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Old November 30th, 2007, 08:03 AM   #1
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Camcorder for novice.

I need help with a buying decision. I am an amateur looking to teach myself some basic video production to create educational videos on medical topics for my patients.

I am hesitant to spend spend thousands on a prosumer camcorder because I am concerned that: 1. SD (Panasonic 100DVXB, or xl2, or even GL2) is not a good choice because of the newer HD technology that will make SD obsolete over the next few years. 2. my expectation that prices for HD gear will be much lower 12-18 mos from now.

I want to concentrate on content, audio, and lighting. Until the technology and pricing stablilizes somewhat, I need the least expensive SD option that that won't frustrate me too much that has external microphone capability. An example camcorder that I am considering is the ZR800 from Canon since it is available from some dealers for $199. I owned a ZR600 recently ( it died) and the video quality was fine for my purposes (learning and practicing).

OTOH, if SD is going to be around for several years to come (the analogy would be that many serious photographers still use film) or can be adapted to HD output (especially for my purposes) then I might consider one of the above mentioned SD cameras). I would also like to know if buying older but professional level SVHS gear makes any sense.

Thanks in advance for your comments.
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Old November 30th, 2007, 08:52 AM   #2
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If you are going to use the camcorder for educational videos, you need to spend more than $200. You said "I want to concentrate on content, audio, and lighting" On Content you are in control, on audio and lighting then you need a camcorder to be able to use it in all lighting conditions and as far as sound ,it must have a good on board mike or able to use external microphones.
It will be wise to buy an HDV one as most models have the ability to film in DV or HDV. I would recommend the Sony HDR-HC5E.

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Old November 30th, 2007, 10:35 AM   #3
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SD will look fine when played back on HD equipment. Now, if you were aiming at broadcast it might be another story but for the moment a prosumer SD camera would get you better overall results than a lower level HD camera and by the time HD is dominant in the home market you'll probably have worn out the camera and be ready for a replacement anyway. Since you say you are most interested in good audio, the problem you're going to encounter with budget consumer gear is going to be the great difficulty of providing good audio in-camera as most economy models have no provision for external mics or line level sources and sync is more difficult to external recorders. As far as SVHS, fugeddaboutit. The analog videotape recorder is as extinct as the dodo. Try to even find more than 1 or 2 models at your local big box electronics store.
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Old November 30th, 2007, 11:42 AM   #4
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You might want to think of the sony pd170. great camera. maybe more than you want to spend but has a great image quality. their are also 1 chip HD cameras for around 1000 dollars that would work well for your purpose. might want to do a little digging on hist sight and see what you can come up with.

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Old November 30th, 2007, 11:47 AM   #5
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While HDV prices will probably filter down to $250 range consumer camcorders in a couple of years and DV will go away, the price points for camcorders will probably not come down that much. Rather the feature sets and image quality will increase. If you want to learn video techniques for more than home movies, you'll really appreciate the ease of use of the controls of a pro/prosumer camera.

If you can't go new, go used. There are plenty of DVX, GL2, VX2000, PD170 and similar cameras for sale used that are in good condition (I'd stay with DV and not SVHS). You'll get the image quality and pro features good enough to produce videos for your patients. Then down the road if you want to upgrade to HDV or whatever format you'll have a great grasp on what camera features you need/want.
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Old November 30th, 2007, 04:55 PM   #6
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A Canon HV20 is only $650 at B&H right now, if you count the $150 gift certificate they give you (use it to buy tapes or something).
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Old December 2nd, 2007, 10:06 AM   #7
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More thoughts on camcorder for novice.

I agree with the thought that SD video will be in use for some time to come (2-3 years?) because of the costs associated with using HDV. Buying a low end HDV camera (HV-20, for example) without XLR audio and other professional features seems doesn't seem to be a good fit right now.

What about the DSR-250 vs XL-2 or AG-DVX100B? Sony P170 might also be a consideration. I think good 16:9 capability is important.
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Old December 2nd, 2007, 11:17 AM   #8
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Also consider the Sony DSR PDX10 (similar to the PD170) except that the PDX-10 has true 16:9 capability. The PDX10 is also about half the retail cost of the PD170.

I bought one a couple of years ago off ebay and it still never ceases to amaze me!

Nevertheless, have a look here for a review on the PD170 with links to a review for the PDX10 since the retail prices are different for good reasons:
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Old December 2nd, 2007, 11:28 AM   #9
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Have a look at the Panasopnic GS 500 it has the same 3 chip as the PDX10 true 16:9 but no XLR.

It is a superb cam for the money.
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