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Old April 19th, 2004, 06:45 PM   #346
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Best $300-ish Consumer Camcorder

Hey guys,

I'm looking for a cheap, but still good, 1CCD DV camcorder around $300 or prefferrably less. 1.) Is this possible? 2.) What's the best camcorder in this range? 3.) What do you think of buying a consumer camcorder in this range?

Thanks!

Dan
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Old April 19th, 2004, 07:26 PM   #347
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Dan, they just aren't very good at that price-point. I think you need to consider $500 as the bottom starting point unless the $300 unit is a closeout. Note that this is just my opinion.
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Old April 19th, 2004, 07:42 PM   #348
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You could buy used to get more out of your money. If going with eBay, check out the how not to get scammed threads. Are you going to buy used?

For $300, you're going to end up with a consumer camera that will have noticeably less quality than pro cameras. However, depend on your needs, the quality you get can be more than enough. You really need to tell us what you're trying to do. Find a 'good' camcorder doesn't help when every person's definition of a good camcorder is different depending on their needs and tastes. As far as needs go some people want small cameras and others want big professional-looking ones. So what do you need to do?
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Old April 19th, 2004, 08:02 PM   #349
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I'll ask the same question as Glenn: "What do you want to do with your camera?"

I've shot some outdoor footage (nice, clear, sunny day) with my 1-CCD, $300 Panasonic DV53 that looks great. When I first looked at the video, I thought, "Who needs a 3 chipper?"

But then I took my 3 chipper and the DV53 to a radio station to shoot a band's live performance. It was slightly dim, indoor lighting -- it didn't seem too dark, but I had to crank up the gain on both cameras. 3 chipper (DVC80) on full gain looked pretty good; The DV53's footage looked horrible -- it was blocky and grainy, and worse yet, it was still significantly darker than the DVC80 footage.

But I don't regret getting the DV53. I got it so the wife and I could have a cheap camera around to play with, so we could videotape the pets and friends and whatnot w/out having to pull out the 3-chipper. Great for fun, but not recommended if you want to, say, make money producing videos...

Also, there's a guy over on the dv.com forums ("dummy"-something?) who has shot some shorts using a DV52 (the previous model to the 53, 'natch) and they don't look too bad. Not mind-blowing, but OK.

From my POV, even a $300 miniDV cam looks better than many consumer analogue cams (VHS, etc) ever did, especially in good light.
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Old April 19th, 2004, 08:26 PM   #350
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More info

Hey, thanks for the quick replies!

I will be using the camera for very general purposes; it won't be to make money, it will just be to make home-made videos for fun and to record having fun with friends. (I am a college student). I am a "point-and-shooter." Naturally, there will be a wide range of indoor, outdoor, and a share of relatively dim lighting situations.

My main concern in the camera is that it is cheap, but 'good' as in not-crap.... is that possible? Basically the best I can get for that amount. The price point is more important than the features. I would prefer to not buy used, unless I will have to.

Do you have any experience or knowledge of one of the original DV camcorders - the Sony TRV103 Digital8 camcorder? My friend has one of those and the quality/low-light recording has been just fine for my tastes. That camera is four years old now. I am guessing that a new camera today, even the cheaper ones, would have quality equal to or better than that? If that is the case, than that level of quality is just fine with me.

Hope this helps paint a picture, and thanks so much for the help already!

Dan
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Old April 19th, 2004, 10:31 PM   #351
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Re: More info

<<<-- Originally posted by Dan Kuske : Hey, thanks for the quick replies!

I will be using the camera for very general purposes; it won't be to make money, it will just be to make home-made videos for fun and to record having fun with friends. (I am a college student). I am a "point-and-shooter." Naturally, there will be a wide range of indoor, outdoor, and a share of relatively dim lighting situations.

My main concern in the camera is that it is cheap, but 'good' as in not-crap.... is that possible? Basically the best I can get for that amount. The price point is more important than the features. I would prefer to not buy used, unless I will have to.

