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

Buying a camcorder for short videos?


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rcoop

 
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Hi,

I am new here, but am not new to Mac (parents owned an original Mac and have used them ever since). I have been reading a ton of threads on this site about camcorders and have figured out I made a big mistake in buying a camcorder. We just want a camcorder to tape our 4 month old and import into iMovie where I can combine it with still pictures. Most of these tapes will be short videos.

My husband went to Best Buy and told me that he did not have much time to talk to anyone, but thought mini-DVD's were what we needed. With the baby, I did not do the additional research I should have and we ended up buying a Panasonic VDR-210 mini-DVD camcorder. I have spent many hours after the babies bedtime trying to figure out how to make it work (tried VOC, handbrake, etc. to convert). I am going to return it tomorrow.

I need to get a cheap camcorder and from my research here have narrowed it down to:
Panasonic PV-GS320 3.1MP 3CCD MiniDV Camcorder - my most expensive option, but it sounds like it would be better quality

Panasonic PV-GS80 MiniDV Camcorder with 32x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom- cheaper, but comparable with what I bought

Get a nice digital camera with good movie capabilities. Before this fiasco, I was planning on getting a camera for under $300 so I can get some good photos of the baby. I am using a 4.1 Sony Cybershot which is a camera owned by my husband's office. Could I spend $400 to $600 if I just got the camera and maybe get the same quality video from a camera as the VDR-210?

I appreciate any help as I really don't have alot of time to research or expertise in this field. I was looking at everyone's setups and figured that with your camera/ camcorder expertise on this site somebody would have an answer :-) If anyone has any other camcorder suggestions, I would appreciate it.

Robin
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Hi Robin!

As a professional photographer and a producer/director, I can give you a few links and some brief specs about the products I would prefer for you.
You will probably want a product that will last you a while and make it worth your money. So that rules out panasonic, fuji and kodak.

It looks like you shop at Best Buy, so I will give you links to there. (I used to work there)
Canon, Sony and JVC are the three main brands of video cameras you want to stick with. Most cameras are coming out with built-in hard drives so you do not have to deal with mini-dv storage and buying more storage.

JVC:
List of cameras:
http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage....s&nrp=15&iht=n
What I prefer:
http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage....=1166236107365

I own 2 JVC HD cameras and they are some of the best pieces of video equipment I have ever used.

Sony:
List of cameras:
http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage....s&nrp=15&iht=n
What I prefer:
http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage....=1166235552112

I have not worked with a lot of Sony equipment but I know they are very durable and easy to work with.

Canon:
List of cameras:
http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage....s&nrp=15&iht=n
What I prefer:
Well, all of their cameras are sold out. Sorry! You can check local on what they have.

I love Canon. That's all the equipment we use at work. Some of the most durable pieces of equipment anyone can buy. Perfect quality and easy to use.


For digital cameras, I would stick with Canon. I bought one for my girlfriend for christmas:
http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage....=1170290185930

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rcoop

 
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Thanks for the links. It looks like you think getting a camera with a Hard Drive is the way to go. I looked at the Sony you recommended and saw in the reviews for it that 2 people said that they had problems with the MPEG2 format in iMovie. It was looking good and had a recent price drop, but I don't want to hassle with conversion software. Does iMovie 08 have MPEG2 capabilities now?

The reason I was looking at Panasonic was that people said it was the only cheap model with firewire. I did not see firewire on the camcorders that you listed. Will they connect to iMovie via USB?

Also, I thought someone said you should look for 3CCD for better color- is that a Panasonic term or across the board?

Hope I didn't bombard you with too many questions...
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rcoop View Post
Thanks for the links. It looks like you think getting a camera with a Hard Drive is the way to go. I looked at the Sony you recommended and saw in the reviews for it that 2 people said that they had problems with the MPEG2 format in iMovie. It was looking good and had a recent price drop, but I don't want to hassle with conversion software. Does iMovie 08 have MPEG2 capabilities now?

The reason I was looking at Panasonic was that people said it was the only cheap model with firewire. I did not see firewire on the camcorders that you listed. Will they connect to iMovie via USB?

Also, I thought someone said you should look for 3CCD for better color- is that a Panasonic term or across the board?

Hope I didn't bombard you with too many questions...
You can never ask too many Q's!
Hard drive video cameras are the new thing to go with now. Just imagine- if you took 30 minutes of feed on a tape, it will take you 30 minutes to import to your comp. 10mins on mini DV. But if you did 30mins of recording on your hard drive camera, it will take 2-5mins to import.
And no more having to buy tapes, finding places to put them and worry about them getting ruined/destroyed.

I don't think MPEG2 will work in iLife 08' --- without a converter. But I am not 101% sure on that. Surely someone else on here can answer that because I don't have iLife 08 (or else I would test it)!

You really don't need firewire for a video camera. Especially with the small video you will be doing. They will connect to iMovie through USB.

