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Reviews for Digital Camcorders? 278

bluprint asks: "I've been looking for information regarding digital camcorders. Googling for 'digital camcorder reviews' (and other variations) of course brings up tons of results, but I thought I would get input from the slashdot crowd. Does Slashdot have any suggestions on these camcorders considering price, features and quality? I plan to use it for my summer vacation, but also intend to keep it for many years (possibly even after I have kids, in a couple years), so I'm willing to spend a little more for something high quality, which uses media that will be around for a while. I'm not interested in fancy/artistic things like video editing on my computer, I just want high quality video, preferably keeping it under $1000. Are there suggestions on where to read some thorough, quality reviews of different products, and maybe even educate myself about what to look for in a digital camcorder?"
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Reviews for Digital Camcorders?

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  • dvspot (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @07:33PM (#8243643)
    i've found dvspot.com [dvspot.com] to be a wonderful resource
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @07:33PM (#8243647)
    price, features and quality? I plan to use it for my summer vacation

    You need the most powerful zoom you can find. The bigger the zoom, the further away you can be from the nudist beach.
    • by SoCalChris ( 573049 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @07:38PM (#8243701) Journal
      And on the subject of zoom, don't worry too much about the digital zoom. Go for one that has a high optical zoom. Digital zoom will just pixelate everything beyond a certain point, and all you'll see is huge pink squares on your screen where the nipples should be.
      • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @07:43PM (#8243758)
        and all you'll see is huge pink squares on your screen where the nipples should be.

        My TV seems to be really bad then, I saw a big star-shaped thingy instead of a tit during the Superbowl.
      • by teutonic_leech ( 596265 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @08:09PM (#8244030)
        Actually, using a lot of 'prosumer' and consumer cameras myself, I would recommend to find a camcorder that does NOT have a lot of zoom. Zooming has totally been blown out of proportion by the marketing drones (typical: more zoom = better) but guess what - you won't need it for 95% of the shots you want to make. When's the last time you watched a movie that showed a lot of zooming? Did you know that film camera lenses don't even have zooming capabilities? You need a special zoom lens for that - or you just dolly in. Really, all this MTV-style zooming has become the hallmark of non-professional video and if you can - stay away from it!
        Based on all that confusion related to zooming, many consumer cameras have a minimum focal length that's the equivalent of 50mm or more! Yeah, now you can stand in Santa Monica and film some bug crawling around on a boat in Catalina Island, but make sure you don't fall out of the window when trying to film your newborn's crip on the other side of the room! LOL
        I would also recommend a used GL2 - it's an excellent camera, the focal length is relatively short (43mm equiv.) and it's got great optics - which is the most important aspect of a camera. It also got three 1/4'' CCDs and you won't believe the quality you will get for relatively little money.
        • Depends on your usage. Sure, if you have the luxury of lots of time to faff changing lenses and are prepared to carry a flight-case full of change parts then go for a high-end camera and a set of prime lenses. But if you mainly want a camera to keep a record of special times then some kind of (optical) zoom is useful just to save having to change lenses but still to be able to get closer to (say) your kids on a trampoline at the beach, or to get a shot of a bird on your bird table. Though, as you point out,
        • When's the last time you watched a movie that showed a lot of zooming? Did you know that film camera lenses don't even have zooming capabilities?

          Once Upon A Time In Mexico had several shots with zooming, albeit it was 'filmed' in high definition with the Sony HDCAM 24p- it had a zoom lens, among other interchangeable lenses. Lots of tv shows and some movies are being shot with cameras like this. You don't notice zooming in a Hollywood movie any more than you notice the focusing, because professionals
      • And while on the subject of digital camcorders, lets not forget that digital cameras are more than adequate for most people, these days. Just today, Canon announced their Powershot S1 IS [powershot.com] which comes equipped with "DV quality" movie recording and digital image stabilization. Add an 8GB Flash Card [prnewswire.com] and you've got 8 hours of DV recording capability.

        Who could ask for anything more? While, certainly... the flash can be expensive but if you can afford to lug the laptop along, a cheap 512MB card will provide m
    • by Phil1 ( 723762 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @07:39PM (#8243715) Journal
      Depending on what you're doing on holiday, you might also want to consider getting a tripod. If you're using zoom for nature shots (ahem) digital cameras seem to handle camera shake pretty badly.
    • When he said that he wanted to

      ... educate [himself] about what to look for in a digital camcorder?"

      I don't think that 'T&A' is what he meant. Then again, looking's as close as I ever get, so what do I know :P

    • Be careful with the zoom ratings, though. The Samsung camcorder I bought has 10x optical zoom, which sounds nice enough. However, I can never zoom out enough, and often find myself backing into the corners of rooms to try to fit enough of the action (even just to shoot two people talking to each other) into the view at once.
  • LUX Rating (Score:5, Informative)

    by SoCalChris ( 573049 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @07:34PM (#8243653) Journal
    Get one with a low LUX number. The lower the number, the better it will record in low light situations like indoors.

    A lot of camcorders ***cough***Sony***cough*** advertise having things like "Night Vision", but have a really crappy LUX rating, which makes them useless unless you are outdoors in the bright sun or in total darkness.
    • Re:LUX Rating (Score:2, Informative)

      by tyroney ( 645227 )
      Indoors, my sony digital8 camcorder, (similar to some other digital imaging devices I've seen,) often shoots things a little too well for my taste. Usually when I use it to film something, I go in and turn down the "brightness" to get a result I like. (btw, that's a smaller screen Sony digital8. The night vision is kinda cool, but I have yet to think of a legal use I could put it to)

      I have no idea what the lux rating on my camera is, so feel free to set me straight if I'm missing your point. I just fi

    • Re:LUX Rating (Score:2, Informative)

      by forevermore ( 582201 )
      Um, the sony camcorders do have nightvision. Real nightvision - the infrared kind. The built-in illuminators kinda suck, but with the 8-irLED attachment (which also happens to have a normal light) I get awesome nightvision up to a hundred feet or so, just like they advertise.

      I love my sony dcr-trv27. Took it on my honeymoon, where the IR let me take some pretty incredible pictures of an active volcano [arenal.net] (obviously not the ones in the link), and of all kinds of nocturnal animals on jungle walks. Sony use

    • Re:LUX Rating (Score:5, Informative)

      by jafac ( 1449 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @07:49PM (#8243815) Homepage
      On the other hand, I got a Sony mini DV with the Carl Zeiss lens.

      The Lens is important.

      I'm the only guy in our Cub Scout pack with a modern Macintosh - and I've done videos (iMovie/iDVD) for about a dozen other parents, with mini DV camcorders, via the fire wire port.

      I'm absolutely stunned at the poor image quality that comes off these other camcorders, ESPECIALLY Toshiba. The Sony with the Carl Zeiss lens has, by far, the best image quality. The zoom lever is really touchy though. And mine's a couple years old, so it's like 4 times the size of the typical camcorder these days.
      Pretty much every other Sony product, I'll boycott, but damn, they've got a nice camcorder!
      • The Lens is important

        This is very true -- but don't get fooled by cameras that have the name of some prestigeous optics maker plastered all over them.

