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Old May 24th, 2012, 08:26 AM   #1
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best camcorder under $3000 for my needs?

I've been googling 'best camcorder under $3000' - - I figured i could get some help here listing my needs.

I haven't been keeping up on all the new HD technology. I've been using my Canon XL2 and XL1 for the last 10 years. Here at our Non-Profit organization we have in the budget for around roughly $6000. The boss wants 2 new HD cameras. I already have 2 heavy tripods, lav mics, lighting kits, misc video equipment.

We use 2 cameras for a 2 camera shoot sometimes but the 2nd camera (used mostly for the wide shot to cut to) isn't as important. Could we buy 2 different cameras at different prices? One main cam, being the more expensive camera and the 2nd cam less expensive since it will not get used that often and only as a wide shot cam (pretty much always outdoors). so spent $4K on the main and 2K one the other? does that make sense? Only prob i see is the change of picture -- i could fix in post though.

We are involved in youth sports and deal with parks & rec departments. I do a lot of interviews indoors as well as shooting kids sports. Are clients in the past were mainly viewing DVD and some even VHS but now in the day of web delivery we are moving forward. 50% of our videos are viewed online and we only see that increasing.

Coming from the XL2 do you guys have any recommendations? It's basically the only camera I've ever worked with. Some of the smaller HD cameras I have seen seem like a wireless mic receiver would be hard to mount on the camera with getting in the way -- i don't know though.

On B&H they have these listed

Camcorders

Last edited by Pat Engh; May 24th, 2012 at 10:30 AM.
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Old May 24th, 2012, 08:35 AM   #2
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Re: best camcorder under $3000 for my needs?

Look at the Canon xf100. Don't let the small size fool you. Forget that it is a single chip. Outdoor footage will look great in HD. Good controls, dual CF card slots, and "smart" batteries.

Interviews will not look quite a good as if they were shot with a DSLR, which has pleasing shallow depth of field.

I traded in my XH-A1s to B&H ( it should be in their used section if it did not already sell).
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Old May 24th, 2012, 11:53 AM   #3
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Re: best camcorder under $3000 for my needs?

1. You should decide if you are going to go on working with tape, or if you are going to adapt your process to be able to store digital files for your raw footage. Most people are going digital files, but it does mean devising a way to keep your raw footage.

2. I have the VG-20. Pluses are that you pick it up and shoot it out of the box. You also have the ability to adjust shutter speed, gain, etc. and it is great in very low light. This video shows you the range the camera had on a sunny day into late night. Bad news is VG20 does not have saturation, contrast or sharpness adjustment, so if you like to tweek that stuff, its not available. Remember too that the large chip cameras like the VG20 have a much shallower depth of field, and you need to be riding focus more, even in auto modes.



3. If low light is not a big issue, I think a 1/3 chip camera like the XF100 is probably still your choice for easier access to control and ease of shooting. But I have not used the camera. At this point, I am still shooting my trusty FX-1 and added a chip recorder to modernize it. Camera still does outstanding job for the type of video you are shooting.
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Old May 24th, 2012, 12:37 PM   #4
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Re: best camcorder under $3000 for my needs?

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Originally Posted by Richard D. George View Post
Look at the Canon xf100.
The XF100 could work for the wide shots, but its zoom isn't long enough for following the action when filming sports. Here is a quick survey of cameras with suitable 20x servo-zoom lenses organized roughly by price: Canon XH-A1s, Panasonic AG-AC130, Sony HXR-NX5U, Canon XF300. Later in October the JVC-HM600 could be added to the middle of this list.

The AG-AC130 is only a year old but currently on sale to make way for the newer AC130A model. Unless you rely heavily on autofocus, this camera may be your best option for filming outdoor sports.
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Old May 24th, 2012, 02:04 PM   #5
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Re: best camcorder under $3000 for my needs?

I'm hearing a lot of good things about the AC130. Would you recommend any camcorder under $2000 to pair with the AC130? In our videos the #2 is used probably 20/25% of the time and not that important. Most videos that we do only involove 1 camera but from time to time we do 2 camera setups. I need to fit 2 cameras in the $6000 budget
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Old May 24th, 2012, 11:52 PM   #6
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Re: best camcorder under $3000 for my needs?

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Would you recommend any camcorder under $2000 to pair with the AC130?
Right now the AC130 is $3300 so you'd go $600 over budget with two of them. I find it difficult enough to match the images from two identical cameras, but the Panasonic HM40 is at least from the same manufacturer.

Alternatively, you could get a matched pair of used cameras. The Canon XHA1 has a 20x zoom and CCD sensors which are anyway better for fast moving sports. Moreover, it sells for less than $1500 used.
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Old May 25th, 2012, 12:20 AM   #7
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Re: best camcorder under $3000 for my needs?

Hi Pat

I have two ac-130's ..the image is awesome and the low light is great too..so far (because I have migrated from shoulder mount cameras) I have had to build my cameras into a SM rig and also add a loupe EVF

Negatives at present are only with the massive 22X zoom autofocus just isn't reliable enough so when I'm doing weddings I use the main cam on manual as most of us do anyway.

If you don't need super low light performance and a TV reporter style camera the HMC80's are really worth looking at too!! I had mine for 2 years and they produce a great image and have the best viewfinder in the business..you can use them manually and also in full auto and get away with it!!! With their discount price at the moment you can almost get two for the price of an AC-130!! Then you have no matching issues at all. Although they are a larger form factor than the HMC40, you get the advantage of decent XLR audio at a lower than HMC40 price....probably the most useful cameras I have ever owned !!!

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Old May 25th, 2012, 02:17 AM   #8
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Re: best camcorder under $3000 for my needs?

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Right now the AC130 is $3300 so you'd go $600 over budget with two of them.
Pat - I recommend buying 2 of the same camera - it will really reduce your headaches in post. You can get a couple of AC130s from Ryther for $6000 total: Panasonic AG-AC130 AVCCAM HD Handheld Camcorder

If you think you'll miss the shoulder mount form-factor with these little palmcorders, go for a couple of http://www.amazon.com/Panasonic-AG-HMC80-AVCCAM-Shoulder-Mount-Camcorder/dp/B0045JA8F4.

If you think you'll miss the XL2's CCDs with skew/jello-prone CMOS cameras, take a look at the 3-CCD http://www.amazon.com/JVC-Compact-Handheld-3-CCD-Camcorder/dp/B0067HTBTG. If you're doing fast pans on the sports field, this could be an issue.

Any of these cameras will produce great images for DVD or online delivery - the question is - which choice best fits your shooting style and workflow requirements.

In every case, coming from mini-DV, your next challenge is likely to be which NLE to buy :-)

Cheers and good luck with your decision,

Bill
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Old May 25th, 2012, 03:50 AM   #9
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Re: best camcorder under $3000 for my needs?

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You can get a couple of AC130s from Ryther for $6000 total.
Have you successfully purchased anything from Ryther?

Ryther Camera - Linden, NJ
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Re: would you buy your 1dmk4 from RytherCamera?: Canon EOS-1D / 1Ds / 5D Forum: Digital Photography Review
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Old May 25th, 2012, 04:12 AM   #10
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Re: best camcorder under $3000 for my needs?

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Although they are a larger form factor than the HMC40, you get the advantage of decent XLR audio at a lower than HMC40 price.
I think the HMC40 has also been discounted so it is about $500 less than the HMC80. The problem with two of these is that the 12x zoom lens will seem constrained for someone used to shooting with an XL2.
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Old May 25th, 2012, 06:32 AM   #11
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Re: best camcorder under $3000 for my needs?

I'd consider pairing the AC-130 or 160 and the Panny TM-900.
The 900 was selling for $600 around Christmas - still kicking myself for not getting one.
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Old May 25th, 2012, 06:36 AM   #12
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Re: best camcorder under $3000 for my needs?

Thanks Eric

Over here the HMC80 is $1780 and the HMC40 is $2040 (strange???) Before import costs of course which add another 10% ...I cantr survive without XLR channels so a HMC40 would have to include the XLR adaptor too!!

