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Movies and Video For people making movies and editing video with their Mac.

Looking for camcorder suggestions


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brairden

 
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Member Since: Jul 24, 2010
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I have a new baby on the way so I have decided to buy a camcorder, and was hoping someone here could suggest one. I am a buy-it-used kinda guy, so I am hoping that I could find recommendations on an older (year or two) budget HD camcorder that works well with your mac and either imovie 09 or FCE 4.

The main use of this camera will be home movies. Nothing fancy. I am not really concerned with what type of media the camera uses. I will not be shooting long videos, so flash or HDV would be fine.

I will be using external hard drives for off camera storage. I will be wanting to keep the video in at least 1280x720 (720p) format. There will be no DVD burning.

I would really like to accomplish this for around $400. Probably will be buying it on eBay or craigslist.

Ideas anyone???

15" 2.53ghz i5 MacBook Pro (2010) 8gb, 500gb HD - 60gb OWC SSD
13" 2.4ghz MacBook Unibody (late 2008) 4gb, 250gb
24" 2.4ghz Aluminum iMac (mid 2007) 3gb, 1tb
mini 2.0ghz - 32gb iPhone 4
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Nethfel

 
Member Since: Feb 25, 2009
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Hi!

Usually I'd suggest reading this post first How to Choose Your Camcorder... (I hate repeating myself ) but, since you already know the use and budget, I'd either suggest looking at a dSLR that provides HD recording capability (that way you can also shoot high quality stills with the camera should you so desire) - the negative is it's limited to 10-20 minutes in a single record length.

If you want a decent used camcorder, take a look at the Canon HF/HFS series camcorders, the 10, 11, 100 or the 200 are all excellent models. I know the 100 can be obtained for less then $400. Very good low light performance. very light. Works well with FCE and iMovie (as long as you use iMovies/FCEs import function (log and transfer on FCE) and not try to import the individual mts files)

My Macs: Late 2013 rMBP w/ 750m; Mac mini G4, 1.25 GHz, 512m ram (server); Late 2011 11" MBA, 1.8GHz i7, 4Gig Ram, 256Gig SSD, HD3000; Powerbook 12" G4 1.33GHz running Debian as a server; Apple TV (1080p version)
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nancyspeed

 
Member Since: Jun 26, 2008
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No one is going to recommend a camcorder--I think that is considered just too dangerous. I bought the Canon HF R10 as an entry level camcorder and so far am very happy with it. I video mainly my dogs and birds. For beginners (like me) it has the auto designation that does everything for you. And it has the built in hard drive too. If you know anything about videography you probably would want something more advanced. This camcorder was less than $400.
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brairden

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nancyspeed View Post
No one is going to recommend a camcorder--I think that is considered just too dangerous.
I don't really know what could be dangerous about it. It isn't like I am going to try to hold someone liable if I buy a camera that doesn't work out. I am basically just looking for "testimonials" of situations working well, that are similar to what I am hoping to achieve.

I have read that the file sizes can get enormous when iMovie converts from Canon's AVCHD format. (40gb/hour). Have you noticed this to be true? And are you compressing them for storage or burning them?

15" 2.53ghz i5 MacBook Pro (2010) 8gb, 500gb HD - 60gb OWC SSD
13" 2.4ghz MacBook Unibody (late 2008) 4gb, 250gb
24" 2.4ghz Aluminum iMac (mid 2007) 3gb, 1tb
mini 2.0ghz - 32gb iPhone 4
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nancyspeed

 
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I don't know enough about file size to make an intelligent comment. Someone with much more experience than me will have to take over from here. I haven't made anything over 5 minutes long.
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Nethfel

 
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File sizes will get huge with any camcorder that records to an AVCHD spec. iMovie, FCE, FCP do not edit AVCHD footage natively and it needs to be transcoded into something more edit friendly (which isn't a bad thing as usually people would like to work with a lossless compression during editing which AVCHD is not). So, to make editing work well, it gets transcoded into another container and codec (namely a .mov container using either AIC or ProRES for a codec). This operation does require a lot more space then the native AVCHD.

This will happen with ANY AVCHD camcorder - not just Canon - Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, Toshiba, etc. - any camcorder that records in AVCHD will end up requiring transcoding (luckily, it's automagic with FCE, FCP and iMovie (although you may want to check compatibility lists to make sure you choose one that's compatible) also note, many camcorders that record to a proprietary format will also require transcoding and any camcorder that records to AVI will require transcoding).