        Lens makers (like most manufactures) have good products and not-so-good products.

        Just because you see a camera selling for $200 that claims to have lenses made by a top-spec company doesn't mean that you will be getting top-spec lenses -- chances are you'll be getting a budget lens.

        Also take note that in some cases, the name only reflects the *designer* o
      • Definately go SONY (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Stone316 ( 629009 )
        Last summer we were in the market for a miniDV digital camcorder.... We had a VHS-C which took very nice images but we wanted something less bulky and a longer battery life.

        I talked to a few people who had one and they all recommended finding one with a builtin light because while in outdoor conditions the picture quality was amazing, indoors it was very grainy. We found most miniDV camcorders don't come with a light so we specifically looked for one and found a panasonic. Indoors the panasonic took cr

  • I like canon (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @07:34PM (#8243655)
    I'm a big fan of the canon line. The quality is great, the image stabilization is amazing, and the form factors are way more usable than the other major brands. I always felt like I was going to accidentally flip switches and press buttons with everyone else's cameras. Anyways, my humble opinion. It's a place to start looking.
    • by feldsteins ( 313201 ) <scott@NoSPAm.scottfeldstein.net> on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @10:44PM (#8244688) Homepage
      I've used Canon's ZR series DV camcorders since the "10" version and I have been very satisfied. They are small and use the ubuqitous MiniDV tape standard. They have a hotshoe on and can accept an external mic (essential). Some features that mean nothing: takes still pictures, too! Has a 500x digital zoom! Accepts flash memory of some sort! Baloney. Just make sure it's MiniDV, has firewire and a few sensible extras like can take an external mic, or can digitize input from a VCR.

      Also, I would advise anyone to rethink the "I'm not interested in computer-based video editing" idea. Lesson for you folks. Ten years ago young fathers everywhere bought up non-digital camcorders like crazy. The result is a shoebox filled with really crappy home movies that nobody wants to watch, even the people who shot them. The reason is because they aren't edited.

      Life is largely boring. If you shot an hour of video you might get 15 minutes of usable stuff. Cut out the crap. Add some music, add some titles. It makes all the difference and with basically free editors from just about everyone there's no excuse not to do it. Burn yourself a DVD when you're done, even. Do not let your hour-long boring-as-hell-movie sit in a shoebox for lack of editing.
      • I agree with you, I bought a miniDV (Canon ZR65) and have to say that importing the video onto a PC (Mac & PC in this case) is a breeze. It takes time (realtime, damn), but I video taped a get-together of a local Tai Chi club on Friday. Had it on the computer on Sunday when I had the time, and, after buying some blank DVD's I had a rough burn Monday night.

  • Three CCDs (Score:5, Informative)

    by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionary.yahoo@com> on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @07:34PM (#8243656) Journal
    I've heard from pros that you really want a camcorder with three CCDs. They pick up more detail in the darker parts of the image. I think the cheapest are in the $1,500 range, though.
    • Re:Three CCDs (Score:3, Informative)

      by stephenb ( 18235 )
      Actually, Panasonic has two sub $1000 3 CCD camcorders out (or soon-to-be out): check this camcorderinfo.com article [camcorderinfo.com] for details.
      • Re:Three CCDs (Score:3, Informative)

        by shanebush ( 301668 )
        I have the PV-DV953 Panasonic 3CCD miniDV camcorder. It's shoots great video. Good lense on it too. (Leica Dicomar) 10x optical Zoom, (but I don't use it)

        Cheaper than the Canon GL-2 and has approximately the same featureset.

        HOWEVER: be forewarned about buying cameras off the Internet. The "low cost" sites off pricewatch and such sites list the grey-market cameras as the low price, then these sites try to sucker you in to getting the real camera (with manual, non-japanese menus, and retail/extended warr
    • Re:Three CCDs (Score:3, Informative)

      by E10Reads ( 732984 )
      As a professional I concur, but for proffesional application or if it was in his price range. These cameras generally run much more than regular consumer cameras. Look for a camera with the largest ccd you can get in your range. The larger the ccd the more information it can absorb (in a sense). CCD size can be compared to film- smaller (8mm), largest (70mm/imax). It follows that the small sizes have show more grain (in video this translates what looks like static) when viewed in larger formats (tv vs. the
    • Re:Three CCDs (Score:2, Informative)

      by dsurber ( 53971 )
      The best camcorder for 2003 [camcorderinfo.com] according to some is the Panasonic PV-DV953 [panasonic.com]. It is a 3-CCD camcorder for barely under $1000 [pricegrabber.com]. It's biggest drawback is its poor low light performance. This is intrinsic to inexpensive 3-CCD camcorders.

      The light sensitivity of a camcorder is proportional to the size of the pixels. The bigger the pixels the more photons they collect, the more sensitive they are to light. The cost of a camcorder is also proportional to the size of the pixels. The bigger the pixels, the bigger the C

      • Re:Three CCDs (Score:4, Informative)

        by NewtonsLaw ( 409638 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:02PM (#8244838)
        The best camcorder for 2003 according to some is the Panasonic PV-DV953. It is a 3-CCD camcorder for barely under $1000. It's biggest drawback is its poor low light performance. This is intrinsic to inexpensive 3-CCD camcorders

        I had the PAL version of this camera (MX500) and it is a pretty damned good machine for the money and made the 1CCD Sony I used to have look really lousy by comparison.

        While it's true that the low-light abilities of these cameras (and indeed, most of the more recent 3CCD cameras such as the Sony 950 etc) is not as good as those with larger CCDs, it's not as bad as you might think.

        The low sensitivity generally manifests itself as grain (noise) on the image which is caused by the video amp being wound up high to compensate for the low output from the CCDs. You have two options -- provide more light (a good idea), reduce the shutter speed (a special ultra-low-light speed is offered for this but it's pretty useless for anything other than stills and "special effects") or you can just switch to manual and set the video gain to a more realistic level -- with the side-effect that the image will be dark (but isn't that what low-light means? :-)

        These cameras aren't perfect but all I've found to complain about is:

        1. The zoom control is rather sensitive and sometimes it can be very hard to zoom nice and slow when you're in a hurry.

        2. The standard lens has quite a narrow field of view. Although I never needed it with my trusty old Sony, the first thing I bought for the Panasonic was a wide-angle lens. Without the WA lens I found it difficult to take indoor shots that didn't cut out half the required scene.

        3. The eye-piece viewfinder (as opposed to the fold-out LCD screen) has insufficient resolution to allow accurate focusing when in manual mode. However, this is a problem intrinsic to just about all consumer-level (and a number of prosumer) cameras these days.

        On the plus side -- you get a nice, compact, well balanced 3CCD camera for little more than many 1CCD units. It has top-loading (so you don't have to take it off the tripod to change tapes), a good range of interfaces (firewire, composite, SVideo), zebra stripes, excellent manual override of auto settings (focus, shutter, iris, etc), gives me nearly two hours of recording on the standard battery (when not using the fold-out LCD), produces absolutely *stunning* images, supports 16:9 resolution better than some, has optical image stabilization, etc, etc.

