View Full Version : Completely OT: What camcorder to you recommend?

06-29-2006, 08:24 AM

I'm looking for a compact camcorder for everyday use (mainly people, not scenery). Zoom and low-light ability aren't important, just a reasonable picture and small size.

I've never bothered with video before, so I don't have any significant experience to draw on, hence I thought I'd tap into the collective wisdom here.

Any recommendations on models or specs? Thx for helping.

06-29-2006, 08:42 AM
Purely from personal experience, I'd avoid DVD camcorders (the kind that record straight onto DVD)

Although they have the benefit of being able to watch your movies "instantly" on a home TV, I feel that they haven't quite perfected the technology.

I had a Sony one which caused slow downs and jumps on the finished DVD. I complained and swapped it for a Canon one, which had similar problems, so I sold that one and bought a Sony mini-DV one, which is great.

Plus the biggest downside for me, apart from that, is that you can't edit the films on a PC properly, without nastily compressing them.

Retailers will try and sell DVD camcorders saying they are the "future", but to be honest hard drive ones will eventually take over.

If I were you I'd get a Mini DV camcorder, they allow for full editing on a PC letting you (if you wanted) make a much better and bigger DVD.

Mini DV camcorders are cheap, as are the Mini DV tapes.

Don't be put off by the word "tapes" either. Mini DV is fully digital.

I have a Sony DCR HC39. It's never let me down and is loaded with features.

The Sony DCR HC series in general are good quality, and quite cheap nowadays.

Anyway, just my opinion.

06-29-2006, 08:52 AM
They make a camcorder now that records to a hard drive as opposed to a tape.

I'd imagine the transfer times would be a lot quicker, no?

06-29-2006, 08:58 AM
True but hard drive cams sure ain't cheap.

I thought a "compact camcorder for everyday use" was what was wanted. Hence recommending MiniDV.

06-29-2006, 08:59 AM
Thx for the info.

The ones I've seen use an SD Card I believe. Any thoughts about that vs MiniDV?

BTW I don't need a fully featured device. Even the video function on a friend's fairly new Sony digital camera looks pretty good, but it doesn't allow zoom while recording.

06-29-2006, 09:03 AM
Generally speaking you want to look for the camera with the largest CCD - the larger the CCD the higher the resolution images you capture. Alternatively, you could do what I did and go for a camera that had three seperate CCDs (one each for Red, Green, and Blue).

I hesitate to direct you to a specific brand or model (I bought mine two years ago and it was state of the obscelete at the time), but I would reccomend going to a site like camcorderinfo.com and doing some comparisions in terms of features and prices).


One last thing, don't be swayed by large numbers on the digital zooms. To be honest, you almost NEVER want to use digital zoom since it decreases the resolution of the image you are taking and will result in a poorer quality shot (although looking for a camera with a large optical zoom is a very good thing).

Hope that helps!

06-29-2006, 09:10 AM
Oh, right. I was wondering what 'CCD' was all about. For example at the site above, I see one with 680,000 pixels, hence .68 megapixels. Is this the same measure as with digital cameras (still cameras)? If so, what is considered 'reasonable quality' for a camcorder?

Thx again. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/11.gif

06-29-2006, 09:42 AM
I have worked with video a lot,

Everything Ku101_star-c says is absolutely great advice.

miniDV is a great format and although there are more modern and compact formats this is the most universal and cost effective and is also a 'professional' format and will remain the most universal and compatible for some time...plus tapes are cheap etc etc.

Cameras with 3 CCD's (3 chips) are the optimum because they record movement better without blurring but the cheapest was about 500 about a year ago (a canon ?).

make sure the camera has a Firewire OUT also as you need this to be able to link the camera to a computer when you get to editing the footage which you almost certainly will want to do after not too long.
(you can get some free editing software- adobe Premier is complex but adequate, you can find free copies on the web if you look for Premier 5.1 rather than Pro).

In terms of camera's, SONY is king but you can get more for your money with other manufacterers, but if you could find one..A cheap second hand '3 chip' Sony mini DV camera and you would only require something better upon turning professional !.

06-29-2006, 07:34 PM
Thx for the info. I can start looking for something specific now. Much appreciated. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

06-29-2006, 11:22 PM
Sorry if I was a bit too technical.

A Charged Coupled Device (CCD)- converts light into electrical current. These are the digital camera equivalent of film, and you are correct, the megapixel measurement is the same between digital still cameras and digital video cameras.

Charlielamb has given you some great adivce. I use a firewire connection to download the video to my computer and edit it with Adobe Premiere, though I have to say that if you have Windows XP you already have a very basic video editing program called 'Moviemaker.' It's not the most advanced thing in the world, but it does a very good job.

Lastly, once you get your camera, do yourself a big favor - learn how to use it. I took a college course in basic video shooting/editing and one of the books we had as text is a good one (and inexpensive, $15 US). The Little Digital Video Book by Michael Rubin will instruct you on all the basics, from using your camera to setting up shots properly. It also reviews how to archieve your video for future use and how to edit for effect. He's not specific to one set of equipment, but rather he's general and gives good tips, advice, and general rules to abide by while working in video. I strongly reccomend you take the time to learn all this once you have your camcorder - you will enjoy it and use it a lot more. If you're going to invest the money, invest the time too. I garuntee you will be glad you did.

06-30-2006, 04:08 AM
Nice tips. Thx again. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif