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Old January 24th, 2009, 05:33 PM   #1
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Please help me pick a camcorder to record my son's auto racing

I would like to get a camcorder to record my son's car races. I'd like to find something that works for beginners, has the clearest picture that I can get, is able to keep up with the fast action, performs well under low lighting conditions (most races are at night under flood type lights), & have a good zoom (I will be have to record setting in the stands) I have been considering the HV30, but have been confused as to whether this camera would do a good job for my requirements & would appreciate any advice or camera recommendations.
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Old January 24th, 2009, 06:51 PM   #2
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I have an HV20, which I believe has the same sensor as the HV30. None of the small camcorders does spectacularly well in low light (because of small sensors), but the HV30 should be better than many. I seem to remember that the HV30 tested decently in terms of low light performance in comparison to other small camcorders. Larger body/sensor camcorders would do better in low light, but cost way more. As for zoom, the HV30 has a 10X zoom, and for handheld that is pushing it. 15X or 20X zooms aren't really usable at extreme telephoto settings, unless on tripods. The HV20/30 has an amazing picture under good lighting conditions.
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Old January 24th, 2009, 06:59 PM   #3
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Thank you so much for your reply. Do you think the HV30 would be able to keep up with the fast action? I've heard differing opinions of whether an HD camera can keep up with my needs. Also, approximately how far away can you clearly see objects at maximum zoom? Just a guess will do fine.
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Old January 24th, 2009, 07:19 PM   #4
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Stephanie... I shoot motor races professionally at a track in Maine. I have an XH A1, HV10 and HV30 atop the press box under iffy lighting. Even with the XH A1, which is better in low light than either of the HVs, I need to pull up the exposure in post to make it look good.

The problem with the HVs is that in low light the image will tend to fall apart. It's hard to describe but the colors disintegrate somewhat and in the low contrast portions of the shots the definition lines turn to junk. I think the HV30 is one of the best consumer HDV camcorders out there. I can't speak to the AVHCD (memory or disk drive) cams.

If you're not married to HD, the SD cams will probably be better in the low light.

Here's an option that might be interesting. Put the camera in the car. I'll put up to three cameras in cars each night and the results can be great. I have an old Sony TRV19 and a couple of Canon ZR900. All very cheap cams. I also get tapes from a Late Model driver who has a cheap, new Sony cam. The Canons and new Sony give great footage, even at night. The older Sony isn't as good.

This is the mount I hang the cameras on: Manfrotto by Bogen*Imaging | Super Clamp with 056 3-D | 2910. Dead solid with no vibration. Even in two hard wrecks into the wall, it barely moved so it's a great piece of kit.

If you want some examples, watch One Great Mini Stock Heat. Keep in mind all of the footage was cooked in post. And yes I messed up the pixel aspect ratio since it's supposed to be 16:9. The XH A1 is the primary camera. The HV30 shoots turns 1 & 2. The HV10 shoots 3 & 4 and wears a .7 wide angle converter which messes with the low light resolution. Take note of the in-car shots. They were shot with the Sony TRV19 which shoots 4:3, so I had to scale the footage up to fit 16:9 which costs some clarity. The ZR900 is much better and shoots native 16:9.

If you need more help, send me a message. I'm not sure there's a lot of racing shooters here.
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Old January 24th, 2009, 07:22 PM   #5
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Stephanie... Although I do not own an HV-20 or 30, a fellow I shoot with does, as a 2nd camera and I have got to tell you it is a terrific little camera. It often fills in as a B-roll camera in a 2 camera shoot or in tight spots. We both own higher end cameras and the images it produces rival theirs.

Note: Long telephotos will require a tripod...you just simply cannot hand hold them.No exceptions.

It is difficult to try and compare many different cameras when you cannot own and try them all, but for the type of camera you are describing, it is safe to say that the HV-20/30 cameras are at the top of the list. You can ask for more, but not of that group of cameras... If I was looking today for a camera in that niche, I would buy one, hands down.

In other words, it is an excellent choice. Will it meet your expectations? I hope so, but if it does not, there is not likely another camera in that group that will do any better. Maybe that is the ultimate advice. How low is "low light"...that CAN be an issue with these cameras.

Does that help?
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Old January 24th, 2009, 08:14 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tripp Woelfel View Post
If you're not married to HD, the SD cams will probably be better in the low light.
Good point, Tripp. For example, an older Sony PD-150 or 170 will give much better results in low light, but of course the footage will be SD and not HD.

Stephanie, the question you are asking is similar to the proverbial statement: "You want it fast, inexpensive and good. Pick any two."

There are very expensive HD cameras that will do a great job for what you want, but you are unlikely to want to spend that much money. Of the small cameras, the HV30 has decent low light performance, but more expensive cameras will do a better job at perhaps 4 to 6 times the cost. One other wild possibility would be to consider the Canon 5D Mark II DSLR, which is primarily a digital SLR but can also shoot 1080 HD video and has spectacular low light performance because of its huge sensor. And of course it would be a pro-quality still camera. But it isn't cheap and would not be as easy to use as the HV30.