        These cameras (like most modern units) also offer still-camera capabilities -- but don't believe the 3 megapixel claim -- that's an interpolated figure and, in reality, they produce images that look like 1MP at best. Still, it's nice to have the abilty to whack off some stills when you want to -- and it even has an inbuilt flash for such purposes. What's more, the optical image stabilizer works for stills so, even with slow shutter speeds and a shakey hand, you get a nice sharp image.

        Is it value for money?

        Well unless you really need to do a lot of indoor filming using only ambient lighting then I think it scores very highly.

        If you really *must* have the best low-light performance available (albeit at the cost of accurate color rendition) then choose an older 1CCD camera or a proper Prosumer unit such as the Sony VX2000/2100 ($$)

        Digital camcorders are like most things in life -- it's very seldom you say "hell, I wish I'd bought something that wasn't as good as this" -)
    • Three CCDs will almost alway give you a better image but in general they are much worse in low light (dark) situations. The way a single CCD camera works is different pixels are filtered, so there is a red pixel, a blue pixel. Then a chip comes up with a best estimate for colour for each pixel. Remember a CCD can only tell you light intensity... not colour. On a three CCD the image is actually put through a prism so each CCD only receives a 3rd the brightness. Some say the colour resolution makes a big
    • Re:Three CCDs (Score:3, Informative)

      by adeyadey ( 678765 )
      I use the Canon XM1, which is really good. The biggest advantage is the brightness and sharpness of the colours - much better than 1CCD. This is because a 1 CCD camera uses a colour mask "grid" - any 1 pixel only ever gets 1 colour - and fancy algorithms to fill in the colours for the bits it doesnt have data for. With 3ccd each pixel has separate sensors for red, green, blue.. It really makes a difference - especially if you edit onto decent digital media like DVD..
  • Canon GL-1 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @07:34PM (#8243661)
    Best camera for the price. Flourite lense. Small form factor, better quality picture and sond than anything for less than a Canon XL-1.

    It has FireWire out as well as super video. The picture quality is breathtaking and Canon has better red tones than anybody. Enough features to do about what ever you want. Absolutely intuitive user interface, great battery life.

    It Rocks.
  • thoughts (Score:3, Insightful)

    by chunkwhite86 ( 593696 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @07:36PM (#8243679)
    I'm not interested in fancy/artistic things like video editing on my computer, I just want high quality video, preferably keeping it under $1000.

    Not to be a troll, but wouldn't this question be better suited for a consumer electronics discussion board? I find it odd that you would ask the slashdot crowd about a product whose computer interface capabilities you care nothing about.

    That being said, I have a $499 Sony digital-8 handycam. It works great, uses the ubiquitous digital-8 tapes (same form factor as hi-8), and has USB and firewire connections to boot!
    • Re:thoughts (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rsborg ( 111459 )
      Not to be a troll, but wouldn't this question be better suited for a consumer electronics discussion board?

      Two things

      1. Often these sites are confusing to the non-initiated, and biased to boot (even if it's just because the reviewer can only get demo models from certain manufacturers). Slashdot is effectively an unbaised third party in this respect
      2. Slashdot has recently had a lot of product placements posing as articles. Compared to those, this kind of article is useful and interesting to me.
    • I find epinions.com [epinions.com] to be pretty handy for getting reviews of consumer electronics.
    • Re:thoughts (Score:3, Informative)

      by laservision ( 596479 )
      I did similar research last year and ended up in buying JVC 725 ( http://hardwarecentral.dealtime.com/xPF-JVC_GR_DV L 725 )

      Only after using it for few months, i realised my real requirements.. !!!

      • Mini DV / Hi8 doesn't make a difference. As long you can move in the data to the computer you are fine. ( Last Mini DV was bit pricy than Hi8 )
      • Firewire port is mandatory. That time,I didn't know how to use it, spoke with JVC support and finally stumbled upon Pinnacle. I am serious it makes a difference..

      • Pinnacle only works well for chopping, splicing and putting in graphics.

        If you're doing serious editing work with multiple video sources, you'll need something serious like Video Vegas, Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere.
    • Re:thoughts (Score:3, Informative)

      by iamhassi ( 659463 )
      "I'm not interested in fancy/artistic things like video editing on my computer..."

      But you do plan on transferring to your PC to burn to DVD, right? Otherwise you'll have use your camcorder every time you want to play a video, and if your camcorder ever decides to break you'd have to purchase a new camcorder using whatever format your old camcorder was, which might be difficult in 5-10 years with everything moving towards DV, solid state and microdrives. Who thought 10 years ago you'd someday replace you

    • I'll vouch for the Sony Digital-8 cameras too. I picked up a DCR-TRV120 at the end of '01 from a fellow who'd barely used it. Included manual, cables, additional higher-capacity battery, camera bag, UV filter, and even a couple of tapes: US$436. eBay is a goodThing.

      Good camera. Nowhere near as small as the lovely little MiniDV cameras out today, but for the price, hey -- the picture is brilliant over S-Video. It's got FireWire, and I've got iMovie. It's wonderful. Plenty of features, can do wide-format, y

  • by szyzyg ( 7313 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @07:36PM (#8243682)
    Ended up buying a Panasonic 3CCD camcorder on their recommendation and haven't looked back. They never seemed to give it a proper review, but it was still named their camcoder of the year.

    Now I'm lusting after the JVC HDTV camcoders which record MPEG/2 to miniDV.

    My computer fears my disk space requirements.
    • Here's a Review [camcorderinfo.com] of the model I have.

      You can probably find it for under $1000 if you look around, but remember on top of this you need to buy extras to get the best out of it.

      Some important highlights are....
      * 3CCD optics
      * Leica Dicomar lense
      * 30p non-interlace mode for that film look
      * 3.5 inch video display
      * Proper manual focus control
      * Optical Image stabilisation
      * 10x Zoom
      * Firewire and USB2 connections
      * Video Pass trhough - Direct video to DV

      It's also a 3 megapixel still camera, it has a load of onboar
    • Now I'm lusting after the JVC HDTV camcoders which record MPEG/2 to miniDV

      The problem with MPEG2 is that it's a bitch to edit and you need a *very* grunty PC to render it at acceptable speeds.

      Unless you don't intend to edit your footage then you're much better off with standard a DV format that doesn't use I-frames so can be very simply processed in a reasonably priced NLE package.
  • by dubiousmike ( 558126 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @07:37PM (#8243688) Homepage Journal
    you don't need hardware based effects.

    best thing I can tell you, find one with analog pass through. Most of the lower end dv camcorders don't have this, but many Sonys do. It will allow you to play analog footage through the camera allowing you to capture firewire in real time without using the tape (which I find crazy that a "digital" camcorder still acts in a linear fashion). Anything that makes your camera's moving parts 'go' will reduce the life of your camera.
    • the one that matterrs is optical, not digital. My experience is that digital zooms are as useless as tits on a bull.
  • that the answers you get from camera *owners* such as "I think XYZ is the best" are biased, simply because either they love their camera (with good reasons surely), or they don't like them so much but they'll never tell you "yeah, I bought that but I got had".
  • Things to look for (Score:4, Informative)

    by orange_6 ( 320700 ) <jtgalt@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @07:39PM (#8243716) Homepage Journal
    1) Get the best optical zoom you can, digital zoom is extremely overrated. Same goes for digital cameras too.