I have used Canon HF series and currently a Panasonic HMC camcorder, both record in AVCHD, and both have worked wonderfully with Apple editing products.

My Macs: Late 2013 rMBP w/ 750m; Mac mini G4, 1.25 GHz, 512m ram (server); Late 2011 11" MBA, 1.8GHz i7, 4Gig Ram, 256Gig SSD, HD3000; Powerbook 12" G4 1.33GHz running Debian as a server; Apple TV (1080p version)
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brairden

 
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What about the Canon HDV cameras? I have read that the import time is considerably less with the tape based units because conversion is not necessary. Is this true?

15" 2.53ghz i5 MacBook Pro (2010) 8gb, 500gb HD - 60gb OWC SSD
13" 2.4ghz MacBook Unibody (late 2008) 4gb, 250gb
24" 2.4ghz Aluminum iMac (mid 2007) 3gb, 1tb
mini 2.0ghz - 32gb iPhone 4
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nancyspeed

 
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Nethfel, reviews from a few years ago said avchd would not become popular. Do you think eventually this will be the standard? I will never do blu-ray and don't have a HD television so I might have made the wrong choice with the HF 10. From a naive person, however, it looks like this is the way things are heading.
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Nethfel

 
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@brairden:
Honestly, I find tape based cameras slower when working at home - BUT I am also using a hoss machine (8 core, 8G ram, scratch disk on Sata drives). It can log and transfer at a rate at or (usually) faster then real time due to quantity of cores and available RAM. Now, when I L&T at work, it is slower then tape based media like HDV camcorders (machine I use at work is a slower dual core w/ 1/4 the amount of RAM I have at home plus the scratch drive is on a slower bus at work (usually firewire)).

@nancyspeed:
Honestly, the reviews have already been proven wrong (I'm not saying AVCHD is perfect, but it is quite spread out amongst the camera offerings). Tape based cameras are fewer and fewer in the consumer market and even in the prosumer and professional market they are moving to more mass storage technologies (keep in mind, some prosumer camcorders use AVCHD, but others use different digital technologies including HDV or hdcam, etc. - it varies from manufacturer to manufacturer).

I won't guarantee that AVCHD will be the end all / be all structure, but it is very convenient, highly compressed, can be migrated to an AVCHD DVD (although it requires a bluray player to play back an AVCHD DVD), etc. HD overall is here to stay. H.264 is here to stay (H.264 is a compression codec used in AVCHD video and video from a wide variety of other sources) - the biggest negative on AVCHD is it's bit rate cap.

You don't have to have bluray to appreciate the quality of HD video - although you may want to consider an HD tv Even though I do have a bluray player - most of the HD video I watch (that is not TV broadcast) is thru a Mac Mini connected to my HDTV.

Choosing an HD camcorder - even if your final output is SD is not really a wrong choice. Consumer HD camcorders are significantly sharper then their SD counterparts and can yield a sharper image even when scaled from HD->SD (of course there are caveats, but that is another long discussion ). At least with an HD camcorder you have HD video, so you have the option of creating HD video and high quality SD video when scaled down.

If you all are more interested in learning about the digital formats - here's some more resources:

AVCHD - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

H.264/MPEG-4 AVC - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

HDV - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

and an entertaining image that shows a scene captured at a single frame at a variety of video resolutions:

File:HD vs SD resolutions.png - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


ps - I should note - although I do use a variety of gear, I do not claim to have a finger on the pulse of the industry (I have too many other things I enjoy working on ). I personally like digital formats that record to HDD or SDHC cards. I currently prefer AVCHD because it works well in MY workflow and I've found the imagery to be fantastic for my needs. There are different, some better, some worse technologies out there. Remember ultimately, you're the one using your gear and you need to determine what is best for your needs. If the camera gets you stunning imagery and you're thrilled with the output then don't fret the storage technology details.

My Macs: Late 2013 rMBP w/ 750m; Mac mini G4, 1.25 GHz, 512m ram (server); Late 2011 11" MBA, 1.8GHz i7, 4Gig Ram, 256Gig SSD, HD3000; Powerbook 12" G4 1.33GHz running Debian as a server; Apple TV (1080p version)
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