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Old June 8th, 2011, 12:45 PM   #16
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Re: Would you buy a MiniDV camera now?

Chris was referring to FW in camcoders; we had many issues with them over the years, likely the biggest, most expensive plague in camcorders.

FW may still be OK for a while in your editing room, to connect external hard drives and other peripherals... its days are numbered though with the spreading of USB 3.
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Old June 8th, 2011, 01:06 PM   #17
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Re: Would you buy a MiniDV camera now?

Up until the GoPro Heros came out I probably would have bought one really cheap one to mount on car exteriors, but with the advent of those little buggers I see virtually no reason for myself to ever buy a tape based cam again, let alone one in standard definition.
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Old June 8th, 2011, 01:24 PM   #18
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Re: Would you buy a MiniDV camera now?

Originally Posted by David Jasany View Post
What would you recommend for a prosumer hobbyist that uses his camera for family activities? I edit HDV with Sony Vegas, I like the MiniDV format and I still have plenty of new unused tapes. The HV40 is currently selling in the mid $600 range.
Canon HF M400 probably unbeatable considering price\quality ratio, and there is no way I would go back to tape, being tapeless is great, there is no capture it's just file transfer, but it comes with the price - AVCHD is MUCH heavier codec than HDV, and takes lot more processing power, so be prepared :)
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Old June 8th, 2011, 01:45 PM   #19
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Re: Would you buy a MiniDV camera now?

My $0.02 worth is that I agree with everything that everybody said above, which does not help with the decision, does it?

My suggestions and comments for narrowing down your choices.

First off, the HC7 shoots HDV to mini-DV tapes. It is not a standard def camera (unless you want it to be.) So, we are actually talking about HDV and mini-DV, right? Your camera is not quite as antiquated as the "miniDV" tagline might have implied. You are asking about whether it makes sense to buy tape-based cameras anymore? There is a clear consenus here: don't buy a tape camera if you do not have to.

Second, what is wrong with the HC7? Is the tape compartment not opening or closing properly any more? Or, maybe you are having problems with drop-outs when recording? A tapeless recording unit could sort-of solve these problems. But, the least expensive tapeless add-on unit would be a Data Video DN60 which goes for about $450. It would not require a computer upgrade (assuming you might need one if you moved up to AVCHD.) But, tapeless add-on units are about the same size and weight as your HC7 and need their own batteries or power supply. Not a big deal when shooting from a tripod but a definite hassle when shooting hand-held. Plus, the cost goes a long way towards buying even a low-end tapeless camcorder (as long as you do not need a computer upgrade to work with AVCHD).

Third, if you've got playback issues --- maybe the firewire port on the little HC7 is getting worn and not making good contact all the time --- or other hardware issues --- maybe the autofocus is going out --- then an add-on is not a great idea and buying a new camera is probably where you want to go. Buying a used Canon HV20/30/40 or another Sony HC cam seems like a better idea except for the possibility of those cameras having or developing similar problems. If your HC7 is rapidly heading down the road to Toastville, a used cam would only be a stop-gap. You will still have something to play the old tapes and HDV is not a bad format to use with such little cameras.

Fourth, if your HC7 still does okay with tape-playback, and your computer system is only a couple or three years old, it may make a lot of sense to get a new AVCHD camera. Do you shoot a much video? Do you shoot very short clips or do you shoot longer, continuous footage (say, school plays or sports)? For shorter video, Dave's suggestion of a simple P&S cmaera (and that is P&S not POS) may be workable. If you shoot longer clips, a CX or similar camera may work. The CX160 would be pretty similar to your HC7 and goes for $490, and you might find yourself surprised at how capable this little unit is. There is a recent long thread here about using a CX160 in shooting a dance recital.

Amateur Recital Video Production
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Old June 8th, 2011, 05:51 PM   #20
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Re: Would you buy a MiniDV camera now?

Jay, you've brought up many good points. First, I shoot HDV on MiniDV cassettes. I don't think my HC7 is an antique since it does support 1080i and does everything I need it to, including support my Rode VideoMic.

My HC7 has a mechanical problem that seems to be common on the HC3/HC5. The camera gives an error code C:31:23 which indicates a problem potentially with the supply reel. The problem typically occurs while rewinding and trying to play.

