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Old 12-07-2009   #1
Meng's Avatar
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Need Camcorder Suggestions


I'm lookin at getting a camcorder. The technology has progressed quite a bit since my video boater days. This is not primarily or only for boating. It would be great to have some advice from you all in the know - wading through reviews on technology websites could take a lifetime so I dont even want to go down that path.

If you know camcorders pretty well and can offer advice off the top of your head, I'd appreciate it. In a nutshell, here's what we're looking for -

-Superior video quality. Good image quality - color, definition etc is the most important criteria. I have no idea whether to go 3-CCD mini DV or HD. Thoughts?
-Still camera not much of an issue.
-Reasonable size though does not need to be tiny.
-Decent battery life.
-Affordeable. Pro-sumer at most, not exceeding $600.
-I'm totally fine going with 'the last version of the current best thing' like something that coud be found on clearance or for a good deal on ebay for example if we were talking point and shoot digi-cams it would be the equivalent of the Canon G-9 instead of the lasted G-11).

Thanks for any advice....sorry for the re-hashed topic.

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Old 12-07-2009   #2
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could you just use a high quality digital and carry more memory? I was thinking about this as an option to a cc myself, not sure if they are the same apples for apples though?

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Old 12-08-2009   #3
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Bob, you would definitely sacrifice a lot of quality and features that you get with a normal video camera, but for many people's needs and desires it would probably be a perfectly adequate solution.

Here's a small bit of help - at least my opinion. I looked around about a year ago and ended up with an HV30.

High or standard definition: You've got to decide this first. HD is the future, it's no longer cutting edge, and there are affordable options. I'd go HD.

Format: I think the best choice right now and the choice of the future is flash memory camcorders. The image quality now is actually exceeding the HDV (miniDV) camcorders. Hard drives have moving parts and are either not, or not easily removable and therefore less desirable than flash. Another tape downside kayaking is I've had my camera shut down on me due to moisture - twice I think, once in a tropical jungle when it was raining and another time in Colorado when it was raining.

There are a few caveats: solid state uses an AVCHD codec which requires significantly more horsepower from your computer to edit. For me this was a strike because my computer was about the minimum recommended by most people and I didn't want to buy a new computer. miniDVs use HDV which requires less processing when editing. The other reasons I went miniDV was because I have old tapes from a lost camcorder that I wanted to be able to play and the cost is (at least was) significantly less for the camcorder itself (for stance, at the time, this was a way for me to get the IQ & features I wanted for sub $600, vs. closer to 800-1000 for a flash roughly equivalent). Also miniDVs are considered a reliable long term storage mechanism. However, digital storage is getting better and cheaper.

So I would go flash memory if you can find the right price point and it doesn't force you into a new computer that you don't want to buy.

Sensors: For the price point you're looking at, you'll probably only find 1 sensor (I think they're all using CMOS now), except (maybe?) 3 from Panasonic. Usually means worse performance in lower light because they're smaller than 1 large one. This probably isn't a major factor either way.

The other thing you get w/ Canon that I don't think (could be wrong) anyone else is offering at the sub 1k price point is 24p and 30p modes in addition to 60i. If you don't think you'll use it, it's irrelevant, but you can get a pretty cool look using the 24p - video samples abound.

Other considerations: I wanted to use my camera for some interviews so I ruled out anything that didn't have an external microphone. For kayaking I don't think the mic is too important (unless you really like high quality white noise), but if you care about getting good audio it's a deal breaker. Unfortunately lots of lower end cameras don't have the external mic option. Optical image stabilization is a big big plus on a camcorder because the shakier the footage is, the more unwatchable. It was a must have for me. Some manual controls like focus, shutter speed, aperture, etc. are nice, but 99% of the time I use the automatic settings.

As for models I'm not much help - they change too much. Sony, Canon, and Panasonic all seem to have really good reputations in the camcorder industry. I recall Samsung was putting out a well rated camcorder that was relatively inexpensive with great video quality, flash, but I think I nixed it for lack of a microphone jack.

Good luck.
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Old 12-10-2009   #4
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does this help? HD Video Camcorder
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Old 12-13-2009   #5
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Ming, my wife was looking thru qvc clearence page and found a Sanyo xacti waterproof camcorder with 30x opt zoom720p. I don't know much about camcorders but for $289 it might be what your looking for.
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Old 12-14-2009   #6
Durango, Colorado
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KSC has some good points. I'll throw in my $.02:

DON'T BUY A CAMCORDER WITH A CMOS SENSOR! if you're planning to use it filming anything moving. Because of the way a CMOS records data, you end up with video like this:

(some cameras are definitely worse than others, but if you're looking in the $600 range, then it will probably have this issue.)

Also, for those of you who may have an SLR or dSLR and some lenses sitting around, you may want to look into newer dSLRs as an option. A lot of companies have pro-sumer dSLRs either out or coming out soon that shoot 720 or 1080. The ability to have full manual control and to shoot through high quality glass, that you may already have, for (relatively) inexpensive is pretty freakin cool.
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Old 12-14-2009   #7
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Thank you for the suggestions and feedback everyone.

We ended up buying a Canon HV30 HD. It got great recommendations from some folks in the know.

They are having a good deal on refurbished one's at Tigerdirect right now if anyone is interested: CANON VIXIA HV30 HD VIDEO CAMERA (REFURBISHED) at

Thanks again....

American Whitewater's website and river stewardship projects are funded by paddlers. Please join, renew, or make a donation to help us protect whitewater rivers in Colorado and nationwide.
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