camcorder format advice?

jonnyboy

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hi all

under pressure due to an unexpected event, i need to replace our defunct mini DV Camcorder. Budget is £250 to £500 and I am no expert.

Any thoughts on which format is now best? DV, DVD, Hard Drive, Card etc etc?

Cheers
 

AANDYY

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Oh wow, you've opened a massive can of worms here sorry.
I've just done all this and I'm quite tech savvy.
A lot of new digital recording camcorders use a format called AVCHD and some editing software doesn't like it, it's OK on Sony Vegas (£50) not bad for a good editing package but if your not fussed on editing the the HDD ones are good, I got a Canon 40GB for £385 HD.
If you go for the card type then obviously you need various card, which are getting cheaper, or keep downloading to DVD or tape (remember that).

That's a brief and confusing synopsis. :eek:
 

blondebier

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Hi John,

With the pending arrival of junior we thought it time to invest in a camcorder and we bought one of the newer HD variety.

We opted for one that uses static memory for media storage. I had heard horror stories of 100+GB hard drives failing with loads of video going down the pan... The beauty of static memory, is that if the card fails you can replace it and they aren't very expensive. Battery life is also greatly enhanced.

We bought the Sony HDR-CX11E from Currys Digital, £550RRP down to £379. I'm really pleased with the results. It was also recommended by Which.

It comes with a 4Gb card which can record 30 minutes in full HD. Additional 4Gb cards are around £25 online. You can get 8, 16 and 32Gb cards, but the price goes up quite a bit...

One thing I really like about it, is that you can take still images as well. It doubles up as a 10.2MP camera, and the stills are amazing. So much more colour captured than my standard camera. (9MP FujiFilm S9600)

The only downside is that these cameras are getting quite small now. I'd recommend going down to a shop and have a play around with a few. (Then buy it online ;))

Our Sony is quite a nice size - a bit bigger than most.

I hope that helps a bit.
 
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jonnyboy

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thanks so far guys
 

blondebier

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Small is bad? :confused::dk:
Up to a point I think so, yes. When you're recording video you want to keep as still as possible to save your audience from feeling "sick" from watching juddery video.

Some of the portrait "trigger-type" cameras are really small, and I think it would be pretty difficult to keep the camera still to take smooth footage.

The likes of the CX11E have a strap on the side (like traditional cameras) and you can hold the camera in your hand by wrapping your hand around it. This was one of the few that I could do this. (All four fingers)

Some of the others on the market are quite dinky and just felt wrong. My pinkie felt a little bit lost. They're probably fine if you have small hands.

I'd definitely recommend giving some of them a "test drive" before buying one.

I was quite surprised at how small they are. They look a lot bigger in the pictures on websites.
 

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I've been told that Mini DV (which of course is a digital format) is still the best in terms of image quality?

Non-tape camcorders are certainly much more convenient when transferring to the PC. But you need to have a good plan in place for storage/backup of the files, right from the start. I would personally be a bit concerned about the file formats being recognised/supported in years to come, too.
 

timskemp

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I've been told that Mini DV (which of course is a digital format) is still the best in terms of image quality?
MiniDV is still the standard for SD recording - colour definition is not brilliant but each frame is individually compressed so you get the best motion and editability.

In the newer domestic formats I reckon AVCHD is going to be the winner, stick to shooting at 720p and the quality can be very very impressive. Just remember that with video generally less is more, avoid too much pan / zoom and keep it steady and simple. I've recently got a cheap JVC everio that records to SD card, it's very convenient as you can drop straight into Vegas and edit from there without a capture process.
 
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jonnyboy

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Hi John,

We bought the Sony HDR-CX11E from Currys Digital, £550RRP down to £379. I'm really pleased with the results. It was also recommended by Which.

It comes with a 4Gb card which can record 30 minutes in full HD. Additional 4Gb cards are around £25 online. You can get 8, 16 and 32Gb cards, but the price goes up quite a bit...

One thing I really like about it, is that you can take still images as well. It doubles up as a 10.2MP camera, and the stills are amazing. So much more colour captured than my standard camera. (9MP FujiFilm S9600)
Thanks for this that camera looks spt on, the only problem appears to be that it is £250-300 more than you paid, that is if you can find it...! How long ago did you buy it?
 
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jonnyboy

jonnyboy

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About 6 weeks ago. I couldn't believe my luck.
It might be worth phoning around a few stores near you and see if they have any stock remaining. :thumb:

The plot thickens lol.