    2) A format you are comfortable with (MiniDV or Digital8). After doing research for my digital camcorder I found that the mini-dvd format is completely ludicris and an utter waste.

    3) Compatability - this could only be an issue if you don't have a Firewire port...if you don't...get one.

    4) If you already have a digital camera don't even bother with looking at those features. Who wants to stop recording, mess with settings, take a picture, and mess around again just to take a picture that you could get with a digital camera faster and usually better quality.

    5) Hot-shoe addon slot-thingy - great for zoom-mic's and external lights (ie expandability)

    I think that's it...it's been a while since I purchased one (almost 2 years) but it has completely been worth it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @07:40PM (#8243725)
    "I want to spend less than one thousand dollars on a camera that will have great video quality, last me >10 years, and I don't want or need to edit on a computer."

    If you don't want or need to edit on a computer THEN WHY GET A DIGITAL CAMERA? Digital cameras are used SO YOU CAN EDIT IT ON A COMPUTER, without any hacks or having to go through a VCR and then to a TV-in port on your computer. I edited a movie with iMovie today and it was fine, I was glad to be able to do that instead of dubbing a VHS and hoping that it would work out ultimately, however bad it looked. Digital video looks good, and will look good, and if you compress it with a good codec (mpeg-2, divx;-)) it will still look good compressed.
    • Digital will still give him some of the best quality for the buck.

      If he stays analog, his choices are VHS-C (crappy), SVHS (slightly less crappy), Betacam (expensive) and I'm not sure what else (anyone?)

      It would be tough to find a decent analog camcorder these days.

    • I have quite a few VHS tapes that I have no intention of editing but am digitizing so I can not have to worry about the tape degrading.

      It makes sense to go with a digital camera even if you don't care about editing just so you can quickly back up your videos on DVD +/- R

      It's a big giant pain to digitize things in real time.

  • by bashbrotha ( 41617 ) <todd&toddg,net> on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @07:40PM (#8243726) Homepage
    Why go digital?

    Perhaps the biggest reason people go digital is the ease of transfer to a computer, and perhaps the low cost of media. If you are really into high-quality analog video (film) seems to be still hanging around after all of these years, and there is no doubting the quality of the result, as well as the archive capabilities.

    However, you did ask for digital, so here is the answer. I'd probably go with the miniDV format. With this, you have tons of options. I've seen miniDV cameras on ebay for less than $100 (albeit first-gen low-qual, no frills models). The real high-quality route seems to be going with the likes of the Canon XL-1 [canondv.com] (and related models). I've seen some great quality results coming from these cameras, and I spotted one in use during the filming of The Italian Job (check out the dvd special features to see it used), presumably for proof shots, dailies, etc.

    Not sure if that helps you, and even the miniDV format may be obsolete in another couple of years.

    Good Luck!

    • "If you are really into high-quality analog video (film) seems to be still hanging around after all of these years"

      As you know, there is a world of difference between video and film.

      Media for film is expensive. It can be a cumbersome adventure and isn't for casual event capturing. Analog video (affordable ones anyway) is awful in comparison in terms of quality. Though it might not seem so on paper, there is a world of difference between my vhs-c camera and my digital-8. I refuse to use the vhs-c one u
  • My Suggestions (Score:2, Informative)

    by parawing742 ( 646604 )
    I've used several Sony and Canon camcorders extensively in the past few years. My all around favorite is the Canon GL2, but I think that would be out of your price range ($2000). Even though you don't plan to do computer editing, the digital formats (Mini-DV) are the way to go because they provide higher quality and don't degrade as quickly. Higher quality digital camcorders use 3 CCDs, and the others only use 1 CCD. Either way, you will get far better results than using a consumer analog camera. Unless
  • Dansdata.com (Score:4, Informative)

    by Bombcar ( 16057 ) <{racbmob} {at} {bombcar.com}> on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @07:42PM (#8243742) Homepage Journal
    He might have some reviews worth reading.

    Dan Ruther's Site [dansdata.com]
  • I bought a Sharp WD-450 last year. It was cheap ($450), has a good lens (26X optical zoon Canon) and takes good pictures as long as it's in bright light (candlelight == bad). I used it to produce a martial arts instructional DVD & some videos for DragonCon.

    The problem is it's a single CCD camera, so the color depth & quality isn't so good. I also couldn't plug in an external mic ... I'm starting to do some for-hire video work & a wireless mic comes in handy.

    I just bought a Sony TRV-950 (about
  • by smallstepforman ( 121366 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @07:45PM (#8243786)
    When searching for a camcorder, you'll be given a choice between Digital Image Stabilisation (DIS) or Optical Image Stabilsation (OIS), with the optical being much more expensive. If you ever wish to shoot image from a moving source (a car, train etc), then definately go for optical image stabilsation. It uses mirrors to stabilise the image instead of software, and produces a less jerky image, especially when you zoom in. Canon's are pretty good in that respect.
  • by Goyuix ( 698012 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @07:45PM (#8243787) Homepage
    So this is somewhat offtopic, but being in the ask slashdot section it seems to squeeze in barely...

    But why is it that no matter what question gets asked, if the question is not phrased with the word google in it somewhere, someone is bound to flame away ranting about why they should have just used google in the first place (I guess with about a million plus viewers someone is bound to be in a bad mood on any given day).

    On the other hand, they could very well ask a question that was probably answered very well by a trip to google, but they are just curious as to what the slashcrowd (tm) thinks/uses/wishes.... in which case couldn't they all do us a favor and include some of the resources they found, perhaps as a second paragraph of the original question (similar to book reviews, slashback, etc...)

    Of course, I fall in the third bucket where I rant for the sake of ranting.
  • Canon rocks (Score:3, Informative)

    by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @07:46PM (#8243790) Homepage
    Canon products are superb. Sony isn't even close in their consumer market.

    A year or so back I spent a couple days reviewing camcorders at Best Buy, Electronics Botique, etc., then bringing the tape home and messing around with seeing what was best.

    A couple things I liked about Canon camcorders:

    - image stabilization (it works wonderfully, and is a great thing to have for those who don't want to carry around a tripod or such)
    - nice, crisp images (I bought a camcorder that was made prior to Canon's 'new' image quality technology they've been marketing. it's still better than the competition
    - bright colors and good darkness compensation
    - small, well designed, and sturdy
    - interchangeable batteries with other Canon products
    - (generally) standard lenses and filter attachments

    I'd recommend buying a canon ZR miniDV camcorder, as they're small, sturdy, have good battery life, and fit nicely in a day pack. They're easily palmable.

    I recently got a Canon Powershot G5. I'm equally impressed with it. I can use my ZR battery (511) in my Powershot, and vice versa. Very nice.