3CCD cameras have better color quality. It is taking in 3 separate amounts of light (red, green and blue light) at a time. And because of that, you get a much better picture. Really cool actually. Most new cameras are coming with this. Mine have it.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by EuphLlama View Post
You really don't need firewire for a video camera. Especially with the small video you will be doing. They will connect to iMovie through USB.
From my understanding iMovie only works with firewire. I have only used iMovie HD (6.0.3), and did not try try version 7 which comes with iLife '08.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by EuphLlama View Post
...So that rules out panasonic...
lol canon fan? i'm in film school and as for equipment available for checkout, we have 15 dvx100b's and 10 hvx200's. we used to have about 10 gl2's and 10 xl1s' but after those spent more time in the repair shop than in the field, the school scrapped them. we have 1 xl2 and that's simply to show students how interchangeable lenses work on video camera's. not trying to bash you but saying panasonic doesn't last is pretty ridiculous.

anyway, back to the topic at hand. If you can afford the 3CCD Panasonic cam then get it. 3CCD will give you much butter picture than any single CCD cam will. for demo of this, you can check out a short "music video" (a friend of mine singing karaoke) that another friend and i did for fun. The shots with poor quality were shot on a Canon single CCD camera and the other shots were done with a Sony PD-150 3CCD (beyond the realm or price you want to pay for a cam to be honest). Heres the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmVJWZxC_X8

If you think I'm biased about the Panasonic cam well, I am. I shoot on a Panasonic DVX100B, love panasonic, and haven't found a reason to switch yet. But here are some things to look for that aren't brand specific:

1. Storage Media - MiniDV is still used by industry professionals to this day. It offers great quality and with tape, as long as you use a tape only once (possibly twice) you won't have to worry about it being corrupted. Hard Drive cams look appealing (because when you plug it in it shows up as an external hard drive and you just drag and drop your clips). But alot of these hard drive cams use a file format that iMovie won't recognize. If you use the cam companies conversion tool, it will probably encode in MPEG2 which, as previously answered, won't go directly into iMovie. So that 20mins you saved by just dragging and dropping the movie file turns into 45mins of encoding and re-encoding. And every time you encode, you lose quality (unless you go uncompressed). Mini-DVD is absolute trash if you want to edit on ANY platform. Older mediums (Hi8, Digital8, SVHS, etc) are old and outdated. Stay away.

2. CCD's - CCD's are like memory, the more, the better. And like hard drives, the bigger the better. You're only really going to have two options when it comes to CCD amount; 1 or 3. If you can afford 3, get 3. If not, look for the single CCD cam that has the largest CCD size. Your usual options will be 1/3", 1/4", and 1/6". Price will vary among manufacturers.

3. Zoom - Here's where manufacturers will try to impress. They will offer a cam with 12x Optical Zoom and 38423847389x Digital Zoom. Digital Zoom is crap, ignore that number. Optical Zoom is where you're going to want to look. You really don't need that much zoom from what you're describing and going into zoom mode requires a steadier hand so for zoom, I'd recommend a tripod or a shoulder mount.

4. Additional Features - Yeah when you're in Best Buy and the clerk is showing you all the cool features like the sepia look and the negative filter, these may entice you (I too used to work at Best Buy, I know how they work). But to be honest, you will NEVER use these features outside of the first 11 minutes you have the camera. They offer no real value in trying to make a decent home movie. Using in-camera effects will cheapen the value of your movie. Additional features like these just clutter up the menu's. And as far as still picture abilities, forget it. Buy a cheap digital camera and it will produce better stills than any video camera ever would. Its called a video camera for a reason, it shoots video.

5. HD vs. SD - While the HD factor is very tempting, you have to keep in mind where your video is going. If it's for playback SOLELY on computer screens, then jump for it. Or if you plan to output to 35mm film. But if you want to play it on your TV, it's still going to have to be SD. Unless of course, you hook up your computer to your fancy pants HDTV. But if you plan to burn these videos to DVD then they will have to be SD (unless of course you have a Blu-Ray burner or HD-DVD burner). Plus, most of the general population is still using SDTV's. When Blu-Ray/HD-DVD burners/players come down in price and most of the general population is using HDTV's, then I'll make the switch.

6. LCD Size, accessories, etc... - Sure that 4" LCD screen looks great but you have to consider what it takes to run that LCD. More power needed = more batteries needed. You're not going to be watching the video on the camera, so who cares? a 2.7" screen is fine. Accessories to look out for are bags/cases, storage media (if you go Mini-DV), tripods, lens filters/protectors, batteries, etc... I would personally go with as much as you can afford. Don't skimp on the bag as this is your protection. A lens filter/protectors is a great investment because $40-$60<$300 (assuming you paid $300 for you cam). A tripod will set you free and allow for much better video than handheld.

