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Photographers and Artists

How to choose a camcorder?

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How to choose a camcorder?

Postby Dave » Tue 29 Apr 2008 15:31 GMT

After a few months of Kay dropping hints, she's finally insisted that I have to go out and buy a camcorder. (As you can imagine, I'm gutted. :crackup:)

Problem No. 1: how to choose one? After a bit of bumbling around the internet, I'd summarise the advice that's out there in this way (so far). With apologies if I'm stating the bleeding obvious:

Format

- Conventional tape isn't as good as DVD or DV tape, though the equipment's cheap;
- DVD isn't very versatile;
- DV tape is probably the best all-round compromise.

I see Ruggie's also posted about recording to SD card. To my mind that would be the way to go, but are camcorders widely available that can do that? And how's the quality?

I gather, too, that USB transfer results in lower quality than Firewire. Is the difference significant?

Features

- Optical zoom is heaps better than digital zoom (of course), but you have to pay for the better quality lens;
- If a camcorder has got loads of features you feel you'll never use, don't necessarily be put off it for that reason - most of them have got far more features than the key ones you're really interested in;
- Battery power and durability is a key consideration if you're planning to use it on the move.

Anyone got any other hints, please? Or any brand/model recommendations?

Thanks in advance. :D
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Postby ruggie » Sat 3 May 2008 13:52 GMT

My camcorder fits the palm of my hand and has a 30Gigabyte hard drive. If I used it plugged into the mains, I could record 7 hours of HDTV quality video, and 37 hours of lower-quality stuff. The normal battery lasts about 1 and a half hours, and the biggest available one nearly 4 hours.

I'll see if I can store a fews seconds-worth of clip at HDTV resolution for you to download and look at - the production tools designed for creating web-viewable stuff all decrease image size and maximise compression to get the file size down to something manageable. (That 24-sec MPEG file is 2 Megabytes).

The one slight catch with the JVC camcorders is the proprietary format they record in (a kind of MPEG), so you need to convert the source files to something else if you use any other than the production app they bundle with it. That's a bit limited, and it costs 80-odd US dollars to get the current commercial version, although that (Cyberlink Power Director) gets quite good reviews.
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Postby caroig » Sat 10 May 2008 12:29 GMT

What are going to be using your video camera for?
If you plan to watch the family videos on widescreen TV in HD format then your choice is going to be a lot different than if you plan to be grabbing the odd image of local colour for YouTube or similar.
I'd really like a Canon XL2 (not really sure what I'd use it for) but I've just shelled out on a Flip Video at a saving of just over 5000$.
Hey it's great. It's the size of a cigarette pack and runs on 2xAA batteries. I point it, click the big red button and record for up to 60 minutes. Flip out the built in USB port, stick it in my laptop and I'm published and on the web in a matter of minutes.
Ok I wouldn't want to watch the results on a large screen, there is no zoom (well a digital x2, but get active; walking towards and away from your subject also works!) and no image stabilization. It does come with it's own editing suite, a cord to play directly to a TV and a handy little tripod screw adaptor.
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Postby Kay » Sat 10 May 2008 14:57 GMT

Thanks, Caroig.

What are going to be using your video camera for?


I've been doing some photo essays - all cooking related so far, and thought that video might be better. Obviously I can't video myself cooking stuff so I told Dave that this was now part of his job description. :wink:

We might want to create other video clips too - about our travels or whatever. The sole purpose of getting the kit is to be able to upload video clips to our websites.

I'm a big Canon fan and very brand loyal, but I'll leave Dave to make the decision. After all, he's the one who is going to use it.
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Postby ruggie » Sat 10 May 2008 20:41 GMT

Obviously I can't video myself cooking stuff

You could with mine. Stick it on a tripod and use the remote to drive it.

However, it would be much more fun to have Dave moving around a bit, doing close-ups of you showing how to chop onions quickly without removing bits of your fingers, and to hear you being rude and patronising about Dave's efforts, à la Galloping Gourmet...
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Postby Dave » Sun 11 May 2008 02:33 GMT

ruggie wrote:and to hear you being rude and patronising about Dave's efforts, à la Galloping Gourmet...


I was thinking more along the lines of Keith Floyd's cameraman Clive... :lol:
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Postby Trev » Sun 11 May 2008 06:54 GMT

ruggie wrote:Stick it on a tripod and use the remote to drive it.



And then create a fictitious cameraman, say 'Algernon' and be rude to him.

Just had a thought, that would be talking to yourself though wouldn't it? :twisted:
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Postby ruggie » Sun 11 May 2008 10:50 GMT

Keith Floyd's cameraman Clive.

That's who I was thinking of. Did I get the title of the show wrong?
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Postby ruggie » Sun 11 May 2008 10:51 GMT

that would be talking to yourself though wouldn't it?

Who's to know?
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Postby Dave » Thu 17 Jul 2008 07:40 GMT

ruggie wrote:Did I get the title of the show wrong?


Galloping Gourmet was Graham Kerr, in the early '70s. (I have memories of him whisking a woman out of the audience at the end of the show to eat with him. A bit too suave to start berating his cameraman. ;-) )
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Postby Trev » Thu 17 Jul 2008 13:22 GMT

ruggie wrote:
Keith Floyd's cameraman Clive.



http://www.clivenorth.co.uk/pages/Clives%20CV.php
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Postby Dave » Thu 17 Jul 2008 16:17 GMT

Nice one, Trev! :D


- We nipped up to Bangkok at the weekend with the intention of doing some intensive shopping round for a camcorder.

In the end, we bought at the first shop we visited, and the model which the salesman pushed us towards - JVC's EverioS GZ-MS100.

Not the most sophisticated camcorder we could have bought, by any means. But it was relatively cheap - less than £200. And, as Kay says, its purpose is to upload video clips to our websites, not to shoot high-definition masterpieces. With 35x optical zoom (800x digital, although of course the quality degrades markedly at the top end) and recording to SD card, it should do that quite well enough for that.

We might want to upgrade a little bit, though. The battery provided lasts for just over two hours, so a bigger one wouldn't go amiss (the biggest one they've got lasts for six-and-a-half hours). And we'll need a few spare SD cards too if we're on our travels - a 2GB card lasts for just under an hour at normal quality, and about half that at ultra-fine.

Still, it's a nice little thing. I haven't yet played about enough with the files it produces to see what I can edit them with (as you say, Ruggie, they're MPEG-2), but I'll post again when I find out.

It came with a free tripod, too. :lol:
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Postby Kay » Thu 17 Jul 2008 16:49 GMT

...the salesman...


Oh. I thought the salesperson was a masculine-looking woman. Who cares? They kindly gave us a free tripod and a discount on the stated price.

I liked the look of the Canon ones, but they were professional cameras with prices to match. I let Dave get on with it. :)

The zoom feature seems to be quite amazing - who needs binoculars when you've got that? (We use our binoculars mainly to look at birds.) Dave could read what I had on my monitor from about 6 metres away.
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Postby Trev » Thu 17 Jul 2008 16:55 GMT

Kay wrote: Dave could read what I had on my monitor from about 6 metres away.


No more secret emails then :wink:
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