    Canon is, IMO, the quality peer of IBM in the camera world.
    • A couple things I liked about Canon camcorders:

      - image stabilization (it works wonderfully, and is a great thing to have for those who don't want to carry around a tripod or such)
      - nice, crisp images (I bought a camcorder that was made prior to Canon's 'new' image quality technology they've been marketing. it's still better than the competition
      - bright colors and good darkness compensation
      - small, well designed, and sturdy
      - interchangeable batteries with other Canon products
      - (generally) standard lenses an
  • I'd recommend simplydv.co.uk [simplydv.co.uk]. Their reviews are detailed an impartial, and they give you a good idea of what to look for in a DV cam.

    I recently bought a Canon MVX150i (Optura 20 in US) and it's been really good. I recommend buying from a company that has a good reputation in imaging, like Sony or Canon - you're more likely to get good metering and quality optics. These are the most important things in any camera.

    Oh, and buy a second battery.

  • I just went shopping for digital camcorders. I did lots of research and tried lots of them out. This one I chose because it is compact, takes 1 megapixel photos, and it is inexpensive compared to its peers. I like the interface, the LCD screen is touch sensitive so it draws buttons on the screen that you can touch to select. I have not been impressed with the ability to transfer video - the only way that I can see is to play the tape and attempt to "capture" the data rather than actually copying the dat
  • 3ccd is best (Score:4, Informative)

    by zorcon ( 111485 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @07:48PM (#8243812)
    Consider the Panasonic PV-GS70. It's the cheapest 3ccd camera you're going to buy new...MSRP of $999. 3ccd's will help in low light and give a greater picture quality. Unfortunately, compared to Sony, Canon, and other Panasonic offerings, the GS70 uses a smaller CCD, so low light performance isn't THAT great. Still, the picture is excellent.

    You're going to be best off spending the most possible, especially if you want the camera to last a long time. I would also consider a Canon GL1 or GL2, a Sony TRV900 or TRV950, or a Sony VX1000, VX2000 or VX2100. All of those cameras are more expensive, but considered industry standards as far as lower end 3ccd prosumer cameras. Also, they're excellent in low light.

    Also, I would consider buying used. You'll be able to pick up a Canon GL1, a Sony VX1000, or a TRV900 a lot closer to your $1000 price point.

    Also, a few general rules: If you wont use it for stills, don't be swayed by high still picture resolutions. Stick with MiniDV as opposed to DVD recording camcorders or other formats (Sony offers several), and go to a store and check the camera out yourself. Sometimes the "feel" of a camcorder will simply put you off regardless of how great it is.

    Check here for reviews and what not:

    Also, google for whichever camera and clips. I've found several comparisons with actual clips from all of the above mentioned cameras.

    Good luck!
    • I'd say your recommendations are pretty much on the mark.

      I did quite a bit of research for the "Best under $1000 camcorder" a couple years ago, and at the time, decided on the Sony TRV-730. I'm not more than an "occasional user", so I may not be the best person to speak for long-term durability of this particular model - but it's always worked well for me. The "Digital 8" format it uses has a nice side-benefit, in that it can play back regular 8mm tapes (allowing easy transfer to VHS tape). Sony's "Nigh
  • by real gumby ( 11516 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @07:49PM (#8243816)
    Remember: a fancy camcorder that sits in its case is a waste of money.

    If you plan to take it on vacation, size matters. A big camcorder with lots of features will go unused.

    I have a Canon Elura. For various specs reasons I won't go into here, I chose it over the small Sony's. I've been very happy with it. The best part is that I can fit it into a (large, jacket) pocket and carry it around, so I have it with me on vacation. It's also a pretty good camcorder.

    Do choose a camera that uses mini-DV. The MPEG cameras can only be used with special Windows software that comes with them, and don't take great video. The mini-DV format is as open as these things get, and you can edit the results in several different packages.

    You do have tradoffs with these tiny things. The biggest is that you often get camera noise on the soundtrack. Because of the mechanics of the situation, that's hard to avoid without an external microphone.

    Another good purchase I made was on a short(!) book on making videos with my camcorder and iMovie. Its section on using the camcorder (don't zoom, shoot a little introductory footage, etc) really made a difference -- without it I would have been just wasting tape since I wouldn't have wanted to view the result.

    And finally, expect to make a 5-minute video from your full day of filming. That's just the way it is.

  • mustek sucks (Score:2, Informative)

    do not get the Mustek for family stuff. It only shoots at 10 fps at 640 x 480. that is weak!!

    get a mini DV, since they are smaller, and since you aren't doing any real filmmaking, you don't need any manual controls, though manual focus option would be cool. all the brands at a retail store are decent. Get the warranty, it's worth it.

    and the whoever stated above regarding the 8mm tapes as the same "form factor" as Hi 8/ D8 is a complete nerd.
    • by EverDense ( 575518 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @08:14PM (#8244076) Homepage
      and the whoever stated above regarding the 8mm tapes as the same "form factor" as Hi 8/ D8 is a complete nerd.

      "complete nerd" is not an offensive term on SlashDot, I suggest substituting "complete jock".
      They can take it as a compliment, while we laugh at their good looks, physical presence and puny brains.
  • I got a JVC MiniDV video camera. I made an extensive check (since price was a concern) and discovered that pretty much any camcorder with a good optical zoom (forget digital zoom, go for at least 10x optical), MiniDV format and a FireWire port would do.
    Now, what you do is get a nice, big hard drive (mine is 120 GB), a FireWire card (in my case, I bought the Pinnacle DV Studio, amazing software, with cable and card included for about 90 bucks) and a DVD burner.
    I can capture an hour of video, edit it and burn
  • by autopr0n ( 534291 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @07:50PM (#8243833) Homepage Journal
    Not to be cynical, but if you just want something for taking home movies, I wouldn't spend a lot and get something "to last".

    Why not, for example, spend $500 today and get something nice, and then $500 a couple years from now when you have kids. By that time, you'll probably be able to buy a High Definition Camcorder for that price. Progress in the digital imaging world is moving forward pretty quickly

    I mean, I wouldn't spend that kind of money unless you need all those features now and you probably don't.
  • Sony DCR TRV-38 (Score:2, Informative)

    by pjp6259 ( 142654 )
    I just bought the Sony DCR TRV-38 over christmas, and so far I'm pretty satisfied. It had the best collection of good optics and features for around $700. Some features I thought were important:

    records to MiniDV - this is the highest quality recording medium. miniDVD may be more convenient, but you pay for it with more compression.

    manual focus ring - Ever tried focusing with a menu, or two buttons. The ring focus is the way to go.

    Spot focus - nifty feature. You can touch an object on it's lcd screen
  • by angle_slam ( 623817 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @08:05PM (#8243989)
    Raw footage is boring. No one wants to watch video of your trip to the Grand Canyon. Even grandparents aren't going to watch their grandchild's birthday party more than once.

    The key to making video watchable is to edit. Take a lot of footage and edit it to make the footage watchable. Instead of leaving the camera on for 30 minutes at the birthday party. Make a 2 minute music video showing the highlights. People will want to watch that, it's more easily distributed via the Internet.