General Tips for Camera's.
1. If you go MiniDV (and I recommend you do), only use a tape once (possibly twice). Once you pick a brand of tape, STAY WITH THAT BRAND! Every brand uses different lubes on their tapes and multiple lubes can cause cross contamination. You don't want that. Also, once you're done with a tape, put it back in its case and keep it in a cool, dry, protected place. Your tapes should last for years. And one other thing, be sure to run a head cleaner through your cam if you decide to change tape brands and run it once for about 10seconds every 50 hours or so.

2. Go for the biggest CCD you can afford. If you can afford a 3CCD cam, go with that.

3. If you can afford a cam with a manual focus ring, go for it. Manual focus rings will allow you to do rack focus shots (fore subject in perfect focus, back subject out of focus, you move the focus ring, fore subject out of focus, back subject in focus). Just like on the news! Of course, you will also need a cam that has some manual control of fstop. But this may not suite what you need.

4. Sony camera's use batteries that have AMAZING life. You can get 5-6 hours out of Sony batteries. Plus, Sony are very tough, durable cameras.

5. Stay away from Canon. (Lol, just a joke.)

EDIT:
6. Look for a cam that will allow you to turn off that stupid Date/Time stamp. Again, another "feature" that yells amateur.

General Tips for Shooting.
1. Stay off the zoom. If you need to make your subject bigger, move in closer. Nothing screams AMATEUR like zooming in and out. A small zoom, maybe for 1/4 of a second, just to bring you a little bit closer to the subject is fine. But this wacky zoom in zoom out stuff is ridiculous. And no one wants to look at that. Sure this won't work all the time but, most of the time it will.

2. Mind the rule of thirds! You can split any composition into thirds. From top to bottom, and left to right. Google it for examples. But always, always, ALWAYS keep your talent's eyes in the upper thirds. Another thing that screams AMATEUR is a subject that is totally centered. Heck, even the News anchor's eyes are in the upper thirds.

3. Give headroom. If your baby is crawling or walking on the floor, don't zoom in so they fill the entire frame. Instead, pan the camera slightly ahead of where they are going. This is how the pro's do it. This will make people go "Wow! That was the best baby crawling on the ground sequence I've ever seen!"

That's all I can think of at the moment. I may edit later or add more if it's desired. I hope this helps a little. If you have anymore questions, like the other guy said, feel free to ask. You can PM me if you like as well.

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Yes, I am a big Canon fan. We just got 3 XL-H1's last week. And also what I'm saving up for. They are wonderful.

I don't think Panasonic is bad, I've used a lot of different cameras from them. They just couldn't do what I can do with a Canon.

I actually got to use a Panasonic, AJ-HDC27H (I think that's the right number) the other day. After I got off the stand it was on, I found out it's a $40,000.00 camera!!!
They also do have a decent cameras on their proline.

If someone put a Canon and a Panasonic in front of me and told me to pick one, it would be Canon.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by EuphLlama View Post
I don't think Panasonic is bad, I've used a lot of different cameras from them. They just couldn't do what I can do with a Canon.
And a Canon can't do what I can do with my DVX100B. It's all about preference and comfort. You're comfort obviously lies in Canon, mine in Panasonic. Saying a camera won't last and isn't worth your money because of your inability to use it correctly doesn't make it a bad camera or a worthless brand.

I've seen DVX's/HVX's that have been dropped, knocked off tables, covered in snow/water, and generally beat down that work and you would never know (except by the battle scar's on the casing) that they had ever been mistreated. And then the XL2 which was only used to demo how to change lenses and used for only 30ish hours by professors has to be shipped off for service because it won't power up. That I believe is a testament to their durability.

Basically what I'm saying and getting my panties in a twist about is the statement that Panasonic won't last and aren't worth your money. That is completely wrong. But hey, its a forum. It's all about opinions right?

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Quote:
Originally Posted by dj_hype View Post
And a Canon can't do what I can do with my DVX100B. It's all about preference and comfort. You're comfort obviously lies in Canon, mine in Panasonic. Saying a camera won't last and isn't worth your money because of your inability to use it correctly doesn't make it a bad camera or a worthless brand.

I've seen DVX's/HVX's that have been dropped, knocked off tables, covered in snow/water, and generally beat down that work and you would never know (except by the battle scar's on the casing) that they had ever been mistreated. And then the XL2 which was only used to demo how to change lenses and used for only 30ish hours by professors has to be shipped off for service because it won't power up. That I believe is a testament to their durability.

Basically what I'm saying and getting my panties in a twist about is the statement that Panasonic won't last and aren't worth your money. That is completely wrong. But hey, its a forum. It's all about opinions right?
We would all like to make sure you don't get your panties all in a wad. ha.
I've seen both take pretty big hits. It's amazing what they can with-stand these days! The XL2 sucks! lol, it sucked the day Canon came out with it. I used one once and that was the first and last time I will ever use one.

The type of camera she is wanting is totally different than the cameras we are talking about. When it turns to pro cameras, my opinion of things change. Because no matter how much I love Canon or you love Panasonic- there will always be more Sony video out there. The HVR-Z1 being one of my fav.

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