been great. Easy to use, HD quality, SD storage, reasonable price.
     
  9. akdj macrumors 65816

    akdj

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2008
    Location:
    Alaska
    #9
    What the heck are you doing to that computer to bring it to it's knees???:) LOL> That's a Smokin little rig and perfect for field editing....BUT....wait'll you get ahold of your new MacPro! Seriously though, you should be able to move around pretty well with that machine. It's no slouch.

    As for FCE/FCP learning....it's really pretty simple. You can learn it in a weekend at Lynda.com for $25. And as much more software you're curious about. I have a couple of new employees that watched the Lynda videos are were editing in a week. Well, too, I might add. Excellent resource. There is another, Macprovideo (I think). Live, hands on tutorials to avoid the frustration of that complicated looking GUI.

    Canons and Sonys both have great cams. I am a Panasonic Pro Cam fan, but not so much on their consumer HD cams yet. You definitely want flash memory, not HDD. Don't buy a HDD in a camera. They break to easy.

    Good Luck (Lots of Batteries....never know when they can recharge!)

    J
     
  10. failsafe1 macrumors 6502a

    failsafe1

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2003
    #10
    Storage while away

    Are your folks going to be able to download all the footage they shoot as they shoot it? I would recommend the Canon HV30 or HV40 it has a great picture with the simplicity of tape so you can shoot now and download later. Plus you have an instant archive. I would think this would make a vacation easier. I know some of the Canon cameras and other have dual drive so you can swap cards when full but tape seems like the easier way to go for a stress free vacation.
     
  11. Slovak macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2008
  12. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #12
    AVCHD on flash is easy to backup to your laptop after a day of shooting... simply create a DMG using Disk Utility with sufficient size to hold your day's content and then copy the AVCHD folder into the DMG from your camera memory. Then you only need to mount the DMG when you want to import the video into your editing program. More detail... http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=514751
     
  13. failsafe1 macrumors 6502a

    failsafe1

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2003
    #13
    Sure it is and we all understand and see the work flow. I am simply thinking of my folks and while they are somewhat tech savvy they aren't the people to need to do this kind of stuff on vacation. They also aren't the folks who want to do this. Tape based cameras can be used as a play deck and a simple cable connection to a TV. This allows for HD shooting and easy viewing with no extra encoding downloading or archiving. Just a though.
     
  14. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #14
    Yeah, agreed... backing up video to a HD is not something I would expect my parents to do either... but I think I could easily explain to them to swap out memory cards when one is full.

    Also, solid state camera's allow easy viewing from the camera through the built-in LCD or via a cable to a TV. In fact, it's much better than tape because each scene is instant access.
     
  15. failsafe1 macrumors 6502a

    failsafe1

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2003
    #15
    So would you have them keep several memory cards full of footage and not transfer to a hard drive? Cards are cheap but I would be paranoid of putting a card back in. Of course they might expect you to transfer the footage? Maybe you could do this in return for not having to sit through hours of vacation footage?
     
  16. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #16
    I would limit them to a single 16GB card. Both problems solved! :D :p
     

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