    Finally, even if you don't believe in editing, importing digital video to computer and making a DVD out of it is very easy. Plus it's easier to send and store DVDs than it is to send and store VHS tapes.

  • by oingoboingo ( 179159 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @08:06PM (#8243997)
    Ok, today we're looking at the Sony DVDA-69, a mid range digital video camera from one of the world's leading electronics manufacturers. As always, we subjected the DVDA-69 to our usual array of real-world tests...not the fake kind you see in "Camcorder Enthusiast Magazine" where they test colour reproduction on scences of bounching beachballs, or testing the zoom lens on closeup shots of the Sydney Opera House, but real life stuff. Let's begin.

    Tripod stability: This is important. The DVDA-69 has a shock-stabilised tripod mount, which allowed it to score a perfect 5 out of 5 for the "4-way fat bitch fuck fest test". As regular readers know, this is where we get over 500kg of pounding lesbian flesh to get jiggy in a tub of jelly and film the whole damn thing. Lesser cameras produce an unwatchable shaking mess due to the harsh vibrations. The DVDA-69 felt barely a tremor during this tough test due to the inertial stabilisation and digial shake correction. Fantastic.

    Flesh and genital colour tone reproducibility: The DVDA-69 was presented with our standard test panel of 3 vaginas (one hairy, one pierced, one shaved) and 3 penises (one regular, one large, one 'rock splitter'), and tested for accurate flesh tone reproducibility. The CCD sensor did a reasonable job, reporting back 89% faithful colour repro even on an 8x macro pussy zoom shot, but for those seeking ultimate chromatic reproduction, try the new Panasonic CockViewer 7000 (see our previous review). 3 stars out of 5 on this test.

    Sound capture authenticity: Again, we used our standard voice test panel of "Oh yeah do you like that bitch?", "I'm gonna cum all over your titties!" and "Give it to me give it to me give it to me SQUEEAAALLL", captured through the standard camera microphone. The DVDA-69 did a good job of capturing mid to high end frequencies (it scored a perfect 100% in the 'anal jab scream' test, but there was some distortion in the optional 'blacks on blondes' sub test where our Barry White sound-alike test subject was able to induce a bit of fuzziness with an orgasmic "Oooooohhh yeeeaaaahhh". 4 out of 5 stars.

    Environmental robustness:. The toughest test of all. Basically everyone just jizzes all over the camera lens and we see if it still works. Things were going well until some spooge leaked into the tape compartment, requiring tedious manual cleaning. Not a real competitor here, and certainly bested by the Canon PowerGyno A700 Intruder Edition, which was not disturbed by even the most savage gang banging facial action. Sony is really going to need to work on this if it is going to be seen as a serious player in the home market. 2 out of 5.

    Summary: A reasonable entry by Sony into the crowded home camcorder market. Good performance for standard types of fuck-filming, and you can expect your pounding, flabby buttocks to be faithfully presented on the screen during playback. The camera has several ease-of-use features, such as a 'Thumb-off' record button, allowing the user to simply hang the camera around their neck when filming 1st-person blow job scenes, allowing both hands to be used to guide the girl's head onto the end of your cock. But the lack of moisture resistance means that hardcore users will need to look elsewhere for top-quality gyno movies. 3 out 5 stars overall.

  • Image quality (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @08:08PM (#8244013) Journal
    One of the problems is that camcorders are sold by tape technology & pixel count. What is missing is a frank discussion of image quality, which is often really missing from some of the lower-quality cameras.

    "Real" video cameras that cost $5K and up are specially designed to capture color images well, and in some cases will make people look better than they actually are. My favorite camera is the Panasonic Supercam. Despite being S-VHS, its image looks way better than any DV camera I've ever used. This is because it has a high-quality ($1000) lens, and good digital signal processing to make the image look great.

    I suggest looking at DV.Com [dv.com] if you are serious about image quality review.

    Of course, form-factor is also important. A lot of people don't mind a horrible looking picture if they can put the camera in their pocket. That too is a valid choice.
  • The Canon &R 70 mc [canondv.com] Is a NICE camera, I have had one for almost a year now, Used it for my graduation and a few other things such as vacation etc, logical to use once you RTFM. The only thing lacking is that you have to buy your own DV cable if you are going to do digital capture to your computer from the tape, The battery lasts nicely and recharges fast
  • I'm an editor for reality television and behind-the-scenes materials for DVDs. If you're looking at the $1000 range I've always recommend a Sony to my buddies. If you can eke it out, get the 3CCD TRV-950, otherwise, just get one of the consumer-grade single CCD Sony cameras- they're all a solid buy, have good optics (which, like the guy above said, is easily one of the most important issues) and well-built.

    The main weapons of choice for the guys on film sets would either be the Panasonic DVX100 or the
  • by mypalmike ( 454265 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @08:15PM (#8244086) Homepage
    I just inherited $7500 from my grandmother, God rest her soul. I want to do something good with the money. I believe my first purchase will be a donut. I want to spend less than $1000 on the donut. It has to be sweet, and low in fat if possible. I like chocolate filled, but I might be willing to consider just about anything with a nice glaze on it. I've searched the web for donut review sites and haven't found any, so I figured I'd put it to the slashdot crowd. So, what kind of donut can I get for under a grand?

    • I want to spend less than $1000 on the donut.

      Send me $999, and I will personally see to it that a fresh Krispy Kreme donut is delivered right to your door.

      I also have a special Donut Of The Month club for a flat fee of $5000 a year.

    • Westernco Donuts, definitely, if there is one in your area.

      I highly recommend the glazed chocolate cake donut. Much better than a raised donut, plus chocolate to boot, and the glazing is just like icing on the cake. Literally.

      If you prefer something in a jelly-filled powdered donut, I'd recommend the raspberry-filled, or lemon-filled varieties, though a combination of these would be a good strategy to employ.

      This, of course, depends on whether you're going to be eating these yourself, or sharing with oth
  • list of camcorders (Score:3, Informative)

    by homb ( 82455 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @08:17PM (#8244103)
    here [bizrate.com] is a list of MiniDV camcorders under $1.000, with reviews.
    I personally have a 1-year-old Sony DCR-TRV950, a 3 CCD camera with excellent low-light sensitivity. I like it a lot, except for the stupid sony stick stuff. Apart from that, the quality is excellent and the camera was under $1000 at the time.
  • by Goonie ( 8651 ) * <robert DOT merkel AT benambra DOT org> on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @08:23PM (#8244158) Homepage
    One thing you might want to consider before laying down too much cash is "how enthusiastic am I about making movies?"

    I played around with making videos back in the days of VHS-C, as did my Dad (who, before that, used to make movies with Super-8 film). Although video editing software is much easier to work with than the edit controllers then available, it's still a bitch to do. To make something watchable, you end up shooting 10 times what makes it to screen, particularly of the interesting bits of whatever it is you're doing. Therefore, you're too busy shooting to enjoy whatever it is you're there for in the first place. Despite image stabilizers, to get decent footage (and to stop your arms getting tired) you need a tripod anyway, as well as extra batteries, auxiliary microphones...and it goes on. Getting decent-quality sound is also a bitch. Then you have to edit it together. Often, once you get home you find that you're missing key things, so for future events you start making a shot list to make sure you get everything...so, to make watchable videos you end up becoming a video director rather than a participant.