Shucks, I rarely use more than 5X zoom on anything!! My AC-130's have 22X zooms which for me is crazy...unless you are doing really long shots or bird watching it takes a lot of skill to follow sport or suchlike at a zoom of 20X or more...I struggle at 10X or 12X

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Old May 25th, 2012, 11:55 AM   #13
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Re: best camcorder under $3000 for my needs?

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it takes a lot of skill to follow sport or suchlike at a zoom of 20X or more...I struggle at 10X or 12X
Note also that because the lens on the HM80 isn't as wide as the AC130, then the HM80 at full zoom is about the same as the AC130 at 17.5x zoom. For comparison, this is similar to the XL2 in wide screen mode at 11x zoom. The same goes for the HM40.
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Old May 25th, 2012, 04:57 PM   #14
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Re: best camcorder under $3000 for my needs?

Pat --

The A/C 130 is a very interesting and capable camera. Unfortunately, I can't recall having seen any discussions here (and did not find any with a quick search) about pairing it with other, smaller cams. The only thing I found was a guy in Minnesota who was concerned about having to shoot dance recitals from the back of a hall, and the suggestion was getting two of the AC 130 cams. That is probably not transferrable to your situation. From my experience with multi-cam shooting, I can say that shooting dance in a dark theater with stage lighting is going to be different than shooting sports in well-lighted venues. Hopefully, somebody else can provide some information on experience with possible pairings.

There have been postings about successfully matching the TM700 and 900 cams with the HMC150, but I do not know how that will translate to the AC130.

My experience shooting a lot of multi-cam events with Canon and Sony cams says that you definitely can mix a less expensive consumer cam with a good, long reach "better" camera. For example, my basic multi-cam set-up combines a Sony NX5u, an FX1000 (with an MRC tapeless unit) and some CX550v cams. Before acquiring that rig, I combined a Canon XHA1 and a little HV20. I've still got the Canons and use them regularly with larger weddings and theatrical shoots. (I also acquired tapeless recording units to avoid the seemingly inevitable dropouts I got when recording HDV to tape.) I've also used the Canons for recording some baseball games for the locals.

Basically, I put the little cams on tripods, set them wide, and use them for cut-aways and wide shots which is what you seem to have planned on doing. Except for the occasional unavoidable discrepancies resulting from the different camera locations and angles, I rarely have had problems with Sony footage matching with other Sony footage or with the Canon footage matching with the other Canon footage. The main problems have come with indoor shoots (such as stage shows and some oddly lit wedding venues) where I have to be careful not to over-adjust the NX5 or XH, particularly in dim lighting. The NX5 will go almost as deep into low light as my old VX2000 --- which is pretty darn deep --- but one has to be careful with adjusting the NX5 to avoid video noise that comes with increased gain. The XHA1 is much more limited in low light. That said, night-time baseball and football games under field lights have not been a problem for any of my cams.

The CX550 has been replaced in the Sony line-up by the CX760. One thing you might find useful for sports is that the CX760 will record full 1080/60p. The NX5, however, does full 60p only in the 720 format. Mixing these would not be a problem when mixing for DVD. Depending on how "high def" your web videos need to be, this might or might not present issues for the web display.

Another interesting development with these cams is Sony's "active steady shot" in the NX5 and an enhanced version of it in the new CX760. These can do an amazing job of steadying the handheld shots even on long zooms. I believe both Panasonic and Canon have come out with similar developments, but others will have to comment on them.

A $6000 budget should be adequate but bear in mind that there will be more expense that just the cameras. For example, an NX5 would cost about $4000. (A slightly less-capable but otherwise similar AX2000 will run about $3500.) A CX760 will will be about $1500. This combination would be within your $6000 budget and leave some money for for SD cards, at least for the NX5. (You can get 128 gB of on-board storage for the NX5 with an FMU128, but that adds about $700; the AX2000 will be SD cards only.) The CX760 has 96gb of onboard flash memory storage (about 9 hours) plus an SD card slot.

For shooting sports, you probably want to budget for some extra camera batteries, as well. The biggest batteries run around $100 each and give you much greater shooting time. For, example, the NP-F970 has run my NX5 for nearly six hours. I've run a CX550 for 4 hours using the NPFV100 battery. I believe there are similar (and similarly priced) battery choices for Canons and Panasonics.

