Newbie requires clarification before purchase of camcorder

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by Spiffey, Oct 28, 2008.

  1. Spiffey macrumors newbie

    Oct 23, 2008
    Hi all,

    I've dipped my toe into digital video before (a few years ago), but I've got a new baby (the first) on the way and we have decided to get a camcorder to record the moments for ourselves, and also for sending to my wife's family (they're in Australia, we're in the UK).

    I had a mini-DV camcorder a few years ago (a Panasonic) but I didn't use it very much and the tape mechanism packed up surprisingly quickly (I guess due to no use, rather than misuse). However, that has kind of put me off a tape- or disc-based camcorder; and as HDDs have moving parts I was keen to get a flash-based camcorder.

    I have trawled the very helpful reviews at and have settled on a Canon FS100, for various reasons: a) it appears (from reading the forums here) that it is nicely Mac-friendly; b) it is relatively affordable; c) it seems to be easy to use; d) it had a good review from the aforementioned site.

    I was also considering the Canon HF100 at the same time, and I would like to be able to get the HD version, except that a) I don't think it will be used very much, so I find it very difficult to justify the £500 price tag when the FS100 is less that £250; b) I don't have an HD TV (or intend to in the next year or so), and have no means of displaying the content except on computer; c) as the only method of sharing the footage is on DVD or small files via the net, it seemed unusual to buy an HD camcorder and then downsample the result, when I could take it at SD for less than half the price; d) while I'd like to play with the camera and create all sorts of films and video projects which really stretch an HD camera I know, realistically, that it's not going to happen - again, it seems unusual to spend the money and not use it.

    So my questions are these:

    I've seen on these forums that the FS100 uses MPEG2 compression and that "is not good for editing". Please can someone explain what that means?

    I've also read that some people reckon the FS100 has "less than mediocre" performance, and yet the review mentioned above gave it a "par or above average" rating with its competitors. Should I be worried about this? I am interested in the best image quality I can get but, as I mentioned before about previous experience with a tape-based camcorder, I'm not keen on the MiniDV route. Can somebody explain the difference in image quality (or perhaps show the comparison between a tape and MPEG2 compression in real-world situations)?

    Am I making the best decision? I have spoken to a knowledgeable friend and he reckons that there's not much point in going the HD route unless you have all the HD equipment to go with it - is this correct?

    I have a first-gen PowerMac G5 (1.8Ghz single processor - 1.5Gb RAM) and a 2.16Ghz Core2Duo MacBook Pro (2Gb RAM); iMovie 7.1.4 (and an old version of Final Cut Express (version 2); latest version of Leopard on both. I realise that going the HD route will mean I will have to edit on the MacBook Pro (which is not a problem).

    I'm reading all sorts of advice and I want to make sure I'm making an informed decision, for the right reasons. Please can anybody help?

    Thanking you in advance.
  2. nutmac macrumors 68040

    Mar 30, 2004
    A number of video sharing websites, such as Vimeo, allow you to share 720p video for free. While 720p is short of HF100's 1080i footage, it is light years better than SD.

    I bought a camcorder for my first as well, HF100 ($600 US). I wanted to capture and preserve my child growing up in HD. You may not have HD now, but you will eventually.

    Just about every single camcorders on the market use MPEG2 or MPEG4 (H.264) codecs. They may not be "super ideal" for editing, but neither is 1 second of footage occupying 100 MB of space. Unless you are shooting a film or documentary to be projected onto a movie theater, don't worry about the codec and start shooting.
  3. Spiffey thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 23, 2008
    Thanks for your thoughts, nutmac - they were very helpful. Preserving the memories of my first child was the reason I was looking at an HD camcorder in the first place, despite not having HD now; I wanted the best quality memories possible. However, I was also thinking of all the things a growing child needs and felt I would rather spend the money on the child rather than on a piece of technology - I hope you can understand my reasoning behind the decision for SD?

    On a different note, is it easy to get HD footage from iMovie onto a DVD in standard definition? Does iMovie (or iDVD) automatically downsample the resolution, or do you have to set it to do that?
  4. nutmac macrumors 68040

    Mar 30, 2004
    Your reasoning is very true and sensible. Getting prepared for a newborn is quite expensive -- crib, mattress, bed sheets, stroller, car seat, breast pumps, baby monitor, toys, clothes, diapers, college savings plan, etc. all add up to hefty bills, which is particularly tough in this economy. I sacrificed my wedding anniversary, birthday, and Christmas gifts for this camcorder, although come to think of it, it is my toy. :D

    It is easy to convert footage in iMovie. Check Vimeo's Encoding Vimeo HD movie in iMovie 08 (in HD) tutorial.
  5. Spiffey thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 23, 2008


    Thanks for sharing your thoughts experiences, nutmac. :) I found a comparison between HD and SD in the Vimeo help section which was particularly helpful.

    I've spoken to my wife and we've agreed to get the HD camcorder (HF100). She said "You wouldn't compromise on buying a PC because it's cheaper, so why should you with an HD camcorder?" Couldn't have put it better myself … :cool:

    Thanks for the link to Vimeo too - it will make it a lot easier to show films of the growing child to family - wherever they are.

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