    If you're not into all that, you just want a record of a few things and you'll settle for Aunt Mildred being recognisable, a low-end camera will do the job just fine, and spending more than that is a waste. You'll make a far better video with a $500 camera with the right accessories and a bit of effort than a $2000 camera stupidly used.

  • My two cents... (Score:2, Informative)

    by coloradocut ( 751228 )
    I received a JVC GR-D30 as a gift from a father-in-law that was desperate to see movies of his granddaughter. This camcorder sits at the bottom of the JVC Digital/Mini-DV line and my initial inclination was to return it and get something better. After some research I kept it and here's why.

    1. Mini-DV is a popular and relatively inexpensive format.

    2. DVD recording units just don't have it together yet.

    3. Upgrading to a unit that could take pictures was pointless, since I have two digital cameras already

  • by Faeton ( 522316 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @09:34PM (#8244418) Homepage Journal
    Why? Because there's always added costs on top of that. Extra batteries, lots of tapes (because you're actually going to use it right?), nice video tripod (because you don't want to hold it all the time), software for some editing (yes, you DO want to do that), bigger HD to hold all that video (1 gig for every 5 min of vid!!) and the knowledge that anything more will be a waste of money because it'll be obsolete in 2 years, regardless of price. Also, summer vacation usually involves outdoors (I hope so!), so the possibility of theft, weather damage, abuse and other unknowns are factored in. Do you really want to loose a $2k camera due to a bit of sand on the beach?

    Things to note:
    -MiniDV is the way to go right now (decent tape prices, wide availability, good resolution, small size).
    -MiniDVD's are expensive and not good for motion stuff (optical skip!).
    -MiniMPG tapes are pricy but smaller. The quality is actually less than MiniDV due to the inherent compression, since it's native MPEG2 format (yeah, I know MiniDV is compressed, but not nearly as bad).
    -Digital8 is more of a stop-gap between the world of digital and Hi8. Lower resolution and uses 2x the tape (so a 90 min Hi8 tape only lasts for 45 min)
    - Be wary of zoom and resolution claims. High levels of zoom is pretty impractical (digital or optical) due to your shaky hand, and the speed of the zoom (ever notice that TV and movies don't whip up and down from 1x to 40x)? Resolution is another tricky thing. All media formats have a standardized resolution, so a mega-pixel camcorder won't be any better (at least on a normal CRT TV) than a lower res one.
    - Lens quality is important, as the light-gathering abilities (and distortions) affect the image actually more than the CCD itself. Try to get the best you can get in that respect.
    - If you only have a CRT TV (or older projection TV), the limitations of your TV will hold back the quality of the video. You'll notice a HUGE difference in quality from your computer screen vs the TV.
    - You're going to have to transfer the material one way or another, even if you don't edit it, if you want to share your memories. The general public doesn't have MiniDV VCR's and such. Even the MiniDVD you have to duplicate if you want to share the video. Keep in mind a possible loss (potentially major) of quality when transferring to another media, whether it be VHS, VCD or SVCD (preferred).

    Editing video has become surprisingly easy, but still pretty time-consuming if you want to make something nice. But the quality you get is phenomenal. It's like your own TV show, to your liking. Once you start, it's hard not to get hooked. Good luck and happy video memories!

    • by willtsmith ( 466546 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:33PM (#8245134) Journal
      -Digital8 is more of a stop-gap between the world of digital and Hi8. Lower resolution and uses 2x the tape (so a 90 min Hi8 tape only lasts for 45 min)

      What bullshit!!! Mini-DV and Hi8 use the SAME video format: DV.

      Plus, the "long play" setting on the camera will get you the same amount of Hi8 time. Beyond this, the Digital8 tapes are available in "extended" versions. They actually have enough space in the larger cartridge.

      So you see, the only tangible difference between Mini-DV and Digital8 is the size of the tape.

      Sony has a newer format out called "Micro-DV". The tapes actually have flash memory chips on them. It keeps track of the state of the tape.

      Oh yeah, there is one REAL benefit to Digital8. The tapes are a lot cheaper and a lot easier to find.

      Finally, after rendering a LOT of video, you may find that a DVD recorder is handy. It will end up as MPEG-2 anyway. The DVD recorder simply does it in real time. Just edit the MPEG-2 instead.

  • by GlassHeart ( 579618 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @10:40PM (#8244650) Journal
    The feature lists tend to be long, and it's easy to think that the camera you do pick has every feature its competitor has. In the consumer market, vendors really will strip out features that you might have just assumed it would have.

    In my case, these were what I missed:

    • External microphone input - essential if you ever want to use a more suitable microphone than the omnidirectional ones that come with the camera.
    • External video input - essential for one or two VHS tapes that you need to digitize.
    • Digital still - my camera did have this feature, only the image quality was so poor it was really only usable when shrunk down into thumbnail sizes.
    Also, make sure you allocate money in your budget for a bigger battery. The one that comes in the box will probably last you around 30 minutes on a full charge. This time pressure will severely impact your choice of shots.

    Hope this helps.

  • by acomj ( 20611 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @10:45PM (#8244696) Homepage
    For what its worth, I've had a panasonic minidv camcorder (18x optical zoom) for a number of years. My shots have started to come out much better when I started to use a tripod.

    The "Image stabilization" both cameras have helps, but if you want the shots to look really good use a tripod or brace the camera on something (a tree/wall). Its a royal pain in the butt to lug one around. but they have some very small light ones that do the trick. If you don't you risk making viewer sea-sick or having video that looks like blair witch ..

    Note that the more you zoom in the harder it becomes to hold the camcorder steady. to that 22X zoom is harder to hold steady zoomed in than a 10x.

    My camcorder has a "headlight" that clips on the top. It lights things up. This has been very usefull, because most consumer camcorders will record in low light they tend to use a slow shutter speed and look grainy. (This kills batter life though)

    I'll summarize someother points:
    +MiniDV is great. Almost broadcast quality (NTSC).
    +get a good lens on the camcorder
    +3 CCD is better for better color/sharper but may be out of you price range
    +Image stabilization is good. Optical stabilization is better than digital but both work
    +Buy the biggest battery you can find and use the one that comes with the camcorder as a spare.

    Happy shooting
  • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) * on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:01PM (#8244819) Homepage Journal
    I picked up a Samsung SCD27 at Best Buy a few months ago for around $400, and it pretty much does everything I'd want from a DigiCam:

    * 8x optical zoom, +10x digital zoom (enough to go insane with pixelation), good image stabilization
    * Good low light operation: has both a headlamp and powered IR night vision, as well as slow shutter speed modes
    * Stereo mic
    * Relatively large 3.5" LCD
    * Can record from AV in (so you can convert other people's analog videos to DV.
    * Takes 640x480 jpegs & 320x160 mpegs onto Sony memory sticks (I didn't bother with this, my digital camera can do better)

    You owe it to yourself to get a firewire cable and download the digital videos to your computer, though. iMovie comes free with MacOS X, and Windows Movie Maker comes free with WindowsXP from windowsupdate. All you need is a whole bunch of disk space, and maybe a CD or DVD burner to dump all of your videos to something less expensive than DV tapes. You'll have more fun with the fancy video editing than you think, and at worst, it doesn't really take that long.