My HC7 sometimes just records a black screen with no sound and the only indication that it's not recording is that the timecode has restarted from 0 instead of the timecode on the tape. I've performed complete power down resets many time which does help for a small period of time. I 've run a tape head cleaner through it, and I've closely examined the mechanism for dirt, broken or loose parts, etc.

Sony's only advise was to send it in for repair, which was somewhere around $400 with Sony. I know there are other less expensive places to have it repaired, but it's still likely around $200 or more. Sony's aready repaired this HC7 once while under warranty due to excessively load motor noise in the recordings.

After reading the comments and thinking it through, I'm not going to buy a used or new MiniDV video camera. I'm begining to like the idea of replacing my HC7 with the CX160 or similar Canon. I think $500 is a good price target for me. Although the Sony Nex 3/5 look great, for me I need my video camera to be a little more compact that the Nex cameras with the large lenses.

I shoot both short clips and large events such as graduations, sporting events, etc. As for editing AVCHD, I have a 1 year old custom PC with an Intel i7 quad core @2.8 GHz, 6GB RAM.
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Old June 8th, 2011, 06:24 PM   #21
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Re: Would you buy a MiniDV camera now?

Originally Posted by David Jasany View Post
Thanks for all the comments. I agree it's time to ditch MiniDV and to look at other technologies. Thanks for mentioning the Sony Nex 3 or 5. It looks like an interesting camera that possibly could fill my need for both photos and videos. I plan to give the Nex a serious look as well as competing products as this market develops.

I already have a very nice prosumer compact, a Canon G11, but unfortunately when I bought it I didn't have a need for it for videos. So I'm stuck with its SD and monoural capabilities. Even the G11 successor, the G12, only does HD at 720p 24fps. If I want 30fps, it's back to SD.

I might play around with my G11 and see how it does for video. Given my need is personal use, and my delivery format is DVD, this might suffice for now. But I really hate to take steps backwards in the quality of my projects, especially in audio.
I also have a G11...I bought it as a carry around camera in my "pre-video" days too. It's a great camera, and I got thousands of terrific photos from it, but when I shot the FIRST frame with a NEX in the store, I was completely blown away by the difference.

The video quality was, even then, not a huge tripping point....that came shortly after. The stills quality of the Nex is simply superb, and the only thing holding it back from being a mainstream video system is the dang thing is so small no one takes it seriously.

As I said, I've shot with it as a B-cam on a number of shoots, and just booked another one today in a dental surgeons office, where it will in all likelyhood be the A camera because of it's size.

A new version of firmware is scheduled for release on June 20 that will give it focus peaking as well as a few other "artsy" modes. The peaking will function during video shooting, which makes using the camera with a legacy, manual focus lens a very realistic choice.

The G11 is still a great little P&S camera; it's found a permanent home on my gigapan unit, and will likely stay there. The NEX has taken it's place as my "go everywhere" camera
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Old June 8th, 2011, 06:51 PM   #22
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Re: Would you buy a MiniDV camera now?

Your system should be able to edit AVCHD, so that is not a concern.

I suggested a CX160 simply because it happens to be the only one of the less expensive cams that I know a little bit about it. (Emphasis is on "knowing little"). There may be other small cams with similar capabilities. Check out the dance recital link which also had some examples of footage and discussed the features that it had and does not have. The discussion was continued in another posting in the Vegas forum, so the video examples might be there.
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Old June 8th, 2011, 10:51 PM   #23
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Re: Would you buy a MiniDV camera now?

Well, at least you don't have to budget for a computer upgrade TOO...

$500 is a tight budget point, you're right at the upper end of the really "consumer-y" cameras, and below the semi - decent consumer top of the line stuff... even the HC7 was about 2x that when new... while you typically get "more" bang every year, the manufacturers tend to stick to the general "buck" points as far as features, you drop below certain points, and the features just ain't there.

Any Sony "still" camera (P&S or NEX) will have a 29 minute clip limit, but you can just restart when needed.

You mention the Rode, so you're probably really back into a video camera form factor. I'd recommend you bump the budget a little and look at last years Sony CX550V, pretty nice balance of features and performance, probably between $700-1000 depending on your bargain hunting skills. While there are a few new features in the 2011 models, I haven't seen any compelling reason to upgrade from the CX550... it's sort of the natural evolution of the HC series.
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Old June 9th, 2011, 05:00 PM   #24
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Re: Would you buy a MiniDV camera now?