My attitude toward this is if you can't test various camcorders, the HV30 would be a decent bet. It is reasonably priced and discounted now, and if you bought it and it didn't work out for what you want, you could get back a good portion of its value on eBay.
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Old January 24th, 2009, 09:59 PM   #7
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Have you filmed any night time races with it? Do you think that it will have enough zoom to record from the stands? My son is wanting it primarily to critique his driving, so in car really won't work. Also, if I were to add a lens would you recommend a fisheye or telephoto? Do you think that the SD would be better? The HD's just look so clear. If you think a SD would be better, what would you recommend?
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Old January 24th, 2009, 11:12 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephanie Lovell View Post
Have you filmed any night time races with it? Do you think that it will have enough zoom to record from the stands? My son is wanting it primarily to critique his driving, so in car really won't work. Also, if I were to add a lens would you recommend a fisheye or telephoto? Do you think that the SD would be better? The HD's just look so clear. If you think a SD would be better, what would you recommend?
No, I have not filmed night time races. At full telephoto zoom, it is almost impossible to get good footage handheld. Camcorders with more zoom than the HV30 would even be less usable handheld. I don't think you would need to add a lens. Fisheye would be of no use for your purpose, and again additional telephoto handheld would give poor footage. I personally would choose HD over SD, as it is the future, but the point that was being made is that reasonable cost SD cameras can outperform HD cameras in low light. But for me personally, I'm never going back to SD.
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Old January 24th, 2009, 11:55 PM   #9
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HV30 should be fine for your purposes. When most of the people on this board talk about a cameras poor low-light abilities, it comes from a professional viewpoint where colour accuracy and saturation has to stay perfect nearly 100% of the time. If this footage is not going to be broadcast or sold, then it is far less of an issue. You will still be able to see all the action, but the colours may seem a little dull and there will be a bit of niose in the image. But it's never been an issue for me.
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Old January 24th, 2009, 11:57 PM   #10
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Stephanie... I am assuming that you own a HD capable TV. Otherwise shooting in HD won't give you a better picture than HD as you will be limited by your display. Of course,you CAN view what you shoot, just down rez's to SD... and someday if you don;t already have a HD set, you can have the races stored in their full HD glory to view again later in HD!
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Old January 25th, 2009, 08:13 AM   #11
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Not sure if your questions are directed at me but I'll chime in anyway.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephanie Lovell View Post
Have you filmed any night time races with it?
Yes. Most of them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephanie Lovell View Post
Do you think that it will have enough zoom to record from the stands?
That depends. How big is the track? I shoot at a 3/8 miler and I'm about 600-700 feet from the back stretch. 10x zoom would leave cars on the back stretch pretty wee. 20x is barely enough, and as it has been said shooting at 10x zoom will give you pretty shaky footage.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephanie Lovell View Post
My son is wanting it primarily to critique his driving, so in car really won't work.
An in-car camera, placed correctly, might actually give better feedback for your son if fitted with a wide angle adapter. You'll see the cars to the side (somewhat) and in front of the car and you'll see the driver work the wheel. Don't know if you're talking about late model, mini or something else, but a well placed in car camera can show a lot.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephanie Lovell View Post
Also, if I were to add a lens would you recommend a fisheye or telephoto?
For shooting from the stands I wouldn't recommend either.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephanie Lovell View Post
Do you think that the SD would be better? The HD's just look so clear. If you think a SD would be better, what would you recommend?
John's comment is accurate. I'm looking at it from a professional perspective and I'm very picky. The HV30 might well be just fine for you. If you want to go SD, the Canon ZR9X0 series would be fine. I believe the sensor/lens combo is the same in all of the units. The only real difference between them are the add-on features. Note that the older versions will not allow the attachment of filters or lenses. The new 960, to be released in the next month or so, has a threaded bezel so attachment is possible.
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Old January 25th, 2009, 10:03 AM   #12
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I am shooting micro sprints. The tracks that we go to are 1/5-1/4 mile ovals. The stands are about 50-80 feet away from the tracks. The videos won't be sold, but I would like to eventually learn how to do editing & make him a video of his racing to music. So, they don't have to be perfect quality as long as they look decent.
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Old January 25th, 2009, 10:52 AM   #13
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I'd think you should get a used PD170. Their low light capability is great at the price point.

The HV20/30/40 will do an adequate job: while it is noisy in low light, I think the picture will be quite viewable for technique analysis. But I think it may be objectionable for a music video.

I sold my PD 170 to buy a HV20. And I'm a bit under enthused. In good light, the picture is great but it is so small, it is hard to keep a steady shot and the zoom control is extrememly touchy.
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Old January 25th, 2009, 10:58 AM   #14
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While much more expensive, the Sony EX1 has proven to be one of the best cameras for low light shooting. Probably out of your price range though. ($6000)
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Old January 25th, 2009, 12:23 PM   #15
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Yeah, way out of my price range :)
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