    Just remember that raw DV format is huge, so you'll need a lot of disk space (~15GB / 60min DV tape) before you compress your files into something more reasonable. Windows Movie Maker seems smart enough to compress on the fly if you have a fast enough machine, though...
  • by emkman ( 467368 ) on Tuesday February 10, 2004 @11:40PM (#8245190)
    I bought a Sony DCR-TRV33 about half a year ago when I decided I wanted a digital camcorder. I payed around 630 for it, seems like you can get it for around 560 now. I like it alot, but you can definitely get something better by now for under a $1000. Now onto my real point.
    When I payed 630$, the MSRP was around 800$ at sonystyle.com . As everyone on /. knows, the internet is great because between ebay, pricewatch, pricegrabber, and the other shopping bots, you almost never have to pay retail for anything. You must however be very careful when buying expensive electronics such as digital camcorders online. Once you choose a model, do not buy it from any site that does not EXPLICITLY state that your camcorder is NEW, INBOX, FACTORY FRESH, and that it comes with a new manufacurer's US warranty. Not just any warranty, a US warranty (assuming you live in the states). A seemingly valid warranty from Sony Japan won't do you any good. If this information is not clearly stated in the item description or in the site's FAQ, you can pretty much guarentee your not getting a new product with a valid warranty.
    The second thing you need to lookout for is sites that push accessories. Its no secret that companies in many industries make all the money off accessories. You can get an inkjet printer with a rediculiously high DPI for 70$, but a black ink cartridge for said printer is 35$. Gillete was happy to send me a free Mach3 Turbo in the mail, since two replacement blade cartridges costs more than the razor. Its no different for camcorders. Every site will try to sell you zoom lenses, extra batteries, extended warranties, tripods, carrying cases, etc. When I first tried to order my TRV33 from one such site, because they had a low price and a US warranty, I recieved an email telling me I had to confirm my order by telephone. I called and the guy on the other end supposedly was confirming my order but really tried to sell me accessories and an extended warranty. When I declined and said I just wanted the camcorder, he said it was being drop-shipped directly from Sony, and would arrive in a week. It never came, and it was never going to. Because I didn't order any accessories, they simply didn't process my order. There are plenty of shady websites like this when in it comes to camcorders, and many sites are actually the same company. I know that was lengthy, but its good information to go in with when looking for a good price on whatever camcorder you decide on. In summary:
    1. If there is not an explicit guarentee that the product is new and factory fresh with a valid US warranty, find another site.
    2. If you didnt buy any accessories and have to call to "confirm your order", find another site.

    Don't just buy from the cheapest place on pricegrabber, you get what you pay for.
  • by martinX ( 672498 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @12:10AM (#8245433)
    Forget /. Just go to the Simply DV Bulletin Board [simplydv.co.uk]. A wide range of users from novices (who ask questions) to pros (who answer them).
  • by NullProg ( 70833 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @12:28AM (#8245579) Homepage Journal
    - Great Audio/Video playpack under Mac/Linux/WinX if you have an All-In-Wonder card from ATI on the PC (Mac's, no problems (Firewire)).
    - Great snapshots with the digital camera feature.
    - 50x zoom (better than my new Sony 3.2 mega-pixel digital camera).
    - Video out connections plug right into TV, hit playback and your watching your movies.
    - Comes with VHC-VHS Adapter for playing with older VCR's.

    a) Had to replace the factory battery after four years. $50 bucks (Not really a complaint, but when the rechargable goes, it goes. No warning. This sucks when your out on a faimily gathering with no backup).
    b) No USB, Firewire/Serial only (My model, this might have changed by now).
    c) The wife won't let me record her naked :)

    This camera cost me around $650 spacebucks in 1998. Check the features on the model you want to purchase. It should be cheaper now as well.

  • Great reviews here (Score:3, Informative)

    by rigmort ( 584960 ) * on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @12:41AM (#8245673)
    This is the best, unbiased site I've found for reviews of cameras: Steve's Digicams [steves-digicams.com]
  • Camuser.co.uk (Score:3, Informative)

    by egghat ( 73643 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @06:18AM (#8247092) Homepage
    I found Camuser.uk [camuser.co.uk] helpful.

    I opted for a Panasonic GS 10 which costs 150 Euros (~180 USD) less and is somewhat leighter than Sony's comparable model (PC 105). Picture quality in low light conditions is a bit better with the Sony. Featurewise those cameras are 99% equal. I didn't like Sony's touchscreen (though that is definitly my personal opinion and it's not bad at all). I didn't like the fact that the Sony's batteries can only be charged inside the camera (at least that's what you get, when you buy the camera; an optional battery charger may be available).

    If you want to spend more than 600 USD, IMHO you'll have to check out the 3-CCD camera from Panasonic. They are a big improvement, which all the cameras in between aren't.

    I wouldn't buy anything but MinDV. Hi 8 is dead and only useful if you want compatibilty with your old camcorder.
    The new DVD(-RAM) recorders are expensive, while picture quality is lower (due to higher compression) and are therefore a waste of money. (They may get really interesting, but the first generation isn't).

    And as many have pointed out: Digital zoom is worthless. A 100x-zoom with a normal 800.000 pixel camera means 80 pixel resolution left and is completely useless.

    Bye egghat.
  • My feature list (Score:3, Informative)

    by Phreakiture ( 547094 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @11:48AM (#8249214) Homepage

    The features I personally would like in a camcorder are:

    • Mini DV format, with D8 as a second (D8 makes the camera bigger)
    • Switchable 16:9/4:3 aspect ratio
    • Place to connect an external mic.
    • 3 CCD. This makes the picture clearer.
    • Progressive scan. This will make for better stills and no tearing on slow-mo runs.

    The camcorder I have has the first two features. I really wish it had the third. I have some good software that can calculate motion vectors and convert the interlaced picture into progressive nicely, thus this becomes the least important feature. BTW, I always convert to progressive scan before making an SVCD or DVD from my video.

    And for the record, I do no editing. I just want the quality of a digital medium. Someone else suggested that film is higher quality, but the remark was clearly made by someone who has never worked with movie film. The cameras are big and bulky due to the amount of film consumed on a shoot. A 12" reel of 16mm film lasts 30 minutes.

    Comparing the digital camera's picture to that of analogue formats, it beats out Hi8 and S-VHS-C a little bit, 8mm a bit more (though 8mm is not bad), and completely smokes VHS-C. DV and D8 cameras are much less costly than S-VHS-C, but more expensive than Hi8. Analogue does not offer wide screen that I have seen. My digital camcorder can do 4:3 (720x480), 16:9 letterboxed to 4:3 (720x480, but only 720x382 is active), or 16:9 (720x480).

    Oh yeah, my camera is a JVC DVL520U.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982