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Old July 29th, 2010, 11:58 AM   #1
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Need advice: consumer HD camcorder

I am looking for a consumer camcorder, preferably with SD card AVCHD recording.
It's crucial that it does NOT look like a professional camera at all, the operator must appear as a normal tourist.
The camera will be used by a video journalist - not a total amateur, but it should still be fairly easy to operate. What I'm saying is, it can't be a DSLR, because manual focus pulling is out of question.

Of course the camcorder should be as light sensitive as possible, and work well in a project together with PAL 50i DVCAM footage from a professional shoulder-mount camcorder.

Any suggestions are welcome, because right now I'm pretty lost between hundreds of consumer devices that all look the same and from their technical data are all pretty much the same as well.

Unfortunately I need to buy it tomorrow, so no time for testing :(
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Old July 29th, 2010, 01:20 PM   #2
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without any price range or details on shooting conditions it's hard to say, but look at recent threads asking basically the same question... answer is the same. To keep it "consumer-looking" I'd say look at the top end of the current big 3 lines - Canon HF-S21, one of the Panasonic 700 series (TM700, HS700, SD700), or my personal pick, the Sony CX550V. They've got lots of less expensive options, but the "flagships" tend to have the best performance (of course with the highest pricetag).

The R CMOS of the Sony is quite clean in low light, since that appears to be on your consideration list. With the low lux mode switched on, and kept in the wide end of the lens range I don't think you'll beat it (like all cameras, it closes the iris as you zoom in, which is why all the reviews that matched the other cameras' "view" thought it was "bad" in low light - between not using the low lux mode and zooming in, they lost several stops), although the current Panasonic top of the line is quite good from everything I've seen and heard. The Sony acitive OIS also is very effective and helpful for handheld use.

All the above cameras will "blend" right in as long as your operator wears a nice bright hawaiian shirt, and shorts with sneakers/knee hi black socks <wink>!
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Old July 29th, 2010, 01:30 PM   #3
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I have a canon HF11 which I have found to be superb as it records at 1920x1080i 50i at 24mbs and has some manual controls as well as good auto easy shooting mode.

I use it all the time for pro and my holiday videos, the HF200 may be a cheaper option as it just uses memory cards as I tend not to use the internal memory much as it is easier to swap cards and keep shooting whilst the first card is loaded into final cut pro.

This video was shot with it and it is very small and easy to use:YouTube - British Beef Jerky Shoot 7-8-09
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Old July 29th, 2010, 01:31 PM   #4
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sony cx550 or tm700 is my suggestion.
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Old July 29th, 2010, 04:52 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Blackhurst View Post
without any price range or details on shooting conditions it's hard to say, but look at recent threads asking basically the same question... answer is the same.
I was considering a price range between 700 and 1100 Euro, and the shooting conditions will probably be low light most of the time.
I can't imagine a camera with good low light performance will be a bad performer in bright daylight, so low light performance is a top priority.

The Sony CX550 looks quite good to me - I was leaning towards Sony anyways, and a few pictures I saw comparing the Sony to the Panasonic 700 series supported that.
The wide angle of the Sony is pretty nice for a consumer product, too. I think the CX550 would be the best option, although at the very top of the price range.
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Old July 30th, 2010, 03:35 PM   #6
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Some people have complained of lens flare in the form of a blue dot (the Wide lens is a bit more vulnerable to this, I've added a cheap hood, just in case), but other than that, bright light performance is good.

Some posters here I trust have done side by side comparisons and feel the Canon (and I'd expect the Panny) is a tad better in "good" light, but I find most of my shooting is in bad or "worse" lighting conditions... so for me the Sony in low lux mode delivers. It also seems to have a better dynamic range so you don't get overly dark shadows and blown highlights if you're in awkward light conditions - it mangages to balance and still get usable footage. IMO for any camera, the true test is how it handles uncontrolled shooting conditions...
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