Just for the record, I did, at the end of December. Your needs may well be different.

At work much of my video is still for SD 4:3 (for viewing on our smartboards and 4:3 computer monitors) with some SD 16:9 required. I am never asked for any HD footage but do actually acquire some footage as HD and downconvert if it looks like it will be needed for some time.

For me, tape is still the most convenient and accountable way of storing all original footage (which is a requirement of our filming policy in school). All original footage is available for inspection if required, every project on its own tape. No tapes are ever reused nor is any footage deleted. Reassuringly simple for managers who are distrustful of hard drives and memory cards having experienced the consequences of failures and lost data.

Since I will be retiring soon, would I buy a tape based camera now, 6 months later? Possibly not.
But I have recently archived some of my own projects, which were shot straight to hard drive, to HDV tape.
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Old June 10th, 2011, 01:54 PM   #25
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Re: Would you buy a MiniDV camera now?

One myth I would like to scotch is that consumer AVCHD cameras produce better images than similar HDV tape machines (unless someone can prove otherwise of course). I use an HV40 and a TM900 (AVCHD). Both are fantastic cameras for the money but for me, the TM900 does not shoot better video (though does have a 50p setting if that is important to you but is very difficult to edit). The images on both are wonderful btw.

So if money is an issue and HV40 is going cheap I'd grab it while you can - the general mood from this thread shows why they are cheap - it is nothing to do with image quality but everything to do with dislike of tape and a sense one must move with the times and to be fair it is hard not too with people predicting the demise of firewire for instance.

But I am biased cos I love tape and have no idea why people hate it so much - it's so convenient! And on my MacBook Pro it takes just as long to log and transfer the AVCHD files into FCP converting to ProRes 422, as it does to play, revue and capture footage from tape.

If you do decide on tapeless, the TM900 is incredible for the price and many think it the best around.
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Old June 10th, 2011, 03:44 PM   #26
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Re: Would you buy a MiniDV camera now?

Although I like the storage offered by MiniDV, I won't be spending any more money on the format. I've been looking at the Canon Vixia M400 and it will probably be the model I buy to replace my failing HC7. The funny thing is that the tape mechanism on my old and first MiniDV camcorder, the Canon Elura, still works fine. I still occassionally use the Elura for recording audio with its audio line in.

Last edited by David Jasany; June 11th, 2011 at 05:51 AM.
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Old June 11th, 2011, 06:14 AM   #27
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Re: Would you buy a MiniDV camera now?

Just as an extra thought. I now use tapeless camcorders (Sony EX3 ^ Canon XF305) and find them convenient to use etc. However, the one ting that I do miss, is the transfer of video to computer. With tape I could sit and review all the material as it is being downloaded. With memory card I have to watch the status bar going up and then review the material. OK so I can scrub the content and see a quick preview, but often watching the content in real time is the best option.

Having said all that, the thing that annoys me most about tape, is trying to get FireWire to recognize the camera, sometimes this would take several attempts and a re-boot before it got going, other times it would just get on with the job.

I wouldn't go back to tape, especially after my camera chewed up a couple of tapes and at other times when there was a slight bit of moisture on the head the first few minutes were lost.
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Old June 11th, 2011, 08:43 PM   #28
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Re: Would you buy a MiniDV camera now?

Interesting comments about firewire. I have been working in broadcast TV
since 1998 and had my own business since 2002 editing video for news
stations, PBS stations, corporate video, documentaries, TV commercials,
weddings, events and government meetings, as well as doing live video
webcasts and never ONCE have I had an issue with firewire. It always
just worked for me. USB 2 is what has always given me issues. I
actually wish MORE cameras had firewire on them instead of USB 2!
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Old June 11th, 2011, 09:17 PM   #29
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Re: Would you buy a MiniDV camera now?

The problem with Firewire isn't the technology. It's that the market is leaving it behind.

Speaking of technologies that go out of the mainstream but are still viable, I wonder if the Super 8 format will get a resurgence, based on the film by the same name. (BTW, the film rocks.)
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Old June 13th, 2011, 08:45 AM   #30
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Re: Would you buy a MiniDV camera now?

Will USB 3 be faster than firewire?
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