Local store insists its a well-out-of date model (this despite the fact that its features are NOT currently available on other models:confused:).

Heathrow were supposed to have 2 but only one and reserved :(

Still £600+ on the 'net.....therefore

Still looking
 

blondebier

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Local store insists its a well-out-of date model
Sales people! You step out of the shop they'll have a more up to date wizzo advanced super wotsit that does the job for half the price, at twice the speed and is half the size. :D

Those links posted above look pretty good.
 

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Depends on your requirements -

mini DV is still a perfectly acceptable format used from budget camcorders costing £100 or so up to Pro models costing well into five figures .

If you have been using miniDV and editing from this material , there is a lot to be said for sticking to what you are familiar with .

Newer camcorders will offer 16:9 (widescreen) shooting and HD (not the same as widescreen , although HD tends to be widescreen as well) .

The difficulty with changing formats is that whatever system you used to handle/edit/store your material may or may not be compatible with different file types .

Your miniDV camcorder would have output a DV stream via a 'Firewire' (IEEE 1394) connection which was recognised by many editing applications such as iMovie (which was the groundbreaker more than 10 years ago) .

Newer camcorders connect via USB and use files like AVCHD which are not yet so universally recognised .

With tape based camcorders , you have lots of moving parts which can wear/go out of alignment/get clogged or dirty thus reducing or stopping performance altogether . MiniDV tapes are cheap and widely available on the other hand .

Hard disc based camcorders are , perhaps , slightly more robust than tape based ones , although hard drives can fail . They will offer a longer recording time than a single tape - so to record a lengthy event without interruption they have an advantage - but once the drive is full with 20 , 30 , 40 hours of material you have to download and erase , you can't just pop another drive in - although some HDD cameras do have memory card slots to extend recording time or to copy off .

Memory card camcorders don't have so many moving parts (none in the recorder section) and tend to be quite reliable but storage media can still be expensive compared to tape . With tapes you can tend to shoot and archive , keeping the original tapes ( I have several hundreds of Mini DV tapes , shot over 10+ years ) , whereas with SD cards or similar , I think more likely the cards will be read then reformatted . Cards can be taken from the camcorder and put into a card reader for import into the editor .

DVD camcorders record onto a miniature DVD optical disc - not really designed for editing - pretty much a point and shoot type format , intended for playing back unedited footage on a DVD player , assuming the disc has been finalised properly , otherwise it won't play on ANYTHING . Like all optical players/recorders , the laser will eventually fail .

Lastly , there are so called flash memory camcorders , with internal memory , usually in excess of the capacity of removable media - this is sort of the solid state equivalent of the HDD type camcorder and can work well - minimal moving parts .

I still shoot on MiniDV using my well-used Sony DCR-VX1000 which was a decent semi-pro model 10+ years ago ; at work I use JVC GY-DV500 and GY-DV5000 camcorders which are 'pro' ENG models still capable of producing broadcast standard material - still on DV or Mini DV ! The format is far from dead .

We have also invested a lot of cash on new Sony XDCAM kit but have not yet completed the transition over to this format .

Jan required a simple camcorder for filming Harris after he was born last year , so after some research , we went for a Canon FS11 which is a flash memory camcorder with 16Gb of onboard memory - enough for up to 10 hours shooting , with the option of using SDHC cards . The camcorder is standard definition but 16:9 widescreen and gives very good results with adequate lighting but tends ( like many other budget camcorders ) to fall down in low lighting with picture noise being clearly visible . The camera is small , simple to operate , has a long battery life , few moving parts and produces AVCHD files - cost was about £500 at the end of last year .

We purposefully didn't go HD just yet as I feel PAL 625 is still good enough - lots of people don't see standard definition at its best and don't realise its potential , which can be very god indeed . I still refuse to 'upgrade' from my CRT monitors and 3 tube projector for the same reason .

You pays your money and ...............
 
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jonnyboy

jonnyboy

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ok

managed to get the last "currys-priced" Sony hdr cx11e in the country at dixons heathrow terminal 1. friend who has an airside pass got it for me at £351, on the net (where there is actually stock available!!!) you're looking at £60+ so I am well happy.

the take-a-still-picture-while-you-are-videoing is quite some feature!!!

thanks to all who responded :)
 

blondebier

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That's excellent news!

I really like the feature where you can record stuff in slow motion. It's gives pretty cool results for action shots.

The automatic face recognition is pretty clever too.
 

AANDYY

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Good choice and manual focus with optical image stabilisation.
 

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