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Old March 31st, 2003, 01:21 AM   #1
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Me: Newb who wants to spend < $1K US...need advice

Hi all,

I am really glad I found this forum. It seems like there are tons of people here who really know what they are talking about. All the other forums I found had many questions, but no answers! Anyway...

I have never owned a camcorder of any type, but my wife and I recently had a baby daughter 3 weeks ago. Luckily, 2 days before she was born, I went out and bought a MiniDV camcorder (Canon ZR70) at our local electronics store (Fry's), so that I could film some very important times in our lives. I pretty much knew I would return the ZR70, because at the time, I wanted the TRV38, but brickNmortar stores weren't carrying it yet. So I returned the cam, and got a Canon Optura 200 MC. This cam is more than I want to spend we don't much like the ergonomics of the vertical form, so I am going to return this one as well.

So...I want to buy a new MiniDV camcorder, and want to spend less than $1K US. Stills are pretty irrelevant for me. I am most interested in getting very good video. Since we will be videoing our very young daughter alot, good (at least decent?) indoor/low light performance is a must. I also want to get a camcorder I can "grow into" as far as manual control. (I'm a newb to video, but hope to grow out of that.)

Over the last few weeks, I have done alot of research, and was going to get either the Sony TRV38 or the Canon Optura 20, leaning toward the Optura 20 solely on specs. I have been waiting for reviews of these cams, and then I read about the upcoming Panasonic PV-GS70. Then lately, I have read through these forums, and wonder if I should get an older cam with a larger CCD and optical image stabilization. Anyway, I need help in figuring out what to get. Any suggestions or considerations would be much appreciated.

-neal
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Old March 31st, 2003, 01:48 AM   #2
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Hi Neal,

Ignore the specs. The numbers are pretty much meaningless; all DV camcorders have much more in common with each other than they do any real differences. The right one for you is the one which feels right in your hands and whose controls are laid out in a way with which that you feel most comfortable. By all means, try before you buy. Ergonomics rules the day.

What did you not like about the ZR70? It has three low-light modes (low light, color night shot, super night shot).
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Old March 31st, 2003, 01:57 PM   #3
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Chris, thanks for your advice. I will definitely try the cameras before I buy one for good. I was hoping that I could get some advice on the strengths and weaknesses of the cameras I am considering in regards to video quality. From what I have read at these forums and other places, all camcorders are not the same as far as video quality and dim or low light abilities.

As far as the ZR70, I owned it for about 2 weeks and shot about 2 hours of total video, all of it indoors, and alot of it at night indoors. Alot of the video I took was very noisy and dull in color. I also felt that camera was a bit too tall, making it feel a little bit clumsy in my hands. Additionally, I am concerned about the motor noise in very quiet situations, which will probably happen frequently, since I am videoing a baby in most cases right now.
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Old March 31st, 2003, 02:18 PM   #4
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Hi Neal,

<< strengths and weaknesses of the cameras I am considering in regards to video quality. >>

DV is DV is DV. Among all one-chip camcorders under $1K, video quality is going to be pretty much consistent across the board. There are differences in the flavor of the video (Sony is somewhat cool and blue, Canon is warm and red).

<< motor noise in very quiet situations >>

They all have this problem.
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Old March 31st, 2003, 05:47 PM   #5
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The panasonic DV852 is currently selling for around $900US.
It has a leica lens (you can't get much better)

a 1/3.8 mega pixel CCD ( really good for low light and better than most for stills)

Optical stabilizer (better than digital)

full range of manual controls so when you get past that initial point and shoot phase you have the full versitility of manual focus, shutter and white balance.

built in flash

Pana's top end consumer single chippers are well built. This would be a top pick for me if I was in the market for a single chipper. they're being discontinued so grab one while you can. They are already discounted.

I tried to include a link to the panasonic site, they must be working on it.

You'd have to spend a lot more with Sony or canon to get the same quality. Canon and Sony have had winners in past years in the high end single CCD, this year and last they're cheapening the product and adding more of what you don't need for good video.

This isn't blind brand loyalty, I own 2 Sony's that were both at the top of the list a few years ago.

If you wanted to spend less i'd still stay with panasonic. The next tier down is about half the camera and for almost the same money.

If you have any questions email me at beaser@eudoramail.com

edit
looking at the TRV38:
It has a 1/4.7" CCD (.021) compared to the pana 1/3.8 (.26") CCD which is a fair difference. I've seen the new crop of Sony's and i wasn't impressed with the build. My old TRV20 is built like a brick outhouse. It was the top of the line megapixel 3 years ago.

The optura 20 looks good on paper and I have no personal knowledge of it.
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Old April 1st, 2003, 01:34 AM   #6
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Thank you very much Bryan. That's exactly the kind of advice I am looking for. Of course, I am going to try and follow Chris' advice and try it out.