Do you have any experience or knowledge of one of the original DV camcorders - the Sony TRV103 Digital8 camcorder? My friend has one of those and the quality/low-light recording has been just fine for my tastes. That camera is four years old now. I am guessing that a new camera today, even the cheaper ones, would have quality equal to or better than that? If that is the case, than that level of quality is just fine with me.

Hope this helps paint a picture, and thanks so much for the help already!

Dan -->>>

Though people hate Samsun cameras, I've had great luck with my SCD-23, pretty much the bottom of the barrel price wise. It has a NightShot mode that provides clear, crisp, and focused video in pure blackness if that's the case. Just make sure to check it out if you looking at cameras, I film car race scenes all the time and have had many MiniDV owners compliment me on the quality. Good luck dude!
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Old April 20th, 2004, 12:59 PM   #352
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Dan,

The TRV103 was a early Digital8, and had a large (by today's standards) 1/4 in. CCD. That's why it was pretty good in low light situations. The latest D8s have a smaller 1/6" CCD and lost almost all the features they used to have, such as a manual focus ring, earphone jack, etc. to make place for a one-button EasyCam automatic mode and a complicated TouchScreen menu which I find discouraging.
Also, all D8 models have a permanently automatic-only white balance that you will soon regret if you get serious a bit, even if Hi8 tapes are sturdier and cheaper than MiniDV.

So, as someone wrote before, I'd say look at the basic MiniDV models from Panasonic and you'll get the most bang for the buck!
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Old April 21st, 2004, 11:01 AM   #353
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If I were you I would save up some cash and look on eBay for a Canon ZR25. It has a big 1/4 CCD. I have a ZR60 and it is awesome. I record alot of nature scenes and make some shorts and its well. If you light properly and everything even a small cam will do wonders. You just need to work around the camera.
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Old April 21st, 2004, 11:54 AM   #354
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What do you guys think of the Sony DCR-TRV19 MiniDV camera for $415? And in comparison, what do you think of the Canon Elura 50 MiniDV in the same price range?
Thanks again for everything!
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Old April 21st, 2004, 09:30 PM   #355
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I used the TRV22, which is a TRV19 with more features. The most important/useful additional feature is analog-digital passthrough, which makes the camera convert analog-DV both ways on the fly. It's useful for dubbing tapes and capturing from analog sources.

Video quality is very subjective but ok on the TRV19.
PRO: Saturated and contrasty colors (also a CON depending on taste). Excellent low light for a camera in its price range.
CONS: Not that sharp (could be a PRO if you like softness), although I wouldn't complain too much about that (resolution isn't everything). In certain situations the camera creates artifacts. On bright lights will cause vertical smearing and on fine detail the camera will create a lot of false colors. Both can become distracting but don't occur very often.
In high contrast situations (stage plays), the camera will overexpose even if you compensate by putting it into spotlight mode. Without manual control over autoexposure shift I don't think there's much you can do about this.

Sound: Didn't seem that good, but I didn't test it very thoroughly. Most consumer camcorders have poor sound anyways. The mics are usually low quality and pick up tape mechanism sounds, wind, and handling noise.

Functionality: Has white balance hold. Has manual features, except there's no way you can shoot and change em on the fly easily (as with most cameras). The automatic functions work well '90%' of the time. I didn't notice any hunting with the autofocus. The camera might hunt in low light, but every camera will hunt in low light and the TRV19 has much better low light than other cameras.

It's small.

Lens doesn't zoom out that wide (as with most consumer cameras).

Has mic and headphone jacks if I remember correctly.

The zoom control works fine but is a little fiddely if you want a certain zoom speed. I am guessing that most other cameras have poorer zoom controls.

The tape is bottom loading, which is annoying if you use a tripod.

For family/personal videos, this camera will work well compared to other manufacturer's cameras. It's easy to shoot with and it's easy to carry around. The sound is iffy as with most consumer cameras (a sony MS907/908 might help). The video quality is very subjective... I like its saturated and contrasty colors although some might find it overdone. It doesn't look flat as the output from other cameras. Most people may not notice the video quality (the content, shaky camerawork, and bad sound are the three top things people notice IMO).