In addition to budgeting for camera equipment, you may need to budget or plan some computer upgrades. This will depend on the age and disk-set-up of your computer editing systems. You apparently have systems and NLEs that were fine for editing DV/SD, but your current editing program may or may not handle AVCHD. Even if the program can ingest AVCHD, the system hardware may or may not be able to handle it, AVCHD is a heavily compressed format. Editing AVCHD files requires your NLE to decompress on the fly, and that can be a very heavy load on a system. The HDV format, shoot by older HD cams such as the XHA1, presents the same kinds of problems, but to a lesser degree because HDV is not as heavily compressed as AVCHD. So, when budgeting for a camera upgrade, your department might also need to budget for some computer upgrades.

An alternative way of handling HD is to convert you HDV or AVCHD using a program like Cineform/GoPro's "Studio." This used to be sold as Cineform NeoScene but is now a free download. There are other similar programs that run variously on Macs and PCs, and some of them are free. I am just citing "Studio" as an example. Basically, these programs decompresses HDV or AVCHD by converting all the video frames into "I" frames which results in a more readily edited AVI or MOV file. This free conversion has a price, though, because the conversion takes time and the decompression results in a file that is 5 to 7 times larger than the HD camera file. For example, an hour of 24 Mbps AVCHD may occupy about 12 gb. The decompressed AVI file may be 75 gb in size. So, your budget might need extra hard disks and you may need to figure in extra time for the conversions.

With regard to the suggestions on getting some used equipment, your agency's purchasing regulations may or may not permit it. Best check on that if you have not already done so.

For getting further recommendations on cameras, a bit more information on how you shoot and exactly what you shoot might be helpful.

You mentioned having heavy tripods. Do you mainly shoot from the tripods? Maybe you shoot the sports from the tripods and also some of the interviews? Do you shoot sports with a roaming, hand-held camera? Do you need a shoulder mount? Would a monopod work? (More things to consider for the budget. That Panasonic AC130 is a pretty big piece of equipment, as was the Canon XL2, so you may be used to this.

You mentioned wireless mics. Are you using lavaliers or cardoids on booms? Do the receivers for your your wireless mics user XLR connections? Maybe you going directly into one camera through a mixer? If going through a mixer, how does it connect to the camera? Do you need XLR inputs for both cameras?

What sports are you shooting and what or for whom is the distribution intended? For example, are you shooting wide-field outdoor sports such as baseball, American football, and soccer ("football" in the rest of the world) or are you mainly shooting indoor games such as volleyball and basketball? Maybe, all of the above and more? For some of these sports, a 20x zoom would be very handy. Maybe you are positioned midfield at a football game and you sometimes need to zoom towards the goals? Maybe you need to zoom to the outfield in a baseball game to show an oufielder catching a long fly ball and it is important for the kid's parents to recognize their child. (This is the case with the dance video that I shoot, and for that I find having a 20x zoom very useful. I do not follow the whole dance at 20x, but do need the occasional close-up. Sometimes, for solos, I'll be following at about 14 or 15x. Obviously, this is from a tripod).

On the other hand, if the video is basically for teams to review later, having the long zoom may not be all that important. Of course, for mixing to DVD, you can use some digital zoom on the camera or pull-in-the framing in editing without apparent adverse effect. Depending on the resolution and format being used for your agency's web video, this may or may not work as well as it does for the DVD.

If you do not need zooms greater than 10x, and do need XLR inputs on both cameras, then you could do well with combining the Canon XF100 (about $3000 US) with an XA10 (about $2000 US) as somebody recommended previously. That would give you excellent and reasonably well matched footage while leaving $1000 in the budget for cards and batteries. Likewise, you could combine the XF100 with the top end of the Canon Vixia line and get good matching of video for about $500 less.) There have been posting here about these kinds of pairings.

However, for you, coming from using the XL2, the XF100 might seem pretty bare bones as well as small. You could look at the NX5/CX combo I have used. The NX cam will seem rather smaller although it does have a lot of adjutability. The AC130 will seem more immediately familiar in adjustability as well as size. If you do not need XLR inputs on both cams, hopefully somebody has experience with matching a Panasonic consumer cam with the AC130.
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