How do you guys think 3 X 1/6" CCDs of the Panasonic PV-GS70 will compare to the 1/4" CCD of PV-DV852 for dim light abilities?

Also, does lens size matter much for dim light abilities? Does anyone know the lens sizes for the PV-DV852 or PV-GS70?

Thanks,
Neal

Edit: OOOPS! I was thinking of the Optura 20's 1/4" CCD. Thanks for pointing it out Frank.
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Old April 1st, 2003, 04:04 AM   #7
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I agree with beaser: go with the PV-DV852. By the way, this cam has a 1/3.8" CCD. The PV-DV702 is also a great cam, but with a few less features---mind you, it's 1/2 the size of the 852.

On another front, I'll be comparing playback footage of the XL1 with the DVL9500! Sound too.

Regarding, "3 X 1/6" CCDs of the Panasonic PV-GS70 will compare to the 1/4" CCD of PV-DV852 for dim light abilities?" First off, I would bet that the GS70 will barely achieve 500 horizontal playback lines, whereas the 852 plays back 530 horizontal lines. With the lux, sorry, the 852 is the low light king in this price range.
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Old April 1st, 2003, 06:37 AM   #8
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By the way Neal, congrats on the new member of the family there!
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Old April 1st, 2003, 03:33 PM   #9
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Thanks Frank. I am going to try and find a brickNmortar store that carries both and try them out. I have to admit, I notice the difference between the optical stabilization of the Optura 200MC over the ZR70's digital stabilization. That makes the PV-DV852 very appealing to me.

And thanks Chris. We are very excited. We video the sillyiest things now. But imo, its better to have too much video that you don't watch, then no video when you want it.

Thanks again for all the help. If you guys think of anything more to help me with, I am definitely open to suggestions.

-neal
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Old April 1st, 2003, 05:07 PM   #10
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I have a couple of students with Leica lenses on their Panasonic cameras. I am noticing a much greater than average barrel distortion. It is very noticeable on the wide angle shots (interiors). This is also being discussed on the DVX100 forums (here and elsewhere) so, even their higher end Leica lenses have this problem.
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Old April 1st, 2003, 08:23 PM   #11
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Thanks for the info Jeff. And thanks for the link to your article. It is very imformative.

Jeff, do you have any cameras that you suggest I consider? What do you guys think of the video quality of Sony TRV25 and 27? After reading alot of threads, I get the feeling I should consider some older cameras.

-neal
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Old April 2nd, 2003, 11:50 AM   #12
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I'm not a big Sony fan, but that's just me. The layout and ergonomics of the cameras just don't work for me. They may be fine for other people. I have used Sony's (did a documentary that when to 35mm film with a VX1000) and the image quality is fine.

Personally I prefer the ZR series from Canon. They have drawbacks, just like all cameras. But for the things I shoot and the way I shoot, their limitations are easier for me to accept.

Don't throw out the Panasonics either. If you can test one and see if the barrel distortions is objectionable to you. I wasn't trying to knock them out of the running, just pointing out what I think is a weak point in their design. Panasonic has some really nice features and I like their image quality too. But they have limitations too.
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Old April 2nd, 2003, 12:35 PM   #13
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Thanks Jeff.

I think from what I have read, the consensus is that Sony makes some nice cameras, but they tend to be priced a bit high for what you get. They must be popular though, because I am having a hard time finding them in stores to try. I still want to try the TRV38 and TRV27.

As far as Canon, I am hoping to try the Optura 20, thinking that it may do better in dim light with a 1/4" CCD. 16X zoom would be nice too.

And right now, from reading recommendations here, specs, and reviews, I think the DV852 is in the top running. It seems to me that if I can get it for around $900, it would be a good value with a 1/3.8" CCD and optical stabilization. From reviews I have read, people are really happy with its video quality and dim light performance. I really hope to try this one as well.

Jeff, do you think the barrel distortions would be obvious to a lay person like me?
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Old April 4th, 2003, 03:33 AM   #14
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Thanks for all the help!

I really got lucky. I called several stores, mass chains as well as "high end" stores, and most didn't even carry Panasonic camcorders. The ones that did only carried the low end models. For some reason, I didn't call one of the most popular electronics stores in our area (Fry's) until last because I thought they would carry what all the other big chains (like Circuit City, Best Buy, Good Guys) carried. To my astonishment, when I called, they had one Panasonic model in stock, the DV852. I drove down there, and what do you know? It is on sale from $999 (already a discount from there original price of $1499 because it is an old model) to $799, and the sale ended today (Thursday). Needless to say, I bought it, and unless I hate it, I am keeping it! So far it feels very comfortable in my hand. I like how all the controls are layed out. I am going to try to use it as much as possible in the next 2 weeks to make sure there isn't something I hate about it. Anyway...

Thanks for everyone's help!

-Neal
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