Sony cameras can take *big* batteries, but it's Sony and all the accessories and add-ons are expensive and have high markups. I highly suggest getting 3rd party repairs, accessories, cables, etc. where possible and not buying extended warranties. Sony camcorders are #1 in reliability according to Consumer Reports I hear.

The video artifacts are annoying and not as prevalent on other manufacturer's cameras. It's definitely not as sharp, but I don't mind it that much. In low light it definitely beats out other cameras by far. That's like 10% of your shooting situations. Low light performance is based off looking at http://babelfish.altavista.com/babel....html&lp=ja_en. That's a Japanese site with Japanese model numbers. I wouldn't obsess over the images there too much because you should also consider ease of use, size (if that's important), and other factors.

Unfortunately I haven't used any of the other cameras you'd want to look at, so I don't know which is the best buy for you.

Dang, this was a long post and I wasn't able to tell you how the TRV19 really compares to other cameras. Sorry about that.
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Old April 23rd, 2004, 02:07 PM   #356
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OK, so I found a great deal but don't know what you guys would think. I'm looking at a refurbed miniDV Canon ZR60 for $230 with 30 day retail warranty, 90 day manufacture warranty, and a battery (basic). What is your guys opinion on this camera, and how do you think the lowlight (heard its not the greatest) compares to the TRV19? Any help would be much appreciated. I will probably have to get this camera in 5 hours or so if I am going to do it, so speedy responses would be greatly appreciated.

And thank you so much for everything! Everyone has been SO helpful!

Dan
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Old April 23rd, 2004, 03:21 PM   #357
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Dan,

The ZR60 is reported to be a good low-end cam, easy to hold and operate. It has a long 18x zoom, where the TRV19 has a 10x.
I was trying to read what CamcorderInfo had to say about these two, and in one article, Robin says the ZR60 will be hard to beat in its price category, and the next thing you know, she gives the "best in sub-$600 class" prize to the TRV19 for its overall video quality.
Go figure...

The TRV19 has no external microphone input, no manual focus ring. Instead, it has SpotFocus on the TouchScreen. Its 1/4 in. CCD is better in lowlight, and gives more vibrant colors than the ZR.

You should try both and see which one pleases you more.
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Old April 23rd, 2004, 05:39 PM   #358
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OK scrap the ZR60. It looks like it is between:

Panasonic PV-DV53
JVC GR-D33 (the brand new succesor to the D30)

Any suggestions/thoughts? Heard or seen any comparisons between these? THanks!
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Old April 23rd, 2004, 05:53 PM   #359
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I've looked at the Panasonic PV-DV53 and seen footage shot with it from one member. The cam seems okay and the footage looked very good. However, I don't know how reliable this cam is because after a year, that member's DV53's LCD died, along with something else---just after his warranty ran out. You probably don't have a lot of money but I suggest the Sony TRV38. It's being replaced now so they should be going cheap---around $600 maybe.
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Old April 26th, 2004, 01:24 PM   #360
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DV53

I've got this cam and my feeling are decidely mixed. I've had my share of problems with it, that's for sure. For one thing THERE IS NO EXTERNAL MICROPHONE JACK. That might not seem important when you buy it, but if you are making shorts with your friends, sooner or later sombody's going to care about sound, and if you want to do something about it, you'll have to get a separate sound capture device.
Another thing about this cam to watch out for is the EIS. Don't use it. Ever. On my unit, at least, it degrades picture quality to the point where I thought I needed to get my heads cleaned for the second time in the same month. Turn it off, though, and the picture is pretty nice.

I also find that image quality can be increased dramitically by fooling with the camera's rather limited manuel settings. I never point and shoot with this cam anymore.

That said, though, outside on a sunny day, the point and shoot picture quality is pretty sassy, especially for the amount of money invested.

Over all it is a pretty good first cam. If you do buy one I suggest you look at it that way, as your FIRST cam. If nothing else, aftert using it for a while, you will have a pretty good idea of what you want out of your next cam. At $300 usd that seems, to me, at least, a pretty cheap lesson. You could easily go wrong for a lot more money.

As for me, I'm going to buy a 3ccd cam sometime this month. This one looks silly sitting next to my G-5.

Happy hunting to you,
Michael
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